TTTV032: What to say to parents when their child is about to quit with Anita Collins

By Tim Topham | Deliberate Practice

Feb 26

TTTV032

What do you say when you get that call? Johnny is finding lessons too hard, practice is a struggle, and he wants to quit. How do you convince that parent to stick it out when things get hard?

Anita Collins is a music teacher, who got curious and turned to the field of neuroscience to find out what effect music education has on the brain. She started looking at the work of neuroscientists and applying a music teacher’s perspective to the studies. Her talk at Ted Ed (and many other talks worldwide) takes this work and make it understandable the non-neuroscientists, so we can see some of the amazing effects music has on the brain.

anita collins piano

 

Anita has so many fascinating insights into why students quit, the value of music education, motivation and practice. She not only shares this wisdom with fellow music educators, but with parents and also with students. Allowing students and their parents to understand why they’re having a tough time, can help them to stick it out.

Take a listen to today’s podcast to arm yourself with the science to stop students quitting.

See also a full transcription below.

Transcript Download:

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How music education makes kids smarter
  • Why some teenagers get overwhelmed and quit
  • Why Anita believes some extrinsic motivation is good
  • What to say when a parent calls you to quit your studio
  • Why today’s kids lack grit and determination
  • How to educate parents so their children can get the most out of lessons
  • How Anita is helping her students to prioritise effective practice
  • Why students need to understand that sometimes learning is uncomfortable

Items mentioned in this podcast:

Thank you for Tuning In!

There are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, and I’m grateful that you’ve chosen mine.

Being a full-time teacher myself, I know how busy teachers are and how much time, effort and passion we put into our students. Sometimes, the last thing we want to do in our time off is listen to more piano teaching stuff! So, well done for using this time for self-improvement.

Whether you’re at the gym, on the bike or in the car, I know that you and your students will get lots out of what you learn in the long run. Just make sure you try out some of the ideas before they get lost in the business of your next lessons.

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What fact were you most surprised by in today’s episode?

Will you try using some of this information to talk parents out of quitting?

Transcription

Anita: And part of what I was able to turn around to this kid and say, and then I’ve said it to his parents, is that of course there’s students who do music right up ’til year 12 tend to get far higher marks in every single other one of their subjects, and they can manage their time, and they’re happy, their level of well-being. So are you happy to take away, to remove, to allow them to stop an activity that can bolster their well-being, can improve their year 12 scores, and can keep them engaged in school?

Tim: You’re watching Tim Topham TV, the Piano Teaching Podcast. This is episode number 32. Hi, everyone, and thanks so much for watching this episode of Tim Topham TV where we’ll be chatting to internationally renowned education researcher, teacher and speaker, Anita Collins, all about some of the brain science behind the effect of music, how motivation works and some of the things you can say to parents when they’re about to pull their child out of lessons. I met Anita recently at a workshop where she came and spoke to the teachers at my school, and some of the thoughts that she had and the ideas and the research that she’s got, I just had to share with you guys. So I’m really, really pleased to have Anita on the show, and I’ll introduce her in just a moment.

As usual, if you’d like show notes from this episode, you can head to timtopham.com/episode32. So Anita completed her PhD from the University of Melbourne in the area of Neuroscience and Music Education. As a music educator, Anita was interested in exploring the relationships between brain science and music and the effects of each on each other. And this led to her creating one of the most watched TED-Ed videos ever made, it’s called “How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain,” and I just checked this morning, it was up to almost 4.4 million views and translated into 27 languages, and she’s also presented at TEDx event in Canberra.

She’s currently Assistant Professor of Music and Arts Education at the University of Canberra and has been visiting lecturer at the Australian National University. In these roles, she teaches across undergraduate and post-graduate teaching degrees in the area of music arts and general education. Anita has researched within this area in the areas of innovative teaching practices and self-efficacy in pre-service teacher training. Anita has also worked in primary and secondary school music as an educator in both Australia and England, she has worked in classroom and instrumental constructs and has been a curricula designer and conductor of bands, orchestras, and choral groups. Anita, I have no idea how you’ve done all that, but welcome to the show today.

Anita: Thank you very much for having me, Tim.

Tim: Well, you’ve got a massive wealth of experience in music education, and you’ve got obviously this neuroscience kind of background too. But I wondered what were the key experiences in your teaching career, because you started as a teacher, that made you decide to kind of stop doing that so much and focus instead on this research about the brain and music.

Anita: Now that I look back at it, there are so many experiences. The one I share most of all is the one about presentation night, when you see all of the boys, I teach at a boy’s school, and all the boys get on stage from year 7, the top 10 boys. And as they walk on stage, I’d be going, “That’s a musician, that’s a musician, that’s a musician, that’s a non-musician, that’s a musician,” and it’s regularly 7 or 8 out of 10 who were getting awards. And I just wondered, while it’s wonderful, I just wondered why was it that there was this common theme of being a musician underneath. Was it just that they were smart kids, was it just that they were dedicated kids, was it just they had a fantastic work ethic, was it just they had pushy parents, or was there something else behind that? And that’s what I wanted, I wanted to answer that question. I wanted to know if it had anything to do with that or if it was just a coincidence.

Tim: And so, can you give us, I mean we’ll go into the details, but can you give us the one word answer? Was it about them being a musician or were they already smart beforehand or had pushy parents?

Anita: It was about being a musician that then led to them being smart and having parents who supported them in what they did in lots of very explicit ways but also very implicit ways as well. So the answer is, it’s both, but being a musician is now something that the research is telling us is the key, the golden bullet, whatever you want to call it, that actually helps that cognitive development.

Tim: Okay, so let’s dive a little bit deeper into the research that actually uncovered this for you. You have a, your talk, I think it was your talk, wasn’t it? It was called “What if every child had access to music education from birth?” which I enjoyed watching the other day. I actually liked, we’ll make sure we put a link in the show notes, but I like you had some information about the outfit you were wearing and the shoes or something.

Anita: Yeah.

Tim: Oh, there you go, you were like showing off designer fashion on TED-Ed, and your whole outfit matched the carpet, I loved that too.

Anita: Oh yeah, I had to do that, I just like put the clothes and TED right over a black and red. What I like with all of us, we are artists and it’s important to support Australian artists, and I thought well, what an opportunity to do it because this goes all around the world.

Tim: Yeah, that’s very, very cool. So let’s talk about some of the research that you did. And I guess, look, it’s obvious you’ve been doing this for many, many years, but can you distill it down to us, for all of us music teachers out there the kind of the key findings of the research that you just summarized before anyways? But let’s go a little bit deeper.

Anita: Yeah, so the area I’ve looked at is, I’m not a neuroscientist, I’m a music teacher just like you guys. And the area I’ve been looking at is the neuroscientists are investigating the connection between music training and brain development. But they’re not doing it to understand about music training, they’re just using music training, and they use the word training and we use the word education. They’re using it to understand more about how the brain works. So it’s just a helping hand, it’s a mechanism. Whereas for us, it’s actually revealing many of the things that we experience on a day-to-day basis but we don’t understand as a neurological development, we just see it as music education.

So the key things they’ve found is that in a nutshell, music training makes your brain work far more effectively, I just read yesterday someone said, “It teaches your brain how to talk to itself as effectively as possible, make it the best communicator it can be.” So it talks across the brain really well, around the different areas really well, so therefore kids who’ve had music training have fantastic problem solving skills. Their brains actually work very, very fast, much faster than most. So the synapses running around their brain are far faster than those who don’t have music training. They have a fantastic memory system, so they create these memories but it’s kind of like a supercharged filing system, they tag each memory with a sound, and a smell, and a sight, and a conceptual idea, and they put it away in this supercharged filing system. And they can pull it back really quickly, or they can also alter it really quickly.

And when you think about learning, it’s all about going, “This is what I know, this is the new thing, how do I put those two together to have them make sense or not.” Learning is all about how quickly you can go through that process and flexibly change that process again. So the act of the…the fact that musicians brains can work so much more quickly and are so much more flexible, means that musicians tend to go onto A, when they’re in school, learn more. So they get more out of school, they’re more engaged, they have far longer attention spans, they can focus, they can manage many, many things at once. You may have a lot of your students who seem to be juggling the world, but their music training is teaching them how to do that, and they continue on to do it. They also, just lots of facts that they earn more money.

Tim: Really? You’ve been able to determine that?

Anita: Yeah, there’s some really, really interesting research with some economic modelers which actually show that musicians, because they’ve got higher IQs generally, they have related an actual IQ point to an amount of money and then said well…because music puts you up this much, therefore you earn this much more over a span of a lifetime. They also have more career changes, more significant changes, and they can adapt far more quickly as they change. They also have better personal relationships generally and they’re able to have longer relationships in life as well, so their sort of social personal skills are far better as well.

Tim: It is unbelievable group of effects, isn’t it? I mean, I would never have thought to relate music study at school at all to money making later in life or relationship factors, I mean that’s, who would’ve thought? That’s unbelievable.

Anita: Yeah, and that’s why I, as a music teacher, I was looking at this research going, “We need to know this!” And it was all stuck over here in the neuroscientists who were just gurgling away happily going, “We’re finding out stuff about the brain.” And part of my research is not so much as a research into neuroscience, it’s not my field. But very much it’s about reading what they’ve done, comparing it with my own experience and my understanding of music education, and then going, “Okay, what do we need to know, and how can we relate that knowledge?” so that you and I and everybody else who’s not a neuroscientist can actually understand it.

Tim:  Yeah, yeah, and that’s been such a fantastic resource for all of us that you’ve produced in these videos too, that are, you know, four minutes long, what, four or five minutes long. I love your TED-Ed video, it’s just got in the animation, I don’t know, who did the animation, how does that work?

Anita: It was done by a Scottish woman who lives in California that’s [inaudible [00:10:05], whose name is Sharon Colman. I was assigned her, and I looked up her website and the very first thing that pops up is “Academy Award Nominee, Sharon Colman.” And I went, [inaudible [00:10:19]. But that TED-Ed was entirely made by email, entirely, so I never met anybody, I never spoke to Sharon directly. I had one Skype interview with the director of TED-Ed at the very beginning, and the rest of it was entirely done just by emails going back and forth, so it was an extraordinary creative experience.

Tim: Yeah, and it shows, absolutely. And it’s got the feedback to bring its value to it, which is great. Just as you were talking then about some of those benefits, I was thinking about one of my students last year. I happened to teach at my school, a boy who ended up being the dux of the school.

Tim: Yeah, and this student, you know, he was the one on awards night, he got every award there was, he played a French horn, he was in all the bands, he did the sport that he needed to do, he…and he was playing at high level, MSA kind of level and practicing every week. It was absolutely remarkable, and as you know, this month I’m kind of focusing on practice and motivation because it can be so difficult these days to get kids to do practice, and we’ll talk more about that later. But when I think about this young man who was so busy and studying so hard that he still found the time to practice, and then look at my year nines or whatever it is, who just do five minutes every two days or whatever it is, and then say they’re so busy in that, they don’t have time. You know, what are you thinking? Why is that kind of the case for those students?

Anita: Well, there’s one interesting thing, it’s interesting you mention year nine because part of what has helped me understand, I did a lot of research before I started this area of research on boys music education, particularly in years seven and eight. And my frustration was, why would they up and quit an instrument they were playing for the past four years, they seemingly loved, they were involved in all the groups. And then suddenly it was like, “No I’m giving up,” or, “I’m going to play guitar instead of playing trumpet.” It’s like, “What’s happening here? Do I have any influence on this, or can I do something?” So what’s helped me with the neuroscience is understanding that the brain has cycles and growth cycles, and they’re now starting to sort of pin them down, the first one is between zero and seven, and the brain is just growing and growing.

We talk about kids as a sponge. And then at the seven years of age, they do something, without us knowing, the brain does, it does something called pruning which is exactly what it sounds like, the brain takes to all of its different areas with a huge scythe and goes, “I don’t need that. I haven’t used that, that’s not useful, I’ve integrated that already so that’s not good.” And they do it again at around 14. So it got me thinking about what have I experienced on the outside of these students at 14? Say they’ve been learning on a [inaudible [00:13:09], they’ve been doing that with me for four years, and then they just seem to, there’s lack of focus, they don’t practice, their time table goes all out of whack, they could arrive in any mood under the sun.

And it, this research, got me thinking about my practice with kids of that age because I used to just think, “You just need to hold on that little bit longer, get them through to about 15, and they seem to come out of it. But it’s actually neurologically, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff going on, and that is influenced very seriously by puberty as well, so they’re not concentrating on what I’m talking about at all because there’s so much going on inside their bodies. They, it helped me to go, “Okay, how would I adjust my teaching, how would I change my approach to practice, what are their motivations at that age considering so much is actually going on?” And they do come out of it.

And the thing is, by the time you see that wonderful kid in year 12 [inaudible [00:14:00] who’s docked, they’ve done all the pruning, they’ve got some extra space in their brain, but also they’ve hit that intrinsic motivational stage when they go, “I actually really love this for me. This makes me feel good, I feel successful, I can see the direct pattern between if I practice here, I get this result and I feel good, so I’ll practice some more, so I’ll feel good.” And that happens by the end of year 12. But we have these, it’s not a straight line, it’s ebb and flow all the way through that we, I think, as music teachers need to be able to respond to but also know more about what might be going on for those students.

Tim: Can you remember back to what, what you changed about your teaching, if anything, for those 14 year olds that were all over the place and pruning in their brains going on, to try and keep them engaged?

Anita: Yes, I tested out a lot of things, but sort of by accident, I was finding more out about this research and I would share it with my students, so I’d explicitly say, “Do you know what’s going on in your head right now?”

Anita: Yeah, I would come up with these little things like, “You know there’s a little grim reaper and he’s scything away in there,” and they’d think that was hilarious. They thought that was funny. And I’d say, “That’s what’s going on, and that’s why it’s really hard for you to focus as long as you have been able to.” And then I’d talk about, because again with boys, they would grow, and they’d be able to play a note, and then the next week they couldn’t because their fingers had got that much longer. So, what notes I’d talk to them explicitly about, “This is what’s happening inside your body, this is how it’s playing out on the outside, and that’s why you’re not feeling you’re getting so far ahead.”

And I didn’t mean to do it, but I found that giving them the information, explaining it to them, but also getting them to reflect on how they were feeling gave them a language for the frustration they were feeling. And I also said, “It’s going to stop, this too will pass. You know, you’re going to get to 15, you’re going to get to 16, this is not going to happen anymore.” And it’s sort of like through knowledge, through information, they became far more, they were the master of their musical development, not, “What’s happening to me? I feel awful, therefore I will quit.”

Tim: Yeah, “I can’t play. It’s all useless. Why am I doing this?”

Anita: Yeah. Now I could play these notes last week, I can’t get them. So the funniest ones I find are trombone players, seventh position used to be here and now it’s there. You know, clarinet, not so hard, but it’s really is just for the boys particularly making them explicitly, making it explicit, but also making the emotion explicit and saying, “You will feel frustrated, and frustration looks like this for you, or it looks like this, it’s different. Work with that because…” And then I would talk about the brain.

So I have had wonderful responses from my students with the video because they, someone’s passed it on on Facebook or something, they’ve watched it and they’ve seen the little bit at the end that says, “Anita Collins.” And they’ve come to me in band the next day and gone, “Was that you?” I say, “Yeah.” And they’ll go, “You’re famous.” [inaudible [00:17:02] And then they start talking, so it’s actually, I’ve been surprised at how much they’ve interacted with it but also how knowledge is power. Knowledge for them has helped them to continue and get past that uncomfortable stage.

Tim: It’s really interesting that this is exactly the reason that I want to speak to someone like you because, you know, most of us, and me included, will try and think of activities to do with the students or ways of approaching particular music or your musical choices. But you’re like, “Actually no, I mean, that might work, but you know my tactic was actually to talk to them about what’s actually going on in their bodies and their brains at this stage so that they have some knowledge about why they’re actually feeling as they are,” I think that’s fantastic. It’s such a good tip and I know that many people who are watching this could potentially try that with those students at that age.

Anita: Yeah and it fits in with, once I saw myself doing it, but more importantly I saw the reaction of the boys, it fits in with a lot, particularly boys research, to say relationships are king. The relationship you have with your teacher is so important, and all this is is developing that relationship in a different kind of way.

Tim: Just on that kind of brain pruning information, is there a video on that or a link that you can give me or anything? You don’t have to do it right now but maybe after we record, that could give some more detail. I have a feeling people could use that.

Anita: The only place I can think, and there’s not a video been done about it, but there’s a good idea. The only place you’ll start to see it is when a lot of the literature about the adolescent brain and the brain development in adolescence, they talk about these pruning stages. They’re really just…scientists get very worried about absolutes, so they don’t want to say, “At the age of seven, this will happen.” They sort of, it’s very much a stage kind of thing, so the…

Tim: It depends on the, every child is slightly different, etc.

Anita: Boys and girls are slightly different as well, environment at home makes it different. Yeah, so when they talk about the adolescent, all the research into adolescent brain development, that’s where that pruning stuff becomes a really interesting, and they start talking a lot about it, so that would be where I’d direct the listener.

Tim: You know, I’ve been a teacher for many years and I’ve gone to a lot of PD and I’ve done PD about adolescent brains and all this, and I’ve actually, if I have heard that, then it’s gone in one ear and out the other. I can’t think that I know about that, I’m going to do some more research myself, I find it fascinating.

Anita: Yeah.

Tim: You talked about intrinsic motivation before. And I just wanted to have a quick touch on extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, and I’m sure most people watching will understand the difference. But to very quickly summarize, intrinsic motivation is about the student wanting to practice innately and doing it for their own benefit, extrinsic is where we as parents or teachers offer them rewards, or stickers, or fake money, or whatever it is, to practice.

Anita: Yep.

Tim: What’s your take on, let’s talk about extrinsic motivators firstly. Is there any value of them in music education, in your opinion?

Anita: In my opinion, absolutely there is because if part of… See, here we run into some interesting things. We think that intrinsic motivation is apt because we as music teachers have reached that zenith, that point where we love what we do, we’re incredibly passionate about what we do, we want to share that passion with our students. And when we come up against a student who doesn’t experience that, kind of we’re like, “Well hang on, my world looks like this, and yours looks like [inaudible [00:20:37], come over my side, this is the fun side.” But we have to realize that to get to that point, we all went through an extrinsic motivation part of it, whether it was praise from, I know for me, when I used to, I used to love hitting all the right notes and all the right rhythms because the conductor would turn and say, “You got that right!” Oh, I was so happy.

And you know, I watch my daughter who’s five and she’s doing, it’s fascinating to watch, because I’m parent teacher, I don’t teach early childhood kids, watching that stickers are amazing, they have amazing effects on kids. And she is constantly trying to do things for stickers at the moment. I know she’ll grow out of it, it’s absolutely vital. But to get to intrinsic, you must travel through extrinsic to start with because at the start, it sounds bad, it feels hard, it feels uncomfortable, and it’s all new, all the time. Neurologically what happens is that we move from extrinsic which is a really, it’s a really quick way to feel great, and it only lasts for a very short period of time but it’s a great way to feel great straight away. Intrinsic, think of it as, it is a far longer, deeper, more enduring feeling of motivation, the knowing that you can get something out of it. Inside the brain what’s happening is, when we’re a child, we get sort of really good happy feelings but they only last for a short period of time.

And what we’re doing yet through childhood is developing the network that gives us intrinsic motivation. So through learning music, what they’ve found, which I think’s fantastic, is the learning of music and the playing of music sets off all the happy drugs in the brain and the happy network in the brain, and the only other things that do it are food, and sex, and music, and drugs if you want to take them. But [inaudible [00:22:31]. And so it almost becomes a learning drug, so the kids go through and their brains are going, “Ooh, there’s another one of those, ooh there’s another one,” and that’s what intrinsic motivation does, it develops that network through the beginning of their playing so that then the network itself takes over and the kid becomes intrinsically motivated. What we’ve got to realize as music educators is that there’s a place for both, and if anything it’s a continuum, one leads to the other if we do really well at it.

Tim: Okay, I think my thinking has changed around this because I wrote a blog post some time ago now, probably three years ago called “Why Extrinsic Motivation is Bad for Music Students,” or something like that. And there were some interesting comments that came back through it. My thinking has definitely changed time, and the more I read about some of the creative things that other people are doing in their studios with these extrinsic reward systems, yeah, it makes a lot of sense what you’ve just said, that there’s a continuum. I started, my teacher always gave me stickers, she even gave me money, I was like [inaudible [00:23:36] back in those days it wasn’t too bad actually. She’d put it on the side of the piano, and it’d be like, “Oh yeah.” It did me no harm, it kept me playing and here I am now, so…

Yeah, I think my view on that has changed, so it’s good to hear that from a scientific standpoint too. Okay, now we touched on parents before, and the title of this show, I’ve called this, “What to say to parents when their child is about to quit,” because we talked about this when you came and gave at our workshop, and I found this really, really…it’s the thing that stuck with me the most. You’ve got some good ideas about the sorts of things that we should say related to those benefits that you mentioned right at the beginning. So can you give us some tips, you know, we get the call from the mom or dad saying, “Look, so-and-so’s, you know, it’s a waste of time, they’re about to pull out,” or, “I’m going to pull them out of lessons.” You gave us some great tips. What kind of things can we say?

Anita: I don’t remember what I said. I think that what I’m learning is the very basis of that phone call is that music is an option. Music is a, you only do it if you enjoy it, and you only get your kids to do it if they enjoy it, and you’re investing a lot of money that is, seem to be in addition to school fees or anything that goes with education. And I’ve been playing around with lots of different ways of doing it and just watching the parents’ reaction. And part of it is saying the idea, “What are you really losing? What are you really taking away from your child by allowing them to quit?” So part of it is, these days, children have access to everything, and even with you know, differing sort of social circumstances, they still have access to everything. What’s more, they can get themselves out of an uncomfortable situation quite quickly. If they don’t like watching a movie, they turn it off. If they don’t like being in something, they’re allowed to leave.

Now what this is doing, while we live in a very comfortable and fantastic place, we’re breeding out resilience, we’re breeding out, through the ease of our lifestyle, this ability to actually live and sit with uncomfortable things and do uncomfortable things. Because learning is uncomfortable, learning is asking your brain to add more stuff to it, to understand, it’s hard work. Now, to say that music, just because my child is not enjoying it therefore they should stop, part of my counter to the parents is, “Actually because it’s uncomfortable, you’re giving your child the greatest gift that is going to serve them all the way throughout their lives. You’re teaching them little by little every single day how to sit with, and manage, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with doing something hard. Not letting it go, not letting them go, ‘Ah, it’s too hard, I don’t want to do it anymore.’ It’s actually making them learn that skill, which the rest of our lives, we haven’t got that much opportunity to do it anymore.” So, part of my counter to them is to say, “You’re actually taking more away than the instrument, you’re actually, are you happy with them not learning this skill, which I imagine you as a parent have used later in life?” That stops them in their tracks a little bit.

 

I had a student come to me, a flute player, the other day, who, I don’t think he quite knew what I did…

 

Tim: He’s a flute player?

 

Anita: Flute player, yeah, came to me and I don’t think he knew much about my research because he came out with, “I don’t want my flute playing to affect my ATAR” and it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got you, kid.”

 

Tim: So for people not in Australia, ATAR is the, like the final year of school, final mark system.

 

Anita: Yep, and the mark system that allows you entry into university, so the higher the ATAR, the higher, in theory, the higher degree that you can get into. And part of what I was able to turn around to this kid and say, and then I’ve said it to his parents is that, of course, the students who do music right up until your 12, tend to get far higher marks in every single other one of their subjects, and they can manage their time, and they’re happy, their level of well-being. So are you happy to take away, to remove, to allow them to stop an activity that can bolster their well-being, can improve their year 12 scores, and can keep them engaged in school? If you’re happy to do that, great. And as soon as they start to see the other benefits of learning music, rather than, “I see my child who’s uncomfortable, and I just want to stop it for them,” and I understand that. And I have been given a very personal connection to that when I’m watching my little girl and she’s learning [inaudible [00:28:17] violin and she’s learning first finger. So she’s putting her first finger down, and her hand’s just grown and it’s quite uncomfortable.

 

And so every time we ask her to do first finger, she starts crying. And as a mom I had that instinct, “Oh, my word, make it stop,” and then as a music teacher I went, “No, no, don’t make it stop. Just sit with her through the discomfort,” and I was reminded of how hard it is for a parent. And I think as music teachers, we need to acknowledge that it is personally really hard to sit there and listen to a poor French horn player trying to get that awful in tune, over and over again and not succeeding.

 

The other thing I often say to parents is, “To play music well, they get it wrong far more often than they get it right.” Now, do you want to take, that’s exactly the same with a math problem, with a science report, with reading or learning a foreign language. You get it wrong far more often than you get it right. But when you get it right, that’s great, and again, do you want to take away an opportunity that your child has every single day to learn how to persist with getting something wrong, knowing that at some stage they will get it right?

 

Tim: It’s that persistence and grittiness, and yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, and that sort of strikes a chord. They often don’t say anything just then. They go away and think about it, and then they come back and we come to an agreement with the student as well. And again, it’s usually time based, it’s usually, “Okay, we realize you’re having a tough time, we’re going to look at it again at the end of the term, or something like after the holidays, and we’re going to see if it’s got any better.” And often, whatever problem they’re having has fixed itself by then. So, yeah, it’s a really interesting approach that I’ve been taking and it’s had some success.

 

Tim: I like it, it’s very easy for us to just kind of go with the parental decision making process I guess without even saying anything. I mean we know, a lot of what we’ve been saying we know innately, we just, many of us haven’t actually read or spoken about. But we know the effect of music, but we perhaps don’t feel empowered enough to say that to parents too. So it’s great hearing these kind of things from someone who’s done the research as you have to say, we can say these things, because the research is out there [inaudible [00:30:34].

 

Anita: Absolutely, there’s a philosophical argument where we say, music is just good because it’s music. And then there’s this argument that music is good because it helps so many other things. And often we sit on one side of the fence or the other but I actually think, why are we denying both sides of that? It does great things for the rest of their schooling and their development as a person, and it is a wonderful art form. Let’s just use the right or the most appropriate piece of research where it’s going to have the most effect, and don’t worry about the fact that we have an ideological belief either way.

 

Tim: I think another thing that parents perhaps don’t understand is that, and you kind of touched on it before, practice shouldn’t sound good. I know some of my students have said to me before, “Oh, mum told me to stop playing because it sounded so awful.” or…I was like, no, no, that’s when you need to keep playing, that’s what you’re trying to get it.

 

Anita: Yeah, and a lot of the time I’m…I’m getting more and more convinced that a lot of the time parents, not encourage, but allow their children to give up because they have to experience the practice and they don’t enjoy it. And that’s a very difficult thing to bring to a parent’s attention, but I actually think it’s quite powerful to say, you know, it should sound bad, it should sound like work, it should feel like work. But also the work is on your behalf to actually, not necessarily sit through it with them but to go, “How’d your practice go today? Was it good, was it bad? Did you manage that beat you’re trying to get?” So and also, even to the point where, a trumpet player, the reason she was very happy for her kid to give up trumpet is because he used to practice in the lounge room while she was getting dinner ready in the kitchen which were the same place. She’d say, “I just can’t concentrate!” And so, “Could he practice somewhere else?” “Well, yeah, we’ve got a downstairs room, maybe he could go down there.” And suddenly just by separating the two out, she went, “Well, that’s not so bad. He can keep practicing, I can make dinner in peace,” and it was as simple as, you need to recognize you’re not enjoying it, but that’s not a reason to take it away, or allow it, or encourage it to be taken away from him.

 

Tim: I’m laughing because I’m constantly amazed by some of the things that we as music teachers have to teach parents about things that just seem so obvious, like, help your student set a little timetable for their practice, actually ask them to go and practice, you know, it’s like, “Practice please.”

 

Anita: Yeah, a space to practice. Yeah it is just amazing. It’s like, “This is what we do before bed.”

 

Tim: Yeah, yeah. I think I may perhaps write a little article that can be shared with parents about some of these, just give this to your parents [inaudible [00:33:20]. Because we have to realize that some of them perhaps haven’t been through it. A lot of them haven’t been through it and just might not realize.

 

Anita: Yeah, and that’s exactly the thing, they haven’t been through it so it feels foreign, and they need help to understand how they can support. They want the best for their child, and they want the best they can possibly give to them. But a lot of the time it’s just a lack of knowledge, it’s, where the trouble, well not the trouble, but the difficulty comes is how do you present it to each parent and each parent’s different, with a different understanding of it. I think I find, I sit inside and outside the music education field, I think in some ways that’s invaluable because I feel like we as music educators forget that we need to educate. When we take on a student, we take on the parent too, and it’s actually an education of the whole lot. Not just a relationship you have with the child, so it is also about helping the parent and they want the best.

 

Tim: Yes, that’s a really good point to remind everyone of I think, that need to help educate parents to get the most out of the music education time.

 

Anita: Yeah.

 

Tim: I was just thinking as well while you were talking about all these amazing benefits you can get from music which we all agree about, does it rely on the need to have a certain amount of practice done, does that make sense?

 

Anita: Yeah, it’s 10,000 hours.

 

Tim: If it’s a five minute a day kid, are they still going to get all these benefits? Or do they have to be practicing a good amount and making some real progress?

 

Anita: Yeah, that’s one of the things, I’m very lucky I’m going to visit two of the major neuroscience labs in America in May this year, and I don’t think they know what’s coming really because I’m going to just sit there and fire questions at them. Because…

 

Tim: I hope you share that with everyone too, right?

 

Anita: Oh absolutely, absolutely. I’m trying, what I’m trying to figure out is, when they…see they can pair groups of musicians and groups of non-musicians, but when I say musician, it’s just whoever they can get a hold of, rather than let’s compare a [inaudible [00:35:23] with an off-class. Let’s compare a French horn player who practices for half an hour a day religiously six days a week versus a trumpet player who does their five minutes and doesn’t really practice and wanders around the house and does it. You know, what the benefit. In saying that, what they have found is that particularly, the bit, most research is this zero to seven age group because it seemed to have the most impact and also the lasting impact, it lasts through life.

 

They’ve found that one year of learning a musical instrument, and I think it was violin and they did it, they had two lessons a week, and then they had two practices at home or something like that. One year didn’t have any impact neurologically. Fifteen months of practice had an impact on their visual cortex, on their visual memory, but didn’t have anything on their auditory memory. The magic number was two years, so to learn for two years continuously learning from a teacher having structured lessons, reading music, very important. They found that that was the magic number, the very least amount of learning that meant that the neurological changes happened and they remained permanent. Those are the two things. That’s before the age of seven. After the age of seven, it needs to be slightly longer because our brain sort of is in its second growing phase and it’s not quite so spongey and there’s already networks setup.

 

But in saying that, that can be as simple as, say you’ve got a three year old and you enrolled him in two consecutive years of baby music education things once a week and you do activities at home, and you keep the beat, and you sing to them, that’s just as effective as learning a violin. It’s as long as they’ve got something in their hands, they’re using their voices, they’re responding to symbols, and they’re doing it consecutively and in a sequential way. So a couple of years ago I wrote a paper which tried to say, “Okay, well what’s the science telling us that we actually need to know?” and it was the two year mark that was the one. And so it’s…

 

Tim: Two years of lessons and of regular practice, although not extreme practice, just…

 

Anita: No, and it’s just very recent research out about the fact that it is not, it’s not time based, that’s too simple. It’s actually what you do in that time. So someone could practice for half an hour and someone could practice for 10 minutes and still get the same neurological benefit just because of the way they practice. So, one of the ideas I’m playing around with is this idea that how do we teach kids kind of like a scoring system. That extrinsic motivation system, of you know, in your practice, if you started at the start of the piece every single time, if you got to bar 18 and that was the hard bar but you didn’t take it apart and practice it, you get 1 out of 10. But if you went straight to bar 18, you took it apart by beat, then you put it back together again, and then you played it a bar either side, oh that’s 10 out of 10. So trying to figure out ways of getting them to understand that if you practice this way, you get more benefit, if you practice this way, it takes you longer. And a point system is often the way to do it.

 

Tim: Okay, did you write that down on a card for them, so I mean because every piece is going to be different, so like you mentioned, I’m assuming this is something you’ve done with a student to test it.

 

Anita: I’ve only started doing it recently because it’s a sort of a testing phase of going, “Okay, well how will they respond to it?”

 

Tim: This is great because I love hearing about, you know, new little practice ideas. I’m passionate about it myself, getting kids to practice effectively, and we all struggle with it so.

 

Anita: It’s the thing you do, it’s the biggest thing you do. I, with this small group of students I had who were in year 9 and 10, I co-created the scale with them, and in the end I only came up with 5 different ones not 10.

 

Tim: Okay, so by scale you mean the ranking scale not the…okay.

 

Anita: Yeah, exactly, so I said, you know, “If you’re doing, you know, what an effective practice?” And they, we’ve got to remember this, kids are quite used to being in band, so they know my little sayings sort of you know, if you can’t say it, you can’t play it, you know? If you don’t count it at the right speed, then you won’t play it at the right speed, all those little things they know from me. But we co-created this little list of things that they’ve watched me do in band, and then they said, “We’ll try and go home and actually do it too.” And then they sort of talked to me again as we went through saying, “Sometimes I just want to play from the start of the piece,” and that’s like, “That’s totally okay, if you’ve had a big day and you have rowing in the morning and you’ve got, it’s already too late, just start at the beginning of the piece. But you know, how about trying a morning practice and you do the hard stuff in the morning?”

 

So we actually, I was really interested across the different kids, about some of them went, “Okay, my brains work in the morning, or my brains work at night.” “Okay, so wake up in the morning, we’ll do the hard stuff here, and if it’s not awake, we’ll do the easy stuff over here.” And then the other one switched. So we actually started talking about their body rhythms. When are they working best, what do they like doing, when do they like playing? And one of them…

 

Tim: [inaudible [00:40:29] adolescents in particular.

 

Anita: Totally. And they said, one of them particular, he problem solved himself, which is, I was so proud of him and he just said, “I’m best in the morning, 5 o’clock in the morning I’m wide awake and I can’t do anything.” I said, “Why can’t you do anything?” “It’s because my bedroom’s next to mom and dad’s, and I can’t get up and practice.” And again I said, “Is there somewhere else you can go?” He said, “Well, in summer I can go outside.” I went, “Okay.” So this kid’s outside with his Alto Saxophone…

 

Tim: Oh, the neighbors loved that.

 

Anita: And I said, “Are the neighbors going to notice?” He said, “No, no we live on a bit of acreage.” I went, “Okay.” So this kid’s out doing their practice at five, but he problem solved himself. And this talking about it and this giving him structures, actually gave him permission to start doing the wild thing, like, “You don’t have to practice inside,” and he just took his music stand outside and, I think he [inaudible [00:41:24] probably in his pajamas and he just practiced outside. And I thought, “That’s great.” And he came back the next day and I said, “How was it?” He said, “It was great, I watched the sunrise as I was practicing my saxophone, what could be better?”

 

Tim: Oh, wow, awesome. Not so heavy for pianists, but still we get the concept.

 

Anita: Okay.

 

Tim: Just to go back to your little ranking sheet because I love trying new things as all my viewers will know. Did you, with the ranking, you know, from ineffective to effective practice, [inaudible [00:41:55] five steps or whatever. It’s obvious, every piece needs a different approach slightly, so I wondered where, my question is, did you write a different rank for each piece, or did you just say, you know, most effective practice is that you go straight to the hard bit and you play it slowly 10 times and then you do the next step? So that they could use this ranking sheet for every piece.

 

Anita: Yep, the first thing I did is I would never, I didn’t talk about them as effective practice like we would talk about as music teachers. But I did it as smiley faces and, you know, okay.

 

Tim: Increasingly grumpy faces.

 

Anita: Yeah, well, okay? Kind of like a straight mouth, little bit better, little bit better, awesome practice and then super-charged amazing brain practice. So like we gave them silly names and we didn’t do it for each piece but we did it as, you know, what are the basic bits of pieces, so there’s always hard bits. So we had super hard, fast bits and super hard, slow bits. And we talked about what is the difference and why do you practice differently. What are you looking for when you practice differently? So they were right at the top of the spectrum, starting at the start of the piece was the one that was always, you know, it was okay practice but not great. And then we did things like starting at a section of the piece but only doing a bit of it so…

 

Tim: Or stopping at the hard bit or something, you said.

 

Anita: Yeah, stopping at the hard bit or only doing a particular section and not connecting it, so it’s all connected, so yes there’s a hard bar, but it makes no sense to practice that if you’re getting the two bits before the hard bar wrong because that sets you up for a failure. So we sort of had these bits as they go through. And part of it was you don’t always practice number fives and you don’t always practice number ones. Your week, you can divide it into, this time I practice this, this time I practice this. And we also set a couple of goals, like, okay, the end of this week I want to be able to play it through, warts and all. So literally just without stopping and restarting, which I know for, I know players is a bit of an issue.

 

Tim: Yeah, absolutely.

 

Anita: So, that was one goal, warts and all, you know, really bad warts. Another, one of the [inaudible [00:44:13]..

 

Tim: Sorry Anita, I just lost you. Just like 10 seconds, can you just go back?

 

Anita: Okay, one of the kids said he’s going to record it and send it to his teacher, so he sent a sound file, but the nature of the recording was that, you know that when you record yourself you don’t want to make mistakes, so you actually get a little tense and…

 

Tim: Yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, so he wanted to do that and he actually said himself, “I want to do it because there’s a recital in term two, and I always get worried about playing the whole piece through. So he said, “I’m going to setup a system for myself to record it, and I’m beholden to my teacher.” So by the fact that he said to his teacher, I commit to sending you this recording meant he did it. So, yeah, so there was a lot of different, and I’m at the moment because it’s a very new idea, I’m just responding to what they say, I’m just taking in every idea that they’re coming up with, and then also just noticing how they react, what they enjoy, what they find difficult. But also saying, “When it’s difficult, you’re going to feel, what happens in your body.” So some of them, one of the boys screws his face up, he says, “When I feel my eyebrows do this, then I know that I’m finding it difficult.” Any of the physical reactions, so they’re noticing their physical reactions now.

 

Tim: Yeah. I was actually going to ask you about this idea of learning is uncomfortable and the ways that we should be getting kids to understand that that’s okay. Is it just, do you think, about talking to students about the fact that, you know, the hard bits are painful, they’re slow, they’re tedious sometimes, and that’s okay?

 

Anita: Yeah, I’ve tried all sorts of things. I think I realized within my own practice that I didn’t use enough visuals and I didn’t use enough sort of metaphors or analogies, so a lot of the time, I explain to the parents that learning doesn’t happen like that, music learning’s like this, like big steps. And then what I did is I used it with the students to say, “Where do you think you are on the step at the moment?” So, are you on the up, are you in the frustrating bit right at the start of the step where you don’t feel like you’re getting it?” And they visualized where they were, and again it gives it that end point of going, I know I am going to go up soon it’s just not yet.

 

Talking about it is really, really good but also talking about it in the moment. So when my daughter starts to cry, it’s like, “Okay, can you explain to me what’s upsetting you,” and she will talk about her hand, and we’ll try lots of different things to do with her hand and then, but that’s, you don’t talk about it once, you talk about it every time. “Oh, we’re at that point again, we’re at the frustrating bit again, or we’re at the,” she calls it the hurty bit, you know? It’s also using their language, it’s respecting their language and saying, “Well, just use any word that comes to you, that means what you’re getting frustrated with.”

 

So yeah, I think it’s about talking about it, about acknowledging it, but also about asking a lot more questions of our own students and just letting them answer. Feeling safe to, I mean, one of the classes we have as music teachers is, there are very few people in our students lives who spend as much time with them as we do, and so the relationship we build, the trust we build is absolutely enormous. And while that’s wonderful when they need to trust us and tell us things, we can actually use that trust to understand that we are building a human being as well as along the way building a musician.

 

Tim: Nice way to put it. Yeah, we do have a very special place in these students’ lives, you’re right. Other than their parents, no one else has quite the same amount of one on one contact as we do.

 

Anita: Yeah. Over a year or several years or you know from…

 

Tim: Or half a lifetime when they’re [inaudible [00:48:06], it’s amazing.

 

Anita: Exactly, yeah.

 

Tim: I want to pick up on, coming to sort of my last couple of questions, you mentioned the importance of music reading before. I just wanted to pick up on that because I’m a huge fan of creativity, and improvising, and the importance of being curious and exploring music, but I also teach reading, and I’m a fan of that too, but did you want to mention anything further about that idea of reading and its impact on brain development?

 

Anita: What they originally did quite a bit of research on is they found that the visual, the auditory, and the motor cortices were working together.

 

Tim: So visual, so eyes, motor is the fingers or what’s moving, and the ears.

 

Anita: Yeah, now a lot of people would say, “Well, sport does the same thing,” and absolutely it does, and this is why they should be co-taught, they should be happening at the same time. But the difference they’ve found is that sport is about listening for or responding to a call or an instruction, whereas music is actually, in an auditory sense, is responding to the nuances of sound and what meaning is written inside that sound. Or what sound, imagining a sound and going, “How do I make my body do that?” So it’s actually a slightly different part of the brain, so both are incredibly important, to do just one doesn’t do the same effect. I don’t know where I got, what was my question?

 

Tim: Reading, reading, the impact of reading.

 

Anita: Okay, so then they did a whole bunch of research on kids who just learned through, they did some Suzuki kids and then they [inaudible [00:49:45] to learning through reading, and they found the brain development in the kids who started reading from the very start to be much better in the long run. In saying that, they found the initial part of Suzuki training to be fantastic for auditory development, and those kids develop language earlier, so there’s pluses and minuses. The main thing is a lot of the time kids, particularly piano kids, learn reading music before they learn reading English or reading language.

 

Now if you think of them just in their basic form, they are both single systems which give us indications of sound. So T-H means “th” that’s an indication of sound. A crochet [SP] goes like this, that’s an indication of sound. It’s like learning another language, like Spanish, you just put…the more you make your brain work in that area, the better they’re going to be at everything. So reading notes, meaning reading, I see something on a page and it sounds like this on my instrument or it sounds like this when I sing is actually just that direct connection you made between that and TH, so it looks like this and sounds like this when it comes out of my mouth.

 

Tim: Right, yeah okay. I find this fascinating because I’m right at a point in my own teaching where I’m avoiding the reading straight up, so I’m not Suzuki trainer, I mean just my own experience says, I’ve got a new student this year, who, I mean, he’d be fine with about seven or eight. And for the first three lessons and at least a few more, we haven’t touched any reading stuff, we’re just moving to music, we’re improvising, we’re listening. It’s so much fun, he absolutely loves it, and I’m really enjoying it too.

 

And I think this has been and will be the longer phase than I would normally have before I start introducing them to some kind of notation even if it’s just images. So it was really, just, I was wondering where you were going to go with the Suzuki and its impact versus the go straight to reading, and of course, there will always be somewhat of a trade-off I guess. But I think from my perspective, the idea of sound, and audiation, and feeling rhythm and things is by far the most important thing right at the beginning, than reading, that’s just my own take on it, a little bit like language acquisition, you hear, you copy before you read.

 

Anita: Yeah, if we think about how long kids are speaking for before they actually encounter letters, it’s a long, long time. And it’s not to say that they shouldn’t start completely orally, and I actually think they should, but if we think about it, in a lot of our methodologies, we have a concrete symbol system for what the sound means. So we could [inaudible [00:52:34] circles, and we’ve just got lines, we haven’t got note heads. You know, in all sorts of things, we’ve got this somehow connecting the concept of a sound to a symbol, but the state between those is I hear it, I make the sound, and this is what it looks like. Not, I hear it, and that’s what it looks like and then I make it. Sometimes that’s a backwards step depending on age and very much depending on the child.

 

There are visual, not a visual queue, but if they really caught on to the notation early, fantastic. You know, let’s go with that. If they’re a kid who tends to respond more with the play, so it might be a kid who’s very kinesthetic and he’s engaging with the instrument and feeling how it goes, then that’s great. Interestingly for me, the cycle needs to be finished at some stage, so at some stage they need to be able to read, they need to be able to hear, and they need to be able to do it with their body. How we get to that cycle is different for every child. But any money, if a kid is better orally to start with, their visual acuity overall is not going to be fantastic. That’s something that’s going to be uncomfortable, and we need to work hard at making comfortable.

 

Some kids start with reading and they don’t like, they know sound, and then they don’t like that it doesn’t sound like that on their instrument. So getting back the other way is the discomfort. So if we can identify there’s a big triangle, motor, visual, auditory, and then go, “Okay, where is this kid coming from and how do I make this triangle whole?” Then that’s our sort of teaching practice and our approach.

 

Tim: Yeah, I like that because you can instantly see in my students, they’ve got a bias towards one way. And I’ve got some fantastic play by ear students who really struggle with the reading, so perhaps it’s about for me and other people in that situation, about helping the students realize that yes, this is going to be an uncomfortable thing, it’s going to take effort, but the importance of it is huge and you’re going to..

 

Anita: I can talk to my kids about, “Can you feel the cogs moving?” Because you know that feeling when you’re learning and it’s like two really big cogs and they go [inaudible [00:54:43], and they go, “Yeah, this feels really hard,” It’s like, “Great, let’s work.”

 

Tim: Yes, that’s it.

 

Anita: It’s what you need to do. And managing that part of it is very, very important.

 

Tim: Cool, all right, well look, I’ve got just one other question that came up as we were talking before, I wondered, there might not be research and you may not be able to answer it, I’m not sure. But is there any indication that different types of teaching have a different impact on those benefits to students?

 

Anita: There’s no research on it, again, because the neuroscientists don’t, it doesn’t give any further information, so they just aren’t doing the research in it. My hope is that I can hopefully, and a very small group of people who work in my field, can make them aware of the benefit of adding in some extra information at the start. So say, “Okay, here’s your group of musicians, let’s talk. Are they Suzuki, Kadai [SP], some sort of hybrid of those two,” you know, so therefore at the very end, no matter what they find, we’ve got a point of reference of what that methodology is. Yeah, so at the moment, that’s the big missing link in the research, but I think it’s one that we can absolutely fix, because it’s not going to change the neuroscientists’ research, it’s just going to change how they look at it from the information they gather at the very start. And they need a music educator going, “That’s off base, that’s Kadai based, that’s Suzuki based, so they need that sort of person in there, so I’m going to log in on the door and say, “Hey, [inaudible [00:56:20].”

 

Tim: As a fellow music educator, I’d like to thank you on behalf of all of us, all the work that you’re doing because you must spend hours researching, and talking, and travelling and all this kind of stuff. But to be able to just distill these ideas so succinctly as you have today, fantastic, it’s been really, really good speaking with you.

 

Anita: Thank you.

 

Tim: And I should mention too, we’ve talked a lot about boys today, I don’t want to put anyone off to think we’re doing anything weird, we both teach in boy’s schools, so a lot of our pronouns have been he’s. I’ve been talking about boys, but obviously this is of immediate impact to girls and boys.

 

Anita: Yeah, and I do teach in a combined program, so I have girls in front of me every single day. And I find that the approaches are the same. I might do it slightly differently for girls than for boys, and as a female teacher towards boys or a female teacher towards girls, that’s also, the gender is a different thing as well.

 

Tim: Yeah, yeah. And I’ve certainly talked a lot about that on my blog because I’ve got lots of research and my own research and resources for teaching boys piano too. Now, is there anything that we missed in our discussion today that you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ve really got to remember to tell him this”?

 

Anita: No, I get to the end and I go, “There’s just so much more.” Maybe for another day.

 

Tim: Yeah, well look, where can people go to find out more about you? We’ll put links to your videos in the show notes. But what about connecting with you at all?

 

Anita: My website is anitacollinsmusic.com where I try to put all of my scholarly work up but also I’m moving into an area of doing a lot more resources for music teachers, so posters, there’s kind of a coffee table book coming out soon which you can just happily leave on your coffee table, while the parents are sitting there and they can have a look, have a read. So I’m moving into that field of doing a lot more stuff for music teachers that you can use. Video, posters, books, all that sort of thing, so if you go there and just keep up with things, then that’s great. I’ve also got, on Facebook, I have a Facebook community called “Bigger, Better Brains,” which is where, as soon as new research comes up, I’ll post the link, but also I’ll pick out bits for you that I think are useful, or interesting, or controversial, or challenge our thinking as music educators about what we do every day.

 

Tim: I can highly recommend following that. Is it a page or a group? I can’t remember.

 

Anita: It’s a community, so it’s a group.

 

Tim: A group, yep, that’s great. Some of the stuff I’ve found, it’s really, as you say, there is so much out there, it’s so hard to keep up with it all, but, yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, exactly.

 

Tim: But it’s great, we’re just starting a conversation and letting teachers know about where they can find more information is crucial.

 

Anita: Yep.

 

Tim: Thank you, Anita, so much for your time today, I know you’re incredibly busy, and I really appreciate it.

 

Anita: Thank you very much.

 

Tim: All right. We’ll see you later.

 

Tim: Hey, guys, it’s Tim here. I just wanted to let you know as my special subscribers and viewers to the podcast and email subscribers, I wanted to give you a heads-up that in two weeks’ time I’ll be launching to you guys, my inner circle, now this is my private members area of my website. It’s a project I’ve been working on for about nine months now, and it’s going to be the place where I share from now on, all my resources, all my worksheets, future training videos, downloads, all the information. It’s the place where I answer people’s questions and the place where all of you guys who are members in there can share all of your ideas too and help each other. We’re going to build a fantastic community of dedicated hard working entrepreneurial kind of teachers in there. Now I’ve already got some beta testers in there who are trying to make sure everything’s working in time for the launch.

 

And at this stage, I haven’t got any links or anything for you to click on. I just wanted to make you aware that this is happening in about two weeks’ time, and the launch that I’ll be offering you guys will be the best price given that you are exactly the kind of people that I want in there, the ones that are really keen to change, and learn, and be the best teachers you can be. You’re the people that I want in the inner circle with me and the rest of the people in there, so stay tuned for more information about that. We’ll be releasing that in, yeah, just under two weeks’ time and you guys will get first chance to be foundation members, and you’ll also get the best price for your loyalty over the years of watching, and listening, and reading my articles. So I’m looking forward to sharing that with you, stay tuned to a couple weeks’ time.

 

And I just want to mention one other thing too, a few people have been having trouble with downloads on the podcast. So if you’re using the iPhone or iPad app and you can’t download the episodes, then I’m working on it but I can’t work out exactly what’s wrong. So in the meantime, the simplest solution is to instead use the Overcast app, it’s free, download it from the app store. It’s called Overcast, it’s actually a better podcast player anyway, and it will allow you to download the episodes.

 

Now this is useful if you’re unfamiliar and perhaps you choose to watch most of these episodes, if you do use an app on your phone, you can download the episodes when you’re in Wi-Fi so when you’re at home for free effectively, and then listen to the podcast wherever you are without using your mobile data. It also means you can listen on planes, and trains, and sea voyages, whatever you happen to be doing. So it is a pretty good way to catch up on episodes that you might have missed without using all your data, so that’s on either the iTunes Store. If you’re happy to stream, then just use the podcast player app on iPhone, but if you do want to download the episodes so you can listen to them at any time, use the Overcast app. All right, guys, I’ll try and sort that out for you in the coming weeks, but in the meantime that’s the best solution. Thanks so much for listening and watching and I’ll see you soon. Anita: And part of what I was able to turn around to this kid and say, and then I’ve said it to his parents, is that of course there’s students who do music right up ’til year 12 tend to get far higher marks in every single other one of their subjects, and they can manage their time, and they’re happy, their level of well-being. So are you happy to take away, to remove, to allow them to stop an activity that can bolster their well-being, can improve their year 12 scores, and can keep them engaged in school?

 

Tim: You’re watching Tim Topham TV, the Piano Teaching Podcast. This is episode number 32. Hi, everyone, and thanks so much for watching this episode of Tim Topham TV where we’ll be chatting to internationally renowned education researcher, teacher and speaker, Anita Collins, all about some of the brain science behind the effect of music, how motivation works and some of the things you can say to parents when they’re about to pull their child out of lessons. I met Anita recently at a workshop where she came and spoke to the teachers at my school, and some of the thoughts that she had and the ideas and the research that she’s got, I just had to share with you guys. So I’m really, really pleased to have Anita on the show, and I’ll introduce her in just a moment.

 

As usual, if you’d like show notes from this episode, you can head to timtopham.com/episode32. So Anita completed her PhD from the University of Melbourne in the area of Neuroscience and Music Education. As a music educator, Anita was interested in exploring the relationships between brain science and music and the effects of each on each other. And this led to her creating one of the most watched TED-Ed videos ever made, it’s called “How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain,” and I just checked this morning, it was up to almost 4.4 million views and translated into 27 languages, and she’s also presented at TEDx event in Canberra.

 

She’s currently Assistant Professor of Music and Arts Education at the University of Canberra and has been visiting lecturer at the Australian National University. In these roles, she teaches across undergraduate and post-graduate teaching degrees in the area of music arts and general education. Anita has researched within this area in the areas of innovative teaching practices and self-efficacy in pre-service teacher training. Anita has also worked in primary and secondary school music as an educator in both Australia and England, she has worked in classroom and instrumental constructs and has been a curricula designer and conductor of bands, orchestras, and choral groups. Anita, I have no idea how you’ve done all that, but welcome to the show today.

 

Anita: Thank you very much for having me, Tim.

 

Tim: Well, you’ve got a massive wealth of experience in music education, and you’ve got obviously this neuroscience kind of background too. But I wondered what were the key experiences in your teaching career, because you started as a teacher, that made you decide to kind of stop doing that so much and focus instead on this research about the brain and music.

 

Anita: Now that I look back at it, there are so many experiences. The one I share most of all is the one about presentation night, when you see all of the boys, I teach at a boy’s school, and all the boys get on stage from year 7, the top 10 boys. And as they walk on stage, I’d be going, “That’s a musician, that’s a musician, that’s a musician, that’s a non-musician, that’s a musician,” and it’s regularly 7 or 8 out of 10 who were getting awards. And I just wondered, while it’s wonderful, I just wondered why was it that there was this common theme of being a musician underneath. Was it just that they were smart kids, was it just that they were dedicated kids, was it just they had a fantastic work ethic, was it just they had pushy parents, or was there something else behind that? And that’s what I wanted, I wanted to answer that question. I wanted to know if it had anything to do with that or if it was just a coincidence.

 

Tim: And so, can you give us, I mean we’ll go into the details, but can you give us the one word answer? Was it about them being a musician or were they already smart beforehand or had pushy parents?

 

Anita: It was about being a musician that then led to them being smart and having parents who supported them in what they did in lots of very explicit ways but also very implicit ways as well. So the answer is, it’s both, but being a musician is now something that the research is telling us is the key, the golden bullet, whatever you want to call it, that actually helps that cognitive development.

 

Tim: Okay, so let’s dive a little bit deeper into the research that actually uncovered this for you. You have a, your talk, I think it was your talk, wasn’t it? It was called “What if every child had access to music education from birth?” which I enjoyed watching the other day. I actually liked, we’ll make sure we put a link in the show notes, but I like you had some information about the outfit you were wearing and the shoes or something.

 

Anita: Yeah.

 

Tim: [inaudible [00:05:00] Oh, there you go, you were like showing off designer fashion [inaudible [00:05:05] on TED-Ed, and your whole outfit matched the carpet, I loved that too.

 

Anita: Oh yeah, I had to do that, I just like put the clothes and TED right over a black and red. What I like with all of us, we are artists and it’s important to support Australian artists, and I thought well, what an opportunity to do it because this goes all around the world.

 

Tim: Yeah, that’s very, very cool. So let’s talk about some of the research that you did. And I guess, look, it’s obvious you’ve been doing this for many, many years, but can you distill it down to us, for all of us music teachers out there the kind of the key findings of the research that you just summarized before anyways? But let’s go a little bit deeper.

 

Anita: Yeah, so the area I’ve looked at is, I’m not a neuroscientist, I’m a music teacher just like you guys. And the area I’ve been looking at is the neuroscientists are investigating the connection between music training and brain development. But they’re not doing it to understand about music training, they’re just using music training, and they use the word training and we use the word education. They’re using it to understand more about how the brain works. So it’s just a helping hand, it’s a mechanism. Whereas for us, it’s actually revealing many of the things that we experience on a day-to-day basis but we don’t understand as a neurological development, we just see it as music education.

 

So the key things they’ve found is that in a nutshell, music training makes your brain work far more effectively, I just read yesterday someone said, “It teaches your brain how to talk to itself as effectively as possible, make it the best communicator it can be.” So it talks across the brain really well, around the different areas really well, so therefore kids who’ve had music training have fantastic problem solving skills. Their brains actually work very, very fast, much faster than most. So the synapses running around their brain are far faster than those who don’t have music training. They have a fantastic memory system, so they create these memories but it’s kind of like a supercharged filing system, they tag each memory with a sound, and a smell, and a sight, and a conceptual idea, and they put it away in this supercharged filing system. And they can pull it back really quickly, or they can also alter it really quickly.

 

And when you think about learning, it’s all about going, “This is what I know, this is the new thing, how do I put those two together to have them make sense or not.” Learning is all about how quickly you can go through that process and flexibly change that process again. So the act of the…the fact that musicians brains can work so much more quickly and are so much more flexible, means that musicians tend to go onto A, when they’re in school, learn more. So they get more out of school, they’re more engaged, they have far longer attention spans, they can focus, they can manage many, many things at once. You may have a lot of your students who seem to be juggling the world, but their music training is teaching them how to do that, and they continue on to do it. They also, just lots of facts that they earn more money.

 

Tim: Really? You’ve been able to determine that?

 

Anita: Yeah, there’s some really, really interesting research with some economic modelers which actually show that musicians, because they’ve got higher IQs generally, they have related an actual IQ point to an amount of money and then said well…because music puts you up this much, therefore you earn this much more over a span of a lifetime. They also have more career changes, more significant changes, and they can adapt far more quickly as they change. They also have better personal relationships generally and they’re able to have longer relationships in life as well, so their sort of social personal skills are far better as well.

 

Tim: It is unbelievable group of effects, isn’t it? I mean, I would never have thought to relate music study at school at all to money making later in life or relationship factors, I mean that’s, who would’ve thought? That’s unbelievable.

 

Anita: Yeah, and that’s why I, as a music teacher, I was looking at this research going, “We need to know this!” And it was all stuck over here in the neuroscientists who were just gurgling away happily going, “We’re finding out stuff about the brain.” And part of my research is not so much as a research into neuroscience, it’s not my field. But very much it’s about reading what they’ve done, comparing it with my own experience and my understanding of music education, and then going, “Okay, what do we need to know, and how can we relate that knowledge?” so that you and I and everybody else who’s not a neuroscientist can actually understand it.

 

Tim:  Yeah, yeah, and that’s been such a fantastic resource for all of us that you’ve produced in these videos too, that are, you know, four minutes long, what, four or five minutes long. I love your TED-Ed video, it’s just got in the animation, I don’t know, who did the animation, how does that work?

 

Anita: It was done by a Scottish woman who lives in California that’s [inaudible [00:10:05], whose name is Sharon Colman. I was assigned her, and I looked up her website and the very first thing that pops up is “Academy Award Nominee, Sharon Colman.” And I went, [inaudible [00:10:19]. But that TED-Ed was entirely made by email, entirely, so I never met anybody, I never spoke to Sharon directly. I had one Skype interview with the director of TED-Ed at the very beginning, and the rest of it was entirely done just by emails going back and forth, so it was an extraordinary creative experience.

 

Tim: Yeah, and it shows, absolutely. And it’s got the feedback to bring its value to it, which is great. Just as you were talking then about some of those benefits, I was thinking about one of my students last year. I happened to teach at my school, a boy who ended up being the dux of the school.

 

Anita: [inaudible [00:10:58]

 

Tim: Yeah, and this student, you know, he was the one on awards night, he got every award there was, he played a French horn, he was in all the bands, he did the sport that he needed to do, he…and he was playing at high level, MSA kind of level and practicing every week. It was absolutely remarkable, and as you know, this month I’m kind of focusing on practice and motivation because it can be so difficult these days to get kids to do practice, and we’ll talk more about that later. But when I think about this young man who was so busy and studying so hard that he still found the time to practice, and then look at my year nines or whatever it is, who just do five minutes every two days or whatever it is, and then say they’re so busy in that, they don’t have time. You know, what are you thinking? Why is that kind of the case for those students?

 

Anita: Well, there’s one interesting thing, it’s interesting you mention year nine because part of what has helped me understand, I did a lot of research before I started this area of research on boys music education, particularly in years seven and eight. And my frustration was, why would they up and quit an instrument they were playing for the past four years, they seemingly loved, they were involved in all the groups. And then suddenly it was like, “No I’m giving up,” or, “I’m going to play guitar instead of playing trumpet.” It’s like, “What’s happening here? Do I have any influence on this, or can I do something?” So what’s helped me with the neuroscience is understanding that the brain has cycles and growth cycles, and they’re now starting to sort of pin them down, the first one is between zero and seven, and the brain is just growing and growing.

 

We talk about kids as a sponge. And then at the seven years of age, they do something, without us knowing, the brain does, it does something called pruning which is exactly what it sounds like, the brain takes to all of its different areas with a huge scythe and goes, “I don’t need that. I haven’t used that, that’s not useful, I’ve integrated that already so that’s not good.” And they do it again at around 14. So it got me thinking about what have I experienced on the outside of these students at 14? Say they’ve been learning on a [inaudible [00:13:09], they’ve been doing that with me for four years, and then they just seem to, there’s lack of focus, they don’t practice, their time table goes all out of whack, they could arrive in any mood under the sun.

 

And it, this research, got me thinking about my practice with kids of that age because I used to just think, “You just need to hold on that little bit longer, get them through to about 15, and they seem to come out of it. But it’s actually neurologically, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff going on, and that is influenced very seriously by puberty as well, so they’re not concentrating on what I’m talking about at all because there’s so much going on inside their bodies. They, it helped me to go, “Okay, how would I adjust my teaching, how would I change my approach to practice, what are their motivations at that age considering so much is actually going on?” And they do come out of it.

 

And the thing is, by the time you see that wonderful kid in year 12 [inaudible [00:14:00] who’s docked, they’ve done all the pruning, they’ve got some extra space in their brain, but also they’ve hit that intrinsic motivational stage when they go, “I actually really love this for me. This makes me feel good, I feel successful, I can see the direct pattern between if I practice here, I get this result and I feel good, so I’ll practice some more, so I’ll feel good.” And that happens by the end of year 12. But we have these, it’s not a straight line, it’s ebb and flow all the way through that we, I think, as music teachers need to be able to respond to but also know more about what might be going on for those students.

 

Tim: Can you remember back to what, what you changed about your teaching, if anything, for those 14 year olds that were all over the place and pruning in their brains going on, to try and keep them engaged?

 

Anita: Yes, I tested out a lot of things, but sort of by accident, I was finding more out about this research and I would share it with my students, so I’d explicitly say, “Do you know what’s going on in your head right now?”

 

Tim: [inaudible [00:15:07]

 

Anita: Yeah, I would come up with these little things like, “You know there’s a little grim reaper and he’s scything away in there,” and they’d think that was hilarious. They thought that was funny. And I’d say, “That’s what’s going on, and that’s why it’s really hard for you to focus as long as you have been able to.” And then I’d talk about, because again with boys, they would grow, and they’d be able to play a note, and then the next week they couldn’t because their fingers had got that much longer. So, what notes I’d talk to them explicitly about, “This is what’s happening inside your body, this is how it’s playing out on the outside, and that’s why you’re not feeling you’re getting so far ahead.”

 

And I didn’t mean to do it, but I found that giving them the information, explaining it to them, but also getting them to reflect on how they were feeling gave them a language for the frustration they were feeling. And I also said, “It’s going to stop, this too will pass. You know, you’re going to get to 15, you’re going to get to 16, this is not going to happen anymore.” And it’s sort of like through knowledge, through information, they became far more, they were the master of their musical development, not, “What’s happening to me? I feel awful, therefore I will quit.”

 

Tim: Yeah, “I can’t play. It’s all useless. Why am I doing this?”

 

Anita: Yeah. Now I could play these notes last week, I can’t get them. So the funniest ones I find are trombone players, seventh position used to be here and now it’s there. You know, clarinet, not so hard, but it’s really is just for the boys particularly making them explicitly, making it explicit, but also making the emotion explicit and saying, “You will feel frustrated, and frustration looks like this for you, or it looks like this, it’s different. Work with that because…” And then I would talk about the brain.

 

So I have had wonderful responses from my students with the video because they, someone’s passed it on on Facebook or something, they’ve watched it and they’ve seen the little bit at the end that says, “Anita Collins.” And they’ve come to me in band the next day and gone, “Was that you?” I say, “Yeah.” And they’ll go, “You’re famous.” [inaudible [00:17:02] And then they start talking, so it’s actually, I’ve been surprised at how much they’ve interacted with it but also how knowledge is power. Knowledge for them has helped them to continue and get past that uncomfortable stage.

 

Tim: It’s really interesting that this is exactly the reason that I want to speak to someone like you because, you know, most of us, and me included, will try and think of activities to do with the students or ways of approaching particular music or your musical choices. But you’re like, “Actually no, I mean, that might work, but you know my tactic was actually to talk to them about what’s actually going on in their bodies and their brains at this stage so that they have some knowledge about why they’re actually feeling as they are,” I think that’s fantastic. It’s such a good tip and I know that many people who are watching this could potentially try that with those students at that age.

 

Anita: Yeah and it fits in with, once I saw myself doing it, but more importantly I saw the reaction of the boys, it fits in with a lot, particularly boys research, to say relationships are king. The relationship you have with your teacher is so important, and all this is is developing that relationship in a different kind of way.

 

Tim: Just on that kind of brain pruning information, is there a video on that or a link that you can give me or anything? You don’t have to do it right now but maybe after we record, that could give some more detail. I have a feeling people could use that.

 

Anita: The only place I can think, and there’s not a video been done about it, but there’s a good idea. The only place you’ll start to see it is when a lot of the literature about the adolescent brain and the brain development in adolescence, they talk about these pruning stages. They’re really just…scientists get very worried about absolutes, so they don’t want to say, “At the age of seven, this will happen.” They sort of, it’s very much a stage kind of thing, so the…

 

Tim: It depends on the, every child is slightly different, etc.

 

Anita: Boys and girls are slightly different as well, environment at home makes it different. Yeah, so when they talk about the adolescent, all the research into adolescent brain development, that’s where that pruning stuff becomes a really interesting, and they start talking a lot about it, so that would be where I’d direct the listener.

 

Tim: You know, I’ve been a teacher for many years and I’ve gone to a lot of PD and I’ve done PD about adolescent brains and all this, and I’ve actually, if I have heard that, then it’s gone in one ear and out the other. I can’t think that I know about that, I’m going to do some more research myself, I find it fascinating.

 

Anita: Yeah.

 

Tim: You talked about intrinsic motivation before. And I just wanted to have a quick touch on extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, and I’m sure most people watching will understand the difference. But to very quickly summarize, intrinsic motivation is about the student wanting to practice innately and doing it for their own benefit, extrinsic is where we as parents or teachers offer them rewards, or stickers, or fake money, or whatever it is, to practice.

 

Anita: Yep.

 

Tim: What’s your take on, let’s talk about extrinsic motivators firstly. Is there any value of them in music education, in your opinion?

 

Anita: In my opinion, absolutely there is because if part of… See, here we run into some interesting things. We think that intrinsic motivation is apt because we as music teachers have reached that zenith, that point where we love what we do, we’re incredibly passionate about what we do, we want to share that passion with our students. And when we come up against a student who doesn’t experience that, kind of we’re like, “Well hang on, my world looks like this, and yours looks like [inaudible [00:20:37], come over my side, this is the fun side.” But we have to realize that to get to that point, we all went through an extrinsic motivation part of it, whether it was praise from, I know for me, when I used to, I used to love hitting all the right notes and all the right rhythms because the conductor would turn and say, “You got that right!” Oh, I was so happy.

 

And you know, I watch my daughter who’s five and she’s doing, it’s fascinating to watch, because I’m parent teacher, I don’t teach early childhood kids, watching that stickers are amazing, they have amazing effects on kids. And she is constantly trying to do things for stickers at the moment. I know she’ll grow out of it, it’s absolutely vital. But to get to intrinsic, you must travel through extrinsic to start with because at the start, it sounds bad, it feels hard, it feels uncomfortable, and it’s all new, all the time. Neurologically what happens is that we move from extrinsic which is a really, it’s a really quick way to feel great, and it only lasts for a very short period of time but it’s a great way to feel great straight away. Intrinsic, think of it as, it is a far longer, deeper, more enduring feeling of motivation, the knowing that you can get something out of it. Inside the brain what’s happening is, when we’re a child, we get sort of really good happy feelings but they only last for a short period of time.

 

And what we’re doing yet through childhood is developing the network that gives us intrinsic motivation. So through learning music, what they’ve found, which I think’s fantastic, is the learning of music and the playing of music sets off all the happy drugs in the brain and the happy network in the brain, and the only other things that do it are food, and sex, and music, and drugs if you want to take them. But [inaudible [00:22:31]. And so it almost becomes a learning drug, so the kids go through and their brains are going, “Ooh, there’s another one of those, ooh there’s another one,” and that’s what intrinsic motivation does, it develops that network through the beginning of their playing so that then the network itself takes over and the kid becomes intrinsically motivated. What we’ve got to realize as music educators is that there’s a place for both, and if anything it’s a continuum, one leads to the other if we do really well at it.

 

Tim: Okay, I think my thinking has changed around this because I wrote a blog post some time ago now, probably three years ago called “Why Extrinsic Motivation is Bad for Music Students,” or something like that. And there were some interesting comments that came back through it. My thinking has definitely changed time, and the more I read about some of the creative things that other people are doing in their studios with these extrinsic reward systems, yeah, it makes a lot of sense what you’ve just said, that there’s a continuum. I started, my teacher always gave me stickers, she even gave me money, I was like [inaudible [00:23:36] back in those days it wasn’t too bad actually. She’d put it on the side of the piano, and it’d be like, “Oh yeah.” It did me no harm, it kept me playing and here I am now, so…

 

Yeah, I think my view on that has changed, so it’s good to hear that from a scientific standpoint too. Okay, now we touched on parents before, and the title of this show, I’ve called this, “What to say to parents when their child is about to quit,” because we talked about this when you came and gave at our workshop, and I found this really, really…it’s the thing that stuck with me the most. You’ve got some good ideas about the sorts of things that we should say related to those benefits that you mentioned right at the beginning. So can you give us some tips, you know, we get the call from the mom or dad saying, “Look, so-and-so’s, you know, it’s a waste of time, they’re about to pull out,” or, “I’m going to pull them out of lessons.” You gave us some great tips. What kind of things can we say?

 

Anita: I don’t remember what I said. I think that what I’m learning is the very basis of that phone call is that music is an option. Music is a, you only do it if you enjoy it, and you only get your kids to do it if they enjoy it, and you’re investing a lot of money that is, seem to be in addition to school fees or anything that goes with education. And I’ve been playing around with lots of different ways of doing it and just watching the parents’ reaction. And part of it is saying the idea, “What are you really losing? What are you really taking away from your child by allowing them to quit?” So part of it is, these days, children have access to everything, and even with you know, differing sort of social circumstances, they still have access to everything. What’s more, they can get themselves out of an uncomfortable situation quite quickly. If they don’t like watching a movie, they turn it off. If they don’t like being in something, they’re allowed to leave.

 

Now what this is doing, while we live in a very comfortable and fantastic place, we’re breeding out resilience, we’re breeding out, through the ease of our lifestyle, this ability to actually live and sit with uncomfortable things and do uncomfortable things. Because learning is uncomfortable, learning is asking your brain to add more stuff to it, to understand, it’s hard work. Now, to say that music, just because my child is not enjoying it therefore they should stop, part of my counter to the parents is, “Actually because it’s uncomfortable, you’re giving your child the greatest gift that is going to serve them all the way throughout their lives. You’re teaching them little by little every single day how to sit with, and manage, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with doing something hard. Not letting it go, not letting them go, ‘Ah, it’s too hard, I don’t want to do it anymore.’ It’s actually making them learn that skill, which the rest of our lives, we haven’t got that much opportunity to do it anymore.” So, part of my counter to them is to say, “You’re actually taking more away than the instrument, you’re actually, are you happy with them not learning this skill, which I imagine you as a parent have used later in life?” That stops them in their tracks a little bit.

 

I had a student come to me, a flute player, the other day, who, I don’t think he quite knew what I did…

 

Tim: He’s a flute player?

 

Anita: Flute player, yeah, came to me and I don’t think he knew much about my research because he came out with, “I don’t want my flute playing to affect my ATAR” and it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got you, kid.”

 

Tim: So for people not in Australia, ATAR is the, like the final year of school, final mark system.

 

Anita: Yep, and the mark system that allows you entry into university, so the higher the ATAR, the higher, in theory, the higher degree that you can get into. And part of what I was able to turn around to this kid and say, and then I’ve said it to his parents is that, of course, the students who do music right up until your 12, tend to get far higher marks in every single other one of their subjects, and they can manage their time, and they’re happy, their level of well-being. So are you happy to take away, to remove, to allow them to stop an activity that can bolster their well-being, can improve their year 12 scores, and can keep them engaged in school? If you’re happy to do that, great. And as soon as they start to see the other benefits of learning music, rather than, “I see my child who’s uncomfortable, and I just want to stop it for them,” and I understand that. And I have been given a very personal connection to that when I’m watching my little girl and she’s learning [inaudible [00:28:17] violin and she’s learning first finger. So she’s putting her first finger down, and her hand’s just grown and it’s quite uncomfortable.

 

And so every time we ask her to do first finger, she starts crying. And as a mom I had that instinct, “Oh, my word, make it stop,” and then as a music teacher I went, “No, no, don’t make it stop. Just sit with her through the discomfort,” and I was reminded of how hard it is for a parent. And I think as music teachers, we need to acknowledge that it is personally really hard to sit there and listen to a poor French horn player trying to get that awful in tune, over and over again and not succeeding.

 

The other thing I often say to parents is, “To play music well, they get it wrong far more often than they get it right.” Now, do you want to take, that’s exactly the same with a math problem, with a science report, with reading or learning a foreign language. You get it wrong far more often than you get it right. But when you get it right, that’s great, and again, do you want to take away an opportunity that your child has every single day to learn how to persist with getting something wrong, knowing that at some stage they will get it right?

 

Tim: It’s that persistence and grittiness, and yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, and that sort of strikes a chord. They often don’t say anything just then. They go away and think about it, and then they come back and we come to an agreement with the student as well. And again, it’s usually time based, it’s usually, “Okay, we realize you’re having a tough time, we’re going to look at it again at the end of the term, or something like after the holidays, and we’re going to see if it’s got any better.” And often, whatever problem they’re having has fixed itself by then. So, yeah, it’s a really interesting approach that I’ve been taking and it’s had some success.

 

Tim: I like it, it’s very easy for us to just kind of go with the parental decision making process I guess without even saying anything. I mean we know, a lot of what we’ve been saying we know innately, we just, many of us haven’t actually read or spoken about. But we know the effect of music, but we perhaps don’t feel empowered enough to say that to parents too. So it’s great hearing these kind of things from someone who’s done the research as you have to say, we can say these things, because the research is out there [inaudible [00:30:34].

 

Anita: Absolutely, there’s a philosophical argument where we say, music is just good because it’s music. And then there’s this argument that music is good because it helps so many other things. And often we sit on one side of the fence or the other but I actually think, why are we denying both sides of that? It does great things for the rest of their schooling and their development as a person, and it is a wonderful art form. Let’s just use the right or the most appropriate piece of research where it’s going to have the most effect, and don’t worry about the fact that we have an ideological belief either way.

 

Tim: I think another thing that parents perhaps don’t understand is that, and you kind of touched on it before, practice shouldn’t sound good. I know some of my students have said to me before, “Oh, mum told me to stop playing because it sounded so awful.” or…I was like, no, no, that’s when you need to keep playing, that’s what you’re trying to get it.

 

Anita: Yeah, and a lot of the time I’m…I’m getting more and more convinced that a lot of the time parents, not encourage, but allow their children to give up because they have to experience the practice and they don’t enjoy it. And that’s a very difficult thing to bring to a parent’s attention, but I actually think it’s quite powerful to say, you know, it should sound bad, it should sound like work, it should feel like work. But also the work is on your behalf to actually, not necessarily sit through it with them but to go, “How’d your practice go today? Was it good, was it bad? Did you manage that beat you’re trying to get?” So and also, even to the point where, a trumpet player, the reason she was very happy for her kid to give up trumpet is because he used to practice in the lounge room while she was getting dinner ready in the kitchen which were the same place. She’d say, “I just can’t concentrate!” And so, “Could he practice somewhere else?” “Well, yeah, we’ve got a downstairs room, maybe he could go down there.” And suddenly just by separating the two out, she went, “Well, that’s not so bad. He can keep practicing, I can make dinner in peace,” and it was as simple as, you need to recognize you’re not enjoying it, but that’s not a reason to take it away, or allow it, or encourage it to be taken away from him.

 

Tim: I’m laughing because I’m constantly amazed by some of the things that we as music teachers have to teach parents about things that just seem so obvious, like, help your student set a little timetable for their practice, actually ask them to go and practice, you know, it’s like, “Practice please.”

 

Anita: Yeah, a space to practice. Yeah it is just amazing. It’s like, “This is what we do before bed.”

 

Tim: Yeah, yeah. I think I may perhaps write a little article that can be shared with parents about some of these, just give this to your parents [inaudible [00:33:20]. Because we have to realize that some of them perhaps haven’t been through it. A lot of them haven’t been through it and just might not realize.

 

Anita: Yeah, and that’s exactly the thing, they haven’t been through it so it feels foreign, and they need help to understand how they can support. They want the best for their child, and they want the best they can possibly give to them. But a lot of the time it’s just a lack of knowledge, it’s, where the trouble, well not the trouble, but the difficulty comes is how do you present it to each parent and each parent’s different, with a different understanding of it. I think I find, I sit inside and outside the music education field, I think in some ways that’s invaluable because I feel like we as music educators forget that we need to educate. When we take on a student, we take on the parent too, and it’s actually an education of the whole lot. Not just a relationship you have with the child, so it is also about helping the parent and they want the best.

 

Tim: Yes, that’s a really good point to remind everyone of I think, that need to help educate parents to get the most out of the music education time.

 

Anita: Yeah.

 

Tim: I was just thinking as well while you were talking about all these amazing benefits you can get from music which we all agree about, does it rely on the need to have a certain amount of practice done, does that make sense?

 

Anita: Yeah, it’s 10,000 hours.

 

Tim: If it’s a five minute a day kid, are they still going to get all these benefits? Or do they have to be practicing a good amount and making some real progress?

 

Anita: Yeah, that’s one of the things, I’m very lucky I’m going to visit two of the major neuroscience labs in America in May this year, and I don’t think they know what’s coming really because I’m going to just sit there and fire questions at them. Because…

 

Tim: I hope you share that with everyone too, right?

 

Anita: Oh absolutely, absolutely. I’m trying, what I’m trying to figure out is, when they…see they can pair groups of musicians and groups of non-musicians, but when I say musician, it’s just whoever they can get a hold of, rather than let’s compare a [inaudible [00:35:23] with an off-class. Let’s compare a French horn player who practices for half an hour a day religiously six days a week versus a trumpet player who does their five minutes and doesn’t really practice and wanders around the house and does it. You know, what the benefit. In saying that, what they have found is that particularly, the bit, most research is this zero to seven age group because it seemed to have the most impact and also the lasting impact, it lasts through life.

 

They’ve found that one year of learning a musical instrument, and I think it was violin and they did it, they had two lessons a week, and then they had two practices at home or something like that. One year didn’t have any impact neurologically. Fifteen months of practice had an impact on their visual cortex, on their visual memory, but didn’t have anything on their auditory memory. The magic number was two years, so to learn for two years continuously learning from a teacher having structured lessons, reading music, very important. They found that that was the magic number, the very least amount of learning that meant that the neurological changes happened and they remained permanent. Those are the two things. That’s before the age of seven. After the age of seven, it needs to be slightly longer because our brain sort of is in its second growing phase and it’s not quite so spongey and there’s already networks setup.

 

But in saying that, that can be as simple as, say you’ve got a three year old and you enrolled him in two consecutive years of baby music education things once a week and you do activities at home, and you keep the beat, and you sing to them, that’s just as effective as learning a violin. It’s as long as they’ve got something in their hands, they’re using their voices, they’re responding to symbols, and they’re doing it consecutively and in a sequential way. So a couple of years ago I wrote a paper which tried to say, “Okay, well what’s the science telling us that we actually need to know?” and it was the two year mark that was the one. And so it’s…

 

Tim: Two years of lessons and of regular practice, although not extreme practice, just…

 

Anita: No, and it’s just very recent research out about the fact that it is not, it’s not time based, that’s too simple. It’s actually what you do in that time. So someone could practice for half an hour and someone could practice for 10 minutes and still get the same neurological benefit just because of the way they practice. So, one of the ideas I’m playing around with is this idea that how do we teach kids kind of like a scoring system. That extrinsic motivation system, of you know, in your practice, if you started at the start of the piece every single time, if you got to bar 18 and that was the hard bar but you didn’t take it apart and practice it, you get 1 out of 10. But if you went straight to bar 18, you took it apart by beat, then you put it back together again, and then you played it a bar either side, oh that’s 10 out of 10. So trying to figure out ways of getting them to understand that if you practice this way, you get more benefit, if you practice this way, it takes you longer. And a point system is often the way to do it.

 

Tim: Okay, did you write that down on a card for them, so I mean because every piece is going to be different, so like you mentioned, I’m assuming this is something you’ve done with a student to test it.

 

Anita: I’ve only started doing it recently because it’s a sort of a testing phase of going, “Okay, well how will they respond to it?”

 

Tim: This is great because I love hearing about, you know, new little practice ideas. I’m passionate about it myself, getting kids to practice effectively, and we all struggle with it so.

 

Anita: It’s the thing you do, it’s the biggest thing you do. I, with this small group of students I had who were in year 9 and 10, I co-created the scale with them, and in the end I only came up with 5 different ones not 10.

 

Tim: Okay, so by scale you mean the ranking scale not the…okay.

 

Anita: Yeah, exactly, so I said, you know, “If you’re doing, you know, what an effective practice?” And they, we’ve got to remember this, kids are quite used to being in band, so they know my little sayings sort of you know, if you can’t say it, you can’t play it, you know? If you don’t count it at the right speed, then you won’t play it at the right speed, all those little things they know from me. But we co-created this little list of things that they’ve watched me do in band, and then they said, “We’ll try and go home and actually do it too.” And then they sort of talked to me again as we went through saying, “Sometimes I just want to play from the start of the piece,” and that’s like, “That’s totally okay, if you’ve had a big day and you have rowing in the morning and you’ve got, it’s already too late, just start at the beginning of the piece. But you know, how about trying a morning practice and you do the hard stuff in the morning?”

 

So we actually, I was really interested across the different kids, about some of them went, “Okay, my brains work in the morning, or my brains work at night.” “Okay, so wake up in the morning, we’ll do the hard stuff here, and if it’s not awake, we’ll do the easy stuff over here.” And then the other one switched. So we actually started talking about their body rhythms. When are they working best, what do they like doing, when do they like playing? And one of them…

 

Tim: [inaudible [00:40:29] adolescents in particular.

 

Anita: Totally. And they said, one of them particular, he problem solved himself, which is, I was so proud of him and he just said, “I’m best in the morning, 5 o’clock in the morning I’m wide awake and I can’t do anything.” I said, “Why can’t you do anything?” “It’s because my bedroom’s next to mom and dad’s, and I can’t get up and practice.” And again I said, “Is there somewhere else you can go?” He said, “Well, in summer I can go outside.” I went, “Okay.” So this kid’s outside with his Alto Saxophone…

 

Tim: Oh, the neighbors loved that.

 

Anita: And I said, “Are the neighbors going to notice?” He said, “No, no we live on a bit of acreage.” I went, “Okay.” So this kid’s out doing their practice at five, but he problem solved himself. And this talking about it and this giving him structures, actually gave him permission to start doing the wild thing, like, “You don’t have to practice inside,” and he just took his music stand outside and, I think he [inaudible [00:41:24] probably in his pajamas and he just practiced outside. And I thought, “That’s great.” And he came back the next day and I said, “How was it?” He said, “It was great, I watched the sunrise as I was practicing my saxophone, what could be better?”

 

Tim: Oh, wow, awesome. Not so heavy for pianists, but still we get the concept.

 

Anita: Okay.

 

Tim: Just to go back to your little ranking sheet because I love trying new things as all my viewers will know. Did you, with the ranking, you know, from ineffective to effective practice, [inaudible [00:41:55] five steps or whatever. It’s obvious, every piece needs a different approach slightly, so I wondered where, my question is, did you write a different rank for each piece, or did you just say, you know, most effective practice is that you go straight to the hard bit and you play it slowly 10 times and then you do the next step? So that they could use this ranking sheet for every piece.

 

Anita: Yep, the first thing I did is I would never, I didn’t talk about them as effective practice like we would talk about as music teachers. But I did it as smiley faces and, you know, okay.

 

Tim: Increasingly grumpy faces.

 

Anita: Yeah, well, okay? Kind of like a straight mouth, little bit better, little bit better, awesome practice and then super-charged amazing brain practice. So like we gave them silly names and we didn’t do it for each piece but we did it as, you know, what are the basic bits of pieces, so there’s always hard bits. So we had super hard, fast bits and super hard, slow bits. And we talked about what is the difference and why do you practice differently. What are you looking for when you practice differently? So they were right at the top of the spectrum, starting at the start of the piece was the one that was always, you know, it was okay practice but not great. And then we did things like starting at a section of the piece but only doing a bit of it so…

 

Tim: Or stopping at the hard bit or something, you said.

 

Anita: Yeah, stopping at the hard bit or only doing a particular section and not connecting it, so it’s all connected, so yes there’s a hard bar, but it makes no sense to practice that if you’re getting the two bits before the hard bar wrong because that sets you up for a failure. So we sort of had these bits as they go through. And part of it was you don’t always practice number fives and you don’t always practice number ones. Your week, you can divide it into, this time I practice this, this time I practice this. And we also set a couple of goals, like, okay, the end of this week I want to be able to play it through, warts and all. So literally just without stopping and restarting, which I know for, I know players is a bit of an issue.

 

Tim: Yeah, absolutely.

 

Anita: So, that was one goal, warts and all, you know, really bad warts. Another, one of the [inaudible [00:44:13]..

 

Tim: Sorry Anita, I just lost you. Just like 10 seconds, can you just go back?

 

Anita: Okay, one of the kids said he’s going to record it and send it to his teacher, so he sent a sound file, but the nature of the recording was that, you know that when you record yourself you don’t want to make mistakes, so you actually get a little tense and…

 

Tim: Yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, so he wanted to do that and he actually said himself, “I want to do it because there’s a recital in term two, and I always get worried about playing the whole piece through. So he said, “I’m going to setup a system for myself to record it, and I’m beholden to my teacher.” So by the fact that he said to his teacher, I commit to sending you this recording meant he did it. So, yeah, so there was a lot of different, and I’m at the moment because it’s a very new idea, I’m just responding to what they say, I’m just taking in every idea that they’re coming up with, and then also just noticing how they react, what they enjoy, what they find difficult. But also saying, “When it’s difficult, you’re going to feel, what happens in your body.” So some of them, one of the boys screws his face up, he says, “When I feel my eyebrows do this, then I know that I’m finding it difficult.” Any of the physical reactions, so they’re noticing their physical reactions now.

 

Tim: Yeah. I was actually going to ask you about this idea of learning is uncomfortable and the ways that we should be getting kids to understand that that’s okay. Is it just, do you think, about talking to students about the fact that, you know, the hard bits are painful, they’re slow, they’re tedious sometimes, and that’s okay?

 

Anita: Yeah, I’ve tried all sorts of things. I think I realized within my own practice that I didn’t use enough visuals and I didn’t use enough sort of metaphors or analogies, so a lot of the time, I explain to the parents that learning doesn’t happen like that, music learning’s like this, like big steps. And then what I did is I used it with the students to say, “Where do you think you are on the step at the moment?” So, are you on the up, are you in the frustrating bit right at the start of the step where you don’t feel like you’re getting it?” And they visualized where they were, and again it gives it that end point of going, I know I am going to go up soon it’s just not yet.

 

Talking about it is really, really good but also talking about it in the moment. So when my daughter starts to cry, it’s like, “Okay, can you explain to me what’s upsetting you,” and she will talk about her hand, and we’ll try lots of different things to do with her hand and then, but that’s, you don’t talk about it once, you talk about it every time. “Oh, we’re at that point again, we’re at the frustrating bit again, or we’re at the,” she calls it the hurty bit, you know? It’s also using their language, it’s respecting their language and saying, “Well, just use any word that comes to you, that means what you’re getting frustrated with.”

 

So yeah, I think it’s about talking about it, about acknowledging it, but also about asking a lot more questions of our own students and just letting them answer. Feeling safe to, I mean, one of the classes we have as music teachers is, there are very few people in our students lives who spend as much time with them as we do, and so the relationship we build, the trust we build is absolutely enormous. And while that’s wonderful when they need to trust us and tell us things, we can actually use that trust to understand that we are building a human being as well as along the way building a musician.

 

Tim: Nice way to put it. Yeah, we do have a very special place in these students’ lives, you’re right. Other than their parents, no one else has quite the same amount of one on one contact as we do.

 

Anita: Yeah. Over a year or several years or you know from…

 

Tim: Or half a lifetime when they’re [inaudible [00:48:06], it’s amazing.

 

Anita: Exactly, yeah.

 

Tim: I want to pick up on, coming to sort of my last couple of questions, you mentioned the importance of music reading before. I just wanted to pick up on that because I’m a huge fan of creativity, and improvising, and the importance of being curious and exploring music, but I also teach reading, and I’m a fan of that too, but did you want to mention anything further about that idea of reading and its impact on brain development?

 

Anita: What they originally did quite a bit of research on is they found that the visual, the auditory, and the motor cortices were working together.

 

Tim: So visual, so eyes, motor is the fingers or what’s moving, and the ears.

 

Anita: Yeah, now a lot of people would say, “Well, sport does the same thing,” and absolutely it does, and this is why they should be co-taught, they should be happening at the same time. But the difference they’ve found is that sport is about listening for or responding to a call or an instruction, whereas music is actually, in an auditory sense, is responding to the nuances of sound and what meaning is written inside that sound. Or what sound, imagining a sound and going, “How do I make my body do that?” So it’s actually a slightly different part of the brain, so both are incredibly important, to do just one doesn’t do the same effect. I don’t know where I got, what was my question?

 

Tim: Reading, reading, the impact of reading.

 

Anita: Okay, so then they did a whole bunch of research on kids who just learned through, they did some Suzuki kids and then they [inaudible [00:49:45] to learning through reading, and they found the brain development in the kids who started reading from the very start to be much better in the long run. In saying that, they found the initial part of Suzuki training to be fantastic for auditory development, and those kids develop language earlier, so there’s pluses and minuses. The main thing is a lot of the time kids, particularly piano kids, learn reading music before they learn reading English or reading language.

 

Now if you think of them just in their basic form, they are both single systems which give us indications of sound. So T-H means “th” that’s an indication of sound. A crochet [SP] goes like this, that’s an indication of sound. It’s like learning another language, like Spanish, you just put…the more you make your brain work in that area, the better they’re going to be at everything. So reading notes, meaning reading, I see something on a page and it sounds like this on my instrument or it sounds like this when I sing is actually just that direct connection you made between that and TH, so it looks like this and sounds like this when it comes out of my mouth.

 

Tim: Right, yeah okay. I find this fascinating because I’m right at a point in my own teaching where I’m avoiding the reading straight up, so I’m not Suzuki trainer, I mean just my own experience says, I’ve got a new student this year, who, I mean, he’d be fine with about seven or eight. And for the first three lessons and at least a few more, we haven’t touched any reading stuff, we’re just moving to music, we’re improvising, we’re listening. It’s so much fun, he absolutely loves it, and I’m really enjoying it too.

 

And I think this has been and will be the longer phase than I would normally have before I start introducing them to some kind of notation even if it’s just images. So it was really, just, I was wondering where you were going to go with the Suzuki and its impact versus the go straight to reading, and of course, there will always be somewhat of a trade-off I guess. But I think from my perspective, the idea of sound, and audiation, and feeling rhythm and things is by far the most important thing right at the beginning, than reading, that’s just my own take on it, a little bit like language acquisition, you hear, you copy before you read.

 

Anita: Yeah, if we think about how long kids are speaking for before they actually encounter letters, it’s a long, long time. And it’s not to say that they shouldn’t start completely orally, and I actually think they should, but if we think about it, in a lot of our methodologies, we have a concrete symbol system for what the sound means. So we could [inaudible [00:52:34] circles, and we’ve just got lines, we haven’t got note heads. You know, in all sorts of things, we’ve got this somehow connecting the concept of a sound to a symbol, but the state between those is I hear it, I make the sound, and this is what it looks like. Not, I hear it, and that’s what it looks like and then I make it. Sometimes that’s a backwards step depending on age and very much depending on the child.

 

There are visual, not a visual queue, but if they really caught on to the notation early, fantastic. You know, let’s go with that. If they’re a kid who tends to respond more with the play, so it might be a kid who’s very kinesthetic and he’s engaging with the instrument and feeling how it goes, then that’s great. Interestingly for me, the cycle needs to be finished at some stage, so at some stage they need to be able to read, they need to be able to hear, and they need to be able to do it with their body. How we get to that cycle is different for every child. But any money, if a kid is better orally to start with, their visual acuity overall is not going to be fantastic. That’s something that’s going to be uncomfortable, and we need to work hard at making comfortable.

 

Some kids start with reading and they don’t like, they know sound, and then they don’t like that it doesn’t sound like that on their instrument. So getting back the other way is the discomfort. So if we can identify there’s a big triangle, motor, visual, auditory, and then go, “Okay, where is this kid coming from and how do I make this triangle whole?” Then that’s our sort of teaching practice and our approach.

 

Tim: Yeah, I like that because you can instantly see in my students, they’ve got a bias towards one way. And I’ve got some fantastic play by ear students who really struggle with the reading, so perhaps it’s about for me and other people in that situation, about helping the students realize that yes, this is going to be an uncomfortable thing, it’s going to take effort, but the importance of it is huge and you’re going to..

 

Anita: I can talk to my kids about, “Can you feel the cogs moving?” Because you know that feeling when you’re learning and it’s like two really big cogs and they go [inaudible [00:54:43], and they go, “Yeah, this feels really hard,” It’s like, “Great, let’s work.”

 

Tim: Yes, that’s it.

 

Anita: It’s what you need to do. And managing that part of it is very, very important.

 

Tim: Cool, all right, well look, I’ve got just one other question that came up as we were talking before, I wondered, there might not be research and you may not be able to answer it, I’m not sure. But is there any indication that different types of teaching have a different impact on those benefits to students?

 

Anita: There’s no research on it, again, because the neuroscientists don’t, it doesn’t give any further information, so they just aren’t doing the research in it. My hope is that I can hopefully, and a very small group of people who work in my field, can make them aware of the benefit of adding in some extra information at the start. So say, “Okay, here’s your group of musicians, let’s talk. Are they Suzuki, Kadai [SP], some sort of hybrid of those two,” you know, so therefore at the very end, no matter what they find, we’ve got a point of reference of what that methodology is. Yeah, so at the moment, that’s the big missing link in the research, but I think it’s one that we can absolutely fix, because it’s not going to change the neuroscientists’ research, it’s just going to change how they look at it from the information they gather at the very start. And they need a music educator going, “That’s off base, that’s Kadai based, that’s Suzuki based, so they need that sort of person in there, so I’m going to log in on the door and say, “Hey, [inaudible [00:56:20].”

 

Tim: As a fellow music educator, I’d like to thank you on behalf of all of us, all the work that you’re doing because you must spend hours researching, and talking, and travelling and all this kind of stuff. But to be able to just distill these ideas so succinctly as you have today, fantastic, it’s been really, really good speaking with you.

 

Anita: Thank you.

 

Tim: And I should mention too, we’ve talked a lot about boys today, I don’t want to put anyone off to think we’re doing anything weird, we both teach in boy’s schools, so a lot of our pronouns have been he’s. I’ve been talking about boys, but obviously this is of immediate impact to girls and boys.

 

Anita: Yeah, and I do teach in a combined program, so I have girls in front of me every single day. And I find that the approaches are the same. I might do it slightly differently for girls than for boys, and as a female teacher towards boys or a female teacher towards girls, that’s also, the gender is a different thing as well.

 

Tim: Yeah, yeah. And I’ve certainly talked a lot about that on my blog because I’ve got lots of research and my own research and resources for teaching boys piano too. Now, is there anything that we missed in our discussion today that you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ve really got to remember to tell him this”?

 

Anita: No, I get to the end and I go, “There’s just so much more.” Maybe for another day.

 

Tim: Yeah, well look, where can people go to find out more about you? We’ll put links to your videos in the show notes. But what about connecting with you at all?

 

Anita: My website is anitacollinsmusic.com where I try to put all of my scholarly work up but also I’m moving into an area of doing a lot more resources for music teachers, so posters, there’s kind of a coffee table book coming out soon which you can just happily leave on your coffee table, while the parents are sitting there and they can have a look, have a read. So I’m moving into that field of doing a lot more stuff for music teachers that you can use. Video, posters, books, all that sort of thing, so if you go there and just keep up with things, then that’s great. I’ve also got, on Facebook, I have a Facebook community called “Bigger, Better Brains,” which is where, as soon as new research comes up, I’ll post the link, but also I’ll pick out bits for you that I think are useful, or interesting, or controversial, or challenge our thinking as music educators about what we do every day.

 

Tim: I can highly recommend following that. Is it a page or a group? I can’t remember.

 

Anita: It’s a community, so it’s a group.

 

Tim: A group, yep, that’s great. Some of the stuff I’ve found, it’s really, as you say, there is so much out there, it’s so hard to keep up with it all, but, yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, exactly.

 

Tim: But it’s great, we’re just starting a conversation and letting teachers know about where they can find more information is crucial.

 

Anita: Yep.

 

Tim: Thank you, Anita, so much for your time today, I know you’re incredibly busy, and I really appreciate it.

 

Anita: Thank you very much.

 

Tim: All right. We’ll see you later.

 

Tim: Hey, guys, it’s Tim here. I just wanted to let you know as my special subscribers and viewers to the podcast and email subscribers, I wanted to give you a heads-up that in two weeks’ time I’ll be launching to you guys, my inner circle, now this is my private members area of my website. It’s a project I’ve been working on for about nine months now, and it’s going to be the place where I share from now on, all my resources, all my worksheets, future training videos, downloads, all the information. It’s the place where I answer people’s questions and the place where all of you guys who are members in there can share all of your ideas too and help each other. We’re going to build a fantastic community of dedicated hard working entrepreneurial kind of teachers in there. Now I’ve already got some beta testers in there who are trying to make sure everything’s working in time for the launch.

 

And at this stage, I haven’t got any links or anything for you to click on. I just wanted to make you aware that this is happening in about two weeks’ time, and the launch that I’ll be offering you guys will be the best price given that you are exactly the kind of people that I want in there, the ones that are really keen to change, and learn, and be the best teachers you can be. You’re the people that I want in the inner circle with me and the rest of the people in there, so stay tuned for more information about that. We’ll be releasing that in, yeah, just under two weeks’ time and you guys will get first chance to be foundation members, and you’ll also get the best price for your loyalty over the years of watching, and listening, and reading my articles. So I’m looking forward to sharing that with you, stay tuned to a couple weeks’ time.

 

And I just want to mention one other thing too, a few people have been having trouble with downloads on the podcast. So if you’re using the iPhone or iPad app and you can’t download the episodes, then I’m working on it but I can’t work out exactly what’s wrong. So in the meantime, the simplest solution is to instead use the Overcast app, it’s free, download it from the app store. It’s called Overcast, it’s actually a better podcast player anyway, and it will allow you to download the episodes.

 

Now this is useful if you’re unfamiliar and perhaps you choose to watch most of these episodes, if you do use an app on your phone, you can download the episodes when you’re in Wi-Fi so when you’re at home for free effectively, and then listen to the podcast wherever you are without using your mobile data. It also means you can listen on planes, and trains, and sea voyages, whatever you happen to be doing. So it is a pretty good way to catch up on episodes that you might have missed without using all your data, so that’s on either the iTunes Store. If you’re happy to stream, then just use the podcast player app on iPhone, but if you do want to download the episodes so you can listen to them at any time, use the Overcast app. All right, guys, I’ll try and sort that out for you in the coming weeks, but in the meantime that’s the best solution. Thanks so much for listening and watching and I’ll see you soon. Anita: And part of what I was able to turn around to this kid and say, and then I’ve said it to his parents, is that of course there’s students who do music right up ’til year 12 tend to get far higher marks in every single other one of their subjects, and they can manage their time, and they’re happy, their level of well-being. So are you happy to take away, to remove, to allow them to stop an activity that can bolster their well-being, can improve their year 12 scores, and can keep them engaged in school?

 

Tim: You’re watching Tim Topham TV, the Piano Teaching Podcast. This is episode number 32. Hi, everyone, and thanks so much for watching this episode of Tim Topham TV where we’ll be chatting to internationally renowned education researcher, teacher and speaker, Anita Collins, all about some of the brain science behind the effect of music, how motivation works and some of the things you can say to parents when they’re about to pull their child out of lessons. I met Anita recently at a workshop where she came and spoke to the teachers at my school, and some of the thoughts that she had and the ideas and the research that she’s got, I just had to share with you guys. So I’m really, really pleased to have Anita on the show, and I’ll introduce her in just a moment.

 

As usual, if you’d like show notes from this episode, you can head to timtopham.com/episode32. So Anita completed her PhD from the University of Melbourne in the area of Neuroscience and Music Education. As a music educator, Anita was interested in exploring the relationships between brain science and music and the effects of each on each other. And this led to her creating one of the most watched TED-Ed videos ever made, it’s called “How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain,” and I just checked this morning, it was up to almost 4.4 million views and translated into 27 languages, and she’s also presented at TEDx event in Canberra.

 

She’s currently Assistant Professor of Music and Arts Education at the University of Canberra and has been visiting lecturer at the Australian National University. In these roles, she teaches across undergraduate and post-graduate teaching degrees in the area of music arts and general education. Anita has researched within this area in the areas of innovative teaching practices and self-efficacy in pre-service teacher training. Anita has also worked in primary and secondary school music as an educator in both Australia and England, she has worked in classroom and instrumental constructs and has been a curricula designer and conductor of bands, orchestras, and choral groups. Anita, I have no idea how you’ve done all that, but welcome to the show today.

 

Anita: Thank you very much for having me, Tim.

 

Tim: Well, you’ve got a massive wealth of experience in music education, and you’ve got obviously this neuroscience kind of background too. But I wondered what were the key experiences in your teaching career, because you started as a teacher, that made you decide to kind of stop doing that so much and focus instead on this research about the brain and music.

 

Anita: Now that I look back at it, there are so many experiences. The one I share most of all is the one about presentation night, when you see all of the boys, I teach at a boy’s school, and all the boys get on stage from year 7, the top 10 boys. And as they walk on stage, I’d be going, “That’s a musician, that’s a musician, that’s a musician, that’s a non-musician, that’s a musician,” and it’s regularly 7 or 8 out of 10 who were getting awards. And I just wondered, while it’s wonderful, I just wondered why was it that there was this common theme of being a musician underneath. Was it just that they were smart kids, was it just that they were dedicated kids, was it just they had a fantastic work ethic, was it just they had pushy parents, or was there something else behind that? And that’s what I wanted, I wanted to answer that question. I wanted to know if it had anything to do with that or if it was just a coincidence.

 

Tim: And so, can you give us, I mean we’ll go into the details, but can you give us the one word answer? Was it about them being a musician or were they already smart beforehand or had pushy parents?

 

Anita: It was about being a musician that then led to them being smart and having parents who supported them in what they did in lots of very explicit ways but also very implicit ways as well. So the answer is, it’s both, but being a musician is now something that the research is telling us is the key, the golden bullet, whatever you want to call it, that actually helps that cognitive development.

 

Tim: Okay, so let’s dive a little bit deeper into the research that actually uncovered this for you. You have a, your talk, I think it was your talk, wasn’t it? It was called “What if every child had access to music education from birth?” which I enjoyed watching the other day. I actually liked, we’ll make sure we put a link in the show notes, but I like you had some information about the outfit you were wearing and the shoes or something.

 

Anita: Yeah.

 

Tim: [inaudible [00:05:00] Oh, there you go, you were like showing off designer fashion [inaudible [00:05:05] on TED-Ed, and your whole outfit matched the carpet, I loved that too.

 

Anita: Oh yeah, I had to do that, I just like put the clothes and TED right over a black and red. What I like with all of us, we are artists and it’s important to support Australian artists, and I thought well, what an opportunity to do it because this goes all around the world.

 

Tim: Yeah, that’s very, very cool. So let’s talk about some of the research that you did. And I guess, look, it’s obvious you’ve been doing this for many, many years, but can you distill it down to us, for all of us music teachers out there the kind of the key findings of the research that you just summarized before anyways? But let’s go a little bit deeper.

 

Anita: Yeah, so the area I’ve looked at is, I’m not a neuroscientist, I’m a music teacher just like you guys. And the area I’ve been looking at is the neuroscientists are investigating the connection between music training and brain development. But they’re not doing it to understand about music training, they’re just using music training, and they use the word training and we use the word education. They’re using it to understand more about how the brain works. So it’s just a helping hand, it’s a mechanism. Whereas for us, it’s actually revealing many of the things that we experience on a day-to-day basis but we don’t understand as a neurological development, we just see it as music education.

 

So the key things they’ve found is that in a nutshell, music training makes your brain work far more effectively, I just read yesterday someone said, “It teaches your brain how to talk to itself as effectively as possible, make it the best communicator it can be.” So it talks across the brain really well, around the different areas really well, so therefore kids who’ve had music training have fantastic problem solving skills. Their brains actually work very, very fast, much faster than most. So the synapses running around their brain are far faster than those who don’t have music training. They have a fantastic memory system, so they create these memories but it’s kind of like a supercharged filing system, they tag each memory with a sound, and a smell, and a sight, and a conceptual idea, and they put it away in this supercharged filing system. And they can pull it back really quickly, or they can also alter it really quickly.

 

And when you think about learning, it’s all about going, “This is what I know, this is the new thing, how do I put those two together to have them make sense or not.” Learning is all about how quickly you can go through that process and flexibly change that process again. So the act of the…the fact that musicians brains can work so much more quickly and are so much more flexible, means that musicians tend to go onto A, when they’re in school, learn more. So they get more out of school, they’re more engaged, they have far longer attention spans, they can focus, they can manage many, many things at once. You may have a lot of your students who seem to be juggling the world, but their music training is teaching them how to do that, and they continue on to do it. They also, just lots of facts that they earn more money.

 

Tim: Really? You’ve been able to determine that?

 

Anita: Yeah, there’s some really, really interesting research with some economic modelers which actually show that musicians, because they’ve got higher IQs generally, they have related an actual IQ point to an amount of money and then said well…because music puts you up this much, therefore you earn this much more over a span of a lifetime. They also have more career changes, more significant changes, and they can adapt far more quickly as they change. They also have better personal relationships generally and they’re able to have longer relationships in life as well, so their sort of social personal skills are far better as well.

 

Tim: It is unbelievable group of effects, isn’t it? I mean, I would never have thought to relate music study at school at all to money making later in life or relationship factors, I mean that’s, who would’ve thought? That’s unbelievable.

 

Anita: Yeah, and that’s why I, as a music teacher, I was looking at this research going, “We need to know this!” And it was all stuck over here in the neuroscientists who were just gurgling away happily going, “We’re finding out stuff about the brain.” And part of my research is not so much as a research into neuroscience, it’s not my field. But very much it’s about reading what they’ve done, comparing it with my own experience and my understanding of music education, and then going, “Okay, what do we need to know, and how can we relate that knowledge?” so that you and I and everybody else who’s not a neuroscientist can actually understand it.

 

Tim:  Yeah, yeah, and that’s been such a fantastic resource for all of us that you’ve produced in these videos too, that are, you know, four minutes long, what, four or five minutes long. I love your TED-Ed video, it’s just got in the animation, I don’t know, who did the animation, how does that work?

 

Anita: It was done by a Scottish woman who lives in California that’s [inaudible [00:10:05], whose name is Sharon Colman. I was assigned her, and I looked up her website and the very first thing that pops up is “Academy Award Nominee, Sharon Colman.” And I went, [inaudible [00:10:19]. But that TED-Ed was entirely made by email, entirely, so I never met anybody, I never spoke to Sharon directly. I had one Skype interview with the director of TED-Ed at the very beginning, and the rest of it was entirely done just by emails going back and forth, so it was an extraordinary creative experience.

 

Tim: Yeah, and it shows, absolutely. And it’s got the feedback to bring its value to it, which is great. Just as you were talking then about some of those benefits, I was thinking about one of my students last year. I happened to teach at my school, a boy who ended up being the dux of the school.

 

Anita: [inaudible [00:10:58]

 

Tim: Yeah, and this student, you know, he was the one on awards night, he got every award there was, he played a French horn, he was in all the bands, he did the sport that he needed to do, he…and he was playing at high level, MSA kind of level and practicing every week. It was absolutely remarkable, and as you know, this month I’m kind of focusing on practice and motivation because it can be so difficult these days to get kids to do practice, and we’ll talk more about that later. But when I think about this young man who was so busy and studying so hard that he still found the time to practice, and then look at my year nines or whatever it is, who just do five minutes every two days or whatever it is, and then say they’re so busy in that, they don’t have time. You know, what are you thinking? Why is that kind of the case for those students?

 

Anita: Well, there’s one interesting thing, it’s interesting you mention year nine because part of what has helped me understand, I did a lot of research before I started this area of research on boys music education, particularly in years seven and eight. And my frustration was, why would they up and quit an instrument they were playing for the past four years, they seemingly loved, they were involved in all the groups. And then suddenly it was like, “No I’m giving up,” or, “I’m going to play guitar instead of playing trumpet.” It’s like, “What’s happening here? Do I have any influence on this, or can I do something?” So what’s helped me with the neuroscience is understanding that the brain has cycles and growth cycles, and they’re now starting to sort of pin them down, the first one is between zero and seven, and the brain is just growing and growing.

 

We talk about kids as a sponge. And then at the seven years of age, they do something, without us knowing, the brain does, it does something called pruning which is exactly what it sounds like, the brain takes to all of its different areas with a huge scythe and goes, “I don’t need that. I haven’t used that, that’s not useful, I’ve integrated that already so that’s not good.” And they do it again at around 14. So it got me thinking about what have I experienced on the outside of these students at 14? Say they’ve been learning on a [inaudible [00:13:09], they’ve been doing that with me for four years, and then they just seem to, there’s lack of focus, they don’t practice, their time table goes all out of whack, they could arrive in any mood under the sun.

 

And it, this research, got me thinking about my practice with kids of that age because I used to just think, “You just need to hold on that little bit longer, get them through to about 15, and they seem to come out of it. But it’s actually neurologically, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff going on, and that is influenced very seriously by puberty as well, so they’re not concentrating on what I’m talking about at all because there’s so much going on inside their bodies. They, it helped me to go, “Okay, how would I adjust my teaching, how would I change my approach to practice, what are their motivations at that age considering so much is actually going on?” And they do come out of it.

 

And the thing is, by the time you see that wonderful kid in year 12 [inaudible [00:14:00] who’s docked, they’ve done all the pruning, they’ve got some extra space in their brain, but also they’ve hit that intrinsic motivational stage when they go, “I actually really love this for me. This makes me feel good, I feel successful, I can see the direct pattern between if I practice here, I get this result and I feel good, so I’ll practice some more, so I’ll feel good.” And that happens by the end of year 12. But we have these, it’s not a straight line, it’s ebb and flow all the way through that we, I think, as music teachers need to be able to respond to but also know more about what might be going on for those students.

 

Tim: Can you remember back to what, what you changed about your teaching, if anything, for those 14 year olds that were all over the place and pruning in their brains going on, to try and keep them engaged?

 

Anita: Yes, I tested out a lot of things, but sort of by accident, I was finding more out about this research and I would share it with my students, so I’d explicitly say, “Do you know what’s going on in your head right now?”

 

Tim: [inaudible [00:15:07]

 

Anita: Yeah, I would come up with these little things like, “You know there’s a little grim reaper and he’s scything away in there,” and they’d think that was hilarious. They thought that was funny. And I’d say, “That’s what’s going on, and that’s why it’s really hard for you to focus as long as you have been able to.” And then I’d talk about, because again with boys, they would grow, and they’d be able to play a note, and then the next week they couldn’t because their fingers had got that much longer. So, what notes I’d talk to them explicitly about, “This is what’s happening inside your body, this is how it’s playing out on the outside, and that’s why you’re not feeling you’re getting so far ahead.”

 

And I didn’t mean to do it, but I found that giving them the information, explaining it to them, but also getting them to reflect on how they were feeling gave them a language for the frustration they were feeling. And I also said, “It’s going to stop, this too will pass. You know, you’re going to get to 15, you’re going to get to 16, this is not going to happen anymore.” And it’s sort of like through knowledge, through information, they became far more, they were the master of their musical development, not, “What’s happening to me? I feel awful, therefore I will quit.”

 

Tim: Yeah, “I can’t play. It’s all useless. Why am I doing this?”

 

Anita: Yeah. Now I could play these notes last week, I can’t get them. So the funniest ones I find are trombone players, seventh position used to be here and now it’s there. You know, clarinet, not so hard, but it’s really is just for the boys particularly making them explicitly, making it explicit, but also making the emotion explicit and saying, “You will feel frustrated, and frustration looks like this for you, or it looks like this, it’s different. Work with that because…” And then I would talk about the brain.

 

So I have had wonderful responses from my students with the video because they, someone’s passed it on on Facebook or something, they’ve watched it and they’ve seen the little bit at the end that says, “Anita Collins.” And they’ve come to me in band the next day and gone, “Was that you?” I say, “Yeah.” And they’ll go, “You’re famous.” [inaudible [00:17:02] And then they start talking, so it’s actually, I’ve been surprised at how much they’ve interacted with it but also how knowledge is power. Knowledge for them has helped them to continue and get past that uncomfortable stage.

 

Tim: It’s really interesting that this is exactly the reason that I want to speak to someone like you because, you know, most of us, and me included, will try and think of activities to do with the students or ways of approaching particular music or your musical choices. But you’re like, “Actually no, I mean, that might work, but you know my tactic was actually to talk to them about what’s actually going on in their bodies and their brains at this stage so that they have some knowledge about why they’re actually feeling as they are,” I think that’s fantastic. It’s such a good tip and I know that many people who are watching this could potentially try that with those students at that age.

 

Anita: Yeah and it fits in with, once I saw myself doing it, but more importantly I saw the reaction of the boys, it fits in with a lot, particularly boys research, to say relationships are king. The relationship you have with your teacher is so important, and all this is is developing that relationship in a different kind of way.

 

Tim: Just on that kind of brain pruning information, is there a video on that or a link that you can give me or anything? You don’t have to do it right now but maybe after we record, that could give some more detail. I have a feeling people could use that.

 

Anita: The only place I can think, and there’s not a video been done about it, but there’s a good idea. The only place you’ll start to see it is when a lot of the literature about the adolescent brain and the brain development in adolescence, they talk about these pruning stages. They’re really just…scientists get very worried about absolutes, so they don’t want to say, “At the age of seven, this will happen.” They sort of, it’s very much a stage kind of thing, so the…

 

Tim: It depends on the, every child is slightly different, etc.

 

Anita: Boys and girls are slightly different as well, environment at home makes it different. Yeah, so when they talk about the adolescent, all the research into adolescent brain development, that’s where that pruning stuff becomes a really interesting, and they start talking a lot about it, so that would be where I’d direct the listener.

 

Tim: You know, I’ve been a teacher for many years and I’ve gone to a lot of PD and I’ve done PD about adolescent brains and all this, and I’ve actually, if I have heard that, then it’s gone in one ear and out the other. I can’t think that I know about that, I’m going to do some more research myself, I find it fascinating.

 

Anita: Yeah.

 

Tim: You talked about intrinsic motivation before. And I just wanted to have a quick touch on extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, and I’m sure most people watching will understand the difference. But to very quickly summarize, intrinsic motivation is about the student wanting to practice innately and doing it for their own benefit, extrinsic is where we as parents or teachers offer them rewards, or stickers, or fake money, or whatever it is, to practice.

 

Anita: Yep.

 

Tim: What’s your take on, let’s talk about extrinsic motivators firstly. Is there any value of them in music education, in your opinion?

 

Anita: In my opinion, absolutely there is because if part of… See, here we run into some interesting things. We think that intrinsic motivation is apt because we as music teachers have reached that zenith, that point where we love what we do, we’re incredibly passionate about what we do, we want to share that passion with our students. And when we come up against a student who doesn’t experience that, kind of we’re like, “Well hang on, my world looks like this, and yours looks like [inaudible [00:20:37], come over my side, this is the fun side.” But we have to realize that to get to that point, we all went through an extrinsic motivation part of it, whether it was praise from, I know for me, when I used to, I used to love hitting all the right notes and all the right rhythms because the conductor would turn and say, “You got that right!” Oh, I was so happy.

 

And you know, I watch my daughter who’s five and she’s doing, it’s fascinating to watch, because I’m parent teacher, I don’t teach early childhood kids, watching that stickers are amazing, they have amazing effects on kids. And she is constantly trying to do things for stickers at the moment. I know she’ll grow out of it, it’s absolutely vital. But to get to intrinsic, you must travel through extrinsic to start with because at the start, it sounds bad, it feels hard, it feels uncomfortable, and it’s all new, all the time. Neurologically what happens is that we move from extrinsic which is a really, it’s a really quick way to feel great, and it only lasts for a very short period of time but it’s a great way to feel great straight away. Intrinsic, think of it as, it is a far longer, deeper, more enduring feeling of motivation, the knowing that you can get something out of it. Inside the brain what’s happening is, when we’re a child, we get sort of really good happy feelings but they only last for a short period of time.

 

And what we’re doing yet through childhood is developing the network that gives us intrinsic motivation. So through learning music, what they’ve found, which I think’s fantastic, is the learning of music and the playing of music sets off all the happy drugs in the brain and the happy network in the brain, and the only other things that do it are food, and sex, and music, and drugs if you want to take them. But [inaudible [00:22:31]. And so it almost becomes a learning drug, so the kids go through and their brains are going, “Ooh, there’s another one of those, ooh there’s another one,” and that’s what intrinsic motivation does, it develops that network through the beginning of their playing so that then the network itself takes over and the kid becomes intrinsically motivated. What we’ve got to realize as music educators is that there’s a place for both, and if anything it’s a continuum, one leads to the other if we do really well at it.

 

Tim: Okay, I think my thinking has changed around this because I wrote a blog post some time ago now, probably three years ago called “Why Extrinsic Motivation is Bad for Music Students,” or something like that. And there were some interesting comments that came back through it. My thinking has definitely changed time, and the more I read about some of the creative things that other people are doing in their studios with these extrinsic reward systems, yeah, it makes a lot of sense what you’ve just said, that there’s a continuum. I started, my teacher always gave me stickers, she even gave me money, I was like [inaudible [00:23:36] back in those days it wasn’t too bad actually. She’d put it on the side of the piano, and it’d be like, “Oh yeah.” It did me no harm, it kept me playing and here I am now, so…

 

Yeah, I think my view on that has changed, so it’s good to hear that from a scientific standpoint too. Okay, now we touched on parents before, and the title of this show, I’ve called this, “What to say to parents when their child is about to quit,” because we talked about this when you came and gave at our workshop, and I found this really, really…it’s the thing that stuck with me the most. You’ve got some good ideas about the sorts of things that we should say related to those benefits that you mentioned right at the beginning. So can you give us some tips, you know, we get the call from the mom or dad saying, “Look, so-and-so’s, you know, it’s a waste of time, they’re about to pull out,” or, “I’m going to pull them out of lessons.” You gave us some great tips. What kind of things can we say?

 

Anita: I don’t remember what I said. I think that what I’m learning is the very basis of that phone call is that music is an option. Music is a, you only do it if you enjoy it, and you only get your kids to do it if they enjoy it, and you’re investing a lot of money that is, seem to be in addition to school fees or anything that goes with education. And I’ve been playing around with lots of different ways of doing it and just watching the parents’ reaction. And part of it is saying the idea, “What are you really losing? What are you really taking away from your child by allowing them to quit?” So part of it is, these days, children have access to everything, and even with you know, differing sort of social circumstances, they still have access to everything. What’s more, they can get themselves out of an uncomfortable situation quite quickly. If they don’t like watching a movie, they turn it off. If they don’t like being in something, they’re allowed to leave.

 

Now what this is doing, while we live in a very comfortable and fantastic place, we’re breeding out resilience, we’re breeding out, through the ease of our lifestyle, this ability to actually live and sit with uncomfortable things and do uncomfortable things. Because learning is uncomfortable, learning is asking your brain to add more stuff to it, to understand, it’s hard work. Now, to say that music, just because my child is not enjoying it therefore they should stop, part of my counter to the parents is, “Actually because it’s uncomfortable, you’re giving your child the greatest gift that is going to serve them all the way throughout their lives. You’re teaching them little by little every single day how to sit with, and manage, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with doing something hard. Not letting it go, not letting them go, ‘Ah, it’s too hard, I don’t want to do it anymore.’ It’s actually making them learn that skill, which the rest of our lives, we haven’t got that much opportunity to do it anymore.” So, part of my counter to them is to say, “You’re actually taking more away than the instrument, you’re actually, are you happy with them not learning this skill, which I imagine you as a parent have used later in life?” That stops them in their tracks a little bit.

 

I had a student come to me, a flute player, the other day, who, I don’t think he quite knew what I did…

 

Tim: He’s a flute player?

 

Anita: Flute player, yeah, came to me and I don’t think he knew much about my research because he came out with, “I don’t want my flute playing to affect my ATAR” and it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got you, kid.”

 

Tim: So for people not in Australia, ATAR is the, like the final year of school, final mark system.

 

Anita: Yep, and the mark system that allows you entry into university, so the higher the ATAR, the higher, in theory, the higher degree that you can get into. And part of what I was able to turn around to this kid and say, and then I’ve said it to his parents is that, of course, the students who do music right up until your 12, tend to get far higher marks in every single other one of their subjects, and they can manage their time, and they’re happy, their level of well-being. So are you happy to take away, to remove, to allow them to stop an activity that can bolster their well-being, can improve their year 12 scores, and can keep them engaged in school? If you’re happy to do that, great. And as soon as they start to see the other benefits of learning music, rather than, “I see my child who’s uncomfortable, and I just want to stop it for them,” and I understand that. And I have been given a very personal connection to that when I’m watching my little girl and she’s learning [inaudible [00:28:17] violin and she’s learning first finger. So she’s putting her first finger down, and her hand’s just grown and it’s quite uncomfortable.

 

And so every time we ask her to do first finger, she starts crying. And as a mom I had that instinct, “Oh, my word, make it stop,” and then as a music teacher I went, “No, no, don’t make it stop. Just sit with her through the discomfort,” and I was reminded of how hard it is for a parent. And I think as music teachers, we need to acknowledge that it is personally really hard to sit there and listen to a poor French horn player trying to get that awful in tune, over and over again and not succeeding.

 

The other thing I often say to parents is, “To play music well, they get it wrong far more often than they get it right.” Now, do you want to take, that’s exactly the same with a math problem, with a science report, with reading or learning a foreign language. You get it wrong far more often than you get it right. But when you get it right, that’s great, and again, do you want to take away an opportunity that your child has every single day to learn how to persist with getting something wrong, knowing that at some stage they will get it right?

 

Tim: It’s that persistence and grittiness, and yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, and that sort of strikes a chord. They often don’t say anything just then. They go away and think about it, and then they come back and we come to an agreement with the student as well. And again, it’s usually time based, it’s usually, “Okay, we realize you’re having a tough time, we’re going to look at it again at the end of the term, or something like after the holidays, and we’re going to see if it’s got any better.” And often, whatever problem they’re having has fixed itself by then. So, yeah, it’s a really interesting approach that I’ve been taking and it’s had some success.

 

Tim: I like it, it’s very easy for us to just kind of go with the parental decision making process I guess without even saying anything. I mean we know, a lot of what we’ve been saying we know innately, we just, many of us haven’t actually read or spoken about. But we know the effect of music, but we perhaps don’t feel empowered enough to say that to parents too. So it’s great hearing these kind of things from someone who’s done the research as you have to say, we can say these things, because the research is out there [inaudible [00:30:34].

 

Anita: Absolutely, there’s a philosophical argument where we say, music is just good because it’s music. And then there’s this argument that music is good because it helps so many other things. And often we sit on one side of the fence or the other but I actually think, why are we denying both sides of that? It does great things for the rest of their schooling and their development as a person, and it is a wonderful art form. Let’s just use the right or the most appropriate piece of research where it’s going to have the most effect, and don’t worry about the fact that we have an ideological belief either way.

 

Tim: I think another thing that parents perhaps don’t understand is that, and you kind of touched on it before, practice shouldn’t sound good. I know some of my students have said to me before, “Oh, mum told me to stop playing because it sounded so awful.” or…I was like, no, no, that’s when you need to keep playing, that’s what you’re trying to get it.

 

Anita: Yeah, and a lot of the time I’m…I’m getting more and more convinced that a lot of the time parents, not encourage, but allow their children to give up because they have to experience the practice and they don’t enjoy it. And that’s a very difficult thing to bring to a parent’s attention, but I actually think it’s quite powerful to say, you know, it should sound bad, it should sound like work, it should feel like work. But also the work is on your behalf to actually, not necessarily sit through it with them but to go, “How’d your practice go today? Was it good, was it bad? Did you manage that beat you’re trying to get?” So and also, even to the point where, a trumpet player, the reason she was very happy for her kid to give up trumpet is because he used to practice in the lounge room while she was getting dinner ready in the kitchen which were the same place. She’d say, “I just can’t concentrate!” And so, “Could he practice somewhere else?” “Well, yeah, we’ve got a downstairs room, maybe he could go down there.” And suddenly just by separating the two out, she went, “Well, that’s not so bad. He can keep practicing, I can make dinner in peace,” and it was as simple as, you need to recognize you’re not enjoying it, but that’s not a reason to take it away, or allow it, or encourage it to be taken away from him.

 

Tim: I’m laughing because I’m constantly amazed by some of the things that we as music teachers have to teach parents about things that just seem so obvious, like, help your student set a little timetable for their practice, actually ask them to go and practice, you know, it’s like, “Practice please.”

 

Anita: Yeah, a space to practice. Yeah it is just amazing. It’s like, “This is what we do before bed.”

 

Tim: Yeah, yeah. I think I may perhaps write a little article that can be shared with parents about some of these, just give this to your parents [inaudible [00:33:20]. Because we have to realize that some of them perhaps haven’t been through it. A lot of them haven’t been through it and just might not realize.

 

Anita: Yeah, and that’s exactly the thing, they haven’t been through it so it feels foreign, and they need help to understand how they can support. They want the best for their child, and they want the best they can possibly give to them. But a lot of the time it’s just a lack of knowledge, it’s, where the trouble, well not the trouble, but the difficulty comes is how do you present it to each parent and each parent’s different, with a different understanding of it. I think I find, I sit inside and outside the music education field, I think in some ways that’s invaluable because I feel like we as music educators forget that we need to educate. When we take on a student, we take on the parent too, and it’s actually an education of the whole lot. Not just a relationship you have with the child, so it is also about helping the parent and they want the best.

 

Tim: Yes, that’s a really good point to remind everyone of I think, that need to help educate parents to get the most out of the music education time.

 

Anita: Yeah.

 

Tim: I was just thinking as well while you were talking about all these amazing benefits you can get from music which we all agree about, does it rely on the need to have a certain amount of practice done, does that make sense?

 

Anita: Yeah, it’s 10,000 hours.

 

Tim: If it’s a five minute a day kid, are they still going to get all these benefits? Or do they have to be practicing a good amount and making some real progress?

 

Anita: Yeah, that’s one of the things, I’m very lucky I’m going to visit two of the major neuroscience labs in America in May this year, and I don’t think they know what’s coming really because I’m going to just sit there and fire questions at them. Because…

 

Tim: I hope you share that with everyone too, right?

 

Anita: Oh absolutely, absolutely. I’m trying, what I’m trying to figure out is, when they…see they can pair groups of musicians and groups of non-musicians, but when I say musician, it’s just whoever they can get a hold of, rather than let’s compare a [inaudible [00:35:23] with an off-class. Let’s compare a French horn player who practices for half an hour a day religiously six days a week versus a trumpet player who does their five minutes and doesn’t really practice and wanders around the house and does it. You know, what the benefit. In saying that, what they have found is that particularly, the bit, most research is this zero to seven age group because it seemed to have the most impact and also the lasting impact, it lasts through life.

 

They’ve found that one year of learning a musical instrument, and I think it was violin and they did it, they had two lessons a week, and then they had two practices at home or something like that. One year didn’t have any impact neurologically. Fifteen months of practice had an impact on their visual cortex, on their visual memory, but didn’t have anything on their auditory memory. The magic number was two years, so to learn for two years continuously learning from a teacher having structured lessons, reading music, very important. They found that that was the magic number, the very least amount of learning that meant that the neurological changes happened and they remained permanent. Those are the two things. That’s before the age of seven. After the age of seven, it needs to be slightly longer because our brain sort of is in its second growing phase and it’s not quite so spongey and there’s already networks setup.

 

But in saying that, that can be as simple as, say you’ve got a three year old and you enrolled him in two consecutive years of baby music education things once a week and you do activities at home, and you keep the beat, and you sing to them, that’s just as effective as learning a violin. It’s as long as they’ve got something in their hands, they’re using their voices, they’re responding to symbols, and they’re doing it consecutively and in a sequential way. So a couple of years ago I wrote a paper which tried to say, “Okay, well what’s the science telling us that we actually need to know?” and it was the two year mark that was the one. And so it’s…

 

Tim: Two years of lessons and of regular practice, although not extreme practice, just…

 

Anita: No, and it’s just very recent research out about the fact that it is not, it’s not time based, that’s too simple. It’s actually what you do in that time. So someone could practice for half an hour and someone could practice for 10 minutes and still get the same neurological benefit just because of the way they practice. So, one of the ideas I’m playing around with is this idea that how do we teach kids kind of like a scoring system. That extrinsic motivation system, of you know, in your practice, if you started at the start of the piece every single time, if you got to bar 18 and that was the hard bar but you didn’t take it apart and practice it, you get 1 out of 10. But if you went straight to bar 18, you took it apart by beat, then you put it back together again, and then you played it a bar either side, oh that’s 10 out of 10. So trying to figure out ways of getting them to understand that if you practice this way, you get more benefit, if you practice this way, it takes you longer. And a point system is often the way to do it.

 

Tim: Okay, did you write that down on a card for them, so I mean because every piece is going to be different, so like you mentioned, I’m assuming this is something you’ve done with a student to test it.

 

Anita: I’ve only started doing it recently because it’s a sort of a testing phase of going, “Okay, well how will they respond to it?”

 

Tim: This is great because I love hearing about, you know, new little practice ideas. I’m passionate about it myself, getting kids to practice effectively, and we all struggle with it so.

 

Anita: It’s the thing you do, it’s the biggest thing you do. I, with this small group of students I had who were in year 9 and 10, I co-created the scale with them, and in the end I only came up with 5 different ones not 10.

 

Tim: Okay, so by scale you mean the ranking scale not the…okay.

 

Anita: Yeah, exactly, so I said, you know, “If you’re doing, you know, what an effective practice?” And they, we’ve got to remember this, kids are quite used to being in band, so they know my little sayings sort of you know, if you can’t say it, you can’t play it, you know? If you don’t count it at the right speed, then you won’t play it at the right speed, all those little things they know from me. But we co-created this little list of things that they’ve watched me do in band, and then they said, “We’ll try and go home and actually do it too.” And then they sort of talked to me again as we went through saying, “Sometimes I just want to play from the start of the piece,” and that’s like, “That’s totally okay, if you’ve had a big day and you have rowing in the morning and you’ve got, it’s already too late, just start at the beginning of the piece. But you know, how about trying a morning practice and you do the hard stuff in the morning?”

 

So we actually, I was really interested across the different kids, about some of them went, “Okay, my brains work in the morning, or my brains work at night.” “Okay, so wake up in the morning, we’ll do the hard stuff here, and if it’s not awake, we’ll do the easy stuff over here.” And then the other one switched. So we actually started talking about their body rhythms. When are they working best, what do they like doing, when do they like playing? And one of them…

 

Tim: [inaudible [00:40:29] adolescents in particular.

 

Anita: Totally. And they said, one of them particular, he problem solved himself, which is, I was so proud of him and he just said, “I’m best in the morning, 5 o’clock in the morning I’m wide awake and I can’t do anything.” I said, “Why can’t you do anything?” “It’s because my bedroom’s next to mom and dad’s, and I can’t get up and practice.” And again I said, “Is there somewhere else you can go?” He said, “Well, in summer I can go outside.” I went, “Okay.” So this kid’s outside with his Alto Saxophone…

 

Tim: Oh, the neighbors loved that.

 

Anita: And I said, “Are the neighbors going to notice?” He said, “No, no we live on a bit of acreage.” I went, “Okay.” So this kid’s out doing their practice at five, but he problem solved himself. And this talking about it and this giving him structures, actually gave him permission to start doing the wild thing, like, “You don’t have to practice inside,” and he just took his music stand outside and, I think he [inaudible [00:41:24] probably in his pajamas and he just practiced outside. And I thought, “That’s great.” And he came back the next day and I said, “How was it?” He said, “It was great, I watched the sunrise as I was practicing my saxophone, what could be better?”

 

Tim: Oh, wow, awesome. Not so heavy for pianists, but still we get the concept.

 

Anita: Okay.

 

Tim: Just to go back to your little ranking sheet because I love trying new things as all my viewers will know. Did you, with the ranking, you know, from ineffective to effective practice, [inaudible [00:41:55] five steps or whatever. It’s obvious, every piece needs a different approach slightly, so I wondered where, my question is, did you write a different rank for each piece, or did you just say, you know, most effective practice is that you go straight to the hard bit and you play it slowly 10 times and then you do the next step? So that they could use this ranking sheet for every piece.

 

Anita: Yep, the first thing I did is I would never, I didn’t talk about them as effective practice like we would talk about as music teachers. But I did it as smiley faces and, you know, okay.

 

Tim: Increasingly grumpy faces.

 

Anita: Yeah, well, okay? Kind of like a straight mouth, little bit better, little bit better, awesome practice and then super-charged amazing brain practice. So like we gave them silly names and we didn’t do it for each piece but we did it as, you know, what are the basic bits of pieces, so there’s always hard bits. So we had super hard, fast bits and super hard, slow bits. And we talked about what is the difference and why do you practice differently. What are you looking for when you practice differently? So they were right at the top of the spectrum, starting at the start of the piece was the one that was always, you know, it was okay practice but not great. And then we did things like starting at a section of the piece but only doing a bit of it so…

 

Tim: Or stopping at the hard bit or something, you said.

 

Anita: Yeah, stopping at the hard bit or only doing a particular section and not connecting it, so it’s all connected, so yes there’s a hard bar, but it makes no sense to practice that if you’re getting the two bits before the hard bar wrong because that sets you up for a failure. So we sort of had these bits as they go through. And part of it was you don’t always practice number fives and you don’t always practice number ones. Your week, you can divide it into, this time I practice this, this time I practice this. And we also set a couple of goals, like, okay, the end of this week I want to be able to play it through, warts and all. So literally just without stopping and restarting, which I know for, I know players is a bit of an issue.

 

Tim: Yeah, absolutely.

 

Anita: So, that was one goal, warts and all, you know, really bad warts. Another, one of the [inaudible [00:44:13]..

 

Tim: Sorry Anita, I just lost you. Just like 10 seconds, can you just go back?

 

Anita: Okay, one of the kids said he’s going to record it and send it to his teacher, so he sent a sound file, but the nature of the recording was that, you know that when you record yourself you don’t want to make mistakes, so you actually get a little tense and…

 

Tim: Yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, so he wanted to do that and he actually said himself, “I want to do it because there’s a recital in term two, and I always get worried about playing the whole piece through. So he said, “I’m going to setup a system for myself to record it, and I’m beholden to my teacher.” So by the fact that he said to his teacher, I commit to sending you this recording meant he did it. So, yeah, so there was a lot of different, and I’m at the moment because it’s a very new idea, I’m just responding to what they say, I’m just taking in every idea that they’re coming up with, and then also just noticing how they react, what they enjoy, what they find difficult. But also saying, “When it’s difficult, you’re going to feel, what happens in your body.” So some of them, one of the boys screws his face up, he says, “When I feel my eyebrows do this, then I know that I’m finding it difficult.” Any of the physical reactions, so they’re noticing their physical reactions now.

 

Tim: Yeah. I was actually going to ask you about this idea of learning is uncomfortable and the ways that we should be getting kids to understand that that’s okay. Is it just, do you think, about talking to students about the fact that, you know, the hard bits are painful, they’re slow, they’re tedious sometimes, and that’s okay?

 

Anita: Yeah, I’ve tried all sorts of things. I think I realized within my own practice that I didn’t use enough visuals and I didn’t use enough sort of metaphors or analogies, so a lot of the time, I explain to the parents that learning doesn’t happen like that, music learning’s like this, like big steps. And then what I did is I used it with the students to say, “Where do you think you are on the step at the moment?” So, are you on the up, are you in the frustrating bit right at the start of the step where you don’t feel like you’re getting it?” And they visualized where they were, and again it gives it that end point of going, I know I am going to go up soon it’s just not yet.

 

Talking about it is really, really good but also talking about it in the moment. So when my daughter starts to cry, it’s like, “Okay, can you explain to me what’s upsetting you,” and she will talk about her hand, and we’ll try lots of different things to do with her hand and then, but that’s, you don’t talk about it once, you talk about it every time. “Oh, we’re at that point again, we’re at the frustrating bit again, or we’re at the,” she calls it the hurty bit, you know? It’s also using their language, it’s respecting their language and saying, “Well, just use any word that comes to you, that means what you’re getting frustrated with.”

 

So yeah, I think it’s about talking about it, about acknowledging it, but also about asking a lot more questions of our own students and just letting them answer. Feeling safe to, I mean, one of the classes we have as music teachers is, there are very few people in our students lives who spend as much time with them as we do, and so the relationship we build, the trust we build is absolutely enormous. And while that’s wonderful when they need to trust us and tell us things, we can actually use that trust to understand that we are building a human being as well as along the way building a musician.

 

Tim: Nice way to put it. Yeah, we do have a very special place in these students’ lives, you’re right. Other than their parents, no one else has quite the same amount of one on one contact as we do.

 

Anita: Yeah. Over a year or several years or you know from…

 

Tim: Or half a lifetime when they’re [inaudible [00:48:06], it’s amazing.

 

Anita: Exactly, yeah.

 

Tim: I want to pick up on, coming to sort of my last couple of questions, you mentioned the importance of music reading before. I just wanted to pick up on that because I’m a huge fan of creativity, and improvising, and the importance of being curious and exploring music, but I also teach reading, and I’m a fan of that too, but did you want to mention anything further about that idea of reading and its impact on brain development?

 

Anita: What they originally did quite a bit of research on is they found that the visual, the auditory, and the motor cortices were working together.

 

Tim: So visual, so eyes, motor is the fingers or what’s moving, and the ears.

 

Anita: Yeah, now a lot of people would say, “Well, sport does the same thing,” and absolutely it does, and this is why they should be co-taught, they should be happening at the same time. But the difference they’ve found is that sport is about listening for or responding to a call or an instruction, whereas music is actually, in an auditory sense, is responding to the nuances of sound and what meaning is written inside that sound. Or what sound, imagining a sound and going, “How do I make my body do that?” So it’s actually a slightly different part of the brain, so both are incredibly important, to do just one doesn’t do the same effect. I don’t know where I got, what was my question?

 

Tim: Reading, reading, the impact of reading.

 

Anita: Okay, so then they did a whole bunch of research on kids who just learned through, they did some Suzuki kids and then they [inaudible [00:49:45] to learning through reading, and they found the brain development in the kids who started reading from the very start to be much better in the long run. In saying that, they found the initial part of Suzuki training to be fantastic for auditory development, and those kids develop language earlier, so there’s pluses and minuses. The main thing is a lot of the time kids, particularly piano kids, learn reading music before they learn reading English or reading language.

 

Now if you think of them just in their basic form, they are both single systems which give us indications of sound. So T-H means “th” that’s an indication of sound. A crochet [SP] goes like this, that’s an indication of sound. It’s like learning another language, like Spanish, you just put…the more you make your brain work in that area, the better they’re going to be at everything. So reading notes, meaning reading, I see something on a page and it sounds like this on my instrument or it sounds like this when I sing is actually just that direct connection you made between that and TH, so it looks like this and sounds like this when it comes out of my mouth.

 

Tim: Right, yeah okay. I find this fascinating because I’m right at a point in my own teaching where I’m avoiding the reading straight up, so I’m not Suzuki trainer, I mean just my own experience says, I’ve got a new student this year, who, I mean, he’d be fine with about seven or eight. And for the first three lessons and at least a few more, we haven’t touched any reading stuff, we’re just moving to music, we’re improvising, we’re listening. It’s so much fun, he absolutely loves it, and I’m really enjoying it too.

 

And I think this has been and will be the longer phase than I would normally have before I start introducing them to some kind of notation even if it’s just images. So it was really, just, I was wondering where you were going to go with the Suzuki and its impact versus the go straight to reading, and of course, there will always be somewhat of a trade-off I guess. But I think from my perspective, the idea of sound, and audiation, and feeling rhythm and things is by far the most important thing right at the beginning, than reading, that’s just my own take on it, a little bit like language acquisition, you hear, you copy before you read.

 

Anita: Yeah, if we think about how long kids are speaking for before they actually encounter letters, it’s a long, long time. And it’s not to say that they shouldn’t start completely orally, and I actually think they should, but if we think about it, in a lot of our methodologies, we have a concrete symbol system for what the sound means. So we could [inaudible [00:52:34] circles, and we’ve just got lines, we haven’t got note heads. You know, in all sorts of things, we’ve got this somehow connecting the concept of a sound to a symbol, but the state between those is I hear it, I make the sound, and this is what it looks like. Not, I hear it, and that’s what it looks like and then I make it. Sometimes that’s a backwards step depending on age and very much depending on the child.

 

There are visual, not a visual queue, but if they really caught on to the notation early, fantastic. You know, let’s go with that. If they’re a kid who tends to respond more with the play, so it might be a kid who’s very kinesthetic and he’s engaging with the instrument and feeling how it goes, then that’s great. Interestingly for me, the cycle needs to be finished at some stage, so at some stage they need to be able to read, they need to be able to hear, and they need to be able to do it with their body. How we get to that cycle is different for every child. But any money, if a kid is better orally to start with, their visual acuity overall is not going to be fantastic. That’s something that’s going to be uncomfortable, and we need to work hard at making comfortable.

 

Some kids start with reading and they don’t like, they know sound, and then they don’t like that it doesn’t sound like that on their instrument. So getting back the other way is the discomfort. So if we can identify there’s a big triangle, motor, visual, auditory, and then go, “Okay, where is this kid coming from and how do I make this triangle whole?” Then that’s our sort of teaching practice and our approach.

 

Tim: Yeah, I like that because you can instantly see in my students, they’ve got a bias towards one way. And I’ve got some fantastic play by ear students who really struggle with the reading, so perhaps it’s about for me and other people in that situation, about helping the students realize that yes, this is going to be an uncomfortable thing, it’s going to take effort, but the importance of it is huge and you’re going to..

 

Anita: I can talk to my kids about, “Can you feel the cogs moving?” Because you know that feeling when you’re learning and it’s like two really big cogs and they go [inaudible [00:54:43], and they go, “Yeah, this feels really hard,” It’s like, “Great, let’s work.”

 

Tim: Yes, that’s it.

 

Anita: It’s what you need to do. And managing that part of it is very, very important.

 

Tim: Cool, all right, well look, I’ve got just one other question that came up as we were talking before, I wondered, there might not be research and you may not be able to answer it, I’m not sure. But is there any indication that different types of teaching have a different impact on those benefits to students?

 

Anita: There’s no research on it, again, because the neuroscientists don’t, it doesn’t give any further information, so they just aren’t doing the research in it. My hope is that I can hopefully, and a very small group of people who work in my field, can make them aware of the benefit of adding in some extra information at the start. So say, “Okay, here’s your group of musicians, let’s talk. Are they Suzuki, Kadai [SP], some sort of hybrid of those two,” you know, so therefore at the very end, no matter what they find, we’ve got a point of reference of what that methodology is. Yeah, so at the moment, that’s the big missing link in the research, but I think it’s one that we can absolutely fix, because it’s not going to change the neuroscientists’ research, it’s just going to change how they look at it from the information they gather at the very start. And they need a music educator going, “That’s off base, that’s Kadai based, that’s Suzuki based, so they need that sort of person in there, so I’m going to log in on the door and say, “Hey, [inaudible [00:56:20].”

 

Tim: As a fellow music educator, I’d like to thank you on behalf of all of us, all the work that you’re doing because you must spend hours researching, and talking, and travelling and all this kind of stuff. But to be able to just distill these ideas so succinctly as you have today, fantastic, it’s been really, really good speaking with you.

 

Anita: Thank you.

 

Tim: And I should mention too, we’ve talked a lot about boys today, I don’t want to put anyone off to think we’re doing anything weird, we both teach in boy’s schools, so a lot of our pronouns have been he’s. I’ve been talking about boys, but obviously this is of immediate impact to girls and boys.

 

Anita: Yeah, and I do teach in a combined program, so I have girls in front of me every single day. And I find that the approaches are the same. I might do it slightly differently for girls than for boys, and as a female teacher towards boys or a female teacher towards girls, that’s also, the gender is a different thing as well.

 

Tim: Yeah, yeah. And I’ve certainly talked a lot about that on my blog because I’ve got lots of research and my own research and resources for teaching boys piano too. Now, is there anything that we missed in our discussion today that you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ve really got to remember to tell him this”?

 

Anita: No, I get to the end and I go, “There’s just so much more.” Maybe for another day.

 

Tim: Yeah, well look, where can people go to find out more about you? We’ll put links to your videos in the show notes. But what about connecting with you at all?

 

Anita: My website is anitacollinsmusic.com where I try to put all of my scholarly work up but also I’m moving into an area of doing a lot more resources for music teachers, so posters, there’s kind of a coffee table book coming out soon which you can just happily leave on your coffee table, while the parents are sitting there and they can have a look, have a read. So I’m moving into that field of doing a lot more stuff for music teachers that you can use. Video, posters, books, all that sort of thing, so if you go there and just keep up with things, then that’s great. I’ve also got, on Facebook, I have a Facebook community called “Bigger, Better Brains,” which is where, as soon as new research comes up, I’ll post the link, but also I’ll pick out bits for you that I think are useful, or interesting, or controversial, or challenge our thinking as music educators about what we do every day.

 

Tim: I can highly recommend following that. Is it a page or a group? I can’t remember.

 

Anita: It’s a community, so it’s a group.

 

Tim: A group, yep, that’s great. Some of the stuff I’ve found, it’s really, as you say, there is so much out there, it’s so hard to keep up with it all, but, yeah.

 

Anita: Yeah, exactly.

 

Tim: But it’s great, we’re just starting a conversation and letting teachers know about where they can find more information is crucial.

 

Anita: Yep.

 

Tim: Thank you, Anita, so much for your time today, I know you’re incredibly busy, and I really appreciate it.

 

Anita: Thank you very much.

 

Tim: All right. We’ll see you later.

 

Tim: Hey, guys, it’s Tim here. I just wanted to let you know as my special subscribers and viewers to the podcast and email subscribers, I wanted to give you a heads-up that in two weeks’ time I’ll be launching to you guys, my inner circle, now this is my private members area of my website. It’s a project I’ve been working on for about nine months now, and it’s going to be the place where I share from now on, all my resources, all my worksheets, future training videos, downloads, all the information. It’s the place where I answer people’s questions and the place where all of you guys who are members in there can share all of your ideas too and help each other. We’re going to build a fantastic community of dedicated hard working entrepreneurial kind of teachers in there. Now I’ve already got some beta testers in there who are trying to make sure everything’s working in time for the launch.

 

And at this stage, I haven’t got any links or anything for you to click on. I just wanted to make you aware that this is happening in about two weeks’ time, and the launch that I’ll be offering you guys will be the best price given that you are exactly the kind of people that I want in there, the ones that are really keen to change, and learn, and be the best teachers you can be. You’re the people that I want in the inner circle with me and the rest of the people in there, so stay tuned for more information about that. We’ll be releasing that in, yeah, just under two weeks’ time and you guys will get first chance to be foundation members, and you’ll also get the best price for your loyalty over the years of watching, and listening, and reading my articles. So I’m looking forward to sharing that with you, stay tuned to a couple weeks’ time.

 

And I just want to mention one other thing too, a few people have been having trouble with downloads on the podcast. So if you’re using the iPhone or iPad app and you can’t download the episodes, then I’m working on it but I can’t work out exactly what’s wrong. So in the meantime, the simplest solution is to instead use the Overcast app, it’s free, download it from the app store. It’s called Overcast, it’s actually a better podcast player anyway, and it will allow you to download the episodes.

 

Now this is useful if you’re unfamiliar and perhaps you choose to watch most of these episodes, if you do use an app on your phone, you can download the episodes when you’re in Wi-Fi so when you’re at home for free effectively, and then listen to the podcast wherever you are without using your mobile data. It also means you can listen on planes, and trains, and sea voyages, whatever you happen to be doing. So it is a pretty good way to catch up on episodes that you might have missed without using all your data, so that’s on either the iTunes Store. If you’re happy to stream, then just use the podcast player app on iPhone, but if you do want to download the episodes so you can listen to them at any time, use the Overcast app. All right, guys, I’ll try and sort that out for you in the coming weeks, but in the meantime that’s the best solution. Thanks so much for listening and watching and I’ll see you soon.

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About the Author

Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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