2016 OhioMTA Conference

OhioMTALogoLast week, I attended the Ohio Music Teachers Association state conference, held November 12-14 in Columbus.

As always, my teaching batteries are recharged after enjoying three days of excellent sessions and wonderful conversation with colleagues. Our OhioMTA conference committee did a fantastic job organizing and running the conference this year.

I’ve created a summary of the conference below, in case you are interested in seeing what our state conference is like! During various sessions of the conference, I used the Periscope app to grab 5-10 minute highlights (those of you already on Periscope might have caught some of those!). Please enjoy watching those clips below.

Warning: Lengthy blog post ahead! 🙂

2015 OhioMTA Conference

THURSDAY November 12, 2015

1:00-1:50 Dr. Cecilia Yuhda and Dr. Ewelina Boczkowska. Chopin’s Mazurkas: A Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration. This session was a great way to kick-off the conference. The two presenters shared all about their collaboration as pianist and musicologist to study the Chopin Mazurkas.

2:00-2:50 Dr. Ya-Liang Chang. You Are Not Alone: Duet Repertoire that Ignites Studio Teaching and Enhances Collaborative Learning. We gained many duet repertoire ideas from this session.

3:30-4:20 Dr. Christopher Durrenberger. Get into the Action: Piano Technology for Pianists and Pedagogues. This session was both entertaining and informative! We learned about five different aspects of the piano action that any pianist can understand and identify issues regarding.

20151112_160728 Continue reading “2016 OhioMTA Conference”

Conferences, Technology

OhioMTA 2014 State Conference

Last weekend, I attended the state conference of Ohio Music Teachers Association (affiliated with MTNA).  Since moving to Ohio three years ago, I’ve attended the OhioMTA conference every year — and I have to say that this one was the most sensational!

The setting this year was Wilmington College, which has a small and beautiful campus with facilities that were perfect for our conference.  It was wonderful to be able to walk in the cool, Fall weather between sessions.  Around 120 teachers attended the conference this year.

Our conference schedule was chock full of great sessions!  Some highlights: “Music Alive! Sounds that Move, Pictures that Sing” by Clinton Pratt, “Creative Sightreading” by Dr. Cole Burger, “Developing Sound Expectations: Does the Sound Match the Picture” by Scott Donald, “Piano Music for Left Hand Alone” by Jerry Wong, and many others.

I was also extremely honored to have the opportunity to present a session: “Albums for the Young: A History & Overview of the Genre.”  I can’t tell you what it meant to me to be able to share my research for this distinguished organization. My topic explored the influence of Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young, Op. 68 and the wealth of children’s music that followed by other composers.

IMG_1914 Continue reading “OhioMTA 2014 State Conference”


2013 OhioMTA Conference (4) — Summary

As you know, this week I have been blogging some of my notes highlighting a few sessions from the 2013 OhioMTA Conference.  In addition to lectures, there were also some fantastic masterclasses and recitals.  For example:

  • A masterclass featuring elementary to intermediate level students, given by Dr. Michelle Conda.  This was fantastic!  It is not very often that we get to see how a master teacher would work with non-advanced students.
  • An fun, interactive session about Dalcroze Eurhythmics — a topic near and dear to my heart because of my experience taking two semesters of Eurhythmics during undergrad.  I was so impressed and inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of the presenter, Kristen Regester.
  • A session about promoting collaborative music for students let by our OhioMTA president, Dr. Richard Van Dyke.  At the beginning, the challenges and benefits of teaching collaborative music were discussed.  Then, we had the opportunity to hear performances by a few student chamber groups.  Among the performances, we heard “Serendipity” by Jennifer Linn (debuted at the 2013 MTNA conference), a Beethoven trio played by three woodwinds, and a piano trio (a movement from Beethoven’s Op. 11).
  • A masterclass featuring not just piano — but also voice and violin students.  It was so neat to hear how each master teacher worked with the student on his/her particular instrument to achieve the goal all musicians share: giving a musical performance.
  • An impressive solo piano recital given by Dr. Stephen Beus.
  • A chamber music recital by the James Tocco trio.  This concert was absolutely phenomenal.

It was great to get re-fueled and bring back some fresh ideas for my teaching!

The next conference I hope to attend will be the 2014 MTNA recital taking place in Chicago.  Start saving now!  🙂


2013 OhioMTA Conference (3) — Technology on a Budget, by Andy Villemez

281857_31f839ec763f8d27163830deb17bbcd9.jpg_512Technology on a Budget, by Andy Villemez and Dr. Michelle Conda

Andy Villemez gave a great session about some of the best free (or near-free) resources available on the internet.

1. Office Suites

Alternatives to the expensive Microsoft Office Suite:

  • LibreOffice 4.1 (top pick) – very similar to Microsoft Word
  • Apache OpenOffice (similar to LibreOffice)
  • Google Drive – only basic functionality, but is cloud-based. There are Google apps you can apply to Google Drive, too (Simplebooklet looks cool. Also, Concept Board — which lets you collaborate visually in the cloud.)

2. Music Notation Software

Alternatives to Finale or Sibelius:

3. Library Cataloguing Software

Caveat: these services are free only to a limit.

  • LibraryThing – online-based catalogue, free up to 200 books.  Designed to allow you to keep track of the books in your library.  You can even “check out” books when you want to loan them to students.
  • Delicious Library 3 – companion app can act as scanner.

4. Sheet music

5. Online Pedagogical Resources

  • – keyboard visualizer and more.
  • – great theory lessons and tools.  Here is even a customizable exercise maker.  App available.

2013 OhioMTA Conference (2) — Solving Common Issues in Advanced Transfer Students, by Siok Lian Tan

e_imagePractical Tips to Solve Common Issues in Teaching Advanced Transfer Students, by Siok Lian Tan

Dr. Siok Lian Tan serves as a professor of piano at Miami University in Oxford, OH.  During this session, Dr. Tan discussed how to help solve common issues in advanced transfer students.  The areas she discussed were reading, efficient practice, critical listening, memorization, and playing posture.  Below are some highlights from her session.

I. Reading Skills

Sometimes, we get students we could call “seasonal readers.”  They can play advanced music but cannot sight read simple pieces.

Strategies for sightreading: Just do it, and regularly.  Do it at home and at the beginning of the lesson.

Guide the student as they scan it over.  Give them reading steps they can do at home (e.g.: Set a pulse, count off, finger the piece silently, etc.).  Ask them for the meter and key signature. Look for patterns and sections, modulations, etc.  Make a game out of it: What can they notice about the piece in 10 seconds time?

Another strategy: Create situations where students must read a lot and learn quickly. Continue reading “2013 OhioMTA Conference (2) — Solving Common Issues in Advanced Transfer Students, by Siok Lian Tan”


2013 OhioMTA Conference (1) – Improvising Is For Everyone, by Bradley Sowash

Sowash21Improvising Is For Everyone, by Bradley Sowash

Last weekend, I attended the 2013 conference of the Ohio Music Teachers Association.  This year, it was held in Cincinnati at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.  I carpooled with three other teachers from my area.  We had a lot of fun!

The first session was held by Bradley Sowash, a jazz musician and piano teacher located in Columbus, OH.

For a number of years now, Mr. Sowash has been encouraging teachers to include creative skills (improvisation and composition) in their lessons.  For many years, teachers would respond to Mr. Sowash’s message saying they were certainly not interested in doing so.  However, things are changing: in recent years, teachers have begun agreeing with the premise that teaching off the page is just as important as teaching on the page.  Now, teachers are asking for information about HOW to do so.  Today’s presentation addresses this question about HOW to teach the skills for improvisation.

To begin, Mr. Sowash discussed 5 myths about improvising/playing by ear.  Many people believe that you must be born with a good ear in order to improvise or play by ear, but it simply isn’t true: it comes through practice and study just like traditional musical skills.

Next, Mr. Sowash described the process of teaching scales and chords to students in preparation for being able to improvise using them.  He called this section, “Scaling the Chords.”  The goal here is to teach scales more creatively, teach chord fluency, and understand pop/jazz chord symbols properly.  Continue reading “2013 OhioMTA Conference (1) – Improvising Is For Everyone, by Bradley Sowash”


OhioMTA Conference 2013 – This Weekend

Hello readers,

This weekend is the OhioMTA (affiliated with MTNA) State Conference, taking place in Cincinnati this year.  I am looking forward to connecting and re-connecting with other piano teachers in Ohio and, of course, learning a lot from the sessions on the schedule.  If you will be at the conference and I haven’t met you before, I hope we will have the chance to meet in person!

I am bringing my iPad Mini along and plan to take and blog conference notes.  🙂  Stay tuned!

Conferences, Technique

OhioMTA 2012 Conference (5): A Strong & Versatile Technique Within Your Student’s Grasp, by Carol Leone

The next session I attended was Dr. Pete Jutras’ presentation, “The Future of Pedagogy.”  I heard him give this presentation about a year ago at the NCKP – click here to read my notes.

After that, Dr. Carol Leone talked about “A Strong and Versatile Technique Within Your Student’s Grasp.”  I loved the way she broke down different aspects of technique into such simple, understandable terms!

She began her presentation by reminding us that technique should always be approached in the context of discussing sound and expression.  Rather than asking, “Given the movements I make, which sounds would result?” instead we should ask, “Given a desired sound concept, how should I move?”  The sound is our goal, and the ear is our guide.  The opposite (over-analyzation of our movements) often results in discomfort and non-musical playing.

Next, Dr. Leone discussed the various movements made by each part of the body, and in some cases gave us some simple exercises we could use with our students. Here are just a few of the things she talked about:


  • Building the bridge – This is a coordination thing, not a strenghth thing.  Have students make a bird beak with their hand.
  • Avoiding finger “dents” — have students look for the “three bumps” of their knuckles.

Continue reading “OhioMTA 2012 Conference (5): A Strong & Versatile Technique Within Your Student’s Grasp, by Carol Leone”

Conferences, Technique

OhioMTA 2012 Conference (4): Reduced Sized Keyboards, by Carol Leone & David Steinbuhler

The next session of the OhioMTA conference that I attended was an absolutely fascinating session given by Dr. Carol Leone and David Steinbuhler, entitled: “Increasing Performance Potential: The Reduced Sized Piano Keyboard.”  I had heard of reduced sized keyboards before, but never really understood the reasoning behind it or the advantages.  I was so intrigued by what I learned!  Read on.

Dr. Leone began by discussed hand sizes.  When you think about it, the piano is an instrument designed for those with large hands.  100% of children across the globe are playing pianos that don’t fit their hands.  (For violin, there are 1/2 and 3/4-sized instruments for children.  For piano, we are one-size-fits-all.)

The piano did not always have the same key size that is standard today.  The harpsichord has much smaller keys, as do many fortepianos.  They also had a much lighter action.

Injuries at the piano are at an all-time high, largely because of the demands of Romantic/Modern/Contemporary repertoire (large chords, octaves, etc.).  Pianists with small hands are limited in the repertoire they can play, and are injured much more frequently than those with medium or large hands.  Most of the pianists with small hands are probably women — their hand size is on average 15% smaller then male hands.  It is not an exaggeration to say that only about 10% of hands actually fit to the conventional keyboard.   Continue reading “OhioMTA 2012 Conference (4): Reduced Sized Keyboards, by Carol Leone & David Steinbuhler”


OhioMTA 2012 Conference (3): Panel Discussion – Book: “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”

The next session was a Round Table Discussion by a panel of four individuals: Pete Jutras, Tianshu Wang, Mary Craig Powell, and Nina Polonsky.  The topic was to discuss Amy Chua’s book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” and discuss a healthy and effective approach to leading students to achieve their maximum potential.

Here are a few of the comments that struck me the most:

Pete Jutras discussed some of his positive reactions to the book as well as some negative ones.

  • Dr. Jutras observed that in Chua’s book, everything is about winning.  He posed the question: What is “winning” in music?  For the author, it is being #1 in a competition.  For Dr. Jutras, he feels it is students who will play their instrument long after they stop taking lessons.
  • This leads us to some other questions: Can every student be #1?  Does everybody have to play like a concert artists?  What does that do to music and music making and piano teaching?  Does music have to be this way?
  • Among his positive reactions to the book, Dr. Jutras mentioned Chua’s view that parents should not let their kids give up so easily.  American parents often ask their kids whether they want to take lessons, despite the fact that kids are often not mature enough to decide that.  Also, the Tiger Mom approach has no limits — it does not underestimate what kids can do.
  • Another is the idea that enjoyment of an activity occurs when you can do something well.  A sense of fun accompanies achievement.   Continue reading “OhioMTA 2012 Conference (3): Panel Discussion – Book: “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother””
Conferences, Technique, Technology

OhioMTA 2012 Conference (2): Music Performance and Biofeedback, by Kathleen Riley

The next session was called: Understanding the Physiology of Music Performance Through Biofeedback, by Kathleen Riley.

Kathleen Riley is a pioneer in using technology she refers to as “biofeedback” to monitor movement and muscles in order to help musicians eliminate pain, tension, or discomfort in their shoulders, arms, backs, etc.  She began her session with a quote:

“Technique is the knowledge o the most economical way to produce adequately what the mind conceives artistically.”  – E. Robert Schmitz, from the 1935 book The Capture of Inspiration.

Dr. Riley discussed relaxation and the music — and the fact that although no muscle is ever completely relaxed, there is a resting point.  She discussed that we need to examine how much tension we really need when we play.  How can we release unneeded tension and follow-through on our movements?   Continue reading “OhioMTA 2012 Conference (2): Music Performance and Biofeedback, by Kathleen Riley”

Conferences, Technique

OhioMTA 2012 Conference (1): Experiential Anatomy by Lynn Singleton

Over the weekend, I attended the 2012 OhioMTA Conference in Columbus, Ohio.  It was a great conference, far exceeding my (already high) expectations!  We heard some top-notch presenters and performers and I learned so much.  I plan to briefly summarize some of the sessions for you over the next few days!

The theme of the conference was “The Healthy Musician: Teaching, Performing, Living.”  Here is some info about the first session I attended.

Experiential Anatomy: Using Mind-Body Methods To Increase Awareness for Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Overall Wellness in Musicians, by Lynn Singleton, NCTM.

Lynn began by sharing her own experience with feeling discomfort at the piano, and how she was able to solve her problems away from the piano.  Injury prevention and overall wellness requires a willingness to take self-responsibility.  Our body at the instrument can only be as good as our body away from our instrument!

Lynn discussed the advantages of “experiential anatomy,” which is basically about increasing body awareness so that we can more correctly use our bodies.  Tension arises from many sources: emotional/mental (like stress, fear, lack of self-esteem), physical (habitual movements, injury, compensation for pain), and social/environmental sources (posture in the work environment while using things like computers, cell phones, etc.).  Mind-Body Methods can help us get past obstacles and improve kinesthetic sense.  Continue reading “OhioMTA 2012 Conference (1): Experiential Anatomy by Lynn Singleton”