Earth Day ukulele workshop and jam

If we celebrate birthdays, why not one for Mother Earth? Every April 22nd, people all over the world celebrate Earth Day in different ways. While I was living on Maui, I started using music to gather community and raise awareness for sustainability through concerts and jam sessions. It’s a combination of entertainment and education. The last one was my piano class joining forces with the ukulele class (video below). This year, Earth Day falls on Sunday 22nd April 2018, and I’m determined to do something special.

On Saturday 21st April 2018 afternoon, I will be giving five different workshops for complete beginners on the ukulele to get them ready for their first jam session.

On 25th April 2018 evening, my ukulele club in Boston will sing and play songs to do with saving the planet and the environment in our weekly Wednesday jam session.

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Why studying music gives extra-musical benefits?

Learning to play the piano as an adult brings extra-musical benefits.

This morning, a close childhood friend now a professor of Japanese literature posted an article on Facebook, entitled “Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires.” As I am taking a 3-credit undergraduate course in creative writing, I couldn’t help nodding my head as I read the article.

But I am not an English major.

Far from it! I majored in electrical engineering and later took degrees in anything but English.

So why was I nodding my head?

The article talks about liberal arts majors, of which music is one. I daresay, there are extra-musical benefits to studying the piano.

My students claim that playing the piano helps them relax.

Others talk about physical therapy — to unravel the stiff fingers and get them to move independently of each other.

In group piano playing, they have positive benefits from the socialization and the peer pressure.

It’s not just playing piano, they say. It’s also learning how to read music and understand music theory.

I tell them that it’s a total workout, not just a physical workout of the fingers, hands, and wrists, but also coordination of the eyes and the body as well as focusing the listening on what’s at stake.

Yesterday when I heard on National Public Radio that Joan Fontaine had died at the age of 96, I shuddered. Are we all going to live THAT long? It has been an arduous journey to get to where we are now, but to expect that it will continue for another half of our life is another matter. What am I supposed to do in that time?

Learn to play a new instrument, I say.

I tell my students about the extra-musical benefits of learning to play the piano as an adult. Strangely, these are also the most motivated students I’ve ever taught since I started teaching part-time in 2000. Two of them asked me to give them homework during the Christmas Break. I exclaimed, “What? You want me to give you more work? Already I have to get you all to leave the room when the class ends!”

Studying music is about the pursuit of excellence. Ensemble playing is about working with others. Performance is about time management and never being late. These are only a few of the extra-musical benefits of learning to play the piano.

Learning and retention rates

Retention rates increase with the way we are taught from 10% to 95%: read, hear, see, see and hear, discuss, experience, and what we teach someone else. What happens when we collaborate?

In a computer training class recently, I learned the following statistics on retention rates from my teacher.

When you read, you retain 10% of what you read.

Hear: 20%

See: 30%

See and hear: 50%

Discuss with others: 70%

Experience it personally: 80%

What we teach someone else: 95%

This explains why we only confirm what we know when we have to teach what we know to others. The path to become an expert requires one to teach what one practises.

What is the retention rate when we collaborate with others, such as planning a concert or a fundraising event or working on a CD recording together? When performers work with composers, both learn from each other and the process. The commitment that both put into the resulting composition takes it further than a one way process. Would the retention rate be higher?