Simple Music Practice Tips from Mr. Martin!

Music is a rewarding and lifelong journey that can begin at any time and place. Oftentimes the joys of music-making can be lost (for some!) by the dread of regular practicing.

I know our returning musicians are probably thinking about their private lessons for the year and (potentially) cramming in some last hours of practice time before Wednesday, September 14!

Please see below for a few simple practice tips for aspiring musicians of any age:


  1. Drink water and take care of bodily health. It’s good to stay active, but also make sure you feel relaxed and centered before beginning practice time. This is important to make sure no injuries occur, as well as to ensure a productive session!
  2. Warm up before practicing scales or repertoire. This could mean playing/singing long tones, taking deep breaths, or another warm-up technique given by your private instructor.
  3. Slow down! It is common for musicians to practice tricky sections of music at an inappropriately fast tempo. When learning or practicing a new/challenging section, make sure to take the tempo down to a crawl. Then work your way  up to the faster tempo.
  4. Quality over Quantity. There are a lot of varying opinions about practice time. For an adult, 1 hour of great practicing is worth 4 hours of mindless practicing. Or for a younger student, 15-30 minutes of daily practicing could do the trick. If you have more questions about developmental appropriateness and practice time, feel free to reach out.
  5. Be mindful of repetition. From an outside perspective, great practicing probably sounds like lots of repetition of various musical snippets of a piece. What the musician’s brain does, however, is practice getting one thing right (i.e. hand position or a tricky accidental note) and building on another element, in order to bring the piece closer to concert-ready.
  6. JOY. What a great privilege and opportunity to have the chance to play beautiful music! Even when playing a scale, we can bring expression and joy to that by thinking about how much we love what we do.
  7. Take time off. One mantra could be: Practice 6 days straight, and then give yourself a break on 1. Private instructors can give more specific advice on how to best take breaks and avoid burnout.

Thanks for  reading, and happy practicing to our BCD performers!

Musically Yours,

Mr. Martin


Here’s a fun photo of me in soundcheck, preparing for a 2014 performance in Beijing, China.

(Feel free to reach out to [email protected] with any questions.)


By |2017-08-11T11:06:28-04:00August 31st, 2016|

When to start private music lessons?

This is a question asked frequently here at BCD and in my private studio.  There is no “magic age” to start and no one correct answer to this question.  Generally, brass and woodwind lessons are given to students around 4th grade. Guitar is most often taught starting in 3rd grade. Piano, violin, viola and cello are great choices for our students to begin as early as 3 years old.

I had the opportunity to begin with piano lessons at 4 years old, and that’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. Having said that, there’s a dialogue between teacher, student, and parent that informs these choices. My mom says I made it abundantly clear piano was an early passion!

Begin lessons when your child is ready to take direction from an adult, take responsibility for practicing and when the family is ready to devote time, money and energy into this wonderful new adventure.


Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] with any additional questions. Happy Summer 2016!



By |2017-08-11T11:08:05-04:00July 8th, 2016|

Electricity Fun

Both the First and Second Grade classes have been learning about electricity and experimenting with circuits.  If your child has really taken a shine to this unit and wants to do experimenting outside of school, consider Snap Circuits. Snap Circuits are a safe,  fun and easy way to explore power and electricity. (All wires are contained within small plastic discs that snap together.) For more info check out this website:

By |2010-05-07T14:29:17-04:00May 7th, 2010|

Defenders of Native Flora!







Garlic Mustard is an invasive plant that can quickly invade and dominate American forests.  Infestations of garlic mustard displace native plants and out competes tree seedlings – which can affect forest regeneration over time.  The presence of the weed also alters habitat quality for birds, salamanders and butterflies.  It can choke out native spring beauties like trilliums and trout lilies.

Today the Second Graders got to work defending our BCD soil and happily spent 30 minutes yanking the weeds out by their roots with gleeful voraciousness.   

















































If your child would have fun doing this consider going to the following: (Info taken from a local list serve.)

Garlic Mustard Grapple
Saturday, May 15
9:30-12:00 or 1:30-3:30
Steven’s Glen Recreational Area
West Stockbridge

Join us for the morning or afternoon for some easy weeding! Garlic mustard is a non-native species that competes against our native wildflowers and sapling trees. By volunteering a few hours of your time, you can help restore the natural habitat at Stevens Glen. Learn how to identify and eradicate an invasive plant that may exist on your property!

Morning refreshments, delicious garlic mustard snacks, goodie bags, and raffle prizes will be awarded. An afternoon hike will occur during the lunch hour, and will involve a 1.2 mile walk to a beautiful gorge cut by cascading falls.

This event will be hosted by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council and Student Conservation Association. For more information or directions, visit, find us on Facebook, or check out our flyer!

Contact Emily at 413-499-0596 or [email protected].

By |2015-12-23T12:05:38-05:00April 30th, 2010|

Wild Harvest

Yesterday the Kindergarteners went out on Mike’s Trail and harvested a few fiddlehead ferns.  Today we steamed them up, added a little butter and salt and ate them. They were a big hit! 

Last night I took a few home and ate them with my dinner. I survived the night so I figured it was alright to serve them! I also did some internet research and showed them to a friend with extensive botanical knowledge in order to confirm that they were indeed fiddlehead ferns. Fiddleheads grow out of a tough central root – its texture reminds me of a pineapple.  They are usually covered with a light brown chaff that can be blown off before cleaning. Fiddleheads are a great source of Vitamins A and C.




























By |2015-12-23T12:05:06-05:00April 23rd, 2010|

Recycling Sneakers

Today in the First Grade Science classes we talked about recycling and I mentioned the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program. Nike will take any brand of old sneakers and recycle them into new things. The students asked if I could post the information, so here it is!

Go to the website for more info:


Or, send your old sneakers to:

Nike Recycling Center

c/o Reuse-A-Shoe

26755 SW 95th Ave.

Wilsonville, OR 97070


You can also drop off your old sneakers at the Nike Factory Store at the Prime Outlets in Lee.

Happy Recycling!

By |2015-12-23T12:41:13-05:00April 21st, 2010|

Wildflower walk






































By |2015-12-23T12:05:37-05:00April 15th, 2010|

Some shocking reactions!

Frankenstein’s lab? Alien testing? Despite the dramatic faces seen below, no children were harmed in the making of these photos! This was simply another fun experiment on the topic of electricity.  This week the second graders learned about energy generated by chemical reaction. The acids in the lemon react with the metal in the wires. When the wires are touched lightly to the tongue, a very small electrical spark can be felt. It is very subtle and results in a mild tingling sensation. Many students were able to feel it; some were not. Either way, the experiment generated a lot of excitement!












































By |2015-12-23T12:07:14-05:00April 15th, 2010|

What does “Going on a nature walk” mean?

The weather has been beautiful lately and I’ve been taking the students out for nature walks. When I take groups of children out into the woods I like to give the experience some structure, but also allow for moments of serendipity.  Before each walk I decide on a theme or a task for us to focus on. A few weeks ago students looked for signs of spring; this week students drew pictures of all the wildflowers we encountered. Next week the focus may be on birds. But, if we stumble across something really cool, I throw the theme out the window and go with the flow. Last week I brought a group of first graders out into the woods behind the campus and handed out paintchips from the hardware store in various shades of green and brown. I asked students to find something in the woods that matched the paintchip. As the children were searching, they stumbled upon the old farm dump. We found old glass bottles, rusting milk pails and cooking pots. This was much more interesting to the students than the paintchips so I put those away and we went off exploring! We found old china dinner plates and the occasional spoon. I guessed that these objects were somewhere between 40 -100 years old. It felt like we were on an archaeological dig and our imaginations were tickled. This discovery also prompted discussions about how people handled their trash in the past and why we handle ours the way we do now.

On every walk we talk about the right way to behave out in nature. We follow the “leave only footprints, take only pictures” philosophy. This means that we leave flowers for other people to discover. We try to leave things the same way we found them. If we come across birds or animals we speak softly and walk slowly.  If we find trash we pick it up and bring it back with us.

The fun thing about nature walks is that everyone contributes knowledge. I could identify skunk cabbage, but it was Roberto who knew why it was called skunk cabbage (ohh the smell!). Harrison spotted the white wildflowers and it was Oliver who knew that they were Bloodroot flowers. Colby was the first to hear the woodpecker; Cesca was the one who spotted it and saw that it had red feathers. The walks have a nice sense of collegiality.

By |2010-04-14T14:10:19-04:00April 14th, 2010|

Air – it’s everywhere!

The topic of today’s kindergarten lesson was…….








In this experiment, the children pushed dry paper towels into the bottoms of plastic cups. They submerged the cups, face down, in a container of water. When they pulled the cups out, the paper towels were – gasp! – still dry! How is this possible? Because there was actually two things in the cup – the paper towel and AIR.































By |2015-12-23T12:07:14-05:00April 1st, 2010|