Performances, Practice, Teaching Piano

Practice Performing

Perhaps you are wondering why there is a picture of a bunch of stuffed animals for this post.  Haha, I’ll get to that in a moment!

My private students are preparing to play for the university’s Community Music School recital tomorrow!  There will be about 12 students performing, 4 of which are my students.  For last few weeks, we’ve been taking time during lessons to “practice performing.”  After all, what better way to prepare for a performance than to practice performing?  =)

For my students, this means we imagine being at the recital during the lesson.  The student “walks onstage” while the audience (me) is applauding wildly.  The student gives a deep bow and sits down.  Once the bench is checked, they take a deep breath and play.  Wild applause ensues once again at the end of the piece, and the student beams, bows, and trots “off stage.”

I also encourage my students to put on recitals at home for their parents or friends, or even to create an audience of stuffed animals.  The point is for the student to be mentally putting him-/her-self through the performance, imagining what it’s going to be like and imagining him-/her-self succeeding.  Students really enjoy using their imagination and pretending they are onstage, and I think it is really beneficial for them to have gone through the process mentally before the real thing!  (Especially when there is no dress rehearsal, as in this case.)

What kind of activities do you do with your students to help them “practice performing?”

Photo Credit: Jess1820 | CC 2.0

Forum Q&A's, repertoire / methods, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Forum Q&A | Obtaining Student Materials & Reimbursement

I forgot to put up the week’s new Forum Q&A post yesterday, so here it is a day late!  Sorry about that…I think the term paper for my music history class is draining all my brain cells.  =D

It was so fun to read the variety of approaches teachers use when it comes to summer lessons for last week’s Forum Q&A!  I hope you had as much fun reading about them as I did.  I just added my own comment which describes a new method I’m going to try next summer (2012), so please check it out and let me know what you think.

This week, though, we are going to discuss methods of obtaining and getting reimbursed for student materials!  I’m curious to know….

First of all:  Do you tell students to go purchase the new books/materials they need, or do you go and get them yourself?

Secondly, if you purchase them yourself, how do you go about getting reimbursement?  Is the cost of books/materials covered in your tuition rate?  Or do you charge a yearly or semesterly fee to cover books and materials?  Or do you add the cost of the books to that month’s invoice for tuition?

I’m trying to decide how to go about dealing with getting books when I start my independent studio in the fall, so I’d love to hear what method works for you!

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks | CC 2.0

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs, and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.”

— George Eliot

Every Wednesday brings Words of Wisdom here at the Color in my Piano blog in the form of a musical quote or joke, intended to bring inspiration or humor to the middle of your week. Have suggestions? Send an email off to admin[at]colorinmypiano.com.

General

Some Page Turning Humor

Whew, the semester is wrapping up!  My husband and I are looking forward to graduation, although it’s certainly bittersweet.  I will really miss being in school!  We’ll be moving sometime over the next few months, although a lot is still up in the air.  For now, I can tell you we are moving to Ohio!  (Any Ohioan readers out there?)

I received this email forward from a friend of mine, and today I thought I’d share it here.  Enjoy!

The following program notes are from an unidentified piano recital.

Tonight’s page turner, Ruth Spelke, studied under Ivan Schmertnick at the Boris Nitsky School of Page
Turning in Philadelphia.  She has been turning pages here and abroad for many years for some of the world’s leading pianists.

In 1988,  Ms. Spelke won the Wilson Page Turning Scholarship, which sent her to Israel to study page turning from left to right.  She is a winner of the 1984 Rimsky Korsakov Flight of the Bumblebee Prestissimo Medal, having turned 47 pages in an unprecendeted 32 seconds.  She was also a 1983 silver medalist at the Klutz Musical Page Pickup Competition:  contestants retrieve and rearrange a musical score dropped from a Yamaha.  Ms. Spelke excelled in “grace, swiftness, and especially poise.”

For techniques,  Ms. Spelke performs both the finger-licking and the bent-page corner methods.  She works from a standard left bench position, and is the originator of the dipped-elbow page snatch,  a style used to avoid obscuring the pianist’s view of the music.

She is page turner in residence in Fairfield Iowa, where she occupies the coveted Alfred Hitchcock Chair at the Fairfield Page Turning Institute.

Ms.  Spelke is married, and has a nice house on a lake.

Composition, Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Teaching Piano

Improvisation Activity: Rory’s Story Cubes

Before I begin, allow me to give credit where credit is due for this wonderful idea: I got this idea from Laura on her blog (click here).  I was so thrilled to see her idea of using these “story cubes” for improvisation with piano students!

Meet “Rory’s Story Cubes.”

Rory’s Story Cubes consist of a set of 9 dice with all kinds of pictures on their faces.  I think English teachers use these as a starting point for writing stories.

Piano teachers can use them too.  =)

Let me tell you about how I’ve been using this fun new prop.

During a piano lesson, I gave my student all of the dice and asked her to roll them.  Here’s what they look like:

Continue reading “Improvisation Activity: Rory’s Story Cubes”

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks now, and today I’m spilling all!   Sorry about the length. =)

Don’t Make My Mistake!

When I first began teaching, I created a mental list of all the things I felt were essential for a new student should know.  I thought very carefully about what to say in order to cover all these topics with my student during the very first lesson.  “The List” included things like:

  • How to sit properly at the piano.
  • How to hold one’s wrists.
  • How to curve one’s fingers.
  • The finger numbers.
  • How to find the black key groups of 2’s and 3’s.
  • How to find Middle C.
  • How to find A-G on the piano.
  • What a steady beat is and is not like.
  • What a quarter note is.
  • etc.

These are all important things, of course.  But I hadn’t really stopped to consider what the student might be feeling at that very moment on my piano bench.  I jabbered away cheerily through my long, long list, anxious that my student would learn all the right things the right way from the very first day.

Do you remember what it was like at your very first piano lesson as a kid?  Usually, new students are anxious, curious, unsure, maybe nervous — and usually they are very excited to play the piano.  They might tell you they can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for you which their mother taught them by rote.  Or they might show off that they figured out Mary Had a Little Lamb by ear.  Or they might not know how to play anything at all, but they are definitely sitting on your piano bench practically drooling, anxious to get their fingers on those beautiful, shiny keys!

So what do you do?  What do you do about all this crazy excitement, energy, and motivation that is radiating from this student?   Continue reading “Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson”

Forum Q&A's

Forum Q&A | What is your Policy Regarding Summer Lessons?

I had so much fun reading about what kind of pianos you all have on last week’s Forum Q&A!  And many of you with blogs posted photos of your piano too.  If you haven’t seen all the comments, click here and scroll down to check them out.

This week, let’s talk about something less fun…..studio policies (haha, just kidding).  It’s interesting to hear how different teachers approach summertime.  Some teachers want their summer off.  Others want to keep teaching, or really need the income throughout the whole year.  It can also depend on the students you have.  One of my piano professors tried to require weekly summer lessons, but for years students/parents gave her trouble about it.  Now, she requires them each to take just 6 lessons at some point during the summer.  I’m sure everyone has ideas about this matter!  So, tell us about your situation:

What are your current policies regarding summer lessons? Required or optional?  Week, bi-weekly, or other?  Regular tuition rates, or discounted?

If you don’t require students to take lessons all summer, have you found other ways to keep your income the same throughout the year?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!  Add your comment below.

Photo Credit: athrasher | CC 2.0

Announcements

Consider Supporting this Project for Classical Music CD for Kids!

Have you heard of KickStarter.com?  It’s a cool site where people can raise money for creative project of all kinds.  Ordinary people like you and me can support these projects.  Here’s the kicker: the team must reach the monetary goal by 3-month deadline or else they don’t get any of the money that was pledged.

Well, a colleague of mine has started a kickstarter project with her sister to create CDs of classical music with narration for children.  They plan to distribute the CD to schools where art programs are being cut.  Read all about their project below, or click here to visit their official KickStarter page.  There you will find a video with more info and you can make your pledge.  With your support, they can go ahead with the CD project and you can receive a copy too!  The CD looks like it could be a great resource to use during group lessons with piano students or young children — I’m excited to receive mine.  Please read more about their project and consider supporting Sonya and Elizabeth.

Sonya & Elizabeth Schumann’s KickStarter Project | Piano Carnaval CD: Classical Music and Stories for Kids

Who are we?

We (Jeanne and Sonya) are classical concert pianists who happen to be sisters. We decided to record a children’s CD which, through narrative storytelling, is an attractive vehicle for classical piano pieces.

Why do we want to record a children’s CD? Continue reading “Consider Supporting this Project for Classical Music CD for Kids!”

Conferences

2011 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy

This summer, I plan to attend another conference: the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy!  It’s being held July 27-30.

Some fast facts:

  • NCKP is held every other year.
  • NCKP is sponsored by the Francis Clark Center and held in Chicago.
  • Speakers this year include Dennis Alexander, Randall Faber, Forrest and Akiko Kinney, George Litterst, Mario Ajero, and many more.
  • Recital performers include pianist Ann Schein.

For full-time college students, there are tuition scholarships available to cover conference tuition.  Since I am eligible for them (crossing my fingers that I’ll get one) and since Chicago is not far from me, it was pretty much a no-brainer to decide to attend!  This will be the last time I am eligible for student rates for conference tuition, so I am totally going to take advantage of this!  =)

Click here and browse the menu on the left to read more about the NCKP.  No membership to an association is required to attend this conference.  Be sure to register before this tomorrow (Friday), April 15 to receive the early bird rates!