Food For The Music Teacher’s Soul: Performing Live

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!

Actors Who Play The Piano

Actors who play pianoWhat kind of people like to play the piano? Superheroes! Really, though, did you know that Superman (Christopher Reeve) played the piano? Actually a LOT of actors like to play the piano. Here’s a list of a few:

Dakota Fanning    Chevy Chase    Anthony Hopkins   Dustin Hoffman

Jamie Foxx     Guy Pearce

Paris Hilton    Jason Cook

Hugh Grant     Kelsey Grammer

Courtney Cox  Robert Downey, Jr   Hugh Laurie   Paul Addlestein  John O’Hurley

Click here to catch a few your favorite actors in action!

You might also be interested in reading:

Famous Actors Who Play Music

10 Celebs Who Play Music

How to Make Summertime “Piano Time”

Summertime Piano

Hello Kids and Keys Readers! Today’s post is coming to you from Doug Hanvey, an accomplished piano teacher in Portland, OR. Doug also writes his own blog at www.portlandpianolab.com.

Read on for some helpful tips for getting over the summer piano slump!

Summertime is here! But that’s not good news for every piano teacher. Some students may take a break from lessons, and parents may have to be reminded to start up again as fall approaches. How can you continue to engage your students and their parents during the summer so that the dreaded lapse in practicing – and the possibility that some students might end up leaving your studio, having lost momentum – can be avoided?

Have you ever noticed that the way you ask a question determines the possible answers to it? We could take that question as is, or we could go deeper and ask: How could you make your summer lessons so exciting and fulfilling that they’re not only competitive with all the other fun activities kids can choose, but rise to the top?

If you were a kid, and a long, lazy summer were beckoning in front of you, what would keep you excited about continuing your lessons, and even have you bugging your parents to make sure they’d let you keep going?

Every piano studio is different, and every teacher will come up with ideas that reflect the unique qualities of their students, the area they live in, and other factors. Here are a few ideas to use as starting points for your brainstorming.

Take Your Studio Outside

Summertime is outside time. Why not throw a party in your backyard for your students (no parents allowed) with a digital piano or two, and a long extension cord? Include lots of games, both musical and not, yummy food, and let the students play for each other (but no pressure – only if they want to). Suggest they invite their friends. Once their friends see how fun and cool it is to make music under the summer skies, you may gain a new student – or two or three.

Go on a Field Trip

Take your students on a field trip. Their parents will love you for getting them out of their hair for a day or two. Promise lots of fun – this should be more of a social occasion. They will have a blast hanging out with each other (take a couple of parents along to help you out!) while you visit a nearby city to see a concert or other cultural attraction. Along the way of course, keep them entertained with activities, games and surprises that will make the trip a highlight of their summer.

Get Creative

If you were a kid, what would keep you excited and involved with music during the summer? I think it has to do with the way a child relates to music. Is music something they do or is it something they are?

If music is something we do (like homework) and not something that is part of us – that helps define us – how likely is it we’ll stay motivated to play or study during the summer, or even at all? For better or worse, by the time I was 12 music had become a major part of my identity. Playing the piano, but even more so, being creative with music, was a therapeutic and enjoyable way for me to express my individuality. I taught myself how to improvise and compose (formal instruction came later). But what if my music teachers had actually encouraged me to do so and given me direction?

Baseball is fun, and so is camping, but neither is very creative. If you haven’t brought improvising or composing into your studio, why not develop a summer creative group program? Your students meet together each week to learn about improvising and composing and to play creative music games. (You could even combine this with outside activities like the above.)

Towards the end of the summer you could bring in students from a couple other studios – such as a voice studio or percussion studio – for a fun, creative jam. Students who have written their own pieces can perform them. The kids will have a blast, they’ll make new friends, and they will be dying to continue their piano lessons. They may even be the ones nagging their parents about signing up for the fall, so you don’t have to.

These are just a few ideas for making your studio so dynamic and exciting that the idea of quitting lessons during the summer is simply inconceivable.

How do you keep your students enthusiastic about summer lessons? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Doug Hanvey

Doug Hanvey is a piano teacher in Portland, Oregon. His Piano Lab Blog offers cutting-edge tips and ideas for piano teachers and students.

You may also be interested in reading: 

The Music Store Field Trip

Piano Outside

Summer Piano Shorts: Cool Chords

Summer Piano Shorts: Octaves

Another Valentine’s Day Themed Music Activity!

Conductor's BouquetThis Valentine’s Day Themed Conductors Bouquet is going to be used in 3 ways in my studio next week:

– To teach kids which hand plays treble clef notes and which plays bass clef notes

– To teach kids how to feel different time signatures by conducting with the wands

– As a decoration to brighten up the studio so I can see kids’ faces light up as they enter for their lessons

When students arrive for lessons, I will be playing Bob Marley’s “One Love” and Annie Lennox and Al Green’s “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”. The Student will take a wand from the bouquet and using the correct hand for the symbol on the heart join me in conducting the song. We will extend the activity by conducting some of the pieces that they are working on as well. At the end of their lesson they will get to take the wand home to keep!

Here’s what you need in order to do this activity:

1. Valentine’s Wands from Dollar Tree (They come in packs of 3)

2. A sharpie marker to draw bass clef and treble clef symbols on the hearts

3. A nice vase to keep them in

4. Songs of different time signatures

That’s it!

Before we go I have a question: What other Valentine Themed songs can you suggest with different time signatures that can be used in this lesson? Please let me know in a comment below!

Valentine Steps

valentine

Here is a quick activity to get the lesson started – especially on Valentine’s Day. Students can practice recognizing and playing stepping patterns on random notes. You could also have the student try to find the matching pattern. (There is one matching set). For extra fun see if the student notices that the hearts form a star in the middle! You can download a copy of this activity here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!