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Coralville October 2017 Musician of the Month: Helena Mounce
By West Music Company
11/1/2017 5:08:00 AM  

Helena violin studentHelena is 6th grade student in our West Music Lessons program. She has studied flute with Rose Bishop for 2 years, ukulele with Chris Eck for 2 years, and violin with William and Donald Gentzsch for 4 years. She enjoys band, orchestra and aerial dance. Helena is a dedicated musician and an exemplary student!

Her teachers have this to say about working with her:

“Helena was one of the hardest working, most outgoing students I have ever taught. She is a joy to work with!” - William Gentzsch, Violin Instructor

“It’s a privilege to be Helena’s teacher and to see her expressing herself so well through music. She has a natural aptitude and love for music, and always works hard. I’ve been very proud to play with her at her school talent show and West Music recitals.” -Chris Eck, West Music Director of Lessons & Ukulele Instructor

“Helena is one of the sweetest and most caring flute students I have ever had. She is passionate about learning and works hard every week to perfect her assigned music. Her positive outlook and creativity makes her one of my favorite students to work with each week!” -Rose Bishop, Flute Instructor

One of her main goals on violin is to finish all of the Suzuki books. She likes that music can change your mood and how when you practice “the outcome is really cool!” Helena offers this advice to other musicians: “Keep practicing. I almost gave up on violin, but I kept going, and now I’m pretty good!” Her favorite musician is violinist Lindsey Stirling.

In addition to music and dance Helena likes puzzles, board games, hiking, and Roblox. When asked what someone might be surprised to learn about her, she confesses that “I really like potatoes!”

Congratulations, Helena!

Tags: coralville, flute, violin, ukulele, student, chris eck
Categories: West Music Coralville
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Cedar Rapids October 2017 Musician of the Month: Holly Larson
By West Music Company
11/1/2017 4:57:00 AM  
holly larson pianoHolly Larson is a piano student of Chuck Michaelson here at West Music in Marion/Cedar Rapids. She has been studying with Chuck for 5 months. She attends school at St. Matthews and is in the 4th grade. Chuck nominated Holly because, “She has a lot of enthusiasm for the piano and has been making steady progress.”

Holly’s musical goal is to be in a band when she grows up. Her advice to other musicians is to, “Keep trying and never give up!” Holly’s favorite thing about music is the different sounds it makes. She participates in her school choir and also church choir. Her other interests include violin and art. Holly’s favorite musician is Prince. Something that someone might be interested to learn about Holly is that she hates salmon.

Congratulations, Holly!

Tags: piano, student, chuck michaelson
Categories: West Music Cedar Rapids/Marion
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Extraordinary Associate of the Month September 2017: Angela Cox
By West Music Company
11/1/2017 3:51:00 AM  
Angela CoxWe are pleased to announce the Associate of the Month! 

Much gratitude and appreciation goes out to Angela Cox for her positive attitude and outstanding efforts during our very busy production seasons of catalog, Back To School, and on into Holiday.

Serving as the lead graphic designer on our highest profile projects, Angela has made extraordinary contributions on keeping things rolling through her current projects while looking ahead and planning for the future.

Angela’s commitment to assisting with the on-boarding of our three new associates in the Marketing Department has been exceptional. She has given many late nights and Saturdays to ensure that West Music continues to have vibrant marketing elements to draw in our customers.

Thank you Angela!

As told to Robin Walenta, President & CEO

Tags: angela cox, catalog, art and design
Categories: Extraordinary Associate of the Month
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Proper Posture Is the Key to Playing for Life
By West Music Company
10/23/2017 5:41:00 AM  

Proper Posture Is the Key to Playing for Life

Almost every instrument requires some repetitive motion and therefore can lead to injury over time. Even young players can injure themselves over the course of just a few months. The good news is that there is one sure-fire way to protect your child from strain and injury, and that is to maintain good posture!


The Elements of Good Posture When Playing an Instrument

Good playing posture goes from head to toe. The guiding principles are:

  • Maintain a solid frame, that way bones can do their work, easing the burden on muscles.
  • Stay relaxed but engaged – not tensed up, but also not limp.

A great way for a student to develop proper posture is to work quite literally from the “bottom” up.


proper postureMusician’s Positioning on the Chair

Musicians in good posture sit forward in their chairs. Exactly how far forward is a matter of comfort and body type. Some musicians are poised right at the chair’s edge, but most have their weight centered a little farther back.


Chairs Have Straight Backs—So Should Musicians

Your child should sit with their chest and shoulders raised to a straight, yet comfortable position. A comfortably straight spine allows hours of play. Stiffness, however, is a recipe for fatigue.


Down Below, Flat Feet Will Go

Keep feet comfortably at rest on the floor.  They do not have to remain frozen like a statue, but having your child regularly resettling into “rest feet” position is helpful in maintaining consistently good posture.


"Coat Hanger" Shoulders

To the greatest extent the instrument allows, music students should keep their shoulders level while playing.  To help visualize this, some musicians like to imagine a coat hanger with a tank top on it: it can sway a little, but if it tilts consistently or sways too far, the shirt falls to the floor.


Keep a Level Head

Remember that the head should face “straight ahead”. Dropping the chin or “turtle-necking” forward are easy, but unhealthy, habits for young musicians to fall into. Encourage your child to make a mental note to regularly check in on how their head and neck are positioned.


proper playing postureInstruments Do Not Charge for Travel: Bring It to You

Once proper posture is attained, new musicians should fit the instrument into the frame they have created, rather than bending and twisting themselves to fit around the instrument. The temptation to lean forward and “meet the instrument halfway” is very strong, but it puts a tremendous strain on the back and neck. Musicians at every level should regularly practice assuming good posture without their instruments, and then gently bring their instruments to their poised, relaxed bodies.

Special Encouragment for Violin and Viola Players

Playing the violin or viola poses special challenges for posture. Learning to hold these instruments while staying true to the principles of good playing posture is not easy! Encourage your child to be patient with the process and to speak up immediately if they ever feel discomfort or strain.


The Payoff of Proper Instrument Positioning: Lifelong Playing

Music is one of a very special few human pursuits that a person can engage in as actively at age 79 as they did at age nine! By helping your child learn and reinforcing the fundamentals of proper posture, you can ensure that a lifetime of satisfaction awaits them.

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Tags: beginner, posture, health
Categories: Conservatory, Music Education
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Decorah Teacher Feature: Brianne Anderson
By West Music Company
10/19/2017 4:33:00 PM  
brianne andersonWest Music Decorah is proud to present the newest member of our teaching team, BRIANNE ANDERSON. As an accomplished flutist and teacher, Brianne Anderson completed a Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance at Iowa State University in 2016. Extensive experience in orchestral, band, and solo performances as well as flute choir and other small ensembles provides Ms. Anderson with a well-rounded approach to flute playing. As a well-travelled musician, Ms. Anderson has performed across the Midwest and toured Europe twice giving performances in Austria, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. In the summer of 2015, she pursued an internship with the National Flute Association, assisting in their Chicago office as well as in Washington D.C. for the annual national convention. As a past mentor in ISU’s learning community Esprit de Corps and treasurer of ISU’s music service fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota, Ms. Anderson prioritizes serving the music community and inspiring young musicians to grow.

Ask an associate today for more information about taking lessons at West Music, or schedule your appointment online at Looking4Lessons.com.

Tags: decorah, flute
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Decorah
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Decorah October 2017 Musician of the Month: Emma Schmeizer
By West Music Company
10/19/2017 3:11:00 PM  
Emma Schmelzer

Emma Schmelzer is a 6th grader who has been taking violin lessons at West Music for two years. In addition to her violin studies, Emma also plays the flute in the school band. Emma was recently awarded the title of Winneshiek County Little Miss Cowgirl and enjoys raising cows and sheep and working on the family farm with her parents. In the words of Emma’s violin teacher, Mykal Finch:

“Emma is a smart, talented, and passionate young woman! She often goes above and beyond to help other students be successful. Emma was my first student and she has consistently set a high standard for my whole studio.”
- Mykal Finch, Violin Instructor

Emma hopes to continue to make music her whole life and to one day become a “really good violinist.” She would encourage other music students to always try their best and continuously learn new things. Emma says people are always shocked to learn she is adopted, but she hopes to use that to show the world that “you can do anything as longas you practice.”

Way to go Emma!

Tags: decorah, Mykal Finch, violin, student
Categories: West Music Decorah
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8 of the Sweetest Songs for Sweetest Day
By West Music Company
10/18/2017 11:43:00 AM  

8 of the Sweetest Songs for Sweetest Day

The third Saturday in October is Sweetest Day! This beautiful day that celebrates love and appreciation in every form dates back to the early 1920s. The informal holiday grew out of efforts by candy makers, especially in Cleveland and Detroit, to bring a little happiness to orphans, older adults living alone, and others who needed a little extra kindness. Today, we celebrate Sweetest Day by finding little ways to remind all the special people in our lives how much they mean to us. One great way to do that is to spend time together sharing the sweet gift of great music, straight from the heart.

Magic Penny, by Malvina Reynolds

Few songs embody the spirit of Sweetest Day from its beginnings better than this beloved child's classic. No one can hold back the goosebumps or keep their heart from melting like milk chocolate at the sight and sound of enthusiastic kids reminding us all that love is just like a magic penny—the more generously you give it away, the more you will have.

Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, Adagio

With its soaring violins and gently lyrical clarinet solo, the third movement of Rachmaninoff’s masterpiece positively drips sweetness with every note. The entire symphony evokes images of classic “Happily Ever After” fairy tails that uplift the soul.

Kind and Generous, by Natalie Merchant

Often, the truest, sweetest words to say or hear are simply, “I want to thank you, thank you, thank you…” Natalie Merchant touched us all with this uncomplicated expression of the struggles we all go through when we try to find the right way to tell the important people in our lives just how much they mean to us.

Bold as Love (from Axis: Bold as Love), by Jimi Hendrix

Everyone knows of Jimi Hendrix’s unrivaled mastery of his Fender Stratocaster guitar, but the remarkable poetry of his songs has too often been overlooked. With lyrics like, “Blue are the life-giving waters, they quietly understand,” and “Giving my life to a rainbow like you,” Hendrix showed that he understood the sweetness of life and love as well as anyone.

Sweet Surrender, by Sarah McLachlan

McLachlan’s voice is pure sweetness in itself. When she lends it to lines of tender appreciation, such as “You take me in, no questions asked,” we are all reminded that simple acts of love and understanding truly do make the world a sweeter, more beautiful place. The message is made all the more powerful by a dreamy video, in which the singer-songwriter rescues and reunites with a former image of herself.

Cheek to Cheek, by Irving Berlin

“Heaven, I’m in heaven.” Is there any sweeter way to share a moment with someone dear than dancing close as a song plays? Made famous by Fred Astaire’s performance in Top Hat, this Irving Berlin classic is one of the most requested songs at weddings and anniversary celebrations across the U.S., and it is easy to hear why.

Für Elise, by Ludwig Van Beethoven

Beethoven gave the world so many romantic melodies that it is hard to select just one. No one is certain who “Elise” was, or if that was even the name Beethoven wrote on the original score in his notoriously careless handwriting. Regardless, it is hard to imagine anything sweeter than being forever associated with one of the most recognizable melodies of all time.

You Are My Sunshine, by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell

For a day devoted to all things sweet, it is only right for us to use a much beloved song like "You Are My Sunshine" to bring this list to a close. When a child belts out, “You make me happy, when skies are gray,” it is hard to imagine anything on Earth that could be sweeter! 

“You Are My Sunshine” has brought smiles to more people’s faces than almost any other song in recent history. In fact we've written about this song before and how it was used in a music therapy session to not only brighted up patients day, but the music therapist's day as well.

Share the Music, Share the Sweetness

Whether it is one of these songs or one of your own favorites, take a few minutes to make sweet music with the people you hold dear on Sweetest Day. With a great selection of music books and other resources, we will be celebrating right along with you!

Tags: love, sweetest day, valentines, holidays
Categories: N/A
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Coralville Teacher Feature: Saul Lubaroff
By West Music Company
10/15/2017 1:53:00 PM  
Saul LubaroffExcelling as a professional saxophonist, clarinetist, and flautist, Saul Lubaroff stands as a central cog in the Eastern Iowa music scene. As a performer of jazz, blues, soul, klezmer, classical, and pop music, Saul is a veteran in some of most successful bands of the area. He performs with The Fez, a 15-piece Steely Dan tribute band, The Johnny Kilowatt Blues Band, and Shade of Blue, a local soul band.

Saul has shared the stage with George Clinton and PFunk, Liquid Soul, Clark Terry, Michael Woolf, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, and Alex Foster of the Saturday Night Live band, and has performed locally with Orchestra Iowa, the Band Salaam (Persian and Mediterranean music), The Blue Band, Brass Transit Authority, local big bands, funk bands, and his own quartet.

Saul is currently accepting new students ages 8 through adult for saxaphone, clarient, and flute lessons at West Music Coralville. He also teaches music composition.

Schedule Your First Lesson with Saul!

Tags: saul lubaroff, The Fez, Johnny Kilowatt Blues Band, Shade of Blue, orchestra iowa,
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Coralville
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How Much Should Kids Practice Their Instrument?
By West Music Company
10/9/2017 9:21:00 AM  

upset girl practicingHow Much Should Kids Practice Their Instrument?

Everybody knows that musicians improve by practicing. But the question of how much time your kids should spend practicing isn’t as simple as “the more, the better.”


Finding the Sweet Spot

The right practice routine is one that ensures enough progress to keep kids motivated while keeping the whole process fun. Practicing too little, and they won’t improve, which will lead to becoming discouraged. Practice too much, and they risk developing physical injuries or mental exhaustion that will keep them from pursuing their musical dreams over the long haul.


Practice as Close to Daily as Possible

Many books suggest a certain amount of total practice time per week. The problem with that approach is it suggests that one marathon session at the end of the week is as good as seven brief, daily practice periods. That simply isn’t true. The more daily time on their instrument (or DTOI as some music instructors refer to it), the more progress they’ll see in their playing—and the more their practice sessions will feel like a daily reward instead of a weekly obligation.

daily time on instrument


Improve Something New Every Week

Set them up for success by having them pick out one simple thing each week that they’d like to improve about their playing. Maybe it’s remembering to maintain good posture or playing a scale at a steady tempo, with no rushing or hesitation. Have them devote a couple of minutes of daily practice time to that one skill, and every week they will have proof that they’re getting better! Stay as close as you can to a daily routine and never let your practice schedule get so heavy that you feel drained and start losing your sense of excitement and fun.


One Goal No Musician Should Set

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” There is no such thing as a perfect musician or even a perfect performance of a piece of music. Our human imperfections are part of the beauty of the music we make. Besides, if your kids ever become perfect, they would have no way to get better, and what fun would that be for them? Always remind them that practice is about becoming better, not becoming flawless.

And of course, practice should always be paired with instruction from an experienced teacher. West Music is here to help guide children to become better musicians and offer more direction outside of class when they need it. Check out our selection of group classes and individual lessons to take their skills to the next level.

Related Articles

Tags: beginners, music education, practice
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Music Education
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It's Science! Basic Acoustics: Frequency, Wavelength & Pitch
By West Music Company
10/2/2017 5:39:00 PM  

It’s Science! Basic Acoustics: Frequency, Wavelength & Pitch

Music is the wondrous meeting place of art and science. Part One of “It’s Science!” explained how the volume of a sound is determined by the amplitude of the sound wave. Sound waves have many other characteristics besides amplitude; otherwise, dropping a dinner plate would sound like playing a trumpet!

Frequency: Why “Re” Is Different from “Mi”

piano hamersWhen you watch waves roll onto a beach, you not only notice how high the waves are (their amplitude), but also how rapidly they follow each other. If you were to count how many wave crests reach the shore in a minute, you would be finding the frequency of the waves. Likewise, frequency of a sound wave is measured by how many air vibrations reach our eardrums every second.

Frequency is what makes one note different from another, in a very simple way: higher frequency means higher pitch. Booming bass notes have very low frequencies, while piercing treble notes have very high frequencies.

Fun fact: Frequency doubles every octave. Therefore, the frequency of the note middle C is exactly twice the frequency of the note C an octave lower.

The question all of this raises is, if frequency determines pitch, why don’t all instruments sound the same when the same note is played on them? This question reveals the “great secret” of musical instruments: they never produce just one frequency at a time! Each time you play a note on any instrument, in addition to the main frequency (the note we can identify), a whole bunch of other waves with different frequencies and smaller amplitudes are created. These other waves are called the “overtones” of the main note. We don’t register them in our minds because they are so much quieter than the main note, but we do hear them; they shape our perception of the timbre (quality of sound) of the instrument. Each instrument produces a different blend of overtones, which is why a violin never sounds like a flute.

No wonder studying music helps students do better in math and science!


On the Same Wavelength: How a Trombone and a Slide Whistle are Basically the Same


courtesy of GIPHY Trombone Shorty

 Returning to waves hitting the beach, you could also measure the distance between “peaks”—that is, how many meters separate one wave crest from the next. This measurement is the wavelength of the waves. Wavelength and frequency are closely related: If you change the wavelength of a sound wave, you also change the frequency, creating a new pitch. That explains why pressing down the string of a cello or guitar with your finger changes the note that you hear: By shortening the length of string that is free to vibrate, you shorten the wavelength of the sound wave, so the frequency changes, too.

Fun fact: The hammers of a piano strike the strings 1/7 of the way along their length in order to silence the 7th overtone of the main note, which is often considered harsher in sound.

Similarly, the valves and keys of brass and woodwind instruments alter the instruments’ air columns to change the wavelength of the sound waves created. An even simpler way to change wavelength, however, would be to shorten or lengthen the entire air column. That is how a slide whistle works, and why it is a very old instrument. A slide trombone works in exactly the same way—each time the slide is moved, the wavelength of the sound waves gets longer or shorter.


Putting It All Together: The Great Bass Mystery Solved


The relationship between wavelength and frequency is actually very specific: As frequency increases, wavelength decreases. In other words, if a note has a very low frequency, it will have a very long wavelength. If the frequency of a pitch is very high, its wavelength will be very short. As it happens, wavelength determines how far a sound wave can travel. Shorter wavelengths die out more quickly as the wave moves through the air.

That is why you only hear the bass and drums when a band is playing at the far end of the park. The low-frequency notes produced by basses and tom-toms have ultra-long wavelengths, so they travel much farther than the higher-frequency, short-wavelength notes of the guitars, singers, and cymbals. It really is all science!


The Science in Practice: Audio Engineering


People who apply scientific ideas to real-world problems are called engineers. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the people who run recording studios or operate the sound equipment at a concert are called sound or audio engineers. If you are interested in exploring the world of acoustics more deeply, we offer a variety of products to get you started in audio engineering.

Tags: music education, STEAM
Categories: Music Education
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