Day 283 / 365 - SkillsI remember it as though it were yesterday. The song was called “Moonlight and Roses.” I hated that piece. I still do!

With tears streaming down my face, try as I might, I was getting nowhere. My mum patiently sat with me, trying to coax me to work through my frustration but to no avail.

Things just went from bad to worse. As my progress on the song deteriorated, frustration turned to anger. “I HATE this song!” “I HATE my music teacher!” “I want to QUIT my music lessons!” “I GIVE UP!” I screamed, red in the face, anger exploding from every fibre of my 8-year-old body.

What happened next was my mum’s worst and finest hour of parenting! In hindsight, she should have  [···]

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As the season of gift-giving and holiday performances approaches, in my teaching experience this means: preparing and perfecting holiday music (myself and with my students), printing recital programs, finding that sherbet punch recipe, wondering if “Susy” is actually going to get “Jingle Bells” performance-ready in time for the recital, deciding what I should give my students as a gift and….the list goes on.

What’ the purpose behind of all this holiday recital frenzy? Oh yes, sharing the gift of MUSIC! It’s amazing how the clutter of  the holiday season hides the true reason of why my doors are open for pianists from 6am to 6pm Monday through Friday, why parents submit monthly tuition payments, sometimes equivalent to a car payment if they have multiple children enrolled, why I schedule performance opps and, why I write this blog: MUSIC!

Earlier this summer I was fortunate to attend SMU Piano Institute for Teachers in Dallas. While shopping at the Pender’s Music Co. exhibit, a book caught my eye: What Music Means to Me. The picture book includes large pages with colorful images that capture the essence of various gifted musicians. Alongside each photo is a personal, touching essay about the profound impact of music on their lives.


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How do you get your student to be self motivated and to enjoy practicing their song? Harder still, how do you encourage them to play their pieces with musical feeling, especially if the student is a young child, a distracted teenager or a busy adult? I have learnt that they need to make an emotional connection with their piece. But how do you make possible the sometimes seemingly impossible? Easy! Let me share some of my tried and tested methods for accessing the ‘Story Behind the Song.’

1 Personal responsibility

Wherever possible, I let the student choose their next piece! Sometimes, if I have a certain technique in mind that needs developing, I will offer them a choice between two or three songs that I know will help them in that endeavour. Importantly, this will also make them feel in charge by choosing the final piece. Because THEY are deciding, they are more likely to succeed because they have taken personal responsibility for some of their learning decisions.

2 Inspiration

I like to give them a personal performance of their chosen piece to show them simply what a great composition they have chosen and how much FUN their piece is for ME. I ask them to sit in my chair where I can maintain good eye contact with  [···]

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