Teaching Piano

Decorating the Cake: Helping Piano Students Play With Expression and Heart

For piano teachers, it’s that time of year: recital season! We are in the process of coaching our students to polish and perfect their recital selections.

Does it ever feel to you like sometimes students have set the bar at only playing the right notes? Haven’t our students realized there more to music than this? I don’t know about you, but I didn’t sign up to be a piano teacher to become the “rhythm police”. ;)

We want our students to realize there is more to sharing music through performance than “getting it right”. They’ve set the bar too low. And perhaps at times we inadvertently reinforce the idea that this is all there is to piano playing.

There’s no doubt it’s important to perform a piece with accuracy. But we don’t want students to think their job is complete upon merely being able to play “the right notes at the right time”, when the reality is that even our youngest students are completely capable of getting “beyond the notes”.

Instead, we want our students to play with heart, to play with expression and individuality. We want our students to be confidently play their hearts out, and deliver a performance that moves their listeners.

Today, I’ll share a simple analogy I use to help students (1) understand what it means to get “beyond the notes” and (2) become motivated to attend to the details of and add expression to their performance.  Continue reading “Decorating the Cake: Helping Piano Students Play With Expression and Heart”

Teaching Piano

Printable: Recital Program List

Do you have “student recital” on your mind? Tis the season! I have a simple printable to share today that I use to help gather program information in the weeks prior to student recitals.

Here’s how I use it:

  1. After printing out the sheet, I write all of my students’ names — in order of my teaching schedule (Monday students, Tuesday students, etc.).
  2. Throughout the week(s), I write down the title of each student’s selected piece along with the composer and level. The sheet makes it easy for me to see which students have finalized their selections and which have not yet. The column for “level” makes it easier for me to create the performing order when I type the program information into the computer. Personally, I prefer to mix the levels instead of ordering students by beginning through advanced levels.
  3. The checkmark column can be used for various purposes. For example, it could indicate whether students have memorized their selections yet. Or, it could be used while typing each student’s information into your computer (see my recital program templates here). I like to use that column to track which students have and have not yet turned in their recital artwork (to be shown on the projector screen as they play their pieces).

To download the printable, click below or visit the Printables > Other Resources page.

  Recital Program List (38.1 KiB, 441 hits)

Performances

2015 Spring Recital Photos

My studio’s annual Spring Recital was on Sunday. So proud of how my students played!

20150315_143733 SONY Spring Recital web

We held it at a local church that has a nice Yamaha. Even my youngest students participated, even if only with a simple duet.

20150315_141501 SONY_01 Spring Recital web

My husband was kind enough to take a photo of each student, which I emailed to parents afterwards.

20150315_141620 SONY Spring Recital web

As is our tradition, I gave each student a rose for their performance at the end of the recital.

20150315_145825 SONY Spring Recital group photo web

I’m sure many of you are preparing students for your own spring recitals. I wish you all the best in your preparations!

Just a reminder: The last day to receive 20% off anything in my digital shop ends tomorrow, Friday, March 20, 2015! You must enter the promo code in the shopping cart to receive the discount: 20OFF2015. If you want to plan summer camps this year using my curriculum or get your hands on the Ice Cream Intervals game, be sure to take advantage of this sale because it only happens once each year!

Group Classes

March 2015 Piano Party

My studio recital is coming up, so my students and I have been busy with recital prep. This means we spend a lot of time during the lesson practicing the elements of good stage presence (practicing the bow, etc) and practicing run-throughs by memory. At almost lesson I’ve been teaching this week and last, I’ve been taking video with my iPhone so that we can watch, listen, and discuss afterwards. Having the video running helps the student get a little bit nervous and mentally rehearse what it is like to be at the actual performance.

At the March “Piano Party” (my monthly studio classes) I held on Saturday, we ran a recital rehearsal of sorts.

IMG_2555 Continue reading “March 2015 Piano Party”

Performances, Printables

DIY Project: Recital Countdown!

Do you have any 4×6 photo frames lying around?  It’s time to put one to good use!

recital countdown background

This do-it-yourself project will help remind your students about upcoming studio events each time they come for their piano lesson.  :)

Materials:

  1. 4×6 photo frame
  2. Printed background (download the free JPG file on the Printables > Other Resources page — scroll down to “Recital Countdown”).  When you print, be sure that the image is printing at the actual 100% size.
  3. Dry erase marker

  Recital Countdown (1.3 MiB, 3,826 hits)

Directions: Design a background (or print the one I’ve created), insert it into a 4×6 photo frame, write the event & countdown number on the glass with a dry erase marker, and place your new Recital Countdown on/near your piano!

Enjoy!  :)

Announcements, Performances

My 2013 Spring Recital

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Easter weekend!

Saturday was my students’ Spring Recital!  Like last year, I held it at my local library.  My students all did such a nice job — they make me so proud!

DSC_20130330_154803In photo above you’ll see each student with a rose, which is a tradition I’ve kept up for the last few years.  It’s nice to give something at the end of the recital, and giving a rose is a nice, affordable gesture to congratulate them for their performance and hard work.

Do you have a recital tradition?  :)

Announcements, Performances

Spring Recital Details

As I mentioned yesterday, our Spring Recital was Saturday!  Here’s how it went down:

  • It was held at the local library.  They have an atrium with a Steinway baby grand piano.  In the past, I’ve always held recitals at churches (and once at a school).  I look for churches with grand pianos that can be moved to the center of the sanctuary.  Being new in town, I haven’t yet discovered which churches have this kind of set-up (plus they have to be affordable).  Two of my students suggested using the library, so we did.  It costs $50 to rent and it’s a nice location with high ceilings and lots of natural light.  I was happy with it!
  • I always play something at my students’ recitals.  This year, I asked my friend, a violinist for whom I’m accompanying for her semester juries at my local university, to play her jury piece with me.  She was thrilled to be asked — but she needed to be first on the program so she could leave early for another event she had in the afternoon.  I wish I could let you hear the piece — but I forgot to start the video camera before we played the piece!  (I’m still kicking myself.)  Anyway, here’s Itzhak Perlman playing it.
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKI9uoNfC18
  • After the violin piece, my students played.  I had 10 out of my 16 students play at the recital (the others are adult students, new 4-year-old students, or had a schedule conflict).  I knew it would be a short and sweet recital, but I still feel recitals are beneficial enough that it was worth doing anyway!
  • After playing, my students stood in the front for a group photo, and I gave them each a rose for their performance.  It’s a tradition I’ve been doing for a few years now, although my students in my new town, of course, have not experienced it yet.
  • Afterwards, we had a little reception with cupcakes, a Kit Kat piano (a la Pinterest), and cheese n’ crackers.

I don’t think I can share video of the recital since the pieces performed are under copyright, but I hope to share a photo slideshow soon!

Do you all have Spring Recitals coming up?  I like holding mine early in the Spring because May and June are such a busy months.

Ear Training, Early Childhood Music, Performances, Printables

Listening Sheet for Young Students

As I mentioned last week, during my recent Piano Party/recital rehearsal I gave a listening sheet to my young beginners to complete as they listened to their fellow students perform.  Here’s what it looked like:

I put each sheet in a plastic sheet protector and gave them a dry erase marker with a piece of felt so they could re-use the sheet for each piece they heard.  It worked pretty well — my students were very attentive and really liked telling me about what they circled between pieces!

This worksheet would also work well for private lessons or group classes with beginner students to use while listening to recordings — like Carnival of the Animals, or whatever.

I do wish the sheet protector cleaned off a little better.  The ones I used have kind of a matte surface…maybe I need to get some of the thicker, shiny ones?  Or try laminating?

Anyway, my students really enjoyed this listening sheet!  I found the clip art on some various public domain clip art sites.  You could easily design your own the same way.  Or if you’d like to download mine, visit the Printables > Worksheets page and scroll down to the L’s for “Listening Sheet for Young Students.”

P.S.:  As requested, I added a page to the Rhythm Value Cards pdf: three beamed eighth note cards for use in compound time signatures.  (Thanks for catching that, Bee!)