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Posts tagged ‘music’

The mountain before the tree

Thoughts on perception, experience, and knowing, as inspired by a passage by exestential psychologist Rollo May. I liberally mix my metaphors for various senses and how we experience through them. 3-4 min read.

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Musical Self-efficacy: Measurement and Assessment

I presented this lecture on Questionnaire Development to the graduate students of Psychology at the University of São Francisco, Campinas, Brazil on Monday, 19, August, 2019. I take you through the process I followed to develop questionnaires for Self-efficacy for Learning and for Performing in Music. Unfortunately I didn’t video this one. The slides and my full notes (nearly a transcript) are below. Read more

Brazil Keynote on Self-Efficacy

III Seminário Internacional Teoria Social Cognitiva em Debate

Slides, video, and transcript of my keynote from Brazil.

Laura Ritchie Keynote: August 2019, Brazil from Laura Ritchie

1. Thank you very much to the organising committee for inviting me and making this trip possible. It is an honour and a pleasure to be here.

In this talk I would like to speak about self-efficacy in higher education, its power, how we measure it, the relationship it has with other constructs and factors in our lives, and how as educators we can influence the self-efficacy of our students. Read more

Sharing joy & the quest for excellence

One of my students, Francesca Raimondi, an accomplished teacher studying on the ESTA Postgraduate Certificate for String Teaching course shared her writing about striving for excellence with and for our students. It is with her permission that I’m sharing it – because I found it so inspiring. Joy, achievement, self-efficacy, real learning, it’s all in there. This is also on Francesca’s blog, but that’s in Italian, as that is her first language! I am grateful she has translated it for me.

Francesca’s translation:

Given each student’s features and skills, one of my biggest aim is to teach them to go beyond their limits. I believe everyone can reach his maximum and excellence. Excellence is not perfection, but it’s the highest level one can reach in terms of performance, learning and musical skills’s development.

A student should reach excellence just for himself. He shouldn’t have an abstract idea of perfection. He shouldn’t compare himself with anyone else. But he just should have the constant increase of his skills as a goal.

To put it in statistic terms, he should have an idiographic and not nomothetic approach. This way he’ll be able to create his personal story of success and growth.

This goals aren’t, in my opinion, just for the “most talented” pupils. They’re for everyone.

I expect the excellence from all my students. Even the youngest ones, aged often 2 or 3. And the disabled ones. Each one has his maximum and his excellence, and he can reach them. My job as a teacher is “just” to adapt my work to each one of them and work oh their motivation. I also want to discover and foster their strengths.

Using positive reinforcement, games and motivation, I demand them total earnestness and dedication. I don’t like making distinctions or discounts or this matter.

All of them know they can get better and they’re happy about it.

The cutest example of happiness is Maria, who has Down syndrome and after few months of lessons shows all her satisfaction for having learnt her first rhythm on the violin :

 

I want first of all teach my students to let anyone say to them “You can’t do this” or “You won’t succeed”. I want them to have high expectations for themselves. And I want them to try once more, practice, engage. Without neither anxiety nor fear but with tenacity and enthusiasm.

This way, when they’ll be grown up they’ll be able to face life’s challenges without being taken aback.  They’ll develop resilience and self esteem, and music will have been for them not just a nice activity. It will have been first of all an opportunity of growth and a great learning for their life that will last forever.”

Thank you Francesca.I love the topic of ‘going beyond your limits’. They aren’t limits, most often we don’t realise they are just corners, or we need to stand on blocks to see beyond the walls – and teachers can help guide us to that freedom of thought and possibility of making those dreams reality. This is music with joy, and I agree 100% Bravissima!

To find out more about Francesca and her teaching, see her blog HERE.

Talking Jazz and Rock with Reuben Jackson

I had the (undeserved) privilege of being introduced to a poet and music lover who exceeds any ordinary music listener’s, and even most performer’s knowledge of groups, their influences, and their impact on music and life. Reuben Jackson is a curator, an archivist, and has long written and spoken about jazz. He was curator for the Smithsonian Jazz collection for 18 years, and so an invitation to speak to him was something not to pass up.

This year I’ve been teaching a new class (new to me) and naturally I’ve re-vamped it considerably from what I inherited. What does that mean? Homework for me. Research. Buckets of it. At least I can tell my students I’ve done at least 10 hours of homework a week. I hope they do too 😉

What you find below is the audio and the transcript of my talk with Reuben. Questions are in bold, so you can scroll through and pick the ones you are interested in. There are SO MANY names and references to people and works. I really do recommend you follow up on them and learn. Be a sponge. Challenge yourself – especially if you hadn’t considered crossing, and certainly not straddling the jazz / rock divide.

Enjoy! and huge thanks to Reuben for his generosity, both with his time and sharing his experiences and knowledge. For me it’s people and their living stories that make history come alive. (I also talked to Reuben about his upcoming book, and that segment will appear in another post)

Reuben Jackson Interview (with Laura Ritchie)

Tuesday 16, October, 2018

(ringing)

Good morning Felix Grant Jazz Archives.

-Hi, this is Laura Ritchie, I’m ringing for Reuben.

Yeah, hi, how are you?

-I’m very well. Thanks for making time to chat. And of course permission to share the call – I’m happy to transcribe it.

Oh absolutely. That’s fine.

-Thank you

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Practice: Walking Through Daisies or ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’?

There is something romantic about playing a musical instrument, but practice? The emotion, getting caught up in the moment, it looks so graceful and can touch people’s lives – but that’s the finished product, what happens at the moment of performance. What about getting there? Is it all that rosey? Do people wake up and pull back the curtains to the sun streaming in and think – Oh yes! I get to practise for 4-6 hours today! La la la! and then twirl their fluffy skirts as they dance to the music room, humming and skipping with the music already singing in their minds. (featured image CC BY-NC-SA by Rachel Patterson)

Well… there are moments of bliss in any discipline when the learning moves from being an unfamiliar skill to being a known competence. The thing is that even when this happens, it isn’t over. In music it is not like creating a typed script that you can print out and look at. Live performance involves our bodies, which are changing, growing, and decaying every day and without upkeep and use, even after achieving something, it fades.

Practising is one of those ‘how’ questions that is sometimes not so explicitly taught. It involves so many different aspects of the self: musical mind, analytical mind, physical coordination (and that’s very specific to each instrument), and the motivation – to listen, to persevere, to assess, to pursue goals. It can be exhausting. With experience and the different hurdles life has thrown at me, I have learned to practice differently and hopefully better.

How much?

I used to while away the days at university just  practising all day and that was wonderful. There were certain factors in that environment that made it work there, that are not necessarily present outside the uni environment. I was a part of a wonderful cello studio and had THE most inspiring and motivating teacher that ever walked (still walks, well actually he runs- no time for walking) the planet. We also supported one another. There was competition, but each person was allowed and encouraged to become whatever they were going to be.

One of the things time taught me is that when the factors (in life, in music, in you) change, so does practising. Learning music is not something that can be distilled onto a recipe card. After university, for example, when living in a new place where I practised alone for the entire day, the motivation, recognition of progress, and general stamina that was easy to maintain in a community became tricky to maintain on my own.

Commitments and other constraints on my time taught me to organise, learning to focus, in order to accomplish in one hour what I might have done in three. Listening, analysis, careful repetition as opposed to less focused playing or even indulging in …just going on to that nice bit one more time.

Goals. Attention.

  • I now set the clock when I practise and do bursts of concentrated practise for 25 minutes at a time with dedicated goals and then

I GET UP AND MOVE AROUND. BREATHE FRESH AIR. DRINK WATER. 

It is important to remember we are more than machines. Our minds, muscles, and whole selves need recharging from time to time.

Without remembering how delicate we are, practising certainly can be a bear hunt. …Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, gotta go through it…. (Image CC BY-NC by Phil Rogers) Perseverance is important. -Musicians should not play through pain or for hours on end for the sake of it. That is unhealthy. There are however some aspects of physical learning that do take time to learn in the muscles and the brain. Yes, there might well be moments of discomfort while you get your thumb callous into shape (I’ve had a blister or two over the years), but nothing should ever ‘hurt’ from normal playing. The nightmare of the bear is quickly dissolved when planned small goals are integrated into a healthy schedule.

If you have a teacher to motivate you – that is great! If you don’t, that is more of a challenge. Being accountable is a useful tool.

  • You can be accountable to yourself, or to someone else who is not a musician, but is a friend.
  • Sometimes telling someone what your aims are, or making a chart can help.
  • Recording practise allows you to look back and see the progress – step-by-step is good.
  • Bite-sized is manageable, whereas demanding all at once is just not realistic.

I’m off to practice, as my concert is Sunday! I’ve been recording myself to listen and learn, and the other day, while rehearsing with my accompanist, I caught an oops. I forgot the thing that keeps my cello spike from slipping, and well… you can hear my surprise at what happened for yourself. 🙂

It’s not all daisies, but practising does pay off. Keep at it. (I’m talking to you as well as to me!)

Pushing the boat out: Creativity in the Open

Kamloops. Creativity in the Open. Out in the open. The Wilderness stretches as far as the eye can see, and there is water in the valley, snow on the distant mountains, etched clouds above, and wonderful smiles to surround us on the TRU (Thompson Rivers University) campus here in Canada. It was an opportunity to push boundaries and explore. My appetite for learning is large and this was a feast.

The convergence of beautiful surroundings, people, thought, has been magic over the past few days during the Creativity in the Open event, organised by Tanya Dorey. It has been a privilege to share so much with these people. It started as a conversation at an online meeting between academics from diverse fields – a curriculum designer, a biologist, a philosopher, and a musician. It was our ‘play-date’ where we could talk and snatch a precious few moments to know one another better than text-base interactions allow. (there’s a story connecting that meeting to the event that just happened, and that will be in the collaborative magazine Kintsugim issue coming out in about a week)

There is an inherent joy for me, in being at a place and an event where creativity is valued, welcomed, and fostered. I knew that I came bringing something that would be new for people – playing instruments and giving them the tools to make some recognisable sounds in a short space of time. Working together in different ways than the everyday desk environment provides, and using a different medium to convey creativity – sound. I would be pushing people, but there were also opportunities for people to push me. Read more

Applied Imagination: I think, therefore I can

Yes you can. That’s a powerful refrain in my life, and it underpins so very very much. I had the privilege of teaching on the ‘Applied Imagination’ module at the University of Warwick yesterday. To contextualise, this class sits within Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) and the students come from all different departments and schools across the university- trans, inter, cross disciplinary are all big themes of the class, as well as thought, imagination, belief, and accomplishment.

It was such a special morning. I set off pre-dawn with my little care packed full of instruments, as my session would use music, but music as a metaphor. I know that people are not going to learn to be ‘musicians’ in a couple of hours, but music is so wonderful – it moves, it grooves, it makes you feel, and for so many of us it remains untouchable. I love to bring people to something that is perceived as being outside their reach. <— Hold that thought; I’ll return to it in a minute. Read more

A scene of hope

This is a post about life, and finding hope in what you have, where you are.

The church is ancient. The village is in the Bayeaux tapestry, King Cnut’s daughter is buried there, the place goes way back before anything I could claim to be ‘my time’ or really my understanding of time.

I was in the midst of it, and for a few moments time I was aware of the scene around me. Read more

Shuffle the deck: Scales becoming tunes #MUS654

Listening, and thinking on the way music creeps under your skin to make you move… I spent this week thinking on scales and their relationships as part of – of notes to notes, and yes, the relationships of the notes to people. Context can be everything and it can change so much. The way things are ordered, presented, and the way we look at them is important for how people attribute meaning.

For each type of musician, there are different physical parameters that influence the mechanical logistics of how we paint our sounds. Let me explain… in my last post I talked about how singers don’t use ‘fingerings’ for their notes. They have intense links between the conceptual understanding of what needs to be done to achieve a certain pitch and then they make the sound. There is no looking (down the throat!) to check they have the right positioning. Yes there are physical aspects of singing that can be seen – like mouth shape and torso placement/use, but there are unseen aspects and somehow there is a strong connection between the mind and the outcome.

Likewise for other instruments the mind is very important, but there is this pesky other bit that cannot be ignored… As a cellist, I work with my hands Read more