Don’t Let School Holidays Sabotage Piano Lessons

Yesterday was Labor Day here in the United States and that means we did not have piano lessons. Knowing that the holiday was coming I gave my students more than enough material to work on for two weeks. Experience has taught me, though, that they probably won’t work diligently for the whole two weeks. In fact, they may even come back with a list of reasons why they did not have time to do it. I’m hoping that this won’t be the case this year because within the next day or so these students will be receiving a special piano challenge from me in the mail!

The most important aspect of this challenge is that it is coming through the postal service. Kids LOVE getting mail! Why? Because they never get any! Unlike the piano notebook, they WILL read mail that is delivered to their home. Their parents will probably read it too!

Now to the challenge – Using free printable Major Minor match cards from Anne Crosby Gaudet at http://pianoanne.blogspot.com/p/free-printables.html, I created an assignment and attached it to the back of one of the cards.

Scale Patternchallenge

 

Next, I wrote a short note to my student explaining the challenge and stating how much I’m looking forward to the next lesson:

challenge letter

This final step is important – Address the envelope to the student, not the parent!

Now, I get to wait and see what happens…

If you are interested in an idea to get students to look inside their piano notebook every night, check out my previous post on Mystery Assignments.

 

What To Do After The Lesson: A Checklist For Parents

Parents want to HELP their kids do well in piano but often don’t know how and are pressed for time. As a piano parent myself, I totally get it. So in the spirit of multitasking, here are 4 simple things parents can do in the car on the way home (or headed to the next destination) after lessons.

Just remember the word

H.E.L.P.

Highlights – Ask your child questions about the lesson

Encouragement – Make a positive statement about their piano learning

Let it go – Laugh about something. Anything.

Play – for the first 5 minutes at home have your child play something they started learning at the lesson.

You can print a copy of the checklist here to keep in your car!

 

Let Them Have The Spotlight

Violin

When my son signed up for orchestra at his school a couple of years ago I learned a valuable lesson as a parent. It is a lesson that I believe that piano playing parents who have enrolled their children in piano lessons can benefit from as well. So here it is…

Violin was my son’s instrument of choice that year. He was very excited when we got home from the music store with his brand new violin. I was excited too! I had never played a violin before, but knowing that music is in the musician and not in the instrument, I decided to try playing a simple tune on it. Before my son could get in the house good, I was playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on his violin. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect technique wise, but it was recognizable. I was proud of myself for being able to demonstrate that an instrument is merely a tool in a musician’s hands much like a pen is a tool in a writer’s hands. It doesn’t matter what kind of pen the writer uses – he can still write with it. Just as I was about to pat myself on the back for my musical genius (lol), I looked up to find that my son was less than impressed. In fact, he was upset.

Why was he upset, you may ask? The violin was supposed to be HIS thing, not MY thing! He wanted to impress me with his ability to play the violin and to show me that he could do something that I could not. He didn’t say this to me, but I realized it just from looking at his response. From that moment on, I did not pick up his violin  – at least not when he was home! He went on to qualify for the Honor’s Orchestra by the end of the school year and I went on being grateful that I have a healthy, happy son who is able to enjoy music all on his own!

So, what am I saying to piano playing parents? Let your children take the lead when it comes to whether or not you should play the piano with or for them. Resist the urge to show them that you can play the rest of the song that they just started learning. Give them the joy of inviting you to the piano to play along or sing along, or just listen! They will be much more cooperative because they can own their musical education. Once they feel that sense of ownership, they will be glad to share in many musical experiences with you!

Taking The Fear Factor Out Of Performing

 

Most of the students that I teach LOVE to perform in public! They enjoy the attention they receive from their friends and family when they play the piano. Still there are a couple of kids that I teach who, like me at their age, would rather be eaten by a lion than play the piano in front of others. Does this mean that nobody will ever get to hear them play at studio events? It doesn’t have to! Kids who are not into playing “live” can still be part of the annual Fall and Spring Concerts via pre-recorded video! If your venue has video capability, why not allow the audience to experience this students’ playing as well AND save your student the butterflies and avoid the torture of playing in public? After all, the point of the event is for others to see and hear them play – who cares if it’s pre-recorded? People LOVE watching videos and they will applaud a good performance – hello, can you say YouTube? A couple of well placed videos could be a welcome break from a string of on stage piano players during your studio event. As a bonus, the kid from the video can come to the stage and take a bow after the video is shown or have a special autograph table set up afterwards. Who knows, this could boost their confidence and inspire them to play live in the next event!

So, I’m curious readers. Have any of you done this at any of your studio events before?

 

 

 

Capture Students’ Attention BEFORE They Enter The Door

 

Imagine your student walking towards your studio, music bag in hand. She may be thinking about the super hard test she had at school today or the mountain of homework that is waiting for her to do after the piano lesson. All this can be very distracting and maybe a bit discouraging until… she makes it to your studio door and sees a welcome sign with her name on it just as she is about to enter! You can predict what will happen next – a big smile will appear on her face and she will enter the studio that much more excited about her lesson. Pictured above is the sign I put up for my students everyday during the first week of piano for the new school year. Each day I simply replaced the previous day’s names with the students for that day. OK – truth – I had my daughter do it for me!  It was definitely a hit with students and parents as well. An added benefit to this sign was having all the students for the day listed. Seeing other kids’ names lets students know that they are not the only ones taking piano lessons and that they are part of a music making community. For more about building community in your studio, see my post on how to Get Parents Geared Up For A New Piano Season.

 

The Music Store Field Trip

A Music Store Field Trip can be very exciting for a child who is learning to play the piano. The Music Store Field Trip is a lot different from a visit to the Piano Store because at the Music Store Field Trip you will get to experience other instruments in addition to the piano. If you live nearby a large music store then this is the field trip for you! It’s FREE, FUN, and Entertaining.

First you and your child/student will enjoy being around so many pianos. It’s a whole new world where playing in public can be a much different experience than the that of a piano recital. Also, the music store employees often gladly give FREE performances! It’s so awesome to see kids’ faces light up when they watch a good piano player play.

Next you can play the synthesizers and turntables and feel like you’re a recording artist! Kids love the fun digital sounds they can make!

At the music store we went to, they had these cool hand chairs –

A wall full of guitars makes you just want to try playing one – or two – or ten!

Getting Dad involved makes this field trip even more fun and cool! If Dad is doing it, it must be cool, right?

Sometimes kids don’t realize that there are more piano books out there besides the ones they use for their lessons. This information often motivates them to learn more songs!

The best part of the Music Store Field Trip? A happy, motivated music student!

So, take your kids or music students on a Music Store Field Trip  – you will be so glad you did and they will too!

Have you ever taken kids on a Music Store Field Trip? If so, what one thing made it so awesome?

Undercover Piano Practice

Summer is… A  Great time to change up the piano practice routine for kids

School is out and so are daily routines, but you know that piano practice must continue! So what’s a parent to do? Before you decide that piano just isn’t going to work out for your child because they don’t want to practice. do a google search for the nearest piano store – not music store, but piano store – and drive your kids over there! No piano books, just you and the kids. We wouldn’t want to make the kids think we are about to practice piano, now would we?

Can’t get your child to touch the piano at home? This will have him touching 5 or 6 pianos GLADLY!

Once you get to the store, it will seem like you’re in a candy store – no kidding! There’s something about a room full of pianos that can get a kid excited in a way that practicing piano just can’t. Check out these pics of our latest trip to the piano store (We actually went to price a new piano, but of course they played the pianos while we were there) –

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By the way, I had a hard time getting my son to leave the piano store! Gotta love it!

Coming Up…

You might have noticed my daughter in one of the pictures with a model of the inner workings of a piano key. I’ll be writing about The Music Store Field Trip in an upcoming post. To guarantee you don’t miss it, subscribe to the blog and you will be notified as soon as it is posted!