Piano Lesson Video: Introducing a New Piece

I’m currently working on the projects required for becoming a NCTM (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music) through MTNA.  Of the required projects for piano, I think the video project is the most time consuming — so that is the project I’ve been focusing on first. As recommended by piano teacher profile projects workbook, I started recording some of my student’s lessons for a time just to experiment with camera options and camera angle.  I think I finally found the camera location that works the best, so I thought I’d show you a little clip from a recent piano lesson with my student, Liz.

There is an art to introducing a new piece to a student in a way that sets them up for success.  For example, we cannot assume that a beginner student will notice the time signature until we have taught them to check it with each new piece. We cannot expect the student to learn a piece well unless we have properly prepared the student’s experience for the rhythms, sounds, techniques, and reading that the piece requires.

In Liz’s case, she has been taking lessons for a year and she already has a pretty good handle on time signatures, rhythm, and note reading.  We are still working on developing technique for playing various types of articulations, becoming a fluid sight-reader, and playing expressively.  Liz is a faithful practicer and has been making very steady progress.

Many of you will recognize the piece in the video: It is the Russian Sailer Dance from the Level 1 Lesson Book from the Faber Piano Adventures.  In the video below, I provide Liz with a brief introduction to the piece and then ask her to sight-read the piece. Then, we talk a little bit more about the technique for getting a nice staccato sound and how she can shape the repeated notes to add interest.

Sorry about the low volume in this video!  Next time, I will boost the volume before I upload.

This NCTM video project has already changed my teaching.  As I watch my videos, I find myself realizing how I could have introduced a concept better, or could have been more concise with my conversation in favor of having the student DO things besides listening to me.  Of course, hindsight is always 20:20.  We do the best that we can in the time and circumstances we are given.  But I am a big believer in striving for self-improvement, so I’m going to keep watching my teaching videos and learning!  Observing my own teaching is already causing me to make subtle changes to my teaching that will make it more effective.

I would encourage each of you to get permission from a student or two to record their lessons so that you can afterwards evaluate your own teaching.  It’s very valuable!

Tech specs for anyone interested:  I encountered many technical difficulties with the camcorder I borrowed from my parents and I found most point-and-shoot cameras have a 20 minute limit for video clip length.  I finally decided to settle with using my iPhone 5C due to the convenience and ease-of-use.  Nowadays, the quality of the iPhone’s camera actually rivals what a typical point-and-shoot camera can do.  

Posted in beginners / elementary Level, lesson videos, piano pedagogy | Tagged , , | 20 Responses

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“If you cannot sing it, you cannot play it.”

– Artur Schnabel, pianist

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OhioMTA 2014 State Conference

Last weekend, I attended the state conference of Ohio Music Teachers Association (affiliated with MTNA).  Since moving to Ohio three years ago, I’ve attended the OhioMTA conference every year — and I have to say that this one was the most sensational!

The setting this year was Wilmington College, which has a small and beautiful campus with facilities that were perfect for our conference.  It was wonderful to be able to walk in the cool, Fall weather between sessions.  Around 120 teachers attended the conference this year.

Our conference schedule was chock full of great sessions!  Some highlights: “Music Alive! Sounds that Move, Pictures that Sing” by Clinton Pratt, “Creative Sightreading” by Dr. Cole Burger, “Developing Sound Expectations: Does the Sound Match the Picture” by Scott Donald, “Piano Music for Left Hand Alone” by Jerry Wong, and many others.

I was also extremely honored to have the opportunity to present a session: “Albums for the Young: A History & Overview of the Genre.”  I can’t tell you what it meant to me to be able to share my research for this distinguished organization. My topic explored the influence of Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young, Op. 68 and the wealth of children’s music that followed by other composers.

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Posted in 2014 OhioMTA, technology | Tagged , | 7 Responses

New in the Shop: Ice Cream Intervals Extension Pack

I know it’s been quiet around the blog lately!  Last summer was one of those summers where I said “yes” to too many commitments and over-extended myself.  I’m actually quite relieved to be in a “normal” Fall teaching schedule.  Recently, I’ve been wrapping up a few projects which I hope will allow me to blog on a somewhat more regular basis!

This weekend, I found a little bit of time for a little project suggested by a reader.  She requested that I create an “extension pack” for the Ice Cream Intervals game that would provide harmonic (blocked) intervals to add to the original melodic (broken) intervals.  Why didn’t I think of that?!  What a great idea!  (Thanks, Morgan!)

So, here is a peek:

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It’s important for students to become fluent at recognizing relationships between notes whether the intervals are harmonic or melodic, because that is what happens in the music they are learning.  With the addition of the new harmonic cards, my students’ favorite game just became even more beneficial for them.  ;)

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For $4, you can purchase the extension pack which nearly doubles the amount of ice cream scoops by providing 48 harmonic (blocked) intervals to add the original melodic (broken) intervals.  The intervals in the Extension Pack range from “2nd” to “octave.”  (Please note that no cones are provided in the Extension Pack, so you won’t want to purchase it unless you also have the original Ice Cream Intervals game. )  Remember, all the items in my shop are digital products — meaning, you are buying the PDF so that you can print and assemble it yourself.

For more info, visit the Ice Cream Intervals Game page in the Shop.

Posted in games | Tagged , , | 6 Responses

Thrifty Find: Piano-side Table

Since moving in June, I’ve been gradually getting my studio organized and arranged to my liking.  It is a process!

I love having a tabletop surface nearby when I am teaching.  I’ve been using a TV tray table for this purpose temporarily, with the hope that I would eventually find something that better suits the rest of the room:

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I finally found that special “something”…!

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It is an old typewriter stand.  I found it at a furniture consignment shop for $60.   Read More »

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

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“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”

– Elbert Hubbard

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“If you don’t underestimate me, I won’t underestimate you.”

– Bob Dylan

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

Teaching is really very, very important. I always tell my students that you should find an opportunity to teach. When you teach others, you teach yourself.

– Itzhak Perlman

perlman quote

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Upcoming Programs in Ohio and Beyond

ohio mta logoSome months back, I submitted a proposal to speak at the Ohio Music Teachers Association (affiliated with MTNA) 2014 state conference.  I was thrill to learn it was accepted!  

If you live in Ohio, you may want to consider attending this conference even if you are not a member of OhioMTA / MTNA.  This year, it is being held in Wilmington College on October 16-18, 2014.  The main speakers will be Louis Nagel and Julie Jaffee Nagel.  It’s going to be a great conference!  Learn more here

Here is the info about my session:

Albums for the Young: A History & Overview of the Genre

Influenced by the emergence of children’s literature in the 18th century, Robert Schumann composed the groundbreaking Album for the Young Op. 68, a set of piano pieces intended for children to play. This presentation will discuss the circumstances that influenced Schumann to publish his Album for the Young and the extent of his influence on later composers who composed in this new genre. Attendees will hear samples from well-known and little-known collections of music for children and will receive a handout with a list of Albums for the Young by various composers.


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On November 14, I will be giving the same session for the Cleveland Piano Teachers’ Organization.  CPTO is an independent association that sponsors monthly meetings and other events for the benefit of the member teachers and their students.

CPTO has let me know that they welcome non-member teachers to attend their meetings as guests if desired — they only ask for a $10 donation to help defray the cost of sponsoring the meetings.  If you want to learn more about attending as a guest, please contact me and I will connect you with the folks behind CPTO.  I would be thrilled to see you there!


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One more piece of news: I was recently asked to give a presentation during the the 2015 MTNA National Conference in Las Vegas!   The conference runs March 21-25.  My session is part of the “Young Professionals Track” on Pedagogy Saturday (which is the best day of the conference, IMO, albeit optional).  Here is the title and 35-word description of my session:

Harnessing the Power of the Internet: Blogging and Social Media for the Musician

Joy Morin shares her story about starting a blog at ColorInMyPiano.com. Learn how you can harness the power of the internet to promote connection, interaction, and engagement for your cause.

I would be thrilled to see you at any of these events!  Please let me know if you will be there because I would love to meet you afterwards.

Looking for programs for your local association?  Learn more about my workshops on my personal website here.

Posted in conferences, what I'm up to | Tagged , | 6 Responses

Studio Trailer Video

If you are like me, you are beginning a new school year of teaching this week!  I enjoyed a two-week break prior to this week, which provided some much-needed time off as well as some time to focus on some fun side projects that have been on my to-do list.  Let me tell you about one of those projects.

One of my adult students has a background in video.  He sold me a used copy of Final Cut Pro, which is a program kind of like Photoshop except for video files.  There is a huge learning curve involved with learning how to use Final Cut Pro, as I discovered.  I decided to create a “studio trailer” video of sorts, showing various photos of my students to give a sense of what my studio is about.  It’s not a perfect video, but I am happy with the results and enjoyed learning the basics of video editing through this project.  I posted this video on my studio website and facebook page for my students/parents to enjoy.

Note: You might notice that this video shows my old house, before our recent move twenty minutes away.  I still need to collect more photos that show the new house/studio.  Maybe I’ll make another video a year from now.  I decided to think of this video as celebrating the past three years living and teaching in Ohio.  End of one era, beginning of the next! 

Interested in creating your own studio trailer?  You don’t have to learn Final Cut Pro.  Here are the steps:  Read More »

Posted in technology | 12 Responses

Google Hangout Episode #6

Before I talk about the Google Hangouts, I want to update you about the last giveaway:

Piano-Pronto-Prelude-book-300x300A couple of weeks ago, we had a giveaway for Jennifer Eklund’s Piano Pronto method and had a HUGE response of 138 entries!  I loved reading all your responses about the Piano Pronto method, and I know Jennifer did, too.  Here are the two randomly chosen winners: Lu and Anola.  Congrats, winners!  You will be hearing from Jennifer soon.

If you didn’t win, you can still get a great deal on the Piano Pronto books because Jennifer has extended her 20% off sale through the end of the month.  Now is the time to stock up for the next school year!  Visit PianoPronto.com and enter the “school20″ promo code.

Last Friday, I held Google Hangout Episode #5 (I decided to start calling them episodes so I can keep them straight!), which was about choosing student repertoire.  Jennifer Eklund was a guest in the discussion as was Dr. Jason Sifford.  This discussion was so fun.  The topic is so appropriate, too, as we prepare for the next school year.

Jason, by the way, is one of the teachers behind the University of Iowa Piano Pedagogy Project: a project to record over 9000 piece of piano literature for students following the Iowa Music Teachers Association’s repertoire list for their events.  This project is so great because it provides teachers and students with a variety of excellent reference videos.  You can view and subscribe to the Piano Pedagogy Project’s YouTube channel here and visit their Facebook page here.

Below, I’ve embedded the video recording of Episode #5.

I have scheduled Google Hangout Episode #6 for this Friday at 11am Eastern time.  Check out the event page here on Google+ and add it to your calendar.  Please join us live or watch the recording afterwards!

Here is a link to all of the Google Hangouts so far.

Posted in technology | Tagged | 1 Response

Google Hangout and other Internet Happenings

Hello, readers!  A few random updates:

Over the weekend, I made a brief appearance at MTNA’s GP3 2014 conference via Skype.  (Thanks to Courtney Crappel and Andrea McAlister for asking me to share my thoughts about using apps in the piano lesson!)  GP3 is a conference geared towards group piano professors and piano pedagogy professors.

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The main message I shared was this: Apps are just another helpful teaching tool for our toolkit.  In order to be able to use the tools properly and effectively, we have to first figure out exactly what that tool can accomplish for us and what role we want it to play in our lessons with our students.  Some apps make my life easier as a teacher, some apps are useful during the lessons, and other apps are strictly for students’ at-home use.

On Friday, I’m hosting another Google Hangout at 10am Eastern.  This time, the topic is choosing repertoire for students.  As usual, you can feel free to watch it LIVE or afterwards on YouTube.  I’ve embedded the player below.

I’m looking for another teacher interested in participating in the video chat — if you are interested, please contact me directly!

Here is a link to all of the previous Google Hangouts so far.

There is another (now past) Google Hangout (not sponsored by me) that you may be interested in watching: Irina Gorin (if you haven’t seen her YouTube channel‘s teaching videos, you HAVE to check it out) gave a presentation as part of conference held by Michigan State University and the Capital Area Music Teachers Association in Lansing, Michigan.  Here is the link.

Posted in technology | Tagged | 2 Responses
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