Book of the Month: February 2021

In my humble opinion, this month’s book recommendations are GOLD. Walt Disney says it best in this regard though. “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates loot on treasure island.” If you value learning and reading, and share this with your students, they are more likely to value it and find this treasure as well!

I have had so much fun reading this month’s book not only for myself, but also with my students! It has been an exciting way to mix things up, and to demonstrate for my students that there are many different ways to learn music and about music.

Without further ado, let’s jump in ๐Ÿ™‚

For Students

It’s Black History Month, and this resource is the PERFECT way to integrate music black history into lessons this month ๐Ÿ™‚ I am recommending this to my studio families as well, but I decided to read a couple of pages (or the whole book if they didn’t practice much in a given week) into each lesson this month. So far it’s been a huge hit with both my online and in-person students!

I’ve used it with middle school and younger … and my favorite reading was with a middle schooler. I gave him the option as to whether or not we would read the book together. He said yes and preceded to read the jazz cat characters in different voices … we had a ton of fun and laughter!

To start the book, you meet the three jazz cats who will be attending a jazz performance for the book.

The band arrives and begins with the standard “When the Saints Go Marching In”. The jazz cats proceed to talk through different elements of jazz.

On the second page, one cat asks, “What is jazz?” The other two respond with “It’s a kind of music where musicians don’t just play what’s written on the page – they play what they feel.” and “Jazz is the music of freedom. In jazz, musicians are free to express themselves and make up music as they go!” The book highlights how jazz is an African American art form.

Throughout the rest of the book, the cats explore jazz words like “groove”, “beat”, “rhythm”, “bass line”, “melody”, “improvisation”, “scat singing”, and “call and response”.

Students will also learn about instruments in the rhythm section, brass, string, and woodwinds. All of this happens within context of the “When the Saints Go Marching In”.

The book ends with a call to celebrate jazz together, and then gives ways to explore more jazz music and musicians to listen to.

In my opinion, this book is the perfect introduction to jazz. It allows students to hit the buttons and hear what they’re reading about in real time. It is a great addition to a music lesson, and also wonderful to recommend for your student’s bed time stories. Parents will appreciate that the sound does have a power button on the back ๐Ÿ˜‰ But the recordings are well done and help students understand what is happening when they listen.

One of my favorite things was listening to the music the first time and watching my students dance around. Almost every one of them has done a little dancing ๐Ÿ˜‰ But at the end we would listen again, and they were no longer dancing (although very cute), but were intently listening for the different parts they had learned during the reading.

This is a huge win in my book! Amazon has this available here.

For Teachers

I am equally excited about this month’s teacher recommendation! “Helping Parents Practice: Ideas for Making It Easier” is an invaluable tool both for parents with student musicians and for teachers. Edmund Sprunger is an excellent writer – precise but with valuable and memorable examples.

He is a Suzuki violin teacher, but his practice tips and knowledge of the psychology of student musicians spans across instruments AND teaching styles. (I am not a Suzuki teacher, but gained a lot from this book.)

Sprunger writes the book in a way that readers can digest by reading the whole way through, while simultaneously making it easy for others to flip to sections that address exactly what they are needing in the moment.

He offers wisdom such as …

“when practicing an instrument with your child, perfection is still not required. However, as with parenting in general, your consistent presence is important.”


“It’s not the absence of conflict that determines the health of a relationship, but the way in which the conflict is acknowledged, managed, and – everyone hopes- eventually worked through.”

“So the most important thing in dealing with a child’s vulnerability is simply to notice whether or not your words and actions contribute to a useful result.”

“Always keep in mind that the goal of practice is to make things easier.”

“if practices and lessons are all about righting the wrong things the teacher and parent bring up, the child ends up working merely to satisfy the concerns of the adults, and the goal of having the child own the playing becomes more difficult to achieve.”

“Generally speaking, when you have an expectation that doesn’t match the reality it’s paired with, that’s your cue that you need to do something other than merely have the expectation.”

“Questions open the mind; statements close it.”

“Practicing is a behavior – behavior – and children need to learn that feelings don’t have to control our behaviors.”

“make sure that you require your child to do things that you know he can do.”

“We need to teach music musically, not just talk about chores, fixing mistakes, or playing and moving things in certain ways.”

“You’re always more likely to have a happy practice if you can plan ahead for ways to deal with resistance rather than merely react to it when you encounter it.”

“one of the most important things to fit into a lesson is a sense of calm.”

“increased information doesn’t always relieve parental worry.”

… and so much more!

Sprunger covers everything from student musician (and parent) psychology, to practice basics, to musicianship, rhythm, and game ideas. His writing is refreshing. And whether or not you have the exact same teaching practices (likely not), you will benefit from his wisdom and the ability to encourage your studio parents with his writings.

You can order his book from Amazon here or directly from his publishing website (Yes publishing).

As we seek to encourage our students in their learning journey, we should be equally willing to learn as well! I would love to hear your experiences with these books, and other ways you choose to keep learning ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Reading,

Looking for more reading ideas? This series started last month and includes more of my favorites ๐Ÿ™‚ You can check out the details here!

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