Philadelphia Wind Symphony Concert – Sunday, March 4

February 11th, 2012

The second concert of the Philadelphia Wind Symphony will be held on Sunday, March 4th at 3:00 pm in Caplan Hall, located at the University of the Arts in Center City. Directions and ticket information can be found at www.philadelphia

Overture to “La Forza del Destino” – Verdi/arr. Lake
Symphony No. 3 – Giannini
Children’s March: “Over the Hills and Far Away” – Grainger
Mandalen Landscapes – Sparke
Scenes from “The Louvre” – Dello Joio


The Philadelphia Wind Symphony Inagural Concert

November 20th, 2011

Greetings, all!

I am happy and proud to announce the Inagural Concert of the newly formed Philadelphia Wind Symphony, of which I serve as Principal Clarinet. The concert will be held on Sunday, December 4th at 3:00 pm at the Levitt Auditorium in Gershman Hall (University of the Arts – Philadelphia). Tickets are $10 at the door and $5 for seniors and students with valid ID. Here is our concert program:

Barber – Commando Overture
Jenkins – American Overture for Band
Lauridson/Reynolds – O Magnum Mysterium
Holst – First Suite in E-flat
Reed – Russian Christmas Music
Zaninelli – Three Dances of Enchantment

Our conductor is Virginia Allen, a third-generation conductor who currently serves on the faculties of Julliard and the Curtis Institute. Please visit our website at or like us on Facebook to keep up with news, updates, and concert info. I’m looking forward to seeing you there!


Into the 21st Century: Technology in Music

July 27th, 2011

I recently had the opportunity to take over the music program at the Wilbur Watts Intermediate School in the Burlington City School District. I teach 3rd through 6th grade General Music, and I see over 500 students in 20 classes each week for about 45 minutes each class (that’s a lot of names to remember! ). This September, I will be able to affect my class in any direction I wish, and using the models and advice of successful music educators, both local and national, I am finding that there is a common thread that is growing more apparent in what may be called “classroom-based” music classes, as opposed to performance-based classes such as band, choir, or orchestra. Music educators in the 21st century are taking the initiative, many because of new district and state level goals, to incorporate technology in their classes. As a member of “Generation X” (those born between 1960-1980), I was present for the birth of the “Age of Technology”, or basically the advent of the internet and other tools of mass communication. Though I’m only 32, I still get looks of disbelief from my students when I tell them that I grew up without internet, cell phones, cd’s, or even video games (I started with an Atari). I took my first computer class when I was a senior in high school, nowadays many kids work with computers before they even start kindergarten! As such, the world of education (and the world in general) is becoming much more technologically-based, and it is this trend that we as educators must embrace if we are to keep the interest of our students and move our craft into the 21st century.

Because school districts are now making more resolutions to have classes taught with technological resources, music and other “specials” are no exception. However, I soon found myself a little overwhelmed with the daunting task of choosing which resources to explore and implement in my class. I wasn’t interested in turning my class into a tech lab, but I did want to use software that kids could understand and enjoy while learning music in a way that would foster creativity and academic achievement. Fortunately, there are some really great organizations whose function is to assist educators in incorporating technology into their programs. Two groups in particular that have really helped me are Soundtree, ( the educational division of Korg, and TI:ME, ( or Technology in Music Education. Both groups gave me recommendations for which software to use in my classes based on the demographic, number of students in each class, and what I wanted to accomplish through instruction and performance. Their representatives will speak directly with you to assess your needs and goals, and they’ll also give suggestions for funding prospects.

Let’s face it, even though school districts say they want more technology in the classroom, fine arts classes are sometimes left behind. My school in particular has SmartBoards in every class, except in the Art and Music rooms. And until the fine arts are tested on the NJ-ASK or HSPA tests, there may always be an issue getting these types of materials in the music room. However, there are several ways of finding funds externally that can get you the resources you need to start incorporating technology into the classroom. A book I’m fond of is called Finding Funds for Music Technology, by Dr. Thomas Rudolph. You can find it on the Soundtree website, and it’s very helpful for locating sources of external funds from various sources, including local, state, and even national-level donors and grant corporations. I’m still in the process of acquiring funds for the materials I need (I really want a SmartBoard), but I know that ultimately, my students will be the ones who benefit.  Whether you’re a first-year teacher, or have been teaching for decades, the fact remains that students respond more to technology-based resources at any grade level. For us to adapt to the changing needs and interests of our students, we must adapt our educational practices to a new level as we travel through the 21st century.

A True Champion of Indomitable Spirit

May 22nd, 2011

A few weeks ago, I came across a YouTube video showing an incredible performance of a young girl from China playing Richard Clayderman’s “Souvenir D’enfance”. Normally, this would not warrant such a strong reaction, but under the circumstances, this particular performance is nothing short of austounding. If you look carefully, you will notice that the performer has no fingers on her right hand. Zheng Guigui, a 19 year old from Henan Province, was born without them due to a genetic defect. Even more amazing is the fact that Zheng has only been studying the piano for about three years. This is a perfect example of how powerful indomitable spirit can be to a willing heart. It really makes us think about all the times we feel unmotivated to do something just because we feel it’s too difficult, or because of the fear we feel should we fail. In music, and in life, we have to be willing to fall on stumbling blocks if we are to learn the skills to help us success. Even Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time, went through over 1,000 failures in the making of his electric lightbulb. When asked how he persevered through all those failures, he humorously replied, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.” If we allow ourselves to lose our fears and believe in the power of what we can do when we believe and work hard to achieve our goals, then nothing can stop us from succeeding. After all, nothing is impossible to a strong mind and a willing heart.

Auditions: Prep, Prep, and More Prep

April 9th, 2011

Thinking of the NJASK test my students will be taking early next month, I remembered an old quote I learned years ago: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. Of course, I’m not one to believe in luck, but I do believe that the opportunity to succeed is out there for those who not only look for it, but also are prepared when opportunity finds them. My school is scheduled to administer the NJASK tests to all our 3-6 grade students, and I’m sure the teachers, parents, and adminstration will be wishing them “good luck” before they begin. We all know that it is not luck that will determine how well they do, but how much they have been prepared by their teachers, and how much they have prepared themselves by studying and completing their assignments.

As a musician, the first thing I think of when I hear the word “test” is the synonym “audition”. By now, college auditions are in full swing and students are auditioning all over the world to get into the conservatory of their choice. Whenever I was about to take an audition, the idea of preparation meeting opportunity always stuck in my head whenever my competition would wish me a courtesy “good luck”, whether they meant it or not. I thought, since the opportunity of getting into this school had already presented itself, all I had left was my preparation. Since I had absolutely no control over how my competition were to perform, all I could focus on was how great I could make myself. I learned that if I went into an audition knowing that I had prepared 100 percent to the best of my ability, then I gained the confidence to do my best no matter what happened. Of course, I didn’t always have a great audition, but since I knew that had nothing to do with lack of preparation, I left without any regrets.

As both a performer and an educator, I can say without hesitation that preparation is the key to a successful audition. The other advice that I’ve learned over the years is during an audition, don’t think! All the thinking you do should be done during practice, so by the time the audition comes, you should be able to perform on instinct. Many people start second guessing themselves when the real pressure of the audition is upon them, as opposed to the more relaxed environment of the solitary practice room. Speaking of which, performing the audition material in front of other people also is a good preparation tool. Finally, enter the audition room with the attitude that if the worst happens, it’s really not the end of the world. Doing poorly at an audition can only serve to instruct on what we can do to make the next audition better. Many symphony orchestra members comment on how they lost many auditions before they won their position. The key is no matter how hard things get, don’t get up! Perseverance, preparation, and confidence are all essential for a successful performance. So get out there, do your best, and enjoy the journey!

Compositions Available for your Spring Concert!

March 18th, 2011

My new piece, Castle Overture, is a 5 minute, Grade 3+ piece reminiscent of the Medieval tales of knights and castles that your students will fall in love with. Also on the list for Spring Concert pieces is The Labyrinth, a Grade 5+ powerhouse currently published with Musica Propria. Snow Through a Window is also available through Kjos Publications for those of you who can’t get enough of winter! Check out the Compositions link to listen to these pieces!

Mike Huckabee on Music Education

February 15th, 2011

Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee met with The Des Moines Register’s editorial board Friday, April 13. Huckabee says the “dumbest” thing schools have done over the years is to cut art and music programs. He describes them as essential to preparing creative and competitive students.

Music and the Martial Arts

February 12th, 2011

For many years, I’ve highlighted the many similarities between the musical arts and the martial arts. Both use rhythm, harmony, and focus, among many other qualities, to create an original art form. An excellent example of how these two individual concepts come together is the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira. Capoeira was created by Brazilian slaves of African descent by creating a “dance” to fool their slave masters. None the wiser, the slave owners had no idea that a formidable fighting style was being created right under their noses! Music is especially important in Capoeira, which is comprised of various rhythms and tempos. The following video highlights some of the advanced acrobatic movies of Capoeira, in addition to the way music plays an integral role. Enjoy!

A Brief Discourse on the Value of Music

January 17th, 2011

– An Educational Philosophy –
By Andrew Lesser, M.M.

            I have long believed that music aesthetically contributes to the
psychological and emotional development of a human being. The Greek
philosopher Plato believed that music is as, if not more important, to a child’s development as academics and physical gymnastics. In his Republic, Plato exclaims that music, in addition to the other performing arts, were powerful shapes of character and influential to the development of the mind:

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe,
wings to the mind, flight to the imagination,
and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.[1]
            But these reasons can only satisfy the intangible qualities of the value of music in education. It is impossible to determine the influence of the effect of music on the psyche, or what Plato refers to as the “soul”. Therefore, I feel it is necessary to examine the proven qualities of music as it relates to social and cognitive development in the education of a student. Since birth, and even before birth, human beings have the ability to hear auditory sounds and react according to their physical instincts. It has long been postulated by neuroscientists that hearing certain kinds of music as a fetus and an infant can contribute to intelligence and higher multi-sensory skills. The so-called “Mozart Effect”, which is phrased to highlight the theory that the music of W.A. Mozart and other Classical composers has the potential to increase intelligence in childhood development, has been thoroughly examined and studied by leading scientists and researchers throughout the world.[2] Not that I am saying that there is a direct correlation between music and increased intelligence, though I thoroughly embrace that there is enough evidence to support a serious field of investigative studies.

            Regardless of proceeding studies by neuroscientists, psychologists, scientists, and researchers, there is direct evidence that music as part of a child’s education can aid in their success through school and beyond. It is obvious that learning to play an instrument improves motor skills and hand-eye coordination, in addition to focus and concentration. Music also provides an outlet of emotional expression unique to any other academic subject. The Texas Commission Report on Drug and Alcohol Abuse in 1998 reported that students who participated in music activities reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all illicit and abusive substances.[3] Studies also show that students who are classified as disruptive, a category illustrated by factors such as cutting class, suspensions, and dropouts, total 12.14 percent of the school population. Those students who study music and meet the same category as “disruptive” only accounted for 8.08 percent.[4] From that same study, it was concluded that students who study music received more academic honors and awards than non-participating music students, and in a separate study, students with coursework in music scored on an average of 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math on the SAT’s as opposed to students with no arts participation.[5]

            I have also been a strong advocate in the belief that training in music can contribute to college acceptances. When a college application includes music studies, college recruiters can derive several conclusions about the aptitude of the student. First, it shows that the student can work as part of a team. In order to have a successful band or orchestra, the students involved must work together to promote their creativity as an ensemble. Second, it shows that the student has the ability to multitask, as demonstrated by the combined abilities of playing an instrument, reading the music, and watching the conductor while listening to the other members of the ensemble at the same time. Finally, it shows that the student has the dedication to pursue and maintain a high level of performance by practicing and persevering through self control and discipline. [6]

            To create a successful program, I believe a teacher must be consistent with the policies and procedures they set forth from the beginning of the class. It is my philosophy that a teacher must promote mutual respect between themselves and the students, in addition to between the students’ themselves. A teacher must apply that code equally in a firm, but fair fashion, and especially hold themselves accountable when a mistake is made on the teacher’s part. This way, the teacher and the students can function as a team, promoting a series of goals and standards that is agreed upon by all. However, I do not consider myself beyond inquiry or debate, as long as it is done in a respectful manner. Above all, an effective teacher must treat all students with respect, even if it is not returned. I believe discipline problems must all be dealt with in a patient and calm manner, but those policies must be reviewed and reinforced constantly to avoid ambiguity and confusion. It is when the teacher and students are focused on a mutual goal will the most effective learning take place. It is always my priority to encourage students beyond their “comfort zones” and develop high expectations, both academically and intrinsically, and to be consistent with those expectations. I also hold high expectations for myself, in addition to praising and acknowledging students’ accomplishments. A successful teacher should never be satisfied when achieving a goal, but continue to set new goals for themselves and their students.

            With a combination of high expectation and a true passion for music, I truly believe a successful classroom environment is not difficult to achieve. The most effective teachers are those who possess a high content knowledge of their craft, and the love and desire to pass that knowledge to others. Students can easily identify with teachers who feel true joy in what they do, and their ability is reflected by that connection. It is that positive energy that is the core of a successful program, as well as the key to helping students succeed in school, and consequently, in life.

Plato. The Republic. Hackett Publishing Company. Indianapolis, Indiana, 1992.

“The Mozart Effect”. Suzuki Music Academy/R. Coff, 1998-2002

Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. Reported in Houston Chronicle, January 1998

Based on data from the NELS: 88 (National Education Longitudinal Study), second follow-up, 1992.

College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.

As reported in “The Case for Music in the Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994

What are Hyung?

January 17th, 2011

What are Hyung?
from The TaeKwon-Do Patterns Resource: Chon-Ji by Master Andrew Lesser

          The word “hyung” directly translates from the Korean as “pattern”. Another word for pattern in the TaeKwon-Do martial art is “tul”, pronounced “tuel”, or the Japanese “kata”. Hyung in essence are choreographed fighting routines that have titles significant in Korean history. This history is not limited to the martial arts, and ranges from military to scholarly and religious figures and concepts. There are 24 traditional patterns in TaeKwon-Do, one for each hour of the day and each with a significant theme and unique techniques.

          During one’s study of the martial arts, patterns serve multiple roles in the development of the martial artist. In the beginning stage, patterns are a means to practice techniques in a moving pattern, exercising simple moves to more advanced techniques as the student improves. As in performing a piece of music, the individual movements begin to take form in the larger whole, and the pattern begins to be performed more fluidly. In addition, the student begins to grasp the inner meaning of the pattern as an exercise in both body and mind, in which the art is perceived. Coordination of the body is not only improved, but clarity of mind and focus become apparent in the search for inner balance within ourselves. In the words of Master Hee Il Cho:

“By enacting various situations of confrontation through patterns,
we begin to understand the nature of conflict, and we begin to
learn how and when we can avoid it and what to do when we cannot”.[1] 

          The patterns can serve to better prepare the martial arts student for situations where combat is unavoidable, but perhaps the confidence gained by knowledge of the patterns can serve to prevent conflicts, as in this quotation from The Art of War:  

“Subjugating an enemy without fighting is the pinnacle of excellence”.[2]

[1] Cho, Hee Il. The Complete Tae Kwon Do Hyung, Volume 1. Copyright by Master Hee Il Cho: Los Angeles, California, 1984.

[2] Tzu, Sun and Sawyer, Ralph, trans. The Art of War. Westville Press: Colorado, 1994.

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