Article Published in Yamaha National Teacher's Newsletter, Winter 2011

Yamaha Music Foundation Hosts The Second World JMC/YMES Teachers Forum in Tokyo, Japan     October 2011

Rebecca Helm

World Teachers Forum 2011 - Participants and YMF staff

The Yamaha Music Foundation (YMF) hosted the second World Teachers Forum in Tokyo from October 22-24 in conjunction with the 40th IJOC in Yokohama. What a memorable experience for 55 teachers, school administrators and music directors invited from all over the world. Participants came from Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, USA, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Costa Rica, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and China.

In preparation for this forum, many countries prepared a presentation on one of three topics: Teaching Sequence, Musical Sense, or Composition. The U.S. staff chose the topic of Teaching Sequence. My participation in this project included videotaping JMC 3 & 4 classes — with the goal of using footage in the presentation — and giving the presentation at YMF along with Kathy Anzis, Director of Teacher Training. After four weeks of intense class tapings at the Yamaha Music School of Boston, as well as many conference calls and cross-country Skype video chats, we completed the presentation just in time for our long flight to Tokyo!

The forum began in Yokohama, with an orientation where individuals from YMF greeted all participants and introduced everyone to the group. Shinji Matsuda, Education Deputy Manager for overseas YMES, spoke on the topic of the history of YMES curriculum and the textbook revisions that have occurred since the first JMC lessons were held in 1954 in Ginza, Tokyo. He noted that the introduction of the newest materials, including the Common Textbooks (Solfege & Ensemble), have led to increased enrollment as well as better retention. It was motivating to see that as of June 2011, there were 692,000 students and 19,500 instructors at 5,650 Yamaha school locations throughout the world. My favorite portion of Mr. Matsuda's presentation was when he asked everyone to sing a song all JMC instructors know and recognize — “Come and Play With Me” — in the language in which we teach. It was during this sing-along that I realized how truly special it was for me to be present at this worldwide forum with teachers who share the same passion for teaching YMES courses as I do. How exciting to be a part of a music education system that is known, recognized, and respected throughout the entire world!

Later on that evening we attended the International JOC at the beautiful Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama where 12 young, outstanding composers from Italy, USA, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan performed their original compositions. It was amazing to see what these young musicians had accomplished — talk about motivating! I can only hope to one day see a YMS Boston student perform at this international level!

The second day, participants were split into three groups to present on their topic. Each country gave a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation including video footage. The purpose of breaking into small groups was to promote discussion in a more informal setting, where participants could freely present, share, and exchange ideas and opinions on the topics. Each of the three discussion groups was led by a facilitator: Teoh Ka Joo from Malaysia, Lievin Lefebvre from France, and USA's Manager of YMES, Mike Morrell. In our group, the Hong Kong team spoke on Musical Sense, Mexico’s team covered Composition, and Kathy and I gave our Teaching Sequence presentation.

Here are some conclusions our groups reached about these three topics:

Teaching Sequence (see JMC Teaching Guide pp. 48-51): We are all diverse — we come from different countries, we have different personalities, and we speak different languages — but the Teaching Sequence is universal. Effective teaching includes planning what our goals will be for each piece for the week. These goals must be tangible, achievable, and specific. We must continually evaluate the situation and students’ reactions in order to find ways to present, re-present, and communicate these goals in a way students will understand. The communication we, as teachers, use in this sequence is both musical and mental. Effective JMC teachers must be patient, flexible, and motivating while possessing high musical and pedagogical skills.

Musical Sense: Music is a tool of communication, just as language is, and must be cultivated from an early stage. JMC, an early-age comprehensive curriculum, is the perfect tool for developing a child's musical sense.

Composition: As a teacher, we are the students' role model and the amount of energy we put in to this part of the curriculum, class time and students' learning is what we will get out of it. Our commitment determines what our students will be able to create and compose and what their attitude will be towards the subject of composition. We must show a confident, positive attitude towards composition. Our own constant desire for self-improvement in compositional skills is also key.

It was very interesting to see not only the three separate topics presented, but also the way all three subjects intertwined into a big-picture learning process. We concluded that our teaching must always follow a rhythm and balance where all three subjects — Teaching Sequence, Musical Sense and Composition — are present.

We spent the third and final day at the Yamaha location in Ginza. In the new, beautiful Yamaha Hall, we watched other fascinating presentations from Europe, Taiwan, China, UAE, Costa Rica and Indonesia. We also enjoyed performances and interviews of Mutsuki Watanabe (Electone performer) and Yurie Miura (pianist), as well as toured the impressive two-story school on the Ginza site.

It was amazing, and an honor, to be among educators from all over the world — some of whom have been with Yamaha for well over 25 years — and YMF staff to share our knowledge, ideas, strengths and weaknesses with one another. After this forum, I have brought back so much excitement to my Boston classroom and all of my students, specifically a renewed interest in student original compositions. I truly hope that I can convey this experience and enthusiasm to my fellow colleagues and, together, we can work to achieve the goal of the World Forum 2011 stated by Mr. Matsuda: “Let's Share, Discuss and Spread the Joy of Music to All!”


 Rebecca's Article Published in Yamaha National Teacher's Newsletter, Spring 2011

YMES Harmony

Spring 2011

How to Encourage Independence

By Rebecca Helm, YMS Boston

Sometimes it is easier to spoon-feed. Sometimes it is easier to give the answer. Sometimes it is easier to lecture. But is this best for our students? Of course not. It takes effort to transition from the nurturing mode in MW and JMC where you provide all the information. But as children mature during JMC, we can begin to encourage our students' independence. Once they taste success, they will gain more enthusiasm and develop the independent will to discover; there will be less conflict and over-coaching from their parent; and you will have a class that cannot be stopped!

So how can we make this happen? The first step is to make independent action positive — something that children will want to do. Here are some phrases to get started:

  • Now, can you play __________ without your parent’s help? Let’s try and see. If we can do it, our parents will clap for us.
  • Let's see if you can press the clarinet button all by yourself!
  • I bet you can sing this solfege melody all by yourselves without me singing! Let's give it a try. If you do your best, you can be proud.
  • Let's have an experiment. Parents sit back and relax. Boys and girls, let's show moms and dads how you can listen and play back without your parents saying anything!... You did it! Parents, let's clap for them.
  • Wow - you figured that out all by yourself!
  • That time, you played so well together and your parents didn't even have to help you!
  • You will be so grown up when you can...

In a subtle way, these phrases also communicate to parents that it is best for their child if they don't over-coach but, instead, encourage independence.

Children who are in JXC or YMC will gain even more independence if encouraged. Their musical vocabulary and life experience is much greater in every way, so you can stretch them further by challenging them to work independently, as well as develop responsibility. Here are some phrases you can use:

  • I will only say it one time so listen carefully.
  • If you didn't hear what I said, ask a friend.
  • Who will be the first to have all their books ready?
  • Jason and Bob, please work together on this section.
  • Let's have Lisa be the pointer and Susan be the player.
  • I'll give you one minute to look at the score, then each of you can tell your friends one thing that you noticed.

The home assignment is also a good place to encourage independence. Give an "Extra Challenge" for some pieces. Check in class to see who took the challenge. Spin off of that to stimulate others to try new things on their own.

While we want to always introduce a piece in class before assigning it in JMC, in JXC and YMC independent discovery can be encouraged before you present a piece for the first time.

Here is a sample home assignment for a repertoire piece that you intend to introduce the following week:

While you watch the score, listen to your CD. How many things can you discover? How about...

  • Key
  • Time Signature
  • Instruments
  • Articulation
  • Dynamics
  • Can you sing any of the notes?

As children become more independent and make discoveries on their own, they are anxious to come to class to share what they have learned with their teacher and classmates. Encouraging this will help transform your lessons from being teacher-centered to music-centered.