What if music theory wasn’t difficult or boring? What if it was a mind-blowing and immediately-useful tool for your musical creativity? And what if there were a few simple insights and skills you could learn that would transform the way you experience being a musician?
Today on the show we’re joined by Shelle Soelberg, the founder of Let’s Play Music: an early music education program popular across the United States. But as you’ll learn in this episode, the tools they’re teaching to young children can be just as powerful and transformative for adult learners. In fact Shelle herself discovered them only after reaching college.
Shelle started teaching in this way in 1998 and in 2002 she started Let’s Play Music to share her method with other teachers. There have since been over 400 teachers trained in this approach impacting the early music education of over 20,000 students.
At a glance, Let’s Play Music may seem like just a fun way for children to experience music. But don’t let the upbeat spirit and joy of Let’s Play Music fool you: there is seriously impressive training going on, and the young graduates of this method are able to do some things in music that many adult musicians only dream of.
In this conversation Shelle talks about her own experience of learning music and the late discovery of two tools that transformed how capable and confident she felt as a musician.
Shelle shares how learning music theory – which was such a dull slog for many of the music students around her – was actually the gateway to truly understanding the music she was playing – and she reveals the one thing you can do that actually makes learning theory fun and useful.
She also talks us through some clear and simple examples of how learning these two tools can benefit you immediately in music.
If you’ve ever felt bored or overwhelmed by music theory – or you’ve wondered where to start in order to actually comprehend music by ear – this conversation is going to inspire you and give you some really valuable pointers for your own musicality training.
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Christopher: Welcome to the show, Shelle. Thank you for joining us today.
Shelle: Thank you.
Christopher: Let’s start at the beginning. Could you tell me a bit about your early experiences learning music yourself.
Shelle: Yes. So I grew up with somewhat of a musical training. I had it in public schools. I begged my mom to be in piano lessons, but it never happened. Music was not very valued in my home. I knew that it was in me, though, and so I pursued it through public school, and got a fairly good training there, so much so that I decided to major in music. And I was primarily a singer in high school. I had such interest in music that I did pick up the piano. I played the clarinet in school band. But it wasn’t until I got to college that I actually understood music. I understood how it is put together. Until then, I like to say I was observer. Even though I was participating in music, I really was more of an observer because I didn’t understand the workings of music. So I certainly wouldn’t have called myself a musician in high school. Just a singer and an instrument player.
Christopher: That’s really interesting, and I can totally relate to that myself. Was that frustrating for you? Did you feel limited in your music making? Because you were pretty committed by the sounds of it. You were learning different instruments. You pursued it. You even decided to major in music. But by the sounds of it there was something kind of missing, emotionally or psychologically, or in terms of what you could do.
Shelle: Absolutely. I was so envious of my friends in piano lessons. And of course they would say, I have to practice. This is torture. I thought, no, this would be heaven. My family actually acquired a piano when I was in seventh grade. And so I did. I pulled out books and I taught myself and I learned how to play on an average level, I guess. But I was truly envious of those who got real music instruction. And like I said, I had great parents. They nurtured me and they helped me. They just didn’t understand. They really didn’t understand music education. They didn’t know what needed to happen. They thought, oh she’s taking it at school, she’s fine.
Christopher: So what was it that was missing? What were you seeing other people do that made you feel like you weren’t quite there yourself? Was it purely about the level of instrument technique, or was it about the kinds of ways they were using their instrument?
Shelle: At that point in high school it was just the longing to be able to play, particularly the piano, as well as I saw others play it. Of course, I saw it as an instrument that can produce harmony and accompany. I was a singer, so I wished I could accompany myself. I wished I could accompany others. It’s just such a useful skill when you’re a musician. When you get together and everybody wants to pull out the Broadway show tune books and sing together. And I couldn’t sight read well enough to be able to do that. I could work on a piece and learn to play it, but I wanted to sight read piano so badly. And it just wasn’t in the cards for me, unfortunately.
Christopher: So you did decide to major in music when you headed off to college. Was singing still your primary focus?
Shelle: It was, yes. I did go primarily as a vocalist, and was surprised that I had to learn theory, that I had to do two years of college theory. And I heard so much moaning and groaning about it. In high school even, I had heard my peers moan and groan about theory. I had no idea what theory was. I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I had a very vague understanding of what a chord was because I knew that multiple tones at the same time produced a chord. I had no idea what chords actually were. So when I got to college and got in that very first theory course, my mind was literally blown at the basics behind chord theory, how music is put together. I was absolutely blown away, nearly to point of tears several times in class, looking around at the people with me. And they had been playing piano forever, had been in multiple theory classes. They knew this was boring. It was old news to them.
And I would look around and say, are you hearing this? Do you know what this is? Do you understand and comprehend what this does to our power as musicians? And I didn’t feel like they did. I honestly felt like they had sort if missed it somehow. That in the drudgery of learning theory, they had missed the magic of it. I was blown away. I just didn’t understand why they weren’t fireworks going off in their heads and they weren’t tap dancing on the desk because of what we were learning about. For example, modulations. That was such a mystery to me in high school. Such a mystery. I can tell that it’s in one key and then it changes mysteriously to another key. I had not a concept of how the simplest of modulations, C major to F major, I had no idea how that would happen. I knew that C major had no key signature, or no sharps or flats, and that F major had a B flat, but what that meant? No idea. So when I learned, it was life changing.
Christopher: That’s wonderful. I love hearing you describe it with such passion because I think a lot of people in our audience are in that boat of having kind of assumed that learning music means learning your instrument, and probably shied away from music theory because like you described for your high school friends, it’s often taught in such a dry way and without any kind of hint of how useful it can be or how powerful it can be for your music making. And it’s wonderful to hear that when you were finally offered that opportunity to kind of peak behind the curtain and see how things work, it just hit you so hard. By the sounds of it, it transformed your relationship with music.
Shelle: Yeah, absolutely. So in a way maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I came about it the right away, even though I felt inhibited in high school. Maybe my way was the better way to suddenly be … I loved music. I loved music. And to suddenly be shown how it worked was just fantastic.
Christopher: So tell me a bit more. How did your musical life change once that light bulb went on or once you discovered that music theory could empower you in that way?
Shelle: At that point, I was then able to … Of course my theory work became easier and enlightening and better, so lots of exercises, lots of chances to work out a modulation or a chord progression, or a analyze a piece and figure out how that was going to work. In real life, I was involved in choirs. I was involved in some groups just on the side, and I was able to make intelligent comments. Oh, I know what you’re talking about now. A B flat chord is going to work in the key of F, and it sure wouldn’t have worked in the key of C. That wouldn’t happened. It would have actually changed us to the key of F. So I was just able to communicate and have musical ideas. If we arranging something, if we were figuring out something was going to play together or how we were going to make a piece work, or maybe compose a medley. I was able to make that happen. I was able to transform.
Oh, of course, improvisation. Not being a pianist and a great reader, now being able to understand chords, I was able to play the piano much better. Astronomically better. Because I could read that chords. Most keyboard music has the chords written above, and I could just look at the chord and play the appropriate notes that I knew were in those chords. And I sounded like I was playing an accompaniment, even though I was ignoring the notes on the page. My finger still to do this day, if you want to know if I’m still inhibited, I am. I didn’t play piano at a young age. I am not good at playing piano. It’s not what I’ve spent time practicing. And so I was wish I was better at the piano. I can’t sight read a piece, but I can improvise on the chords if you put something in front of me.
So my piano playing increased to the level that accompany myself now. Just because I understood chords. My fingers couldn’t keep up with the sight reading. I couldn’t play all of the notes. I wasn’t as coordinated as I should have been. Had I played years of Honan and years of scales and cadences. Had I done that … Chord is going to create a different feeling than a … So it was incredibly empowering to learn those chords.
Christopher: That’s fascinating. I’d love to dig a little deeper there because it sounds like part of it for you, part of the reason it hit you so hard, was that you came to it a bit later, and you’d maybe been emersed in music without that theory knowledge-
Christopher: And then when you finally got it, that was powerful. But I talk to a lot of adult musicians who maybe are in a similar boat where they haven’t yet put that theory piece in place. But what they find is they look around and they try and study the theory. And it can be quite overwhelming and intimidating. I’d love to know a bit more about how the theory was taught to you, or if you think there was a particular reason it was so practical for you, and you were able to see all of these wonderful applications that could make you a more versatile and creative and free musician. Because I think that that’s something a lot of people struggle with.
Shelle: Yes. Let me think about that for a minute because as you know, in Let’s Play Music, the reason that it is created is for musicians to not only have the same magical discovery that I did, but to have it at an age where it would truly impact their skills and their musicianship. So we introduce these chords to them as four year olds. So let me think about an adult perspective. I feel that still the key is C is the best place to learn the chords. I think it’s important to learn without the sharps and flats. And I really do feel that the use of the keyboard is an important instructor. I know guitar is fantastic to play chords on, but it doesn’t have the same effect when learning chords. Because the keyboard gives you a visual feedback of how the chords are laid out. And it can give you instruction as you are playing it. So the keyboard becomes the teacher.
So I would say that the important thing to do, if you’re really struggling with the foundation of chords and cadences, would be to play, for example a C chord, and then an F chord, and then a G chord, and then a C. Why don’t I have a keyboard here in front of me. I could run get that if that would be helpful because I could play somethings. Do you want me to run get that?
Christopher: Sure. Let’s do that.
Shelle: Okay, so if you’re going to play a C chord, and then you want to play your F chord, and then your G chord, and you can add a G7 if you want, and then go to your C chord. You’ve just played the very most basic cadence that there is. Your 145571 cadence. And when you play that often enough, your fingers begin to feel what those chords feel like. And then you transpose to the key of F, and it doesn’t feel so very different to play the very same cadence in the key of F.
And I think that understanding, I guess, when you begin in the key of C, and then play the triads in their root position, up the keyboard. So the D chord, the E triad, the F, the G, the A, the B diminished, and then up to your C again. Understanding that those are all triads and that they’re built in thirds. And then understanding the major scale positioning, with its whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step, and that helps you to understand the tonality of each of those triads. So the major triads being the 1 the 4 and the 5, and obviously those are the ones that make up 85% of the music that we listen to.
And then understanding how to use the minor triads. The 2, the 3, the 6, to then color whatever you’re wanting to improvise with or accompany. But when your ear could hear, when you’re listening to a chord or a song and you’re wanting to figure it out by hear, and you think, okay, is that a major triad. I’m hearing this. What are the pieces of that chord? What chord am I listening to? I hear a Do, and I hear a Fa, and a La. That is a Fa, La, Do, so it must be a 4 chord, in the key of C. So when you use solfeggio, and I know I just jumped into solfege from chord theory, but when you can use solfege to then analyze the chords you’re listening to, then suddenly you can play anything by ear. Literally anything by ear. So when you’re first introducing your ear to those chords, sit at a piano, and sing. (singing) Sorry if I was a little off.
Christopher: Wonderful. I thought that was a really beautiful demonstration of the answer to my question. So asked, for someone who’s struggling with music theory and finding it dry or overwhelming or intimidating, were you taught in a particular way, and I think you just beautifully illustrated the answer, which was yes. At least the way you chose to learn it was very practical and very ear-based. Because I come from the UK music education tradition, and I think it’s similar in the US, where music theory basically means writing down answers on a piece of paper. And if you said, let’s learn about chord progressions or cadences in music theory, it’s very intellectual. It’s very logical and fact-based. For me, anyway, for the first 10, 15 years of my music education, there was almost no connection with the music I was actually playing. And you just beautifully illustrated how actually what we call music theory can be so much more alive and it can be so much more physical and practical in the way that real music is. And so for you, when you say, let’s do the music theory of chord progressions or that was what was interesting to you in college, it’s because you were sat down at a keyboard and you were playing through these things, and listening for the effect they had in music.
Shelle: Thank you. Yes, that’s exactly right. And then to be able to listen to a Beatles song or a Mozart symphony, and say, a-ha, I just heard that. He went from a 1 chord, and then a 4. Then he went to a 5, and he was holding that 5, and then he went to a 6 chord. Mind blown. He just did a deceptive cadence. And then you hear the same thing in Beatles. You can really connect the genres of music using theory. I feel like that makes you a musician as well. I feel like when you can extrapolate techniques from both Bach and the Beatles, and say a-ha, I know what they’re doing there. I know why that created an emotional response in me. Because they just took this chord that wasn’t supposed to go there, and they went somewhere else with it. And all of a sudden you’ve got chills all over your body.
Christopher: Absolutely. So you mentioned something in passing there that we haven’t really covered yet, which is solfeggio, also known as solfa or solfege. Could you tell us a little bit about how that had an impact on you, and how that fit into your learning of music?
Shelle: Yes. So it was taught integrally in my theory eduction.
Christopher: You’re a lucky student.
Shelle: Yes, I realize that now. We also were taught the hand signs, which even as an adult, they’re better for children, but even as an adult, they truly do cement the function of the scale. So if you’re speaking to someone and you’re saying, that note, sure it’s an A but how is the A functioning? What is it actually doing in this piece? What is that note doing? So if you’re in the key of C, that note is functioning as La. And La has a function in this scale. It knows what it wants to do. It’s a very static note. La just hangs and it floats. So when you hear a nice plagal cadence, you hear that La resolve to the So, and it has a very ethereal sound. And Do has a meaningful function in solfege. Do has a feeling. It has a personality. It has a purpose. And every step of the scale has a purpose. Solfege simply gives it a name so that you can say, we have a Do Mi So. Well, I know what it’s doing, then. It’s giving you a tonic chord. No matter what key you’re in, it has a function.
So solfege gives you a language and it also gives you an attached function to each step in the scale. So in the key of C, Do is C. In the key of A, Do is A. In the key of B flat, Do is B flat. So Do, Mi, So in any key, means tonic. In the key of C. In the key of B flat. In the key of F. Do, Mi, So always means tonic.
So when you’re listening to anything in any key, if you’ve trained your ear to hear those solfege syllables, you can listen to any song and you can know what is happening. You can hear the melody. You can hear the chords. You can know that was a 1 chord, and oh wow, I just heard a modulation, and now Do is elsewhere but I still hear the Do, Mi, So. So I feel like solfege truly, along with chord theory, I think they word together, truly helps a musician to be able to train their ear and then make sense of it. And then to be able to communicate that to other musicians.
So I know lots of people who have fantastic ears. Amazing. They can hear anything. They can hear it. They can take it to the keyboard. They can take it to the guitar, to their instrument of choice. And yet if you can’t communicate that to other musicians, it loses value. It loses something if you can’t create. Because really, we need to share music. Music is to share. Whether we’re participating in it together, or simply listening to it together, it is so valuable to be able to share.
Can I brag on my son for a minute? I have five children. They all went through the Let’s Play Music program. They are all fantastic musicians. They are all better than I am, which I am thrilled about.
Christopher: That’s the way it should be.
Shelle: It is. It’s just great. I love it. I have one son, however, that was actually born with a gift. And then having Let’s Play Music further school him, he’s quite brilliant. So I love going to musical performances with him because he understands them at a level that I can only dream about. And just having that level of satisfaction, fulfillment, enjoyment. Music is emotional, and it’s a connector. So when we can discuss it intelligently, it’s more enjoyable.
Christopher: I absolutely agree, and I think one think I’ve really noticed over the years is that understanding it’s great for communication, as you say, but it can also be really important for a musician’s confidence because you encounter members at Musical U who know they can improvise or they can figure stuff out by ear, and they have no idea how they do it. And that actually makes them very nervous about it. Because yes it worked today, and yes it worked the day before, but if I try it tomorrow will it work? I don’t know because I don’t really know where it’s coming from. And so I love that example that your son was already able, presumably, to do a lot of things like play by ear or improvise, but you still saw it was valuable to intellectually know what he was doing, and why and be able to talk about it intelligently.
Shelle: Yes. Knowledge is power, right? And knowledge is confidence, and having that terminology is really important, like you said, for the connection and for the confidence of the musician. That’s a great point.
Christopher: So you are maybe answering this question just by the story you’ve told us, but one question that comes up a lot is solfege has kind of a tradition or reputation as being something associated with children and children’s music education. So people, I think when they come to Musical U and we’re recommending that as an approach, they’re slightly hesitant because they feel like they’re being put into children’s music class or they’re being taught something that’s more basic than it’s useful. But you, as the sounds of it, only learned it as an adult yourself.
Shelle: Only as an adult. Only then. And I, too, thought, isn’t this the Sound of Music. Are we Maria Von Trapp? I’m not a child. I had that same hesitancy when I first knew that that’s how we were going to be trained. And yet, days into it, I realized the value and could see the fluidity that it would give my musicianship. It really, truly solfege is absolutely harnessing the power of music.
Christopher: So you had this amazing insight and transformation in your college years, and some people would be satisfied with that and just benefit from it in their own musical life, but you saw the opportunity to do something much bigger. And you founded Let’s Play Music, which has since been adopted by a huge number of music teachers. I think over 400 music teachers in the US are using the Let’s Play Music system now, and you’ve reached over 20 thousand students with that, which is phenomenal. Congratulations.
Shelle: Yeah, thank you.
Christopher: I believe that’s really built on the stuff we’ve been talking about. The Let’s Play Music approach is very informed by your own experience of this missing piece that had been neglected, and often is neglected in music education at all ages. Is that right?
Shelle: Absolutely. And I mentioned earlier that I was so passionate. I was so changed by this experience that I did not want any human to go through life without this newfound knowledge. And also, we know that research tells us that the earlier the exposure is, the better for the human. And so I decided that I was going to take chord theory to the four year … That’s preposterous. That cannot be. That cannot happen. And yet it can. It does. We do. And … Know this too, Christopher, I don’t know if you did know this, but we are piloting a program right now. It’s called Let’s Play Music Presto, and we have a teacher that’s teaching adults the Let’s Play Music method.
So we’re excited to see how this works. The pros of this, obviously, are that an adult can already read music, can already read, already knows what letters are, and they can move their hands. The cons are that much of the brain is already hardwired. There’s already a lot of synapsis that have taken place, and there is much hardening of the brain. But we’re anxious to see what happens. We’re anxious to see where this goes. But the foundations are the same. The ear needs to be trained to hear the major scale, first, then to hear the chords and how the solfege pieces make up the chords. And then the brain can take off and say, now I get it. I get the major scale. I get chords. I can now function in any key.
Christopher: That’s really interesting. So tell us more about what Let’s Play Music looks like in terms of how the lessons work, what you cover, and what the experience is like for the children.
Shelle: Sure, I’d love to. So Let’s Play Music begins when the children are four or five years old. This is because this is when the ears are prime for learning and when the brain is ready to make musical connections, much like language. Language is very important to be introduced to the brain at early ages. Music is a language. So when in introduced at this age, the brain internalizes everything much more quickly than an adult would. So the classes are structured very playfully. They are active. There’s six to seven children in a class at a time. If you were to look at a Let’s Play Music class, you would think it was just game time, musical game time. It doesn’t look much like serious instruction, unless you are an educator yourself. And then you recognize the very sneaky education that’s happening there. We do sing solfege with hand signs. We use a set of tone bells that is set up like the keyboard, so that the children can play and hear the major scale … play up their tone bells.
And then we introduce them to the staff. We help them to see staff relationships. So steps and skips are visually presented on the staff with cute little balloons and teddy bears and baby feet. So that the child loves the music staff and sees the up, up, up, up, up. And then plays on the bells, up, up, up, up, up, and can see the relationship of staff to bells, which obviously is the keyboard as well. And then for our harmony instrument, we play the auto-harp. I don’t know how many of your listeners are familiar with the auto-harp, but it is a stringed instrument where you can push buttons and each button represents a chord. These buttons mute certain strings, so that when one button is pressed and the strings are strummed, it’s automatically going to produce that chord. So for a four or five year old, we can very easily have them play chords and they play these chords and accompany themselves, which is a really important part of musicality. So be able to produce within your own body, harmony and melody at the same time. And the auto-harp makes this possible for a four or five year old.
Auto-harp isn’t really necessary for an adult. They can go straight to keyboard or guitar to produce harmony as they produce a melody. But for musicianship, it’s really important to produce those at the same time, so that multiple harmonies being … and heard, and going out … hands, in the ear, all at the same time … In circles there, did that sound fine?
Christopher: Yeah, it sounds like a lot of fun. And I’m so happy to hear about your Presto program because I think adults, whether they’ll admit it or not, crave that kind of fun experience of learning music. I feel like a lot of us fall into the trap of taking it very seriously because we really care about achieving the goals. But the reality is, it can be a game, it can be enjoyable. Arguably, it really should be. Music is really fun. Music is creative. And learning music, I feel, should be the same way. I’m so excited to see what your Presto classes are like and how that works. I’m confident it’ll be a great success.
Shelle: Yes, thank you.
Christopher: That sounds like you’re hitting on some really powerful skills. Can you tell us a bit, for example, what would a successful Let’s Play Music graduate be able to do, that maybe a child of the same age in traditional music education wouldn’t feel comfortable with?
Shelle: That’s a wonderful question, Christopher, because often we have parents come to us and they say, well why would should they take Let’s Play Music? Why can’t I just put my child in traditional piano right now? The reason is, traditional piano will teach the names of the white keys on the keyboard. They will learn to play one note at a time, for a very long time before they actually produce harmony. They will learn the notes of the names on the staff. And after a few years they will playing at beginning. They’ll be out of the primary books and be in … Playing probably hands together, maybe one note at a time, hands taking turns a bit. Let’s Play Music however, begins the training with immediate harmony, as I said, with the auto-harp. The entire first year of Let’s Play Music is called Preparation for Keyboard. We do not see a keyboard. The hands aren’t ready for keyboards at age four and five. We play the auto-harp for harmony. We play the tone bells for melody and staff reading, and we listen. This exposure opens the brain for training, for drawing conclusions, for self-instruction.
And so the second year, when they actually do get on a keyboard, they almost immediately begin playing chords. And they begin with the simple folk songs that we learned in the first year and we accompanied ourselves on the auto-harp. But now they play a chord on the keyboard. First we teach middle C because that’s foundationally and functionally, you’ve got to know where it is on the staff and on the keyboard. They learn intervals so they don’t need to know that E is one third about C, but they do know that it’s an interval of a third. They can see that on the staff and play it on the keyboard. And from there we learn the primary chords. So they can play the 1, 4, and 5 chord, and they can read those from the staff. And they can sing along. This is amazing. So they’re going to sing. So rather than just singing your typical beginning piano student would sing. (singing) Right? This is the typical beginning piece. But in Let’s Play Music we would do (singing). So much harmony. So much more going into that.
So second year, both hands play cadences and scales, all in self-accompaniment. We don’t want to be boring with our chords. We want to have some improvisation. So we teach the children by listening to lullabies and marches and calypso music. Chords are used to stylized music. So if you want it so sound like a lullaby, you’re going to play a broken chord, right? That will help it sounds like a lullaby. If you want it to have a marching beat, then you’re going to play a marching chord. And yes, a five year old can do this. It’s wonderful. And then they sing along and they’re making music. If you want it to be a little more exciting, you can go.
Third year come along, and that’s where we’re going to teach them about the root of the chord. So so far they’ve just been experiencing chords wholistically. They can read them on the staff. They can play them. They can manipulate the chords. They’re reading the staff now, too. They can read C, D, E, all the way up the staff. We know the names of the notes on the staff. But third year comes along and we teach them about chord structure. So the root of the chord, as you know, is the bottom of the triad. And then the chord is built in thirds above the root. The functionality of the root is you need to be able to find the root, both in the written music and with your ear to understand which chord is being played. When you can find the root, and we have this lovely catchy tune, Let’s Find the Root. (singing) So the root’s the important thing, right? We have to find the root so that then we can analyze the chord and know what’s happening, what key we’re in and what’s actually going on in the piece.
So this is third year. These kids are six or seven years old. They’re analyzing chords. They are inverting chords. They transpose from simple keys. They don’t do difficult transposition. But they can do from C to F and F to G and G back to C, and we do some minor as well. So by the time they graduate, as you asked, they’re musicians. They’re not just pianists. They’re musicians. Their ears are trained in a way that they can sing in tune. Many, many pianists cannot sing in tune. I’m sure I’m a little bit prejudice on this, but I feel like if you cannot sing, you’re not a complete musician because you’ve got to be able to produce those sounds with your body in order to be able to do so many other things. If that’s offensive, I apologize. That is definitely my opinion.
Christopher: I think that’s fair and we’re on the same page with that one. I think the critical thing is the adults think it’s impossible for them and so they just shut down if you talk about singing. And once you explain that it is still a learnable skill for them, then you can start to talk about the power of it and the usefulness to communicate to other musicians or indeed for training your own ears. At Musical U, when we can help someone get that basic vocal control, it becomes such a powerful part of their toolkit, and really rewarding.
Shelle: Absolutely. And that’s wonderful that you are helping adults to realize that it’s absolutely possible. I know you have fantastic tools and I love your articles and your methods and your approach that truly can teach an adult to do this. It’s wonderful that it’s possible. It’s easy when you’re little.
Christopher: Well, I think you have your own challenges there.
Shelle: That’s true.
Christopher: Thank you. That paints a wonderful picture of the skill level they reach and the different perspective you have, the different direction you’re sending those kids on, rather than just, let’s perfect our hanon and our repertoire and make sure we’re on the track to become a concert pianist, which realistically, very few are going to anyway. Instead, you’re saying, let’s think about what it actually means to feel musical and be musical. I think just putting in place such a great foundation there, for whatever direction they want to go, to do so with confidence and with a lot of expertise that is often in lacking in musicians, even those who have a lot of technical skill on their instrument.
Shelle: Exactly. And we do tell our parents that enroll in the program that their child will graduate a musician ready to excel on any instrument. When you are a musician, that’s the case. When music makes sense to you, any instrument is going to be an easy one to pick up. And I know that’s why you spend so much time on that ear, because when the ear is trained then the musicality falls in place, and then all other skills become accessible.
Maybe just give your program a plug and a hurray. When I first was introduced to your program, which was by you, you contacted us, I’m thinking four years ago or so, and I looked at your website and since then have followed some of your podcasts and I’ve looked at your methods, and I just think it’s brilliant. I think that the approach that you have harnessed and the in dept understanding that you have of music and also of really pragmatically setting out a course, a class, that can teach people these skills that they think are illusive. They think, I’m not a musician. I can’t hear that. I can’t sing. I can’t do that. It’s not actually an illusive talent. It’s an accessible skill. And it’s something that can be cultivated and grown and it’s accessible. And it’s so rewarding. It’s just incredibly rewarding when you can hear something, when you can produce something. So I just say, kudos to you, you’re doing a wonderful job. Love the approach. And I think you’re doing a wonderful job connecting other musicians, because I think that’s another really important thing. We can get very focused in our own path, whatever we’re currently doing. But when we can step back and learn from each other, when we can draw from each others experience, frustrations, victories, then we really gain from each other. Hats off to you for doing a wonderful job connecting the music community, as well as educating us.
Christopher: Thank you very much. That certainly is a big part of why we put community at the heart of Musical U. Probably the same reason, in a way, that you do group music classes for children, is that we can learn so much from each other. And although there’s benefit in one to one instruction, there’s huge value from putting people in a shared space where they can observe each other’s progress and share each other’s ups and downs and learn from one another as much as from the instructor.
Shelle: Right. It’s wonderful.
Christopher: Thank you so much, Shelle, for joining us today. Let the audience know where they can learn more about Let’s Play Music, whether they’re a parent who wants their children to have this amazing experience of learning music early on, or maybe to learn more about your new Presto program and how they can get involved themselves.
Shelle: Sure. We will be offering Presto a year from now. So 2018 is when we’re going to kick that off. All of over our website. It’s letsplaymusicsite.com. If you just Google Let’s Play Music, we’ll be the top one. So yeah, join us, watch our videos, and it’s really quite amazing. And if you have children at the right age, find a teacher. Put your zip code in and find a teacher … starting classes now. Actually, this is mid-August. I’m not sure when this will be aired, but classes generally start mid-August, but there are teachers that start year round, too. So find a teacher.
Christopher: Perfect. Well, we’ll definitely have that link and other information about what we’ve talked about today in the show notes. Thank you again, Shelle, for coming on the show.
Shelle: Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.