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Be the Ultimate Band or Orchestra Parent in 5 Easy Steps!
By West Music Company
1/10/2018 11:38:00 AM  

Be the Ultimate Band or Orchestra Parent in 5 Easy Steps!


orchestra recital

No matter the age of your kid, by being engaged in your child’s school music program they are more likely to be engaged themselves. Plus, being involved is a lot of fun! 

For over 75 years, West Music has worked with local communities to bring band and orchestra music into schools. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about what makes a successful school music program and have some tips for parents. Read our fun, foolproof guide to becoming the ultimate band or orchestra parent in 5 easy steps!


1. Get Your Child to Places on Time

Unless you son or daughter is old enough to drive, getting them from place to place will mostly fall on you. Being on time to practice sessions and private lessons is important because it gives your young musician as much time with their instructor as possible. If you school program is planning a recital, by attending any meetings or practice sessions you can find out important information about the day the event. For example, you might learn that all the students have been asked to wear black, so you need to do laundry tonight!

2. Be a savvy shopper, avoid big box stores

We don’t have to say them by name, but those national chain stores typically don’t give you the best value for your dollar. The instruments they sell are shiny, colorful, and inexpensive. But remember, you often get what you pay for! Instruments from big box stores are typically manufactured very cheaply and do not conform to any instrument manufacturer’s standards, meaning repairing them is virtually impossible!

Also use caution when buying student instruments online or at garage sales. Again, if the price appears “too good to be true” it probably is just that! Instead, trust a local retailer for your student instruments and supplies. Besides offering you the best quality at the best price, local stores often hire experienced staff that can help you choose director approved items. Also, it’s your local music store that will be doing instrument repairs.

Learn about purchasing or renting a student instrument from West Music.

Learn about West Music’s Repair Shop.

booster club parents3. Join a Booster Club

A booster club is a formal organization of parents, teachers, and others that support a school program. Booster Clubs are important because no one teacher or one school can do it all on their own. For younger grades, teachers need help organizing recitals and field trips. For older grades, there are always fundraising needs, but more on that later!

Ask your student’s music teacher if there’s already a booster club at your school. If not, consider starting one. West Music offers free resources for booster clubs, including the West Music Booster Handbook.

For your free West Music Booster Handbook, please contact us at service@westmusic.com.

4. Volunteer & Fundraise for Your School

If there’s one universal truth about school music programs, it’s that they are always in need of adult volunteers! Volunteers can act as chaperones for field trips or off-campus performances. They also are needed for fundraising.

Why do school music programs need to fundraise? Don’t they have all the money the need? The answer is typically no. Music programs often have additional costs that might not be covered by the school’s budget, such as new instruments or maybe a cart to transport instruments in. Without parent support, schools would never have enough to cover these costs on their own.

musical gifts for parents5. Reward Yourself!

Okay, this one isn’t a requirement, but it’s fun to show off your music parent pride. Find fun and funky accessories such as socks, bags, mugs, and even jewelry to let the whole world know that you’re a dedicated music parent!

West Music has a wide range of music gifts.


Related Articles

• How Music Helps Kids Excel at School
• How Parents Can Help their Young Musician
• Practice Tips for Young Musicians
• Why Choose Lesson for Your Child?


In closing we want to encourage you to get involved with your child’s school music program. Even if you can’t be president of the booster club, you can still show your support by driving your child to practice. By showing interest in your child’s musical journey, your child feels encouraged to continue to Play now. Play for life.

Tags: booster, have fun, young musician, beginner, advocacy, fundraising
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Music Advocacy
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Extraordinary Associate of the Month: Sam Marchuck
By West Music Company
10/1/2017 2:13:00 PM  

Sam MarchukWe are pleased to announce the August 2017 Associate of the Month!

Sam Marchuk represented West Music and himself very well recently at the Strathmore Uke and Guitar Summit in North Bethesda, MD in August 2017. He had the opportunity to teach, plan and promote our products at this event.

Cathy Fink, an organizer at Ukefest, wrote, “Sam was a fantastic instructor at our Ukefest this year. He taught a large beginner class and came in VERY prepared, including large chord charts that he put up on the wall. His students LOVED him and told me that all
week long.”

Sam had the opportunity to perform in 2 concerts, including the featured event for “Strathmore Ukefest” on Wednesday evening for which he was the opener. He played 2 instrumental versions of the Beatles songs — “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude.” The concert brought in about 2,500 people from the community and featured food trucks along with several music vendors. Quite a blast!

At the festival, he also had an assortment of ukuleles, books, and accessories to sell. He already has plans on what additional
items to bring to the next Uke and Guitar Summit in August 2018! Thanks to Sam for growing his knowledge and expertise as well as promoting West Music across the United States.

As told to Robin Walenta,
President & CEO

Tags: school music, music education, ukulele
Categories: Extraordinary Associate of the Month, Music Advocacy
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How Music Helps Kids Excel in School
By West Music Company
9/1/2017 2:32:00 PM  

How Music Helps Kids Excel in School

The opportunity to learn to play music is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. Even if your child has no desire to become a professional musician, learning music gives them self-confidence and a lifetime of satisfaction.

There’s another, also extremely important benefit of having your child learn to play music. Musical education during childhood can positively impact cognitive development, improve social skills, and increase academic success for all levels of school. Music education has even been able to help underachievers! A study published in Nature showed that students lagging behind in scholastic performance caught up to their fellow students in reading and surpassed their classmates in math by 22% after only seven months of musical instruction.

benefits of music ed

The Science Behind the Effects of Music on the Mind

Researchers at the Arts Education Partnership have compiled study results demonstrating a host of ways that music training prepares a child’s mind for success in school. Among the many mental abilities that improve through learning an instrument are:

Working memory

Forty years ago, “working memory” was a tricky concept that few people understood. Thanks to the constant presence of computers today, the idea of working memory is easy to grasp—it is basically the number of things a computer can work on at once. Receiving musical training is like getting a “memory upgrade” for the brain. A musician in an orchestra must concentrate on the fine motor skills required to play their instrument, recall any guidance the conductor has provided about the mood of the piece, remember how to decode all the symbols on the sheet music page, and be continuously alert for cues—simultaneously! That is seriously high-powered parallel processing, and developing it pays huge dividends in school.

Abstract Thinking Skills

For many children, learning to play an instrument is their first experience with abstract thinking. It is easy to learn that drinking water relieves your thirst. It is more complicated to learn that putting your fingers in a specific position while performing a specific action with your breath or with a bow produces the note G—the connection between the action and the outcome is far from obvious. Comprehending this kind of indirect connection is the essence of abstract thinking, and the value of such thinking skills, especially in math and science, it is enormous. 


So much has been written about the ever-shortening attention spans of both kids and adults that it seems like there must be no one left who can pay attention long enough to read stores, let alone text books. Music provides exceptional training in sustained concentration! In fact, if you had access to an fMRI machine you can litterally see the parts of the brain responsible for attentivness light up, as sciencents at Stanford Medical did. Whether your child is practicing an exercise using sheet music, performing a recital piece from memory, or playing chords on a guitar while singing a folk song, there is no space for a lapse in attention. As a result, children who study music develop the ability to focus on a task more keenly, more deeply, and for a longer period of time than non-musicians.


emotional benefits to music

Emotional & Psychological Benefits Key to Success

One of the most difficult life lessons to learn is the difference between what is possible right now and what will become possible over time through dedicated effort. For a young musician, understanding that distinction becomes second nature almost from the very first moment they come in contact with an instrument. After all, even the most naturally gifted musicians on Earth have at some point made a mess of a piece before ultimately mastering it.

No musician, young or old, can just decide to be great tomorrow. Although, all musicians can be better tomorrow if they put in the work today. The chance to discover the boundless rewards of persistence may well be the most important reason that students who study music do better in school than non-musicians.

As young musicians advance through levels of skill, they learn the valuable companion lesson that criticism is not something to be feared and most certainly not a reason to feel shame. They learn that a correction from a teacher is an expression of faith in their ability to do better. It is a great feeling to send children off to school knowing that the inevitable criticisms their work will receive will inspire rather than dishearten them.


America Knows Music Matters in School

infographics music educational benefits

Over 71% of Americans believe that music education fosters the development of skills, such as creativity and leadership, that are vital to success in a wide variety of fields. A whopping 80% say that musical training contributes to lifelong personal fulfillment. Possibly more than any other pursuit, music gives your child the keys to the halls of knowledge and the foundation for a rewarding career. No matter your child’s age, the value of music lessons in promoting academic achievement and overall well-being is like music itself, truly beyond words.

For more about this topic including ideas on how to introduce babies and young children to music, read our blog The Benefits of Music Education in Childhood Development.

Tags: music education, school success, memory, self-confidence, cognitive development
Categories: Music Advocacy, Music Education
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Practice Tips for Young Musicians
By West Music Company
8/23/2017 2:57:00 PM  

Practice Tips for Young and Beginning Musicians

It’s been said a trillion times, and for good reason: practice is absolutely essential for growth as a musician. You can never expect to grow if you don’t understand the value of a good practice session. Marathon runners exercise every day in order to be prepared to run those 26.2 miles. Musicians need daily practice as well to ensure that they will perform their very best.

Music is a mental activity, but it also has a physical element that is often overlooked by younger musicians. The greatest players in the world have such highly developed muscle memory in their arms, hands, feet, wrists, fingers, mouths, etc. that they are able to focus much more on the music - their tone, tempo, dynamics, etc.

Muscle memory isn’t developed over night. You need to spend enough time with your instrument that it becomes second nature. If you spend enough time with any tool it will gradually become easier to use. It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to become an expert at something, and this is certainly true for musicians. After a while, you’ll notice that you can repeat melodies by ear, accurately reproduce sounds that were only in your head, and match pitches much easier than you could before you had logged a good amount of practice time. The goal is to get to a point where the instrument is an extension of yourself –where it’s no longer you vs. the instrument, but instead, one cohesive organism, both parts working perfectly together.

Here are three essential tips that can help you get the most out of your practice time, and help you to develop correct muscle memory:
1. Use a metronome
I’m going to sound like your band director here, but this one thing is arguably the most important tip I can give: practice with a metronome! It doesn’t have to be so loud and obnoxious that you hear it in your sleep, or so fast that you can barely keep up, but it’s absolutely essential that your practice is guided by an accurate time keeper. Practicing scales and rudiments with a metronome will train your muscles to move in time, and slowly your hands will find it much easier to play with accurate time when there is no metronome – performances for example. Having a metronome accompany your practice sessions will also train your ears to lock into a set tempo and be able to hear if it starts to slow down or speed up. This writer can say from experience, even if you’re not the most technically advanced player in your group, if you have the most developed sense of time, you will be the most valuable player.

Need a Metronome?

2. Warm up
Why do athletes stretch before games? They’ve played the game before, their minds are familiar with what their bodies need to do to win; so why is it important for them to warm up? The answer is simple: the faster their muscles are able to respond, the faster they can react to what their opponent is doing. In this metaphor, the opponent is a new piece of music.

The goal of any practice session should be to fine tune techniques, scales, chords, and songs you already know, but to also work on things that you haven’t mastered. Difficult theory, strange scales or chord shapes, and complex time signatures will be much easier to wrap your head around if your body is warmed up and can quickly respond. Say you’ve mastered a piece of music. You’ve completely memorized it start to finish, perfected it, you could play it in your sleep – your body has already formed strong muscle memory with this tune so not warming up may hinder your speed/fluidity, but your hands will still know exactly when and which notes to play (although it will probably sound a little sloppy). For a song you’re just beginning to learn, your muscles aren’t familiar with the placement of notes yet. Thoroughly warming up will eliminate any issues with your body not responding quickly to your brain while working through a brand new piece of music, and you’ll have the song learned much faster than if you had to struggle through waiting on your fingers to warm up while you focus on melodies and phrasing.

music stand3. Use good posture
Almost every instrument requires some repetitive motion and can lead to injury over time, even just a few months. The one sure-fire way to protect yourself from strain and injury is to maintain good posture.

There are two guiding principles to maintain good posture. The first is to maintain a solid frame; that way the bones can do the work, easing the burden on muscles. The second is stay relaxed but engaged. You don’t want to tense up, but you also don’t want to be limp like spaghetti.

Something that will help maintain good posture is a good music stand. They allow you to look straight ahead at your music. 

Need a Stand?

4. Have fun!
Music is fun. That sentence probably seems pretty obvious to anyone who has decided to dedicate their time and energy into learning an instrument. Even with all the difficulty, frustration, and anxiety that can sometimes come with practice, the act of creating music is a purely wonderful and enjoyable phenomenon. Like with any athlete, their practices and workouts can be extremely difficult, but they power through because playing the game at a higher level than they could before makes it more enjoyable and beneficial for them.

Practice the things you need to practice, but don’t feel bad about taking a few minutes to play though an old favorite or just experimenting with interesting new sounds and ideas – this leads to inspiration, and inspiration leads to growth. Turn on the TV and try to follow along with the melodies of commercial jingles or movie scores, put on an album and try to follow along with the recorded musicians. A clear goal and direction are highly important for a productive practice session, but to repeat what was stated earlier, any time spent with your instrument in your hands gets you a little closer to reaching your goals. Pick it up and don’t put it down!

Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our music education experts a call at 800-373-2000. 

Tags: practice, practice tips, warm up, metronome, have fun, young musician, beginner
Categories: Music Advocacy, Music Education
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Educating the Next Generation of Music Teachers
By West Music Company
6/21/2017 4:25:00 PM  

West Music & Chairman Steve West Honored for Efforts in Music Education

Since its founding in 1941, West Music has been dedicated to music education. Last month West Music and its Chairman of the Board, Steve West, received The President’s Honor from Kirkwood Community College. The award was given in recognition of both the company’s and Steve West’s own personal dedication to the school in its efforts to train the next generation of music teachers.

40 Year Relationship with Kirkwood Community College

Kirkwood Community College is a long established 2-year college in Eastern Iowa. Headquartered in Cedar Rapids, the college also has several satellite locations across the region. They offer several music-related degrees including Music Theory, Music History and Applied Music. Steve West first became involved with Kirkwood in the 1980’s, while he was the president and CEO of West Music, when the school asked about purchasing a few new instruments. Over the next 40 years the relationship grew from simply transactional to one that was truly collaborative.

Graduating Future Music Teachers Sooner and For Less

In 2006 West Music established an endowed Kirkwood scholarship for students beginning their studies at Kirkwood, then transferring to The University of Iowa or University of Northern Iowa to peruse degrees in music education. Before 2006, music education students transferring from Kirkwood to one of these universities would lose 40 of their 62 college credits. Steve West worked with the schools to pave the way for acceptance of every college credit earned while at Kirkwood. Thanks in part to this collaboration, today future music teachers can graduate sooner and with far less debt than they did in the past.

Community Efforts to Bring Music to More Students

West Music continues to be a key supporter to Kirkwood’s music programs as well as an enthusiastic booster of the Kirkwood Foundation. Steve West has been a tireless volunteer and leader in Foundation campaigns and initiatives to bring more resources to Kirkwood music programs. Additionally, West Music has donated to Kirkwood’s piano practice studios for many years and partners with Kirkwood's K.I.C.K. Summer Camp program, helping to provide a variety of summer music camps to students of all ages and abilities.

Tags: music advocacy, music education, kcc, award, professional
Categories: West Music Cedar Rapids/Marion, Music Advocacy
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Robin Walenta of West Music Presents Award to Iowan Senators
By West Music Company
5/31/2017 1:12:00 PM  
Robin Walenta and Sen Joni Ernst
Last week, Robin Walenta, President and CEO of West Music presented Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley with a flag in representation of the two school districts in Iowa that were recognized as the Best Communities for Music Education by The NAMM Foundation. The two school districts, Davenport Community School District and Sioux City Community School District, were recognized earlier this year by The NAMM Foundation as part of the organization’s Best Communities for Music Education awards program which honored 527 districts across the nation for their commitment to music education.

Walenta made the presentation as part of the annual NAMM Music Education Advocacy D.C. Fly-In, May 22-24. Along with nearly 100 music industry leaders, notable artists, and arts education activists, Walenta took to Capitol Hill to advocate for all school-aged children to have access to quality, comprehensive school music education programs. The issue of music education takes on a special significance this year as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in 2015 by President Obama readies for state-level implementation in 2018 in the face of proposed budget cuts. New research also shows strong ties between K-12 school students who actively participate in school music education programs and overall student success. A recent study of students in the Chicago Public Schools by brain researchers at Northwestern University, detailed in Neuroscientist Education Week, builds on previous findings that participation in music education programs helps improve brain function, discipline and language development.
Robin Walenta and Sen Chuck Grassley

“Music and music making is vitally important to offering students a well-rounded education,” shared Walenta. “We join this week of advocacy to reinforce the importance of funding music and the arts, and in this case, to share the stories and an award of the districts in our home state where music is making a difference. The Best Communities for Music Education award represents the dedication of the students, teachers, administrators and community at large in Iowa that value the importance of music education.”

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life.



   NAMM Logo

About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of making music. NAMM's activities and programs are designed to promote music making to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of approximately10,300 Member companies located in more than 103 countries. For more information about NAMM or the proven benefits of making music, interested parties can visit www.namm.org, call 800-767-NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

To learn more about NAMM and the Top 100 Dealer Awards, please visit https://www.namm.org/summer/2017/top-dealer-awards

West Music Logo

About West Music

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life. For more information, visit westmusic.com or call 1-800-373-2000.

Tags: music advocacy, washington, dc, robin walenta, namm
Categories: Press Releases, Music Advocacy
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West Music’s Residency Sponsorship Shows The Power of Music Therapy
By West Music Company
3/10/2016 10:21:00 AM  

The music therapy discipline is a fundamental and highly respected element of care for people with dementia, developmental and learning disabilities, brain injuries, and many other conditions—and the University of Iowa School of Music has contributed in important ways to its growth, through training therapists and conducting foundational research.

Rhapsodie String Quartet
The Rhapsodie String Quartet of the Madison Symphony Orchestra

Later this month, the UI and eastern Iowa community will have a chance to learn  about a successful music therapy-informed program, when the UI and West Music team up to bring the Madison Symphony Orchestra's HeartStrings program—a community engagement initiative that serves children and adults with special needs—for a two-day residency.

The MSO's Rhapsodie String Quartet will host a free, public "Under the Hood" program in the University Capitol Centre Recital Hall from 12:30 p.m.-1:20 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23. The event will feature the Rhapsodie String Quartet, MSO Director of Community Engagement Kathryn Schwarzmann, MSO music therapist Laurie Farnan, and UI music and music therapy educators.

"Anyone with an interest in music with special populations will find the Under the Hood event a fascinating exploration of the development of the MSO's HeartStrings program," said Mary Adamek, head of the Music Therapy Area of the UI School of Music.

During their residency, the Rhapsodie String Quartet will also perform in a specially designed HeartStrings program for residents of Iowa City's Oaknoll Retirement Residence and their families. The Oaknoll session will be closed to the public.

The residency is co-sponsored by the UI Music Therapy Program, the UI String Quartet Residency Program, the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and West Music.

About HeartStrings

HeartStrings is the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s award-winning, music therapy-informed community engagement program that serves children and adults with special needs, including developmental and physical disabilities, long-term illnesses, assisted living needs, and dementia.

The program aims to serve participants by enhancing their quality of life and overcoming the barrier presented by concert halls by bringing live, high-quality classical music to them through a series of highly participatory music sessions.

HeartStrings is presentedby the MSO’s Rhapsodie Quartet at community partner locations which include healthcare facilities, state institutions, and retirement communities.

Tags: University of Iowa School of Music, Madison Symphony Orchestra, HeartStrings, Rhapsodie String Quartet, under the hood, Kathryn Schwarzmann, MSO, Laurie Farnan, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies
Categories: Music Therapy, Music Advocacy
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Sour note? How to encourage, not nag, a child to practice a musical instrument
By West Music Company
1/13/2016 10:00:00 AM  

Tags: John Keilman, Chicago Tribune, practice, child, student, encourage, sour note,
Categories: Music Advocacy, Music Education
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Supporting Music Education: Choose to Teach
By West Music Company
10/15/2015 2:20:00 PM  

Supporting Music Education: Choose to TeachHow do you know if you want to become a music teacher? Some students just know, and others make that decision when considering career options. For many students, sharing the joy of music becomes their passion.

This tip sheet, Supporting Music Education: Choose to Teach presents information that will assist you and your students in making an informed choice. Becoming a music teacher can be an extremely rewarding and challenging career. If you love to make music and enjoy working with others, there is no better way to convey that passion than by sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm as a professional music educator.

Republished with permission of the Music Achievement Council. For more tips on keeping music strong in your schools, visit the site devoted to all things music advocacy: www.supportmusic.com.

Tags: music administration, band director, orchestra director, school music program
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Music Advocacy, Music Education
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Supporting Music Education: Audience Guidelines
By West Music Company
10/1/2015 2:20:00 PM  

Supporting Music Education: Audience GuidelinesBecoming a discerning, supportive and knowledgeable audience member is an important part of a student’s education. Successful audience participation requires skill, discretion, common sense, discipline and a bit of knowledge.

Discover some great ways to set expectations for your audiences, in a variety of settings, in this tip sheet, Supporting Music Education: Audience Guidelines

Republished with permission of the Music Achievement Council. For more tips on keeping music strong in your schools, visit the site devoted to all things music advocacy: www.supportmusic.com.

Tags: music administration, band director, orchestra director, school music program
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Music Advocacy, Music Education
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