Why I Love Summer

Summer, a time to relax.

Summer, a time to relax.

This past spring, I was in my element.  My students were competing, my wife was preparing for a major music event, and my daughter was constantly practicing for her first solo recital. Plus, my weekends were filled with other music events—judging, concerts, teacher meetings, etc. I have to admit, I was loving it.  However, the immersion in music was turning our family life into borderline craziness.

Now, summer is here, and oh what a relief it is! Instead of rushing to get things done, we relax.  No recitals, no events.  Ashlyn, my oldest, is now playing fresh piano repertoire. I love hearing her play for the sheer enjoyment of it. Yes, she practices differently when there is no deadline—she’s less efficient, less detailed, less disciplined.  Its OK, though. She needs the no-pressure environment to explore music on her own terms.  We let her choose her favorite Haydn sonata, and now she is learning it with little input from me, at least for now. And she truly enjoys it!

That no-pressure environment is what we all need once in a while.  It refreshes our spirit.  It gives us time to connect with the people we love the most.  Right now, we eat meals together, read the Bible together, and play games together.  I tell bedtime stories because I’m not exhausted, and the kids don’t have to get up at 6:30am. Sure, we do those things during the school year too, but not as often.  

Summer also allows for more creativity. Right now I am working more on my collection of Christmas arrangements.  I need my schedule to be free of pressing obligations to pursue creative endeavors.  As strange as it seems, summer is the perfect time for me to arrange Christmas carols!

The long, lazy days of summer make me wish for a world where there are no deadlines. But, the most ironic thing happens to me near the end of the sunny season… I start wishing again for the recitals, competitions, and events.  Deadlines and routine lead to hard work and excellence.  Piano events start to look attractive again. Maybe that’s just because I love music.

~Adam Bendorf

Music History for Kids: The Right Notes Assignment Book

After tremendous anticipation from people all around the world (actually, probably about four people), I am happy to announce that we are directly selling The Right Notes.  Once upon a time, Anna and I assumed that our students knew the difference between pianos and organs. Or, what an encore was. We soon realized that our students didn't have any grounding in basic music history, culture, or terminology.

So we set out to create The Right Notes. What I love about this book besides its punny title given by Anna, is that it seamlessly introduces music history and culture during the piano lesson.  Its an assignment book, so teachers write things down for their students. But at the top of each page are music history bullet points coupled with fun, colorful illustrations.

We are selling the book directly from our Bendorf Bendorf Piano Studio web site.  However, The Right Notes is in various stores across the U.S., and it currently sells on Music Educator's Marketplace for great sale prices. 

I hope you'll give it a try. We've seen it bring smiles and giggles to quite a few of our students, and I bet it will do the same for yours. 

~Adam Bendorf

P.S. For some fun Christmas arrangements (Free!) check out this page >>.

 

Sage Oak Charter School Vendor List: Piano Lessons

Sage Oak Charter School is new to the area, and I am excited to announce that we are vendors! After looking at their vendor list, it appears that they have a very hefty collection of vendors, although quite a few seem to be focused down in Orange County, East LA, and South LA. 

If you are interested in taking lessons through Sage Oak, please get in touch and we'll get you started! Not in the Santa Clarita area but still want a piano teacher? Let us know, and we'll see if we can bring on a piano teacher in your area and get you set up through Sage Oak. 

~Adam Bendorf

Does Having Kids Make Me a Better or Worse Piano Teacher?

Clayton Kershaw is a new dad.

Clayton Kershaw is a new dad.

I’m not a Dodger baseball fan, I’m a Cubs fan.  Even so, I try to take an interest in the local flavor since I’m transplanted here in L.A. territory for the long haul.  The other day I asked one of my seven-year old students if pitching star Clayton Kershaw still stinks (he's having a tough season).  For the uninformed reader, just know that Kershaw is amazing, so when he “stinks” he’s still better than most. When you are superstar, more is expected of you, so my question was a fair inquiry.  My student replied, “Yeah, Kershaw still stinks. And my dad says it’s because he [Kershaw] is a dad.”  As of this writing, Kershaw is a very new dad with a 5-month old little girl. He might be a little sleep-deprived. 

My student’s dad called it just like he sees it. I love that. He was probably just being funny, but he got me thinking. 

As a dad who has kids—the count is up to three now—I definitely feel the strain of balancing work, being a daddy, being a husband, outdoor grilling, and napping. OK, I’m joking about the napping. Really, I don’t even know what a nap feels like.  I know that bears get them during the winter. Also, I’ve had dreams about what a nap would feel like. The nap dream is even better than the lifetime supply of meat for my grill dream.  Anyway, I’m gonna tell you right now that having kids really can negatively effect the work we dads do.  Our kids make us tired. Kids take time away from personal and professional development. They take financial resources. They drain us emotionally. But these things are so small when you consider...

Kids refine our character and teach us how to love in a unique fashion. Ultimately, this makes us dads great at our jobs.  We sacrifice our wants in order to meet our kids’ needs. This means we know how to sacrifice for others at our jobs. 

Kids teach us patience as we watch our them break stuff, make horrible decisions, and cry for 22 minutes straight because a balloon popped. This means we know how to patiently work with others at our jobs. 

Kids keep us young at heart. As men, we are perpetually doomed to a certain level of immaturity (my sense of humor stopped maturing at junior high), but kids bring out something different than that. Without even trying, our children force us into worlds of pretend, beautiful imaginations, and lightheartedness. They don’t distract us from our ever-present work, they rejuvenate us.  And that means we get to bring fresh minds to our jobs.

Who knows, someday Clayton Kershaw might be going to a lot of princess-themed birthday parties with those cool inflated jumper things. Or maybe he’ll stay up late helping his daughter with a school project that got dumped on him upon his arrival from a road trip series. Even with all of that, I bet that somehow Kershaw’s baseball playing will be better since he’s a dad. Even if I’m wrong, its still FANTASTIC that he’s a dad. 

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

Adam & Anna Bendorf are piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA. God has been kind to bless them with three kids, whom they hope to bring up in fear and reverence of the Heavenly Father.

Lyle Michaud, Piano Teacher in SCV: Welcome!

Lyle drives to student homes in the SCV area.

Lyle drives to student homes in the SCV area.

I am happy to announce that Lyle Michaud is our newest teacher for the studio.  When I first spoke with Lyle about coming on board with us, I was impressed by his outgoing personality and easy disposition.  A huge bonus is that Lyle's training is in composition, so he values theory and improv.  I personally enjoy his  contemporary style (he occasionally plays at our church and its great).  Yet, he's classically-trained in performance as well. This versatility is super-exciting for Anna and I since we value both classical and contemporary styles too.  

As a teacher, Lyle has quite a bit of experience, carrying a fairly big load of students at the moment.  He drives to homes here in the Santa Clarita area.  Also, he has an album of original compositions available on iTunes.  

You can read Lyle's full bio on the In-Home Lessons page.  

Welcome, Lyle.  We're glad you are with us!

~Adam Bendorf

In Home Piano Lessons in Saugus, Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, Canyon Country, Castaic, and Antelope Valley

Big News: we are losing the fantastic Catie Pearce. She's getting married and moving out of the area.  We are sad for our loss but happy for Cate! We have brought on Brianna Marra, a passionate teacher who loves music, and loves kids. Also, I should mention that Spurgeon Rice is teaching for the studio; he's a clear communicator and has the patience of a saint.  

I recently created a flier for one of our charter schools, and thought I'd share it here on the blog as well.  (Since its a photo, the links are non-functional). To download the actual PDF flyer, click here



Which Pianists and Composers Have the Best Mustaches?

Edward Macdowell (1860-1908), American composer and pianist whose major contributions include wonderful short pieces such as his Woodland Sketches and this amazing push-broom mustache. 

Edward Macdowell (1860-1908), American composer and pianist whose major contributions include wonderful short pieces such as his Woodland Sketches and this amazing push-broom mustache. 


Artur Scnabel (1882 -1951), noted scholar, pedagogue, and performer. He was especially lauded for his interpretations of Schubert and Beethoven. 

Artur Scnabel (1882 -1951), noted scholar, pedagogue, and performer. He was especially lauded for his interpretations of Schubert and Beethoven. 


Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), a top-rate concert pianist also served as the Prime Minister of Poland. He even gave a few tidbits of advice concerning foreign policy and piano playing to U.S. president, Harry Truman. 

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), a top-rate concert pianist also served as the Prime Minister of Poland. He even gave a few tidbits of advice concerning foreign policy and piano playing to U.S. president, Harry Truman. 


Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Russian pianist, composer, and conductor.  His contributions to 20th century composition will leave an eduring legacy.

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Russian pianist, composer, and conductor.  His contributions to 20th century composition will leave an eduring legacy.


This is me.  This mustache is two weeks old.  Note the lack of striking resemblance to Edward Elgar.  

This is me.  This mustache is two weeks old.  Note the lack of striking resemblance to Edward Elgar.  


Adam & Anna Bendorf are piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA. They both prefer the clean-shaven look on Adam. 

November: the month in which otherwise clean-shaven men try their hand at that popular logger-who-works-in-the-office-cubicle look. 

Why? 

It’s No Shave November, the month for bringing awareness to men’s health. 

Because I’ve been looking for an excuse to grow my mustache, I decided to celebrate No Shave November.  

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.  Mostly because my wife didn't appreciate my kind hubby pecks on the cheek.  Not that I can blame her. My ‘stache must have been shocking, considering I have amazing baby soft skin like those dudes in the Gillette commercials.  Sometimes I wonder why Gillette hasn’t cast me in one of their commercials.  Probably because I don’t like their razors.  And I bet they know that because of Google somehow. Or the Hubble telescope.

Anyway, in honor of the hairy eleventh month, I am posting about great composers and pianists with amazing mustaches.  These fellas encapsulate the very best of pianism and mustacheianism.  


Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), a Russian pianist and composer who made interesting assertions that the key relationships through the circle of fifths also follow a color spectrum.  For example, the key of C is red, G is orange, D is yellow, A is green, etc.

Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), a Russian pianist and composer who made interesting assertions that the key relationships through the circle of fifths also follow a color spectrum.  For example, the key of C is red, G is orange, D is yellow, A is green, etc.


Edward Grieg (1843-1907), the Norwegian composer who's nationalistic music made him a popular hero of his home country.  Though best known for his immensely popular work, In the Hall of the Mountain King, he actually did not like the piece.  Note the striking resemblance to Einstein in this photo.

Edward Grieg (1843-1907), the Norwegian composer who's nationalistic music made him a popular hero of his home country.  Though best known for his immensely popular work, In the Hall of the Mountain King, he actually did not like the piece.  Note the striking resemblance to Einstein in this photo.


Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was an English composer.  His "Pomp and Circumstance" march has garnered much fame in the U.S. as the processional tune for graduation ceremonies.

Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was an English composer.  His "Pomp and Circumstance" march has garnered much fame in the U.S. as the processional tune for graduation ceremonies.

O Christmas Tree Sheet Music (free) with a Groove

No, it isn't a straightjacket.  Photo: CC license; flikr.com

No, it isn't a straightjacket.  Photo: CC license; flikr.com

In my spare time I've been known to throw down a groove and paste a well-known tune of another genre over top.  Sometimes the results are kind of funky, a little embarrassing.  Its like putting a Christmas sweater on a dog.  Christmas sweaters are awesome, and dogs are awesome. But when you combine them, you get a visual explosion revealing a socially-awkward dog with a (perhaps) diabolical owner.  

I feel bad for the dog.  You know his fellow canine friends are mocking him: "Wow, is that a bright red and green straightjacket you're wearing? Oh right, its a Christmas sweater.  Have fun being single the rest of your life." 

Now, don't get me wrong.  I actually love dogs in Christmas sweaters.  In fact, if I were a dog owner (my wife is allergic to dogs, so no dogs here), I would proudly parade my dog in the most awesome '80's Christmas sweater ever.  In fact, I would own a huge personal collection of doggy Christmas sweaters.  

Anyway, I as was playing a generic old-school rock groove it hit me that I should just superimpose O Christmas Tree over the top.  I actually liked the sound; there was a comfortable flow of melody, harmony, and rhythm working nicely together.  The finished product is a late intermediate tune that I've started to assign to my students this year.  

It's here for you to enjoy.  Please don't post the actual file online, but feel free to download it, print it, or link to this page. Play it yourself or give it to some friends or students.

Download Link: Groovy Christmas Tree Sheet Music

Also, you can listen to the mp3.

~Adam Bendorf`

Adam & Anna Bendorf are piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA.  In the age-old debate about whether it is better to be a dog owner or a cat owner, they both agree that either is better than being a bird owner.  

My Three Most Outrageous Moments as a Piano Teacher

We don't own any tacky lawn ornaments.  I promise. 

We don't own any tacky lawn ornaments.  I promise. 

“Outrageous moments” and “piano teacher” don’t seem to fit together.  Really, most people probably think of a piano teacher as the nice lady down the street who has a cat, a bunch of lawn nicknacks, and perpetual case of coffee breath.  There’s no drama there.  

But, I’m not a lady.  I’m a slightly overweight middle-aged man who hates lawn ornaments.  And I detest cats even more.  That’s because a cat once bit my finger.  It landed me in the hospital for three days, with the doctor kindly explaining that I would possibly lose my right index finger due to infection. Thankfully, God was merciful and healed my finger. That was a piano student’s cat. So yes, there is some drama being a piano teacher.

As I’ve been mulling over my most interesting experiences as a piano teacher, I thought I would provide some background to my teaching history.  Here it is: before teaching out of my home studio, I drove to all my students’ homes.  That’s the history.  And that’s where the drama comes in.  Why?  Because when you hang out with people in their homes for long enough, weird stuff happens. 

Weird stuff, as in…

I’ve caught a mouse, captured a snake, and suffered a dog bite.  I’ve been cussed out. I’ve been presented with various assortments of alcoholic drinks and offered illegal drugs (I graciously declined).  I’ve been overpaid, underpaid, and never paid.  More times than I can count, students have told me things that made their parents blush, cringe, and lie.  I’ve had dogs make procreational gestures toward my leg.  I’ve seen bathrooms so disgusting, they made the local gas station restroom look like something out of a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot.  

And you know the kind of bathroom I’m talking about.  There's that thin shade of gray on the floor from all that hair that hasn’t been swept up in months.  And then there are the hand towels.  The same exact towels every single week. Because they’ve never been changed.  And they have that dirty dark spot in the middle that’s always kind of moist.  

But, after sifting through my teaching memories, I came up with three moments that truly qualify as the craziest, most ridiculous memories in my teaching career.

1.  Personal Chauffer

In three separate, unrelated incidents, I have had parents call me for lessons, and ask that I pick up their kids from school, and drive them to their home for lessons.

Seriously? 

These were parents who had never met me and who had never even spoken to me until our first phone conversation.  Hey, I’m glad that I can instill trust in people, but that’s just crazy. For the record, I refused to pick up their kids.

2.  Request Denied

Once I had a piano mom ask me to reschedule our entire piano recital.  Why?  Because she would be on vacation with her family on our recital date. At first I didn’t think she was serious.  But then I realized she meant it.  How do you respond to that? After a moment I figured out what to say. “No, I can’t arrange another rental agreement with the church, purchase a new insurance certificate, contact every one of our students with a new date, and ask them to rearrange their schedules because you are on vacation.” 

3.  Sneezy

A student sneezed during his lesson.  More specifically, he sneezed onto the piano keys.  More specifically than that, he sneezed onto the piano keys with food in his mouth.  We had to have a little chat about how to sneeze without blowing soggy goldfish crackers onto my piano.  

Even though I've had some awkward teaching days, the joy of bringing wonderful music to my students is worth it all.  And, I'll be honest... its the outrageous moments that make life kinda fun!

Have you had some outrageous moments in your profession?  Please share!

Adam & Anna Bendorf are piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA.  They don't have any lawn ornaments.  

 

Piano Teachers for California Charter Schools

Well, its been a while since I've done this, but I'm now back in the loop as a charter school vendor.  I'm on the official list for Sky Mountain, and hope to soon be up and running for Gorman.  What's different this time is we now have two more teachers working under us: Catie Pearce and Spurgeon Rice.  Both drive to homes in the SCV area to teach In Home Lessons, and both really enjoy teaching.  

For those new to the the "charter school" concept, charters are publicly funded independent schools.  Many homeschooling families opt to run their education under a charter since it provides a loose, preexisting educational framework.  Plus, public funding can be used to buy books, pay for services, purchase materials, etc.  And that's where the we the piano teachers come in. We are approved by the state as acceptable "vendors," meaning we can accept public funding to provide piano lessons for charter school students.  This basically means free piano lessons for charter kids.  If you are part of a charter school here in SCV and would like piano lessons, drop me a line.  If we are not on your school's vendor list, let me know and I would love to see if I can get on.  

~Adam Bendorf

Keyboard or Piano? Choose the Right One

Grand pianos are biggest and best, but are they the right choice for you? 

Grand pianos are biggest and best, but are they the right choice for you? 

Which is better to own, a keyboard or a real piano?  I grew up using both.  My Kawai upright piano received daily hammerings of Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and provided more hours of enjoyment than did my keyboard.  Maybe that’s because my keyboard was a Technics late ‘80s model with a piano patch that sounded something like a cheap zither.  But you could add a reverb effect.  Which was cool as long as you were looking that airport public bathroom sound. 

Well, times have changed and keyboards are better than ever, making them a tempting substitution for acoustic pianos (acoustic means real, by the way).  But are keyboards really the best choice?  And if you decide on a piano, should you buy an upright piano or a grand piano?  

Maybe my short list of pros and cons will help.

KEYBOARD

Pros

  1. You Never Tune It.  Since a single tuning can cost $60-$200 (depending on the quality of your piano tech), and since acoustic pianos should be tuned at least once per year, this could be a significant savings.
  2. Many Sound Choices.  Keyboards often come packed with a lot of onboard sounds.  So if you are the creative composer-type, this could be really fun for you.
  3. Tech-ready.  With a $7 midi cable, you can connect your keyboard into your computer, enabling you to use Garage Band, piano-learning software, writing and scoring software, or cloud-based music programs.
  4. Silent Feature.  Just plug in headphones and you won’t annoy family or neighbors with your awesome music.

Cons

  1. Low Resale Value.  The same thing that happens to your computer happens to your keyboard.  Time ticks off dollar value, making it hard to sell your keyboard in the future.  
  2. Unnatural Sound.  As great as keyboard technology is, the sound still projects from a speaker instead of a large spruce wood soundboard, making it much harder to create nuance and “color” when you play.  This is especially a drawback if you want to play classical music.  
  3. Unnatural Touch.  The action (touch) of all but the very most expensive keyboards is not the same as an acoustic instrument.  This can negatively effect the muscle development of students, and makes it hard to adjust to an acoustic piano.  

 

UPRIGHT PIANO

Pros

  1. Takes up Very Little Space.  An upright piano is not very deep in its dimensions, so pushing it against a wall makes for easy placement.  The height of the piano can vary by model though, so take that into consideration.
  2. Natural Sound and Touch.  Upright pianos provide a natural sound that emanates from the entire soundboard, while the touch offers a certain amount of resistance which helps develop your control and touch.  Upright pianos do not have as much resistance as grand pianos, however.
  3. Affordable.  Whether buying used or new, you can definitely find an upright piano that fits your budget.  A good used piano is around $1500-$2,000, while you can spend $3,500-$10,000 for a new one.
  4. Good Resale Value.  Uprights do fairly well in holding their value.  Used pianos especially tend to hold their value.

Cons

  1. Tuning and Repairs.  Since tunings and repairs are a normal part of the life of a piano, this financial obligation may factor in as a con.
  2. Limited Dynamic Range.  Most upright pianos don’t quite deliver quite the big, powerful sound that many pianists prefer.  But a rule of thumb is that the taller the piano, the better and bigger the sound.  This is because the strings are longer and the soundboard is bigger.
  3. Dud Potential.  There are lot of bad upright pianos out there.  Old pianos and short pianos top the list of duds. If you are in the market to purchase an upright, try looking for pianos from the 1960s or newer that are at least 48 inches tall.  But don’t discount other pianos—there can be some real gems out there, particularly pianos made before 1929.  Older pianos have a higher likelihood of having major issues, but a good look-over by a registered technician can tell you everything you need to know.  This holds true for both uprights and grand pianos.

 

GRAND PIANO

Pros

  1. Beautiful Aesthetic.  Who hasn't wanted a grand piano in their home? 
  2. Great Sound.  As long as at the piano is longer than 5’ 10’’, the quality of sound is great in grand pianos.  Pianos over six feet long have a wonderful bass, and pianos seven feet and longer and the perfect spectrum of sound from low to high.  
  3. Great Touch/Action.  Grand pianos have a better touch than uprights because the hammers--connected to the keys--have to overcome gravity when pressed.  This provides a heavier (or harder) action and is very beneficial to students who still have developing muscles in their forearms and hands.  
  4. Good Resale Value. Like uprights, grands have a good resale value.  High-end brands like Steinway and Bösendorfer even grow in value over time.  

Cons

  1. Large Size.  If you have a small space, grand pianos aren’t a good option for you.  Grands less than 5’ 10’’ generally have a poor quality of sound, so do not purchase one if the instrument is primarily for playing (as opposed to being strictly a furniture piece).
  2. Tuning and Repairs.  Like uprights, if the maintenance of a piano is a financial burden, this could count as a strike against a grand.  

 

Hopefully this list will help you decide what kind of instrument is right for you.  If you are looking for a good piano tuner or piano moving company, you can learn more here

Adam & Anna Bendorf are piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA.  Adam is extremely geeked out on pianos and often engages in boring piano conversations with other piano geeks.

Bach Invention No. 1 in C Major, BWV 722

Today Ashlyn performed in the 2014 CAPMT Southern Festival at Whittier College, along with several of our other students.  They all received perfect scores last October in the Piano Auditions in which they played two solo pieces and one ensemble piece.  All the performers in today's concert were invited to perform as an honor for their high auditions scores. Everyone played exceptionally today.  Great job, students!

Source: http://youtu.be/8iFI7brcUnI

Perfect Pitch Competition

As you may know, I'm unduly obsessed with perfect pitch (the ability to recognize a musical note with absolutely no reference point).  I suppose I am so intrigued by it since I don't have it myself.  Naturally, since I don't possess perfect pitch, I did the next best thing: I decided to live vicariously through my own kids.  I took it upon myself to teach them perfect pitch.  Someday I hope to have a complete, organized course on teaching perfect pitch.  For now, raw video footage featuring my own kids will have to do.  

The video posted here is the latest in a series that I have on YouTube.  See the series here.

Cookie + Tree = Having a Blast

The star at the top is so heavy it barely hangs on.

The star at the top is so heavy it barely hangs on.

Every year our family has a Christmas tradition of making sugar cookies.  We decorate them with lots of yummy frosting and candies, then hang them on the tree for our students to take home.

This year, I noted how our girls decorated each cookie to have its own unique look.  Some had stripes, others had dots, still others had swirls.  It dawned on me that the cookies represent our students in a way: each one beautiful and specially made, all of them wonderful in their own unique way.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

~Adam Bendorf

 

Sugar brings on a certain kind of smile.

Sugar brings on a certain kind of smile.

The fruits of our labors.

The fruits of our labors.

Free Piano Sheet Music | Away in a Manger, I Saw Three Ships, Carol of the Bell

Our family has a yearly Thanksgiving tradition of writing down all the things for which we are thankful God has provided.  And every year the typical things make it onto the list: family, friends, physical and spiritual blessings provided by the Lord, etc.  Naturally, since piano music is such a major part of our lives here, it makes the list too.  I like what concert pianist Sam Rotman says about the gift of music:

“God gave me the hands to play the music, the mind to understand the music, the discipline to practice the music, and the heart to love the music.”  

Thank you for giving credit where credit is due, Mr. Rotman.  

Thanksgiving marks the “official” beginning of Christmas season, so I am making my sheet music arrangements of three late intermediate Christmas tunes available for free here. Play them, enjoy them, share them.  

Download Merry Christmas Classics, Late Intermediate (4.4MB).  

Give the file a few seconds to load--its on the larger side for sheet music.  

~Adam Bendorf

Adam & Anna Bendorf are piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA.  The charm of Christmas carols has not lost its spark even though the Bendorfs started listening to Christmas music back in October.

Stupid Things People Say About Classical Music

Stupid Comments about Classical Music

Over the years I’ve heard quite a few erroneous things about Classical music.  Some are funny, some are downright insulting.  Here are some of the highlights (remember, these are things I’ve actually heard people say).

1. Classical music is old-fashioned and has no relevance for today.

This is probably the most common thing I hear.  It is eerily akin to pouty kids who say that learning algebra or creative writing has no point to it.  And if you are one of those people right now, I doubt the rest of this post will make sense to you. 

2. There is no point in playing the music of dead guys. 

If this were true, there would no value in studying anything by anyone not alive.  

3.  Its good to start off studying Classical music.  That way you can learn the GOOD music some day.

I hear this a lot from pop / jazz / rock musicians.  They see only the value in the finger dexterity, technical control, and note-reading that comes from learning Classical music.  But they see no value in the actual music itself.

4.  Classical music is for smart people.  

This represents our societal image of nerdy, socially-challenged people loving classical music while the rest of the world enjoys normal music.  I will at least partially concede this point.  A study with a sample of 1,000 kids under 5th grade who had two or more years of private music lessons found that their test scores in all areas were higher than those of their peers.

5.  Kids who play Classical music only do it because their parents or culture pressures them.

I hear this a lot too.  It insinuates that kids are practically abused, forced against their will to play boring, tedious Classical music.  But often, parents and/or cultures that “require” kids to play classical music have introduced it long before private music lessons ever began--usually in the vehicles of recreational listening, religious services, and ethnic celebrations.  Is it really such a stretch for kids to want to further explore something to which they’ve been exposed for all their lives?

6.  Classical music has no audience anymore. 

Perhaps, at least in the traditional sense.  But the fact that collegiate music departments are slammed with high-level Classical auditions every year (both performance and composition), and that social media is bursting with Classical recordings, blogs, pages, etc., challenges this.  Add to that the numerous sproutings of small, indie Classical recording labels and the development of niche businesses in the Classical market and you have a case for a shifting audience.

7.  People who become musicians only do it because they aren’t good enough to do anything else.  

Umm...no comment. 

Do you hear some things about Classical music that don’t sound quite right?  Maybe you even take issue with Classical music (dissenting views are always welcome). Please feel free to write in and share.

Adam & Anna Bendorf are private piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA.  They are socially well-adjusted, especially considering that they have listened to thousands of hours of Classical music over the course of their entire lives. 

What Bank Robbers and Classical Music Have in Common

This guy represents classical music, but in a good way. 

This guy represents classical music, but in a good way. 

A few weeks ago Anna and I were chatting with a friend about the nature of kids, pop culture, and the role of classical music in youth society.  Our friend was surprised to hear that many of our students come to enjoy classical music more than the pop music of the day.  I explained that classical music has more to offer in terms of artistic nuance, complexity, and emotional range.  Anna and I both play, enjoy, and teach musical styles outside of the classical genre, but we always insist that our students study classical.  

At first some of our students might even feel forced to learn classical music.  But somewhere along the line their investment in classical music combined with the music's inherent artistic value causes them to identify more with classical than with pop-culture tunes. This fascinating phenomenon could be dubbed the “Stockholm Syndrome” of classical music, considering it has some parallels to a famous bank robbery in Sweden over 40 years ago.

In 1973 a bank in Stockholm, Sweden was robbed, with several employees being held hostage in the bank’s vault.  As the standoff progressed, the hostages actually became emotionally attached to their captors, refusing help from the police and even defending their captors.  This irrational sympathy was dubbed the “Stockholm Syndrome.”  

This week one of my students, a high-school freshman, awkwardly interrupted the flow of our conversation to let me know she had come under the spell of the Stockholm Syndrome.  “It’s weird,” she said.  “I used to really like pop music and hate classical, and now I don’t like pop music any more.  I was listening to the radio this week and I realized that all I want to listen to now is classical.”  She came to me a few years ago, a harsh critic of classical music.  I explained to her that she is now choosing, “fine steak dinner over mac & cheese.” 

I believe that of all styles, classical music will bring you the most joy, satisfaction, reward, and high character.  Yes, I'll teach you some Taylor Swift (if you really want me to).  But if you would like a full cup of musical satisfaction, let me serve you up some Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.  

How do you view classical and pop music in today's society?  Please share. Dissenting opinions are always welcome too!

~Adam Bendorf

Adam Bendorf and his wife, Anna, are private piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA.  In addition to playing classical music, they show videos of '90's boy bands to their young and impressionable daughters.  These videos are met mostly with giggles and snickers.

 

4 Ways Smart Phones Change Piano Lessons

I know having an iPhone doesn't make me a cool piano teacher.  Using teen phrases like, "swag" and "epic" and "beast" probably don't either.

I know having an iPhone doesn't make me a cool piano teacher.  Using teen phrases like, "swag" and "epic" and "beast" probably don't either.

I’m 36 years old.  That means I used to teach piano back when electric typewriters were cool.  But it’s 2013 now and I have an smart phone.  Check out these four ways my iPhone has changed how I do things in the teaching studio.

1. Video Recordings

Sometimes you’ve just got to hear a song before you can really play it.  This is especially true of swing rhythms.  So, a student holds my phone (or their phone) and records me playing a swing tune.  It’s their’s to listen to as often as they need.

2.  Text Message

No, I don’t text every three seconds like teenagers do.  But I do appreciate getting a text from students letting me know they will be late.  Incidentally, I can always tell whether it is a teen or a mom doing the text.  

Teen: “c u in 10 :)”  
vs.
Mom: “We are about to leave the house.  The cat puked on Sam’s shoes and we couldn’t find a second pair.  See you in 10 minutes.  Oh, sorry I forgot to pay you last week!”

3.  Online Music Dictionary

Confession: I don’t know EVERY classical music term I come across.  My Italian and German are good, my French is so-so.  With instant web access to an online music dictionary, it isn’t a problem.  Pronouncing French words, however, is always a problem.  I typically choose a couple consonants at random and make them silent.  It usually sounds convincing.

4.  Reminders

I used to jot down reminders for myself with good old-fashioned pencil and paper--what sheet music to buy, what lessons will be cancelled, what talent show I need to go see, etc.  Then I would invariably lose the paper.  My iPhone solved that problem for me; everything I need is at my fingertips.  I’m still prone to losing my iPhone, though.  

~Adam Bendorf

Adam Bendorf and his wife, Anna, are private piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA.  They both own an iPhone 3, considered to be from the dinosaur age of iPhones.  They don’t really care since they paid only 99¢ for each phone.

 

Don't Like to Sing? Reconsider Please.

I'm betting Adele sang a lot as a child.  Photo by Christopher Macsurak

I'm betting Adele sang a lot as a child.  Photo by Christopher Macsurak

Do you like to sing? Maybe you like to sing, but only when you’re alone.  Even then, how often do you really sing?  If you’re like most of us, you spend your alone time checking your email, catching up on Facebook, and overcooking your pasta like I did tonight.  Truth be told, most of us don’t sing, and that’s a shame.  Singing is good for a variety of reasons, but it is particularly useful--even crucial--for learning the rudiments of music.  

As a piano teacher, I rely on a base level of musical understanding to exist within a student before even teaching a first piano lesson.  It is this inherent musical understanding from which I can build further musical skills.  Consider the analogy of a soccer coach teaching a kid how to play the game.  He can teach how to use the instep or outstep of the foot for a kick.  Or, he can teach how to do a perfect header into the net.  But he relies on every kid on the team already knowing how to run.  Believe me, a soccer coach cannot teach soccer skills if his team can’t even run, walk, or jump.  These are baseline skills, ascertained during early childhood. 

Alarming is the fact that so many of our children do not have baseline musical skills. Many of our elementary schools have taken singing out of the core curriculum.  I remember one piano student of mine who had taken lessons for quite some time but always struggled with even the most basic piano concepts.  As I began to explore, I found she had no baseline musical skills. I asked her if she had sung in church, when alone, or even with cartoons, but the sad answer was that she had never sung. Literally, NEVER.  

So what kind of baseline skills does singing produce?  Singing helps with disciphering the up and down movement of sound.  It helps the brain assimilate western diatonic harmony (that’s fancy talk that describes how our music sounds fundamentally different from eastern or African cultural music--it is our unique music alphabet). Singing helps build musical memory skills.  It acts as the first and most natural musical outlet as music grows inside of us. 

There once was a time when singing was a naturally-ocurring aspect of life. Consder an older piano student of mine who is a British survivor of the London WWII bombings.  While reading her fascinating book of her memoirs, this section caught my attention: 

Crowded around that dilapidated, out-of-tune, upright piano, someone could always get a tune out of it. We sang the music hall songs of my parents’ vintage, World War I songs from the trenches, songs from the famous entertainers of the day, and the good, old-fashioned folk and patriotic songs that we all learned in school. If we didn’t know the words, we’d hum along. Did the neighbors object? Not in the least even though we lived in a crowded tenement. They’d open their windows and sing along with us. English people in those days sang on their way to work, after a hard day in the factory, out on their milk rounds, when going shopping, or even hiking through country lanes. They sang all the time. No one thought they were barmy; in fact, you’d pick up the tune as you continued in the opposite direction. 1

Her description of British musical life in the ‘30s couldn’t be more opposite of what we have here today.  In our day and age kids and adults alike are abashed to sing.  Even with shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent (of which I am a fan), we may be inadvertantly training our kids that singing is strictly for the “idols” and the “talented.”

Lets do ourselves and our children a favor by singing, and singing often.  At the very least, it makes a piano teacher’s job a lot easier.

Do you agree or disagree with my take on singing?  Please share your thoughts!

~Adam Bendorf

Adam Bendorf and his wife, Anna, are private piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA. In their spare time they like to... wait, they don’t have any spare time.  

1.  Veronica Pinckard (2012-06-22). A Damn Fine Growth: Autobiography of a Cockney Kid (Kindle Locations 308-314). Xlibris. Kindle Edition.