Ed Pearlman

Ed Pearlman

Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the country. He tours, often with his son Neil, a pianist in Scottish/jazz/Latin/funk styles. Ed directed the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club for 18 years, including major concerts and festivals. He has 3 CDs of his own and appears on others. His primary expertise is in Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle styles, but Ed plays other Celtic, American, and Canadian fiddle music, classical, some jazz, klez and Hungarian. For ten years he ran a CD distribution company to bring music to the USA from Scotland, Atlantic Canada, Ireland, Brittany and Wales. Ed has written the music column for Scottish Life magazine since 1996.

Whether you have your own teaching studio or work for an organization, there is a temptation to schedule lessons back to back. If you have a lot of students in a row, this can be a recipe for burnout.

I know, I’ve done it — figuring I can get through a lot of lessons on a single day with no breaks. Sometimes, it’s just hard to say no when there’s an opening for a lesson and somebody wants it.

But you do need to look after yourself, for the sake of not only your own mental and physical health, but also for the sake of your students.

I don’t need experts to tell me this, because I’ve found out the hard way, but the experts do say that it’s important to your metabolism that you eat every three of four hours. If you go too long between meals, your metabolism starts to shut down, and then when you eat a big meal, your body doesn’t know what to do with all the extra calories. Best to keep the fire going, keep feeding that stove, and eating on a regular basis, even if not as much at a time.

Whether you’re at home or teaching at a school, be sure to have quality snacks and drinks with you for time between lessons, and be sure to actually eat something significant (not necessarily a lot) every 3-4 hours. For this you’ll need to schedule time. Set that time aside by blocking out a “lesson time” for yourself in your Music Teacher’s Helper calendar. A half hour is nice but it could theoretically be 15 minutes if you have food and drink ready — and if you can finish the previous lesson on time.

When I tried this, I discovered that I maintained a much higher level of energy than when I tried to plow through lesson after lesson. I knew I could handle “plowing” through lessons — I have my Daily Summary from MTH and enough experience to really focus on and help my students — but when I’m reasonably fed and watered, I have energy to spare for humor, new ideas, and a varied approach.

You might choose to offer 55 minute lessons and finish on time so you can take a breath, and get a moment to yourself for a drink or snack, or even to enter lesson notes online into MTH and reconciling a lesson; or to write those notes with a pen or pencil (remember those?) in a notebook so you can transfer it to your online lesson notes later.

It’s not a crime to schedule 45-minutes on the hour and allow 15 minutes between lessons! I know, it’s hard to think you’re deliberately spending an hour and only getting paid for 45 minutes, but it might mean that you can have a bit, drink more water, feel better, enter lesson notes you won’t have to do later, and generally have a more energetic and calm presence for your teaching time.

You might mix and match, and schedule a few back to back 30 minute lessons, but allow 15 before a longer lesson, or just leave a space of a half-hour for your own sake.

As to snacks, remember that there are really tasty snacks out there that won’t leave you feeling bloated, jittery, or on a sugar-high (i.e. maybe avoid doughnuts and coffee!). You just need to be a little creative and do a little research and trial-and-error.

For your breaks, you may even want to bring a novel to read, or a magazine that has nothing to do with music, just to give your mind and spirit a break for short periods of time. Facebook, texting, etc., probably will only add anxiety and not provide a break to your over-multi-tasking modern mind!

So plan for some mental breaks, quality snacks and periodic meals, and be sure you drink enough water. It’s amazing what a difference these things can make in turning a heavy teaching day into a fun and productive one. And don’t forget — one of the easiest and most effective mental and physical breaks is to simply take a 15-minute walk.

For both you and your students, look after yourself!

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Guard your MFA, the MBA is invading! The MBA mentality, which today involves doing everything and anything to increase profits, is so revered these days that many believe it’s rational to install business people in government even if they are totally devoid of experience — or interest — in public service. Local school systems successfully argue they can save money through consolidation even though no study since 1980 has indicated that this actually helps any educational (let alone financial) goals in reality. Somehow, when people present themselves as knowledgeable about making or saving money, they become the expert we’re supposed to heed. (In case you think I’m exaggerating about the MBA nowadays, here’s a recent plea to abolish business schools by a long-time business school professor, and one in the Harvard Business Review about why these schools have lost their way — an older article, but little has changed.)

As music teachers, we’ve been hit with lots of MBA-inspired how-to’s — how to make a lot of money by doubling rates to winnow our student list to just the profitable ones, or how to make our job easier by requiring that students sign contracts guaranteeing our income and flexibility regardless of the students’ experience. Maybe you’ve run across other seemingly smart strategies that make you feel like a dummy or a softie if you don’t take them seriously.

Of course, we can all use thoughtful advice on making our businesses run smoothly. Music Teachers Helper’s motto is “You teach! It does the rest!” (It’s NOT “Let us help you soak your students for the most money with the least effort!”) Music Teachers Helper is meant to help us teachers organize the business part of what we do, so that we can focus on the music, the sharing of our skills, the nurturing of our students. There are many articles in this blog which seek to help give business advice to folks who may not have much experience in that side of things, in addition to the many articles encouraging better teaching and understanding of music.

Nobody goes into music for the money. And yet, whether you teach or perform, you find out pretty quickly that  [···]

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How are you doing with the new software? Here’s a window into how I’m adjusting to it as a teacher — I hope you find this helpful!

I’ve used Music Teachers Helper since way back in 2006. Nearly all updates to the system have included real improvements, and there was one major update some years ago that required some getting used to. I’m happy that the new version stays the course but provides a number of improvements, including one feature I’m excited about — the File Area. This is a feature I used to use it all the time but the last major upgrade made the File Area less workable for me. Now it’s better than ever, and I’m looking forward to working with it again! Yay!

I’m going to focus here on a few essentials I use in my studio plus a few favorite features — emailing, the student list, lesson notes, selected uses of the calendar and its settings, and the File Area.

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