"Surya is a thoughtful, terrific teacher and wonderful human being. He was well prepared for the lesson, and ready to meet me exactly where I was at. I left my lesson feeling inspired, excited, and ready for more!"
Voice lessons are based on a method developed by Gregory Blankenbehler, with influences from the Full Voice curriculum and the Hoffman method. Lessons are really fun and well-paced, keeping young people engaged in the process. Lessons include games, body movement and awareness, encouragement and positive reinforcement, age-appropriate songs, ear-training, and more.
The lessons begin with fun stretches to wake up the body, opening the muscles in the pelvis, torso, chest, neck and face. We make fun animal sounds while we stretch. After waking up the face, tongue, and mouth, we learn a fun new tongue-twister each week to work on articulation and mouth shape awareness.
Next, to wake up the breath we do some movement to get the heart-rate and breath going and promote a mind-body connection. After this movement, students feel the breathing movement of their bellies/lower torso to build the habit of breathing low and not in their shoulders. Then students stand and test how long they can exhale on a hiss, a ‘zzzz,’ or a hum. The time is recorded each week so that the student can try to surpass their previous record.
Posture is an important part of singing, and the student learns to check their own singing posture to see if it is in alignment. This includes feet, knees, hips, back, shoulders and head alignment. It also includes mouth posture. Students learn the correct way to open the inside and back of the throat and find resonance there. They learn to make the right mouth shapes for the primary vowels, moving between the vowels and keeping the tongue forward.
The Siren comes next, with students choosing a vowel or a trill to sweep up and down the range of their voice. We often play a ‘rollercoaster’ game here, imagining different ways the voice can sweep up and down.
I move to the piano, and we play a game called ‘Solfege Surprise.’ This is a fun way to teach young singers the solfege language and to learn intervals.
Next Surya takes the voice through exercises with piano in stepwise motion. Exercises include the trill, slides, and legato and stacato sounds. Different vowels are used here, with different consonants added as well (such as Mee, May, Mah, Moh, and Moo). We sing fun phrases that help with learning the different steps and skips, like “I like to fly like a plane” or “Stepping up and Stepping down and Skipping up and down.”
After the exercises, we delve into the student’s repertoire. We review earlier songs that they have already learned, and then move to new songs that they are working on. Some songs have fun backing tracks with a full band behind them to get the sense of singing with an ensemble. Repertoire development is based on starting with songs that have a ‘Do-Re-Mi” range with stepwise motion, to a ‘Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So’ range with stepwise motion, then to the same range but with skipping intervals, then to the interval of a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and so on.
Students learn to sing all songs with words, and solfege. They also learn to identify primary and secondary vowels in the song, breath placement, and places where there are skips or other intervals. Singers learn to sing songs with the letter note names as well. Students also learn how to sing a ‘Rhythm language’ that identifies quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, etc, so that they understand vocally what rhythm the song is made of.
Finally, Surya provides a fun worksheet on music theory for the level they are on, teaching things like drawing and identifying clefs and notes, rhythm compositions, or transcribing a melody.
Surya writes down what was done in the lesson, and the student goes home with plenty to practice for the next week. Here is a list of the repertoire of songs students will learn:
C is Do and D is Re, Hot Cross Buns, Merrily We Roll Along, Little Things, Chocolate, Five Woodpeckers, Oats Peas Beans and Barley Grow, Down By the Station, Frog In The Middle, Rain Come Wet Me, Let Us Chase the Squirrel, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Mouse In the House, Dinah, Love Somebody, Skipping Song, Gone to Play, Lightly Row, Oh When the Saints, Oranges and Lemons, Tarzan of the Apes, Aura Lee, I’m the Best At Being Me, Grandfather’s Clock, Spinning Song, Spinning Song Upside Down, Listen for Bells, Who’s That?, Lavender’s Blue, All the Pretty Horses, Black Snake, Wild Horses, Silver Birch, Debka Hora, Taps, Home on the Range, The Holly and the Ivy, I Wish on a Star, Deta Deta, Old Folks at Home, Chumbara Chumbara, Canoe Song, If I Had a Big Robot, Halloween, Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends, Graduation Song....and more.
Stretching/movement, Posture check - 5 min
The hiss and the four steps to singing - 5 min
Tongue Twister - 2 min
Solfege - 3 min
Siren, trill and Exercises - 5 min
Songs - 10 min (one review, one new)
Total time = 30 min, three or more times in a week.
Piano and Musicianship lessons are based on the Hoffman Method. This curriculum is amazing and over the course of 12 units, students learn 64 songs, all 12 keys, proper piano technique, how to sing and hear what they play, and how to notate, read and compose music. They develop a real understanding of what they are playing and how music works. The Hoffman method is an “Ear to Eye” approach, where students sing and/or hear the sound of the music they are learning before they see it and learn to read it on sheet music.
Students start with posture at the piano, finger power, finger numbers, high and low sounds, and call and response. Melodies are played in both left and right hands, as well as together. Students learn to identify all the notes on the piano. Lessons include hand-over-hand warm-ups, note identification games and dictation. Students learn to sing the melodies they play, using note names, solfege, and rhythm language.
Students learn to read notes on the Grand Staff, to identify and understand rhythmic notation, and how to write the notes themselves. Students learn to improvise in different modes, beginning with the C major pentascale, or to improvise with different set rhythms that they compose themselves.
Surya uses visual, kinesthetic, vocalization and listening tools. Students learn to hear melodic patterns and rhythmic patterns and to reproduce them on the piano or on musical staff paper. Each song a student learns contains particular challenges that build the student's skill level, which in turn prepares them to learn their next song.
Here is the repertoire of songs students will learn:
Hot Cross Buns, D journey, C boogie, Five Woodpeckers, Frog in the Middle, Chocolate, Listen for Bells, Mouse in the House, Rain Come Wet Me, Who’s That?, Let Us Chase the Squirrel, Dinah, The Wild Horses, Love Somebody, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Silver Birch Tree, I Have a Dog, Oranges and Lemons, Lavender’s Blue, Spinning Song, Spinning Upside Down, Bagpipe, Debka Hora, Ode to Joy, Row Row Row Your Boat, Lady Lady, I Hear the Mill Wheel, Au Clair de la Lune, La Cinquataine, Honeybee, Kye Kye Kule, Harvest Dance, Happy Birthday to You, Vivace, All the Pretty Horses, Dance, Are You Sleeping, Black Snake, Musette in D, Deta Deta, Allegro in C, Dragon Night, When the Saints Go Marching In, Canoe Song, Melody fo Left Hand(Schytte), Chumbara, Etude(Biehl), Morning Salute(Gurlitt), Tarentella(Hoffman), Promenade(A. Reinagle), Heart and Soul, The Bear(V. Rebikov), Minuet in C(J.-P. Rameau), When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Andante(J.C. Bach), Down By the Bay, The Village Prophet (J.J. Rousseau), Amazing Day(J. Hoffman), Land of the Silver Birch, Arabesque(F. Burgmuller), Greensleeves, Ballade(F. Bergmuller), Musette in D, Sonatina in C.
Warm-up(note I.D., finger-power exercises): 10min
Review songs plus backing track: 10 min
New song: 5 min
Theory worksheet: 5 min
Total time = 30 min; three or more times in a week
Drum set lessons will give you the tools to be a solid and creative drummer, to practice daily, and also to have fun with the instrument. Lessons are based on learning stick control/technique, coordination, grooves or beats, soloing, and playing with songs. The students learn fun warm-ups to get started. We work through a piece of Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, Syncopation by Ted Reed, and A Funky Primer by Charles O’Dowd, and then we move to learning a song. Over time, the student works their way through the three books mentioned above, and learns a whole repertoire of songs that have progressively more difficult beats. Students will also learn fills and solo development, how to listen while they play, how to read music and drum charts, and diverse styles of drumming.
Drum lessons usually begin with some games like call and response, conversational drumming, or number recognition to wake up the ears and move toward getting totally comfortable with the instrument. This is followed by stick control work, learning singles, doubles, paradiddles, flams, closed rolls and other rudiments. After working on stick control, students work on independence between the hands and the bass drum. This is called coordination work because you are learning to do at least 2 different things at once. Students learn to sing the rhythms as well as play them.
After coordination work, students work on drum beats, usually involving three parts(hi-hat, snare, and bass drum). Once the student can play the beat steadily and repeatedly, we add a fill to the beat. This introduces the idea of soloing on the drums and using the rudiments we learned in Stick Control.
Finally, the student learns the beat to a song, along with breaks, fills, intros etc, and plays along with the song over the speakers. The song teaches the student how to play in an ensemble and understand the role of the drums. It also teaches them tempo, dynamics, and how to mark the form of a song. Many of these songs are classics and become part of the student’s repertoire.
Once the student has become comfortable coordinating three limbs(HiHat, Snare and Bass), Surya introduces using the left foot as a fourth limb. This coordination is more advanced and is the beginning of studying jazz rhythms, latin rhythms and more complicated funk beats. The student's repertoire will expand to include songs with odd meters, songs with cross-cultural influences(such as reggae, african or latin), and transcribing beats. In addition, more advanced students will use Master Studies by Joe Morello and the All-American Drummer by Charles Wilcoxon. Students will also learn to play longer solos, including trading fours and eights, as well as reading big band charts.
Here is the repertoire students will learn: We Will Rock You, I'm Not the Only One, You Don't Know How It Feels, Billie Jean, Another One Bites The Dust, Eye Of the Tiger, Seven Nation Army, I Love Rock N' Roll, Every Breath You Take, Thriller, Play That Funky Music(White Boy), Free Fallin', Sugar, We Can Work It Out, Darling Darling Darling, Tramp, Sunshine, Machine Gun (Live at Fillmore East), Under Pressure, Ordinary Love, Stay Up Late, Come Together, Chicken Strut, Magnificent Sanctuary Band, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Happy, I Heard It Through The Grapevine(Creedence Clearwater), Steady As She Goes, Thunder, Maps, What's Goin' On, Smells Like Teen Spirit, D'yer Ma'ker, Fame(David Bowie), Tomorrow Never Knows, Whole Lotta Love, The Ocean, American Girl, Gimme Shelter, Immigrant Song, Since I've Been Lovin You, Something's Burnin', Man On The Moon, American Girl, The Wind Cries Mary, Tequila, Hallelujah I Love Her So, Money, Shade From The Sun, One Day, King Without A Crown, Chain Of Fools, Liberation (Outkast), Feel It Still, Wipeout, Dazed and Confused, Dancing Days, Slippin Into Darkness, Purple Haze, Pixie (Ani DiFranco), 50 Ways To Lose Your Lover, Take Five, Over The Hills and Far Away, Nights on Broadway, Chameleon, Lovely Day, Ain't No Sunshine, Superstition....and more.
(Older students just double or triple the amount of time spent on each component)
Warm-up - 5 min
Stick Control (Hand work) - 5 min
Syncopation (Coordination work) - 5 min
Funky Primer (Beats, and beats with fills) - 5 min
Songs - 10 min (one review, one new)
Total time = 30 min; three or more times in a week
Harmonium lessons are generally focused on learning Jewish or Hindu songs that are devotional in nature.
The harmonium comes originally from England, and was a foot-pumped reed organ that people kept in their homes to sing church hymns. The English brought it to India as part of converting Hindu’s to Christianity, but instead, Indians removed the legs and placed the harmonium on the floor, pumping with their left hand and playing with their right. Now in India the harmonium is a common instrument kept in homes to chant to Hindu gods and sing in the ‘Kirtan’ style. With the rise of musicians like Krishna Das and Jai Uttal, the harmonium found its way back west to America. Harmonium can be used to play almost any kind of music, but the music is generally modal and used in more spiritual settings.
Harmonium lessons start with establishing good posture at the instrument, and understanding the roles of the ‘active dominant’ hand and the ‘passive dominant’ hand. We work on making sure the natural arm weight is part of the action of the fingers hitting the keys and do a pattern to wake up the fingers of the active hand. Then we focus on the passive hand (usually the left) pumping the bellows of the harmonium with a good mid-range of motion and structural steadiness.
After dealing with the hands separately, we put the two together, working on getting a nice long tone. The long tone is following by picking a note on the keyboard and repeating that note up and down the instrument. This includes doing it rhythmically, playing chords based on that note, and doing pentascales and arpeggios from that note. If the student doesn’t know the names of the notes, we do exercises to help them get comfortable with the names of all the notes on the keyboard. The pentascale is important because it works all five fingers in one position. We practice call and response patterns in that pentascale to wake up the ears and practice different finger patterns or movements. We also sing what we play by singing the names of the notes we play.
We then move from the pentascale to a full 8 note scale, increasing to two-octave scales and more. Based on the scale degrees, students learn what chords can be built inside the scale. When students learn songs, they can then start to figure out themselves which chords fit under different parts of the melody, based on what scale degree the melody is presenting.
After working on chords, we go to the students repertoire and work on songs. Melodies begin in the C major pentascale, and then gradually move to all 12 keys. The melodies become more complex spanning an octave or more with different challenging intervals. The student always learns to play the melody of the song first, followed by the chords. They learn the rhythm of the melody, and they also play along with recordings to help with timing and song form and listening while you play.
At a certain point, the student is ready to learn to play melody and chords together with one hand. Students are strongly encouraged to bring songs to the lesson that they are interested in learning. Some lessons include time where the student composes their own melody, and puts their own prayerful words to the melody. Sample repertoire:
Oseh Shalom, Kaveh, Sanctuary, Akhat Shealti, El Na Re Fa Na La, Mizmor L’Dovid, Mikha Mokha, Kol Haneshama, Sh’ma, Hallelu, Yiverekhekha, Etz Chaim Hi, Bar’khu, Nishmat Kol Chai, Ashrei, Romemu, Higale Na, B’shem Hashem, Hinei Matov, Birkat Havdalah....and more. Jay Siya Ram, Sri Krishna Govinda, Hare Krishna, Radhe, Ma Durga, Om Namah Shivaya, Sri Ram Jay Ram Jay Jay Ram, Hanuman Chalisa, Kali Ma, Bolo Ram, Maha Mrityunjaya mantra....and more.
Warm-up with separate and combined hands: 10 min
Full scales and chords: 5 min
Review song(melody, chords, with recording): 5 min
New song(melody, chords, sing words, play with recording): 10 min
Total time = 30 min; three or more times in a week
As a professional music teacher myself, I have to say that it is extremely rare to find a music educator who is as well rounded, talented, and profoundly kind as Surya. Whether he is teaching voice, drums, or piano, he brings great joy AND precision to the lesson. When I'm learning from Surya I feel totally comfortable and supported. I highly recommend Surya Music Lessons!
I loved and miss my drum lessons with Surya. Hoping to go back soon. He is a professional, skilled, warm, patient man. Our first lesson he assessed what I wanted to work on and what my skill level was, and tailored my lessons thoughtfully in a methodical way. He was always prepared and is a very experienced teacher. I have taken drum lessons with others and none had the teaching chops or were as professional, thoughtful and organized as Surya. I give him the highest recommendation.
Surya has been teaching my 4.5 year old drum and piano lessons for the past two months. He's an incredible teacher who is not only patient with his students but also with parents playing a support role in virtual instruction. My son looks forward to his lessons each week and loves to practice in between because Surya makes it so much fun. So glad we found an amazing teacher to help grow my little guy's interest in all things musical!
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