Last month Macaroni Kids East ran a featured article on WillYouLearn!
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WillYouLearn, NYC's At-Home Music School!
January 29, 2016
Invitations to a child's music recital might well evoke images of dreary auditoriums, yawning parents, and countless renditions of Fur Elise.
Not so for students of WillYouLearn, a nomadic music school serving NYC's five boroughs.
Last spring, WillYouLearn's year-end recital took place at Cafe Vivaldi in the West Village. On a cool May evening, students performed their favorite songs at the iconic venue, accompanied by WillYouLearn faculty. As a special treat, the legendary Ron McClure - bassist for Thelonius Monk and Blood, Sweat and Tears - sat in with the students. His duet with an 8-year-old piano student on Somewhere Over the Rainbow left the audience - parents, relatives and appreciative customers - in tears.
A far cry from the typical recital.
WillYouLearn offers semesterly in-home lessons in piano, guitar, bass, drums, vocals and woodwinds to students of all ages. The faculty is a carefully selected crew. All young professional musicians, all graduates of top music schools, all with years of teaching experience. They perform regularly at clubs from The Bitter End to The Blue Note. You can hear their voices, instruments, or compositions on countless recordings, even catch them on Fox 5’s Star of the Day or Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle.
“We want our students to be able to play music, not just their instrument, and have a great time doing it,” says Will Armstrong, founder of WillYouLearn. While a Masters student at NYU, Will began developing a unique approach to music education inspired by his own study with world-class musicians. His approach treats music like language. Musical phrases become sentences to tell stories and students learn to translate sounds from their ears to their instruments.
He has filled the WillYouLearn faculty with like-minded peers who are dedicated to developing their students' instrumental skills while also encouraging listening, improvisation, and fun. WillYouLearn has taught four-year-olds their first lessons, prepped high school students for college auditions, and reacquainted octogenarians with the instruments of their youth. They’ve taught in grade schools, prep schools, boys and girls clubs, colleges, private homes and universities.
At the end of last spring’s recital, Ron McClure was amazed. “These kids are all really playing music” he said. “I haven’t heard anything like it. They all have great time, they all can hear, they know how to listen and they’re having a blast.”
So if you’re looking for music lessons for your kids, yourself, a loved one or a friend, you can do no better than WillYouLearn. They bring the best part of the New York City music scene to your door and share a passion that’s brought them to the world’s best stages. Whether you’re in the Upper East Side, Gramercy, Brooklyn or Queens, Will Armstrong will match you with one of his amazing faculty members. Who knows? Next recital, you too might share the stage.
For more information or to register for WillYouLearn's Spring semester, visitwww.WillYouLearn.com, call (917) 836-1843, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEAL ALERT! Sign up for the Spring semester by February 15th
and get $100 off your first semester tuition with code "macaroni."
Jam sessions - a place to learn new tunes, meet new musicians, work out your chops, "cut your teeth", make mistakes and take risks. Here's the other evenings take of Miles Davis' tune "Nardis" from a weekly session hosted by our guitarist Isaac.
Recently, my family and I had brunch with my 95 year old grandmother at her assisted living home. Jerry Roman, the regular pianist at Foxhill, stopped playing as we walked in and gave my grandmother an “uninterrupted hug.” Jerry’s a favorite among the elderly crowd, one of those guys that seems to know every tune in the book. The residents call out, “Play As Time Goes By . . . Easter Parade . . . New York, New York,” and Jerry doesn’t miss a beat. He keeps his left hand stride going and plays the melodies loud and clear, always smiling and greeting his audience. The residents tap a hand or foot if they can, the nurses may move a wheelchair along to the music. Mrs. Hudson always yells out, “Play When The Saints Go Marching In.” Jerry plays it every time, and every time, Mrs. Hudson, laughing, tells him to take some piano lessons.
Like most the resident’s of Foxhill’s seventh floor, my grandmother requires full time care. She can’t walk on her own, feed or bathe herself and her memory is fading. When we sat down to brunch she looked at me and then asked my mom “Is that Jim?” Remarkably though, like most resident’s of the seventh floor, she knows all the words to the tunes that Jerry plays.
After brunch my family and I slipped off to another room with a grand piano. “Play All The Things You Are” my grandmother asked me. It's the one tune Jerry doesn’t know. I played and she sang along. She knew all the words.
In his blog, our saxophonist Stan shares a story about his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. Stan's father was a pianist who “knew neither which day nor month it was, who was the President of the United States nor his physical location, but he could still play.” His post is accompanied by a recording of Stan’s and his father’s last duo session. They’re playing All The Things You Are.
The neurologist Olive Sacks writes, “Alzheimer's can totally destroy the ability to remember family members or events from one's own life—but musical memory somehow survives the ravages of disease, and even in people with advanced dementia, music can often reawaken personal memories and associations that are otherwise lost...Music is much more than a beautiful luxury: It is a fundamental way of expressing our humanity—and it is often our best medicine.”
The WillYouLearn faculty will be performing a spring concert at the Metropolitan Room on Monday, May 12 at 9:30. The club is on 22nd st between 5th and 6th. It may be late for the kids but a great chance for you parents and older students to meet each other and get to check out our faculty in action. We'll be playing a slew of original tunes and I'm hard at work writing some exciting new music for the gig. On another note the owner of the Metropolitan Room has asked that we put together a weekend ensemble workshop at the club starting in May. It will be a sort of continuing ed. coached jazz ensemble for all levels and instruments. More to come on that soon!
So much of learning to play music is about imitation. Jazz musicians especially are notorious for transcribing and learning solos from their idols. One of the first things you hear when a jazz musician talks about another jazz musician “oh he sounds just like so and so, or he kind of sounds like so and so!” Rarely is it the goal to sound exactly like someone else but it’s hard to avoid sounding at least a little like your influences. I’ve heard more than a few times something along-the-lines of, “man you’ve got that Kenny Barron thing going on.” It just so happens I learned a lot of Kenny’s solos when I was first starting, he’s one of my idols (but I’d be so lucky to sound like Kenny). Then there are those few incomparable musicians. Those musicians that you hear and they are so plainly themselves, so clearly identifiable. Charlie Parker, Miles, Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum to name a few. A few weeks ago, backstage at Lincoln Center, I overheard one of the most well known jazz pianists alive today say he doesn’t hear anyone trying to sound like him, but in every city he goes there’s always someone trying to play like Brad Mehldau. But even in many of these cases, the cases of the legends, there was a lot of imitation involved. If you listen to Blue Mitchel’s “Thing to do” you could easily mistake the album’s young pianist Chick Corea for McCoy Tyner. Chick himself admits he tried to sound just like Bud Powell for a while, and Chick has one of the most recognizable sounds of anyone. Miles Davis says he used to break Clark Terry, Louis Armstrong and Parker records by replaying them until he could play all the solos. Kenny Barron says he knew all of Red Garland’s solos on Mile’s album “‘Round About Midnight.” You ask Kenny Barron now about Red Garland and he says he admires his touch and phrasing. Coincidentally Kenny’s has incredible touch and phenomenal phrasing. Listen to his take of “Embraceable You” on his album “New York Attitude.” Imitation is a crucial part of learning to play music. If music is like a language then the best way to learn it is by surrounding yourself by people who speak it, by records and by seeing live shows. I often get asked how much should a student be practicing, the answer of course depends, I know I should be practicing constantly, but equally as important is listening. Real listening, not just in the background. Trying to learn music without listening is like learning a language without hearing it, or like trying to write fiction without reading. Not only does listening give us something to imitate, but it also helps us develop our tastes. My first jazz piano lesson started with my teacher asking me what I listen to, I said Third Eye Blind, he said “... why.” I had no answer, he told me to check out “Kind of Blue” and Chick Corea Herbie Hancock duo records. That’s where my musical education began. To this day Mike Price still calls me up at three in the morning “Man you’ve gotta youtube Jimmy Hendricks at Madison Square Garden, that’s music!” Listening is key. The infamous pianist, MacArthur genius and Gorton’s Fisherman doppelganger, Ran Blake says, “...One’s single most crucial ally in the exploration of music is the ear. When you listen, the ear reacts before the brain has time to process; it is an honest broker. When you play, the ear pulls you to a sound faster and more confidently than your brain; it is the part of you most in clutches of the muse. More than any other learning tool, the ear offers a straight line to your musical DNA and allows you to access and communicate your most honest, most original music.”
For me, this is the goal, to play with honesty and originality. Something that can only be accomplished by listening