Teacher Resources

Instrument Introductions

May 7, 2017

SJMA offers lessons in all orchestra instruments.  Enrollment in different instruments classes changes from year to year based on the needs of our orchestra, and our current enrollment.

Our 2017-18 offerings are:

Junior Program (Grades 2-4): Violin, Cello, and Marimba (Waitlist Only)

Senior Program (Grades 5 and up): Flute, Oboe, Double Bass, Trumpet, and Trombone   (Waitlist Only)

Watch the videos below to learn more out the different sections of the orchestra and the various instrument.


And visit our enrollment page if you would like to apply.


Woodwinds (Bassoon, Oboe, Clarinet, Flute)


Brass: (Tuba, Trombone, Trumpet)

Strings: (Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass)


Posted in: Teacher Resources

Hold Onto Your Kids

March 14, 2014

Book Recommendation by SJMA Teacher Kathy Allison.

Hold Onto Your Kids, by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate, M.D.hold on

This is an insightful and empowering book for both parents and teachers.

Dr. Neufeld believes that there is no authority without relationship, and describes attachment as the critical force which binds the generations and enables the transmission of cultural and family values from one generation to the next. He believes that it is unrealistic to expect a child to show signs of creativity or curiosity about the world, or develop complex social skills, until the child has had his/her emotional needs met by a caring adult.

He argues that contemporary society has mistakenly subverted the natural attachment between caregiving adults and children, by encouraging kids to turn to each other for socialization, and over-valuing their popularity with their peers. He believes that peer attachment has led to the flat-lining of culture, which is skewing kids away from emotional maturity and towards a cool culture of conformity and emotional numbing. Regardless of its pervasiveness, peer attachment is a poor substitute for the leadership of mature, caring adults, and is described in the book as  the blind leading the blind.

The situation requires a sea change in our understanding of the problem, and a willingness to take back our rightful place as the primary attachments and leaders in kids’ lives. Dr. Neufeld describes the essence of re-connecting with our kids with a simple phrase: Collect before you direct.

Here’s a short excerpt on attachment:

Attachment rituals… exist in many cultures. The most common is the greeting…a greeting should collect the eyes, a smile and a nod. A greeting is the foundational prerequisite for all interactions. Because we are meant to deal with children in the context of attachment, to ignore this step is a costly mistake. In some cultures, like Provence and in some Latin countries, greeting children is customary and expected. In our society, we often do not even collect our own child, never mind anyone else’s.

            For teachers and other adults in charge of children not their own, collecting them should always be the first item of business. If we engage in taking care of children or proceed to instruct them without first having collected them, we violate developmental design. Children who are more mature psychologically are not so dependent on being collected, but only when they do not need us so much can we afford to skip this step. As a grandparent, I am constantly reminded that one must always start at the beginning to be able to get to where you want to go with children.

            The next step is giving the child something to hold onto.   

Attention and interest are powerful primers of connection. Signs of affection are potent. Researchers have identified emotional warmth, enjoyment and delight at the top of the list as effective activators of attachment. If we have a twinkle in our eye and some warmth in our voice, we invite connection that most children will not turn down. When we give children signs that they matter to us, most children will want to hold on to the knowledge that they are special to us and appreciated in our life.

            The ultimate gift is an invitation to exist in one’s presence. There are thousands of ways this invitation can be conveyed: in gesture, in words, in symbols and in action. The child must know that she is wanted, special, significant, valued, appreciated, missed and enjoyed. For a child to hold on to this invitation, it needs to be genuine and unconditional.

…It is damaging when separation from the parent (time out) is used punitively against the child. To engage in that oft-advised but pernicious practice is to say, in effect, that the child is invited to exist in our presence only when she measures up to our values and expectations. Our challenge is to provide an invitation that is hard for a child to turn down. In holding on to our invitation, they will be holding on to us.

Ch. 16, Collecting Our Children, Hold Onto Your Kids

 As teachers, we are part of every child’s village of attachment, and it’s empowering to know that even if we only spend 30 minutes a week with them, we can make a difference in their emotional development – if we take the time to attach to them.

I see this happening all the time at SJMA – the smiles, the nods, kids striving to be like their teachers – it’s part of our school culture. With Kathy Walker’s guidance, we have instinctively created a warm and emotionally healthy community. Dr. Neufeld provides the theory that explains it.

Posted in: Teacher Resources

Practice Tips for Kids

January 6, 2014

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has an online Kids Page, which includes excellent Teacher Resources and online music games, such as Beethoven’s Baseball.



A good musician knows that regular practice is a must, but did you know that careless practice can actually make you worse? Think about the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW of practice that will help you play better and enjoy music more.


YOU! Good practice involves your mind, your body, your emotions, and the music. Your parent or teacher may be able to force you to spend time playing the notes, but only YOU can focus your mind and your feeling on the sounds you are producing, so that the music you play is beautiful and expressive.


Practice that progresses toward perfection will include:



Review of scales, etudes, or pieces you have already learned

Your new assignment

Something you really love playing, or just for fun (maybe even make up a piece on your own)


Dr. Suzuki said, “Only on the days that you eat!” The best plan is to make practice a part of your daily routine. If you know you will practice at a certain time every day, it will happen with very few exceptions.


This is a VERY important question! Many students practice by playing straight through a piece or other assignment (often as quickly as possible) as if they were at a recital, then go on to the next thing, no matter what happened. Money won’t buy better playing, but well spent practice time will. Here are some hints for getting the most for your practice “dollar.”

Set goals to try to accomplish in each practice session

Be sure you know what the passage should sound like

Work on the most challenging spots first

Break the music down into small sections (How do you eat an elephant? – One bite at a time!)

Repeat the passage many times AFTER you get it right

Before you end each practice session, play the entire piece, and enjoy!

Posted in: Teacher Resources

Music Teacher Website Ideas

November 12, 2013

This one is the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s site for kids – it has lots of fun facts (trombone tubing stretched out is 9 feet long – tubas are 16 feet long), as well as games like Beethoven Baseball – he actually pitches the ball before you have to answer a music history question! It’s fun! http://www.dsokids.com/

Next is Jeffrey Agrell’s horn blog – he’s the guy at University of Iowa who has written a couple of great books about improvising for classical musicians (no jazz). His blog is excellent as well – horn sampling, best art blogs, snappy quotes! http://horninsights.wordpress.com/

Eric Booth’s site: all kinds of discussions about teaching artistry (The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible) etc. Includes a link to The Ensemble, the online Global El Sistema magazine that Booth edits.  http://ericbooth.net/

A little light comedy: Rowan Atkinson’s The Conductor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2tpBwVuSKc

And here are two guys playing Fur Elise on the piano at F.A.O. Schwarz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOdB-0biTlM

Another Improvisation blog – recommended by Jeffrey Agrell in his blog roll. Starts with a clip of a small orchestra which invited people to conduct them! http://improvinsights.com/

Site also includes articles such as breakdowns of types of improvisation, culminating with ‘Intentional’ Improvisation: http://www.musicalratio.com/gpage1.html13.html

Bobby McFerrin and a pentatonic scale demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne6tB2KiZuk

Finding the Right Guitar for Your Child – Learning an instrument can be expensive, but it is a way for children to connect with the world and others, too. That’s why SJMA is so valuable to the children of inner-city Vancouver. With core after-school classes in effect, 200 children are able to learn to play an instrument. However, it is important that your child is using an instrument that is right for them. Take a guitar, for example. An experienced guitarist could select a guitar and it’d be fine for them. But your child is learning, and it’s imperative they’re comfortable as they do. The action of the guitar needs to be correct, and the same for the strings. These need to be the right type so your child doesn’t sustain any cuts to their fingertips. Take a look at this guide to find out more information about choosing the right guitar for your child, and watch them begin their musical journey in comfort.

Posted in: Teacher Resources