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Bassfest 2012!

Attention all bass cleffers! The Toronto Music Alliance first ever Bassfest is coming Friday, March 23rd! Read on for more information about the awesomeness that it will entail.

Bassists are, for the most part, the most easy-going, nicest group of players out there. It's time that we all got together, share some knowledge, share some music, jam a bunch and eat some pizza.

When: Friday, March 23rd starting at 6:00 p.m.

Where: Toronto Music Alliance HQ

Please bring $10-$20 to help cover the cost of the space and pizza. Beverages and some sight-reading fun stuff will be provided.

And even if you're not a current student of ToMA, come and bring your bass. Hope to see you there!

Congratulations, students!

Wow, what a recital! And standing room only! Congratulations for all Toronto Music Alliance performers for an incredible job, with great performences and showing off what you can do.

From woefully underguessing how many chairs we would need (more than 70 of you showed up today) to somehow managing to show off all the remarkable talent in about an hour, the first ever Winter Recital was a smashing success. We heard students of all levels playing in all genres, from Chopin to Peterson to Clementi.

We were also very proud to introduce the two newest members of our faculty, Milen Petzelt-Sorace and Sarah Davidson-Gurney. Sarah also graced us with a special performance on her violin.

Many of you also came up to congratulate us on everything we're doing. Thank you for the kind words! But it doesn't end there. If you have other ideas, comments, kudos(es?) or beefs, please tell us! We're only as great as the community that exists, and you've shown us how great a community you really are. Let us continue to be your school, your music and truly your community.

Thank you all!

New Additions to the ToMA Faculty

Toronto Music Alliance is thrilled to announce our newest faculty members, Sarah Davidson-Gurney and Milen Petzelt Sorace!

Ms. Davidson-Gurney recently completed her Master's degree in violin performance at York University. A student of Jacques Israelievich, her talented performance ability as well as great teaching experience will be an invaluable addition to the ToMA instrumental offerings. Also, Sarah is offering the co-requisite Music History courses for Royal Conservatory Grades nine through ARCT. 

Mr. Petzelt-Sorace will also be helping to fill in the co-requisite courses, offering new theory students a chance to learn the fundamentals in a fun, modern way. (He was a student of David Stone's, after all!) Also, Milen is able to teach budding composers multiple techniques regarding composition and arranging. His stylistic breadth ranges from traditional string quartets to progressive rock ensembles and almost everything in between. 

For more information about these new teachers, check out their bio pages on the Faculty page of the website.

With these additions, Toronto Music Alliance is now able to offer every single co-requisite course for Royal Conservatory, from prelinimary rudiments to counterpoint and analysis, as well as all history courses. 

Welcome, Sarah and Milen!

Thoughts on Suzuki and Traditional Piano Methods

Ida Neufeld, Suzuki piano teacher at Toronto Music Alliance, shares her thoughts on Suzuki and Traditional Methods of Teaching Piano: Differences and Similarities.

Suzuki and Traditional Methods of Teaching Piano: Differences and Similarities

by Ida Neufeld

I have often been asked by parents of prospective students, "What is the best way to start my child in learning to play the piano?" Since this question is very common, I would like to share some insights on the topic. My thoughts and opinions are based on the extensive experience of more than 25 years of teaching both Suzuki and Traditional methods.

A lot of parents and childhood experts believe in early childhood education and I wholeheartedly agree with them. But how much can a child of three or four absorb without getting frustrated and impatient with the demands of grown-ups? This is where the Suzuki Method comes in. Young children love to play, of course, and introducing the instrument in a playful way has a much better chance of success in the long run. Most children by age three or four can clap simple rhythms, sing and count their fingers and naturally imitate the teacher.

But reading music? Not usually, or particularly well. This usually does not occur until the child can read letters and words by about seven years of age. Reading musical notation - especially piano music with two clefs (treble and bass) - is quite complicated. The only thing you can achieve with a four year old trying to do it is a lot of frustration.

Volume one of the Suzuki Piano Method book consists of a lot of simple melodies and predictable left hand finger patterns. The students listen to the accompanying CD and can sing along with it, using words either made up by the teacher or available with some songs, such as Mary Had a Little Lamb or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Young children can develop their finger dexterity quite well before starting to read music, as well as musical memory. This, I feel, is the major advantage of starting music lessons at a young age.

The memorization of patterns that such children develop is a major advantage to them not only in studying music, but other subjects later on when they start school.

Starting with volume two of Suzuki Piano Method, we begin to see an integration of Suzuki and Traditional repertoire. Some of the pieces in volume two are the same as RCM grades 1 to 3, so the technical challenges are the same.

But Suzuki students - who already started playing at age  four - have a better ability to overcome those challenges due to early technical and pattern training.

So, if parents ask me how I teach a beginning four, five or six year old, my answer is definitely the Suzuki Method.

If a child is older - seven and up - they could start either, since at that age they should have no problem with developing reading skills (having learned to read and write in school).

Sometimes, we select appropriate repertoire from both the Suzuki and RCM books to accommodate their level of playing.

Another important point I would like to address separately here is the ability to read musical notation for Suzuki students, as there are some claims by traditional teachers that Suzuki students can’t read. I introduce a series of reading books, usually at the beginning of volume two, that are easy to comprehend and have very large text. There are three books in this series, and by the middle of the third book, students usually start reading their main repertoire with no difficulty.

One final issue is RCM exams. A lot of my students take RCM exams (including Suzuki students) starting in  grade 3 or above. Suzuki students often perform very well, especially memorizing and ear training as these traits were developed early on.

Overall, I wanted all parents, students and teachers to recognize that that Suzuki and Traditional methods are not necessarily polar opposites, but rather complement each other in the musical development of the student.

--Ida Neufeld

Winter Recital: January 29th

Our Winter Recital is fast approaching! Read on for all the details.



Winter Recital: Sunday, January 29th at 11:00 a.m.

The recital will take place at the Women's Art Association Gallery, located at 23 Prince Arthur Avenue, near Bloor and Avenue Road. 

The cost is $10 per student.

The Women's Art Association Gallery is close to the St. George subway station, with lots of street parking and a large Green P lot within a block or two of the building. The facility is a beautiful space, perfect for a morning concert. Coffee and tea will be served.

We hope to see lots of friends, family and performers showing off what they have learned! The best performances are given to packed houses, so let's come together and make it a morning to remember.

Click this link to View Map.