​ DAMTA - Blog


October 1, 2016:
DAMTA President's Message
Hello DAMTA!
I want to throw something out there that's been bugging me. I've always tried to get my young (and not so young!) students to count out loud. They always resist it, but their rhythm always improves when they do. I also encourage use of a metronome to develop playing with a steady beat. My experience with recording with a click track in studio sessions tells me that this is an absolutely valuable skill.
I was surprised then to see that when I replied to a post in an online teacher's forum about counting out loud, not a few teachers seemed strongly opposed to both counting out loud and using a metronome! I didn't see that they had better answers to developing rhythm.
Let me know what you all do to develop rhythm in your students. Counting out loud, metronome or something else? I am putting this message up on the DAMTA Facebook page. Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/DAMTA1942
Leave a comment with your thoughts!

September 1, 2015:
September President's Message
Greetings, DAMTA members! Welcome to the 2015-2016 school year. I know I am looking forward to our fall course with Dr. Carol Ann Barry, and another year fighting ignorance in music!
This month I wanted to share some thoughts on a book I’m reading by David Graeber entitled Debt: The First 5,000 Years. When I got it, I thought it was going to be about the financial crisis, interest rates, etc. I’m not through it yet, so that stuff may be in there. But what I’ve read so far is much more profound. He talks about how the idea of the financial transaction is so woven into the fabric of every day society, that it becomes the prism through which we see almost everything. Of course, we use money to pay for the everyday things in life; rent, food, cars, even jewelry.
But the idea of debt in our world goes far beyond that. When a person is convicted of a crime, he is considered to owe a debt to society, which is somehow supposed to be paid for with the appropriate amount of suffering. Children are thought to owe a debt to their parents, and parents are thought to
owe certain things to their children as well. What he points out in the book is that trying to keep some kind of ledger on all these “debts” can get so complicated, it’s virtually impossible to ever sort it all out. The deeper message is that in human interactions and history, there’s a lot if evidence to indicate that it is in many ways foolish to even try. What do you owe to your parents? Try to put a price tag on it and you will go insane! And more to the point, it never really captures the essence of our relationships.
I think as music teachers we grapple with this every day. We are paid to teach by our students (or their parents). But what does that entitle them to? Of course the half hour or hour of our time that they “paid for.” But what else? Kindness? Conscientiousness? Preparation? Consideration? Yes, but how much of any of these things? It’s always a judgement call that’s in constant flux based on our own capacities and the reactions of our students and their parents.
My message to you today is that I think it leads to too much stress and resentment to over think “the ledger” with our students. Of course, we need to be paid our rates according to our agreements and policies. On time and in full, if you please! But beyond that, I have kind of a communistic attitude: “From each according to their abilities and to each according to their needs.” Some students are more trouble than others. Some are more work because they are brilliant! Should we charge them different rates? Some kind of hassle tax? I don’t think so.
And what I find is that the more generous I am with my time and effort, the more fun I have teaching. And the more appreciative my students and their parents are of me.
Does it always work beautifully? Of course not. But it works more often than not, and it makes teaching more gratifying. Plus, I didn’t go into teaching for the high salary or the 401k! I do it because every day I get to do something I really love: music! So I’m all for anything that makes it more fun, even if it’s a bit more work.
So, if you can, let go of the tit-or-tat calculations of who owes whom exactly what. Be generous with your time and attention and have fun!
See you In September!

August 1, 2015:
August President's Message
G Vince Madison
reetings, DAMTA members! An- Second, one of my adult students brought other school year is fast approach- to my attention an article in the NY Times. ing. I hope you all are enjoying the There is a young woman, Christina Kobb in
summer. Oslo, Norway, who is doing research into the
???First, I want to encourage everyone to sign up for our Fall Course, “Finding the Emotional Rhythm,” presented by our own Carol Ann Barry. In my day-to-day teach- ing, I know I sometimes get so wrapped up in trying to get my students to play the right notes and the correct rhythm, that consid- erations of emotional content get pushed to the back burner. But music’s premier pur- pose is the communication of emotion (in my humble opinion), and I am excited to have a Fall Course that addresses this aspect of music-making. I think we will have some fascinating discussions on this topic!
pedagogical publications in the 19th centu- ry. She’s found that the piano technique in various texts has great consistency in that era, but differs remarkably from techniques taught today. Not sure what to make of her findings as far as my own teaching goes, but I think what she has to say is food for thought!
Stay cool, and I will see you all in Septem- ber, or at the Ice Cream Social in August! ?

May 1, 2015:
May President's Message
Music Competitions: A Good Idea?

When I was at the MTNA Conference in March, a big part of it was the competition among students from all over the country. I know these competitions are important for establishing credentials for aspiring classical performers. Winning competitions opens the doors to college admissions and concert engagements. But I have a fundamental problem with the concept of
competitions in artistic endeavors. Sports competitions are easily determined; whoever makes the most points wins! In a race the first one across the finish line wins. Sure, there are blown calls and blind refs, but at least we agree what the objectives are. But in art, including music, winners are not so obvious. You can keep track of the number of mistakes someone makes or how close to the prescribed tempo someone is able to get. But matters of sheer technique such as these do not get to the heart of why we play music.

What makes a great musical performance? I believe it's the performer's ability to communicate emotion. When an artist plays something that moves you to tears or just makes you so excited you can hardly stand it, you've heard a great performance. But these emotional reactions are not quantifiable. There’s no “emotion meter”!

Of course wrong notes and bad technique are going to get in the way of emotional expression. But simply “playing everything right” is not enough to take your breath away. But music (or any art) should take your breath away! But how do we judge such things? I don’t know that you can, because the same performance that leaves one person in dumbstruck awe may just leave someone else thinking, “Well, that was dumb!” The way we respond to art is a very personal “from the gut” thing. You can write a 500 page book telling me why I should like Schoenberg, but if I don’t, I don’t! And someone else may find more emotional depth from a little girl singing her heart out with her guitar that they do from a NY Philharmonic concert.

So in the end, a musical competition is just the collective opinion of a bunch of judges about who they liked best on a particular day. If these judges are respected artists themselves, perhaps their opinions are valuable. But they are opinions, not facts. And I just shudder to think that these opinions might cause some young musician who comes in 4th or 5th to give up playing out of humiliation. People do have to learn how to deal with competition in life. I just think trying to teach that lesson on an artistic playing field creates more problems than it solves.

I like the idea of musicians getting together and playing for each other. I can also see the value of a “master class” where an experienced artist shares his insights with younger students. But do trophies and ribbons contribute to creating a love of music among music students? I’m not sure.

I don’t have all the answers on this one. I’m sure there are many arguments against my ideas here. In fact, I would love to hear them! I am posting this on my blog (which I am resurrecting for today after 4 years of inactivity!) Feel free to go there and leave comments.

Here’s the link:


Let me know what you think!!

Vince Madison, 303-731-7933 http://vincemadison.com

April 1, 2015:
April President's Message
Normally I try to present some philosophical topic about teaching music in these messages, but today I have an important announcement to make about our organization’s future!

On April 8 we will have our final meeting at Schmidt Music in Englewood. They have been very gracious the last few years in providing us with a meeting space every month, and we are grateful for their hospitality

As most of you may recall, our previous meeting space was Wells Music in Denver. Wells became Schmidt Music and moved to Englewood. Leaving Denver didn’t seem like a good idea, but we had no better alternative. Until now.

The old Joe Onofrio piano store on South Broadway was purchased a couple of years ago by a company from Portland Oregon; Classic Pianos. They have done extensive renovations to the building, including creating a brand new meeting space/recital hall. It’s the perfect size for our meetings (holds 60-75 people). An added bonus is that it is on the ground loor, far away from the piano showrooms on the second floor. So we will no longer have noise issues in the middle of our presentations.

Don West of Classic Pianos has invited us to use this new space free of charge, not only for our meetings, but for our musicales as well. After consultation with the DAMTA board, we have decided to move our permanent meeting space to Classic Pianos. Our first meeting there will be Wed. May 13, our Teacher’s Musicale! You may want to consider signing up to perform, because the piano there is a gorgeous Yamaha C7 Disclavier.

If you need a recital space, Classic Pianos is making this room available for recitals for only $50.

Here is Classic Piano’s address: Classic Pianos, 1332 S Broadway, STE 200, Denver, CO 80210

I hope you are as excited about this new space as I am. I know this may be a slightly farther drive for some of you, and I am sorry if that’s the case. But I think the improvements for our meetings will be worth it.

One more piece of good news. The DAMTA board and membership have approved a budget for an Audio/visual system for the new space. This will include a 55” HD TV for computer presentations, as well as a high quality sound system. So in the future, no more straining to see the laptop screens of our presenters, or strain to hear musical examples through computer speakers! The system should be in place by our 1st September meeting.

Thanks again for granting me the honor to serve as your president. I hope to see you all this Wednesday, as we will be voting on next year’s slate of officers.

DAMTA President

Vince Madison, President

March 1, 2015:
March President's Message
There’s no accounting for taste!

I’m sure you’ve heard that hundreds of times. But this week I was struck by how true those words are.

I have a very talented teenage girl that I teach. She’s only been playing 2 years and has made great progress. The last month or two we’ve been working on Bach’s 2 part invention in Dm. I really love this piece and expected my student would as well. She’s played a number of classical pieces, so I know she doesn’t have an aversion to classical music.She worked very hard on the invention, and got it to a point where she could play it perfectly at a slow tempo. This week, she told me that she was really getting tired of the piece, and didn’t want to work on it any more. She said, “I just don’t like Bach that much.” Coming from most of my students, I would think it was just an excuse to be lazy. But not from this girl. I realized that she was being honest. She just didn’t like Bach!

To someone who thinks Bach is the cornerstone of western music (me) this was hard to understand. But Bach does have a definite style, and not everyone likes it. It’s not a matter of education or lack of understanding. It’s just a matter of taste.

It’s actually one of the mysteries of life. Why do we like what we like? Art critics write volumes trying to justify their own tastes, but I think this is a fool’s errand. People like what they like and all the logic in the world will not convince them otherwise.

Some will say that is because art and aesthetics are nonsensical. They don’t submit to logic.

I believe that art and aesthetics operate on a higher plane than logic. So the fact that logic fails to explain art is logic’s shortcoming! And the fact that different people love different art is a celebration of the uniqueness of each of us. Some things just don’t need an explanation!

There’s no accounting for taste!

Vince Madison, President

February 1, 2015:
February President's Message
President’s Message February, 2015

Hi All: I came across an interesting article that made me take a look at my day to day life.

The article is entitled “Multitasking is Making You Stupid.”

Here’s the link:


The article presents a University of London study that found that “constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental capability by an average of 10 points on an IQ test. It was five points for women, and fifteen points for men. This effect is similar to missing a night's sleep. For men, it’s around three times more than the effect of smoking cannabis. While this fact might make
an interesting dinner party topic, it's really not that amusing that one of the most common ‘productivity tools’ can make one as dumb as a stoner."

Many of our members will apologetically say that they are not tech savvy. Maybe it’s not entirely a bad thing. But while I think technology can be a great tool, it does have its downside. Being hyper-connected 24/7 can make it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. Your phone keeps making little beeps to alert you that something vital ( like another cat video) has just hit Facebook. You’re trying to work on something on your computer, and a pop-up tells you that you just got an email from Amazon.

The fact is that you cannot multi-task. “ Multi-tasking” is actually just shifting from doing one thing, leaving it incomplete, going quickly to another thing which you also leave incomplete, and on and on and on… It seems to me that having to constantly remember where you left off with something is taxing and counter-productive. No wonder it slows people down and reduces effectiveness.

Now this article juxtaposed multi-tasking and smoking marijuana for dramatic effect. I’m sure emailing and texting doesn’t introduce foreign chemicals into your brain! But it got me thinking about the ability to concentrate. It’s so vital to playing music. I have a 14 year old who I’ve been teaching for a few years, and she has great concentration! It really serves her well and it’s no coincidence that she’s one of my most accomplished students.

I do think that in our short-attention-span culture, uninterrupted concentration is vastly under-valued. And it’s a valuable thing. Symphonies are not written between “tweets”! Greatness in anything demands long hours of uninterrupted work. I think survival in the 21st century must include the ability to “un-plug” while one devotes uninterrupted time to whatever important
work one has to do. And encouraging our young people to cultivate the ability to concentrate is vital for their future and the future of our society.

The cat videos can wait!

Vince Madison, President

January 1, 2015:
January President's Message
DAMTA President's Message January 2015

Happy New Year everyone! We should have an interesting year ahead! We have some great programs lined up.

Let Amanda know if you are interested in performing in the teachers Musicale in May.

I will be sending the MTNA convention in Vegas this March! Thank you all for providing me this opportunity, and I will provide DAMTA Passalongs email updates like last year.

This fall, we are moving our regular meeting place to Joe Onofrio Piano on south Broadway! No more meetings with piano tuning and organ demonstration accompaniment!
We are going to discuss buying a system to allow future presenters to display power point presentations or other computer displays at our next board meeting. I would love to hear your thoughts on this idea. Email me at mail@vincemadison.com with any comments or suggestions.

Looking forward to a fabulous 2015! See you all in January! Vince Madison, President

December 1, 2014:
President's Message December 2014
As Thanksgiving approaches with the holidays hard on its heels, I just want to express my gratitude to all of you for allowing me to serve as DAMTA President. I had a great time attending and presenting at the Fall Course this year, and am looking forward to our spring programs.
I just want to express my appreciation to everyone for being part of DAMTA. I know membership in DAMTA is not mandatory, and I do my best to make your experiences here as rewarding and interesting as possible. Always feel free to let me know of any ideas you have to improve DAMTA. I think getting together with other music teachers is a valuable and enjoyable experience, so DAMTA is valuable to me and I hope to you as well.

Here’s wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving and even Happier Holidays!

November 1, 2014:
November President's Message
This month I want to recommend a book to that I just finished. It’s “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle. The sub-title is: “Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown. Here’s How.”

If you have already read this book, I apologize for being late to the party (it was published in 2009.) But if you haven’t run across it yet, you should drop everything and get it! Here’s why.

The Talent Code is about answering a simple question: ”What is the secret to getting really, really good at something?”

As piano teachers, it’s a question of paramount relevance. It gets to the heart of what we do every day. So what does this book have to teach us?

Daniel Coyle spent 2 years travelling to 9 different “talent hotbeds”. Small places that have produced large numbers of talented people. He explored musicians, tennis players, soccer players, baseball players among others. And he found that beneath the surface, these training grounds shared methods of practice, coaching and motivation that are key to their success. And they are successful. There’s a tiny Russian tennis club that has produced more top 20 players than the entire United States. A tiny Music camp in Upstate New York that has produced the likes of Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua bell among others. Mr. Coyle takes you behind the scenes to reveal the secrets of what these places have in common. The good news is that the book is loaded with techniques you can put to use immediately in your studio every day.

The other dimension of this book that is useful as well as fascinating is an exploration of the latest discoveries in neuro-science that explain how practicing effects your brain and nervous system. There are real physical differences in the brains and nervous systems of highly skilled people. And these differences are not born into people. They develop with practice.

The Talent Code is not about shortcuts. Mastering any skill, including music, takes years of dedicated practice. But if that practice is done correctly and effectively, it will yield results. And the book also shares insights on how to light a fire in the student that will sustain him through all that hard work.

And to my mind, that’s the most hopeful message of the Talent Code. While acknowledging that people are born with varying degrees of aptitude, the message of The Talent Code is loud and clear: How good you get has far more to do with what you do than who you are. Over and over again he exposes “natural born, overnight sensations” with the cold hard truth: They actually had worked their tails off for years before “making it overnight”! The people in these “talent hotbeds” do not share any unique genetics. They share being trained effectively.

I’ve already started using some of the techniques in this book, and can see differences in my students. Do yourself a favor and read this book!

Vince Madison, DAMTA President

October 21, 2014:
A Message from one of our Fall Course presenters: Leila Viss
I am looking forward to presenting as part of the DAMTA fall course. The line-up of sessions looks fabulous, congratulations!

My session will offer some tools to trigger student creativity, develop compositional skills as well as offer suggestions for the top notational tech tools. I'll also provide some innovative ideas for showcasing the student masterpieces.

As I try to avoid using paper, my lengthy handout with hyper links can be found here: DAMTA Creativity Handout

Looking forward to seeing you soon!


October 1, 2014:
October President's Message

Every week we see little kids one after the other. We try our best to impart our knowledge and love of music. Sometimes there are greater and lesser triumphs. More often it’s listening to why there was just no time to practice this week! But as music teachers we occupy a special place in our student’s lives, and what we teach them goes way beyond the notes and often way beyond any words we actually say.

Think about this. Once a week this little person shares a half hour of your undivided attention. Just you and them, one on one. Besides their parents, who else does that? (Sometimes in large families, even mom and dad have a hard time doing that consistently.)

Every week they are watching us. Are we kind, funny, and patient? Do we care how they feel? Do we demand the best from them that they have to give? When they give it, do we notice? Do we look them in the eye and let them know we really are there for them?

Often we are the first person outside of the family with which a kid builds a relationship. She’s learning how to talk to people. How to negotiate. The difference between being funny and obnoxious (not an easy task!) He’s learning about respect and give and take. Oh yes, and about how to create in one of the world’s great art forms!

Let’s face it, very few of our students are headed to Julliard or Carnegie Hall. But every one of them is going to go out in the world and have to deal with people every day. Keep in mind what your kids learn from you in your half hour a week may not just be the ability to play Bach, but some day, when they are a boss, the proper balance between kindness and discipline to show a struggling employee. Or they may learn that things that seem impossible at first glance will surrender to patience and applied effort.

You have a big impact on a kid in that half hour a week! Make the most of it!

Vince Madison

September 1, 2014:
September President's Message
Hi Everyone!
I want to welcome all of you back to the official start of the new school year! I am really looking forward to this 2014-15 season of DAMTA!

The biggest reason is our fall course this year: "Teaching Composition". It promises to be varied and really a lot of fun. With 7 different presenters, we will be getting a lot of different perspectives on the idea of working composition and improvisation into our studios.

I know not all of you fancy yourselves composers. You don't have to be a composer to get your students thinking about making up their own music and improvising. I really want to encourage any of you who have not yet signed up for the fall course to do so. Our enrollment numbers are down from this time last year, and I really think that this will be one of the most interesting fall courses ever. So don't miss out!

You can mail your check for $110 to our new Treasurer:
Nikki Groff

Or you can register on the first day at Schmitt Music.

Either way I hope to see everyone, (and I do mean everyone!) there.

Vince Madison

August 1, 2014:
August President's Message
Hi everyone!
August is almost here. What the heck happened to the summer! I hope all of you have had some rest and relaxation and have been able to enjoy our beautiful Colorado Scenery!

This month I want to share some thoughts on a book that I am in the middle of. It’s called “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being. Wisdom and Wonder.” (quite a title!) It’s by Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post fame.

The book has a lot of different aspects to it, but the chapter that I have found most useful so far is one about sleep. She share a lot of scientific research about how valuable sleep is, and how devastating a lack of sleep can be to our health.

In our crazy-busy lives, sleep is often where we steal extra time to get things done. It seems harmless, even noble! But aside from the obvious downside of feeling awful when hyou’re tired, lack of sleep can really have long term effects on your health, cause premature againg, and impair your judgment and effectiveness. You are slower when you are tired, so the time you gain losing sleep if often lost in slower progress when you are working.

Believe me, no one is guiltier of this than I. But I forced myself to get good sleep as an experiment, and the difference was amazing! I felt so much better, and was so much sharper in my lessons.

How much sleep is enough? That varies from person to person. I know for me it’s 7 hours. My wife needs 8. The next time you can, just try to wake up without an alarm, and only get up when you feel refreshed. You might be in for a pleasant surprise!

Vince Madison, DAMTA President

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