repertoire / methods, Retreat

2017 Piano Teacher Retreat

Hello, readers!

I’m so excited to share with you some photos from the three-day Piano Teacher Retreat I hosted earlier this month.  

On Thursday the 17th, 12 piano teachers arrived for our retreat activities. They came from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Virginia, Ontario (Canada), …and even as far as Georgia!

Including my friend Amy Chaplin (who was in charge of delicious meals for us!) and myself, this added up to 14 piano teachers in “Piano Manor” — which is what my students and I fondly call my home studio. :)

My chief goal with my Piano Teacher Retreat was to create a professional development experience with no single “expert” to learn from, but instead with all attendees collaborating and sharing their thoughts and experiences, toward the goal of growing together to become better teachers.

Don’t get me wrong: I love conferences, but if we really want to create an experience that results in the greatest amount of learning, we need to create learning experiences that very closely replicate the actual desired skill or behavior.

To that end, this was not a professional development experience where attendees sat in their seats and passively listened. Nope. At Piano Teacher Retreat, everybody participates. :) All 14 of us kept busy through group discussion sessions, studying certain method books with a partner, and presenting our findings with the rest of the group. We were hands-on and interactive!

We each have so much we can share and learn from each other!

Our theme for the retreat this year was “Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom in Method Books.” This topic was an extension expansion upon one of my workshop presentations. Drawing upon my ever-growing library of piano method books from past and current decades, we examined piano method books in-depth to see the progression of concepts and skill development as well as the overall changes and trends that have occurred in piano pedagogy philosophy over time.

At three different points in our three-day schedule, attendees worked in groups to study a particular method book in-depth and fill out an evaluation sheet.

By 5:30pm, we were ready for dinner! We split up into various groups to enjoy dinners at local restaurants of our choosing.

After dinner, we enjoyed social time on the porch…along with a wonderful charcuterie tray and sangria provided by Amy. We chatted and stayed up far too late. Eight of us stayed overnight in my guest rooms (mostly on air mattresses, but we were mostly comfortable nonetheless!). Another four stayed at my student’s home, while two others made their own lodging arrangements.

The next morning, Amy greeted us with her cheerful smile and a wonderful breakfast!

Here we are enjoying breakfast together. Many new friendships were formed during the retreat.

Here’s another photo of a couple of attendees sharing their impressions and insights into a particular piano method series.

And, of course, we made sure to always try out some of the method’s pieces on the piano, because the quality and appeal of the music is a chief consideration when evaluating a method book!

When partnering up, we scattered throughout “Piano Manor.”

…including taking advantage of the porch once again.

Here’s a photo from dinner on Day 2.

Back at Piano Manor, we informally explored together techniques for teaching students to play pieces by rote.

Throughout the entire retreat, Amy went above-and-beyond to make sure we had wonderful breakfast and lunch meals to enjoy.

Here is a group photo taken on the final day. (Thank you, Amy, for taking this photo!)

I learned a great deal from organizing and hosting this retreat. It was great fun to experiment with a non-traditional format for professional development for piano teachers, and I have to say that I was very pleased with how the experiment turned out! We learned about new-to-us piano method books that we might like to try with students in the upcoming year, and we picked up tips and ideas from methods from the past. We discussed identifying and preventing potential pitfalls that results when a particular method book doesn’t perfectly align with one’s teaching philosophy. We shared and explored options for supplemental music. We discussed when and how to exit a method series, and how to structure a curriculum after that.

We covered so much ground together and were able to absorb so much from each other in this comfortable, interactive learning environment. And it was just plain FUN to all hang out together in the same house. :)

Attendees asked me if I’ll be hosting another retreat next year. I’d certainly like to! I just need to take a look at next year’s calendar, and then decide whether to use the same topic again or come up with another. :)

Perhaps you would be interested in attending next year? I’m maintaining a special email list of piano teachers interested in attending future retreats. If you would like join the email list to receive information in the future about retreats, please click here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post sharing more about which piano method books we covered during the retreat.

Thanks for reading!

8 thoughts on “2017 Piano Teacher Retreat”

  1. What a great idea! Looks like fun, too! Would you say you had a variety of teachers, large studios vs. small, new teachers vs. more experienced? I would like to hear more about it, and future events.

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