Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For Love of Musical Food!

So recital time is over....but how fabulously and totally ca-ute is this??!!  For some of you doing piano camps and such, how about making these for your closing day events? Lots of work? Yes. Fun and unforgettable?...YES!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Studio Safety: Does Yours Have One of These?

     I have one of these on the bookshelf beside my piano. And I've actually needed to use it a few times (for band-aids) over the past few years. I got several of these little first aid kits FREE from our local Superstore pharmacy when we lived in Nova Scotia.  I'm not sure if they still give them out free, but it's worth asking about! At the time I got several; I put one in the car and one in my piano bench. This particular kit, though small, even includes the supplies for CPR, which hopefully would never be needed.  Safety first, right?....even in our studios!

     Does your studio have a first aid kit?


Friday, June 24, 2011

Musical Riddles for Sidewalk Chalk

    Here are 3 riddles I used last night for my students to guess on their way in to their lesson. I had planned to do something to test their skills, but in the end I decided to keep it 100% fun (after all, it is summer).  Even if the students don't get them, the parents can have fun!
What kind of phone makes music?
What kind of band doesn't make music?
What kind of instrument is in your ear?
     These are ones you've probably heard before; I found them at Just Riddles and More under the music category. I will say that I do not necessarily endorse all the jokes and riddles they have on the site- I actually have no idea what all is on there as I only browsed the music section. Use the site with discretion!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Fun Summer Greeting/Game Idea

     I still have a few students continuing lessons through the summer. This is what they saw last Thursday when they came to my house.  Thursday night it started raining (about an hour after my lessons finished) and washed the chalk away- perfect timing! I'm thinking about doing a musical riddle of sorts in chalk for next week.  When they get to the door, they can give me the answer and can receive a star for their progress charts. Hmmm....the brainstorming continues.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Birthday Baby Grand

     Sunday, June 12th, I turned 29. Yikes- this is my last year in my twenties! My husband got me this adorable little baby grand clock to go with my small but growing collection of baby grand figurines. (At least I think it was a birthday gift- maybe he thinks my lessons go too long...hehe).
     At any rate, it's beautiful and was a good reminder to me that 'now' is always the time to learn more and improve music skills. It can be overwhelming at times to be a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a student all at the same time.  I mean, I always say that "a good teacher never stops learning." So there's the pressure there to keep improving my skills....

    ....And if any occupation seems the easiest to drop out of, it's the 'student' part. I know that little by little, dreams are realized, and every time I declare my theory homework to be too much to do with everything else I have on my list, my husband reminds me why I'm doing it and won't let me quit.

     Did I mention how much I really love theory? Deep down I don't want to quit- somehow I feel that if I did, I wouldn't ever start again, and the Teacher's ARCT would never be mine.  I need to re-inspire myself with the same passion I try to inspire my students with- NOW is the time!

Monday, June 13, 2011

You Know You're A Piano Teacher When....

1. You go to the music store to buy music for yourself, and everything you pick up makes you think of one of your students who might like to play it.

2. Daydreaming includes brainstorming new ideas for teaching aids and 'writing' blog posts in your head.

3. You go to Michael's craft store for a specific item, but everything you see gives you an idea for a musical craft or teaching aid. 

4. You run your errands in town while wondering if anyone around you is also a music teacher.

5.  You take your children to the park and can't help but wonder how many of the other children playing there are enrolled in music lessons.

6. Your local music store gives you a discount on everything you buy there. All you have to say is "I'm a music teacher."

7.  You try to dissect and analyse the theory in the chords you hear while listening to music.

8.  When listening to someone else play, you cheer them on in your mind, regardless of whether or not they are your student.

9.   It melts your heart to receive a crumpled, scribbled piece of paper covered in artwork from one of your students.

10.  The walls of your living room have music charts and dry erase boards on them instead of framed art. (For those of us who teach at home)

11.   Your toddlers beg to be your students just so they can indulge in a piece of candy from your "piano lesson candy jar." 

12.   You can't get over how much you love what you do! 

     Do you have a "You know you're a teacher when..." to add to my list?  Please share. :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is My Child Old Enough To Take Piano Lessons?

     If you are a piano teacher, you have heard this question...probably many times. I know I have, and it always amuses me a bit that people have the idea of there being a 'majic age' when children can learn piano. Now, I strongly advocate that children be exposed to music from even before birth, and continuing on through toddler-hood.  But when are they ready for the bench?

     Here are a few things  for both parents and teachers to keep in mind when making decisions about music lessons:

     1. Every child is different. Some, like my husband, start lessons at age 5, but not all 5-year-olds are ready.

     2. The parent knows their own child's learning and focus capabilities better than anyone else.

     3. Lessons for small children do not have to be 30 minutes long. How about 15 minutes, or even just 10?

     4. Sometimes group music lessons are better than one-on-one lessons.

     5. There is nothing wrong with giving lessons a try, having to stop, and trying again a year or so later.

    6. Once a child is enrolled in lessons, a routine is better than just a casual music session here and there. Make what they are learning in their lessons a part of your child's daily/weekly schedule.

     7. Lessons do not have to be given every week. 

     8. Simplify concepts and introduce one concept at a time. Small children can sometimes be overwhelmed with all of the details that learning music involves. 

     9. Realize that when children start lessons at an early age, constant repetition of concepts is absolutely necessary and vital to their success. Be prepared to say "That's a half note" about 50 times or more. :)

     10. Write notes in an assignment notebook for the child's parents (even if they aren't musical) so they can help reinforce simple concepts at home.

     11. Communicate with the parents (and likewise parents with teacher) about the child's learning strengths and weaknesses. Although it's sometimes hard to discuss those things, we will be better teachers if we know how a child "ticks" and what their strong and weak points are, so as not to frustrate them unnecessarily.

     12. Give curious parents some tips on how to tell if their child has a "bent" toward music, and may possibly be ready to start earlier than average. For example, our 4 year old has been good at rhythm since before he was 2. He can hear a song and reproduce the beat with a sentence of his own with or without music. Sometimes he makes up his own tune for his new words. I definitely want to maximize his potential by getting him more involved in music and helping him understand some simple theory behind what he is doing. My husband has worked with him some at the piano and I plan to start formal lessons with him this fall.

     I have personally never experienced having to tell a parent "I'm sorry, but I don't think he/she is ready for lessons yet."  That tells me that the parents I have worked with have generally done a good job of evaluating their child's readiness and capacity for formal lessons.  Nonetheless I think parents like the security of hearing from a teacher, in answer to the query of when their child is ready..... "It's really up to you!"

    Do you have any thoughts on teaching small children? Feel free to share.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

From The Little Ones...

   I like teaching both children and adults, but you never get things like the picture above from an adult. One of my little guys drew this and gave it to me. He was so proud of it and kept checking to make sure I had it in a safe place. At his next lesson he explained all the details and even "played" it for me. I was impressed that he even remembered to add in rests and repeat signs...we'll overlook the backward stems just this time! hehe :)
     Somewhere in my files I have some papers that look like this from when I was little. And even though I've advanced to using music software for composing, it's always good to have a reminder that this is where it starts!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Fun and Frustrations of Adjudicating

     This past week I had the privilege of attending our 5th annual 3-day Maritime Games and Fine Arts Festival.  I  was an adjudicator for the music entries of the fine arts section of the event. This event is held at Forest Glen Bible Camp, and involves teenagers (from grades 6-12) from churches in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and even Maine.  I always enjoy listening and observing the pieces that the kids put together to present to us. There were piano solos, duets, and hymn playing. There were vocal solos, duets, and groups. There were brass and strings solos and groups. And there were 7 of us judging the pieces in a rotating fashion, according to our area(s) of expertise.  

     The fun of adjudicating is seeing how much the kids have worked, and highlighting the positive aspects of their performances. I love seeing the talent of young people, and thinking of the potential they have if they continue learning. The frustration of adjudicating is having only a 1-inch by 2-inch box in which to write our analysis of many specific areas!  Now, I am a writer by nature and not a speaker (although as I gain experience in front of people the speaking part gets easier).  But the longer I teach piano, the more I realize that it is SO much easier to explain a concept through speech than to write it.  We teachers are constantly sharpening our skills as we learn creative ways clothe the negative with positive motivation to do better. And most of the time we are speaking it, knowing the individuality of the student to whom we speak, and knowing how to present it so they will accept it and be inspired.

     The other part I really enjoyed at the festival was chatting with the other adjudicators (most of whom also happen to be piano teachers) about lessons, both giving and taking. We swapped ideas as we talked about method books, policies, lesson rates, pianos, and the balance of critique and encouragement.  I even got some grading done for a few of my students' theory books, and I had a few minutes to work on my own theory.  It was a great few days and very refreshing for this teacher!