Congratulations to these students for achieving great things in their musical education! Learn more about the Musical Journey here.
Orpheus Academy raised over $1,000 for the Javier Niño Memorial Scholarship Fund at our fall faculty concerts.
This scholarship honors the memory of Javi, a young man who’s drive, passion, and kindness brought joy into the lives of those who knew him.
Javi was a dedicated guitar student who led by example, and inspired those around him. Those who knew him said that Javi was a “positive force in this world” who helped peers “envision what [they] could accomplish in life.”
This scholarship benefits young musicians who seek to better their lives through higher education—an opportunity that Javi dreamed of, but never had a chance to realize. Recipients of the scholarship will receive weekly guitar lessons from a mentor of recognized excellence, will be eligible for a free instrument, and will have special performance opportunities throughout the school year.
We became aware of this special cause through Orpheus alum, and UT Music School student, Aaron B., who was good friends with Javi. Aaron’s mother, Diane S. (another Orpheus alum), helped set up the fund with Austin Classical Guitar. We are so happy to make a significant contribution to this fund and further our mission to change the lives of young people through music education.
To contribute please visit
Orpheus Musicianship instructors, Skye McManus and Rachel Kraft attended the American Eurhythmics Society (AES) National Conference in Columbus, Ohio. It was an amazing two days of meaningful movement and music from eight Dalcroze Eurhythmics’s experts. Rachel was made Chair of Social Media, and Skye was asked to be Member-At-Large, a new position on the AES board!
I am so happy to have been nominated student of the month. Many thanks to family and friends, including, Mr. Stephen for encouraging me to push my limits; my dad for making sure I practiced and covered all my lessons; my mom for listening to me even when I played the most simple songs and still truly enjoyed them; and, my little sister, Kami, for loving my music and lifting my spirits by dancing. I look forward to many more years of guitar.
—Yang-Fan C., Guitar Student
Yang-Fan has been my student for 3 years. I love how hard he works and that he doesn't give up when something is tough. In the last year he has revved up his practice to almost an hour a day, sometimes more. At home, he does so many repetitions of his pieces and hard spots that each week, he turns "hard spots" into "no big deal". The results speak for themselves. Keep up the hard work, Yang-Fan!
—Mr. Stephen, Guitar Teacher
I love Orpheus because it allows me to study piano, voice, and violin, and all my teachers are very nice. They always encourage me to practice more, compose my own songs, and to perform. I am really happy to be student of the month.
—Anna S., Piano, Violin, and Voice Student
I nominate Anna Schneider as Orpheus Student of the Month. She is passionate about music and storytelling. She is creative and loves to compose, as well as sing and play the piano! Congratulations to Anna for singing and playing the piano all the way to Student of the Month!!!
—Ms. Skye, Piano & Voice Teacher
My name is Mila. I love playing piano. Studying with Mrs. Georgia is a lot of fun, and I’m grateful for her being my teacher. I’m very delighted to be able to express myself through music. Thank you so much, Mrs. Georgia!
—Mila V., Piano Student
Mila is in her second year of piano, and her progress has been tremendous. She is dedicated to her practice during her lessons and at home. Her attitude is always cheerful, and her approach to piano is full of energy. Even if a task is challenging to her, she never fails to put in the work to obtain the ability to meet the challenge. I enjoy her lessons very much, and I look forward to being a part of all that she is going to do!!
—Ms. Georgia, Piano Teacher
I am very grateful for Ms. Joyce for being such an amazing piano teacher and teaching me for almost 5 years. Those 5 years have been so fun and exciting. I enjoy playing the piano for, and with my friends and family. I also spend time playing the viola and I’m part of the Gorzycki orchestra. Music is a big part of my life and takes time and work, but it’s all worth it eventually. I can’t wait for what’s to come next.
—Xingyi Z., Piano Student
Xingyi is a shy and busy middle school student. She's taken piano lessons with me for several years. Despite her heavy school work and activities, she still manages to practice piano regularly. Playing piano is a way for her to relax, release stress, and bond with friends and family. Music is an important part of her life. I'm lucky to have Xingyi in my studio and excited to see the wonderful musician and person she has become.
—Ms. Joyce, Piano Teacher
[from Loving Practice, Developing Discipline]
9 Things Great Teachers Do
1. Respect the Student
Good teachers respect their students, getting to know each as an individual and putting the child’s development into a joyful, skilled musician and happy human being above all else.
2. Possess Extensive Expertise
Effective music instruction requires having a clear understanding of every aspect of musical excellence, from technique, to style, to musicianship, to theory. Teachers must be able to articulate this understanding in ways appropriate to the age and ability of each of their students. A good teacher need not be the best musician in the world, but he needs to be skilled enough to discern what constitutes excellence in his students.
3. Assess Students Accurately
It’s important for music teachers to be skilled at assessing their students’ technical, musical, emotional, and motivational needs. In order to make progress, the teacher must “begin where the student is.” If the teacher misjudges the student’s ability, she will be unable to design an appropriate course of study.
4. Work from an Effective Sequence of Materials Appropriate to the Student
There are many books available for learning each instrument, and none of them are perfect for any child. All of them (including those I have written myself) must, at the very least, be supplemented to meet the needs of the child. Many methods, unfortunately, are seriously flawed in some way: Either the progression of skills is too fast or too slow, the material is uninteresting, the technique is damaging to physical development, or some other serious problem. A good teacher must overcome the flaws of the method book.
5. Give Effective Feedback to the Student
This means providing feedback that is appropriate, well-timed, delivered in a manner to which the student is receptive, and, above all, results in improvement in the student’s playing. This is exceptionally difficult because one is never quite sure what words or tasks will magically create a breakthrough for the student. A great deal of experience and good intuition are the best guides, but even then, it is easy to fall short.
6. Teach the Child to Learn on Her Own
A good teacher will assist the child in transferring the skills she has learned to new contexts so that she may begin to learn on her own. All great teachers wish to “teach themselves out of a job.” If the teacher approaches each lesson by showing the student where to put her fingers to play this or that song, it is unlikely that the student will eventually be able to figure out new songs on her own. If, on the other hand, the teacher provides the student with the tools for learning, helps her to feel empowered to learn new things on her own, and gives her opportunities to practice learning on her own, then the student may one day surpass the teacher.
Of course, an even higher level of transference is to help the child to understand how she achieved excellence in music and transfer those learning skills to other areas of her life.
7. Provide Motivating and Appropriate Performance Experiences
Without the motivation that comes from playing in groups, recognition at talent shows, performing on recitals, and other opportunities to shine, even the most dedicated student is likely to lose interest.
8. Build Well-Rounded Skills
The famed composer and music educator Zoltán Kodály said, “The characteristics of a good musician are a well-trained ear, a well-trained mind, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand. All four parts must develop together in constant equilibrium” (197). This doesn’t refer to a teacher who talks about developing these skills, but a teacher who actually provides activities, experiences, and challenges developing the student’s hand, heart, mind, and ear in ways that the student can relate to and even love. Students with well-rounded skills are vastly more likely to continue to make music as adults because they can fit into a variety of different musical contexts. Whether it be jamming with their colleagues after work in a rock band, joining the local civic orchestra, or playing Christmas carols at the family holiday party, they will have the skill set to participate confidently in whatever musical endeavors may arise.
9. Make a Positive Difference
In the end, this is all that matters. Most teachers will use the above skills to make a difference, but if a teacher can make a positive change in the student some other way, or with some incredible strength in one of the above areas, but a complete absence of the others, then I say, “More power to you.”
The Right Teacher (Not the Perfect Teacher)
As you can see, this is a daunting list, and it doesn’t even contain a few logistical necessities such as “show up on time,” “maintain a clean, well-lit studio,” “communicate with the parent,” and “stay in business long enough to make a difference.”
The odds that you will find a teacher who is truly excellent in every area are slim to none...Teaching is hard. If it weren’t so rewarding, I think I would go find an easier profession. Maybe alligator wrestling. So, if finding the perfect teacher is impossible, what does it mean to find the “right teacher?” The right teacher is someone who effectively works with your family to create a positive learning experience for your child. This will be different for each child and each family.
1. Be honest and clear in your assessment of your child’s needs and willingness to grow.
A good teacher will work with these needs, but also help you understand how you can build systems and learn techniques for making music-learning enjoyable for the whole family.
2. Seek the advice of trained musicians who are also parents.
Many parents love their child’s teacher despite the fact that their child may be learning next to nothing. In my experience, most parents like teachers who praise their child and create a loving environment. These are good, but insufficient aspects of teaching. On the other hand, professional musicians are often equally poor judges of excellent teaching. Just because someone is the lead guitarist for your favorite local band or the concertmaster of the symphony does not mean she understands the first thing about how to create an effective learning environment. Musical parents whose children have had successful musical training will often be aware of which teachers are both nurturing and effective.
3. Insist on a trial lesson or trial period, not just a conversation.
Observing your child in the context of the lesson is really the only way to judge if this particular teacher will be a good fit for your family. The teacher may come highly recommended, have terrific results with other children, and be the most nurturing person on the planet, but none of that guarantees he will hit it off with your child.
4. Look for a teacher who will provide clear, written goals both for the week and the year.
She should base these goals on the best interests of the child, but also the family situation. For example, a teacher should be interested in the parents’ work schedules, the family’s travel plans, and so forth, anything that might affect practice time. Of course, it is up to the parent to inform the teacher of these situations.
5. Above all, trust your instincts.
A music teacher is often the longest-term mentor a child has. A child will get a new classroom teacher each year (and undoubtedly some of those will be amazing, powerful, and influential), but hopefully she will have the opportunity to work with her music teacher for many years. The teacher need not be perfect, but he should be a source of positive development for your child in as many ways as possible.
With the prospect of a new teacher, a new grade, or even a new school, the end of summer is at once exciting and daunting. Which is why we're excited to honor our students of the month, who meet the challenges of back-to-school with enthusiasm and passion. Congratulations Katherine and Micah we hope that you're school year is full of music, and learning!
Orpheus students are always engaged in some form of group music making. Whether it's in a Musicianship Class, a special ensemble class, or in preparation for one of our Friendship Concerts, making music with your friends is rewarding and fun. As you can imagine, we spend a lot of time thinking about the best ways to pair up different instruments to not only make beautiful music, but new challenges for our students. That's why this month we're honoring two of our string students. The guitar and violin might not be one of the first pairings you think of, but this match up is both unique and beautiful! Congratulations Rania, and Natalia, we can't wait to hear more of your awesome music!
While we love summer at Orpheus because of new musical adventures in summer camps, and performance trips like our concert at Carnegie Hall, many music teachers know that a lack of structure from school and long vacations can make consistent practice a challenge. That's why we're extra excited to honor those students who not only love music, but keep up the hard work during the long hot days of June. Way to go Eli, and Clara, keep up the good work!
What Motivates Me
I have always loved playing in ensembles, and have been doing so since I was young. I saw 'School of Rock' when I was 12, and was incredibly inspired by the limitless potential for expression when musicians band together. The inspiration led me to form a rock band with my best friends, and to take my classical guitar ensemble playing very seriously. Through middle and high school, I played in a few ensembles coached by my teacher, Alan Johnston. Rehearsals were incredibly fun, and I had some amazing opportunities, most notably a performance on NPR's 'From the Top'.
Today I am lucky to pursue this passion as a member of the Austin Guitar Quartet. It is made of four incredibly talented former classmates of mine. Our rehearsals (around 10 hours a week) are always fun and inspiring. We have some amazing opportunities coming up this year, including a concert with my guitar heroes, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet! The talent in this group and the exciting opportunities we've been given make it a huge source of personal inspiration.
Watch Stephen perform with Austin Guitar Quartet here.