Thursday, March 28, 2013

Games for Spring

Easter Basket Buffet
My Easter Basket Buffet contains three kinds of surprises. Students can reach in and pick a small egg, large egg, or cupcake.

Small Eggs- contain a number of stones (2, 3, 4, 6) Students pick an egg from the basket and  must write out a measure of music with the corresponding number of beats.

Large Eggs- contain a musical symbol on one half and the term on the other half. Students will hand the egg to me so I can "crack" the egg in half- I give them the term, and they write the symbol. (they can also create the symbol with buttons! scroll down....)

Cupcakes- contain a letter with a sharp or flat. Beginning students will demonstrate the letter picked by playing all of them on the piano. More advanced students will write the letter in notation and its enharmonic!

Button, Button
This is an easy game and a change from writing thing down on paper- the student will use the buttons to create clefs, notes, rests, or any other symbol given. I also have a deck of cards with term on them- the student can draw from the deck to see what symbol they'll create.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Adult Students Part 2

What Adults Bring to Piano Lessons-

My adult students begin lessons with me for a variety of reasons. Many took lessons as children but were permitted to quit when the going got tough. I hear this story all the time and it always ends the same way- "I'm so sorry I quit and can't wait to start up again".

I struggled to know how to best handle them and my studio polices concerning cancelled lessons, etc. because its not like handling school-aged students.

My adults simply can't always be held to the same policies as my kids. Many work for a living, they have children, responsibilities, and many other things on their mind. They can't swap lessons with others after school, and if they are retired and take lessons in the mornings,  my school-aged students can't swap lessons at 10am.

When they have to work late, or are asked to work on a day off, its difficult for me to charge them for the missed lesson when there was nothing they could do to prevent it (Unless of course it is a last-minute cancellation, and then they are still financially obligated for the missed lesson). When their children are sick, and the dog has to go to the vet, groceries need to be bought, and the car is in the shop, they don't always have time to practice.

And when everything is going as planned, and they are practicing and coming to lessons each week without fail, they enter my studio with far different goals than the children.

My elementary-aged students just show up for their lessons. That's it. They go to school, practice after school and come to the next lesson. They get their practice beads and are motivated by game week, student choice month and the One Minute Club. Time seems to have no meaning for them. After 6 months of lessons, they don't care if they still aren't playing a Mozart Sonata. They don't care if they haven't progressed through the majority of a lesson books....but many adults do.

Adults come to lessons with their own thoughts, ideas, goals, fears, inhibitions, egos, and musical backgrounds. Some even come with their own pre-planned curriculum. Piano teachers should know how to teach adults and what their priorities are before rushing into a studio policy that matches one for children.

When I begin a new adult student, I start with an interview. I ask them about their past history of piano and why they quit. What music they like and what is important to them. I ask what they want to get out of piano in 6 months, or 1 year. Are they committed? Or is this just something they thought up like going to the gym or dieting....only to quit after 3 weeks (which many of my 20-somethings have done).

Once I have an adult that is committed and ready to learn or re-learn piano, I make sure they are crystal clear that they should not cancel a lesson because they haven't practiced. Each adult has a theory workbook and frankly, I could talk about theory for weeks and never even touch the piano.

I also let them know that slow and steady wins the race. Getting through 3 books a month isn't teaching them good habits, hand position, or building technical skill. Many adults have their own secret agendas and feel that if they aren't completing 3 books a month that somehow they aren't cut out for this, or worse, its the teacher's fault.

Speaking of the teacher's fault, externalizing blame is something adult students do much more often than the kids. I hear these statements alot from adults..."Your piano isn't the same as mine, I played it better at home, I can't play it with the hand position you want me to use"....and so on. This reasoning will keep them beginners for the rest of their life. At some point they must take responsibility for their own progress or lack of it.  I've had adults refuse to play scales and etudes. Some refuse to play and count. Some have developed coping mechanisms of playing everything the same...Bach, Mozart, Gershwin....all the same- kind of sounding like elevator music. No controlled rhythm, no counting, no technique, one dynamic, and too much pedal.

Adult students can also have lots of performance anxiety- I'm careful not to push performance and instead hold Adult Rep Class for students only. This is a non-judgemental atmosphere, very light-hearted, and lots of fun. It takes the edge off performing and everyone knows its ok to make mistakes, because we ALL do it.

I think the more flexible I am with adults, the better. It doesn't matter if a particular assignment takes a month because they don't have time to practice- maybe that's not why they come to lessons- maybe they come to relax, let off steam and focus on something other than work for a change. It doesn't matter if they ask to play a show tune or rock song on piano instead of a Bach Minuet- I always encourage them to request music they can connect with. The desire to play a variety of particular pieces is what brought them to me in the first place.

My job is to deliver the ability to match their desire---it's what keeps them coming back to the piano.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Making Progress

The initiations for the One Minute Club are coming along. Most of my students are closing in on Level's 5 and 6. Looks like Caroline is in the lead!

One Minute Club- Level 6
One Minute Club Charts
Practice Chains
 Practice chains are getting longer and longer...

The Wall of Fame
Only 3 more people can be chosen as student of the month!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Baroque Concert

The concert was a huge hit with parents and student alike- here, my student Allen is performing one of his three pieces on the harpsichord, while the audience enjoyed their afternoon high tea.

There were 3 seatings- 11am, 1pm, and 3pm- each was booked without a seat left!

The staff took orders and everyone loved the food!

The music consisted of Baroque selections written for the harpsichord. The setting was perfect because Reynold's Tavern in downtown Annapolis was built in the 18th century and our concert added to it's ambiance! 

A great time was had by all!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Baroque Concert Practice

On Sunday March 10, we are having a special Baroque Concert at Reynold's Tavern in historic downtown Annapolis. 

My students are very excited to be a part of this special event. The harpsichord will be taken to Reynold's and students will perform for the audience as they enjoy afternoon tea. 

Here are some of my students practicing their Baroque pieces on the studio harpsichord.