Music Teacher's Helper Blog

We all understand that practice leads to perfection. The issue at hand is how to encourage our students to practice with enthusiasm instead of viewing the practice sessions as a chore. My first experience with Classical Music was Peter and the Wolf. I was not excited to be attending this performance and was saddened that there would be no speaking, actual animals or cartoons on this particular outing. I remember asking my mother “Do I Have to go with you?”

Much to my surprise I left the performance with the desire to create my own orchestra. Somewhere during the performance the music had captured me and the instruments had come alive. I often Get to listen to classical music and frequently to Peter and the Wolf. It has been thirty years since my first enchantment with an orchestra and not even one detail escapes me. Here are some widely known readily forgotten tips to inspire students:

  1. Suggest more frequent shorter practice sessions
  2. Encourage parents to spend time listening to the child practice
  3. Suggest that parents compliment the child instead of criticize
  4. Reward the child with the option of selecting a particular piece of music if the practicing improves
  5. Ask the student what type of music they prefer and create a common bond between what they listen to and what they play
  6. Suggest that parents take the student to live performances featuring the instrument the child plays if at all possible. Colleges or conservatories often have recitals or inexpensive performances through out the year.
  7. Include the child in goal setting on a regular basis

It can be difficult to motivate the reluctant student. Motivation is different for each student, once you find the motivating factor for the child you can change practicing from a “Have To” to a “Get To” with a little encouragement.

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One day last week, I calmly listened as a woman told me how her son had come to “choose” the clarinet as his instrument. I didn’t let on that I felt a bit stunned. The boy’s music teacher at school had lined up all the kids and told them which instrument they were physically suited for. This boy had been told he had a “clarinet mouth.”

This sounds a bit like Harold Hill in The Music Man (“you have the perfect little finger for the Eb flugelhorn!”). Of course, it’s nothing new. I remember a woman who said she was told she’d never be able to play violin because her little finger wasn’t made right. Somewhat in the same vein, I had a fiddle student whose classical teacher kept trying to switch her to viola because she was “too big” for the violin. (Through fiddle music, this girl continued playing violin and later majored in music in college.)

How should people choose an instrument? How should school music teachers distribute instruments? Let us know your observations by adding a comment at the end of this article.

Someone told me once that the instrument chooses the player, rather than the other way around. However it happens, it’s hard to imagine a good choice being made without some hands-on exposure to the instruments. With this in mind, I’ve set up a summer day camp for kids to hear and try all the instruments. It’s called “Meet the Instruments.” [···]

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MTNA TorontoWe just got back from this year’s Music Teachers National Association Conference in Toronto, Canada. We had a great time talking with all the teachers there and showing them how Music Teacher’s Helper can help them manage the business-side of running a private studio. Teachers really lit up when we mentioned how they get their own website with it where students can login to check schedules, and that it could MTNA Booth Showingautomatically email their students reminders before each lesson and event, and lesson notes after each event. The idea of automatic invoicing and online credit card payments was also very popular, as well as the lending library, since teachers tend to lose so many books that way.

MTNA BoothWe really appreciate everyone who stopped by our booth to talk to us and check out our program. We handed out brochures like crazy so hopefully the word will continue to spread. We’ll be announcing the winner of the Free Portable DVD Player Giveaway shortly.

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