Archives for 29 Feb,2012

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Photo by SeeMidTN.com

Are you feeling rested and relaxed? Having fun with friends as much as you’d like? Are you feeling fit and healthy? For many of us, the answers to these questions may often be no.

As a freelance musician for many years, I frequently experienced a sense of overwhelm and a lack of balance in my life. I was a professional accompanist (aka collaborative pianist), and as such had an active and varied musical life. I gave recitals with singers and instrumentalists, accompanied singing lessons, played for choir rehearsals, was a repetiteur for opera companies, taught piano, conducted several choirs and eventually also taught bachelor of music students in a major conservatory. I used to fret when I was overloaded with work. I used to worry when not enough work was coming in.

Some colleagues I knew worked seven days a week, month after month, unwilling to say no to any commitments for fear of being short of money, or missing out on a great opportunity. I myself worked six days a week and three evenings, and considered myself lucky to keep Sundays free, a practice that took a lot of discipline. There were always going to be missed opportunities. There were always going to be disappointed potential clients. But I knew if I didn’t take one day a week to myself, I would be heading for burnout. [···]

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Something I’ve been working on in studio lately is how to make sure the students really understand what to do and how to practice.  To that end, I’ve been re-evaluating how I’m telling students information.  The realization I came up with is simple:

Don’t do… = MANY options to replace the undesired behavior.

Do… = ONE option for the student to accomplish.

How much more efficient would our lessons be, and how much more productive would our students’ practice be, if we focused on this one small aspect of our teaching language: always tell your students what to do and how to accomplish it, rather than what not to do?

Especially as a voice teacher, I find that this little instruction helps to clarify (along with my recent posting on asking students “What does it mean to you when I say that?”) information for the students.

I then write this information into the student notes that I take on my computer as I teach.  At the end of the lesson, I copy the notes from the student’s computer file and paste them into the “Reconcile lesson” function in Music Teachers Helper.  Voila! The student has a reminder, I have a reminder of the language that worked for the student, so I can use it next week, and the student has a clear understanding of what to practice doing, rather than what to avoid.

What kinds of language do you use in your music teaching?  Have you changed any approaches recently?  Why or why not?

Happy music making!

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