Re-consumption and Being a Creature of Habit

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I am a creature of habit. I run the same route, while listening to the same playlist, and come home to eat the same breakfast. 

My repetitive patterns are a source of great amusement in my house. My wife and children delight in mocking my repetitive life choices. They wonder aloud how I cannot be bored by listening to the same playlist or watching the same TV show over and over. 

It turns out that I require little diversity in my life and I like what I like. 

Based on recent TV and movie trends, I am not alone. Everywhere you turn, something old is becoming something new again. Whether it is fashion, food, or media, people are reveling in things from the past. To that point, The Office and Seinfeld are dominating Netflix, and fifteen years after airing it’s final episode, Friends just landed a record breaking syndication deal. Granted none of these shows are as good as West Wing, but we can save that debate for another time.

My love of all things patterned is not new and has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. But be fair, that’s just how children are. They crave predictability, patterns, and a sense of control. And if you ask my family, they will confirm that I am nothing if not an adult child.


It turns out that at an ever increasing rate, people are re-watching almost
as much as they are watching content.


A 2012 research paper by Cristel Russell and Sidney Levy explained this phenomenon as Temporal and Focal Dynamics of Volitional Reconsumption, which is a very long way of saying watching or reading the same thing over and over again. They break down the reasons for this behavior into four categories.

  • Joy: People who watch it simply because they enjoy the show.

  • Nostalgia: Humans like to revisit things from our past because of how it makes us feel.

  • Experiential control: KNOWING how the experience ends gives us a a sense of control in an uncontrollable world.

  • Re-consumption: By re-engaging with the same materials over and over we can more easily understand ourselves, our choices, and how our past differs from our present.

According to Russell and Lindsey, my desire to watch a 12-year-old episode of The West Wing is less about it’s political plot lines and more about experiencing a degree of quiet and control. It is a time where I can hear or think absolutely of nothing else, with no expectations of productivity or attentiveness. 

Teenagers today live in a whirlwind of expectations, academic and otherwise. They feel as if nothing is in their control as their minds, bodies, and feelings change on an almost daily basis.

This is where the redundancy and repetition of band, choir, and orchestra can be a source of comfort and quiet. Just as with media, students re-consume music for the same four reasons we all re-consume things:

  • Joy: We do it because we enjoy the activity of making music.

  • Nostalgia: We enjoy seeing progress and how it makes us feel.

  • Experiential Control: The predictability is a source of comfort.

  • Re-consumption: It helps us to understand ourselves and how we differ from others.

I think your music class serves a similar purpose for your students.

Spending months on end rehearsing the same materials, in the same way, provides an element of stability and control that is a source of comfort for many. They need not worry about what test is next, what they are going to wear, or what people will think. The ability only to focus on a tiny little dot (on a staff or on a drill sheet) with no other expectation is as much a source of distraction as it is an exercise in focus. They revel in the fact that the dot will remain unchanged and be a constant in their life. It is the same dot that was focused on yesterday and will be the same dot they will focus on tomorrow. Through it all, as the season comes to a close, they will grow nostalgic as they can see the incredible growth (musical and personal) that has occurred in such a short period of time.

Now if you will excuse me, it is 9:00 p.m on Tuesday night, and my couch and Martin Sheen are expecting me.

Have a great week.

The Troxler Effect and My Disappearing Students

Instructions: Look at the gif below for a period of ten seconds focusing only on the plus sign in the center of image. 

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If you stared at the image long enough you should have noticed that three things happened:

  1. A gap running around the circle

  2. The gap turned green

  3. The lilac circles disappeared leaving just the green circle rotating around the plus sign

This is called the Troxler Effect.

The Troxler Effect is named after Swiss physician and philosopher Ignaz Paul Troxler (1780-1866). In 1804, Troxler made the discovery that rigidly fixating one’s gaze on some element in a visual field can cause surrounding stationary images to slowly fade or disappear. This is known as filling-in, although it would seem to me to be doing the exact opposite.

How does it work?

Scientists aren’t exactly sure. But according to Wikipedia, "research indicates the effect is related to how neurons important for perceiving stimuli are adapted by the visual system. Unchanging stimuli will eventually disappear from our awareness while our mind will fill the areas where they used to be with the background information (or color)."


In the Troxler Effect, the magenta circles don’t actually disappear. If at the same time, someone else was standing next to you and looking at the same image but not focusing on the plus, they would clearly see the circles. Our singular focus (on the small plus sign) fools our mind into no longer seeing what is, in fact, right in front of us.


In short, by focusing on something small, we lose sight of the bigger picture.

I myself, have fallen victim to the Troxler Effect.

Many times in my career I stared at the little things for so long that I lost sight of the bigger picture. Many times I focused on the performance and not the process. Many times I obsessed over the product and not the process. Many times I was so singularly focused on the product that I lost sight of the persons performing it. I guess you could say that at times, I was so focused on the dots, drill, and scores that my students disappeared right before my very eyes.

With looming and immoveable performance deadlines, it’s easy, if not convenient, to fall victim to the Troxler Effect. It’s easy to forget that today’s rehearsal is one of hundreds, that Friday night’s performance is merely one out of dozens, and that next week’s score is just a small part of our student’s music education journey. 

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that music education is not a singular performance but is a collective experience meant to develop the young people in our programs. 

Just as in the Troxler Effect, when we focus on the little things, we lose sight of the bigger picture. Don’t worry though, it is still there. When Troxler gets the best of you, just stop focusing solely on the little things so you can see the bigger picture of what we do and and why we do it.

Have a great week!

Illusory Superiority and My Below Average Driving Skills

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Do you think you are an above-average driver? How do you compare with others as a parent? Are you better than most at dancing? On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being highest and 5 being average, where do you rank as a human being?

Regardless of your answer, statistically speaking many of you will answer these questions incorrectly. For some of these skills, you will think you are better than you actually are, and not by a little, but by a lot.

In a famous study from 1981, researchers asked people to rate their driving ability. More than 90 percent considered themselves above average. The irony is that by definition, only 50% of you can be above average, the remaining dolts must be considered below average. Yes, you might in fact be a good driver, but still be below average.

According to noted expert and Cornell psychologist, “The phenomenon, known as illusory superiority, (thinking you are better at something than you actually are), is so stubbornly persistent that I would be surprised if it didn't show up in all studies in which people rate themselves."

Now for the real question. Do you think you’re an above average teacher? Yes? 


If you answered yes, it turns out you're not alone. In an often cited study more than 90 percent of faculty members at one state university considered themselves above-average teachers. Even though you teach music, you know the math doesn't add up on this one. It turns out that as a profession, educators experience illusional superiority at a much higher rate than most other professions.


Yes, we teachers are a remarkably confident group. In fact, we're down right cocky!. How did we become so self-assured? How is that teachers have developed such a high degree of confidence? How do we know were so good? Apparently all you have to do is ask us. We'll be happy to tell you!

One group seems to be immune to such self-aggrandizement: our music students. 

Anecdotally speaking, student musicians are hard on themselves. I can tell you that in my travels I have found that most students vastly underestimate themselves as musicians. On a more empirical level, when I taught, as a part of every playing test, I would require the students to grade themselves prior to receiving my grade. In over 1,000 individual student tests, only once did a student ever give themselves a higher score than I did. On a personal level, my son refuses to believe that he is an above average player despite having taken private lessons for seven years and having a music teacher for a father. His self-doubt trumps my college education.

How could my students and my son be so wrong in their assessment? Was it something I said or did (or did not say or do) to make them feel this way?

  • Did I not help them to realize that they were learning a foreign language?

  • Did I not communicate that mastering an instrument was not something that could be done in just a few years but would require a few decades?

  • Did I not teach them that they were developing their brains in a way that their non-musical peers weren’t?

  • Did I not make it clear that just by being in the room, they were already in the top quarter compared to their peers?

Most importantly… How did I not teach my students that music was not a competition or something you compare and contrast. That they were all unique individuals, with different starting points, developmental speeds, and on different journeys?

I honestly don’t know and can’t remember but I do know that I wish I had been less concerned about how I thought I ranked and more concerned with how my students felt they ranked. I could have and should have done better.

And all of this time I thought I was an above average teacher. Clearly it was I who suffered from Illusory Deception.

FRIDAY NIGHT FIRSTS!

This Friday night my son, Brayden will perform in his first halftime show. In thinking about this momentous event, I was reminded of a blog I wrote five years ago. I shared it with my son, and thought you might enjoy it or want to share it with your students or parents.

- Scott


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FRIDAY NIGHT FIRSTS!

Admit it... There's a secret part of you that’s excited that the football season is FINALLY here. Gone are the long hot days of band camp and basics and now it’s finally time to see the kids in uniform! YEEEESSSS! 

You're likely just as, or more excited than your students.

For many of your students, this Friday night will be full of some very special firsts;

  • First pep-assembly

  • First high school football game

  • First time loading the bus

  • First time putting on a uniform

  • First time performing in front of a large crowd

  • First time under the stadium lights

  • First post performance pep-talk

It will also likely be full of some not so special firsts:

  • First wrong notes and bad tone

  • First missed drill spots and out of step students

  • First "time tear"

  • First electronic malfunction

  • First time where the melody can't be heard because of the drum line

  • First time a freshman cries out of fear and another out of joy!

Yes, today will be full of firsts, but not "lasts." All of these things will likely occur again (and again and again). Yes, not all firsts are good ones, but they are still special none-the-less.


Knowing how special this entire evening of firsts is, I encourage you to sit back, enjoy, and try and take it all in. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Celebrate the firsts for what they are, a starting point to a longer journey. There will be plenty of time for reflection and rehearsal afterwards, but THIS performance is different, for your students and for you!


For just ONE night, set aside your well trained ears and teacher goggles and enjoy the smiles on your students' faces. Take pride in the the memories you helped them to make. Enjoy the tear filled eyes of your freshman parents. Enjoy being under the lights instead of the burning hot sun. Enjoy the feel and smell of fresh cut grass instead of hot asphalt. Enjoy the friendships this activity fosters and the life lessons that are being learned. JUST ENJOY!

Saturday? That can be about analysis and correction. 

Friday is about celebrating the process and not the product, the people and not the performance. It's about celebrating the children who choose music and the impact you have on them. 

The first performance will be far from perfect. It may not even be good. But it sure beats the alternative, kids who have nothing to do, no friends to do it with, and no music in their lives!

Enjoy the firsts!

Siri vs. Clippy and the Hard Truth About Music Education!

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If I asked to you name a company that has more subscribers than Netflix, collects more cloud computing revenue than Google, and has recently been the most valuable company in the world, could you do it? Go ahead and take a guess. I’ll wait (insert timely pause).

Buuuuuuuzzzzzz! Wrong answer!

(Well, I am assuming you had the wrong answer, because I did). 

Facebook, you say? Nope! Feeling pretty smug with your answer of Apple? Well, wipe that smug look off your face because they're not it! Amazon? Turn that smiley face upside down because you’re wrong!

It’s Microsoft. Did I just say Microsoft? Word! (mic drop)

Online columnist Dave Pell writes, "In short, it has become the start-up story of the year. Only, the company started up in the year 1975. Yes, they seemed to miss the early promise of the internet, they wildly misjudged the potential of the iPhone and couldn't create a half-decent competitor, and the social networking movement passed them by. I'm not even mentioning Clippy. But these days, the evil empire turned unlikely underdog is back on top. And did I mention they also do Windows?”

The perception is that Microsoft is dated and on the downside but the reality, and the data, states that it has never been healthier. In an article from Bloomberg News, authors Austin Carr and Dina Bass paint a surprising picture of a dynamic company on the rise.

As an avid Apple user and fanboy, this pains me. How is this possible? I thought for sure the newer and shinier FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, & Google) had long surpassed and were far superior investments and organizations. But the true data would suggest otherwise.

Despite the old adage, perception is not in fact reality. Reality is reality. This is just as true in music as it is in business.

If I asked you what the trends are in music education, you would likely say that participation is down and that music in schools are struggling. And you would be wrong. In a recent report released by Music Trades Magazine, a well respected industry trade magazine, last year was a successful year in almost every measurable way. 

In 2018:

  • Overall school music sales accounted for $763,000,000 in revenue, up from $737,000,000 in 2017

  • Brass instruments accounts for $297,000,000 in sales, a year over year increase of $1,000,000

  • Woodwind instruments account for $333,600,000 in sales up from $308,830,000 in 2017

  • String instruments accounted for $132,300,000; a slight uptick from 2017’s number of $131,920,000

  • Educational percussion sold $60,000,000, up from $58,000,000 in 2016

  • Sticks, mallets, hand percussion, and drum heads generated an additional $162,500,000, up from $133,000,000 in 2017

  • Print music (educational and non) sold $475,000.000. That’s nearly a half a billion dollars!

The fact is as plain as the abacus in front of your face, music is not contracting, it is growing. Is it growing fast enough? No. Is it growing large enough? No. BUT IT IS GROWING!


“The music industry has been singing the blues of doom and gloom for the past 25 years, but the data just doesn’t support that conclusion.”

-Paul Majeski, Music Trades Magazine


Some other observations based on the data

  • EVERY area (except print music) has experienced year over year growth for the past five years.

  • Over $420,000,000 worth of brass, woodwind, and string instruments were sold last year compared to $357,700.00 just five years earlier.

  • That’s a growth of 18% percent in five years!

  • Annual sales of individual instruments has increased to 981,000 instruments sold from 917,000, a 14% increase from five years ago.

THAT’S PRACTICALLY ONE MILLION NEW AND ADDITIONAL BAND AND ORCHESTRA INSTRUMENTS SOLD EACH AND EVERY YEAR!

Other indicators music education is on the rise? In the past decade we have seen more:

  • Community bands

  • Professional music educator associations/organizations

  • Drum corps

  • Bachelor's degrees granted in music

  • Professional development clinics and online courses

  • Technology, making us more efficient

And if you ask me, it’s not just more, it’s better. 

I think teachers today are better than twenty-five years ago. I think ensembles in general play better than they did twenty-five years ago. I think that looking at the entirety of the profession, the quality and quantity of performances are significantly better than they were a quarter of a century ago when I started teaching.

The list of indicators goes on and on, but they all seem to point in the same direction, upward! 

Look, I’m not saying that everything is perfect, because it's not. I’m not saying that some schools and programs aren’t struggling, because they are. I’m not saying that programs aren’t understaffed and underfunded, because they are. And I'm not saying that we don’t have a long way to go, because we do. 

What I am saying is that our perception can and will become our students', parents’, and colleagues’ reality, so let’s base that perception in truth and fact. Music education is growing and getting better with each and every day, and that is because of the people who teach it.

When you feel threatened or scared, keep in mind that music has been around not just since the beginning of schools, but since the beginning humanity. And while we have work to do, remember that music is alive and well because music makes us feel alive and well.

Hope you enjoyed the stats and data! Have a great week.


- Scott

p.s. Thanks to my friends at Music Trades Magazine for helping me with the number crunching!

BALANCE, BLEND, AND HARMONY

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Balance, blend, & harmony are the Holy Trinity of the musical art form. To achieve all three simultaneously is the goal of every composer, musician, and conductor. It requires skill, attentiveness, and most of all, flexibility. When achieved, it transcends the composition, the artists, and audience to a different place. 
All things being equal, achieving this is difficult at best. But, when given the obstacles of intonation rigidity, instrument idiosyncrasies, and individual player tendencies, the pursuit can be a worthy but maddening, pursuit. 

Consider the following... In order to achieve our musical goal we must blend:

  • Piccolos and tubas, clarinets and trombones

  • Instruments in different keys, ranges, and clefs

  • Rhythmic and melodic sounds

  • First, second, and third parts

  • Sharp and flat keys

But as music educators we must also blend:

  • All-state players with beginners

  • 18 year olds with 13 year olds

  • Boys and girls

  • Good instruments with bad

  • Visual with musical (marching band)

  • Various ethnicities and socio-economic statuses

As I said, at times this can be maddening. 

It would be easier if the instruments were all in the same key and made of the same materials. It would be easier if the instruments were in the same clef and had the same intonation tendencies. It would be easier if the students were all the same ages and skill sets. 


It would be easier if all things were equal, but then by definition it wouldn’t be balance, blend, and harmony, it would just be the SAME. Balance, blend, and harmony REQUIRES us to not only be different, but to work together to overcome our differences.


The ability to strive for true balance, blend, and harmony might be the most important lessons our students learn from us. Not for musical reasons, but for personal ones.

Recent (and not so recent) events have left our country as fractured as anytime I can remember. We don’t seem to be looking to balance or blend our differences so much as isolate and avoid those who are different from us. The left only talks to the left. The right only talks to the right. We elevate discussions to disagreements and discourse to debasing. I have watched political debates become dehumanizing. We don’t celebrate or appreciate our differences, we divide and isolate based on our ideologies. We aren’t seeking balance, blend, and harmony; we are seeking uniformity, isolation, and polarization.The result is anything but harmonious.

Remember, balance, blend, and harmony CELEBRATES differences but REQUIRES flexibility.

Music education has NEVER been a more important or worthy pursuit. We need music in our schools and in our lives, not just because of what it does for young people but for what it does for our cities, states, and countries. Students involved in making music are not just learning about balance, blend,and harmony in music but in life as well. They are learning to work with others to achieve goals. They are learning to be observant and flexible. They are learning to lead and to serve. They are learning about LIFE.

Recent events tell me that we need music now more than ever. They tell me that we can’t give up. We can’t back down. We can’t give up. And that what you do makes a difference. MUSIC MATTERS!

Here’s to a year full of balance, blend, and harmony. For you, for your students, and for our country.

Welcome back! We need you more than ever.

A simple note of thanks...

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Some newsletters are effortless and joyful to write. They practically write themselves in a stream of consciousness style that leads me to believe I could have, and perhaps should have, been a writer. 

Other newsletters, well, they confound me and remind me of why I am not, and probably should not be, a writer. I will let you decide privately which one is the better choice. 

Most weeks are a mixture of the two.

As a teacher and a speaker I have found that academic years are like newsletters. Some that are so joyful and effortless that they are a treasured experience that goes all too fast, while other are so arduous and frustrating that they can’t come to a close quick enough. 

Most years are a mixture of the two. 

Few writers are as flawed as me. I often lack brevity, clarity, and truth be told, any understanding of what a semi-colon actually does. I suspect that your affinity for the subject matter of music education, provides me a “writers halo” under which to operate safely and with a wide latitude concerning the formal rules of writing. Through it all, despite my flaws, I always attempt to provide value and meaning to you each and every week. But as I bring this years e-zines to a close, I should share a little secret with you. 

I do this more for me than for you.

Through this weekly missive I find a community: a group of people who share my professional values and passions, a place to use for my skills and experience, a place where my voice has meaning, and a creative space where I am simultaneously challenged and inspired. 

In this community I find a place where I have purpose. And for this, I wanted to offer this simple note of thanks. 

Thank you for making our schools and communities a better place. Thank you for helping young people reach their potential even when it came at a personal cost to you. Thank you for taking me in each week and allowing me to be a part of this incredible profession called music education.

But most of all, thank you for bringing out the best in me.

For some of you, today’s email is your Fine!, your final missive from me as you prepare to retire or chase another dream. THANK YOU for your service and may you reap all the blessings you deserve. For others, this is your Da Capo, a brief pause before returning to "the top” in a few short weeks to begin again. To you I say, recharge, refresh, and return as a blank slate for the benefit of both you and your students.

Either way, thanks for all you do for music education and for all you do for me!

— Scott

WHEN LIFE THROWS YOU A (GRADING) CURVEBALL

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This past Thursday the College Board (the company behind several U.S. standardized tests, including the SAT) announced that students' SAT scores will now be reported alongside a new indicator. 

Widely referred to as an "adversity score," the index aims to quantify a given student's structural disadvantages, by accounting for an area's rates of crime and poverty, among other factors.

The College Board is calling it an "Environmental Context Dashboard," and although it will not directly affect a test-taker's score, it will be presented to college admissions officials in order to provide a better context for where the student is coming from and what they had to overcome in order to achieve the results they achieved.


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As a part of the announcement the College Board's David Coleman explained:

If it works for the SAT, why not for MUSIC?

This is not the first time I have asked this question. In a 2015 blog post I specifically asked what would happen if as a part of the adjudication process we factored in the following: 

  • Enrollment/retention growth

  • Crime and poverty in the attendance boundaries

  • Number of students who study privately

  • Number of faculty & staff

  • Size of the organization

  • Number of student owned horns

  • Size and condition of the school inventory

  • Number of years in the classroom for the teacher 

  • Instrumentation of the ensemble

  • Is the ensemble audition based?

I fully recognized the logistical problems associated with making such a change. After all, what we do can’t be graded by a scantron. 

And while I am not suggesting that we alter an ensemble score, I am suggesting that we acknowledge and discuss the underlying premise that we perform/compete on a very unlevel playing field. After all, it’s easier to:

  • Play with a characteristic sound when you have a quality horn in working condition

  • Have blend and balance when you have 150 kids

  • Play in tune when you have new high quality reeds

  • Have better quality musicians if students study privately

  • Be successful if you are able to hire instrument coaches/techs

  • Be successful if you have program designers, drill writers, and music arrangers

This is NOT meant to say that you can’t overcome some or all of these obstacles. We know that with great teaching there are schools in impoverished areas that are creating highly competitive and artistic ensembles in challenging environments. I have seen it and know it to be true. 

But…It’s harder to do and statistically less likely to happen.

Maybe we can learn something from the College Board and their newest addition. Keep in mind, the "adversity score” doesn’t change the score of the student, it merely gives the admissions officer (or adjudicator) a more complete picture of the applicant so they can make a more informed decision. Similarly, we wouldn’t change a music score based on the environment of the school. But, perhaps a more complete picture of the ensemble (demographics, enrollment, teachers, etc.) might help to provide a more complete and better evaluation for the directors and students to learn from.

Now if we can just keep rich people from going on a crime spree in their own neighborhood to help boost their kids adversity score.

Have a great week.

Math and the Magical Chalk-Apocalypse

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My dislike and disdain for math has been well chronicled in this blog for may years. I hold no contempt or ill will for the subject, I just respectfully keep my distance. Given my butchering of geometry in high school, I suspect math holds a similar viewpoint towards me.

As a general rule mathematicians are not known to be an overly superstitious or sentimental group. Known more for their analytical skills than people skills, their personas appreciate facts and figures in lieu of flights of fancy. They see the world in more black and white terms and typically find comfort in the ability to not only see problems, but systematically and methodically solve them in a provable way.

Or so I thought.

Recently, an 80-year-old Japanese chalk company went out of business. Nobody, perhaps, was as sad to see the company go as mathematicians who had become obsessed with Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk, the so-called “Rolls Royce of chalk.”

Being neither a mathematician nor a chalk artist, I heard about Hagoromo through an article I read. The article talked about the cult like following the chalk has developed among mathematicians and the chaotic effect its demise is having on this distraught community. In fact, the demise of Hagoromo chalk has created such a demand that some professors have begun hoarding and hiding their supply. Professors have begun stashing chalk to the extent an underground black market has begun dealing in a very different white dust than we are used to.

Satyan Devadoss, a Williams College math professor, even wrote a blog post calling it “dream chalk.” He explained:

We are truly in the midst of a chalk-apocalypse!

What is it about this chalk that makes it so special? What possible property could it have that turns these otherwise sane and rational people into people who believe in “mystical and magical properties that must surely emanate from the tears of angels?” 

Sounds more like a Grateful Dead concert than a math convention to me. 

Is it a unique gloss coating? Is it a manufacturing process? Is it the actual chalk used to create the sticks? It doesn’t really matter. 

What matters is that a mathematician's days are filled with concrete concepts and absolute answers. They deal exclusively in binary states of right and wrong and while mathematics can be a very creative field (so I am told), that at its most basic element is not as creative a space as the human spirit requires. 

More than anything, for me, this shows that:

These people want to be a part of the community.
They want to believe in something that isn’t provable.
They want to appreciate that which can’t be measured.
They want to feel something that can’t be explained.

I can appreciate and understand this. It’s likely some of the same reasons I like playing a wood marimba or why I like the chalumeau register of the clarinet. Their love of all things Hagamoro is not that different than my love of all things Grainger. I can’t explain or measure it. I just know it.

Not everyone in the world will be a musician. Not every child will participate in music. But the reasons for its existence are so universal that they manifest itself across every country and throughout every civilization. As humans, we are a creative being. We need to exist outside of just our minds and the vacuum of our own little world.

This is why what we do is important and why you make a difference. MUSIC MATTERS AS MUCH AS MATH! And that is a theory that I can prove.

Just don’t tell Mrs. Stone, my high school geometry teacher. She always said I would one day appreciate math.

- Scott

p.s. You can still buy this chalk here

I Am No da Vinci… Thank Goodness!

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Leonardo da Vinci is known to one and all as the iconic figure of the Renaissance era. His area of interest were ass wide ranging as they were impressive and included invention, drawing, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. Whew!

This week the world paused for a moment to celebrate his extraordinary life and accomplishments on the 500th anniversary of his passing. As a part of the homage CNN produced a retrospective and timeline of his life. The interesting and interactive web portal allows you to enter your age and see exactly what Leonardo was working on when he was your age. (Do not proceed if your ego is frail or you're struggling with self-esteem issues).

Ugh… Well here it goes. I typed in my age (52) and here is what appeared:

"At the age of 52, having completed the sketch of the Vitruvian Man and painting of the Last Supper, Leonardo began work on his most famous masterpiece, the Mona Lisa (I don't need to hyperlink that do I?). He was also working on a monumental mural at Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, (The Battle of Anghiari) which would have been his largest painting at more 56 feet in length."

Seriously!? Like my feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt weren’t enough, now I have to use the "Grand Master of all things" as my mid-life (crisis) measuring stick? 

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That not enough to make you want to crawl back in to bed and contemplate the insignificance of your life? Well there’s more. It turns out that in addition to painting some of the world’s greatest masterpieces, by his 51st birthday he had about had enough spare time to sketch out designs for the first helicopter, adding machine, parachute, military tank, double decker bridge and wait for it…. city of the future!

Clearly, I am no da Vinci.

Many historians regard Leonardo as the prime example of a Universal Genius and marvel at the fact that his singular greatness seemed to know no bounds. 

After extraordinary life and art, expression and invention, Leonardo da Vinci died at 67 years of age on May 2, 1519, leaving two notable holes in his expansive body of work.

Music and education.

Yep, that’s right, to the best of our (documentable) knowledge, da Vinci was never a true musician or a teacher. Yes, his work inspired and helped to educate but there is no evidence that he formally taught. And while It is considered Leonardo thought music second only to painting in the importance of his artistic talents, history has left us with little in the way of written evidence regarding his musical abilities other than a few very brief melodies. And while he designed several musical instruments, there is no evidence he could actually play them.

After celebrating his enumerable impact and incomparable mind last week and this incredible profession we call our own this week. Let’s wonder in the fact that the things that eluded history’s greatest mind, are things you do with ease each and every day.

Yes, it’s true, I am no da Vinci. But then again, he was no music educator.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week. 

-Scott