To Contact Me
August 22, 2012, 3:10 pm
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I am not currently operating Mike Roberts Music Studio. For any questions or comments, please direct them to me at mikeeroberts “at” yahoo dot com. Thank you.



Valentine’s Day Miracle Campaign Journal
February 2, 2010, 7:14 am
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FOR MOST CURRENT UPDATE:

Please visit www.haileyandcartersdream.com for updates on my sister’s Valentines Day Miracle campaign during my leave of absence.

For information on lessons, please contact Steve Kelly at 815-519-0407.

Thank you for your loving prayers and support and gifts toward my sister’s family. We are making a miracle happen!

DAY FIVE

It’s 8:00 here (7:00 my time in Rockford) and yesterday was another exciting day.

Donations slowed to a trickle, which was expected to happen after the initial bump we got from the news conference. To be honest, I didn’t even check the total at the end of the day. At this point, that’s not what’s important, but I’m pretty sure it was a little under $2000.

What’s important is that more people are getting into the campaign and gearing up for the big day, Valentines Day. The Facebook group grew by the hundreds, and those are mostly people planning on giving then.

People are telling people, and we’ve heard from people as far away as Hawaii so far!

We got several radio interviews set up and are working on more. This morning I’ll be on WFEN and WQFL in Rockford and I’m waiting to hear back from others. Katie Crowther with WTVO and FOX in Rockford is also putting together a story and my wife Donna will be interviewed for that.

We’ve also heard back from an important celebrity contact that a friend of a friend made from us. I can’t say any details because we’re not sure how it will play out, but we just hope that this person will help get the word out just like everyone else is doing. Of course, they’re circle of influence is pretty big, to say the least.

We’ve been asked to put a thermometer or something up on the site but we hesitate to do that because right now it won’t look all that good. I think the thermometer is good for Valentines Day but for now we just keep talking.

Also people are doing something that we’ve realized is important: they’re not only telling their friends, they’re telling them again. In other words, they’re reminding them so the fire doesn’t die down by February 14. That’s so important because people are busy and even though they don’t mean to, they can forget.

Here’s a cool story… local Louisville rappers Quasso and Sly Still-on put together a song and emailed it to us, which we then sent to some other folks. It got to a good friend of mine, Rockford teenager Carly Gillespie, and all the sudden she’s emailing me a video she made using the song and pictures of Hailey and Carter.

We were moved by her efforts and today we’re putting it up on YouTube!

Speaking of YouTube, we got the news clip on DVD from FOX News Louisville and that clip will go up as well. So now, more people have the opportunity to see the story and give their gift of $10 to make the miracle happen.

So, I’m off to make updates on www.haileyandcartersdream.com. If you haven’t already been there or watched the FOX News story by Photojournalist Matt English, go there and watch it!

*****

DAY FOUR

(I skipped days 1-3… too busy… what do ya do!?)

If you don’t already know, I have taken a temporary leave of absence from the studio to help campaign for the life of my nephew Carter.

My sister Miranda, her husband Neil, and nephew Carter live in Louisville, KY. Their daughter Hailey still does too, just not at home.

They buried her two weeks ago when she lost her battle against a rare disease that affects the brain. It’s called Late Infantile Batten Disease, and comes from a defective gene that must be present in both the mother and father.

It’s brutal and fast.

And it’s the same disease affecting Carter. That’s why I’m here.

If our family can raise $1 million by the end of February, Carter can go into the parallel study of a trial program at Cornell University in New York. It’s no guarantee, but it’s the closest thing to a possible cure there is.

So, we launch this “crazy” idea to get 100,000 people to donate $10 at www.haileyandcartersdream.com by Valentine’s Day. How can that happen?

The same way millions can view the things they do on YouTube. Something strikes a chord (be it funny, political, religious, or whatever) and tells a friend who tells a friend who tells a friend who tells a friend…

All the news stations covered our official launch last Sunday at O’Shea’s Pub in Louisville (who, by the way, opened up on a Sunday just for us with a full staff!). Once we were done, people got it and were excited, including the perfect strangers who just came in because they saw it was open.

I use the term “perfect strangers” on purpose, because they each were perfectly where they needed to be at the perfect time!

Since that launch and the airing of the news, we have watched as donations have steadily continued, topping $10,000 in the first 24 hours! More importantly, thousands of people are enrolling in the fight. Sure, things surged at first and then slowed a little, but it’s still going.

We will get there.

One cool thing… yesterday we were looking at donations and one jumped out at us. It was for $1.74.

I couldn’t help but imagine a little child taking penny jar down and insisting to mom “this will help won’t it!?”

Thank you God for compassionate people! Thank you God for the millions that will come in to help not only Carter but research and other families battling rare diseases!

Thank you God for strength today to MAKE IT HAPPEN.



Hailey Goranflo, 2002-2010
January 18, 2010, 3:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

You may remember the story of my niece Hailey and her fight with Battens Disease. After a long battle which has included fundraisers to help pay for treatment, flights to China for stem cell research, and much financial and emotional support, Hailey has gone on to Heaven.

At 11:55PM January 17, 2002, Hailey passed peacefully with her immediate family present at their home just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother Miranda (my sister) has journaled much of the struggle they’ve endured at their website www.haileyandcartersdream.com.

The community of Rockford was involved in helping my sister’s family in several ways. First, when Cheap Trick’s Rick Neilsen donated not one but two autographed guitars that were auctioned off at one of our benefits, raising a total of $5000 toward Hailey’s medical expenses. Next, when Rockford news stations covered details of Hailey’s first trip to China as a mix up on Canada Air almost prevented her from being able to travel for her first round of treatments. Finally, upon Hailey’s story making national news, donations poured into their website from around the country and included gifts from Rockford residents.

On behalf of my family, we are so grateful for all the prayers and donations that have made a difference not only in Hailey’s life but also in research toward a better life for survivors of Battens Disease.

But the battle still looms for my sister Miranda and brother-in-law Neil. Their second child, Carter, was also diagnosed as having Battens and has begun displaying the initial symptoms. If you are interested in learning more about their plight and how you can help them and other families in the same situation, I would encourage you to visit their site.

STUDENTS PLEASE NOTE:

If you are a student and are reading this, I will be out of the studio for the week of January 18-22, 2010 and will allow you to either schedule a make-up or deduct the cost of one lesson from the next payment. Please notify me by sending an e-mail to mikerobertsmusicstudio@gmail.com as to what you would prefer. I will personally be in Louisville most of the week helping the family with funeral matters, as well as information to the press and news stations that have follwed Hailey’s story. I apologize for the “general” nature of this notice, but under the circumstances and with the number of students on my roster, I felt this was the most efficient manner in which to handle things.



The Talent Myth
November 3, 2009, 11:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The word talent conjures up images of an elite individual, one with special, superior, even superhuman abilities. What they are capable of is beyond the grasp of most people. There’s a bit of a mystery to them, and it seems a lot of people would have it stay that way.

There are talented athletes, talented musicians, talented salespeople, talented investors, talented students, talented all kinds of stuff.

But isn’t what we generally refer to as talent really nothing more than a highly developed level of skill?

That would sound funny, though. You’re watching your favorite sports team and following a spectacular play by a spectacular player someone says “man that guy has a highly developed level of skill!”

It’s easier to say “he’s talented” or to conclude “he’s special.”

That is The Talent Myth.

People that subscribe to this myth may agree that more work, more practice, and more dedication can result in at least some improvement. But, alas, how good you can ultimately get at something is determined before you ever start.

You’re either born with it or you’re not.

You either possess the aptitude or you don’t.

And nothing you do to develop it is going to change that—at least not by much.

The Talent Myth is contained in each of the following statements. Ever heard any of them?

  • “I just don’t have the brain for math.”
  • “I don’t have a musical bone in my body.”
  • “I was cursed with two left feet; I could never learn to dance.”
  • “I don’t think I have the backbone to be a leader.”
  • “I’m not very mechanically inclined.”

These statements reflect the view that where you’re at right now is where you were destined to be and will forever remain.

So then the process of developing skill is mostly misunderstood, and it’s mostly confused by the notion of inborn talent. In reality, achievement is simple for anyone willing to study and do something over and over again until they get it right.

Simple? Yes. Easy? No!

Which is why so many people in the world don’t have any level of skill that would earn them the label of “talented.” We want it easy, and as it turns out it is anything but.

Rare is the individual who just doesn’t care enough about the outcome of his or her life to want to work at it. It’s just that too many of those individuals are convinced that such work is futile…

…unless of course you’re talented.



5 Habits of the Effective Mentor
May 21, 2009, 10:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Now for the next installment in the series: 5 HABITS OF THE EFFECTIVE MENTOR. (NOTE: a little longer intro than usual, but hang with me!)

Mentoring happens anytime we influence other people, or even just one person, young or old. Sometimes the very best role a mentor can play is to simply listen and allow a person to sort through their thoughts. It’s easy to feel like we’ve done nothing if all we’ve done is listen, because we forget how meaningful it really is.

Sadly, an open ear and a caring heart can be the hardest things to come by in our world.

When we do encounter it, we feel valued, appreciated, respected, each of which invariably leads us to better decision making. So, mentoring is not necessarily taking someone “under your wing,” and it’s definitely not talking down to them. Instead…

Mentoring, in general, is “helping someone through.”

Through what? A stage, a tough decision, a funk, a slump, a traumatic event, a good issue but one that involves multiple choices, a period of life like adolescence or early adulthood, a negotiation, a new job offer, entering a new school, moving into a new neighborhood or even a new culture.

Mentoring, in this sense, happens all the time: when I’m trying to explain my position or share my opinion, when I’m teaching someone a new skill, when I’m trying to resolve a difference. Not like “okay honey, I’m going to mentor you into seeing things my way.” Make no mistake…

Outcome-based manipulation is not mentoring.

Unfortunately, there are many teachers who manipulate for outcome, the outcome being test results. “If I can just manipulate their minds to receive this input so that when they’re tested they’ll give the right output, I’ll keep my job.” It makes us grateful for the good teachers.

So, it’s the motive that makes the difference. And if influence is what we seek, then the best motive is honestly and deeply…

1. CARING

An effective mentor knows that to express a caring heart is the best way to induce one. Caring, on the part of the mentor, is the most important motive, and getting it to happen on the part of the one being mentored is the most important goal.

Too many people in our world care about nothing.

There is no great, burning passion inside them that drives them toward anything particular. They’re just peddling their way through life.

Everyday you and I have the opportunity affect passion in the hearts of those around us. If we can cause someone to truly care about something, we have accomplished everything.

When passion is invoked, all the rest are details.

The saying goes no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. I would add:

…And even when someone does know how much you care, they probably still don’t care how much you know, but the fact alone that you care means the world to them.

Caring, even when expressed to a total stranger in a seemingly minor situation, leads to…

2. RELATIONSHIP

Where I have no relationship, my job is to keep my mouth shut except in the most extreme circumstances. Something like, “look out, there’s a car coming!”

We only have the right to speak into someone’s life when we have earned it through relationship.

Effective communication is founded upon trust and mutual respect. Where there is no trust or respect, even in the most subtle sense, there is no relationship and very little hope for influence.

Once there is relationship, then I can open my mouth, but only to create…

3. DIALOGUE

There must be two-way conversation. If I am the only one speaking, mentoring probably isn’t happening. Though it can often mistaken for it…

Moralizing is not mentoring.

Until I’ve heard the listener’s interpretation of my words, I have no way of telling whether I’ve influenced them or confused them. All I can hope for, at best, is compliance, which is only good for the short term.

Dialogue is best insured with open-ended questions like:

  • “How can I help/How can I be your friend?”
  • “What are your thoughts?”
  • “How do you feel?”
  • “Would it help if…?/Does that help at all?”
  • “Is there anything you think should be added to the discussion?”
  • “What’s something you learned from this?”
  • “Where can you see this taking you in the future?”

Questions I must AVOID include (several of which I personally stumble into way too often when it comes to my sons):

  • “Did you hear what I said?”
  • “Are you listening to me?”
  • “Must I repeat myself or can you repeat it for me?”
  • “This is the last time we’ll have this discussion… right?”
  • “You didn’t just screw up again did you?”
  • “Do you just want this problem to continue?”
  • “Are you stupid!?”

Speaking of screwing up, an effective mentor learns to not flinch or hesitate when it comes to displaying…

4. TOLERANCE

Mistakes or misinterpretations must be defused and re-framed as essential, even unavoidable, aspects of the learning process. They should be expected and accepted, because we know that…

Most success stories only happen after many repeated, failed attempts.

But when honest mistakes contain the venom of judgment, reprimand, and failure, then you can forget about a person ever trying again. Once we’ve been stung by a mistake, we’ll do anything to avoid future ones, including settling into a place of developmental stagnation.

Mentoring means learning to allow, encourage, even celebrate mistakes, much in the same way chemists do, knowing that they learn as much if not more from the many failed attempts as they do from the one successful attempt. I do this best by maintaining…

5. PERSPECTIVE

I must keep myself in others’ shoes by constantly putting myself in learning situations. I can’t forget what it was like when I was the one learning. By staying humble and observant of my own struggles during the process, I will more fully appreciate theirs’.

The best mentor is one with a great memory.

This explodes the topic to deal with all kinds of arenas:

  • Bands/recording artists must remember the listener’s perspective.
  • Authors must remember the readers’ perspective.
  • Teachers must remember the students’ perspective.
  • Businesses must remember the customers’ perspective.
  • Physicians must remember the patients’ perspective.
  • Parents must remember the children’s perspective.

Each of these categories of people are fulfilling mentoring roles, even if in the loosest sense of the word.

How about you… have you ever mentored anyone? Have you ever been mentored by someone? Feel free to share your comments and let’s DIALOGUE!

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5 Streamlined Techniques for Building a Repertoire that Grows You
May 20, 2009, 8:05 am
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The songs you learn are the “parents” of everything you become as a musician. They teach you the techniques you will incorporate into your playing, and they form the basis of ideas that will shape your personal style and sound. The sum of everything you learn IS your musical personality.

So be careful what you study! Make sure it’s not just a bunch of easy stuff but also includes songs that challenge you to be your best. Here is the next list of five to help you do that: 5 STREAMLINED TECHNIQUES FOR BUILDING A REPERTOIRE THAT GROWS YOU.

1. Each new song you pick should be just beyond your current ability: one that will stretch you but that’s not impossible.

If you want to be able to play better than you currently do, then don’t waste time on songs that are easy to learn (unless they’re songs you need to play in your cover band’s set list) because they’re not producing new strengths. No one succeeds as a body builder by lifting the same weight forever; it has to be increasing. When is the last time you learned a song that made you think “am I crazy for trying to learn this?”

You’ll often have to judge for yourself the difference between “just beyond” and “too far beyond” so you’re not setting yourself up for unnecessary discouragement. And sometimes you can’t see it until you get into it. It’s okay to stop mid-stream and switch to something more reasonable. You can pick it up again later.

2. Identify a new song’s stretch points by initially playing through the entire thing slowly.

Assuming you’ve acquired the written music for the song (which you should do), go through from beginning to end without stopping and working on anything specific yet. Some things that sounded hard will turn out to be not so bad, while other parts will be more challenging than you expected. For now, just play each part as written and highlight the most difficult-to-play sections.

3. Leverage the process to build your confidence: focus on stretch points first and save the easy spots for when you’re feeling frustrated.

Now you’ll work on individual parts. Go for the difficult stuff first, as these sections will require the most time and practice. Get a head start. If the part in question uses a technique the artist developed, you can try to find something written about it rather than the headache of trying to figure this out for yourself.

When I learned “Cliffs of Dover” by Eric Johnson, I had no idea he was using his pick and fingers at the end of the Intro. I worked and worked on it using just the pick until I found an article explaining his technique. Once I tried it the right way it made so much more sense and was finally coming along.

When you get to points of exhaustion or just plain monotony, switch gears and work on some of the easier stuff. This way you’re seeing constant progress and you’ll have the confidence to continue with the work. It’s like mom used to say “eat the spinach first, then you have all the good stuff to look forward to.” Keep mixing it up as much as necessary to stay moving.

4. Remind yourself that learning the song and learning the tempo are two different things.

This one ties into the previous point. Playing something right but slow is still right; playing something wrong but fast is still wrong. I guarantee you 100 percent of the time when you hear someone playing a riff or a fill or a lead with plenty of passion and fervor but no accuracy that this is the precisely the component they skipped. So while working on step 3, be sure you’re not trying to play up to full speed from the start.

Why do we musicians make this mistake on a regular basis? Rare is the person who enjoys listening to a slow motion version of the song they’re learning. Then again, rare is the person who plays with total mastery. Who do you want to be like? Make the accuracy of what to play and how to play it top priority at this stage.

5. Once the entire song is “downloaded,” begin the process of building up to full tempo by repeatedly playing from beginning to end, focusing solely on evenness and fluidity.

My all-time favorite piece of truth about playing an instrument is “speed is the by-product of accuracy.” Bottom line: doing something good is a function of having done it not just many times, but many, many, MANY times.

Having said that, it is also possible to do something many, many, MANY times the wrong way. If you heeded number 4, which I consider the downloading phase, then you’re likely already past that point. At this stage it’s time to commit to playing this piece repeatedly with patience and attention to detail, increasing the tempo only as you’re steadily growing ability allows. It can’t go without saying that playing with a metronome or drum machine is the only way you can accurately chart your progress along the journey, so don’t neglect to use one or the other.

And let me stress that you always go from beginning to end from this point on. I entered a guitar competition once and played “Eugene’s Trick Bag” by Steve Vai. I had learned it years earlier and had spent extra time before the big night brushing up on it. But my work was in pieces and chunks, not beginning to end. When the time came for my solo in the competition, about two-thirds of the way through my left forearm was dying, so I faked a ritardando (gradually slowing in tempo) just to make it look right. My mistake was not having practiced beginning to end to gauge and build my endurance. Fortunately, no one noticed and I ended up winning. Lucky break!

IN SUMMARY: I enjoy it when I play a song that not only entertains a listener but flat out impresses them. But the songs I’ve learned that do that took me no less than 10 to 12 months to master, some much longer. And by “master” I mean to study, pick apart, work on slowly, and do thousands of repetitions beginning to end until I can start almost cold and play completely through at full tempo without mistakes. At least none that they notice!

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5 Common Mistakes Practicing Musicians Make
May 18, 2009, 7:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

All the time I get to talk with musicians who’ve been at it for a while but feel like they’re in a rut. They don’t see where they’ve improved in such a long time and they’re wondering if they’ve “peaked.”

We’re all susceptible to certain habits which can creep in and slow or halt our progress. Here are the top five I’ve observed in myself and in others along the way, in the next installment of the lists of five series: 5 COMMON MISTAKES PRACTICING MUSICIANS MAKE.

1. Making it too difficult to start practicing by not having a set place and/or schedule for it to happen.

The hardest part about so many activities is the getting started part. Once we’re there, we’re fine; but getting there is another story.

Waiting for the right time to happen is a fool’s game. If you want to practice more but can’t find the time, you may need to look for ways to steal time. Ten minutes here, fifteen minutes there—it adds up.

Or, consider things that are stealing from you. If the typical person cut his or her schedule in half, not only would “quality of life” not suffer, it may even increase.

Even more important than the schedule, I think, is having the right place to practice. Make sure it is comfortable and inspiring, and that it contains all the tools and resources you need with minimal distractions. If you randomly pick a different place every time, your sessions will tend to be pretty random too.

Of course, every once in a while there’s nothing wrong with going into a fresh environment for a change of atmosphere.

2. Rushing the process by not using slow repetitions.

Unlike simple skills (like flipping a light switch) important skills are never acquired instantly but are built over time. Every musician fancies the idea of playing challenging music and doing it with tremendous speed, but we have to remember that it’s like martial arts. We wouldn’t sign up for karate and expect to start off learning black belt activities; we work our way up to that.

There’s a difference between learning how to play a song and learning how to play it fast. We impede our success by trying to blend the two together. Training our muscles is like training a dog: we have to be patient, consistent and allow it all the time it needs.

So, we begin by taking it at a slow tempo and training the muscles exactly how we want them to move and coordinate. Only when the correct motions are happening consistently do we attempt speeding it up, and even then we do it gradually.

3. Limiting growth by playing the same favorite song(s) over and over.

We all like to hear ourselves playing the music “right,” which means mistake-free and at full tempo. Once we get a song “right” it’s only natural to want to reinforce our confidence by playing that song. It’s no fun to hear ourselves playing badly.

But we’ll never grow beyond a certain point if we don’t continually start the process over with new music. That doesn’t mean to forget the ones we’ve mastered, just don’t stop there for too long. The only way we’ll play new material well is by first playing it not-so-well.

4. Being an island unto ourselves by not seeking input and feedback from other musicians.

“What I look for in musicians is generosity. There is so much to learn from each other and about each other’s culture. Great creativity begins with tolerance” (YoYo Ma quote from a Starbucks cup, The Way I See It #7).

Most musicians face similar learning challenges and growing pains. When we’re stuck, we can try tapping into someone else’s experience the same way we’d stop and ask directions from a local if we were lost in an unfamiliar town. It’s encouraging when we find out we’re not the only one who’s gotten lost at times.

And even if we’re not stuck, the best way to glean new ideas and gain new perspectives is by remembering what our kindergarten teacher would write on our progress reports: plays well with others. Isolation is a major detour from the route to becoming a well-rounded individual.

5. Not enjoying practice because we forget to “play.”

This may sound contrary to tips 2 and 3, but it goes to show that there’s a time and place for everything. My friend Stu, an accomplished guitar player with the rock band Goodyear Pimps, once made the comment to a group class of young musicians, “I never have practiced a day in my life, but I’ll play my guitar for hours every day.”

His point was that he doesn’t spend his time on the guitar to please someone else or measure up to some arbitrary standard of achievement, but for his own personal satisfaction. To him, the idea of “practice” smacks of academic work, not rock-n-roll.

Whether we use the word “practice” or the word “play” or any other word, the point is that spending time with our instrument on a daily basis is something to be enjoyed, not dreaded.

Some of us get a real fix from structure and discipline; others only feel free with high levels of randomness and unpredictability; some like a little of both. We can find assurance in knowing that all types of people make it to the rosters of the great and the legendary by finding what makes them happy and then going absolutely nuts with it!

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