Music Camps, Music History

2017 Music History Camp

Last week, I held my Music History Blast From The Past camp. We had a blast! ;)

As in previous years, I used my own composer lapbook curriculum for this camp (available here). I know some of you will be very pleased to hear that I have created lapbooks for FOUR brand new composers this year, which will be added to the shop later this summer. Stay tuned!

Snack break is always a hit during camp. ;)

Fun with Scrabble tiles during break.

The four composers we studied this year are Domenico Scarlatti, Muzio Clementi, Peter Tchaikovsky, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. I am always amazed at the amount of information my students retain from this lapbook format. The pictures and the interaction with the information makes the history come alive.  Continue reading “2017 Music History Camp”

repertoire / methods

Video: A Peek Inside the Littlest Piano Method Book You Ever Did See

Hi there!

Earlier today, I went live on Facebook to take a peek inside the littlest piano method book in my collection. :) It’s called “Little Players: A Piano Book For Very Young Beginners,” by Robert Nolan Kerr. The copyright year is 1941.

I found this book among a boxful of other old sheet music I received from a retiring piano teacher. It’s an interesting piece of history. Join me in taking a closer look at this book!

Here is the Facebook Live video.

Taking a peek inside just about the cutest little piano method book I ever did see…

Posted by Color In My Piano blog on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Here is what’s covered in the video:

  • 0:37  Check out the size of this little book compared to a typical-sized method book.
  • 1:47  Take a guess: which reading approach is used by this method book?
  • 3:06  Find out what “very young beginner” age the author intended this book to be for. Today, I think publications generally use “very young beginners” to mean age 4-6.
  • 3:27  Find out which touch (non-legato, legato, or staccato) the author expects the student will use throughout the book.
  • 4:30  Check out the 1940s era illustrations.
  • 5:42  It’s nice to see pieces in both duple and triple meter early on.
  • 6:11  This book contains a few interesting activities requiring students to experience meter through listening and moving to music the teacher plays.
  • 8:15  This is a method where the student is learning to play pieces through a combination of note and rote learning. Singing also seems to be encouraged.
  • 11:42  An early page in this book indicates that it was for group or individual instruction. Can you picture a classroom full of school children, each with their own copy of this little book?! :)

Thanks for exploring this old method book with me!

Questions for you: Have you ever before seen such an adorable mini-sized piano method book?! Do you teach your beginners to play with legato touch first, or do you do something else first? What other interesting observations do you have after taking a virtual peek with me inside this interesting piece of pedagogical history?

Thanks for watching!

P.S.: Why am I looking through old piano method books? It’s because I’m in the midst of preparations for Retreat at Piano Manor which I will be hosting later this summer, August 17-19, 2017! During the retreat, we will be looking through piano method books from across the decades, uncovering pedagogical wisdom relevant for us today. Be sure to watch the facebook page and here on the blog for future videos about piano methods.

Professional Development, repertoire / methods, Retreat

Video: Let’s Talk about John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers To Play”

Hi there!

Earlier today, I went live on Facebook to talk about one of my favorite old piano method books: the classic John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano. I have to admit certain bias for the “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” book. It was my first piano book when I was all of age 5. :)

Here is the Facebook Live video.

Let's talk about this classic piano method: John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano. I have to admit certain bias for the "Teaching Little Fingers" book because it was my first piano book when I was age 5. ??

Posted by Color In My Piano blog on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Here is what’s covered in the video:

  • 0:50  Get a peek inside an OLD copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers To Play” book by John Thompson.
  • 2:10  Why I like using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book sometimes today as a supplement.
  • 3:05  Get a peek inside a NEW copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book. The illustrations have been updated, but the version is otherwise pretty true to the original.
  • 3:35  How to address one of the potential pitfalls of using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book: the overabundance of finger numbers.
  • 4:47  How John Thompson was ahead of his time as a pedagogue. Or, perhaps there is really just “nothing new under the sun.” :) Hint: See the note on the cover of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book.
  • 7:04  Learn more about other music and resources John Thompson authored.

Questions for you: Have you ever used the John Thompson series? What do you appreciate about it?

Thanks for watching!

P.S.: Why am I looking through old piano method books? It’s because I’m in the midst of preparations for Retreat at Piano Manor which I will be hosting later this summer, August 17-19, 2017! During the retreat, we will be looking through piano method books from across the decades, uncovering pedagogical wisdom relevant for us today. Registration is now open and a few teachers have already registered. Be sure to watch the facebook page and here on the blog for future videos about piano methods.

Retreat

2017 Retreat | Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom From Method Books.

Hi there!

Today, I just wanted to share a little bit more regarding the retreat for piano teachers I’m planning in August 17-19, 2017.

The topic our retreat will be centered around is: Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom From Method Books.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE looking through piano method books — both old and new — to see what wisdom I can gain from each approach.

Just look at the beautiful color art of these two old piano methods! I can’t help but drool. ;)

This is the corner of my studio where all my piano method books live.

During the retreat, you’ll have the opportunity to share your own insights as we pore through a variety of piano method books published through the decades. We will all benefit from collective wisdom through combining our knowledge and experiences. I can’t wait!

Here’s the full description of the event:

Retreat at Piano Manor is a three-day experience for piano teachers to getaway in order to connect, ask questions, share, and become better teachers for our students. Together, we will explore the wisdom from piano methods beginning with early treatises and concluding with piano methods published in the 21st century. You will share your insights and teaching experiences with the rest of the group, and work with fellow attendees to review certain method books in-depth. While at “Piano Manor,” you’ll also enjoy relaxing downtime and deliciously healthy food planned by my foodie friend, Amy Chaplin of PianoPantry.com.

At the end of the three days, you will have knowledge of the range of available piano method books, both old and new, and how to choose among them to match your students’ needs and desires. You’ll be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to try new method books of your choice, to increase your range of options and keep your teaching fresh. You will know when and how to supplement a method as needed, so your students develop musical skills without undue effort. Using this knowledge and skill set, you can create custom-tailored curriculums designed to nurture happily progressing students in your studio. Retreat at Piano Manor will leave you feeling inspired and connected, with newly formed friendships and fresh ideas for your teaching.

If you are interested in attending the retreat, read more here and then please be sure to join this special email list. The registration information will be sent out within the next week or so.

If you can’t attend the retreat, don’t worry: I’ll be sharing highlights in weeks ahead — of both the preparation process as well as the actual retreat activities. Watch here on the blog as well as my facebook page for updates!

Games, Rhythm

Game: Which Rhythm Pattern Do You Hear?

Today, I thought I’d share about a quick and fun rhythm game I’ve been using lately with some of my younger students.

Game: Which Rhythm Pattern Do You Hear?

  1. Choose two animal erasers.
  2. The teacher creates two rhythm patterns using these free cards, laying out each one by an animal eraser.
  3. The teacher chants one of the two rhythm patterns and asks the student: Which animal’s rhythm pattern did you hear?
  4. Repeat with new rhythm patterns.
  5. If the student is ready for it, next try having the teacher and the student switch roles.

I like this activity because it keeps the focus on the SOUND of the rhythm patterns and because the only notation-related skill that is required is recognition. When switching roles, of course, the student is then required to create and perform notated rhythm patterns.

If you use Irina Gorin’s method book or if you want to keep things simpler, you can use Othello chips instead of rhythm value cards.

And if you are working with a small group of students, here is an idea for variating the game:

  1. Each student notates a rhythm pattern, with an animal eraser sitting near it.
  2. Whoever is “it” randomly chooses a pattern and chants it for the group.
  3. The rest of the students identify which animal’s pattern was heard.

Have fun!

Games, Rhythm

Rhythm Activities with Othello Chips

Since attending Irina Gorin’s summer workshop for piano teachers in 2015, her “Tales of a Musical Journey” has become one of my favorite piano method books to use with beginners.

In her book, she uses black circles and white circles to represent simple rhythms in duple meter. (Duple meter is MLT’s term for when the macrobeat [big beats] contains two microbeats [little beats].)

Here is an example of Irina teaching with the black and white circles.

It’s easy to cut black and white circles out of paper, but I’ve also been using Othello chips. They are perfect for this because they are black on one side and white on the other. I found a used Othello game at a thrift shop for $2 a couple of years ago, and have been using the chips for rhythm games on the floor with my beginner students.

20141226_133514 NIKON Othello 2 wm-1

These chips can be used in any rhythm game where you might normally use rhythm value cards. Here are a few quick examples:

  • The teacher notates two simple rhythm patterns (4 macrobeats in length), chants one of the patterns, and asks the student to identify which pattern they heard.
  • Notate simple rhythm patterns and chant them together.
  • Chant simple rhythms (perhaps using simple poetry) and notate them together.

The Othello chips also work great with a cloth staff/keyboard, which means the rhythms could be notated on the staff. There are many of fun uses for these chips! Let me know in the comments below if you have other ideas.

Announcements, Professional Development, Retreat

Announcing: Piano Teacher Retreat, August 17-19, 2017

Hello, friends!

I’m very excited to invite you to attend a retreat for piano teachers taking place at my home studio this summer.

Retreat at Piano Manor is a three-day getaway for piano teachers to connect, recharge, share, and learn from each another. During this unique experience, you will have opportunity to contribute and benefit from collective wisdom during group discussions, projects, and even relaxing downtime. While at “Piano Manor,” you’ll also enjoy deliciously healthy food planned by my foodie friend, Amy Chaplin of PianoPantry.com. Retreat at Piano Manor will leave you feeling inspired and connected, with newly formed friendships and fresh ideas for your teaching.

Our topic of focus is Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom From Method Books. I’ll be sharing more details very soon about what we will do during our group retreat experience.

Retreat at Piano Manor is happening August 17-19, 2017, at my home studio in northwest Ohio. I hope you’ll consider being a part of this!

More details are available at: pianoteacherretreat.com. The full schedule and registration will be posted soon. In the meantime, be sure to join the email list to receive details in your inbox as they become available. 

Thanks for reading!

Early Childhood Music, Group Classes, Music Learning Theory

Group Class Ventures with Music Learning Theory (MLT)

Since taking the Piano Certification Course through the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML) last August, I have been slowly but surely working towards integrating Music Learning Theory (MLT) principles into my teaching approach.

Much of this integration is subtle at this point and yet, it is having a definite impact on my students.

I’ve also had the opportunity to experiment more directly with an MLT-based teaching approach in a couple of new group music classes I’ve been offering over the past few months.

The first opportunity arose when one of my piano parents asked if I might consider doing some kind of group music class with her two piano students as well as three of her other children who take lessons in guitar, flute, and violin. She was interested in her kids receiving additional help with rhythm, theory, and more, to support their private lessons. I told her more about the GIML training I received and how I felt it would be ideal for her kids and that I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to experiment more with this approach. So, now I’m teaching a weekly 30-minute group music class (not geared towards piano playing) with 5 siblings between the ages of 7 and 12. Afterwards, I give the two piano students their private lessons.

The second opportunity arose when a local violin teacher reached out to me asking about lessons for her 4-year-old son. Ultimately, we settled on having a weekly 30-minute group class with her son as well as her two other young children. The five of us are exploring music together using the Music Play early childhood music curriculum as the basis.

So far with both classes, I’ve been loosely following the lesson plan outline that Marilyn Lowe suggests in her Keyboard Games (KG) books (see image below). I’m pulling songs and rhythm chants from her KG books, Music Play, and the ECMC Songs and Chants Without Words, Book One.

Continue reading “Group Class Ventures with Music Learning Theory (MLT)”

Music Theory, Reviews

Review: Celebrate Theory Series from The Royal Conservatory

celebrate-theoryI’m so excited to tell you today about a fantastic series of theory workbooks called Celebrate Theory (Canada | U.S.), just released from Frederick Harris Music publishers. If you happen to already enjoy – as I do – using the wonderful Celebration Series (Canada | U.S. | Amazon.com) with your piano students, you will be especially interested in learning about Celebrate Theory.

Before talking about the specifics of the Celebrate Theory books, allow me to first briefly cover some background information about The Royal Conservatory and the revisions to the RCM Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition.

The Royal Conservatory (RCM) is a music education institution in Toronto that has been in existence since 1886 and is responsible for a curriculum for music study that is considered by many to be the foremost music education system in Canada, the United States, and many other countries around the world. Exam centers for RCM (also known as the Music Development Program [MDP] in the U.S.) are available in many major cities a few times each year. RCM offers quality publications for music study through their non-profit publisher, Frederick Harris Music.

I have entered a few students in the RCM/MDP practical exams over the past few years and I consider the program to be absolutely top notch. (Check out my printable charts for helping students prepare for the technical requirements portion of the assessment.)

Whether or not your students participate in RCM/MDP exams, you will find the Celebrate Theory books worth your attention. Continue reading “Review: Celebrate Theory Series from The Royal Conservatory”

Studio Business

The Possibility of Making a Healthy Income Doing What You Love as a Piano Teacher

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“I don’t do this for the money. I just love teaching kids/music.”

How often have you said or thought this? And how often have you heard this sentiment from fellow teachers?

Problem: There is a huge, rather unhealthy assumption implied in this narrative. The false assumption is that teaching kids/music is at odds with the desire or need to generate income.

Is doing what we love as a teacher actually at odds with making a good living? Let’s explore this further.

Is there something wrong or unethical about earning money doing something that you are passionate about? Is there something wrong with earning money being a teacher, arguably one of the most important professions in the world as it so directly impacts the next generation? Especially as piano teachers, artists, seeking the particularly challenging aim of nurturing the minds and spirits of learners? Is there something wrong with earning money from our art, our musical ability? Is there something about generating an income that nullifies, dilutes, or contaminates our art or our dedication to teaching?

While it may be true that our passion for teaching impels us more than does our practical need to make a living, it does not diminish – nor is it necessarily at odds with – the legitimate priority of generating an income. It is a prevalent but mistaken notion that we must choose one or the other, or prioritize one over the other: making a living versus doing what we love.

Not only artists tend to fall into this trap. Most people view their career goals through a false dichotomy consisting of two general categories: Job A, which pays well but isn’t a job I would much enjoy – or Job B, which doesn’t pay well but would allow me to do what I love.

When I was growing up, my pastor used to say: “If you ask the wrong question, you are sure to get the wrong answer.”

Because here’s the thing: Why should we necessarily have to settle between either doing what we love or making a healthy income? Those aren’t the only two options. Why can’t we aim for a third option – Job C, having both?

This false narrative is prevalent in society. Despite the importance of teachers, society tends to believe teachers deserve a low income (at least, here in America it is often the case). And every artist must come to terms with generating an income with his/her art. Including us piano teachers.

We need to recognize and address the false narrative and replace it with a better one. We must advocate for the possibility of both; we must argue for the rationale of and embrace the propriety of doing what we love while making a good income.

Making a living and doing what we love isn’t an “either or”. Let’s stop believing that, and know that we can have both.

Let’s move forward together with a shared commitment to the pursuit of generating a healthy income doing what we love.

Call To Action

Have you found yourself assuming that doing what you love and making a regular and reliable income seem at odds? Please post in the comments below.


If you liked this article, check out my online course offered through Piano Teacher Institute with Joy Morin. My course teaches you how to make a regular and reliable income doing what you love: teaching piano. The next 6-week session is starting up soon. Join the email list at this link to receive the details.


[As a brief, somewhat related aside: Many in society tend towards an unexamined, counter-productive notion that non-profits are inherently unethical if/when they are successful, and strategic; that is, for example, compensating their employees sufficiently to attract competent executives, etc. Watch this eye-opening TED talk for more on how we tend to punish and handicap charities.]

Studio Business

What I Learned From My Recent Survey

Recently, I sent out a questionnaire in hope of learning a bit more about my readership and the general outlook within the piano teaching profession. As promised, I want to share with you a little bit about what I’ve learned from all of your wonderful responses.

It was very revealing to hear common issues described by teachers. The most frequently cited problems for piano teachers fell into one of three general topic areas:

1. Feeling as if students do not prioritize piano study enough or do not practice effectively.

2. The challenges of running a business; including finding clients, advertising, marketing, policies, taxes, etc.

3. Dissatisfaction with the rate – or with particular aspects – of student progress.

Do these responses surprise you? Do you feel less alone, knowing that so many of us deal with the same issues?

Thanks so much for sharing your input. I hope here at ColorInMyPiano.com we can continue to address together and share about these issues that matter.