Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's Game Week!

Here are some 
Game Week far!

(You may recognize some of these games thanks to the creativity 
and generosity of our favorite bloggers)

Click here for game link

Click here for game link
Click here for game link

Click here for game link

Click here for game link

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Talent Journaling

In our last Rep Class we talked about our talents on piano and the other things we are good at.  I put together a one page journal that my rep class students could use to write about their musical talent.

On one page, they were to write about someone they saw at a recital or event that impressed them and how they wished to be able to play like that someday.

"We have all seen talents in another person, sometimes even wishing we could do what they do as well as they do it. Observation of other’s talents and skills can be very valuable to the pre-teen who is trying to acquire or develop a specific talent." 

On the other page, my students wrote about how they also set an important example for the younger, less experienced students who hear them perform. And how it makes them feel to know that someone is looking at them with the same admiration they had for someone else.

I was inspired to do this project by reading about pre-teen journaling-- Click here for the link to the complete article.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Adult Piano Students- Part 1

Teaching piano to the adult community can be so different in so many ways than teaching children, but no less rewarding for the teacher.

Adults often come to a decision to take piano because it something they've been either doing for years, or wanting to do for years.

"I took piano lessons when I was a kid. My parents let me quit and I'm so sorry I did!" 

How many of us have heard these words from our adult students? I don't think I have ever had an adult tell me they were glad they quit when they were young. But they sure are glad to come back to piano. Their reasons for coming back to it are as individual as the students themselves. Some have been struggling to continue to progress on their own, others try to learn via YouTube videos, or other online sites that claim "you can learn piano without a teacher and the expense"....oh boy....

I think all adults are excited about learning piano
- from a real teacher
- the right way this time
- officially
- again after so many years
- to improve their overall skill
- to improve their musicianship, rhythm, sight-reading,

You name it. They are ready! Then comes the reality of practice, homework, flashcards, lesson books, and suddenly, its not so easy.

I've taught adult students over the years who were wonderful, long term, wanting to learn, and ready to work. I presently have some fantastic adult students who practice, do their homework, and come to lessons each and every week prepared. These student are decidedly getting their money's worth. Some are retired, some work full time.

In our instant society, many young adults these days aren't hard-wired for weekly lessons, daily practice, drilling notes or scales. In other words, traditional piano lessons. Although some are, many would prefer a quick 6-lesson plan and that's all. Kind of like dieting or going to the gym. They want to do this for a short, finite period of time and loose those extra pounds, get in shape, and learn to play the piano.

Many young adults will come for an interview, talk about their dedication to learning, get their books, practice, prepare, write me a check and come to lessons......for 2 weeks. Then begin cancelling, and within 1 or 2 more weeks, have already quit. This can also coincidentally occur when its time to write the next check, as piano lessons aren't cheap. Especially for a young adult. Even after thoroughly talking over what it takes to play and become proficient, and how much it costs, they had other pressing matters that just didn't permit them to continue with something this long-term.

What can we do as traditional piano teachers? Are there shortcuts to learning piano, should we advertise 6-weeks of lessons for just $19.95 and compromise our professional standards to take in that extra cash, or fill up our studios with students that can't read or count, but just play familiar tunes and with root position chords in the bass?  Is there a Rosetta Stone piano equivalent? There are many adult students who would probably genuinely love this. Maybe thats why YouTube videos and lessons for $19.95 are so popular.

In our button-pressing world, all a student needs to do is press the demo button and hear piano music on the keyboard....btw, I did have an adult student who learned "Fur Elise" this way, thought this meant he knew how to play piano, and contacted me for instruction. But after only 4 lessons, he quickly realized there was alot more to playing piano than simple typing skills, and quit.

I don't have the answers to many of my own questions, but I do know that Adult Rep Classes have helped with my adult students. Once a month, or how ever often we can- given work schedules and busy lives- we gather together to play for each other. Spouses are not invited- this is a student only, no pressure, cocktail and hors d'oeuvres gathering, to play our songs for each other in whatever condition they are in. This keeps my adult students performing and lets them know they aren't alone in their struggles as adult piano players.

I try to make it as fun as I can- without turning it into a lecture-type of class experience. Last time, we played name that tune, and the winner received a "Bach's Wine". (Boxed We had a lot of fun, enjoyed each others company and can't wait to do it again.

My recipe? fun, friends, food, and music.
Maybe it makes piano a little less of a solo sport.

Click here for Adult Students Part 2:
What the adult student will bring to piano lessons.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February is Student Choice Month

February is student choice month 

This means that all of my students are permitted to bring in a song (ANY song*) to piano lessons that they have always wanted to learn that isn't on our usual menu. This song will be practiced in addition to their regular material. 

I remind parents to be sure their child has fun music to play- take them to the music store - they have a decent selection of fun books- lots of Disney stuff, Movie songs, Contemporary Christian, as well as pop music. Fun music should be a part of their daily practice plan. 

My students are instructed to complete their theory workbook assignment first, then follow their regular lesson assignment in their notebook as written, and the rest of their practice time on fun music!

Here is a parent guide for what type of book to buy- 
  • PVG or Piano Vocal
  •  in the upper right corner of the book cover is for intermediate to advanced students 
  • Easy Piano
  •  is for Beginning/Early Intermediate students
  • Big Note
  •  is for Early beginners 
*Do not buy anything with letter names written inside the music notes-(EZ Play) this won't help them advance as musicians.
*Be aware that some Rock music on the piano can sound like elevator music even when the best of musicians play it. 
*Sometimes pop music has such complex rhythms, it has to be just sounded out. Beginning and Intermediate students aren't able to negotiate the 32nd and 64th notes and syncopated rhythms in this type of music. Choose carefully! 
*Music with inappropriate lyrics (language, inappropriate sexual content) won't be entertained in the studio.

Student Choice Month is wonderful incentive for all students- weekly structured lessons can become static. Lesson books and classical literature don't always keep a student engaged in the learning process, and students don't always connect to regular lesson material. They can and do get burned out over time when coming to lessons and getting the same routine over and over and over. Changing things up and adding something special (and scheduled or even sometimes unexpected) gives my students something to look forward to and get excited about.
Last year, five of my students actually requested such pieces as Beethoven's "Pathetique Sonata", Rachmaninoff "G minor Prelude", Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", Tom Jones "Its not Unusual", and Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody". So its not all Taylor Swift and Destiny's Child. In the end, my students are very connected to their music; they read better, count better, and really have a great time learning. They learn to balance work and fun music during their practice sessions and become better musicians in the process.