Piano Teachers!! It’s time to think outside the piano box! Summer is fast approaching and as we all know LOTS of students and parents consider summer time vacation time from lessons. Instead of writing about how to avoid that here, I am going to write about what you as a piano teacher can do to keep yourself working over the summer AND get yourself refreshed for your fall piano lessons.
For the past 6 years I have had the honor of teaching at the Northeast Georgia Summer Guitar Camp. No, I do not play the guitar! I can, however, produced some nice melodies on the guitar – not because I have ever had a guitar lesson – I haven’t, but because I am a musician! Musical instruments are just like pens and pencils. If you know how to write, you can use any pencil or pen. If you haven’t ever tried to play an instrument other than piano, you should try it. You might surprise yourself and your students. It is an excellent opportunity to reinforce the need for understanding music theory and knowing how to apply it.
So how can you, as a piano teacher, keep yourself working over the summer outside of piano lessons? Partner with a teacher who teaches an instrument other than piano and offer to teach at their summer camp or even do some master classes with their students. Of course you won’t be teaching their instrument (unless you happen to be proficient at it), but you CAN teach theory concepts and musiciality. At the guitar camp I have taught Rhythm, Performance, and Music Appreciation – The Art Of Listening. The possibilities are really endless!
I have found that the fact that the students are “experts” at guitar and I am not, actually increases their interest in what I am bringing to the table. I allow them to teach me some things they know about guitar – which has the added benefit of reinforcing their knowledge and understanding of their instrument. Furthermore, because we are not directly working on learning the technical aspects of playing their instrument they are able to deepen their understanding of how music works. They are then able to apply these concepts immediately in their guitar centered classes at the camp.
You might also be pleasantly surprised to meet students who also play the piano! Many kids play multiple instruments and of course piano is often the first instrument they ever learned. Each year we have several students from different piano studios in the guitar camp. While we maintain focus on their guitar learning, I also give them an opportunity to share the piano skills as well. Helping the students make connections between their piano knowledge and their guitar knowledge is an extra bonus for me.
I am pleased to once again be a faculty member for the premier guitar camp in the state of Georgia along with Guitarist Russell Ferrara from Pennsylvania and founder Derwyn Brown of Childbloom Guitar Northeast Georgia. Registration is now open for the sixth annual Summer Guitar Camp to be held at Lanier Islands Community Church in Buford Ga. The camp will run from June 6th through-10th. The camp is open to young guitarists at all levels ages 7 – 13. For camp registration visit our website: www.childbloomgne.com.
Click here or on the video above to view highlights from our 2015 Summer Camp!
In a recent post I shared one of my secrets to keeping students motivated AFTER the performance season. Today I’ll give you another way to get students excited about piano learning by making learning faster!
If you haven’t watched the YouTube video above, click on it NOW to be inspired! Daniel Menendez’s unique talent as a piano juggler can help you motivate your piano learners who might be having trouble settling down to do the most necessary task of learning to play music: LISTENING!!!
Too often students just want to get to the playing part and leave out the listening to music part of music learning. Many piano students struggle to learn new tunes simply because they don’t KNOW the tunes. By this I mean they can’t hum or sing the melody and they can’t feel the rhythm. This is because they are attempting to learn to play a song you’ve never heard is like trying to learn how to play the piano in the dark. Why do that when we’ve got lights?!
YouTube is a gold mine of fun listening visuals! The video linked above is a great example of this. If you’re teaching beginning piano, The Can Can is probably one of the songs on your list. Use this video to capture the young student’s attention. Point out things like the differences in tempo, the direction the melody is moving AND get your student to listen to the song over and over again without it being boring! I’m sure you will find that the learning will happen much faster and “funner”!
After the excitement of Holiday concerts what can a piano teacher do to keep up the enthusiasm? Well, for the last two weeks I have been presenting the idea of setting world records in piano to my students! Kids LOVE seeing who is the fastest at something or who can do something the longest. And who wouldn’t want the title of World’s Greatest?! Piano offers endless possibilities for this type of goal from scales (ascending and descending) to age (youngest, only 8 year old to ever, etc).
One thing you want to be intentional about is helping students set goals. I explained to students that we have to train like an athlete to break a world record. For younger kids it is also helpful to set a short time frame. For example – the most songs learned in 1 week. You can even expand the contest to have Studio Records. These will be easier for students to conquer and just might spur them on to beating one of the world records like this one:
Fastest descending chromatic world record.
I will confess that when I tried to do the fastest descending chromatic scale it took me twice as long as the world record! So, I will be training right alongside my students this semester. We will be sure to post our results and pics of all the fun we had!
In the meantime, I’d like to extend the invitation for YOU to join us in trying to set or break a piano world record. You can get all the information by visiting Recordsetter.com
Stay tuned tomorrow for more inspiration on how to use Piano World Records to boost learning in your studio.
The holidays are approaching and that means PERFORMANCES. Lots and lots of performances. Right about now young (and old) piano players around the world are getting nervous about playing in front of others. What’s a piano teacher to do to help? One thing a teacher can do is to help the student view performances from the audience’s perspective. A lot of performers who have stage fright don’t realize that the audience is not judging them at all (unless you’re in a contest of some sort). The lie that stage fright tells the performer is that since all eyes are on him the performance is about him. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!! Students need to know that the audience is there to RECEIVE the gift of music. The gift of music is many things to the audience. It is a great time, an escape from worries and cares, a chance to be with friends. The audience wants simply to FEEL GOOD. Judging the performer is the least of their concerns. They want the performer to succeed because it means the audience gets to have a good time. Here is another secret: the people in the audience assume that the performance will be great, otherwise they would not be there!
So, take the pressure off your students by letting them know (and most don’t know this) that the audience is not judging them! I will definitely be driving this point home with my students in the next few weeks leading up to our Big Dreams Concert.
It’s true. Dreams don’t Work unless you do. That’s why we are busy WORKING already to prepare for the Big Dreams Concert 2015. You may have read about our concerts in David Cutler’s new book, The Savvy Music Teacher. Well, those are not just words. We actually put on a show every year where music students and professional artists work together. Save the date for this year’s event: Sunday, Dec. 20th at 6pm at the Red Clay Theater in Duluth, GA. Check out our concert trailer and if you LIKE it, well you know what to do!!!
As music teachers we spend hours preparing lessons, music learning games, and performances for our students. After doing an adequate amount of scouring music teaching blogs and piano teaching blogs, and attending student concerts and recitals there is little time left to devote to our own musical development. The interesting thing is that the missing ingredient in most music teachers’ studio marketing plans is consistent performance by the teacher! I will speak specifically as a piano teacher, but what I am saying is true no matter what instrument the teacher teaches. The same thing we tell our students applies to us – in order to get better at playing your instrument, you have to PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT!
I know from my own personal experience how difficult it can be to carve out time to flex your performance muscles when you are a music teacher. I also know that carving this time out is absolutely essential. It is also life-giving! The video about is proof of that.
Last weekend I was blessed with the opportunity and challenge to play in the faculty concert for the music camp where I taught. Getting to this point took a couple of years of trying to find time to collaborate with the other teachers because our schedules are so varied. Thankfully one of the faculty members, Russell Ferrara (fabulous guitarist who is fluid in numerous genres) never gave up and simply insisted that we make it happen. Oddly enough it took his persistence to get me and fellow teacher Derwyn Browne playing together for the first time although we work together often and live near each other. Russell lives a thousand miles away!
I can definitely say that it was well worth the wait and that we should have done this sooner. If you haven’t played in a while, please let me suggest that you get out there and go for it! Why should our students be the only ones who get to play? Why should they be the only ones who experience the rush that comes from an audience erupting with applause? Why should they be the only ones who get that undeniable sense of satisfaction from having done their best onstage?
If you haven’t done so already, watch the video. I hope it will inspire you to go out and play!