Music Education

Tips for Getting Your Child 
(or Yourself) to Practice Regularly

  1. Keep the instrument centred in the home. We all know we’re more likely to pick up a cookie on the counter than one packed away in the cellar. The same is true for the instrument. Keep it in a central place in the home, where its mere presence will nudge the student to practice. Place it in an area that feels well-lit and warm.
  2. Prepare your child for practice time. Let your child know what’s coming. Practicing should be enjoyable, but compared to playing with friends or watching TV, it will often lose out. If your child is mentally preparing to do something else and is surprised by practice time, they will perceive it as a negative thing. Remind your child before practice time that it’s coming. If you practice at 7pm, gently remind them on the way home from school, then when they go out to play, then over dinner, so that it doesn’t come as a shock.
  3. Have practice time follow something well-defined in your schedule. Calling your child inside from playing or away from a video game to practice probably won’t seem fun by comparison. Place practicing after some other daily routine: after eating breakfast/dinner, brushing teeth, walking dog, etc. This accomplished 3 things: it makes practicing part of the routine, it doesn’t make it feel like practicing is interrupting other fun activities, and it creates a fixed point for starting practicing.
  4. Practice yourself. If you play something, especially the same instrument as your child, let your child see you practice it. Children learn by example.
  5. Encourage autonomy. Your presence during your child’s practice is useful and helpful, but so is the feeling that they are doing it themselves. Encourage them to decide the order they practice things, or to count how many times they’ve played something, or to check things off on their homework sheet.
  6. Have a regular schedule and practice daily. While it’s not essential to practice daily, knowing there’s a possibility of skipping a day (for you or your child!) leaves the door open to debates and rationalisation. If your child knows that you practice every day no matter what, it most likely limits a daily debate. The less exceptions there are to a rule, the less you’ll overthink it.
  7. Praise. Constantly. Students are not playing music socially on the school yard: at the beginning, you are their only barometer for how well they are doing. Be honest, but as long as they’re working, there is always something to praise.
Composition

Premiere of When I Was a Glacier

I’m excited to announce that the wonderful Aella Choir of Ottawa will be premiering my work When I Was a Glacier, March 3 at First Baptist Church in Ottawa, at 7 pm. (Facebook event) Entrance is by donation, so just show up and enjoy the music!

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This work, for treble choir, piano, and tubular bells, is based on the poem by New York-based poet Emily Skillings (read it here). The text is at once empowering, disturbing, and image-evoking, and felt especially appropriate after spending the last summer in Iceland, where we climbed a glacier with the artistic director and collaborative pianist of Aella.

(L-R) Matthew Lane, Mikaela Tolf, Shawn Potter (Aella’s collaborative pianist), Jennifer Berntson (Aella’s founding artistic director).

The work, with it’s potent harmonies, broad washes of slow counterpoint, and bare vocal simplicity at times, was guided by the imagery of the poetry in combination with digital algorithms, used to generate segments of the harmony. Equally inspiring was the awareness of what this powerful choir can do, even with the most basic of themes.

Like any Aella concert, it promises to be a wonderful evening, with a diverse program of largely Canadian choral music from some of today’s most interesting composers.

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One of the algorithms used while composing the piece, analyzing the spectrum of the tubular bell sound and generating a set of harmonies based on this bell sound.

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Research, Uncategorized

Doctoral Defence

December 21, 2017, I passed my doctoral defence at Université de Montréal on the topic “Negotiating the frontier between Computer-assisted composition and traditional writing: The utility of each and their effective cross-integration”. The thesis was completed under the direction of Alan Belkin (website) and Pierre Michaud (website), and was graded exceptional (the highest grade).

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The jury and I (L-R): François-Hugues Leclair, Jean Piché, Pierre Michaud, me, Alan Belkin (not pictured: Örjan Sandred, external examiner)

The presentation combined explanations of my use of computer-assisted composition with my philosophical approach to the domain, tied together with score samples and audio files of my compositions, and more in-depth looks at some of my software.

The final thesis has been submitted and will soon be available on the web from the Université de Montréal library, at which point a link will be posted here.

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A slide from the doctoral defence presentation, discussing Mutations II for organ.
Uncategorized

CMC Associate Composer

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I’m happy to announce that since last fall, I am an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, an organisation that supports and promotes the work of Canadian composers, and doubles as a publishing house for their music. Within the next year, some of my music will begin to appear on their site here, and will be available for purchase.