What’s The Unique Ingredient In Your Teaching?

Deja and Dana

 In a world where the words “piano teacher” often conjure up negative images in the minds of potential students and potential piano parents, your special skills and interests can help you stand out.  They inform your way of teaching and are the unique ingredient that draws students and parents to your studio!

I unexpectedly became aware of how I apply my special skills to my piano teaching a few days ago while teaching a student how to play the hit song “Say Something” by A Great Big World. This song is definitely a singer/songwriter’s song which lends itself to the piano’s rich ability to communicate deep emotion – especially when combined with heartfelt lyrics. In the process of teaching this song I discovered something unique and potentially marketable about the way I teach. I teach piano lessons from a singer/songwriter’s point of view!

I found myself using the lyrical idea to help my student understand the chord progression in “Say Something”. Where the lyric is hopeful or anticipating, the chord shape is open. Where the lyric is tentative or afraid, the chord shape is closed. When I reflect a little more, I see that I often use examples like this to help my students focus on delivering the message in the song. I believe that this is natural for me because I am a songwriter. Songwriters carefully craft their lyrics and chords to match each other so that they have a specific effect on the listenerFor me, this is the unique ingredient in my teaching. Students who study with me can expect to develop exceptional performance skills in addition to the basic piano skills that most piano teachers teach.

So, my challenge for you is to observe your teaching style during your lessons TODAY and take note of how you explain things.

  • What analogies do you use?
  • What examples do you offer your students for correcting technical issues?
  • What suggestions do you give them for memorizing phrases and music concepts?
  • Who are you as a musician?
  • What is your favorite part of making music?

The answers to these questions can help you pinpoint the unique ingredient in your teaching that makes YOU stand out in the world of piano teaching!

 

You Might Also Be Interested In:

Teaching Tweens and Teens

Supply and Demand 101: Music Teacher’s Edition

Teaching, Performing, Or Both?

Custom T-shirts for Your Studio

tshirts

When my students and I were invited to play at a local retail store that was featuring a day of continuous piano music from area piano teachers and their students, I got the idea to have everybody wear something that showed they were part of The FAME School. I decided to try CustomInk, a company which allows you to design your t-shirt online. The process was EASY and quick! They sent me digital proofs before filling my order  and shipping was FREE. Here’s how they looked at the performance:

Custom Ink

Everyone was proud to wear their shirt to the event, and I honestly think it pumped them up a little bit! So, if you’re looking for ways to add some social to the piano lesson, I suggest getting some studio t-shirts that everyone can wear to performances or maybe even to group piano class or a group outing to see a concert!

Teaching, Performing, or Both?

Before I started teaching privately on a full-time basis it never occurred to me that teaching would interfere with me performing. Fast forward a few years and I can say without a doubt that teaching leaves me very little time for practicing and performing. Somehow the hours spent planning activities for students and trying to think of ways to help them “get it”  add up so quickly. A lot of times I’m just plain worn out after a day of teaching. How can something so life-giving be so draining at the same time? I thoroughly enjoy teaching young musicians, but it is very tiring. So, the performer in me has to fight for my attention. The above video is what happens when I do make time for practicing and performing  and creating. I hope you enjoy the music, and if you do you can download it free on SoundCloud.com/danaricemusic.

Now for the million dollar question, teachers. How do YOU make time for performing while teaching?

Performing for Seniors

Playing At The Oaks Senior Living

Playing for seniors is a wonderful opportunity for young piano students to give service to the community. Not only do the kids gain valuable experience performing, they also get to see how much joy music can bring to seniors. So yesterday in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday here in the US some of my students performed at a local senior living facility. The comfortable living room at the facility was great for a low pressure performance – no intimidating stage lights and an at home feeling. It was a wonderful sight to see the residents, parents, and students gathered around and sharing music. One of the parents even played his djembe at the end!

 An added benefit to this performance was that it helped students get over the after Christmas slump and get back to playing.

In preparation for the performance we used some lesson time to talk about what songs might appeal to this audience. This discussion really helped the kids get out of “me” mode and understand that when we perform we are giving something to our audience. It is not so much about how much applause we can get but how much joy we can give. In turn for an entertaining performance, the audience rewards us with their applause. For some of my students this idea was a tough sale until… they played the chosen songs in the performance and saw the awesome reaction the seniors gave them! So, here is the list of some of the songs that were performed on yesterday –

Misty

When The Saints Go Marching In

Man In The Mirror

Those Were The Days

Hit The Road Jack

Fur Elise

Rocky Top

Pink Panther

The Star Spangled Banner

This Little Light of Mine

Big Dog Boogie (My First Piano Adventures)

Party Song (Piano Adventures)

A Child’s Ideas On How To Prepare For A Piano Performance

A Child's IdeasThis is a guest post from a 4th grader  who wishes to remain anonymous. Parents, students, and teachers will enjoy getting involved with performance prep using this piano student’s ideas! Some of my most successful teaching strategies have come from the students themselves. I love their creativity!

Play American Idol:

Have the people in the room give critiques to help the student play better.

Play Elmo Says:

Tickle Me Elmo loves to say, “Again, Again!” You should too!

Have the student play again and again and when you think they have it ask for them to play the song with their eyes closed. Any other songs the person will play that special night go through the same process. Tell them how much time is left until the night of the concert. Motivate them to try harder if they say they can’t do it. It is all in the purpose of learning that they  can do this. Play games with them to remember the song. Show the kid how they can make their playing more interesting.

 

Play Open & Close ‘Em:

Try to go through the whole song with your eyes closed and if you hear the wrong note open your eyes.Then put your hand in the right place to continue the song and try not to mess up on the same part.

Play Tic Tac Toe:

Instructions for tic-tac-toe – You try to play the song one time and if everything is right you make an X or O. Keep playing the song until the student wins.

Picture Book Recital Preparation:The Maestro Plays

The Maestro Plays

Performance season is here – is anybody feeling the pressure yet? I’ve certainly written a lot about performance season lately and here I am doing it again! I can’t help it! Today while shopping at a second-hand store I found this 1970 edition of a charming little picture book by Bill Martin, Jr. Although the story is not about a pianist, I’m going to share it with my students after the Thanksgiving break to help them prepare for their upcoming performances.

In The Maestro Plays,  we get to experience a full concert performance by a presumably super – talented violinist. With each page we are given new adverbs to describe how he plays  – wingingly, tingingly, drippingly. These are just a sampling of the buffet of picturesque words the author uses to arouse our imaginations. His words along with the colorful artwork in the book simulate a powerful, moving, and engaging concert performance.

I plan to read the book with each student and challenge them to apply the language used in the book to their own playing to help them experiment with different ways to convey their musical messages.

The book is recommended for ages 4-8, but I think there is still a bit of a kid in some of our older students as well. I have not been able to find many copies of the edition I purchased, however there is a newer edition with a different illustrator available as well.

I’d love to hear about things you do to get your students ready for performances! So, if you enjoyed this post and/or have performance prep tips to share please leave a comment below.

Free Printable: Personalized Piano Concert Invitations

Personalized Music Invite

Since performance season is here, I am posting a new printable today that you can email to parents who want to invite school teachers and friends to your student’s piano performance.  Family and friends are regulars at piano recitals and concerts, but expanding your audience by inviting members of the community is a great way to showcase your students to more people and to get the word out about your studio and what you have to offer as a music teacher. Get the FREE Printable by clicking here or on the above graphic.

Even if you already have printed postcards and flyers this can still be a great way to invite people who may not normally attend your show. It can also serve as an extra invite once your run out of your printed materials. Simply replace my content with the details for your event. Email to the parents in your studio and have them type in their child’s school name and their child’s name in the appropriate spaces on the printable word document. Now they have personalized invitations for their child!

Parents can choose to simply email the invitation or print copies and deliver to school friends, teachers, and administrators. Be sure to tell parents to invite their child’s school music teacher!

For more about how to put on a great piano event click here.

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