The Write Notes – October 2017

St. Joseph Arts Academy
The Write Notes – October 2017
Newsletter from the SJAA

Welcome to the “Write Notes”, the monthly newsletter from the St. Joseph Arts Academy!

We are fully into the swing of the school year in October. Teachers are working hard for their students and we know our students are giving all they have to do their best efforts. Music lessons demand a real time commitment so we are very proud of the discipline these advancing musicians are showing in getting it all accomplished. They are doing homework, some have jobs, keeping up with the family and working towards recitals and performances.

Halloween Recital – A favorite recital of the year. Performers are encouraged to wear their costumes and play some special music inspired by spookier things! The recital is October 29 at MWSU. We anticipate needing two rooms do the size and popularity of this fun event.

The St. Joseph “Blues”Academy –

We played at the Coleman Hawkins Blues Festival last month! Students were on stage early to kick things off on Saturday afternoon with a variety of jazz, blues, folk and rock-n-roll. Many of the students did features as a duet with their teacher, we had one guitar trio and all out jams at the end of the set. Students also wrote their own introductions to the pieces they would be playing making it extra educational and informative for them and the audience.

This was a first for a school like ours and it was an amazing day. Thanks to all the players and their families for coming out to play and support this amazing festival.

We are back to school but it’s not too late to get in for lessons. Thanks for helping us spread the word. Lessons are first come, first serve. It’s never to early to sign up. Our lessons are month to month and year round.

-High Quality, FUN & Personalized Lessons
-Master Guitar Teacher – Jason Riley
-Month to Month Lessons
-Conveniently Located
-Beginners to Advanced, Open to all Ages
-Free, All-Inclusive Recitals
-Widest Range of Lesson Times
-Awards to Celebrate Achievement

It’s Easy to Take the Next Step…


News –

New Teachers – The SJAA is expanding and our student growth this summer has been one for the record books. We are currently interviewing new teachers for several instruments and will have more slots available for learning. If you know a GREAT PERSON who is also a wonderful musician willing to share their craft, we’d love to talk to them about teaching for us!

Center for Entrepreneurship –

Last month we made our presentation about our business to “Cup of Joe” a local, weekly entrepreneurship meeting. We presented alongside Soca Jukebox with discussions on the music business in our community in education and live performance. The presentation included slide show explaining our story, who we are and what we do as well as some of the challenges we face. That was followed by a great Q&A and some discussion. It was really great to get the feedback of the folks in the local business community. The presentations are also presented and documented on Facebook Live at the Cup of Joe Facebook Page.

We are also working with students in the Marketing Department at MWSU as a main project for the semester. The students chose US as a fun model to base their own marketing skills and to apply what they are learning to a real business. Isn’t that cool?

Upcoming dates

10/7 – Hands-On St. Joe, Downtown, 10:30-noon, 1-2:30
10/19-22, 2017 – FARM 2017 Conference in Iowa City, Iowa
10/29 – Halloween themed student recital, MWSU, 2pm
11/12 – Student Recital, MWSU, 2pm
12-2 – Mall-a-thon, East Hills Mall, TBA
12-8 – “Annie” The Musical, MO theater
12-9 – “Annie” The Musical, MO theater


1/20 – Monster Concert (Rehearsals Jan. 12th and the 19th)
2/11 – Student Recital, MWSU, 2pm – Guitar Clinic, 3pm
3/3  –  Pre-Contest Clinic
3/11 – Student Recital, MWSU, 2pm       
3/19 – Due date for evaluatives 
4/14 – Evaluatives
4/15 – Student Recital, MWSU, 2pm/3:30 Honors Recital at First Presbyterian

Welcome Our New Students

Robert L.
Ethan M.
Noah B.

Is your Teacher Sold Out?

Guitar Openings – Jason R.

Monday – SOLD OUT
Wednesday – SOLD OUT
Thursday – SOLD OUT
Friday – SOLD OUT

Brent I.
New Teacher Openings on Tuesdays!
Tuesdays OPEN 3-8pm

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St. Joseph Arts Academy

Daytime Lessons Available –

Having trouble finding time for music lessons in the evening. We have lots of busy professionals, retirees and home school students who prefer to take lessons during the regular business day. “Lunch Hour” lesson times are available with openings almost everyday between 11am and 2pm.

Hour Lessons –

Many of our busy, adult professionals and most dedicated younger students opt for a one hour session. More time and one-on-one coaching with your teacher is a wonderful opportunity to help you reach your musical goals more quickly. If you have the time or interest in an hour session, talk to your teacher and we will work with you to help you get it scheduled.

Guitar in your Home! –

We’ve recently started our “in-home” music program for guitar. Many people prefer or need to take a lesson in their homes due to child care, business or even health restraints. We are here to serve the entire community of music learners. If you are interested in or need music lessons in your own home, drop us note. We’ll make arrangements to come to you!

Everything You Need To Know About Music Lessons

Click on the title below to down load our guide!

Everything you need to know about music lessons




Welcome to the St. Joseph Arts Academy

Everything You Need to Know About Music Lessons

So you are thinking about starting music lessons. Music is a wonderful part of the human experience and brings a lot of benefits to our lives. Learning to play music or providing lessons for a loved one is one of the greatest gifts you can give or receive.

If you are new to music education or have never played an instrument, you may have some questions. This booklet should help in answering some of the most common questions or concerns for those just starting out. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to write or us a call. We are happy to provide any information you need in making the best decisions about getting going with your music lessons.

Wishing you the very best on starting or continuing along the path of the advancing musician.

Jason Riley
Director –

Academy Mission

Our mission at the St. Joseph Arts Academy is to provide the highest quality musical instruction and performance opportunities to beginning and advancing students in the Midland empire. We use our patience, enthusiasm and loyalty to encourage, inform and entertain others to happily share their skill and talents in love and gratitude to make the world a better place.


Music Accomplished!


Where Can I Take Music Lessons?

Most communities offer a variety of options for music lessons. Depending on the size of your city, lessons are likely offered through college and university music departments, continuing education programs, local music stores, music conservatories and music schools as well diverse and varied instruction from private teachers in homes, school or church settings.

The SJAA is THE hometown music school in our area.

Besides offering instruction through Missouri Western State University, Benedictine College and the Allied Arts Council, select students take lessons in their home or at the SJAA studios. We are conveniently located at 2027 N. 36 Street, St. Joseph MO 64506, just off the Belt highway with easy access to shopping and dining.

When Can I Take Music Lessons?

Many music teachers maintain very busy but limited teaching schedules. Most are available during “after-school” hours between about 3 and 8pm during the week. Some are often available on Saturdays too.

At the SJAA, lessons and classes will soon be offered 7 days a week. We know our students and their families have complex and busy schedules also so we strive to be available for them as they need. This will eventually include studio hours from 9am-9pm during the week, 9am-5pm on Saturdays and even 1-6pm on Sundays.

Scheduling your lessons at the SJAA is easy and convenient.


Who Takes Music Lessons?

Music lessons are available to anyone with the desire to learn. You are never too young or too old to begin or make new progress with a musical instrument.

Students – Music students can range in age from infant to retirees and seniors. The youngest students often work along with parents in music courses designed for pre-K, like KinderMusik. Actual lessons on most instruments can begin by the age of 5. While the elementary, middle and high school years are a common time to study music in school or privately, college-age students and professional adults of any age can also advance in their musicianship through very serious approaches or more as hobbyists.

While some students may want to pursue the highest levels or musicianship, we do not expect that every music student should want to become professional musicians. Our purpose is to help all students achieve their potential, reap the many benefits of music study and reach their personal, musical goals.

Teachers – Like students, music teachers come with a wide variety of personalities, abilities and experiences. Music teachers in our community range from accomplished students with just a little experience to accredited educators and college professors with doctoral degrees.

Being a great musician doesn’t automatically make someone a great teacher. In our opinion, the best teachers have an expertise on their instruments, many years of teaching or performing experience and positive mental attitudes. They are patient, encouraging AND they have a desire to teach and share music in the lives of others.

Our teachers at the SJAA are good, high-quality individuals, first. Next, we seek out teachers with college music degrees or 20 years or more of performance experience.

We work hard to provide all our teachers with the resources they need to be successful with their students and that includes on-going continuing education and teacher training. Our teachers have the best available approaches and methods for teaching and getting results for our students.


Parents – Parents, grandparents, other family members, friends and guardians play very important roles in the success of music students. Besides transportation to lessons and making payments, these care-givers on the home-front monitor practice, give encouragement when things get tough and show support in concerts and recitals.

Parents and adult mentors validate the importance of music lessons for their students, helping students view their study and instrument as a priority and something extremely valuable to them, the family and the whole community.

We wouldn’t be able to have the success we’ve had with our students without these wonderful, loving and encouraging parents and extended family supporting our young musicians every step of the way.

Director – SJAA director, Jason Riley is a professional musician and teacher. With degrees in classical guitar performance and commercial music, he has toured and performed with national and international artists throughout the U.S and Europe.

Jason has a number of albums to his credit and has produced and played on countless others as a sideman.

As an instructor, he has operated his own private guitar studio for nearly 30 years and has taught for Benedictine College, Missouri Western State University and has been a featured clinician in many guitar festivals and camps.

Besides guitar, Jason has taught private and group classes in multiple styles for bass, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and harmonica.

Jason’s wife, Jolie is also a wonderful musician and educator with the St. Joseph School District. The SJAA is the natural extension of their aspiration to offer something truly special and needed to young artists and musicians in our area.

What We Teach

We teach aspiring and advancing musicians how to play musical instruments (or use their voice) in traditional, creative and technically appropriate ways. Our studio was founded as a master private teacher studio with an emphasis on guitar. As an example, our guitar students have always learned the most important elements required to be successful with the instrument. Including but not limited to…

Music Reading
Technical Exercises Traditional Repertoire History and Interpretation Musicality

Theory and Fretboard Logic Ear-training
Performance Skills and Etiquette

Lessons for all instruments include the same basic foundation while concentrating on the idiomatic approaches that arise with any individual instrument.

Students can take lessons on the most popular “Western” instruments that you find in the school band, orchestra, jazz bands, church praise teams, string bands and choirs. Again, including but not limited to…

Guitar (acoustic & electric)
Bass (electric)
Drums/Percussion (coming soon) Banjo
Voice & Singing

Great teachers for more rare instruments might be more difficult to find in our area. We strive to connect interested students with the most qualified teachers even if it means referring them to teachers outside of our community.

Students also learn in a variety of musical styles. Duke Ellington famously said “There are only two kinds of music, good music and the other kind”. It is part of our mission to share and foster an appreciation of all kinds of music. Learners are inspired to play by the music they love. Often that is the music they are most familiar with, songs they hear on the radio, in movies or in church.

Students should play the music they love and be introduced to new music at the same time. We focus on standard repertoire in classical, jazz, rock, blues, country and popular music. This also includes many sub-genres such as baroque, swing, heavy metal, delta blues, bluegrass or hip-hop. Students and teachers may also agree to specialize or focus on specific styles for any number of reasons that might include preparing for a show, a concert or an audition.

There are also a number of teaching methods that would be in use. One of the great benefits of one-on-one learning is the ability to tailor methods to an individual’s learning style. We are all unique and we all learn differently.

A great teacher is one that can identify best approaches and practices along with their student. They guide and encourage and help them implement best music learning strategies based on the strengths of the individual.

Methods would include music reading and rote learning (learning through demonstration). Some students are strong visual learners while others have a strong auditory sense or prefer to read things from the page and implement. For others, group learning is best.

While not all teachers or studios offer this, at the St. Joseph Arts Academy we have a reward system in place for accomplishment. We give the students the incentive to achieve, to move up and to grow in their musicianship in a number of ways. Certificates, medals, pins, special commemorative items, even gift cards are used as rewards for completing books, receiving honors or performing in recitals and concerts.


How long does it take to learn a musical instrument?

We encourage all of our students to be life-long learners. Learning or playing a musical instrument could offer greater and greater rewards over many lifetimes. Having said that… most students will learn the basics in about one year with proficiency coming with in just 4 or 5 years. It really depends on the individual and even more on the amount of time and perfect practice they can invest in their instrument. The student who practices 10 minutes a day for 5 years will learn quite a lot but some students will devote 2 hours a day or more. Obviously, it’s about the time dedicated to practice over years.

A bachelors degree in music takes about 4-5 years to complete. Most of those students have already played or studied for many years before even beginning the college program. Serious or professional level players go on to many more years of dedicated practice and performance.

One of the greatest benefits to learning an instrument is that it can be a lifelong adventure.

Athletes only play football for a few years and those school years are limited. Musicians can enjoy music and their instrument their whole life through.

Now that really is the gift that keeps on giving!

How much does it cost?

Lesson fees have a wide range based on where you are in the country. In the larger urban centers like New York or LA, people pay more for everything (including music lessons) than we do in the Midwest. Fees are also subject to demand.

Some teachers are highly revered or in high demand. They may only accept students based on audition or they may be a specialist teaching a rare instrument or style. These expert teachers can command higher fees.

At the time of this writing, a 30 minute music lesson in the US runs from about $15-60. At the SJAA, we charge $23 for a 30 minute private session but we also offer hour sessions, ensembles and specialized classes. Students who are really enjoying their instrument and the culture often take a private lesson and participate in an ensemble as well.


How or When do I pay?

Lessons at the SJAA are month to month. While some other private studio teachers may even allow week to week payments, monthly payments are the industry standard.

Monthly fees for a 30 minute private music lesson once per week are just $92. For your convenience, we use an auto-pay system that can be applied to your credit card or to your bank account. At the moment, we are also accepting cash and checks. Fees are collected at the first lesson of every month and guarantees your time slot for that month. We do require a 30 day notice if you need to stop for any reason (summer vacation, take a break, etc.) or discontinue all together.

How do I enroll?

It’s easy to enroll!

Simply call the Academy (816-974-7656)

…request info at

…or drop us an email to and we’ll get you registered.

We’ll get your basic information and get you scheduled with a great teacher on your chosen instrument.

The registration fee is just $25 (mention that you’ve read this “Everything You Need To Know About Music Lessons” and we’ll register you for FREE!).


Sign up for lessons & receive a $25 registration for free!


Music Accomplished!


FREE Registration


with This Guide


Sign up for lessons & receive a $25 registration for free!


Music Accomplished!


FREE Registration


with This Guide


Sign up for lessons & receive a $25 registration for free!


Music Accomplished!


FREE Registration


with This Guide



Why do people take music lessons?

Benefits – There are number of reasons people choose to study music or learn a musical instrument. Many are called just because of their love of music or they have an undeniable desire to learn to play. It’s a kind of personal development that “improves” or aids a human being in so many ways.

Studies have shown that music students are better at math and reading, they have better listening and communication skills as well as spatial awareness like hand/eye coordination.

Let’s not forget important skills like patience, discipline, persistence and practice.

Many parents want their children in music for just these benefits. Some wish they had been able to study when they were young and maybe didn’t have the opportunity. They want to give something to their children that they didn’t have.

There is also a sense of community through being involved in music. We all want to belong, to be accepted and to be part of a gang. Joining a school band, the local orchestra, forming your own jazz quartet or singing in a choir connects you to others through the special activity of music.

Every performer knows about the relationship between what’s happening on the stage and what’s happening inside the audience who are listening. We are sharing of ourselves, our hearts and minds. We are conjuring feelings and emotions and in the ring of live performance.

We are all there together in the moment.

We also see a lot of “non-traditional” students, older folks or retirees just starting in music lessons or maybe returning. These people tend to be looking for something productive to do with their newly found “extra time” or they seek the mental challenges that music brings to keep their brains strong and healthy in their later years.

Sometimes it’s just a bucket list item, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Grandma’s and Grandpa’s do a lot of transport, encouraging, practicing and even paying for music lessons for the young musicians in their life.

Amateur and professional musicians who play at very high levels continue to take lessons too. You are never finished in music. You can always go further, learn more, take it to the next level. These students are more after coaching similar to the high achievers in any sport or business.

It’s helpful to have another expert analyze your skills and give you a fresh perspective on something that might be holding you back or just help you stay motivated to be the best that you can be.


Performance opportunities and testing are an important part of the music learning experience. At the collegiate and conservatory level, students give mandatory performances regularly and are tested in a formal adjudication at the end of every semester. Many private teachers do not offer these opportunities at all.

At the SJAA, we offer recital opportunities nearly every month during the school year and have invitations to perform at community festivals and other events during the summer.

We offer a formal adjudication every April along with our local music teachers association. Students CHOOSE whether they want to participate in recitals and testing. They are not mandatory.

Not every student wants to perform but most do and many want to play every chance they get. We encourage them to play at least one time in the fall and then another time in the spring or summer but quite a few get on stage at every opportunity.

Parents and families love RECITALS and they make for some great memories.

Practicing performing in recitals and in adjudication helps students deal with anxiety or nervousness, it gives them something very specific to buckle down and prepare for as well as provides valuable feedback. Feedback that might be from a judge about a specific passage or movement as well as feedback from teachers, parents and loved ones who just say “Way to go!” or “so proud of your accomplishment”.


Each instrument and level will require its own books, materials or other items specific to that instrument. Most teachers use their own specific or even proprietary methods with their students. They will have the books or other materials available for sale in many cases. Other times, they’ll have a list of the necessary materials that you could get at the local music store or online.

As an example, besides their instrument, guitar students require a tuner, picks, guitar strap, footstool, notebook or binder and maybe even more specialized equipment like capos, amplifiers, pedals and cables for electric guitar. A music stand is an important piece of equipment.

Most students will go through a series of books every year to an additional cost of about $10-50 depending on how fast they get through the material. Collecting and keeping a variety of music books is a great way to build your own music library for review or reference down the road.

At our studio, we have an amazing library of music books and musical magazine subscriptions for the use and constant advancement of our teachers and our students.

How to Practice

Success in music is based on practice. The saying “practice makes perfect” is not necessarily the best advice in music. We like to say “perfect practice makes perfect”. In reality, it’s all about focused, perfect practice, over time. You can’t cram for music they way you might pull an all-nighter for a test. Studies show that’s a bad idea too.

Every teacher knows the value of practice or what happens with a lack of it. At our school, we adhere to the adage of the famous violin teacher, Shinichi Suzuki who said you only need to practice “the days you sleep and the days you eat”.

Time spent in daily practice is also based on your level and your age. Younger children shouldn’t be expected to practice as long as an adult professional. The practice session is really basically the same for both though. Doing the best you can for the time that you have allotted. 7 days a week is the best you can do but 6 is still great. 5 is very good in fact. For best results, keeping it at 5 or more days is a good idea.

Very young children just beginning might do just 10 minutes a day, a 16 year old with some experience might be doing 45 minutes with music majors and professionals doing many hours a day.

There are a number of examples of virtuoso players who practiced and studied 6-10 hours a day over many years! Again, our approach is that a student should practice most everyday, doing their best with the time they have and to keep that routine going over years to become proficient.

For more info, we’ve got another article specifically dedicated to practicing and practice techniques…

How to Practice


Learning music is not a casual enterprise.

It demands a serious commitment of time, energy and money to be successful.

We expect that music learners should love their lessons and have a great experience. Learners should expect great advancements followed by plateaus. This is the nature of the climb. We make a lot of progress and things can flatten out until we reach the next hill to climb, summit and plateau again.

Learners should expect to do the work. To practice. Everyday mostly. They should expect to feel uncomfortable or “out of their comfort zone’’ as this is where we grow. We stretch. We become better than we were before.

We expect a commitment. From teachers and learners working together towards specific and tangible goals.

We expect everyone involved to be seriously invested in the process of learning.
We expect to create reliable employment for teachers.
We expect that you will learn, advance, grow and achieve your musical goals. You can do it. We know how and can be your guide along that path. Let’s climb together.


Many studio teachers offer a “NO MAKE-UP” policy. If you miss a lesson you are simply out for that week. I even know of a very famous teacher who would decline a student if they missed ONE lesson. If you had to miss a time slot with him, it was up to YOU to send someone else in order to hold your spot. I’ve worked with conservatory department heads that insisted you dismiss or flunk students who missed more than one “unexcused” lesson.

This all may seem very harsh. But it’s a great example of how seriously professional musicians take their work. It is very unlikely that these folks ever missed lessons or took advantage of the time of their coaches or esteemed teachers.

Make up policies are diverse as teacher are diverse. Some are very flexible with available times others have extremely full schedules which simply don’t allow for make-ups.

If you have to miss a lesson, advance notice is always the best option. Let your teacher know that you will be missing. This will allow them to make the space available for another student (maybe even you) that is looking for an alternative slot that week.

For many years, as a single teacher studio, our policy has been “48 Hours Notice” for a missed lesson. We may not be able to offer a make up but you would not be charged. Now with managing and paying multiple teachers, this has become impossible.

If your teacher has to miss a lesson for any reason, you will not be charged for that lesson. We credit your lesson to the next months payment.

We are in the process of implementing a more fluid system of make up lessons. Students and families will be able to schedule their make-ups in advance for Saturday group sessions throughout the year. You can schedule them any time. “In Advance” is encouraged as space is limited each week.

We want to provide the easiest solution and the extra value in time spent with a great teacher for your music lesson investment.


Learning music and playing an instrument has many intrinsic rewards in and of itself. At the SJAA, we like to honor and recognize our students’ specific milestones and achievements. We award and reward musical accomplishments with certificates, pins, wrist bands, trophies and even gifts. When ever a student finishes a specific level, certain books, performs in recital or is honored in any way, we want to recognize that achievement and share our pride in them.

Each month we select one student who has achieved something remarkable as “Student of the Month”. These students receive an additional gift as well as being announced on our website, Facebook page and in our newsletter.

Students and families who refer new students to our Academy receive additional rewards for their referrals. Free lessons, free books, iTunes, Amazon or East Hills Gift Certificates are all favorite choices of our students.

Photo Day (Coming Soon)

Just like in sports and dance, our music academy offers students a photo day once per year. Students and parents have the opportunity to get a professional photo taken with their instruments or even an action shot! Young students especially grow very quickly and these photos are great keepsakes of the memories and milestones we make in our musical seasons.


How does it work?

Drop off, pick up, waiting room

Most lessons begin on the hour and half hour. Students should arrive on time or just a few minutes early. Parents are always welcome to sit in on the lessons. Always or anytime! They are also welcome to drop students off to run errands and then pick them up after the lessons. We strive to have comfortable waiting area and clean restrooms for folks who prefer to sit and wait.

As a workplace for music staff, students and teachers, we want to you to feel welcome and comfortable in our studios.


It’s a simple fact… Music brings people together. We are blessed in that our region has so many talented players, dedicated teachers, lovers of music and encouraging supporters.

We are a family.

Studying a musical instrument and participating with the SJAA make you part of an extended family. Our students have peers and mentors to encourage them and to keep them accountable. There is always someone you can lean on, gain inspiration from, ask questions of and just friends to hang out with.

We’ve got your back. That’s what real community is all about. That’s what it means to be a family.


The St. Joseph Arts Academy is your local resource for all things musical. We are here to help the aspiring musicians in our community find the support they need and deserve. If you have any other questions or concerns about your music lessons, please don’t hesitate to call or drop us an email. We are here to help.

The book “Help! My Kid is Taking Music Lessons” by Anthony Glise is another excellent resource for parents with children in music lessons. On Amazon:



Learning a musical instrument is a serious endeavor. It definitely takes a commitment of time to be successful not to mention an investment with your dollars. Having the right teachers, mentors or coaches is a vital part of the process in learning that can actually save you time and frustration. These trained professionals can put you on a guided plan towards your musical goals and oversee your progress every step of the way.

It is our heartfelt belief that music study has important effects on the individual. Music brings people together and makes the world a better place to live.

We want everyone to play!

The skills a person learns through playing an instrument have positive effects in nearly every other aspect life. We are here to encourage and support YOU!

Thank you for the time to read “Everything You Need to Know About Music Lessons”! We hope it’s provided the information you truly needed (and maybe some you didn’t know you needed) to make the best decision about music lessons for yourself, your family or friends.

We hope you’ll join us! Please consider referring your friends or family members to the Academy. We greatly appreciate your referral.

Thank you for encouraging the musicians of all ages in your life. It’s never easy to learn to play an instrument. But, it brings such value to the individuals, our community and the world.

In support of YOUR music, Jason Riley

Director – St. Joseph Arts Academy (816) 974-SOLO(7656)

“Everything You Need to Know About Music Lessons”

© 2017 All rights reserved. Music Accomplished.

How to Practice

How to Practice

One definition of practice is… “a repeated exercise or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it” As in it must have taken a lot of PRACTICE to be such a good guitar player.

Doctors and lawyers are said to have a practice when carrying out the exercises and duties of their profession. I don’t really want my doctor to be PRACTICING on me as he’s cutting me open. I want him to PERFORM the perfect operation.

Practice can also be customary, habitual or expected procedures for something. This could be like a meditation practice or yoga.

As musicians, we really embody each of these definitions of practice in slightly different mindsets. The exercise needed to perform a technically challenging passage or even to get our muscle-memory together enough to play a basic chord and then chord progression. Music is also our field of study as in medicine or law, it IS our practice. Hopefully it is also a thing that we’ve made a part of our day to day programming that happens habitually. We don’t necessarily call it practice but I hope you’re planning to eat, sleep and brush your teeth today.

So what are things we should do to become a person of practice and what does it mean to practice well? What does effective practice look like? When are we done practicing?

It actually took me many years to discover and refine my techniques for effective practicing. I’ve tried a number of approaches that I may touch on here. My way doesn’t have to be your way. You should definitely explore what best practices are for yourself.

At its most basic, practice time set aside to do your best. There can be many things that can distract us from the task at hand or take our mind away from our most challenging work.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of sitting down to practice a new piece and after a few minutes you’re noodling away on favorite licks, riffs or another piece entirely (usually all things you already play pretty well). You might even become so mesmerized in this that you actually lose track of time, not realizing that you’ve been just “playing” with your instrument for 20 minutes. Weren’t you supposed to be “practicing”? It’s ok to make some time just to noodle, jam or play for fun. Set your timer though and get back to work after that time is spent.

To be truly successful in your practicing you need to have a purpose or goal and be on a time schedule. We all have the feeling that we want to become “a better guitarist” but that is not what I mean by purpose. The purpose of your practice should be topical (learn a new scale fingering, accompaniment style or arrangement) and should be scheduled for a certain amount of time.

My personal practice usually involves a few topics. These are places in my playing where I’m trying to “grow”. I use many of these same areas and methods with all my students no matter the age or level of achievement. Topics include things like technique, scale and chord vocabulary, sight reading, pieces/songs/tunes, ear-training and memorization. There are many more I have included over the years again depending on what my purpose was at the time or where I felt I had some weaknesses. Theory, performance practices, history, improvisation and just time to listen to music are all things I’ve put time into. I want to grow in all these areas in deeper ways.

So let’s make some time to practice. Put it in your schedule. Write it on the calendar. A little time everyday. The famous japanese music mentor Shinichi Suzuki said you should only practice the “days you sleep and the days you eat”! I think that’s great advice. We all will miss a day now and again and that’s understood. You may want to set your weekly practice schedule up to include a “skip day”. That’s an important “practice” in some religious circles. Also, it can be a nice reward especially for younger students who really work hard all week.

The amount of time each day is not as important to me as just the “every day”. If you practice with a purpose everyday you will get better. A lot has been said in the past few years that it takes a FOCUSED 10,000 hours to become a master at anything. Free-throws, heart surgery, flower arranging, etc. You’ll be come the “master” faster by practicing 3 hours everyday as opposed to 10 minutes obviously. Mastery is the fruit of purposeful practice. No need to worry about the fruit. It will come at the right time and in the right season. Your practice is in taking care of the tree. Prune it and water it with the time you have today and schedule it again tomorrow. Do that and you’re doing the best you can.

10 hours a day for 3 years = Your the master!
3 hours a day for 10 years = Your the master!
1 hours a day for 30 years = Your the master!

I will say that in my experience it takes at least 20 minutes of practice just to kind of stay at the place you left off yesterday. If you don’t use it (and use it again) you’ll lose it.

I use the timer in my practice (and a tuner, a metronome, books and music, a music stand, and a pencil but the timer is VERY important). It keeps you on task. If you are playing a game like basketball, that game is timed. You have a certain amount of time to play with a purpose of making points for your team, defending against the opposing team and doing your very best. Then there’s a buzzer that signals the end of play, maybe the 1/2, the 1/4 or the end of the game. The point here is that you did your very best, you kept your head in the game and now it’s over.

My music practice is very much like that. I start the time and work on an alotted task for a certain amount of time. This is usually very short, between 2-20 minutes per task. This has two benefits. One, I know that I have to do my best for a very short time. Not hammering away for hours, just minutes. Two, if I do get distracted or get off task and do some mindless noodling, it reminds me to come back to the project and work until the buzzer goes off. With my students, I even give them pretend “points” for perfect repetition of the material. One perfectly played scale = 10 points or 100 or whatever. They may have only 3 minutes to make as many points as possible. It’s a little mind game but it works really well, gets them to do their best and make as many perfect reps as the time allows.

Again, there are number of important topics that go into building musical proficiency. You might just pick a few each day to devote your time to. When that buzzer goes off or time is up, move on to the next topic and start the timer again. Depending on the amount of time you’ve set aside for practice, you could do more or less. Remember, less in more in many instances.

As an example, If we had an hour to practice, I would start with a slow warm-up for maybe 10 minutes. We could move on to scales for 10, Chords for 10, sight reading for 10 and maybe one piece we’re working on for 10 minutes. It wouldn’t have to be the entire piece, lots of times its just a few measures or specific trouble areas. Then you could take a little break. Lots of performing musicians take set breaks too!

If that was all the time you had for the day, you could be done and go on with your life. If you had additional time (perhaps another hour) I would start with that routine again and repeat it. If you have less time maybe on a very busy day, you could get a 10 minute practice in on just two or three really important ideas at 3-5 minutes each. Hey, we can all find 10 minutes even on a busy day, right? The important thing is that you’re FOCUSED, you’re doing it on purpose and you’re proving to yourself that you’re disciplined, dedicated and committed to your advancing musicianship.

If you’re making a lot of mistakes while practicing, you are probably going too fast or trying to practice too much. This is a common problem and it does take a lot of discipline to slow down and work on very small or short musical problems.

Truly effective practice is practice with a purpose. That purpose is different for everyone and adjusted to the topic you’re working on. You might have a goal to play a C major scale in 1/8th notes at 160bpm. You might want to learn a new jazz standard every week. You may need work on that one measure that always messes you up in that Bach prelude. Your purpose is to fix, add or increase in your abilities as they apply to your goals in music.

Here’s a few other ideas about what practice is and what it can do for you.

Practice is…

Motivational – The more you do it, the more you want to.

How we learn – Things seep in over time through repetition. We learn by doing.

Transformative – Makes things better through attention and intention.

Reducing Imperfection – Unlearning bad habits or replacing them with good habits.

The way to Carnegie Hall – “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.”

Infectious – A little can lead to a lot.

Love – It demonstrates your affection for what you are practicing.

To Overcome – Limitations and small expectations.

Making Mastery – 10,000 hours (Give or Take).

Confidence building – When you’ve put in the time to know what you’re doing and you know it.

Non-judgmental? – Do it when you feel good or bad. When it’s time to fight, you have to do it no matter what mood you’re in.

Persistence – No matter what happens, slow down, re-focus and just keep plowing ahead.

What you become – Like the doctor or lawyer, you are what you practice most.

Life Enhancing – Just do it, you’ll be glad you did.

A Teacher – It encourages us on the path of discovery. It shows you what it is and what it might become.

Truth – It’s where you find out what’s real for you. Where you are on the path.

Application – Using what you know, at the right time, when you need it.

For Champions and Masters – They all did it. I promise.

Not Easy – It feels like work sometimes, ok it is actually work.

Acceptance – Forgive yourself for not being automatically perfect. You’re getting closer.

Purposeful – Practice with a purpose in mind. Practice because you’ve got to. it’s the only way.

Cultivating – The tree that your fruit comes from.

An Inner Game – The only competition is within. The only real competition is in the mirror.

Tomorrow’s Victory – “Tomorrow’s victory is today’s practice – Chris Bradford, The Way of the Warrior.

Development – The garden grows best when it’s weeded and tended to. True in all things like love, forgiveness, patience and giving.

Preparation – To being and doing what you want to be and do.

Practice is… THE WAY.

Practice Makes Perfect?
Practice Makes Permanent
Practice Makes Possible
Practice Makes Possibilities
Practice Makes Patience
Practice Makes Partnerships
Practice Makes Playing Possible
Practice Makes Pathways
Practice Makes Progress
Practice Makes Proficient
Practice Makes Professional
Practice Makes Proof
Practice Makes Practical
Practice Makes Precedence
Practice Makes Prepared
Practice Makes Purpose
Practice Makes Perception
Practice Makes Performers

Summary – Whatever you can imagine or aspire to do, you can do that in music (or anything almost) through focused practice over time. I aspired to play music. I’ve never really felt that I had any great or natural talent to do so. Everything that I’ve accomplished in music and on my instrument has just been through hard work, smart work, time and persistence. In short, practice.

While I may never be a ballet dancer or professional football player because of my physical build (not that I’m inspired to become one). Through practice and study, I could learn the techniques, I could get better, I would grow.

It’s truly amazing what human beings can accomplish given enough time.

Special Offer – If you found this article helpful, please consider subscribing, drop us a note or consider joining us on the path to mastery. The St. Joseph Arts Academy is a resource for all things musical. We are here to support and encourage you along your musical path.  Now…


St. Joseph Arts Academy at Cup of Joe

It was wonderful to be able to talk about the business side of teaching music, where we came from and where we are going with the local entrepreneurship group, Cup of Joe. Grateful to the good people there who took time to ask questions and give important feedback towards the growth of our academy and music education in our community.

Family, Friends & Music!

One of the great joys of my life is playing music. I consider it a great blessing in the ways that I am allowed to make fun music with fun people. My fellow musicians and band mates are seldom just co-workers. These folks are my friends. We have played 100’s (in some cases 1000’s) of shows together all over the country. We travel, share meals, share laughs and memories AND we share music together.

This month, I’ve been so lucky to play with so many of these great friends and wonderful musicians.

Earlier this month, I was even reunited for a couple of nights of music making with my very best friends from my earliest days of playing. Eddie, Chris, Mike and I had a band before we even had instruments! We learned and practiced together from the very beginning. We grew together, encouraged and befuddled one another. We made memories playing music (lots of it bad but we had to start from the beginning).

I like to joke that we used to get kicked out of rehearsal spaces A LOT. We were noisy, loud, brash, messy and sometimes, ornery. Our families kicked us out and accepted us back. Several places invited us in and then moved us along. I’m so grateful to all the people who gave us space (for a little or a long while) to get this music thing together and work it out.

To meet these guys years later and still be able to play music together is what it is all about. Some of us became professional musicians, some write songs, some just play for fun. These days, we all have families and do all kinds of work. We are cops, preachers, teachers, care-takers, gardeners AND players.

In our lives, music has truly been the tie that binds. No matter how long we are apart or whatever might happen, we always pick up where we left off. Great friends who can pick up there instruments and make more music together.

Student of the Month – Ashlyn F.

Big, BIG congratulations to our May “Student of the Month”, Ashlyn F.

Ashlyn earned a spot on the SJAMTA’s Honor Recital last month receiving “1s” all around for her evaluative adjudication. Besides being a fine young guitarist, Ashlyn plays piano, she sings and has been in many stage musicals as an actress!

As “Student of the Month”, Ashlyn will receive an iTunes gift card from the SJAA!

Congratulations on all your hard work, Ashlyn. We are super proud to have you as a guitar student at SJAA.

Big thanks to Ashlyn for bringing her whole family to the Honor’s Recital.

Way to Go!

The Write Notes – May 2017

St. Joseph Arts Academy
The Write Notes – May 2017
Newsletter from the SJAA

Welcome to the “Write Notes”, the monthly newsletter from the St. Joseph Arts Academy! Our students a finishing semester end recitals, exams and projects. As everyone gets a little break from school this summer, it’s a great time to rededicate, set new goals and buckle over the next few months. No school work to tie you down! Just more time to play and share your instrument. Let’s make it a great summer together.

Happy Mother’s Day – Where would we be with out our Mom’s? Mom’s do the “lioness” share of the heavy lifting around the SJAA. They transport students, pay, encourage and cajole our advancing musicians to be the best they can be. Thank you to our Moms. Hope it’s a great Mother’s Day for you and your family.


Evaluative Auditions – Academy students took part in the Evaluative Auditions sponsored by the St. Joseph Area Music Teacher Association last month. Guitar students performed two pieces in different styles, played scales and took sight-reading and music theory exams.

These auditions are great way for students to test their skills and get valuable feedback from an impartial clinician on their hard work. The SJAA had for guitar students participating in our very first year of evaluative.

Francesca L.
Nathan R.
Ashlyn F.
Alex P.

We are so proud of their work and their playing. It takes more than a little musical courage to put yourself through the paces like these. They all did great earning “1” ratings, a special certificate along with their jury feedback and test results. The students all played on recitals the next day too.

Nathan and Ashlyn were both invited to perform on the SJAMTA Honor recital with their renditions of “Wipeout” and “Amazing Grace” and won a special honors ribbon.

Upcoming recitals – The summer concert and festival season is upon us with your instructors doing a lot of family-friendly performances around the area. So watch for those and make plans to get out and hear some music this summer.

The SJAA is very excited about the invitation to present our students at two our regions largest and most popular summer festivals.

Aug. 19 – Trails West, Civic Center Park in St. Joseph, 10:15AM
Sept. 9 – Coleman Hawkins Blues Festival, Coleman Hawkins Park, 2pm

Regular monthly recitals resume in the fall with holiday performances at the mall and the monster concert early next year. Dates are coming soon!

Trails West is the 3rd weekend in August annually in the civic center park behind city hall and features national and regional musical acts on 3 stages as well as many fine artists and craftsmen. It’s St. Joseph largest and longest running arts and music festival. August 19, 10:15AM.

The Coleman Hawkins Blues Festival is the sister festival of the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival. Jazz in June and Blues in September all at Coleman Hawkins Park (and gazebo) in downtown St. Joseph. We’ll be performing for the very first time as the “St. Joseph ‘Blues’ Academy Saturday, September 9 at 2pm. It will be a great day for family, friends and fun music in honor of one of St. Joseph’s most famous, musical native son.

College guitarists finish strong. College guitarists just completed finals (juries) and year end recitals. Jury finals are graded by a panel of music faculty and include performing 2 or more pieces in different styles, scale, chord and sight-reading exams. Students also write a one page research paper on a guitar related subject.

All students performed pieces in recital for their peers based on the hard work they have done all semester. These adjudications and performances are mandatory at the college level and bring out the very best work in each individual musician. They set the bar high which keeps their achievements very high as well.

Center for Entrepreneurship – We’ve been invited to present our business to the local small business network in St. Joseph. “Cup of Joe” is a weekly meeting of the best entrepreneurial minds in our community. There are two presenter every week that discuss their businesses and follow up with a Q&A session to the benefit of the entire group. SJAA will present our business in the fall!

Life Again! – The CD’s are back and Shawn Minter’s Debut Solo Album “Life Again” will be available on iTunes beginning May 21. SJAA Director helped produce the record, made the musical arrangements and played all the guitars on the album. For more info on Shawn and his music visit

Upcoming dates
5/2 – “Rock the Docs”, Private
5/5 – Apple Blossom BBQ w/Soca Jukebox, 8pm
5/11 – Party on the Parkway w/Soca Jukebox (Rain Date May 11), 5pm
5/20 – Voices of Freedom w/Maria the Mexican, Topeka KS, 330pm
5/21 – “Life Again” Release Party w/ Shawn Minter, Rock Port MO 6pm
6/1 – Lathrop Friends Festival w/Soca Jukebox, Lathrop MO, 8pm
6/17 – “Home Runs for Rose” w/ Soca Jukebox, Cameron MO, 6pm
7/7 – Sounds of Summer w/Soca Jukebox, Coleman Hawkins Park, 630pm
7/14 – Sounds of Summer w/Under the Influence, Coleman Hawkins Park, 630pm
7/15 – Amelia Earhart Festival w/Under the Influence, Atchison KS, 7pm
7/16 – Imagine Eleven w/Maria the Mexican, Coleman Hawkins Park, 6pm
8/5 – “Jeep n’ Jammin’ 4 Brett” w/Soca Jukebox, Coleman Hawkins Park, TBA
8/13 – Imagine Eleven w/Soca Jukebox & Shawn Minter, Coleman Hawkins Park, 6pm
8/19 – Trails West w/St. Joseph Arts Academy, 10:15am
8/19 – Centerline Volleyball w/Soca Jukebox, Blue Springs MO, 7pm
8/20 – Solo @ Jowler Creek Winery, Platte City MO, 1pm
8/20 – Trails West w/Under the Influence, 630pm
8/21 – Great American Eclipse, 1pm
9/2 – Wathena Fall Festival w/Under the Influence, Wathena KS, 8pm
9/9 – Coleman Hawkins Blues Fest w/St. Joseph Arts Academy, Coleman Hawkins Park, 2pm
9/16 – State Theater w/Soca Jukebox, Mound City MO, 7pm
9/30 – Street Dance w/Under The Influence, Savannah MO, 8pm

Welcome Our New students

Susan B.
Matthew K.
Skylar H.

Is your Teacher Sold Out?

Guitar Openings – Jason R.

Monday – 4pm and 530
Tuesday – Lunch Hour Lessons available
Wednesday SOLD OUT
Thursday – Lunch Hour Lessons available
Friday – SOLD OUT

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Student of the Month

Ashlyn F. – Ashlyn earned a spot on the SJAMTA’s Honor Recital last month receiving “1s” all around for her evaluative adjudication. Besides being a fine young guitarist, Ashlyn plays piano, she sings and has been in many stage musicals as an actress!

As “Student of the Month”, Ashlyn will receive an iTunes gift card from the SJAA!

Congratulations on all your hard work, Ashlyn. We are super proud to have you as a guitar student at SJAA.

Big thanks to Ashlyn and her family for recommending their friends to the St. Joseph Arts Academy.

Congratulations to our Graduates! – SJAA students are finishing their school year and for some completing bigger milestones like moving on from elementary or graduating middle school, high school and college. Congratulations to all the students and their families. We are excited about your bright future in music.

Daytime Lessons Available
Having trouble finding time for music lessons in the evening. We have lots of busy professionals, retirees and home school students who prefer to take lessons during the regular business day. “Lunch Hour” lesson times are available with openings almost everyday between 11am and 2pm.

Summer lessons

Are your kids going to be driving you crazy this summer? Parents want their children in productive and growth oriented activities during those off months.

Summer is an excellent time to start a new instrument, rededicate yourself to a serious practice schedule and set short term musical goals. Students actually have more time to practice during the summer without competing with their regular school work. Summer also adds for flexible scheduling.

The “lazy days” of summer just don’t exist around here. The SJAA is a year round school. Let us help you make the most of your summertime.

Guitar in your Home! –
We’ve recently started our “in-home” music program for guitar. Many people prefer or need to take a lesson in their homes due to child care, business or even health restraints. We are here to serve the entire community of music learners. If you are interested in or need music lessons in your own home, drop us note. We’ll make arrangements to come to you!

Thank you for reading “The Write Notes” and staying up to date on all the adventures at the St. Joseph Arts Academy! Hope it’s a great month for all.

Guitar Students in Recital – Benedictine College

Benedictine College Guitar Students finished up the Spring 2017 Semester with a noon time recital performance, Friday Apr. 28.

Students study and practice hard all semester long to perfect one solo guitar piece to perform for their peers as part of their final assignment.

They also study scales, chord progressions, sight-reading and music theory as well as complete a short research project on any guitar related subject.

This year’s class was a very strong group of players performing pieces by Spanish masters, contemporary hits and works for Lute.

Grandparents Give the Gift of Music

We’ve been getting more and more calls from Grandparents who want to get the little ones in their life started in music lessons.

Grandmas, Grandpas, Granny’s, Papa’s, Nonnie’s and Pop’s seem to really understand the value of music and want to impart that gift to their grandchildren.

They inquire on behalf of parents, sign kiddos up and even get some special time with them every week as they take them to and from guitar, piano and voice lessons.  It’s a great bonding time for all.

I am personally grateful for all that my own grandparents have given me.  The inspired and encouraged me in my musical journey.  I truly would not be who I am today without their tremendous influence.

Our studio sees many grandparents every week in lessons AND they come to all the recitals and performances.  All of this adds up to cherished memories for 3 generations of music lovers.

If you are considering giving the gift of music to your child or grandchild, don’t hesitate to contact us here or to give us a call at  816-974-7656.

We have patient and fun teachers who work well with all ages!

Thank you for giving the gift of music to your loved ones.