Summer 2019: NCKP, South Shore Piano Camp, OregonMTA, and More

Hello, readers! Summer is gone, and we’re now into the groove of the new school year. My last blog post shared the details of my recent Piano Teacher Retreat, held August 1-3, 2019. The rest of August went like a blur, due to a variety of travel. Here’s a little bit of a catch-up post!

NCKP 2019: July 24-27

Backing up just a step… The week before the retreat, I attended NCKP 2019. It was a phenomenal conference, as always!

I attended so many great sessions. My favorite was a session given by Louis Svard, presenting on “The Musical World of Infants: What It Can Tell Us About How Children Actually Learn Music.” She has a blog called The Musician’s Brain you can check out here.

I had the privilege of presenting two sessions during NCKP, both on Wednesday as part of the Pre-Conference Seminars. First, I gave a session for the Wellness Track called “Lessons for Piano Teachers from the Alexander Technique.” In this session, I share my experience as a student of the Alexander Technique and how taking AT lessons has impacted me as a musician and piano teacher.

Later that afternoon, I also presented one of my favorite talks: “Piano Method Mining: Gems from Past and Present.” In this session, I provide a survey of piano methods from past to present, highlighting the ones consider most notable and still useful today. The room was full, and I received such wonderful feedback afterwards!

Continue reading “Summer 2019: NCKP, South Shore Piano Camp, OregonMTA, and More”
Music History

Just Added: Scarlatti & Tchaikovsky Great Composers Lapbook Curriculum

Big news:

I just added two brand new composer lapbooks to my shop!

The composers are…

Domenico Scarlatti and…

Peter Tchaikovsky!

In studying Scarlatti, we learned about how Scarlatti as a Baroque composer greatly influenced the development of the Classical style, especially in keyboard music. He taught the princess Maria Barbara of Portugal and followed her to Spain when she married to became Queen of Spain. Scarlatti is remembered today mainly for his 555 keyboard sonatas. We took particular interest in the sonata known as “The Cat’s Fugue.” 🙂

Tchaikovsky arrived at music as a career a bit later in life. We listened to excerpts from his most famous works, of course including the wonderful Piano Concerto No. 1 and the three ballets he composed: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.

These are two of the four composers my students and I studied this summer during my 2017 “Music History Blast From The Past” camp (see the photos here). Sometime next week, I will have the other two new composers lapbooks listed in the shop. Stay tuned!

I just looked it up: Can you believe that I’ve offered a “Music History Blast From The Past” 4-day camp every single summer since 2012? I love offering this camp because I think that it’s so important for students to be exposed to great classical music and gain an sense of how music styles have evolved across the centuries. This experience is so helpful, especially as students begin playing classical repertoire at the intermediate levels. And they always enjoy learning about the composers’ lives, especially in a group setting.

Anyway, as I said: Stay tuned for the announcement sometime next week about two more new composers!

Learn more about the Great Composers & Their Music lapbooking curriculum here.

Ear Training, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables

Just Added: “Listen & Sign” Game Printable

Just added to the Printables page: “The Listen & Sign Game.”

This printable corresponds to the game originally described in this post – a game I used in a Piano Mini-Camp held about a month ago.  Continue reading “Just Added: “Listen & Sign” Game Printable”

Ear Training, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Music Theory, Printables, Rhythm

Music Theory at our Piano Mini-Camp (3/3)

In continuation of a description of the music theory activities at our Piano Mini-Camp a few weeks ago, here are more details concerning the activities we used:

Rhythm Dictation Game

This rhythm dictation game by Natalie was a real hit with the students!  I printed off two sets of cards and put the students into groups of two so that they could work together.  Here’s how the game works:

  • Instruct the students to sort/spread out the cards on the floor so they can see the different rhythmic value options.
  • Clap a rhythm for the students.  Instruct them to listen and be able to clap it back to you before beginning to dictate the rhythm using the cards.  This may take a few listens before they can clap it back accurately.
  • Tell students to work together within their team to dictate the rhythm using the cards.

I tried to clap rhythms according to the approximate level of the groups of students I was teaching, and increased the difficulty of each rhythm as they became accustomed to the process.  I also tried to vary the time signatures between 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4.  I kept the rhythms to just 2 measures long, unless we were in 2/4 time or unless the students were more advanced.

I think it’s important to have the students be able to clap the rhythm back in its entirety before beginning to dictate it using the cards, because it helps increase their musical memory.  Otherwise, they will dictate only 1 or 2 beats at a time, and constantly be asking you to “do it again!”  If they can remember it themselves, they can then re-clap it to themselves as needed as they work on dictating it. Continue reading “Music Theory at our Piano Mini-Camp (3/3)”

Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Music Theory, Printables

Music Theory at our Piano Mini-Camp (2/3)

In continuation of the series about music theory at our piano mini-camp, here are the descriptions of a few more of the activities we did:

Music Adventures Board Game

In my music theory classes, one of my goals was to cover as many areas within the broad scope of “music theory” as I could.  The gem stones activity covered 5FPs/scales/key signatures; the rhythm dictation game covered rhythm and ear training, and the Hear & Sign game covered more ear training.  This game, called “Music Adventures,” focuses mostly on music terminology, but also on note reading and identifying intervals.

You may recognize this game from the picture on the right: I created this piano-bench-sized board game earlier this year, and it is available for download on the Printables > Other Resources page.

To prepare for this game, we first quickly reviewed some music terms on the chalkboard.  Then I set the students loose in teams of 2 to play this music board game.  You can vary the length of this game by using either one die or two dice.  I had lots of things I wanted to do in my 30-minute classes, so I gave each team two dice.  We played this game one time, on the second day of camp.

Susan Paradis’ Music Bingo

I used Susan’s Music Bingo game at a group lesson about a year ago and it was a huge hit, and I thought this was a good opportunity to use it again!  I used this game on the last day of camp, and it was quite a fun way to end the day.

To cover the spaces on the Bingo sheet, instead of using the red markers picture on the right we used the same colored glass stones that we used for the gem notes on keyboard & staff activity.  One less thing to haul along from home with me to camp.  =)

Stay tuned – there is one more post about our music theory activities coming soon!

Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Music Theory

Music Theory at our Piano Mini-Camp (1/3)

As promised, here’s more about the Music Theory classes at our Piano Mini-Camp a few weeks ago.  I didn’t create formal lesson plans per-se, but the next three posts will serve as a general outline of the activities we did over each of the three camp days.

Gem Notes on the Keyboard & Staff

Using Susan Paradis’ wonderful resources, I created an activity for teaching 5-finger patterns (5FPs) and scales.  We used colorful glass stones (from the dollar store) to build 5FPS/scales on her table-top keyboard printable and one of her grand staff printables.  After printing everything out on cardstock, I cut out the table-top keyboard so that the students each had one long keyboard and then put each grand staff in a sheet protector.

The students really enjoyed using the colorful “gems.”  One little student kept asking me, “Are they REAL GEMS?!”  =)

With the younger students, we learned just about 5FPs: how to build them (WWHW) in various keys, and how to make them minor (lower the 3rd).  With the more advanced students, we learned about the entire scale (WWHWWWH) in various keys, and how to make them minor (lower the 3rd, 6th, and 7th for natural minor).

We first created the 5FP/scale first on the keyboard (pictured above), and then created it on the staff.  The reason I had the student do both is because I think students sometimes fail to make the connection from the keyboard to the staff and vice versa.  I intended this activity to be a way to build their understanding of the connection between their playing and what they see on the staff when it comes to 5FP/scales.

In order to notate a sharp or flat on the staff, we used different shaped gem stones (which I also found at the dollar store): an oblong shape.  I’m sure you could also just use the different colors to represent the notes with accidentals.

We spent about 10-15 minutes each day on this activity.  Each day, we reviewed what was covered the previous day and then added something new to the process (like learning about minor) or tried out other key signatures.

Make A Keyboard Activity

On the first day of camp, I started each theory class with another Susan Paradis activity: Make A Keyboard.  I strongly recommend printing this printable onto cardstock paper so it will last longer.

I chose this activity mostly as a warmup activity to get their minds working before moving on to more complex activities.  But it’s a good activity to see whether the students remember how the keyboard is laid out without looking.  One student had all her black keys in groups of two at first, and couldn’t figure out why she had extra black keys!

I handed each student a small zipper bag with all the piano key pieces inside and told them to “make a keyboard.”  This activity took less than 5 minutes to complete.  It worked very well as an opening activity!

Stay tuned – more music theory activities from our mini-camp are coming soon!  Meanwhile, check out the recent responses to the July Forum topic about piano method books and be sure to contribute your thoughts!

Announcements, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps

Opening Piano Mini-Camp Activities

Each day at our piano mini-camp, we opened the day with an opening activity that involved all 11 of the campers together before sending them off in their individual groups to their first class.

On the first day, the opening activity was to create name tags to wear.  My colleague found foam sheets that she cut to size and attached ribbon to.  Each student wrote their name with marker and decorated their name tag with stickers.  They turned out very cute!  And they are definitely more durable than cardstock paper.  (Mine is pictured on the right. Although I am married, I had the students address me as “Miss Joy” because it is easier to say.)

The second day, we played a rhythm name game to help the students learn each other’s names.  Here is the link to the game we played.  We found that it was a little bit complicated to be doing complicated body percussion while chanting, so I would recommend simply clapping or tapping one’s thighs to the beat.

On the final day, we made egg shakers which the students could decorate and take home.  We filled plastic easter eggs halfway with rice (or however much the student desired to create the sound they wanted) and taped them closed with colored electrical tape (strongly recommended over glue).  The students then added stickers.  My egg shaker is pictured at right.

I was able to incorporate the egg shakers into my Music Theory class during a dictation game so they could put them to good use!  More information about the activities we did in my Music Theory classes coming soon!

Announcements, improving as a teacher, Music Camps

Summer Piano Mini-Camp

Last week, a colleague of mine and I held a summer piano mini-camp with the help of our piano professor.  Here’s what we did:

  • We planned to hold the camp on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 12:30 – 2:30pm.
  • Application forms were sent to all the piano teachers who are members of our local chapter of MTNA and Michigan MTA.
  • We charged a fairly low rate, to encourage more participants.
  • Location: my piano professor’s church, where there are a number of nice pianos and plenty of rooms for us to use — at no cost to us.

We received applications from 11 students.  The students ranged in age from 7 years to 13 years old.

We planned a rotating schedule, where the students were divided by age into 3 groups (which we named A, B, and C) and rotated from class to class.  My colleague taught Music History class, I taught Music Theory class, and my piano professor taught Performance Class.  Here’s how we divided our time:

12:30 – 12:45  Opening activities (all campers).
12:45 – 1:15  1st class
1:15 – 1:45  2nd class
1:45 – 2:00  Snack time
2:00 – 2:30  3rd class

The snack each day was different, consisting of items such as pretzels, fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, and juice packs.  Nothing too sugary or expensive!  We were very careful to keep our expenses low.  Snacks were our largest expense; the rest were simply a few craft supplies needed for games/activities.

The camp was quite a success!  Our campers had a great time.  A few of the parents even asked if we would be holding camp again next year.

Stay tuned — I’ll be sharing more about the opening activities we used and more about my Music Theory class soon!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Music Camps, Performances

30 Theme Ideas for Music Studio Events

Here’s a list of 30 theme ideas for music studio events!  Themes can be used as the studio theme for the school year, or for summer music camps, or for studio recitals. If used for the studio theme for the whole year, there are a number of ways the theme can be incorporated: the incentive program, group lesson activities, worksheets, games, food, decorations, dress, recital repertoire, etc., can all be coordinated to fit the theme.

  1. Medieval Times | castles, knights, princesses
  2. Fantasy | same as above, plus dragons, wizards, etc.
  3. Mystery |detective, private eye, clues, magnifying glass, footprints, fingerprints, evidence
  4. International / Around the World | choose a specific country, or give a survey of a few different countries  (Egypt, Africa, etc.) world music, cultures. For example……
  5. Fiesta | sombrero, maracas, dances
  6. Tropical | surfing, luau, grass skirts, steel drums, Caribbean/Hawaiian music, palm trees
  7. Winter | snow, icicles, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, cold, mittens, scarves, snowmen
  8. Carnival / Circus | ringmaster, tightrope walker, elephant, tickets
  9. Art | colors, brushes, make connections between art and music. Activity: compose songs named after colors.
  10. Roller coster park | use this theme to study musical forms (e.g., ABA), or musical styles.
  11. Animal Planet | animals galore!  Activity: try matching animal characteristics to how different music sounds.
  12. The Great Outdoors / camping | campfire, singing, woods, lantern
  13. Under the Sea | ocean, waves, fish, jellyfish, dolphins, sharks, seaweed, treasure, sunken ship, scuba diver
  14. Barnyard | farm, farmer, animals, fields, crops, harvest, tractors, seeds
  15. Construction | bulldozers, dump trucks, CAUTION tape, hard hats, orange cones, STOP, GO, workers
  16. Jungle Safari | lions, giraffes, jeep, binoculars
  17. Wild West | cowboys, saloon, ghost town, cowboy hats/boots, bandanas, sheriff, horses, saddles, lasso
  18. Pirates | pirate ship, pirates, buried treasure, treasure maps, scavenger hunt
  19. Desert Oasis | cockroaches, oasis, palm trees, sand
  20. Olympic Games | fitness, games, exercise, practice
  21. Going Green | recycle, be efficient (with practice time)
  22. Splish Splash | water bottles, droplets, river, brook, ocean, puddle, rain, hydration, summer, squirt guns, pool
  23. Outer Space | stars, moon, sun, rocket ships, astronauts, aliens, ufo’s.  Natalie is doing a space theme in her studio this year and it looks fabulous!
  24. Futuristic / Time Travel | contemporary music, technology in music
  25. Race cars | finish line, car, tires, gasoline, checkered flag, trophy.  Activity: do timed worksheets for naming note on the staff.
  26. USA / Patriotic / Stars & Stripes | USA history, fireworks, wear red, white, and blue, or wear stars/stripes! Activity: learn about American composers.
  27. The magic of music | magician, magic tricks, deck of cards, top hat, magic wand, rabbit, gloves. Activity: discuss how music has the power to affect your emotions, change your mood, influence you to do something, etc.
  28. Blast from the Past | choose an era of music history: Classical, Romantic, Baroque, etc.  Dress old-fashioned, eat popular treats from back then, etc.
  29. The Great Composers | choose a specific set of composers, and focus on one each day/week/month.
  30. Musical Instruments | learn about the parts of the piano, or the instruments of the orchestra.  Discuss timbre, register, range, tuning, etc.

Please share any additional ideas you have, or any resources you’ve found to be helpful for planning a themed event for your music studio!

Photo credit: / CC BY 2.0