Day 283 / 365 - SkillsI remember it as though it were yesterday. The song was called “Moonlight and Roses.” I hated that piece. I still do!

With tears streaming down my face, try as I might, I was getting nowhere. My mum patiently sat with me, trying to coax me to work through my frustration but to no avail.

Things just went from bad to worse. As my progress on the song deteriorated, frustration turned to anger. “I HATE this song!” “I HATE my music teacher!” “I want to QUIT my music lessons!” “I GIVE UP!” I screamed, red in the face, anger exploding from every fibre of my 8-year-old body.

What happened next was my mum’s worst and finest hour of parenting! In hindsight, she should have Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Prepare for Fall

July 28th, 2015 by

By Robin Steinweg

How do you prepare for fall? A vacation from lessons or a lighter teaching load can offer opportunities to create a master list.

Prepare for Fall

Prepare for Fall

Here are some of my to-dos:

  • Determine available teaching times
    • Will I offer 30, 45 or 60-minute lessons?
    • How many weeks will I teach?
    • Will I give myself weeks off?
  • Send my policy, schedule, and registration forms to students
    • Let students sign up on MTH!
    • Will I get a raise?
    • Does my policy need tweaking or firming up (See other teachers’ policies for ideas)?
    • Will I require parents to initial sections and sign an agreement?
  • Weed my files
    • What haven’t I used in a year?
    • Are files titled for easiest retrieval?
    • Shall I divide by grade level or genre? What works best for me?
    • Might I use a retrieval system—such as Paper Tiger online?
    • Will I donate or sell what I don’t keep?
  • Clean/organize my studio
  • Attend workshops
    • Plan so I don’t purchase duplicates or binge
  • Check instruments for needed maintenance
  • Consider a theme for the year or season
    • Will group classes, recitals and special pieces reflect this theme?
    • Will I decorate according to the theme?
      • (a bulletin board labeled “Prepare for Fall” could contain notes/symbols to identify, or a picture with hidden music symbols. A football field with lesson “yard lines” might make for a prepare for fall practice push)
    • Choose new activities or games
      • A studio-wide motivation chart to record goals met
      • New game for group lessons
    • Contact waiting list if there are timeslots to fill
    • Look for décor, incentives and teaching aids at garage sales, thrift stores or a dollar store
      • Laser pointer
      • Stick with pointing hand
      • Shaped erasers
      • Stickers
      • Prizes for goals met or to add to the studio “store”
    • Waiting area materials
      for the waiting room

      for the waiting room

      • Puzzles
      • Books
      • Music magazines
      • Coloring books and crayons or colored pencils
      • Water bubbler or bottles
      • Swap out materials monthly or quarterly?
    • Add technology—for the techno-challenged, push yourself to try just one!

What would you add? Or do you prepare for fall in a totally different way?

In my August 28th post I’ll have ideas for creating teacher binders. See you then!

 

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Sandy Lundberg

Motivation Podcasts

July 26th, 2015 by

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Student motivation is an ongoing discussion and concern for every music teacher. We debate internal versus external motivation, parent involvement, the role of talent, and the million ways to structure home practice. Students Luke Jones and Matt McKeever at the University of Missouri at St. Louis are taking a summer graduate music education class with Jennifer Mishra and they have created a series of podcast interviews with musicians around the country addressing the issue of student motivation. You can check out their project here: http://sutbpodcats.podomatic.com/

My interview encouraged me to once again write down a few of my thoughts about motivation.

The student has to own the lessons, not feel forced into them. If he or she does not arrive excited to start piano lessons do your best to sell the idea that studying music is an awesome, amazing experience. It helps if you can find ways to connect music to areas in which the student already has an interest. Our goal as teachers is to nurture and develop the student’s own personal value of the music study so they are not as dependent upon our external motivation.

Parents need to be educated about the value of lessons and how critical their role is in the child’s success. Compare the support they give the child on a sports team to the level of enthusiasm they need to show for music lessons. Give parents specific things they can do to be supportive and involved. Even non-musical parents can ask questions about the music, sit down for a living room concert, negotiate a motivation system, and show their child how much they value a musical education.

Taking music lessons will rarely go well if a student feels a loss of peer respect from the activity. Help students to develop friendships with other musicians, let them invite friends to a fun musical event, introduce role models, include fun popular pieces in their repertoire, and make sure students always have an impressive short piece to perform on the spur of the moment. Find ways to make their music relevant and useful in their life.

The student and teacher relationship is critical. Students need to know that you care about them as a person and are willing to listen to them. Share appropriately about your life as a musician. Be respectful, honest and trustworthy. Work hard, but be an source of encouragement, not a drain on their self-esteem. Personalize their program to reflect their unique gifts, interests, and learning style.

Learning has to include some fun, especially for the young. Include games and laughter in your teaching. Plan some group activities. Tell stories that make the music come alive. Every once in a while do something unexpected. Plan a surprise! Andrea and Trevor Dow are full of great ideas at http://www.teachpianotoday.com/.

Students need to know they are making progress.  Remind students how far they have come. Play old recordings and look over old play lists. Remind them of the goals they have already accomplished. Judging the correct speed with which to move a student forward is always a critical decision on the part of the teacher. Too fast and the fundamentals are not established deeply. Too slow and the student loses heart.

Create a vision for the future with the student and talk and dream about it. Point out harder pieces that they will be able to play one day. Take students to hear more advanced musicians and attend live music events.

Keep their vision alive with goal setting. Short term goals can take just a week or so— “See if you can memorize this to play for your grandmother when she comes to visit in two weeks.” An annual theme can keep motivation going throughout the year. Michelle Sisler has created a wonderful series of games at www.keystoimagination.com. The Music Teachers National Association offers a music achievement award program to help students set personal goals for each year. Don’t forget to set long term goals too, such as being ready to join the jazz band in high school.

When a student quits, all forward progress stops. Those that continue, even at a seemingly slow pace, will keep learning and growing. The longer a student sticks with their instrument, and the more independent and self-motivated they become in learning, the more likely they will have music in their life for as long as they live.

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Posted in Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

It is easy to fall into the trap of being simply a music instructor. You have a series of lessons in mind, and you introduce new concepts each week, even if the student has not mastered the previous concept. After all, you are getting paid to teach: if your student is not learning something new in the lesson, they may not be getting their money’s worth, or so it would seem. If you follow this plan, however, you may find that your students cannot keep up with the new material, perhaps becoming discouraged, and they may even eventually quit.

Being a good music teacher actually has two aspects, and only one of them is instructing. The second aspect is coaching your students. These two sides of teaching work hand-in-hand in your lessons. Nevertheless, you will want to distinguish between instruction and coaching, as well as understand how they work together.

Music Instruction

When you instruct, you present new information to your students in a structured way. You use various instructional aids and different methods of communication to convey that information as effectively as possible. Anytime you show something new to a student, you are instructing them. Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

teaching piano tools and resources

The intersection of technology and art is key to the evolution of life. One such example is the transition from standard instruments to electronic based instruments. No longer do drums need a special material stretched over the base, nor a piano need strings to sound like a grand piano. With electronic instruments, the world of self-taught musicians is becoming more common. With the surge of mobile apps, musicians are able to learn musical instruments at home, on the train, at the park or even at the beach. Below are a few examples of technology infused with art.

1. Wolfie

One new app that has surfaced is called Wolfie, named after famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Because the study of music is declining in the US and Europe, the idea of combining tech and music learning is essential to keep the attraction of the youth. The app includes a patented Magic Cursor, which follows the notes in real time, allowing students to not lose their place, or miss a note. The app has a wide variety of scores, ranging from beginner to advanced, and constantly adding new scores. After 12 months of development, the app is ready to go!

Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Product Reviews, Professional Development

Put Your Records OnI remember, as a child, spending many an hour with my record player and LPs (long play vinyl records) in my bedroom. For me, half the pleasure of listening to the music was reading the sleeve notes which often gave up a wealth of fascinating information about the artist, composer, sometimes the instruments used, the recording personnel and the studio. And then there was the cover art which was a marvel in itself.

Of all the music that I listened to, I can’t forget an old Burl Ives record. One of the songs was called “I Know an Old Lady.” Apparently he didn’t “know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die!” I played that album over and over.

As I grew older, I began to realise that listening to an old man singing folk songs was definitely not cool and that if you were to be esteemed in your peer group, you had to be listening to Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music History & Facts, Performing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Refresh

June 28th, 2015 by

Teachers get tired, need to refresh.

Tired music teacher

We need time away from lessons and students. Whether for an hour, a week, a month or a season. How can we relax and refresh ourselves to be ready when the next student shows up at the door?

Time to refresh

Time to refresh

I asked my friends at Piano Teacher Central, on Facebook, what helps them recharge.

Here are answers from this generous group:

  • Read, read, & read. Preferably sitting on a quiet deck or by a rushing stream. Marathon TV series watching—currently watching Doc Martin!
  • Silence and a good night’s sleep without the deadline of a morning lesson.
  • Quilt, garden, genealogy, and other crafts that hit my fancy!
  • Play the piano
  • Look at FB lol
  • Wait, you mean there is life beyond teaching piano?
  • emoticon, shocked
  • Quilt many quilts… some even with music.
  • Agree with the second one above, but also art
  • I love country walking when I need a break. Very energizing and refreshing.
  • Play Angry Birds on FB, read, binge-watch movies, beach time.
  • A walk in the woods or a good workout with a DVD (dance party! Lol)
  • I play with my kids, and read…I honestly need it to be pretty quiet once I finish teaching, at least for awhile.
  • I used to teach in the summer… …Now I’ve decided that summers are short, the weather is beautiful and having July and August off is my reward for 10 months of hard work. I will refresh myself by reading at the beach just a few blocks away, learning to stand up paddle board, kayaking, and doing photography.
  • I go here (photo of sun setting over a calm ocean beach) and hide from the world. I don’t touch anything to do with lessons for awhile.
  • It helps me to read piano blogs and posts on Piano Teacher Central! I get excited about teaching again and using new ideas.

As for me, I:

  • get “musicked out”—spend time in silence
  • Shhhhhh

    Shhhhhh

  • write
  • read books on teaching
  • read blog posts
  • attend live performances—variety of genres
  • hold a private sight-reading marathon
  • browse music books and sheet music at the local music store
  • sub for another teacher on vacation—I have no idea why this works, but it does
  • jam with other musicians for the fun of it
  • further my education—attend workshops
  • try out new pianos and guitars at the music store
  • have been known to take a long soak in the tub
Hey, I can dream, right?

Hey, I can dream, right?

How do YOU refresh?

 

 

 

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Master classes are my favorite sessions to attend at conferences. Just being in the presence of great teachers is inspiring, and their words of wisdom resonate with me long after the conference. When I teach, I often find myself quoting sayings I heard at master classes and pedagogy sessions I have attended. Some of my favorites are:

The longer the line, the greater the artist” – Jane Magrath

“If you can’t sing, you can’t play – you need to experience it inside” – Scott McBride Smith

“What is musicality? It is decency of the performer. It is the understanding of hidden meanings, connections, and completeness of the composition. It is deliciousness – not just in music, but in art and daily life” – Rozalie Levant

“Sonatinas are celebrations of contrasts” – Marvin Blickenstaff

“If you cut long notes short, you have no rhythm; if you are exact, you are too mechanical; if you are a little too late, ah – you are so musical!” Peter Mack quoting Ingrid Clarfield

“Grow like a tree when you crescendo – start small, eventually becomes magnificent” – Dang Thai Son

“Don’t feel guilty during the crescendo” – Anderson and Roe

“There are 256 pedal nuances” – Byron Janis

“Be a singer, try to be seductive” – Dmitri Rachmanov

“The Rachmaninov line aspires and then it falls down – it realizes everything is hopeless, then it tries again” – Jerome Lowenthal

“People who don’t read newspapers are uninformed, people who read newspapers are misinformed. Editions are opinions only” – John Perry quoting Mark Twain

Learn music through life and learn life through music” – Lang Lang

I take all my conference notes on my iPad. During the recent MTNA National Conference held in Las Vegas, I found the iPad to be an absolutely indispensable tool. Not only did I use it to present my session using Keynotes, I was able to get the most out of the master classes I attended. Here are two memorable experiences:

Intermediate Masterclass with Dr. Scott McBride Smith

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Dr. Scott McBride Smith’s master classes are always audience-engaging. In this master class, he integrated technology and used an innovative slide sharing tool called “slideduet.” Attendees at the master class had the option to scan the QR code or type in the URL provided and view his presentation slides in real time.

These included biographical backgrounds and pictures of each of the student performers, their teachers and various accomplishments, interesting notes about the composers and the pieces being presented, quotes, as well as pedagogical thoughts and detailed analysis of important aspects. This means there was no need to take notes. Instead, I was fully drawn to what’s happening on the stage and inspired by the way Dr. McBride Smith interacted with each of the students.
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Here is the link to all the presentation slides. Notice each slide corresponds to the exact time it was presented during the master class. When I review them, I feel transported back in time to the master class itself!

 

Advanced Masterclass with Dr. Douglas Humphreys

I really liked the format of the advanced master classes of this year’s MTNA Conference:

1. Instead of the usual two to three participants per master class, only one student was featured – this allowed time for very detailed instruction.

2. The master teachers were teachers of the 2014 MTNA piano competition winners – this gave insight to how an extraordinary teacher works in their studio.

Professor Douglas Humphreys was METICULOUS, and this master class was worth every penny. As soon as I found out which piece was being presented, I opened the forScore app, searched for the piece on IMSLP, and downloaded the score onto my iPad. Then, I was able to follow EXACTLY what was going on in the session, as professor Humphreys dissects the piece and guides the extremely talented (and already very good young pianist) to an even higher artistic level. Because a full hour was dedicated to this session, much ground could be covered, and it was a real treat that all three movements of the Bartok Sonata were given attention. In many previous master classes I attended, too many students were assigned per hour; after each student has performed their piece, only 10-15 minutes were left for the teacher to work with the student, and usually we only got to hear how the first page should be played and then time was up! In this master class, it was like sitting in on a private lesson of the highest quality.

To demonstrate how convenient it was to have my iPad with me and how easy it was for me to take notes using the app, here are some snapshots:

 

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Attending master classes is so enriching and necessary for a teacher to continue to grow. The next major music conference in the U.S. will be the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy scheduled for July 29-August 1. Do you plan on attending the master classes?

 

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Posted in Music & Technology, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

tractor and trailer

Now I must explain from the outset that I have absolutely no farming experience whatsoever! Completely zilch!

But I do know that a trailer will go nowhere without a tractor to guide it!

So how can we help young Jenny conquer that awkward phrase in her song?

How can we help old Mary Williams to master the art of rubato?

How can little Jonny play that scale with flair?

Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm

The answer is simple – us! It all starts with Read more…

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Music for Life

May 28th, 2015 by

A Master Class Series by Robin Steinweg

Music for Life

Music for Life

My second Music for Life Master Class—a success.

I started this series with plans to invite senior musicians. I’ll expand it to include musicians of all ages. Music for Life could end up defining my studio.

A master class series like this can enhance and promote your studio as well as inspire and bless your students. (Be sure to schedule it on your MTH calendar, and have reminders sent automatically!)

As students arrived, I directed them to the dining room for cheese, crackers, lemonade and sweet tea. Things go better with an after-school snack, don’t you think?  Snacks 5-20-15

Char Monette came as our featured local musician and piano teacher. I invited students and parents/grandparents to attend. We had good attendance in spite of busy May schedules.

Char shared musical moments and wisdom for about twenty minutes.

At age 8 her family moved to Japan when her dad was called up to fight in the Korean War. They couldn’t have a piano because he was only a lieutenant. But her classmate’s dad had a higher rank, and owned a piano. She walked home from school with Edward every day and practiced half an hour. Her teacher spoke no English, and she no Japanese. Music was their common language. She practiced very hard to earn a pat on the shoulder, and avoid mistakes which elicited a “No-no-no-no!” or worse, a rap on the knuckles with a pencil.

She began to teach in 1977 when another musician in town told her she must. This is good for us to remember! We can encourage musical gifts in others.

Ava, Amy Jorgenson, Sam, Char Monette, Bethie              Char Monette speaks to my students

Char said:

“Music is a gift from God. To think that your fingers can move on the keys, and music comes out… that is a gift from God.”

“I don’t often sit and listen to music. I would rather make music.”

I asked, “Char, what has music meant to you throughout your life?”

She responded, “You know, I don’t really think about it. I breathe, but I don’t think about that either. Breathing is pretty important. Music is just like that.”

She played “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” from her John Thompson Third Grade Level book.

Char's book, 1938 copyright

My students played for her. Some played their own compositions or their own arrangements of pieces. Some played my arrangements. They all gave a gift of music back to Char to thank her for coming to show them Music for Life!

You might like to read about my first guest in this series: professional drummer, vocalist and pianist Martha Nelson: Music Is for Life    …and here are a few of my students…

Sarah Wruck plays her own Key to My Heart     Sam plays Purple People Eater

Leanna plays Phantom of the Opera Dane plays In the Hall of the Mtn King

Chris plays Theme from Titanic   Ava plays Big Brass Band

Malea Niesen

 

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio