Performances

TEACHER FEATURE: Jonathan Roberts on Virtual Recitals for Students

This post is a follow-up, of sorts, to my post last week about how to get started teaching remote piano lessons. As we navigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we face opportunities to not only adapt our teaching, but also our recital organizing!

Today, I bring you a bit of inspiration for how YOU could consider offering a recital opportunity to your students during these unprecedented times. My friend, Jonathan Roberts (organizer of the South Shore Piano Camp for which I’ve instructed the past two summers), recently organized a “virtual recital” featuring videos made by his students and then posted to YouTube. I have been considering doing something similar next month with my students. Seeing how Jon’s virtual recital turned out earlier this week has made me more inspired and motivated to take on this project!

Before you read on, check out Jon’s playlist here. I hope you enjoy Jon’s sense of humor in his opening/closing remarks video, as well as seeing his students play their prepared pieces in their own home environments.

Upon being asked, Jon was kind enough to agree to being interviewed about how he went about organizing and publishing his virtual recital. So, now that you’ve seen for yourself how it turned out, let’s have a conversation with Jon to learn more about this project!


Hi, Jon! Could you tell us a little bit about your studio and your students’ recent virtual recital?

Hi, Joy! Thank you so much for having me.

This past September, I expanded my home studio into a multi-teacher organization, the South Shore Piano School, in Quincy, MA (just south of Boston). We have doubled in size since then, with an enrollment of about 70 students right now, ranging in age from 4 to 67. In addition to weekly lessons, we run monthly student recitals and regular community “field trips” to hear world-class pianists, both solo and with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Our first-ever virtual recital was a project I put together shortly after school classes, after-school activities, and most public gatherings were suspended, seemingly overnight. On about 24 hours notice, we had to move over to online lessons pretty quickly, and we were actually supposed to have an in-person recital on Sunday, March 22nd.

Continue reading “TEACHER FEATURE: Jonathan Roberts on Virtual Recitals for Students”
Teaching Piano

Teaching Piano During the COVID-19 Pandemic

At the time of this publishing, the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in the U.S., the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is recommending no gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks, so most events are being canceled. Many of us (depending on which state you live) are experiencing canceled school classes, university classes, and work. The local grocery stores keep running out of basic staples, because everyone is stocking up. The pandemic’s effect is deep and wide, and our response is important. The recommendations call for us to regularly wash our hands and practice “social distancing” to avoid possible spread or exposure to the virus. The goal is to slow the spread of the outbreak (i.e., “flatten the curve“) to avoid overwhelming the medical facilities in this country for the sake of those of us who will require medical care when the virus is contracted. This is a time for us to pull together and be community-minded.

What does this mean for our piano teaching? For me, as it so happens, I’ve been on maternity leave from teaching for the past six weeks. My student base is currently comprised of a handful (due to having recently relocated here) of students in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a day’s worth of students back in Northwest Ohio — an hour’s drive commute to the studio where I rent a room. I had planned to resume lessons soon, but due to the pandemic situation I’ve put all in-person lessons on hold.

Instead, I’ve reached out to my students and suggested that we continue lessons via FaceTime/Skype/Zoom. School may be canceled, but there’s no reason piano can’t continue! Perhaps for us and our students, continuing piano practice and lessons with us all feel a small bit of stability and normalcy during these intense times. And certainly, for many piano teachers there is a natural concern about finding a way to maintain a level of income during these difficult times.

And so, many of us are moving our piano lessons online. In this blog post, I’d like to share some tips and advice for doing so — things I’ve learned from experience teaching online lessons occasionally over the past few years.

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Reviews

Review: Irina Gorin’s Online Course – Teach “Tales of a Musical Journey”

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile now, you know that a method book I frequently use in my piano teaching is Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey. I became a fan of Irina’s work first through subscribing to her YouTube channel, which contains hundreds of teaching videos. Then, in 2015, I attended her first-ever summer workshop for teachers. (If you’d like to read my full review of Irina’s Tales of a Musical Journey method, click here.)

Irina and I, at her home studio in Carmel, Indiana.

As Irina’s method books have continued to grow in popularity, she began touring internationally to give workshops about her method. Currently, she lives in Asia and is a faculty member at Chengdu College of Chinese and ASEAN Arts.

Today, I’m writing a review of Irina’s online course for piano teachers. If you’ve heard about her course and wondered what it was like, this review is for you. Read on!

Irina Gorin’s Online Course for Piano Teachers

Continue reading “Review: Irina Gorin’s Online Course – Teach “Tales of a Musical Journey””
Announcements

11th Blogiversary — Thank You!

Hello, friends! I have two things to share with you.

First of all…

I want to say THANK YOU for the many congrats and well-wishes I received from you upon the announcement of our new baby girl, Aria. My husband and I have been waiting a long time for our precious bundle. We feel so blessed to have her in our lives — as well as such a supportive community of friends and family. It was so nice to receive so many kind comments and personal emails from you!

A few of you were curious about what I am doing / plan to do music-wise with Aria. I’ll answer this question in a future post. (Probably Monday.) Stay tuned!

In other news…

Today, February 28, 2020, is a momentous day: it’s my blog’s ELEVENTH blogiversary! How shall we celebrate?!

For starters, I’d like to continue our annual tradition of offering a promo code for 20% off everything in my digital shop. The sale is live today through March 31, 2020. Be sure to enter the promo code 11YEARS to receive the discount.

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I rarely hold sales. So, if you’ve been eyeing my favorite Ice Cream Intervals game, my rhythm cards, or are thinking ahead to music camp curriculums for this summer, now’s a great time to buy! Browse the shop now by clicking here.

Thanks for celebrating our eleven years, friends! I’m so looking forward to the next year together.

Reviews

Book Review – Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

You might be wondering why I’m reviewing a non-piano-related book here on my blog. Bear with me – the reasons will become clear in a moment!

I remember hearing about this New York Times Bestseller when it came out in 2014. Although it sounded interesting to me at the time, I’m reading it for the first time recently. After finding out we were pregnant last summer and soon afterwards experiencing the woes of first trimester nausea and occasional midnight insomnia, I was suddenly on the hunt for an ebook I could read in bed on my phone without disturbing my sleeping husband. I liked the idea of reading something related to our new adventure as soon-to-be-parents, but was looking for something less information-driven than classics such as “What To Expect When You’re Expecting“. After seeing a recommendation for “Bringing Up Bébé” and reading its reviews on Amazon, I felt this book was just what I was looking for.

In this book, the author, journalist Pamela Druckerman, recounts her experience as an American raising a baby (and later, two more) in France. Soon after moving to Paris, she began noticing certain stark differences in child-rearing approaches in France compared to those typical in the United States. She started paying attention to this and asking questions — even stashing a notebook in her diaper bag — and investigating to see if she could learn more about how the French parent their children.

Druckerman noticed French children are generally well-behaved in public, waiting calmly for meals to arrive and waiting their turn to speak. French children enjoy a diversity of prepared vegetables, proteins, and salads and are accustomed to eating meals served in courses alongside their parents at designated times (8am, noon, 4pm snacktime, and 8pm), while American parents often expect their children might refuse to eat much else besides “kid food” (such as mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and snack food). French children are encouraged to be autonomous and independent in their play, being allowed more room to become absorbed and find pleasure in an activity for its own sake. In contrast, American parents might follow their children around the playground, delivering praise for mundanities such as going down the slide or tying their shoes. While French babies learn to “do their nights” around three months of age, American parents expect to function (or perhaps, not function) in a sleep-deprived manner for a year or more until baby begins to sleep through the night.

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Studio Business

Inviting Piano Students to Remove Their Shoes

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_ecc0.jpgAs shared in this post, my husband and I recently relocated from Bowling Green, Ohio to Saline, Michigan (outside Ann Arbor). I’m sure I’ll share a full tour of my new piano room, but for today, I wanted to share a simple solution I found to help remind my students to remove their shoes when they arrive.

My new piano room is carpeted, and it’s a light color. I didn’t always enforce the “shoes off” rule in my previous home, but I decided I wanted to be more consistent about that here.

The main way to achieve that is to train students from the first time they are at the studio. However, I thought it might be nice to also add a friendly reminder for them to see when they arrive.

This is the entryway area to my studio. Continue reading “Inviting Piano Students to Remove Their Shoes”

Announcements

Moving from Ohio to Michigan!

I’ve been a bit slow with updates here the blog recently…and there’s been lots of big life changes over recent months! If you happen to follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might have seen some of these updates. But for those of you who haven’t, here’s what’s new in my world…

My husband and I are expecting a baby! It won’t be long now before she’ll be making her debut. 🙂 2wS1FMxXTnCd0XFqd6zx%w_thumb_e4d4.jpg

Knowing that Baby was on the way, my husband and I decided it was finally time to make work of relocating closer to family. We’ve been living in Ohio for about eight years now, ever since he began a Masters Degree program in English here. After graduation, my husband found employment in marketing and communications in Toledo, Ohio before landing a marketing position at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan — an hour’s drive from home. We decided he’s been making the long daily commute long enough!

My husband’s family lives in the Ann Arbor area. Moving to Ann Arbor would also bring us a bit closer to my side of the family, on the other side of the state, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hopefully, this will be a longterm home for us!

So, we began house hunting.

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In November, we finally found the right house. It was important to us to find a suitable floor plan that would allow space for my piano studio operations to run smoothly while allowing living spaces for family life.

We are happy to be just outside Ann Arbor, in a super family-friendly town called Saline. I’m excited to enjoy the small town feel, while also benefitting from the amenities and events that an artsy town like Ann Arbor has to offer.

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I decided I wanted to continue teaching my students in Ohio as usual through the end of the year. And so, we set our moving date as the Saturday before Christmas.

[Here’s a sneak peek at my new piano studio space!]

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It’s official: we are Michiganders once again!

Yes, this means building my piano studio again in a new town. Yes, this means adjusting to motherhood and experiencing how that impacts my other roles. I’m sure I’ll be talking more about these topics here on the blog in upcoming months!

As for the present, we are excitedly awaiting Baby’s arrival. 🙂

Happy New Year to you, my dear readers!

seasonal / holiday

2019 Christmas Gift for Students

Just a quick follow-up to the student Christmas gift post from some few weeks ago

Here’s what I ended up gifting my students last month:

  • Gloves for pianists 🙂
  • Treat sacks with brownies

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I ordered the black gloves from eBay (here). I used white 3D fabric paint to add the treble clef on the RH glove, and allowed it to dry. I came back later to flip it over and draw a bass clef on the LH glove. They turned out pretty cute!

I can’t take credit for the idea. I saw a piano teacher share the idea in one of the Facebook groups for piano teachers, quite some time ago. I saved the idea, thinking I’d probably use it some year. And here we are!

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I baked the brownies myself and placed two pieces in each treat sack, separated by a square of parchment paper. A quick piece of ribbon makes them look a bit festive.

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If you’re looking for a good brownie recipe, here’s the link to the one I used: Best Fudgiest Brownies. My husband is a better cook than I am; he’s able to bake them just right so they are wonderfully fudgey, plus achieve that lovely cracked look on the top. Fortunately, they still taste pretty great even when I bake them. 🙂

Just thought I’d share. I always appreciate getting ideas from other teachers, and bet you do too!

Happy Wednesday to you!

General, seasonal / holiday

Christmas Gifts for Students, From 2011-2018

I know, I know…it’s barely November, and here I am already talking about Christmas gifts! But in my opinion, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead and brainstorming. I tend to enjoy the holidays more when I’ve managed to get an early start on my to-dos. 🙂

I don’t think it’s necessary to give your piano students gifts at Christmastime, but it’s a nice gesture if you feel so inspired!

And so, I thought it’d be fun to do a flashback post today, taking a look at the Christmas gifts I’ve done over the years for my students. Some of these gifts were pretty time intensive (certain years, apparently I was inspired enough to be willing to take on a big project!), and other years were simple, but thoughtful gifts. I hope perhaps these photos will give you a useful idea or two, if you’re looking for ideas for something to do for your own students!

2011: Personalized Glass Sheet Music Ornaments

Back in 2011, I created personalized glass sheet music ornaments for each student, with their name and the year written with a gold paint pen. They turned out so pretty! I love how they turned out, and would like to use this idea again in the future. Each student also received a chocolate Symphony bar. Read more here.

That year, I gave my adult students something else: a copy of the book “The A to Z of Foreign Musical Terms” by Christine Ammer. I learned about this book during grad school, when one of my professors recommended it as a music dictionary that actually contains all the words we commonly see in our music. (Have you ever looked up a word in your music dictinary, only to find it wasn’t included?!) This book is a nice slim volume, and a great price — I’d recommend it to any piano teacher or student! I use it not infrequently during lessons, to have students look up the terms in their pieces.

Continue reading “Christmas Gifts for Students, From 2011-2018”