Chris Foley

Chris Foley

Chris Foley is a pianist, teacher, examiner, adjudicator, and blogger based in Oakville, Ontario. He currently teaches at the Royal Conservatory of Music where he also serves as head of the voice department at the Conservatory School. As a member of Toronto's Tapestry New Works Studio Company, he has coached and performed in numerous workshops and performances of contemporary opera. In 2005, he started the Collaborative Piano Blog, which has grown to become one of the most well-known blogs about classical music. He has also made numerous media appearances, including playing piano for the first two seasons of Bathroom Divas (a reality show about opera singers), an interview about teaching piano to adult beginners on CBC Television's Living in Toronto, an interview in the Toronto Star about video games and music education, and an upcoming commercial for RCM Examinations.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a Toronto-area piano teacher who had added a fascinating twist to her teaching schedule: early morning lessons. She not only offered lessons in the 7-9am time slot but was able to fill them.

If you think about it, early time slots aren’t such a far-fetched idea. Many parents regularly drive their children to 7am competitive sports practices several times in a week. Plenty of students have a paper route that they navigate at ungodly hours of the morning.

So why not music lessons?

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Every year at the end of summer, music teachers take stock of their returning students, interview new ones, and fit students into an ever-shrinking number of available lesson slots. The functionality of Music Teacher’s Helper allows you to divide students into headings for Waiting List, Active Students, and Former Students.

However, I’ve found that a student’s path from initial contact to full studio registration can be more complex. This year I’ve devised several more categories in order to more efficiently track students at every stage in their path through my studio.

Here are the categories you can use:

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Creativity | Day 108For the last few months of the school year, I’ve been pushing my students towards getting ever better results in festivals, auditons, recitals, and exams. I was proud of how well many of my students had done when the results started rolling in. Then last week I read Ed Pearlman’s Whose Side Are We On? and realized that students need time for the pendulum to swing the other way, for periods of exploration and discovery in addition to the quest for ever greater achievement.

Central to the idea of exploration at an instrument is the notion of practicing as pure play, as opposed to practice as rehearsing, working, or merely repeating. All students (and professonals too!) need some emotional distance from their goals once in a while in order to fully take the time to pursue where their imagination is taking them. Children already know this innately – are we doing our best to enable this wonderful human quality?

Here are four things that teachers and parents can do to re-start student creativity:

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