Monday, April 7, 2014

DoSo Guitar Method

In mid March, we had the pleasure of hosting David Mills for a workshop on his DoSo Guitar method and program.  I was able to attend the workshop, and am happy to report on the experience and take-away knowledge about this up and coming music education method.

The Instrument

The DoSo Guitar method uses a Loog Guitar, a three-stringed instrument sized for the younger, smaller people.  The concept is a product of a masters thesis out of NYU, and a very successful Kickstarter campaign helped to launch the development and production of the guitars.

The resonance of the smaller body is thinner than a standard guitar, but more substantial than a ukulele.  The nylon strings are tuned GBE (the first three of a standard 6-string guitar), making the transition to guitar a smoother process.  The neck is strong, but thin enough for a small hand to comfortably fit around to reach each string and is marked with a rainbow of fret markers, making it easy for students to connect spacial, visual, and audible cues.  A stock head tuner can be used for easy tuning in a classroom setting.  For around $150 (less for education pricing), the Loog Guitar offers good and sustainable music education instrument.

The Program
David Mills, a guitar player with a varied and diverse musical background, developed the DoSo Guitar program out of New Haven, Connecticut where he teaches at The Neighborhood Music School.  The DoSo program is housed in local Boys and Girls clubs, where participants ages 7-12 learn to play, sing, and perform popular music from around the world.  Mills and his trained teachers lead the after school programs and prepare the students for performances.

The methodology construction is excellent.  All the materials I have seen are well put together, and easy to follow.  Each song is presented rhythmically (Mills' eighth note counting method is "doo-ah"), harmonically (easy to follow along three-string TAB), melodically (visual representations using the colored fret markers along with song lyrics) and formally (verse-chorus, etc).  The repertoire is a mix of well-known song from all eras of American pop music, as well as many from other places in the world.

Focus is placed on the fundamentals of music, which provides an excellent sustainable and sequential music education model.  Students feel comfortable improvising, using solfege, the circle of 5ths, diatonic harmonies, and the ability to sing against a drone.  Individual and ensemble settings allow for a varied experience, and students often create original songs.  The entire method was built keeping the National Standards for Music Education in mind.

In a sea of "monkey-see monkey-do" rock band mimic programs disguised as music education methods, the DoSo Program offers a quality, sustainable, and sequential method for students to learn guitar.

DoSo in Nashville 
A Nashville based DoSo Program is currently in the works, in conjunction with NAZA (Nashville After Zone Alliance).  The team is researching potential sites to house the program, which should be piloted this fall.  The W.O. Smith Music school will be the site for teacher training.  We are happy to welcome new quality music instruction programs to our great city, and to keep our students learning music.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

W.O. Smith choir sings the National Anthem at Belmont

On Thursday, January 23, members of the Voices chorus from W.O. Smith performed the Star Spangled Banner, arranged by W.O. Smith volunteer teacher Bernie Walker.

With hundreds of community members in the stands for Community Day, the choir sang the National Anthem prior to the Belmont vs Morehead State game under the direction of Mrs. Janet Weaver.  Ms. Lynn was out for the week, but prepared the choir excellently for the performance in rehearsals.

The performance was impressive by all accounts and has even inspired at least two other organizations to request the chorus for future performances of the National Anthem.  Well done and congratulations to these musicians on a very proud performance!

Photo credit: Andrea Hallgren/Belmont University

W.O. Smith student Courtnie Taylor enjoying the game for Community Day!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Music as a Language: Victor Wooten

We sure do like the Wooten family here at W.O. Smith.  Check out this TEDx talk from bass player Victor, filmed last May in Gabriola Island.  He brings a great message and good advice to everyone, especially music teachers and students.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

W.O. Smith is thankful for...

During this time for families to gather and reflect on what they are thankful for, we'd like to gather as the W.O. Smith family and share some of what we, the staff, are thankful for this season!

Volunteers.  Without our volunteers, we'd have no way toward our mission to transform lives through music.  We are fortunate enough to have volunteers teach private lessons, direct musical ensembles, teach group classes, drive the van to pick up teachers, organize the library, staff camps, clean the building, and much more!  Thank you to all of our volunteers.

Students.    We LOVE our students.  We are thankful that we get to see you each week (some of you multiple times a week) and we love to see you grow and learn.  Our students are the reason we exist and come to school every day.  Thank you to all of our students.

Parents/Families.  It is so great to be a part of the big W.O. Smith family!  We are thankful to be a part of your family's life, and we thank you for all you do for your W.O. Smith student.  Nothing can compare to the help with transportation, encouragement, support, applause, and everything else you do for all the students here at school!  Thank you to all of our parents and families.

Advisory Council and Board of Directors.  Every organization must rely on strong leadership in order to succeed, and here at the W.O. Smith Music School we are very thankful for excellent leadership from several incredible people.  Thank you to our Advisory Council and Board of Directors.

Donors and Supporters.  Our donors and financial supporters do everything from helping to send students to summer camp each summer, to purchasing new instruments and equipment, to helping pay the light bill.  We are incredibly thankful for all of the financial support we receive in order to keep the doors open and continue the mission of the school, volunteers, and students.  Thank you to all of our donors and supporters.

Community.  We are so thankful to be part of such a great community in Nashville!  From our neighbors down the street to our friends in the greater Nashville area, the W.O. Smith community is a wonderful one, and we are glad to be here.  Thank you to our community of Nashville and the arts organizations and patrons in it.  The spirit of community keeps the vision and mission of music education strong.

Building.  W.O. Smith wouldn't be able to do what we do if we didn't have a roof over our heads, and what a beautiful roof it is!  We are so thankful to have a wonderful place for teachers and students to come make music each day, and also for the now iconic building with a treble clef where many lucky people choose to host a special event.  More than just the four walls that surround us, thank you for our building.

Dr. William Oscar Smith.  The man behind the mission.  Even though Doc Smith is no longer with us, his memory and mission for quality music instruction for all is still carried forward through the W.O. Smith Music School.  We are thankful for him and all of the founding members of the school.

What are you thankful for this season?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Top 10 Ways to Keep Students Motivated Through the Holiday Season

It's that time of year again.  The steam from start of semester has tapered off, and focus has turned to the upcoming holidays.  Students and teachers alike feel this sense of apathy all together and all at the wrong time.  In order to keep going until through December (and performance evaluations), here are the top ten tips collected from various teachers to re-focus, re-energize, and re-sist the urge to break their instrument in half, throw it across the room, and call it quits.

10.  Reconnect with your students.  A lot has happened in each of your lives since you began lessons. If you're not having a weekly conversation to check in about school, family, friends, etc, then take some time to get to know each other again.  A strong bond will stay with both of you through the week and keep you excited to come back to see each other.

9.  Create short goals.  Not "small" goals.  Goals that can be reached within a week's time.  Both of you will feel the accomplishments that will fuel further growth and development.  Examples of short term goals might include:  Practice every day (no matter how much time, just every day), find a piece you are playing on YouTube, sing a phrase without stopping, play 1 new rudiment, etc.  When the goal is reached, celebrate it!

8.  Make a playlist.  Most of our students have access to YouTube.  Give them a list of videos/recordings they should listen to for inspiration.  It could be related to their instrument, or an example of excellent musicality, or just an interesting piece.

7.  Play along with a track.  Maybe you can put an etude to a hip hop beat?  Is there a band-in-the-box accompaniment to go along with the excerpt?  We have speaker systems that you can plug an iPod into or CD player to use in your lessons to make even the most technical selections a little more interesting.

6.  Play with your students.  Duets!  A great excuse to practice listening, playing with others, keeping good tempo and rhythm, and a time for your students to hear you and make music with you.

5.  Choose some FUN repertoire.  Choose a Christmas carol or a pop tune they love.  Add it to the practice journal for a few weeks.  No pressure, just fun music.  We have several Disney books in the library, and you can find almost ANYTHING online.

4.  Record them.  Use your iPhone to make a recording, or check out a Tascam digital recorder from the front desk for your lesson.  It is always beneficial for a musician to listen to and critique their own performance.  When you know you have a good one, keep it and make a comprehensive album at the end of the year or semester.  We have blank CDs you may use to burn a copy for you and your students.

3.  Invite them to a rehearsal or performance.  Are you in a band?  Play in an orchestra?  Invite your students to come watch you play.  We'll facilitate making sure that it is ok with parents, and you've got a really cool experience to offer your students.  Teachers in the past have asked students to sit in on rehearsals, even play along when it is appropriate.

2.  BE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING!  A very smart music education professor told me once that my "pants had to be on fire" for students to be remotely interested in the subject matter.  OK, running the same etude over and over again isn't the most exciting thing, but students definitely won't be excited if you look like you're about to fall asleep.  Fake it 'til you make it, the fire will catch on eventually for both of you.

1.  Threaten to cut off their thumbs.  "If you don't practice with five fingers on each hand, I'll cut your thumbs off and you'll have to figure out how to only use four fingers'.  Alright, maybe not really, but using humor gets students engaged faster than just about anything.  Make sure they know that you take them seriously, but music should be fun.  Always remember the joy and fun in music making, and they will too.

Always let the staff know if we can provide you with anything you need for lessons.  Keep up the excellent work!  Even when students don't seem engaged, they just need a quick pick-me-up.  Enjoy the rest of the semester!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Student Spotlight: Kristyn Burke attends LEAP this summer

This post was written by Kristyn Burke.  Kristyn is 16 years old and has been at W.O. Smith for several years.  In addition to taking private drum lessons, she participates in the Jazz Band and The Band from Nowhere, who has performed all around the Nashville area and beyond.  

Over the summer I attended a summer program called LEAP, (Leadership, Excellence, Accelerating, Potential.) We stayed on campus at UCLA. In this program, we got to listen to motivational speakers, learn about being successful in job interviews, and achieving our goals. It was so much! I got to meet people from all over the world and I made a bunch of new friends. I learned things that I will remember and keep with me forever. Everyone was so silly and goofy there but it didn't matter. It wasn't about being judged but about being who you are and loving yourself. My LEAP coach was an awesome dude too and I still keep in contact with him and all of my LEAP friends. It was an unforgettable experience and has aided me so much with preparing for my future. I am proud to call myself a leaper! 
Kristyn is pictured second from the left, enjoying friends and an ice cream cone.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


We here at W.O. Smith think that our music school with the big treble clef on the side is the greatest place to be.  Don't miss anything during the part of the week you're not at the school.  Read posts that highlight our students, teachers, and families.  Share ideas and thoughts on music education.   Know how we fit in Nashville.

Welcome to Cadenza, the official blog of the W.O. Smith Music School.  It's the extra W.O. Smith Music School experience you didn't even know you wanted or needed in your life.  Check back often.


 noun \kə-ˈden-zə\
: a difficult part of a piece of classical music that is performed by only one person near the end of the piece

Full Definition of CADENZA

:  a parenthetical flourish in an aria or other solo piece commonly just before a final or other important cadence
:  a technically brilliant sometimes improvised solo passage toward the close of a concerto
:  an exceptionally brilliant part of an artistic and especially a literary work