General

Student Humor

Just a quick story to share today…

I was teaching my homeschool music class this morning, and we started learning about Franz Liszt today.  After talking about his life, I played this YouTube video of Evgeny Kissin playing a Liszt etude to listen to as they colored a picture of Liszt.  As usual, I had to explain that the performer they saw in the video was not Liszt because they did not have video cameras back then.

Then the oldest boy (8) asked, “What are those fancy letters at the beginning of the video?”  I quickly answered, “I think those are Chinese letters, because this recital probably took place in China.”  My student thought about that for a moment, and then said, “That makes sense, because most things are made in China.”  :)

Afterwards, I realized that the letters are probably actually Japanese since under the YouTube video it states that the recital took place in Toyko.  Regardless, I thought this was a cute story to share.

Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Teaching Piano

Spell-A-Keyboard Game

This morning with my homeschool music class, I played this game with my students:

As I was lesson planning last night, I was trying to think of a new way to practice the names of the piano keys.  My homeschool music class is mostly a music history class, but we’ve been learning basic music/piano concepts too.  My students already know how to figure them the piano key names by counting from Middle C, but they need more practice to get them memorized.  So I came up with this game, which I called the “Spell-A-Keyboard Game.”

My students loved this game!  I gave them each a set of cards with words containing only A-G (I gave them only the three-letter words for today) and a silent keyboard or paper keyboard, and three glass gems (pennies or buttons work too).  Then I instructed them to “spell” the words from each flashcard by covering the right keys with glass gems.  If you are playing this game with students at the piano, you can require that students spell the letters in order from left to right, but on a silent keyboard there might not be room to do so (as in the example shown in the photo).

This game is a great way to practice the piano key names without it actually feeling like a drill!  My students really enjoyed seeing how quickly they could spell the words and were pretty proud of their work each time.

You can download the “Musical Alphabet Word Flashcards” on the Printables > Games page.  When I created the cards, I tried to pick mostly words that kids would know.  Enjoy!

Update: I just realized that Susan Paradis plays a game very similar to this, except the words are spelled on the staff!  Read more here.

Update: Read about the outdoor version of this game here, where I describe my Musical Olympics Camp.

Update: I also found a way to adapt this game to be used with two floor keyboards indoors, with two teams.  Click here for more info.

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“A great teacher is one who realizes that he himself is also a student and whose goal is not to dictate the answers, but to stimulate his students creativity enough so that they can go out and find the answers themselves.”

— Herbie Hancock

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 me a message here.

Announcements, Interviews

Joy Gets Interviewed… :)

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a 16-year-old homeschooler, asking if I’d answer some interview questions for a research project about piano teaching.  I was happy to oblige, and she was willing to let me post my answers here too.  It was kind of fun!

How old were you when you first began learning/playing piano? Around 6 or 7.

Why did you start playing the piano? My mother got me started with her old piano book when I began showing interest by messing around on the piano.  (The book was John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers To Play,” for those of you interested!  It starts right at the beginning with staff notation. :)

What music schools or institutions did you learn music at? I took private lessons with 3 different private teachers during my childhood and high school years. I attended Grand Rapids Community College for my first two years of college, transferred to Hope College to finished my Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance, and then afterwards completed a Master of Music degree in Piano Pedagogy. The college-level pedagogy courses I took were the most valuable — and second were the private lessons. I think every piano teacher should take or audit piano pedagogy courses at their local college if they ever have the opportunity. I am a much better teacher because of those classes than I could ever be otherwise!

Who have your teachers been? Various piano teachers in my town, and then college professors at whatever college I was attending at the time. Continue reading “Joy Gets Interviewed… :)”

improving as a teacher, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Piano Student End-Of-The-Year Evaluations

I’m back!  I ended up taking two weeks off instead of one, I know.  :)  But it felt great.  It feels great to be back too.

At the MTNA National Conference in NYC this year, one of the sessions I attended encouraged teachers to do yearly or quarterly assessments/evaluations of their students.  Some teachers accompany these assessments with a parent-teacher-student conference.  A few of the session’s attendees raised their hands to comment on their method of assessment and the benefits they’ve seen.  I was quite intrigued with the idea, and decided I wanted to give it a try this year.

The only time when I’ve done something similar to this is when I was worked at a summer music camp in my hometown.   I was the Theory & Composition Instructor, and the camp director asked each of us instructors to create some kind of assessment that we could send home with the students for the teachers and parents to be able to see what the student learned at camp.  These assessments were very short and sweet, since we had only had contact with the student for four classes over four days.

I started looking around the internet for ideas, and eventually formed a template I’m pretty happy with.  This assessment is not designed to do that same thing that standardized music testing is supposed to do.  It’s much more general.  It’s about communicating to the student and parent about the progress the student is making in various areas and the goals that I have in mind for them in upcoming months.  It is a bit like a report card, but with no actual grades.   Continue reading “Piano Student End-Of-The-Year Evaluations”

Announcements

Blogging Break

Just a quick post to let you know that I will be taking the week off from blogging.  My brother is getting married this weekend, so my husband and I will be staying in Michigan with my family for a few days.  And the early part of this week is going to be busy with the usual teaching in addition to the packing and preparations.

I hope you’ll miss me while I’m away!  :)  See you all next week.

Games, Printables, Rhythm

Music Motor Match – A Rhythm Matching Game

A large percentage of my studio right now is beginner/early elementary students.  I like having simple and short games to play with them at the end of the lesson that reinforce concepts we are learning in their books.  Motor Music Match is a game that I created with these things in mind.  Take a look:

The point of the game is to match each car and sign to its proper place on the road where the rhythm value’s names are.  It’s a great game that only takes a minute or two, so it’s perfect for the end of the lesson where you have a little bit of extra time.  It would also work well to keep a copy of this game in your studio’s waiting room area.

When I first tested out this game with a student, he said, “There should be another level where it’s harder.”  That’s when I added the street signs.  :)  So, to follow his suggestion, first ask your student to match the cars.  When they are able to do that successfully, clear the road and add the signs to make the game a little harder.

To download the pdf for this game, visit the Printables > Games page and scroll down to the M’s for “Music Motor Match.”  Enjoy!

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

A reader sent me this amusing story:

I taught a beginning keyboard group experience for 4-5 years olds – before anything was on the market – at a local community center.  I had 5 preschoolers per class and we got to know each other very well in the small sessions.  

I was at the local mall and my student Jennifer was there with her mom.  I caught her tugging on her mom’s arm and asking, “Why is Miss Patti here? Doesn’t she stay and live at school with the keyboards?”  

I chuckled to myself not only because it was so cute, but wondered “who” released me out of the music room. 

— submitted by Patti K. 

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 me a message here.

Announcements, Performances

Spring Recital Details

As I mentioned yesterday, our Spring Recital was Saturday!  Here’s how it went down:

  • It was held at the local library.  They have an atrium with a Steinway baby grand piano.  In the past, I’ve always held recitals at churches (and once at a school).  I look for churches with grand pianos that can be moved to the center of the sanctuary.  Being new in town, I haven’t yet discovered which churches have this kind of set-up (plus they have to be affordable).  Two of my students suggested using the library, so we did.  It costs $50 to rent and it’s a nice location with high ceilings and lots of natural light.  I was happy with it!
  • I always play something at my students’ recitals.  This year, I asked my friend, a violinist for whom I’m accompanying for her semester juries at my local university, to play her jury piece with me.  She was thrilled to be asked — but she needed to be first on the program so she could leave early for another event she had in the afternoon.  I wish I could let you hear the piece — but I forgot to start the video camera before we played the piece!  (I’m still kicking myself.)  Anyway, here’s Itzhak Perlman playing it.
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKI9uoNfC18
  • After the violin piece, my students played.  I had 10 out of my 16 students play at the recital (the others are adult students, new 4-year-old students, or had a schedule conflict).  I knew it would be a short and sweet recital, but I still feel recitals are beneficial enough that it was worth doing anyway!
  • After playing, my students stood in the front for a group photo, and I gave them each a rose for their performance.  It’s a tradition I’ve been doing for a few years now, although my students in my new town, of course, have not experienced it yet.
  • Afterwards, we had a little reception with cupcakes, a Kit Kat piano (a la Pinterest), and cheese n’ crackers.

I don’t think I can share video of the recital since the pieces performed are under copyright, but I hope to share a photo slideshow soon!

Do you all have Spring Recitals coming up?  I like holding mine early in the Spring because May and June are such a busy months.