Tuesday, May 31, 2011

From The Bench...Covers, Anyone?

     Does anyone know where to get a piano bench cover, or where to find a sewing pattern for one?  For some reason,  the finish on my bench seems to adopt the imprint of the fabric grain of whoever is playing. Not sure if this has to do with humidity or what, but I think it would be nice to have a bench cover.  Do any of you have bench covers, and if so, where did you get them?  Suggestions are appreciated! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Jelly Bean Game

     When it comes to teaching kids, it really doesn't take much to make their day....or their lesson.   I am a big fan of visual learning techniques, and using them with kids is so much fun! I think it's neat when something clicks with them, especially when they were having so much fun that they didn't even know they were learning.

     I used this jelly bean game with my child students shortly after Easter. It was all about note-naming while looking at the actual piano keys. "Show me an A above middle C."  "How about a D below middle C?"  if they got it right, they soon found a jelly bean sitting on that key. If they got it wrong, they lost the jelly bean they had previously won. At the end of the game (once 2 octaves of notes had been named) they get to sweep off all the jelly beans and take them home. Not profound, but such a delight to the student....we won't talk about how the parents feel about all that sugar.... :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary to My Favourite Pianist

     You know the phrase "make beautiful music together?" Well, that's just what my husband and I have done practically since we met each other in 2001. Music was what actually brought us together so we could meet. I was a sophomore and he was a freshman. He didn't have a music theory book yet, so guess who had to share with him in class?  I was reluctant at first, but before I knew it we were collaborating to get our theory homework done, and a friendship blossomed from that.

     This is a picture from our ceremony. A composer friend of ours (Dan Hadik)wrote a special song for us. I took the melody and arranged it into a piano accompaniment and recorded it. My husband-to-be and I then recorded ourselves singing the song with the accompaniment. It was played while we lit our unity candle. (We thought we would be too emotional to sing it during the ceremony).
     As of today, we have enjoyed 6 years together, and one of the most fun things about our marriage is that we are both musical, and at the same level. Uniquely though, he has a strong eye and I have a strong ear, so we balance each other. We enjoy singing together and playing piano duets, and usually end up laughing hysterically when we practice duets. (We don't laugh hysterically when we perform them, though!) :)
     I gave my husband a fantastic arrangement of the theme song from Pirates of the Caribbean by Jarod Radnich. You can listen to and/or order the arrangement here, and they send you the download within 5 minutes. And you know what? For once I'm glad this arrangement is not a duet, because it would be CRAZY! 

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Future Piano Teacher?

   Since something funny is up with Blogger these days (did anyone else have things deleted or comments backed up for re-post?) this is just a test post of my little future pianist (she won't have a choice!) and hopefully a future piano teacher. :)
 She loves to climb up to our old piano when I am practicing on the new one. And she HAS to have music in front of her!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

For Love of New Music!

   One of my favourite things to do is to go to our local music store and browse...and buy. Ok, I have to use self-discipline not to buy the whole store, including the pianos! What is it about freshly printed music that just draws us to want to activate what's on those pages?! 
   I did something new this week- Usually I buy the books and the student reimburses me. But yesterday I took my new adult student (who just started last week) with me to the music store to help determine what level of books she needed. Even after evaluating her in her first lesson (she's not a beginner but it's been years since she was in lessons) I was having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what level method books she needed. So we went together and browsed books for about an hour. It was fun! She gave me a better idea of what she had done before, what she didn't know yet, what she had forgotten, etc. And we picked out her books accordingly. 
     Here are a few things that I picked up for my own teaching use while I was there:
     My husband and I love doing piano duets, so when I see a duet book, it just about has to come home with me. In fact, I was holding 3 books yesterday and decided I needed to narrow it down to one at a time! :) This book has 20 simplified classical duets in it, written in the format of primo/secondo where each pianist has their own page (instead of 2 staffs on top of each other). It also came with a handy CD, which has a metronome beat behind the music of each piece, making it easy for the student to recognize the time signature based on the extra emphasis they give to the "on" beats.
These theory books are some of my absolute favorites! I used Grace Vandendool's books when I was a young girl taking piano. It was great to see the same great books with a fresh revision and a new look. This is the very first in the series, to be used with one of my beginners as a supplemental theory book along with his regular method and theory book. This particular book is almost completely note name/ placement recognition. I love the larger font, making it super kid-friendly!
Inspired by this post from Natalie over at Music Matters Blog, I picked up a copy of book 1 in the Pattern Play series. I am so excited about the content of this book! It's full of fresh, creative ideas and I can't wait to incorporate it into my lessons. Isn't the cover art just awesome?!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pros and Cons of Teaching From Home

     Although I'm passionate about teaching piano, I am first a wife and mother.  So that means that there are times when piano teaching takes a back burner.  Last week sickness hit our house just in time for me to have to cancel my lessons on Thursday. I only teach part time anyway, so go figure that an interruption would happen right before my teaching day, right?! Murphy's Law in full swing, I say. :) But it got me thinking about some of the pros and cons of teaching from home:

1. If sickness strikes, lessons likely have to be cancelled, even if Teacher-Mom isn't sick. 
2. If Daddy-Babysitter is late getting home, lessons are a bit more challenging with trying to keep 2 toddlers calm and quiet.....but then if they're TOO quiet Mom-Teacher starts to worry and is distracted from teaching. (This has actually only happened to me once)
3. Babysitter-Daddy has to be creative in keeping children semi-calm or take them outside for several hours.
4. The home studio may feel less professional to some students (mainly adults).
5. You have to carry a tenants package with your insurance company. (We probably wouldn't otherwise)

1. You can set your own hours (love this!) :)
2. Babysitting services are right under your own roof- you married him! (love this too)
3. You can set your own wages.
4. You can still be a stay at home Mom while living your dream.
5. You don't have to share your studio space, instrument, and teaching aids with other teachers/students.
6. The teaching relationship is more individual (instead of getting the feeling that they are just another student, as happens sometimes with university and conservatory teachers).
7. You can choose your own vacation time(s).

     Those are the main ones on my mind.  I see the pros a lot more than the cons, and I am so thankful for the privilege to work from home and not have to leave my children or have a ridiculous shift to work. I've served my time with jobs like that, but there's nothing better than getting paid to do what you love. Sure, there are challenges, but what a rewarding "job" we have, teachers!  
      Teacher-Moms (or Mom-Teachers depending on the moment!), what are the pros and cons in your life when it comes to teaching from home?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Meet My New Piano!

     Look what has come to live in my home studio!  I've been casually looking for a better piano to teach and practice on. The more I work on my Grade 10 repertoire, the more I realize how important it is to have a really good instrument.  Not to be down on my other piano, because I loved it, but let's face it- this new one is about 75 years newer than that one. Yeah. Lots of improvements to be had!  The old one hardly had any action/response left so when it came to technique it was starting to fail me.
    I found this beauty on Kijiji over the weekend, after not looking at ads for 2 weeks. We took a piano expert with us to look at the instrument. The price was so ridiculously low that I figured there must be something wrong with it. But it was quite the opposite! It was the original owner who was selling (because he needed the space) and it has been well taken care of- the inside and out look brand new and are in immaculate condition.    

      I know you're dying to know what I paid for it, and I'll keep you waiting no longer: $399
Yes, you read it right! Our piano expert said that if he were to sell this in his piano store (that he used to have), it is worth at least $2,500.  Did we get a good deal or what?!
     I know, isn't it just screaming to be played? For piano lovers, pianos are loud even when they aren't being played. :) It's a  miracle I'm getting anything else done with this thing in the house! It has a nice firm touch (more like a grand) and already I feel that I'm progressing better with practicing. I can't wait to teach on it tomorrow!