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!

Wisdom From J.R. Ewing of the TV Series, Dallas

 

“Never pass up a good chance to shut up.”

 

Those are the words I heard J.R. Ewing say as I watched the TV series Dallas a few days ago in an episode from this past season. You just never know when you are going to hear a bit of wisdom like that! It was such an unexpected comment – he was speaking to his son about business negotiations – that I had to rewind it just to hear it again!

Of course I relate most things to music, music teaching, and/or parenting. I think the statement applies to all three, actually. Great musicians know that there is much beauty in well placed silence. Great music teachers know that deliberate moments of silence allow students time to understand more deeply, to explore, and to create. These same moments of silence are what give life to music and allow the notes to breathe. Great parents know that when we are silent we can hear our children speak – not merely by their words, but by their actions and by the way they respond to various situations.

So, kudos to the writer or writers responsible for this magnificent line! And now here is my chance to shut up.

 

Giant Music Mat

After a Google search for a rug for my group music classroom only turned up results over $150, I decided to make my own. Actually it is a giant mat made out of foam tiles that I purchased from Wal Mart at $5.97 per set of 9. I bought 5 sets. The picture above shows a smaller version of my Giant Music Mat.

To make your own here is what you need:

5 or more sets of foam tiles (depends on the size you want)

a black marker

Directions:

Choose tiles of the same color and arrange them in a square shape

Create a border for the square you’ve made using tiles of different colors. Alternate colors.

Use a black marker to draw a different music symbol on each of the border tiles.

If you plan to use your giant mat to designate where each child should sit during group class, it is important to draw a DIFFERENT music symbol on each tile. Do not repeat symbols.

There are so many ways you can use this mat besides just sitting! As I already stated, it can be used to assign seats. This shortens the time it takes to get kids situated and ready for class to begin. At the beginning of the year or session, assign a unique symbol to each child. This will be their spot. Make sure they know the name of their symbol and what it means. You could even have kids act out the meaning. At a parent presentation, kids could “show and tell” using their symbol. Have them hold up their tile while presenting it.

What other ways can you think of for using the Giant Music Mat?