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Classical music education is the most traditional form of musical education, however these days there are two ways to go with that kind of knowledge, the first is to stay true to its roots and perform as they would a few decades ago, the second way to go is to take all of that knowledge and bring it to 2019, where electronic music, computers, remixes and samples are a thing, and mixing rock, pop, and rap with orchestras is not a weird thing. These days, as a musician, you need to learn all you can, that way, creativity will blossom in a way it has not before, therefore bringing innovation.

Classical in Modern Rock

While there are many examples to choose from, Radiohead, David Bowie and Muse are some of the names that should be mentioned whenever of talking about classical influences in Rock these days. Whether it’s the influence of Chopin and grandiose feeling that draws Muse, the dissonance and beautiful blending sounds of Radiohead, or the electronic dark new sounds that we hear in David Bowie’s Blackstar, it’s clear that the classical sound is here to stay.

While in not the traditional way, all of these artists have used orchestras and classical inspired melodies to fuel new sounds and ideas which cannot be ignored when studying music as it shows the potential of strong traditional influences.

Gabriel Prokofiev: Remix The Classical

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Gabriel Prokofiev is the grandson of Sergei Prokofiev, the famous Russian composer, and he has been making classical music with a twist, as if the organic was imitating the artificial. On his electronic music influences he said in an interview:

GP: That came first, actually. When I was eleven or twelve years old, it was the 1980s, when you had the birth of electronic music. I liked synth-pop and electronic dance music when I was a teenager. I bought a synthesizer and was very interested in using a computer for music. So, it was something I was always interested in. When it came to studying classical music, I had a real passion for composition and I went to university to study music. In Birmingham University, where I first studied, they had a very good department for electroacoustic music, the classical electronic music, and I studied it further there. This was a very good way for me to discover my voice as a composer, with some disconnection from my classical roots. There was no connection with the symphonic work of my grandfather, when I was using electronics to make a big piece of music, therefore, I could develop as an artist.

However, ultimately, I got frustrated with the electronic music, mainly because the live performance of electronic music is often unsatisfying, because a lot of it is prepared beforehand, there is less of communication between the performer and public. When you see an orchestral performance, you can feel the incredible sense of community, energy. Also, as a composer, I felt even more exhausted, because you have to finish the whole electronic piece in the studio. You become the composer, the performer, and the producer, and you have to include a nuance of a live performance in the studio recording. It is great, but I think there are some brilliant musicians out there – why not to write a score and give it to them, so they could bring a new life into it. I am a sociable and communicative person, and I love the interaction between the composer and a performer. I would like a performer to give their contribution to the work; it should be a conversation.

While these are just a few examples, they are departures of the traditional way of making classical music, in the sense that in order to make something new, classical influences can help achieve that.

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Arguably, the most important skill a musician can acquire is the ability to “play by ear!” Am I dismissing the art of reading notation? Absolutely not. In many aspects of my life as a musician, reading music is essential to me. What I really mean is that, whether a musician is reading music or not, his or her ability to carefully listen to the sound they are producing whilst playing is essential to creating a musical result. I like to call it the “LAD” technique (no offense LADies)! Listen, Analyse and Develop. You have to Listen carefully to the sound you are producing, Analyse the musical elements and then adjust to Develop it yet further. A person might be the best “sight reader” in the world but unless they focus on progressing their “playing by ear”/listening skills, the impact and message of the music will be lost on their audience. “Playing by ear” surely is at the very core of what we do!

So how do we as musicians and teachers develop these essential skills both in ourselves and in our students?

Ear Training Methods

One effective way is to record ourselves and hear our music back. Suddenly we are listening as a third party to the sound and can hear what’s good, bad and ugly! Carefully listening whilst simplifying the music by practicing it slower (and hands separate if possible) can help us focus on detail not previously heard. Other musicians use the

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AN ONGOING CONCERN for many independent music teachers is the change of commitment level of students during the summer months. While some teachers enjoy the usually lightened studio schedule during the summer months, most of us depend on our teaching as our livelihood and have bills that do not go away during this time. I would love to hear your ideas, especially those of you that have been successful at insuring yourselves regular employment year long!

ESTABLISHING A SUMMER REQUIREMENT (a minimum number of lessons, with the option of replacing some private lessons with one of the various summer workshops), has been most helpful for me in keeping things going in my studio.  Though I  cannot really make anyone take classes, the ones that do are assured their slot, or first choice of times in my schedule when the school year comes back around.  My students and parents seem to really enjoy the flexibility with having a couple of options for summer lessons and a variety of supplemental classes.   [···]

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