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Good ideas. Free. Come and get them.

by David Birrow  Birrow.David@MacPhail.org

I really like good ideas. That probably sounds obvious.  But I'm absolutely ravenous 
when it comes to ideas that are new (at least to me). When I talk with teachers you might notice me grilling them about their techniques and best practices.  If somebody is an expert in classroom management, I want to know what they do. If somebody has string students who play in tune, I want to know how, and I don't even teach strings. If somebody shares a good idea with me, they might improve my quality of life, my performing and my teaching.
But think of the moments when good ideas have fundamentally changed your performing or teaching. For me, few of those moments were calculated, most were random or downright coincidental. Sure, going to college to study music is calculated, but having a conversation at lunch that changes your thinking about practicing with a metronome is random. But random or not, that conversation might change your practice habits (and your playing) forever. Same goes for teaching. Every time I'm in the studio or classroom, I have the good ideas and advice of teachers, friends, colleagues and strangers running through my head (come on, who doesn't have a few voices in your head? Right???)

Suzuki, Individual Instruction, Community Partnerships, Group Instruction, Early Childhood, Music Therapy.  There are hundreds of good ideas roaming MacPhail's studios, classrooms, partnerships, hallways and offices.  But you may never see all of them. Not because you aren't looking, but because you simply haven't had the opportunity. For example, maybe you are a partnership teacher who spends all your time off site and has a better chance of being mistaken as the copy repairman than a music teacher (more on that later). Or maybe you teach so many lessons, vampirism is starting to seem like a good option considering how little you see direct sunlight.  
No matter what your job is at MacPhail, we all work hard. And we all interact with very specific circles of people according to our schedules and physical location.  For instance I know it's Monday night when I see Greg Keel, because his studio is down the hall from me.  Otherwise I might go a year without talking to him.  It's just coincidence that our paths cross. That is where the LabReport blog comes in.  LabReport aims to share as many good ideas as possible from every corner of MacPhail in order to grow and get better at all the things we do.  Hopefully it'll be a place where people can hear ideas from people outside of their circle and get help. Maybe even from teachers outside of MacPhail. 
You know that problem you're having while teaching? That one thing that keeps nagging at you? Or maybe that thing that you've just resigned yourself to be unfixable? Well maybe somebody else has already figured it out. There are 170 some odd of us, there is no way that you are the only person with this issue.  
Maybe the person next door to you is a whiz with audio recording, or teaching improvisation, or getting a room of five year olds to dance and sing.  Having a conversation with them would enrich your teaching. Think of LabReport as a revolving neighbor that always has something interesting to share. Maybe you adopt the idea to your work or maybe it sparks a connection you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.    
So who posts on this blog? Everybody at MacPhail, including you.  If you have a good idea that somebody else might find useful, don't be stingy, share it, discuss it in the comments section, I bet it comes back to you ten fold.  You'll see blog posts from all sorts of folks who do all sorts of work here at MacPhail.  If you have a good idea, email me at birrow.david@macphail.org and let me know. Consider me the primary wrangler for the blog, but the authors come from all over MacPhail.


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