Category Archives: in-depth 2016

In-Depth Week 12

Nearing the final stretch of the in-depth project, I have come to the reasonable conclusion that the outcome of the project and my participation would have been completely different (not for the better). My musical library of knowledge has expanded almost threefold since we started our lessons and I have never been this interested in a musical instrument. I plan to continue my lessons even after the project has concluded. Over spring break in particular I learned how to play popular banjo songs such as “Oh Susanna,” “I’ll fly away,” and “Worried Man Blues” to name a few. I was planning to make a recording for this blog post, but I had to send my banjo into the shop for a modification called an “action adjustment,” which allows it to play higher notes without them going flat (compressed strings).

The learning opportunities Josh provides to expose me to new learning is to put me in the forefront of my learning by letting me choose what I wish to learn and personalizing his standard teaching program to my personal learning style. This sort of openness accurately reflects the learning of the TALONS program so I found it very easy to learn via this method.

The learning opportunities that exist to promote new learning is the fact that music is an infinite field of new learning that you can never completely explore and the odd satisfaction that comes with it. With musical in-depths, usually the conclusion after six months of study is that you know nothing.

The opportunities that might accelerate my learning would to focus on just one specific field of interest within the different styles of playing the instrument, and to work on that area as much as possible. For example, in my learning I am focusing on the “bluegrass” style of playing the banjo as opposed to strumming, clawhammer, or the many other variations of making noise come out of the instrument.

When my mentor and I get together for our meetings (usually once a week) we mostly talk about my advancement with what we learned last week (homework), and what to work on for the next week. The rest of the time is spent practicing, because we can only meet for about half an hour at a time.

The thing that is going particularly well in my mentoring relationship right now is our work schedule. Our method of learning and gaining new information works really well for me and we can get a lot done at every meeting, even though we only meet for half an hour at a time.

What my mentor and I are learning about each other is that we actually have a lot in common. The age gap between us isn’t that great, but it is significant so it was pleasing that we have similar interests that did not involve banjos; like travelling, reading fiction novels and computer games.

In conclusion, I think my current mentoring situation is fantastic, much better than last year, and that I would have probably lost interest in my topic after a couple months if it hadn’t been for Josh, pushing my possible achievements to the project to greater heights. Once again, I apologize for not having any musical evidence for this blog post and I will have something on a recording for next time.

Until the next post,



In-Depth Post Week 8

After many weeks of working on my in-depth I have visibly noticed an increase in my ability as a banjo player. Josh is a great mentor, and I hope to stick with him to the end of the project.

So far the most difficult mentoring challenge between me and Josh is the timing. Our meetings are only half an hour long, so we have to make all the learning count and doesn’t leave much time for social interaction beyond the usual “hello, how are you?” and so forth. I plan to improve on this situation by taking multiple lessons during spring break, because I feel that would improve my overall quality of playing significantly.

What has been working really well between us right now is the mentoring style and the way I am learning new information. Because the time we have together is limited, our meeting usually only serve for Josh to asses my playing and give me a song that he thinks is relevant to my playing skill. After going over the song a couple times with him, I spend the rest of the week working on it. When Thursday rolls around again, I show him how well I have accomplished my “homework” and he assess me again on my ability, and the cycle begins anew.

The biggest thing that could be working better is my ability. This is of no particular fault of anyone, I just need to practice more. I plan to work on this by budgeting specific time in my schedule, sticking to the schedule, and  going to the extra lessons during spring break. The timing of my lessons is also a little awkward, but I plan on taking an earlier slot during spring break because there is no school.

That’s all I have for now, see you after spring break!


In-Depth Post Week 6

So far this project, I have been meeting with my mentor, Josh once a week for half-hour sessions on the banjo, and I think it is the perfect time. I ask questions, and we work on new material, and then I spend the rest of the week doing “homework” to make sure I understand the concepts that were taught. Overall, I am working about 4-5 hours a week consciously on my in-depth.  I meet with Josh (face-to-face) at the music teaching-rooms above the Port Coquitlam Long and Mcuades because that is where he works. It is a cross-generational mentor ship, but not by much and we seem to have similar likes and interests. For example, we are both interested in bluegrass style banjo playing, so that is what the current focus of my lessons is. Our communication so far has been isolated to just our weekly meetings, but I have his cell number if something urgent comes up.

In address to the questions posted in Ms. Mulder’s blog, I think that Josh and I have been communication quite effectively, with complete understanding and acknowledgement on both sides of the equation.  Both of us get our messages across and neither one of us has a particular dominance in conversation beyond the mentor/learner split. The one major learning problem we have come across so far is that I am not very good at playing musical instruments. I plan to address this by stepping up my home practice, but I still sometimes struggle with new material and have to go at a slower pace. This is dragging down my rate of learning, but I am confident that I will be able to reach the goals I had set up for myself by in-depth night. Three strategies I could use to improve the quality of the communication with my mentor are to know more about the subject he is teaching me, learning more about his likes and dislikes, and trying harder to understand the position he is in. I can implement these by practicing longer on the banjo, doing more research on the internet, talking to josh about things other than banjos, and putting myself in his shoes.

All in all, I believe I am progressing well with communicating with my mentor and the in-depth project in general, and I believe I am on the fast track to being ready for the big night. Until next time,


In-Depth Post #2

Going into week four of the in-depth project, I think my banjo is going well. I have purchased my banjo, and it work well. I know how to tune it, and I have started some research on the history of the instrument (apparently, it originated in Africa, not the United States). Most importantly, I have secured a mentor for the duration of the project. His mane is Josh, he is the banjo instructor for the local Long and Mcuade’s, and I have signed up for lessons with him on a weekly basis. He has many years of training with the banjo, and he has the permanent string grooves on his fingers to prove it. I only have half an hour with Josh, so I did not get the chance to ask about his wisdom or experiences, but the things I did glean from him in our first meeting were things like how to hold the banjo and some basic chords. Some things I did learn for future teaching and mentoring perspectives is to start relatively slow, but have a clear plan of development clearly tailored to the student and final goal. I have my sheet of music and strumming patterns to take with me up to Kelowna this weekend, so I plan to make good on that over family day. See you in the next couple weeks.

Return of the In-Depth

It is that time of year again, time to crank up the imagination and pick a project to spend many months working on for the glory of finding a mentor and presenting your learning in some way to everyone else. If you remember, last year I did sushi making. It had a good final product, but I could have worked on it more. This is why I plan to top last year with my new topic: five-string banjo! I choose this not just because I was inspired by a Pete Seeger performance, but also because I wanted to do an instrument which no one have done yet so that it could be different. I also thought the banjo would have a more interesting history than the guitar or ukulele. So far in perpetration for the project I have been researching places that may be able to rent be a banjo and give me a mentor (I do have a family member that plays the banjo, but he lives in Victoria and would not be able to do much face-to-face mentoring). After some research and help from Jordan, I have found one place that should answer both of my problems: Long and Mcquades. They have a very nice banjo that they are renting out at the Port Coquitlam branch for a reasonable price, and I have emailed the front desk about a mentor (expecting a reply on Monday). All in all I think this year will be very exciting, and I can’t wait to write it all in these blog posts. See you in week 4,
(P.S. this would have been published earlier but the server crash kept me out)