Hellene Hiner. Open letter to my potential followers.
Do you know that your taxes pay for your child’s music illiteracy?
How much does it cost to find Middle C in sheet music and on the piano?
About 14 years ago, I had a revelation about something that had been around in my life for decades, practically in front of my own eyes. Imagine a musicologist and a music educator with a Master’s degree and about 25 years of teaching experience suddenly noticing a very simple, but obvious truth about music notation. It was a fact that none of her professors in school had ever mentioned and none of the music text books had ever revealed.
And this revelation is not a figment of my imagination. It can’t be called my own personal “belief” or explained as my philosophy. This is not a theorem that needs to be proved. I am talking about an axiom, a given fact that is supposed to be the very foundation of learning music as a written language.
This simple musical fact has been overlooked by the majority of people working in musicology:
The keys of any piano are an extension of the spaces and lines of the Grand Staff, and the Grand Staff is perfectly symmetrical.
From the moment I realized this fact, my life turned upside down and I became an obnoxious, arrogant music teacher, who “has no respect for other methods and philosophies,” if you believe everything you read in the Internet. I now live the life of an expelled professional in the field of music education.
How would YOU answer the question "What is two plus two?” Would you say, “It is four, but this is my personal opinion"? Or – this is the good one! – “It is four in my personal experience.”
You may think that I must be kidding: we all know that music is not just an art, there is a subject called “musicology” that makes it a well investigated topic. Music has been taught in schools worldwide for centuries. If there were any flaws in the system, they would be fixed. You may hear a lot about the importance of keeping music in the schools and once in a while come across information on how music may affect your child’s brain in a positive and nurturing way.
However, something is not right in the picture. You won’t be told that only the music that is applicable affects the brain of your child, but his exposure to Mozart and Back is extremely limited due to the simple fact that your child is being told all about music, but is given no skill to work on with music notation.
You won’t ever be informed that music literacy is not public education’s forte. To my disappointment, the fluent reading of music scores today is not the piano professionals’ forte either. Our children (like most of us adults, too!) are unable to read music notation with the Grand Staff on it. Many say that they can manage to read the notes of the treble clef, but have trouble with the bass. Most complain that to read both clefs is a “show stopper” for them.
It seems like our total music illiteracy doesn’t promote any new Mozarts and Tchaikovskies, and our philharmonics every season keep playing the “good old stuff.” It reminds me of the movie GroundhogDay – the loops in performing the classics become obvious.
Let’s go back to the subject, though. After making the discovery about the fact that had been omitted by all the leading music schools on Earth, I was under the naïve impression that after presenting this piece of the missing puzzle I would receive a response something like “Thank you! How could we have missed it?” You know, when one makes an obvious typo, one tries to correct it as soon as possible to make sure that the message won’t be crippled and delivered improperly.
Not in this case! In my story, all I get is blame, my message is ignored, and my materials about this discovery have never been officially published in the USA or inserted in any public school’s textbooks worldwide.
How does that feel? I will try to explain what I am going through by using an analogy:
Imagine yourself in a world where people still believe that the Earth is flat and supported on the backs of three elephants. In this imaginary world, no map is ever used. People move from point A to point B with the help of selected “landmarks” that they have to memorize first. People have no idea about North, South, East or West.
The Blind Leading the Blind by artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1568)
If you suddenly found a map, what would be your reaction?
Of course, the first thing you would do is to try to deliver your message to professionals – to the people, who are in charge of teaching others how to orient themselves on the planet.
You would also try to share your knowledge with key people who could implement and spread this discovery as soon as possible. You wouldn’t be squeamish about contacting rich and famous people, public officials and mass media. And you would work hard, very hard to prove your point to those who were within your reach!
This is exactly what I have been doing for the past 13 years!
Most of my colleagues have received my message cautiously and even aggressively (to say the least). They “don’t believe in maps” because they have never used them. If someone has spent all her life building her own way of explaining that middle C is on the left of the two black keys, a simple picture that could do the same job in a flash is nothing but trouble, right?
We pay teachers for man hours – not for the results they deliver. Yes, a picture is worth 1000 words, indeed, but time is money. And talking is more time-consuming and profitable for them. Who picks up the tab? Your children!
Now let’s see how the rest of the Very Important People have handled the news that I brought to them.
Rich and famous that I tried to approach do not care at all. It seems as if their hands are full without this “little problem” about a missing fact in music education. They might relate better to missing $$$ in their banking account, but a missing fact? Forget about it! Your children’s well-balanced education and brain development is the last thing on their list.
Public officials that I contacted also showed nothing but reluctance. As far as I understood, they want piece, golf, vacations, benefits (or whatever makes them happy), and the last thing they want is ANY changes, God forbid any “revolution” in their department. A missing fact about music literacy is something like a coup from their point of view. Sure, they have to produce reforms from time to time, but avoid them as much as they can.
After seeing Obama's family picture at the piano, I wrote a short letter to ask me to present the discovered facts to education committee in US. I asked for advice, how to get the information to the educational department. 'Your request can't be fulfilled' was the answer,
I managed to bring my message across to the ministries of culture or education in the USA, UK, Spain and Ukraine. None of these countries did anything to embrace this discovery (even though none found anything wrong with it). Only Kazakhstan and Russia are open to developing the concept at some point, but Russian schools are still far from including this missing fact in the text books for their public education (even though some universities already teach my findings to their students).
'Soft Mozart seminar in Stary Oskol, Russia
Now what about journalists? From time to time, the most curious and open-minded representatives of this profession write a few stories on the subject: TV and radio channels as well as magazines and newspapers like to feature toddlers who play the piano. It is sweet, it is cute, and we all love “positive news.” Because using this discovery has produced A LOT of piano-playing toddlers, you can witness the fruits of my discovery in the USA, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Norway and many other countries. It happens with and without my control, and I have lost track of such stories. The angle of the news is usually about “prodigies with tiny hands”: on TV they like to show tiny legs that can’t reach the pedal. Awe! So precious!
Such human-interest stories don’t ring any bells for those in charge of music education. 2+2 = 4? It is just your personal opinion.
With no support from the rich and famous, professional experts, and government officials, one of the most important facts about music literacy is hidden from each of you, pushed under the doormat and left undisclosed like something shameful, something not worthy of your time and attention.
I feel like I am living the life of a Superman in a Hollywood blockbuster: my every day is a feat for saving the very essence of music literacy. Since society is not interested and this discovery of global importance ended up on my shoulders, I had no better solution but to make it my small business venture.
Literally--I collected all my resources, dedicated all my time and strength to create a pilot system and try to sustain it as a business. I called this project “Soft Way to Mozart” because I thoroughly developed not just a map for music literacy, but a musical GPS to help people learn to sight-read music notation.
Of course, keeping this project alive claims all of my energy, time and a huge investment of funds: I am a 24/7 employee and have to hire many subcontractors to run this not-so-small business. I disclosed everything to prove (not with my words, but with concrete results) that the rest of the world may just be wrong. I gained some allies: some volunteers gathered around this discovery – professors in universities, music educators, parents and students. With their help this project is getting stronger day by day. But the official world is still in denial.
Today this discovery is used in children’s institutions, schools, colleges, universities and households in more than 50 countries. It has created all sorts of absolutely astonishing results. The educational world could not care less.
Keeping in mind the fact that I am not invincible, I address each of you: how long will this project last if you won’t take a stand and express your opinion? I want children to succeed in life, and I do everything above and beyond to make it happen. Are you willing to help me get this message across?
Should this discovery stay my own small business – or is this the business of your family and your school? I think that this fact should be included in every music text book of any country in the world and be available to your child and you to start using immediately!
Why are these facts omitted from music textbooks? If one picture is worth 1000 words, why do we keep paying for the words instead of letting students see the picture?
I want you to know that beginning from today I won’t even pretend that I have a corporation or this company runs with bunch of employees. I am answering most of your emails, picking up presents for your kids, helping with your learning needs, developing the curriculum, and solving thousands of problems and issues. I am answering the phone and spending all the time sharing with you all my knowledge about this discovery.
Yes, I have a store, where the materials and software that I created are not offered for free. They are not cheap either. I developed many ways for you to afford getting everything you need if you really want to get a music education as much as I want to give it to you. All that you have to do is to understand one thing: this project needs either funds or your active involvement. Many successful learners in our Academy invest both, and this is why we are a very successful company with flexible prices for education.
I will stick with our Scholarship discount program. I will keep answering all of your emails and help you in your learning experience as much as I can. I want your complete understanding that I am on your side and we have to work TOGETHER to make this program available for every child. Let it be our mutual mission.