Yiyi Ku

Yiyi Ku

Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National Association and American College of Musicians/National Guild of Piano Teachers. She has also been certified as Advanced Specialist in both Theory and Piano from RCM. Yiyi has maintained a busy private studio for many years, and enjoys teaching students of all ages and levels.

Dear fellow music teachers,

I hope you are all having a great summer!

We are approaching the end of July, and can you believe it, the new school year is coming up. Yep, another exciting year of music lessons!

My new studio

This year, I will be implementing some changes to my studio: 

  1. Location – I moved to a new location! The new location has both a studio and a grand living room, where I can hold small recitals/group lessons/parent gatherings.
  2. Instrument – I will be teaching sometimes in the studio, and sometimes in the living room, so students will have the opportunity to get used to playing on a different instrument, rather than the same piano each week. Both pianos are grand pianos.
  3. Policy – I will be more strictly enforcing my policy, especially regarding make ups.
  4. Rates – I will be increasing my fees, as I do every year.
  5. Technology – I will be using more technology in my studio. Currently I subscribe to Piano Maestro, and I will be adding more Theory and Ear Training apps.
  6. Mentorship – I will start a mentorship program where older students will have the opportunity to tutor younger students in Theory as well as help them with practice assignments.
  7. Student programs – I will continue with some of the usual programs my students participate in, but I will also be more active in some others that I believe will be beneficial for their development.
  8. Teacher Coaching – I will start a class for local teachers who would like to improve their teaching skills. I may expand the class to include online participants, so teachers from out of town can join.
  9. Parent Club – I will set a time regularly for parents to come meet one another, ask me questions, and just hang out!
  10. Professional Development – I will schedule time for myself to undertake professional development courses. I always do this anyway, but this year it will be more structured, more goal oriented, and I will schedule more time for myself!

How about you? Are you ready for back-to-school? Are you also going to be implementing changes to your studio? Are there things you have been considering to change but have been reluctant to do so? Do share with us in the comments below!

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A while ago I wrote a blog post about teaching a very special student, Kodi.

Well, it is official – he is going to be on the season premier of America’s Got Talent!! This is the 14th season of the hit show, premiering on Tuesday May 28, 8/7c.

Kodi came to my studio in 2016. I did not have any experience teaching a blind student, and I had very little experience teaching students on the autism spectrum. Kodi is what many may describe as nonverbal. His spoken communication is very limited, but his ability to memorize is absolutely out of this world. He has been declared  a savant – musical genius, and is literally a human jukebox. Whatever song he has not heard of before, he can sing and play back after hearing it just once, and it will stay in his memory!

It still amazes me that I was given the opportunity to work with him. His piano skills have grown from basic chord progressions, to advanced literature such as Mozart Sonatas, Schubert Impromptus, Chopin’s Waltzes, Preludes, Fantaisie Impromptu, and Rachmaninov Preludes. He has performed twice at Carnegie Hall in New York City, as winners of the Golden Classical International Music Competition.

Classical piano is such a specialized field, one that requires extremely high levels of accuracy, polish and detail, unbelievable amount of repetitive work, and then ultimately subjective to individual styles of interpretation. Kodi’s journey has not been without challenges, as detailed in my previous post, but he has made everything he learns his own. It all becomes part of the unique style that is Kodi Lee.

I know Kodi has incredible vocal coaches, who must be so proud. Kodi is proof that we as teachers may just never know what lessons mean to our students, and where they may take them. I am reminded once again to treasure each student and every lesson we have together.

So tomorrow night, tune in and be amazed, as Kodi sings and accompanies himself on the piano, in the season premier of America’s Got Talent. He is going to change the world!

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Dear MTH blog readers,

First of all, Happy Holidays! I hope this post finds you well, and I hope you are all going to have a well deserved break! I sure am looking forward to mine!

I am pretty sure all of us have recorded our students in some form or another. I remember when I first started teaching (many years ago), recording was a big deal. Cassettes and CDs were the norm. Eventually I acquired an MD recorder. The audio quality was good, but no video. Then I got a camcorder, so I finally could get video, but the audio quality was not desirable. Then I got my first Apple laptop, then I got an iPad. Fast forward to today, I now record my students with my iPhone, on a daily basis. 

I am still no recording expert, and this post is not about how to make a top quality recording. This post is about the benefits of frequent, everyday recordings of students. 

Most of us record our studio recitals. These are always a big deal, and we know more or less that the students are going to perform their best. And that’s what I did before – only recording students when I knew they would be good. So we recorded recitals, festivals, and especially competitions.

But for some time now, I have been recording my students much more regularly, and often during their lessons. We also don’t wait until their pieces are “perfect”- we record while their pieces are still very much work in progress. Moreover, I have been using Facebook “LIVE,” so the recordings are live recordings of their actual lessons. 

I have found this to be tremendously useful:

  1. It gets them used to the idea of performing. They used to get nervous when the camera is on. Now it is not a big deal. This means they get used to dealing with their nerves, and they do better in recitals and other performances. 
  2. They get to watch the recordings later. This is the biggest benefit. They get an opportunity to review what we talk about in the lessons so they are more likely to remember what to fix.
  3. The recordings are online for all to see – parents, grandparents, uncles, friends, and the public. Of course this means the parents must give consent to the recording in the first place. So far my students’ parents are totally on board (I did have one parent question it, but they left now!) Usually, the parents are very proud to share the videos, and other family members get a glimpse of what happens in the lessons. It is also easy to make the videos private or only viewable for selected people, should that be a concern for some. 
  4. It increases your studio’s online presence. I have received many lesson inquiries, because someone stumbled across one of my lesson videos, they witnessed how I worked with a student, they like my approach, and they want to be my student. 

Of course, there are many other recording platforms these days, and YouTube is another indispensable social media tool. I prefer Facebook Live for everyday recordings, because it does not take up any memory space on my phone, which now has three years worth of videos and pictures of my daughter since she was born. I also find YouTube to be more clumsy to use, and Facebook LIVE is just one click away. I still use YouTube for more “serious” recordings, such as for competitions, where it is standard to include a YouTube link of the student’s performance. 

Another something I discovered, just today, is how interesting and beneficial it is, for students to record one another. I had three students come in to the studio today to record, because they are entering one of these video competitions, and today was the deadline. We had been recording at their individual private lessons, but as you all know it is so hard to get that “perfect” recording, so we weren’t satisfied that we had the best recording yet. They did not have any private lesson time left, so I suggested that they all come and take turns to record one another. I set up the phone, showed them what to do, and I closed the studio door and went upstairs to spend time with my daughter. I could hear them. It took them each several takes, but did they do so much better knowing their peers were in the audience and that everyone’s time is precious! I am sure all of our other lesson recordings helped, but it was so interesting to see how well they did. They gave one another support, encouragement, and the comradery between them was endearing and so heart-warming. I had told them to take turns, so if they messed up, they were to let someone else go next, so it was fair for everyone’s time. I could hear from upstairs, that they did not follow this rule, but encouraged their peers to just try again – “it’s ok, don’t worry about us” – when it was clear someone just got nervous and made silly mistakes near the beginning. I was so proud of them and after about an hour and half, all three managed to make the best recording of their piece that they will submit for competition for a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall. 

Whether they win the competition or not, it does not matter. That is not the point. The point is they worked so hard on their piece, they went above and beyond trying to get a perfect recording which, as we all know, is like chasing a unicorn. They had a glimpse of what it takes to be truly amazing at something. I have a feeling what they experienced this afternoon will remain in their memory for many years to come.

If anyone is interested, my live lesson recordings can be found here.

Have a great holiday season, everyone, and happy recording to all of your students!

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