Interviews

My Visit to The Piano Cottage

Last weekend, my hubby and I took a little trip to my hometown in Michigan to visit family. I also had the opportunity to meet up with a fellow piano teacher in Grand Rapids — Jody Deems-McCarger. I connected with Jody last fall through my blog, and then soon after had the opportunity to meet her in person when I gave a presentation to the local MTNA chapter in Grand Rapids last October.

Jody invited me over to chat and see her studio, so I took her up on her offer. I thought you might be as inspired as I was after seeing her charming studio, so I have some photos to share!

When Jody and her husband bought their home, behind their home was a stained-glass artist’s studio. After renovations, it became “The Piano Cottage:”

TPC 2013

Continue reading “My Visit to The Piano Cottage”

Forum Q&A's, improving as a teacher, Motivation, Studio Business

SUMMARY | The June Forum: Making Your Vocation A Vacation

The Way to Paradise June is over (summer is going by so quickly!!), and so is the June Forum: Making Your Vocation A Vacation topic.  Thanks for all the thought-provoking comments, all!  Here’s a summary of your comments, along with some thoughts of my own mixed in:

  • Teach only when you want to. Don’t overdo it.  Only schedule yourself what you can easily handle each day/week.  If needed, schedule yourself an occasional 15-minute break so you can chill out for a bit and perhaps get a bite to eat.
  • Teach only who you want to. Whenever possible, accept only the students who are motivated and hardworking.  I’d like to also add: only teach the levels/ages you are comfortable with.  For example, if teaching adult students isn’t your forte, don’t feel as if you have to accept them into your studio.  Recognize the areas where you shine and make those your focus!  Same goes with styles of music: if you aren’t comfortable teaching jazz, recommend those students to another teacher who is comfortable doing so.
  • Be firm on your business procedures. As teachers and musicians, we often don’t like to think about the financial side of things.  We like to focus on passing our passion for music on to our students.  The reality is, there will always be parents/students who show up late, don’t show up at all, don’t pay on time, etc..  Everyone handles these situations differently, but I would recommend never allowing yourself to be stepped over.  It will stress you out.  (I know from experience!)  Write up some Studio Policies and stick to them.  (This is an area I personally need to work on — so I’ve been brainstorming some ways to make “the business end of things” run more smoothly and efficiently.)
  • Keep it fun and fresh by varying up each lesson, and tailoring lessons to each individual student.  Be on the lookout for new music books or games to try with students.  Try to discover each student’s interests, strengths, and weaknesses so you can personalize their lessons to their individual needs.  Attend local/state/national music teaching conferences so you can continue your own education as well as network and exchange ideas with other teachers.
  • Find ways to make sure your students are making progress. When students are making progress, students are having fun, and when students are having fun, the teacher is having fun!  Decorate your studio, create an incentive program, keep communication open with parents to keep them involved, have a practice requirement — in short, find ways to keep students engaged and motivated to develop their skills at the piano and excited about lessons!

All these ideas above are part of being an effective, successful teacher — and that’s when teaching becomes a vacation rather than a vocation.  Great thoughts, everyone!

Stay tuned for the introduction of the July Forum topic, coming later this week!

Photo credit: nattu | CC 2.0

improving as a teacher

The June Forum: Making your Vocation a Vacation

As mentioned yesterday, a new series is being introduced here at Color In My Piano: a monthly forum of sorts, where readers put their heads together a discuss various topics.  The success of this series depends on YOU, so please, type away!

Without further ado, allow me to introduce the topic for the June forum:

The June Forum: Making your Vocation a Vacation

The June forum is inspired by a couple of quotes I encountered a couple of days ago that really got me thinking about my piano teaching:

“Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”  – Godin

“Make your vocation your vacation.”   – Old adage

So the idea is to make your vocation as a piano teacher enjoyable for yourself, so that you aren’t living most of your life just getting by until the next vacation.  =)

Now that summer vacation is here, ironically enough, I think this is a fitting topic to consider.  I’m sure that some of you are probably taking summer vacation from teaching and others of you are probably going to be teaching as normal through the summer (personally, I’m somewhere in the middle – some students have stayed on and others are taking a summer break).  Nevertheless, I’m sure we are all thinking ahead to the next year of teaching and maybe even already doing some planning.  Well, now you can add this thought to your list! — How can I make the next year of teaching be more like a vacation than a vocation?

Thoughts?  What do YOU do to make your vocation more like your vacation?  How do you deal with discouragement and disappointments as a teacher when they come along?  How do you keep your teaching fresh and fun?  What are some practical ways that you can do differently to make your vocation as a piano teacher more like a vacation all year long?

Photo credit: jonycunha | CC 2.0

Announcements, improving as a teacher

Things I Learned from a Yeol Eum Son Masterclass

Last week, my university held a master class by Yeol Eum Son, the silver winner of the 2009 Van Cliburn competition.  I played a Chopin Etude, op.10 no.6.  She gave me a number of specific suggestions which were very helpful, but there were two general concepts I took from the experience:

1. Posture: keep your chest open. I’ve been told to sit up straight of course, and I’ve even been told not to sit too straight (a common problem among slender pianists, especially female).  I’ve also been told to keep my shoulders down and relaxed, which is something I struggle with.  Tension in the shoulders, can affect the arms and wrists negatively.

I’ve also accompanied enough vocalists to know that keeping the chest open is extremely important to help with breath support and avoid causing the throat to do the work.  But I never realized that pianists should be doing this too.  Watching her play, I realized how free and open her chest seemed, and as a result, how relaxed her shoulders and arms were.  I can’t quite explain it in words — see it for yourself it the video here:

(Her playing is so beautiful in this video, I could listen to it over and over and never tire of it!) Continue reading “Things I Learned from a Yeol Eum Son Masterclass”