Get Out Of The Piano Box This Summer!

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! 

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!