improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Studio Business

Determining Tuition Rates for Piano Teaching

Every once in a while, I receive emails from readers wondering if their tuition rates are appropriate.  Setting rates is a difficult topic to talk about, because for one thing, rate depend largely on the area where you live.  For that reason, I can’t advise exact numbers — but with this article I hope to offer some guidelines and suggestions regarding this topic nevertheless.

The Problem

I’m sure we’ve all experienced parents/students who are shopping for piano lessons by price.  Let’s face it: many parents today (especially in America) shop for piano teachers based on price, even though they really should be “shopping” based on the teacher’s experience, education, professionalism, dedication, etc..  Parents shop by price because in their logic, little 6-year-old Suzie doesn’t need an expensive teacher unless they discover that she has a talent for piano and long-term interest.  And they don’t know any better.  Continue reading “Determining Tuition Rates for Piano Teaching”

Performances, Practice

Dealing with Performance Anxiety

Your hands are cold and shaky, your heart is racing, and you find it hard to breath.  Are you sick?  Are you having a nightmare?  No, you’re about to play your instrument in a recital, and the symptoms you are experiencing are due to performance anxiety — better known as stage fright.

Performance anxiety affects us all, to some degree or another.  Here are some things you can try out to help deal with your performance anxiety:

  • Practice performing. Play your pieces for other people whenever you can. It’s one thing to practice your pieces, but it’s another thing to practice performing. Ask other people to come in the room to make you nervous, and see how well you can handle running through you pieces.
  • Envision yourself succeeding. Envisioning yourself performing your piece well is extremely helpful. Do it as your practicing, as you’re not practicing, and as you are performing.  Doing so keeps your outlook positive and sets you up for success. Continue reading “Dealing with Performance Anxiety”
Forum Q&A's

Introduction of a New Series: The Monthly Forum!

At the expense of sounding like an old record, I’d like to express once more (last time, I promise!) how much I’ve enjoyed reading all your comments lately, especially the shared stories on the giveaway post from a couple weeks ago.  It’s comments such as those that make Color In My Piano a success and a worthwhile resource for everyone including myself!   We have so much we can learn from each other.

For this reason, I’d like to introduce a new series that is coming to Color In My Piano designed to inspire and facilitate worthwhile discussions on various topics.  It’s essentially a place to “throw our heads together” and share our expertise and experiences so that we can grow and learn from each other.  Each month, a topic will be introduced in a post titled “The [current month] Forum: [topic].”  The success of this new series lies in your hands…so please, be ready to type away!   Think of it like a potluck: we each bring a dish to pass so that we can share a fabulous meal with each other.  =)

At the end of the month, I will post another post summarizing the various points of discussion brought up and perhaps adding more of my own thoughts, effectively bringing that month’s forum to a close.  (Although you may certainly feel free to continue commenting about the subject if desired.)  At the beginning of the next month, a new topic is then introduced.

Stay tuned for the introduction of the topic for the first-ever monthly forum — to take place tomorrow!

Photo credit: incase. | CC 2.0

Performances, Printables

Just added: Piano Recital Program Template #2

 

Today’s free printable is a another template of a piano studio recital program, for listing students’ names and pieces.

Just download this Microsoft Word file (.doc), enter your students’ information, and print!

Click here to view it larger (uneditable).

To download it the .doc file, visit the Printables > Other Resources page and scroll down to “Piano Recital Program Template #2”.

Feel free to edit the document in any way you desire to suite your needs.

Enjoy!

improving as a teacher, Studio Business

Building Your Studio: How to Inform Parents About Your Tuition Rates

When you get a phone call from an parent of a potential student asking about studio information, should you inform potential students of your rates first, or should you tell them about your studio first?

I know a fellow teacher who does not answer the “rates question” – even when specially asked about it – until the end of the phone call, after she has told them about everything her studio offers.  She chooses to emphasize the quality of the music education she offers in her studio before informing the parent of the rates.   Not a bad idea!

Other teachers are very upfront and prefer to tell parents their rates first thing.  There is no harm in either method.  Personally, I am somewhere in the middle.  Unless specifically asked, I save the rates information until the end.  Regardless of where you stand, it’s a good idea to plan in advance how you are going to deal with the “rates question” when the potential student calls.

How do you like to handle the “rates question”?

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/publicdomainphotos/ / CC BY 2.0

Group Classes, Music Theory, Printables, Teaching Piano, Worksheets

Just Added: Write In The Barlines #2

That’s right, a new free printable worksheet has just been added to the Printables >Worksheets page:

Write In the Barlines #2

This worksheet is for use after using the Write In the Barlines #1 worksheet.  This time, students must draw the barlines through both staves of the grand staff instead of through just one staff.  This worksheet has 4 examples in four different time signatures, including 6/8.

This worksheet is designed for the late elementary / early intermediate level student, to reinforce the following concepts:

  • measures
  • barlines
  • ties
  • meters (2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8)

Click here to view and print it now!

Group Classes, Music Theory, Printables, Teaching Piano, Worksheets

Just Added: Write In The Barlines Worksheet #1

That’s right, a new free printable worksheet has just been added to the Printables > Worksheets page:

Write In the Barlines #1

This worksheet is an one I created a few years ago, and I thought I’d share it here for any of you to use!  My students LOVE taking home “extra credit” worksheets (outside of their weekly assignment from their theory books) to earn extra stickers.  =)

This worksheet is designed for the late elementary / early intermediate level student, to reinforce the following concepts:

  • measures
  • barlines
  • ties
  • meters (2/4, 3/4, and 4/4)

Click here to view and print it now!

Early Childhood Music, Resources, Rhythm

Babies and Music

Check out this interesting news article, reporting about a research study done on babies and their response to rhythm versus speech.  Here’s the summary from another site reporting on the same research:

Human infants are born to dance, researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Psychologists from the United Kingdom and Finland played an assortment of classical and children’s songs, drumbeats, baby talk, and regular speech for 120 infants ages 5 to 24 months. Speech inspired little motion, but music consistently got the babies into the groove. They moved to music with a clear rhythm and adjusted their movements as the beat varied. And the better the babies matched their motion to the music, the more they smiled. So while it remains a mystery how humans evolved our musical wiring, it’s now clear we enjoy it and always did.  (news.sciencemag.org)

Also see the corresponding video here.

Whether you believe that humans evolved their “musical wiring” or were created with it, this research confirms that humans have some sort of natural inclination towards music, apparent even at the youngest of ages.  It confirms what we as teachers have always known — humans should be developing their musical ability when they are young!

Isn’t it kind of amazing how well those babies in the video have a natural sense of beat?  I wish some of my students could keep a steady beat half as well as the babies in the video!  =D

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Practice

What Motivates Musicians and Music Students? – Part 2

This post is Part 2 of the two-part series: What Motivates Musicians and Music Students?  Here’s a quick recap and then the conclusion of the series:

This goal [creating students who can convey musical meaning] in itself is an intrinsic motivator, for even the youngest of students can appreciate the value of musical meaning and feel important as they learn to create musical meaning.  But to encourage this kind of mastery of the instrument, we need to make sure that our incentive programs are reflecting this goal.

Let’s first consider this:  What kind of student would be produced by an incentive program that is based upon the number of minutes practiced each day?  Answer: The student is motivated to spend more minutes sitting at the piano, but not necessarilyto spend their practice time efficiently and towards the goal of creating musical meaning.  To only encourage large amounts of practice time is missing the point.  So how do we create incentive programs that encourage students towards the goal of learning to communicate musical meaning?

The best idea I am coming up with right now is to base the incentive program upon how many pieces (or pages, perhaps, since some pieces are longer than others) the students “passes.” Since the teacher has ultimate control over when the student passes (or doesn’t pass) a piece, the student is encouraged to figure out what kind of things the teacher values in their playing in order to do well in the incentive program.  That is, the students are more likely to think about what the teacher wants them to improve on in their pieces while they are practicing (aka, the elements that contribute to communicating musical meaning in their pieces).  At this point, the student might even (**gasp**) crack open their assignment notebook and read what it says! — try to shape the phrases more, and think about using more arm weight in the forte section, for example.

What do you think?  Would an incentive program like this work?  What kind of incentive program do you find to be most effective for your students?

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Practice, Resources

What Motivates Musicians and Music Students? – Part 1

I found an interesting post over at the Third-Stream Music Education blog.  It includes a link to a fascinating video of Dan Pink’s presentation about motivation in the business world (be sure to watch the whole thing!).  The post at the Third-Stream Music Ed blog makes some interesting connections between ways of motivating employees and ways of motivating students in music education settings in schools.

There are some connections here that can made made to private piano teaching as well.  Knowing what we do about how motivation works, how can we effectively motivate our students?  How can we improve the number of students who quit piano by the time they reach junior high and high school?  What kind of incentive program should we create in our piano studios in order to get maximum results from our students?

But first — here are two of Dan Pink’s basic propositions:

  • When the solution is clear and the tools needed to complete the problem are provided, extrinsic motivations (such as, a monetary bonus) work very well to encourage productivity from employees.  It’s the whole follow-the-carrot kind of reward system.
  • But when the solution is less obvious and the tools may not be provided, monetary motivations do not work well.  Instead, intrinsic motivators (i.e., being motivated by the feeling that what you do matters) work well.  Intrinsic motivators work better for situations where the problems require creative, innovative solutions and  “thinking outside the box” is needed.

The teaching and learning of music falls into the second category, because it is so subjective and it requires creative problem-solving skills.  And so, according to Pink, intrinsic motivators then ought to be used.

Before we talk about the application to incentive programs, let’s first clarify what the “tasks” or goals of learning piano (or music in general) are: mastery of the instrument.  But what does this “mastery” involve?  At first appearance, our goal seems to get our students to play play their pieces accurately, with few mistakes.  Under this definition of mastery, a robot could conceivably succeed.  Well, then maybe mastery is to get out students to progress rapidly, or to play lots of difficult repertoire.  According to this logic, a “successful” music educator would be one who has students who learn all of 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, or who become concert pianists, perhaps.  While, or course, these things are not bad, they aren’t exactly our goal either.  At least, not our chief goal.

So then what is our chief goal?  We want them to create music — music that carries meaning and touches the emotions.  In other words, we want our students to become masters at creating musical meaning and communicating emotions through their music.  And if they become concert pianists along the way, so be it.  But I’d say we’ve succeeded as soon as we create individuals who can appreciate music as a way of communicating expression.  This is something that all of our students — both the talented and less so — can attain, at some level.  This is much more practical than trying to create concert pianists.  And so much more rewarding.

This goal in itself is an intrinsic motivator, for even the youngest of students can appreciate the value of musical meaning and feel important as they learn to create musical meaning.  But to encourage this kind of mastery of the instrument, we need to make sure that our incentive programs are reflecting this goal.

[…to be continued in Part 2…]

Announcements, Motivation, Resources, Teaching Piano

Using Adjectives to Capture the Imagination

One of the ideas I’ve been exploring extensively throughout the research I’m doing for my paper for college (the one about improvisation) is making music musical.  This seems so obvious, but really, what would music be without musicality?  Check out this video, of a robot playing the violin.

Speaking of which, have you ever had students who played like robots?  ***raises hand timidly***  Yep, I have too.  This is what music would be like without musicality.

What started me thinking of robots, and music, and robotic students, you may ask?  Well, I came across a lovely resource over at The Piano Pedagogy Page — a handy list of adjectives.

It may seem that a list of adjectives may be more fitting for use in an English class.  Maybe.  But it may also be helpful in the piano lesson, in helping those certain robotic-like students get “beyond the notes.”  Shoot, it might even be good reminder for me from time to time!  It’s easy to fall into the trap of being overly concerning with the technique, and fail to think about what I consider to be the ultimate goal of music: to communicate expression.  Music is meant to  reach out and speak to people, at one level or another.

It’s so important to be teaching students musicality at an early age.  It makes lessons so much more exciting, anyway.  We are not trying to create little robots who can push the right buttons (i.e., the keys on the piano) at the right time, but creating little music makers.

Announcements, Composition, Group Classes, Music History, Music Theory, Printables, Worksheets

Just Added! Lesson Plans: Analyzing & Composing Music in the Romantic Style

[This is a re-post of this post — the files have now been added to the Printables portion of this website.  (Thanks, Natalie!) Sorry for any confusion.]

Picture 2

Just added to the Printables > Lesson Plans page:

A few months ago, I used these lesson plans during a piano camp where I taught Theory & Composition classes.  This camp is unusual in that it gives the students a chance to work on ensemble music with their fellow campers.  In addition, all the ensemble music are original compositions — composed just for our campers.

In the lesson plans I made, I tried to incorporate both the emphasis on composition and the topic of the Music History classes (taught by another instructor; this year, focusing on the Romantic Period).  So, this year’s lesson plans are all about learning how to compose music in the Romantic style.  By the end of the week, the class had created a Class Composition for piano which was performed for all to hear at the camp recital!  The pieces were humorous, yet surprisingly sophisticated.  Perhaps later on, I’ll post an example of a composition they created, if that would be helpful to anyone.

The lesson plans are designed for classes of 4 – 6 students ranging in ages about 9 to 15, but I’m sure they could be adapted to suit other ages and groups of students.  Enjoy!  Let me know how they work for you.

[gview file=”http://colorinmypiano.com/wp-content/files/CompRomStyle_LessonPlans.pdf”]