Discover How Music Can Help Disabled Children


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Modern science is proving what people have always intuitively known about music; music has the power to heal. Whether using percussion instruments or piano or guitar, the impact is the same; music can soothe the soul and also serve as … Continue reading

Is High IQ Sufficient to Identify a Gifted Child?

Dear bloggers & Face Book users: please help us grow our little music school by sharing and reblogging this post – thank you – S


Schools have a responsibility to provide the best education they can to every child. Part of this duty is the identification of those with learning difficulties and also the gifted and talented. Both groups of children require different support from the school environment, but learning difficulties are often prioritised above helping the gifted. After all, schools want to make sure there are no barriers to education, and the natural inclination is to see a gifted child as one that has no difficulty with accessing education.

Sadly, this can cause problems for the gifted child. If the school does nothing to challenge them, a gifted child can deal with their boredom in a variety of ways. The best case scenario is that they find ways to educationally challenge themselves, or have a family with the time and resources to find activities designed to stretch them. However, the less positive outcome is a gifted child with huge potential to achieve that becomes bored and disillusioned with schooling, and learning in general. Realising that they only need to do the bare minimum to keep up, or sometimes not caring when they fall behind, it can be the beginning of a downward spiral into behavioural problems such as truancy, depression and even petty crime. At this point, the school becomes focused on the behaviour, rather than the problem, and once a child is labelled as a troublesome student, it can take a huge effort to reverse the process.

The definition of a ‘gifted child’

In order to prevent this from happening, the first step is the correct identification of a gifted child – something that all parents and education professionals need to be able to do with confidence. Having been in education for over thirty years, I have come to the conclusion that the word ‘gifted’ is overused, and frequently applied to children who are simply very bright. In the 1930’s, the official indicator for a gifted child was an IQ above 130, but is this sufficient?

In order to illustrate how extraordinary a gifted child can be, I’d like to offer some anecdotes about a French student that myself and tutors in my agency have been working with for the past year.

The parents of the teenaged boy in question got in touch because he had been expelled from a prestigious private school in Beijing. The school simply hadn’t found the right way to engage him, or deal with a group of troublesome students with whom the boy had got involved. The family found themselves in a terrible situation: their child had been expelled from a prestigious private school, he had effectively lost a semester of work, thus damaging his grade point average, and it seemed impossible for him to be able to attend any decent university, let alone the Ivy League school he had his sights upon.

Several months later his life has turned around and we are starting to see what this young man is capable of. Recently, he completed one semester of an AP Literature course in ten days – a course that usually takes 16 weeks to complete. He scored more than 92% – his tutor didn’t even have to grade the last three assignments as he had already achieved an A grade. This is an American college level course, but he completed it at this high level in this extraordinary timeframe.

Another illustration is the reaction of a Cambridge professor who kindly agreed to tutor him for three weeks during the summer vacation. The student attended a one-on-one tutorial with the head of maths of Churchill College for three hours everyday, and thrived on it. The professor later told me that he had had reservations about teaching such a young student, but that he had found the experience ‘refreshing’.

Why high IQ should not be the only criterion when identifying gifted children

These anecdotes demonstrate that high IQ is not sufficient to determine whether a child is gifted. An IQ test wouldn’t reveal all of the other traits that are seen in truly gifted children; their tenacity, for example, or their ability to produce exceptional work in exceptional circumstances. The truly gifted child will develop an incredible work ethic when given the right support and stimulation.

Children like the student described are rare, but they have the capabilities to go on and do incredible things for society. A school system that cannot give such children what they need can crush the enthusiasm out of them and also deny society the benefits of their abilities in years to come. Coping with a gifted child can be a challenge – the young man I described has needed ten tutors this year to give him the required breadth and depth of tuition, but the benefits cannot be denied. As education professionals we must encourage and nurture gifted children, otherwise society will suffer in the long term.

Adam Caller has been directly involved in education for the entirety of his career, and has tutored students of all ages. He has received specialist training in dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder and is very sensitive to children’s educational difficulties. As founder of Tutors International, a worldwide organisation providing experienced private tutors to work with children of all ages and nationalities, Adam has turned his expertise to recruiting, training and placing other tutors to help families. Tutors International has extensive experience of tutoring gifted children and ensuring that they can reach their full potential.

Tutors International specialises in providing tutors for a wide variety of situations, from helping students re-take critical exams, helping pupils with the transition of moving between international school systems, and supporting youngsters with AD/HD and dyslexia. They provide a bespoke service to find the right tutor that suits the child’s needs and aspirations, and if a full-time live-in tutor is required, Adam personally ensures that the assigned tutor is the right match for the family and fits in the environment.

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Seven Key Strategies for Parental Involvement in a Child’s Musical Education


Parental involvement in a child’s musical education is more important than before.

Usually, the age when children normally begin learning musical instruments is the age when they need lots of encouragement and approval. Parental involvement can help foster their children’s growth and at the same time see rapid results.

Read further for the seven key ways you can be involved in your child’s progress:

1. Be supportive of their choice of musical instrument.

OK, you’ve never been very fond of loud noise, so it might be a little uncomfortable when your child tells you he wants to play the trumpet. However, realize that your child’s choice of musical instrument reflects his interests. Whether he chooses a loud or soft instrument, your child is still showing a desire to express himself through music. If he decides he wants to sound really good on, say, drums, this goal will motivate him to spend significant amounts of time practicing, rather than being bored or restless.

2. Help them set a consistent daily practice time.

Consistency is key. For beginners, I recommend practicing 30 minutes a day. But 30 minutes all at once may seem like forever! So, work with your child to incorporate practice time into their schedule. And remember, it doesn’t need to be 30 minutes consecutively. Does your child have 10 free minutes between breakfast and having to catch the school bus? Set aside those 10 minutes for practice time. What about 10 more minutes as soon as she gets home? The last 10 minutes can in the evening, either before or after homework. Make sure that you are aware of the practice schedule, and gently remind your child when it is time to practice.

3. Encourage them to perform for you several times a week.

During elementary and middle school, children are still at an age where they seek your approval and want to make you happy. So, let them do that! How about asking them to hold a concert for you once or twice a week? Tell them they can decide what songs they want to play, and then set up an area in your family room where they can give the concert. If there are older siblings, ask them to be present as well. After the concert, make sure to tell your child specific things you enjoyed about their performance.

4. Take them to different types of concerts and musical theater events.

Ever since I can remember, my mom has played recordings of traditional Chinese music in the house. This constant exposure to music at an early age helped me to gain an awareness and appreciation for quality music. If music is a constant in your home environment, then your child will sub-consciously absorb its positive influence. By exposing your child to recordings and performances, your child will begin to develop a natural ear for what good music can sound like. Many schools and local theaters have performances throughout the year. Great opportunities abound, so make sure to take advantage of them.

5. Praise them for every accomplishment.

Praise must be genuine. If it is false or is merely masking criticism, your child will pick up on it. No matter what level your child is at, there will be something positive to praise. Whether it is learning a new note or a new song, be proud of your child for that. Praise them in front of their siblings or friends. They will remember your positive words, and it will serve to motivate them in an invaluable way.

6. Select a teacher who is compatible with your child’s personality

Since band directors have on average thirty to forty students to instruct during any given class, it’s very hard to address each child’s individual needs. If you decide to seek outside help by inviting a private teacher to work with your child, keep in mind that the teacher’s personality is as equally important as his/her background and accomplishments. If your child feels like he can trust his teacher, he will be more inspired to practice outside of lessons, and you will notice much quicker progress.

7. Reward your child.

In addition to verbal praise, give your child tangible rewards. For example, when she has achieved a personal goal, take her out for ice cream, her favorite movie, or a day at the zoo. Or perhaps reward her with a CD from her favorite flutist.

If you follow these seven key strategies for involvement in your child’s musical education, you will notice significant improvement in your child’s progress.

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Why Music Education Is Changing


I believe that music education as we know it is changing profoundly. The change has already begun, and it is already causing bewilderment and frustration for a great many music teachers. But it is also creating tremendous new opportunities for thousands of music teachers and students who are enjoying their work more than ever. In this article I will try to explain what I think is happening, and give you some ideas about how to position yourself to enjoy these changes rather than become a victim of them.

You might wonder if I am talking about changes related to the Internet, computers or music software. But this change has nothing to do with technology. It has to do with the needs and desires of today’s music student, which are almost entirely different from the needs that our music education system was designed to satisfy. To understand what I mean by this, we need to go all the way back to the European origins of our most basic ideas about what it means to “teach music.”

For centuries the primary goal of classical music education was to produce orchestra performers capable of reading a piece of sheet music and correctly playing the composer’s ideas. This is no small task. It requires both a formidable control over one’s instrument and also a very high level of skill at reading complicated musical phrases on a written page. It also requires great sensitivity and expressive power, since without these the music would sound dull and lifeless.

This curious breed of musician unites several personality traits that are highly contradictory. He must have the precision control of a world-class athlete in order to execute the very fine motor skills involved in playing his instrument. But he must also have the extreme mental agility required to read and instantly decipher impossibly complex rhythms coded into symbols on a page. He must be sensitive enough to feel and express the beauty in every line that he plays, but he must be detached enough to play whatever music is handed to him without complaining.

This is the context in which our music education system evolved. The goal was to produce a kind of super-performing robot-person that could play any piece of music on demand and make it sound heavenly. The “customer” of this process was what we might generalize as the “wealthy audience” who wanted to be entertained. Music conservatories prepared young music students to entertain and delight wealthy audiences with their skills, so that they might earn a professional salary.

This “old paradigm” of music study is defined by a very clear set of attitudes. Musicians play for others. A musician’s purpose is to delight audiences and impress other musicians. His success can be measured by the number of gigs he gets, the salary he earns and also the respect and fame he enjoys among other musicians. And every one of these attitudes is so thoroughly ingrained in our culture that we continue to teach music this way today even though it no longer makes any sense whatsoever.

The new paradigm: musician as person

Our entire world has changed. For the vast majority of young music students, earning a salary is the farthest thing from their minds. Today’s music student is not a humble employee hoping to sell his services to wealthy audiences for money. People study music today because they want to fill a void in their lives. They are drawn to music by its beauty and by its promise of self-discovery through creative expression.

In other words, the “wealthy audience” is no longer the customer of our music education system. There is a new customer in town, and that customer is the student himself (and, wonderfully, more and more often it is the student herself.) Today’s music students are thinking, feeling human beings who want to grow, to create and to experience life for themselves. To put it simply, we are moving away from the old paradigm of “musician as performer” toward a new paradigm of “musician as person.”

In the old paradigm of musician as performer, the dominant theme was competition. People made a great deal of fuss over which children seemed to show “musical talent” and which ones didn’t. If music didn’t come especially easy to a child, then there was no point in making the investment in music lessons. And if a child did show potential, he would immediately begin a military-style course of study to develop this ability into something that society would value. Musical ability, in this paradigm, is essentially a commodity to be sold on the open market. If there were no audience, there would be no reason to study music at all.

And to be sure, there are still people today living in the old paradigm. They live in a world of perfectionism, competition and hostility. When they play music, they are incapable of noticing anything but their own technical defects. When they listen to the music of others, they are busy evaluating the technical performance instead of receiving the beauty. They are generally angry people. Angry that there are not enough gigs, not enough students, not enough love and respect for all their hard work.

But there is a new generation of young people who are discovering the thrill of playing music for themselves. They are discovering that there is a paradise to which music can transport them. They don’t particularly care whether they play well or badly, because they have found something more interesting than their ego. They have found the bliss of being lost in a moment, meditating on a sound, a note, a musical phrase, a gesture of the hands. It is this experience that has captivated them, and what they want from music education is to deepen this experience. These are the students of the new paradigm.

It’s easy to tell whether a person’s thinking is rooted in the old paradigm or the new one. Take a look at some “old paradigm” questions. Have you heard any of these lately?

– Does my child have “musical talent?”
– Are my students playing at the appropriate level?
– Can I still learn music at my age?
– How can I get my students to practice more?
– Am I a good violinist?

Now look at these “new paradigm” questions, and notice how the person asking the question is coming from a completely different place:

– Would practicing music enrich my child’s life?
– Are my students growing and becoming stronger people?
– Would I like to discover music at my age?
– How can I help my students to make the most of their lives?
– Am I allowing myself to enjoy the violin fully?

For the uninitiated, this new paradigm thinking seems to turn music into a self-indulgent hobby. If there is no spirit of competition or comparison with others, then how will we preserve values like discipline, hard work and the quest for excellence?

But that is a question that we will have to leave for another article, because I think there are many interesting things that we could say about it. For now, just let me assure you that this new paradigm has nothing to do with laziness or lack of seriousness on the part of the student. When young people discover the magic of music, they can easily practice so many hours that they run the risk of injury. What we need to understand and embrace is what motivates today’s music student.

How you can thrive in the new paradigm

Right now, millions of young people are genuinely excited about learning music as an opportunity for enjoyment and personal growth. They see music as a way to “develop their creative side” and to connect with a part of themselves that they can only access through the arts. They expect their music teachers to empower them to write their own songs, to improvise freely and to express their musical imagination.

For many music teachers, this itself can be a cause for worry because many times we haven’t the slightest idea how to help our students achieve these goals. For most of us, our own musical training was rooted in the old paradigm of reading sheet music, mastering our instrument and occasionally memorizing some abstract rules about music theory. So how are we supposed to help our students achieve a creative freedom that we ourselves have never tasted?

But don’t worry. There’s no reason to panic. Your students don’t expect you to be perfect or to know everything. It’s perfectly fine for both teacher and student to have a question about something, and to seek the answer together. Most students just want to feel that their teacher listens to them, respects them and sincerely wants to help them achieve their goals. You have many, many gifts that are tremendously valuable to your students. You just need to think about how to reframe your wisdom in terms that relate to the student’s enrichment as a person, rather than trying to simply teach musical ability for its own sake, detached from any spiritual relevance.

And you can also take advantage of this moment to expand your own horizons, both as a music teacher and as a person. There are many excellent resources available today that make it easier than ever to deepen your own understanding of music. My own course in musical improvisation is open to absolutely everyone and you can find it at But there are plenty of other books, videos, online courses and private instructors out there that can help you to discover and enjoy the creative arts of composition and improvisation. These experiences can be fun, thrilling and deeply satisfying. And they will also help you as a teacher, because they will give you the resources to help your students to realize their own dreams.


I personally believe that we are witnessing all around us the birth of a new musical culture that is here to stay, perhaps for centuries. Musical ability for its own sake is losing its power to attract and motivate students. More and more, we will see music students interested primarily in their own liberation as human beings. In my opinion this is a beautiful evolution, and it is a very exciting time to be a music teacher.

David Reed is the author of “Improvise for Real” and the founder of, the world’s first online music school dedicated exclusively to the art of musical improvisation.


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