Leila Viss

Leila Viss

Hi, I'm Leila Viss, pianist, organist, teacher, author of The iPad Piano Studio and blogger at 88pianokeys.me. I enjoy teaching piano to around 45 students ranging in age from 6 to 91. I am drawn to discovering innovative teaching methods and successful practice strategies to encourage the average player stick to the bench for life. Customizing lessons for each student is a priority and therefore I provide "blended" instruction of Classical, Jazz and Pop. The ever-changing tools of technology assist me in my daily teaching. Every student not only has a private lesson but a lab session as well. Lab assignments include activities using the latest music software, MIDI, iPad apps, a Clavinova and more. In 2012, I decided to try my hand at hosting my own blog and have found a new “love” at 88pianokeys.me. My fascination with the iPad and apps resulted in the book "The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps." What began as an idea, a nudge and then a reality is now serving as required reading for pedagogy students. Invited by Pete Jutras, the editor of Clavier Companion, I now pen a column for the piano magazine called "Apps for Teaching." I've served on planning committees for the MNTA (Music Teachers National Association) 2013 Jazz/Pop Track, the MNTA 2014 Improvisation Track and was appointed chair of the Creative Pianist Track by Dr Sam Holland of the NCKP 2015 (National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy.) Much of the above activities in the previous paragraph has to do with my good friend and colleague Bradley Sowash--a dynamic jazz pianist, author and educator. He contacted me in 2012 to help him plan the 2013 Jazz/Pop track. Things haven't stopped since then as we have co-founded 88 Creative Keys. This joint venture features camps, clinics and workshops to promote creativity. When not teaching, blogging, planning...I am usually practicing the organ and piano for my church position, adjudicating piano and composition competitions, presenting at conferences, exercising, and if there’s any time left, reading a good book (on my iPad, of course).

The six practice strategies listed below come directly from the cognitive psychological scientists at LearningScientists.org. Megan Smith and Yana Weinstein hold doctorate degrees and have systematically applied current research on the brain and how it learns to the classroom setting.

I’ve taken their learning strategies one step further and applied them specifically to practicing an instrument. A good portion of the following paragraphs closely resemble their findings and I greatly appreciate their inspiration for this post!

The main point of their research is how the brain remembers best. It’s not through repetition nearly as much as through retrieval of information.

“Every time you leave a little space, you forget a bit of the information, and then you kind of relearn it. That forgetting actually helps you to strengthen the memory. It’s kind of counterintuitive, but you need to forget a little bit in order to then help yourself learn it by remembering again.”

-Weinstein from TheCultofPedagogy.com

You may find the list below validating like it was for me. I’ve encouraged most of these tactics for years and am thrilled that they are now scientifically proven to work thanks to Dr. Smith and Dr. Weinstein! Perhaps you’ll feel the same? Each strategy is first defined in the clinical terms found at TheLearningScientists.org. Next, you’ll read how I relate them to practice. I’ve also connected visuals to each strategy to help practicers understand and recall each one. [···]

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How many times do you explain what an interval is in a year? How often do you introduce and review chords and their inversions? Wouldn’t it be nice to offer a resource for your students that suits your curriculum that can be viewed repeatedly and accessed any time? Ideally, this approach—called a flipped classroom—leads to less lesson time spent introducing a concept and more time reinforcing it.

A flipped classroom is defined as

“a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.”

With today’s tech tools, you can produce your own material or borrow resources from others for your flipped classroom approach….

E-Books

An app called Book Creator makes it easy for teachers to design customized “lectures” for students to watch at home or during off-bench time at lessons. The app provides a user-friendly platform for creating interactive e-books that feature text, narration, graphics and videos. It’s available for the iPad as well as Android and Windows tablets. [···]

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