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From Personal Success Magazine

People have been curious about Stephanie's relationship to Australia, accelerated learning and music. This 1987 article in Personal Success Magazine captures these relationships and will fill in more than a few gaps for colleagues and friends.







In a leafy suburb of South Yarra, a quiet revolution is taking place in the field of music.

By Andrew Wade



Personal Success bioStudents of all ages and professions are finding that they are accelerating their rate of learning to such an extent that within the space of a few short weeks they have acquired skills and strategies for playing musical instruments that by "normal" means, would have taken years.

Their secret? A unique music program based on years of research and teaching how the human system works.

Stephanie Burns, 33, the originator of the program, has spent most of her adult life investigating how people can learn faster. She has now developed a formula that, applied to a music program, is so successful that courses fill up as soon as a new date is announced. Currently 150 students are in classes with Stephanie every week.



Stephanie Burns grew up in a small coastal town in southern Connecticut in America. Her love of music and the desire to perform started very young. "I remember attending a drum and bugle corps competition when I was five", she said." This is a very popular form of music in the United States, I loved it and was absolutely inspired by the precision of the craft. The sound of the brass and percussion has stayed with me to this day. My parents tell me I marched all the way home and wouldn't let up on wanting to play the trumpet".

Persistence won out and under the next Christmas tree was a heavily dented second-hand trumpet.

"It was so big and I was so small, I had to rest the bell of the horn on the back of the chair to keep it upright while I played - at least for as long as I was allowed to play in the house. Eventually I was given the use of the family car for practise."

Stephanie continued to study and play the trumpet and by the time she was 11 she was also playing French horn and guitar. At school she was able to further perfect her musical talents in the school orchestra.

At 18, with a desire to further her education, yet without the resources for university, Stephanie cast about for alternatives. The US Army, she discovered, was providing excellent opportunities for young people and she saw a chance to learn skills in areas she loved - maths and computers - and to start a career. By the end of the next year she had graduated top of her class and was offered a teaching job.


Enhancing learning techniques

After leaving the Army at age 21 to join private industry as a top computer engineer, Stephanie was to continually look at ways to enhance the learning technique.

"I quickly organised a company to provide computer literacy and operations training and it took off like a rocket," she explained. "I had found a means to test all the new learning strategies with what seemed to be an unlimited number of willing adult students."

Within the first year the company was providing classes in 22 US cities, for up to 4000 people per week. "The company sold outcomes, not training, and that was the difference that made the difference", she said. She was giving people a whole new experience in a learning environment . Business people were stunned by the possibilities of using the teaching methods she had developed in all sorts of areas of training, so training trainers and curriculum designers became a big part of the next steps her business had to take.

During this time Stephanie's name became associated with many of America's top companies - from ABC and CBS television networks to Ted Turner, Mattel Toys and the Bank of America. The list is long and impressive, "I'm still learning from the experience I had during those early years, there was far more going on than I could process at the time."


New age school

In the summer of 1982 Stephanie was invited to become an instructor at an innovative business school called "Burklyn" and, following that, to teach at a new age residential camp for teenagers called "Supercamp". It was this latter connection that brought her to Australia.

For the next five years she continued to develop more and more into educational research on the brain and learning. She let go of the business so she could be free to go with the action in learning strategies research.

"I had taken on only a very few special projects geared to further my understanding of how individuals learn and how to accelerate the process with new learning strategies. It's a process of discovering the underlying principles at work.

One project Stephanie chose was to work with Larry Wilson's group in Santa Fe developing a laser disc program called 'Learning to Learn' (Larry is the author of the 'The One Minute Sales Person'.) This allowed Stephanie time to document and further test the material on learning she had been teaching at Supercamp and other environments and it brought her in direct contact with those who were considered the best and brightest in the cognitive science area.

"It was a hotbed of excitement in Santa Fe, especially under Larry's influence," she said. It was while she was in Santa Fe that Stephanie got the inspiration to see if the learning strategies could be applied to a complex behavioural skill.

"Everyone was still testing this work with skills that had a small number of chunks, I wanted to know if I could take a skill that under normal methods took years to learn, and make improvements. My first choice was to go back to music. It had all the right elements. You had to think in new ways, learn heaps of new information, train your body to move in ways that it had never moved before, and most importantly, I knew there would be many people who would benefit if I could make it work.

"I started ripping apart the skill of playing classical piano with June deToth, one of the most highly respected pianists living in Sante Fe. The results were simply amazing, I covered so many years of material so quickly that before I knew it I was getting attached to the idea that I could actually beat the odds and become a musician within a few short years with these methods. They were working even better with a more complex task."


A new offer

During this time she was presented with an offer to come to Australia to be head educator at a seven-day residential camp for teenagers called 'Discovery', working with a team of people from Hawaii for whom she had great respect. The offer was accepted. "That one trip started the synthesis of all my work."

In addition of her work with the teenagers she was asked to present a weekend program for adults, incorporating some basic learning skills to give people a taste of what was possible. It was (and still is) called 'Learning to Learn.'

Stephanie's reputation spread and she has gone on to become something of a legend. At 'Discovery' the teenagers adored her and on the Learning to Learn weekends the adults were not only stunned by the breadth of her knowledge but by their own abilities, at the end of the program, to break through what they had previously perceived to be insurmountable barriers to learning.

And everyone wanted more. After a period, her commitment to Discovery complete, Stephanie was free to explore new levels. And so Learning to Learn Music was launched.


Gifted Teacher

One of the first students was a senior medical practitioner who teaches at university teaching hospitals in the field of psychological medicine. The doctor (whose name cannot be mentioned for ethical reasons) had first experienced Stephanie's work throughout the Learning to Learn weekend and subsequently, as a result of acquiring a skill in speed reading, was able to clear his desk for the first time in 20 years.

Like many adults he had played piano and recorder sporadically for his own amusement but not with any degree of success. He decided to take on the music program and learnt more in weeks than he'd previously learned in years. "She is such a brilliant and gifted teacher and her methods are so innovative and helpful that I have been able to learn the guitar with a considerable range of techniques," he said.

Doug Thornell, a Check Captain with Ansett Airlines who is now doing the advanced music course with Stephanie, said, " One of the things it did for me was to take a lot of the mystery out of music, particularly the theory. In the past, if I saw music written in a key that had a lot of sharps and flats I didn't want to know about it. The course gave me the confidence to easily handle it …it made me realise that music doesn't have to be difficult at all. It can be straightforward and a lot of fun."

He continued " Now I am doing a lot of different chord structures which I would never have done before. That's what the course does - it gives you the feeling: 'Yeah, I can do that again!"

Explaining the technique used by Stephanie in the class her assistant Adam Wade said "Stephanie sees every skill on the guitar as a behaviour, and a number of behaviours can be played in three hours of each lesson. They are played in such a way that the students become confident in that time. Then, they go home practise some more and their confidence increases.

"Because of her teaching background and her knowledge of accelerated learning techniques. Stephanie is able to make it easier for everyone to learn because they are so focused. What she does too, is make sure she gets to each person in the class. One of her biggest skills is to see how everyone is getting on and helping them while still working from in the front of the room."

Adam said that people who come to the class unable to play the guitar, in six months know all the bar chords up and down the neck,' can sight read in the open and second position, know all the chords, can play competently complicated rhythm patterns and are able to work out a song from tapes and records and play it. Such a skill, he says would take a student in a normal class six to ten years to learn.


The future

Of her time in Australia Stephanie said, " I came to see this country and its communities were offering me a chance to bring all my work together, and take it to some level of completion so others could use it, so I could go on to explore at new levels. I moved here to be close to the people who seemed most motivated to make a difference with the work I was doing.

"Today I am doing all the things I love to do. I am on stage teaching music four nights a week. I have over 150 music students each week who continually inspire me. I am studying with two great guitar teachers who never let me forget what it's like to be a student. And on the weekends on with the Learning to Learn seminar. I'm working with individuals who range from young students who want more choices to succeed at school, to adults who want more strategies to succeed in life.

It's very easy to succeed when you are surrounded by so many for whom life is about learning."

And what of the future? In the next year Stephanie's LTL program will continue to be conducted in the major cities. And the Learning to Learn Music program will be conducted live one more time in Melbourne, and for the first time, live in Sydney in July. The LTL Music program now available on video is growing by leaps and bounds and is being added to as students complete the course and want to go on to higher levels of training. There's even a hint of a trainers' program to teach others her methods. This could start in the second half of the year in Sydney.

And further down the road: "Obviously I want to stabilise what I'm doing now. I want to change the way music is taught and how teaching is done in general. That means more teaching of trainers and writing. Personally, the one trick I want to add to the list is performing with music. I think I could be tempted to trade it all for one night at the Melbourne Concert Hall, a night to pay tribute to all of the people who have made the quality of my life supreme."

Whatever her decision for the future, Stephanie Burns has already made a major contribution to the lives of hundreds of teenagers and adults in this country, the long term effects which is incalculable.





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