improving as a teacher, Performances, Practicing, Reading Notation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Tip: Achieving Fluency

Have you ever had a student play a piece with frequent hesitations throughout, even though you know they can play much better than that?  This phenomenon can occur with all ages/levels of students.  Why does this happen?  What is going on when this happens?  This article will examine possible causes of and solutions for a lack of fluency.

A lack of fluency could be caused by a number of things:

  1. A lack of the proper technique required for the executing the piece;
  2. A lack of familiarity of the notes of the piece;
  3. A tempo that is too fast for the student’s ability at that moment; or,
  4. A lack of mentally “chunking” the information on the page properly.  The analogy I use to refer to Number 4 is that the students feels like they are wearing horse blinders, or are mentally experiencing tunnel vision.

Continue reading “Teaching Tip: Achieving Fluency”

Announcements, improving as a teacher, Music Camps, Studio Business

My Summer Camp Plans for 2012!

I recently started to do some in-depth planning for the summer camps I plan to offer this summer!  My studio policies provide students with two options for the summer months (June-August):

  1. Students ages 6-12 may participate in a camp each month plus take 5 lessons scheduled approximately every other week around family vacations, or…
  2. Students may continue weekly lessons (10 total) as normal.  Students who choose to continue lessons as normal are welcome to sign up for 1, 2, or all 3 summer camps on top of their lessons if desired, at a special rate.

Because I have such a range of ages/levels in my studio, I decided to make my camps very flexible so that students of a wide range of musical backgrounds (even those with no music background) can attend camp.  When my studio is larger, I will probably design camps for certain ages/levels.  For this year, I think it’s best to be flexible.  I’m encouraging my students to invite their friends to attend camp and I’ll put posters around town too.  I’m hoping for a turnout of about 4-8 students attending each camp.

Below are the descriptions I came up with for each camp.  What do you think — do they sound like fun?!  🙂   Continue reading “My Summer Camp Plans for 2012!”

improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Questions

Forum Q&A | New Year’s Resolutions for Piano Teachers

I’ve already blogged a bit about my New Year’s Resolution.  Now it’s your turn!

Our previous Q&A Forum brought about a great discussion about whether or not to lesson plan for piano lessons (and if so, how to feasibly do so even if you have a large studio).  Today, let’s start a discussion about what change you’d like to make in your teaching this year!  I think it’s important as teachers to continually be making little changes and looking for ways to improve our teaching.  It not only makes us better teachers, but it also helps keep things fresh for our students as well as ourselves.  🙂

So, tell us:

  • As a piano teacher, what would you like to START doing this year?
  • What would you like to STOP doing this year?
  • What would you like to KEEP doing this year?

Comment away!

Announcements, improving as a teacher

Thoughts for the New Year

The new year always brings about a time of reflection for me.  I find myself thinking back over the past year and looking forward to the future, wondering what the new year might bring.

This year was a time of great change for my husband and me.  In May, I graduated with my Master of Music degree.  We also moved to a new state.  It has been an adjustment to be out-of-school.  I still keep myself just as busy as I was during grad school, but it’s a different kind of busy.  Instead of having a schedule where nearly every half-hour of my day was portioned out to a class, rehearsal, or other appointment, my schedule is suddently much more flexible.  Now I have the flexibility to choose when I complete the items on my “to-do” list.  And I have to time to work on various projects that I never would have had time to do during grad school. Continue reading “Thoughts for the New Year”

improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Forum Q&A: Lesson Planning for Private Lessons

It’s been a while since we had a Forum Q&A!  Sometimes I run out of ideas for discussion topics, so if you ever have a question you’d like to see addressed here to get other teachers’ input, please let me know.  🙂

Last time, we discussed the role of the parent in private lessons.  We received some well-thought responses, so thanks for that!  Click here to read them, and remember, it’s never too late to add your thoughts.

Here’s today’s discussion topic: Lesson planning!  Here’s a few questions to get you thinking:

Do you create lesson plans for the private piano lessons you teach?  Why or why not?  If you do create lesson plans, what is your process?  How much time do you spend lesson planning each week?  Is your method feasible for even if you full studio of say, 20+ students? 

Although I’ve been teaching privately for over 6 years now, I still don’t feel I have a good system for lesson planning.  Fortunately, I have a pretty good memory for knowing where in their books my students are at any given time.  However, I have a feeling that eventually if I get over 20 students to keep track of, this would be become much more difficult.  I need to keep better records so I can be more effective in preparing to introduce new concepts to my students before the method book does!  I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on this topic.  🙂

Photo Credit: Bright Meadow | CC 2.0

Early Childhood Music, improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Teaching Piano

9 Tips for Teaching Piano To Young Ages

As piano teachers, we wear many hats.  School teachers often teach only one age group, or a few age groups.  Piano teachers are usually expected to be able to teach from age 5 to 95!  But as we all know, teaching a 5-year-old is much different from teaching a 15-year-old, or a 55-year-old.  🙂

In recently thinking about this challenge of being able to effectively teach various age levels and maturities, I decided to make a list of some of the things I’ve learned over the past few years about teaching young ages — I’m thinking, ages 6 and under.  I learned some of these things from an Early Childhood Music course I took during grad school and various piano pedagogy courses — but I learned many of these things purely from experience.  Here goes:

  1. Don’t ask questions that you don’t really want answers to.  Examples: “Did you like that?” or “Do you want to try it on your own now?”  Sometimes if given the option to opt out of something, children will say “no” simply because you’ve given them a choice.  🙂  It’s better to make statements.
  2. Give them time to think.  When you ask a question, wait for them to process and compose a response.  Sometimes we ask questions and then blow right on without getting an answer.  Young children need this think time.  If you don’t really want to wait for an answer, then don’t ask the question in the first place.  Continue reading “9 Tips for Teaching Piano To Young Ages”
Conferences, Group Classes, improving as a teacher

2011 OhioMTA Conference (4): Piano Pedagogy 101, by Marvin Blickenstaff

Here’s another session given by the well-loved pedagogue Marvin Blickenstaff from the 2011 OhioMTA Conference:

Piano Pedagogy 101: Reviewing the Basics

Mr. Blickenstaff introduced this session by commenting that at conferences and workshops, we often hear ideas for teaching intermediate and advanced students, but we don’t very often hear ideas for teaching beginners during that first year of piano lessons.  The purpose of this session to give a refresher of sorts and to provide new ideas for teaching beginners, particularly in groups.

Mr. Blickenstaff basically led us through a series of short activities that he uses during group classes with beginners.  He begins the first few classes with some icebreaker activities that all students can succeed doing.  These initial successes set the tone for the entire year!

Here are a few examples of some of the beginner-level icebreaker activities Mr. Blickenstaff likes to use with his students:

Continue reading “2011 OhioMTA Conference (4): Piano Pedagogy 101, by Marvin Blickenstaff”

Conferences, improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Teaching Piano

OhioMTA Conference 2011 (2): Toxic or Terrific Teaching by Nicole Biggs

The next session at the OhioMTA Conference was given by Dr. Nicole Biggs, the new piano professor at Bowling Green State University in my town:

Toxic or Terrific Teaching: Exploring the Strategies that Bring out the Best in our Students

Dr. Biggs began by pointing out that our goal as teachers is to inspire and motivate our students in such a way that they can go on independently without us.  Our goal in effect is to teach ourselves out of a job.

A potential problem for some of us as teachers is that we may unintentionally emulate the teaching models we experienced, whether good or bad.  It’s a challenge, but if we perhaps experienced “toxic teaching” during our own studies, we need to find ways to ensure these teaching strategies don’t filter into our own teaching.  We need to transform any toxic teaching strategies into terrific teaching strategies.   Continue reading “OhioMTA Conference 2011 (2): Toxic or Terrific Teaching by Nicole Biggs”

improving as a teacher, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Forum Q&A | The Role of the Parent

I apologize for being a bit MIA around the blog lately.  I have a couple of projects that I am working on right now for my local MTNA association.  One of them is designing a website.  It’s about half-way done and if you’re interested in taking a sneak peek, you can click here to see it.  🙂

Anyway, our last Forum Q&A was a discussion about accepting and then teaching adult students at the students’ homes.  We also hit on a few other situations, like females teaching male adult students at the teacher’s home.  There was a good overall consensus about handling such situations.  It’s so great to get advice and support from others, so thank you all for your contributions to the discussion!  (As always, it’s never too late to comment if you haven’t already!)

Here’s the question for today:

What is the ideal role for the parents when it comes to piano lessons?  If a parent asks about what they can be doing to help and support their child, what is your answer?  Do you require or encourage parents to sit in on lessons?  Do you require parents to help young beginners practice?  Do you hold yearly or semesterly meetings with parents to discuss progress?  

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks | CC 2.0

improving as a teacher, Performances, Professional Development

Tips for a Successful First Studio Recital

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a reader asking advice regarding planning a studio recital for the first time.  For the sake of others who might be in the same situation, I decided to create a whole post about this topic — read on.

Q: How do I decide what kind of music to have students play? 

I would suggest buying separate sheet music rather than the usual pieces in their method books.  There’s something special about having a separate sheet music for the recital.  I even like to write on the sheet music something like: “Johnny’s 1st Recital – May 1, 2011.”  It is an extra expense for students which I personally feel is worth it.  Continue reading “Tips for a Successful First Studio Recital”

Conferences, improving as a teacher, Motivation

NCKP 2011 | (13) Student-Centered Teaching, by Randall Faber

I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but I’m so close to having all my conference notes posted that I decided to finish up today with the last one rather than wait until Monday!  Whew, thanks for bearing with me through the long haul!  Lucky for us, the last one is a good one.  🙂

I’ve always wanted to hear Dr. Faber speak since I am a huge fan of the Faber Piano Adventures method, and I’ve heard such good things about their sessions.  At the NCKP, I had the privilege of attending their publisher showcase and this session on student-centered teaching, which provided a lot of insight into the Fabers’ research on human learning and their teaching philosophy in general.  It was fascinating!

Student Centered Teaching: The Process, by Randall Faber.  F @ 11:15am.

Dr. Faber began by talking about the teacher perspective.  He shared a wonderful photo of a child sitting on the piano bench, eager and excited to learn, looking up into the camera (or into the teacher’s eyes).  The next photo was of a stern looking teacher, looking over his reading glasses from his chair alongside the piano.  Everybody laughed when they saw this photo!  This is the student perspective!

Joking aside, though, sometimes we aren’t always doing the job we think.  Sometimes we simply tend to teach the way we were taught because that’s what we know.  Dr. Faber made an argument that in order to be the most effective as teachers, we need to be as student-centered as possible.  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (13) Student-Centered Teaching, by Randall Faber”

improving as a teacher, Professional Development

Studio Marketing: The Studio Newsletter

You may not immediately see a connection between your studio’s monthly newsletter and marketing…but there is one, I assure you!  Marketing means promoting your studio, which includes keeping current customers of your service satisfied.  One of the keys to keeping customers satisfied is over-delivering: giving more than expected.  Newsletters are one great way to over-deliver.  And so, in continuation of our series on studio marketing, we are talking today about studio newsletters.  🙂   Continue reading “Studio Marketing: The Studio Newsletter”