When it comes to learning and other forms of cognitive development, there is an old adage that education is a combination of inspiration and perspiration.
If the subject is Musical Theory, traditional routes of education have always centered upon an often laborious and tedious process of learning scales and chords, while simultaneously learning how to read notes and time signatures on sheet music.
But for Domingo Vasquez, the key to this ignition is predicated upon results and the possibilities and colorful potential inherent in each individual once their abilities are realized.
And if you happen to have a rather groundbreaking procedure for teaching music under your belt, the opportunities are rather limitless.
Such is the case for every student involved with professional music instruction at MUSICO Studio, located at 318 S. Hamilton Street in Old Town Saginaw.
Born & raised in Saginaw, Domingo has taught and tutored vocals, piano, and guitar consistently for over 17 years now, with the exception of a brief hiatus, which took him into the totally different direction as a health caregiver.
“But I felt lost and questioned what I was doing, knowing I needed to get back to what I loved, which centered on teaching and music,” he explains. “I’d always wanted to start my own instructional studio; but then as fate would have it, I had a revelation that led me to make and develop my own system for learning music with my own keyboard.”
“I needed a way to teach a vocalist how to understand songwriting, as far as structure and construction of the song, which comes down to having the ability to read music,” he continues.
“Because most singers simply sing, with even fewer having an accompaniment instrument, I saw the importance of developing a more visual type of music theory. Out of the blue – almost as if by divine intervention – I saw a way to put musical theory into color charts, which gives people a visual of a scale or chord structure they can understand and comprehend.”
The primary color-chart program Domingo incorporates right now into his lesson plans involves the keyboard; which he admits is still in stages of infancy, however the results have been significant enough to cause him to copyright and register his entire catalog of musical theory color charts.
“You can actually teach any instrument with this method,” notes Domingo, “guitar, bass – I’m even working like crazy to develop a software program for teaching wind instruments that allow you to visualize everything happening; but the keyboard or piano is a fundamental instrument, and that is the instrument that I’m focusing upon primarily with students.”
“What’s weird is that I always used colors and dry erase markers to teach as much as I could, and the next thing I knew something accidentally happened and the idea for this process clicked. Mostly, I had to think creatively about the entire process.”
The first students Domingo taught his new musical theory to as test subjects performed and learned remarkably well compared to students taught through traditional methods. When asked how much acceleration they experienced in their learning curves, Domingo says the difference is “putting the petal to the metal right off the starting line.”
“I noticed a 90% improvement in terms of their ability to comprehend and advance with musical theory. And this is true for 2-year olds all the way up to adults,” he notes. “It might take three or four years to learn Beethoven, but I transcribed some Beethoven and utilized this color system and in most cases, it took the students one session to learn it. Why? The answer is because everybody loves color. This process takes the fear out of learning music theory.”
Significantly, Domingo says that it not difficult to move away from the color charts to actual musical charts once this revolutionary process is grasped. “It’s very easy to transition into sight-reading because we associate a letter to the color on the chart and suddenly the notes make total sense.”
This ‘Musico’ process that Domingo pioneered he started developing material for about six years ago. “It took me a couple years to implement the system and I’m going on my fourth year now of teaching with it,” he notes.
In addition to teaching at the Montessori school Steps; Domingo also trains children using his innovative system at three other schools in Saginaw, as well as with youth from Buena Vista, Bridgeport, and Carrollton.
“In many ways, music works as therapy and this process also facilitates learning among more troubled students,” he continues. “There was one student who wouldn’t talk to teachers, but this process opened everything up. He wasn’t frightened of learning and it was easy and approachable, invoking conversation. And the smile on his face was priceless.”
Even with the challenges of our current economy, professional musical instruction at MUSICO Studio is incredibly viable. People might think they have to pay a lot of money for music lessons, and at other studios in the area people are charged $18.00 or more for one half-hour session; but at MUSICO Studio, Domingo’s rate is only $15.00 per lesson.”
Given such affordability coupled with a pioneering approach, does Domingo foresee a saturation point with his time and schedule? “I was there a couple years ago,” he laughs, “and have been really busy, But with this new studio, there’s always room for more pupils and more education.”
Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge for most students is whether they get to practice their instrument at home to facilitate their learning; but for Domingo, “a good teacher doesn’t mind being patient and repetitious, because that way I can see a student learn. I don’t believe in moving too fast and try not to get too carried away. I like to keep things at the student’s level and make sure that they are learning.”
Amazingly, Domingo has also developed a similar color key system to teach Spanish, something he is doing with his wife in classes taught at a language studio they opened together on Midland Road last December.
“Teaching language and music through color is a breakthrough process for me, because by keeping it simple you can define every word in a song for a child, so they understand what words they are singing. Then when they play the song on the keyboard that they were just singing, the next time they come for a lesson, they build on top of what they were doing previously.”
“With children especially and with what’s going on in our educational system, kids are our future,” concludes Domingo. “We need to make learning exciting for them. In my experience, they are excited to learn and not afraid. Fear is our worst enemy. It stops us from getting things done.”
For more information or to schedule group or private lessons for Beginners or Advanced in Music Theory, Vocal Training, or Electric & Acoustic Guitar or Piano, Percussion or Bass at MUSICO Studio, please phone 989-971-4796 or visit them on the Web at musicolessons.com.