music teachers

photo: crazyad0boy

No, I’m not talking about my ever expanding waistline, although that has widened out at an alarming rate these past years!

I’m talking about the type of lessons we offer as music teachers. How very easy it is to be stuck in a rut. The longer you’ve been teaching, the harder it can be to change. But society is changing at an alarming rate and so are the interests and needs of our students. Today’s music students are tomorrow’s musicians. What skills do they need? What will be the musical landscape of the future?

I think I was guilty of descending into a rut with my teaching. I’d found a formula and subconsciously, I was sticking with it. A couple of months ago though, I stumbled on the syllabus of another examination board that I hadn’t used before. What they were teaching was different, refreshingly so. Once the can of worms was opened, I started investigating other exam boards. What a pleasant discovery!

I realize that not every student wants to take an exam. I always mentioned exams only as an optional to my students. Using syllabuses or picking and mixing from several different syllabuses can bring much need structure and direction to lessons.

Have you tried to widen out?!? Can you try using another exam syllabus or music book series? Can you use more music technology in your lessons? Are there more genres you can offer? Would more ensemble or performing opportunities help prepare your students for a career in music? Could you offer training in using music software like Sibelius, Finale, NoteFlight, Logic, Garageband, Cubase or Protools? How about making opportunities for your more experienced students to teach younger students? Could some simple and cheap instruments like shakers, tambourines, glockenspiels etc add a little sparkle to the lessons?

Change has excited my students. Many are trying “tasters” and are really enjoying the new challenges they’ve opted for. It’s been really exciting for me too with lots of new materials and ideas that I am currently developing. A simple exercise was for me to type up a list of music courses that I now offer and put it on my studio wall. Students and parents have been able to see all the options available and inquire about what they would like to try.

So try it! Widen out on your music teaching journey. Try another route. Add some sparkle into your daily teaching routine!

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Other teachers said these things to me recently: “I’m just a small-town music teacher.” “It’s all been taught before.” “I don’t say anything new. It’s all been said before.” But not by you. You and your teaching are utterly unique.

Teachers with wonderfully creative ideas write online. Some of them compose songs we purchase for our students. Others create teaching strategies and games. Those aren’t your gifts? Don’t let that discourage you!

You leave a fingerprint on each student’s life…

Think about this. You leave a fingerprint on each student’s life. Utterly unique. Yes, many others have taught the same pieces. They’ve used the same materials. The same words will have been said. But not by you.

I recall the impact of various musicians on my own life. My mother left me a legacy to love music; to make music; to live and laugh music. My first private music teacher impressed me with her pretty voice. But I also picked up her touch on the piano, which I see passed on to my own students. A musician I met only once spoke two sentences that shaped my musical destiny. Other teachers plucked weeds, watered, fed and shone on me as I grew. A professor provided my first playing gig. Each of them impacted my life: utterly unique. Even a negative experience with a teacher helped shape me into a better person.

I’ve had students who no way in this world were going to sing or compose their own songs. But I nudged them. Now they’re making money at it.

Each student comes to you at a particular time of vulnerability. No one else will see him or her exactly the way you do. No one else will relate the way you do. The encouragement you speak at this time can change the course of a life. A word dropped by you might nourish words spoken by others. Your influence might inspire a student to drop a harmful thought pattern. You might provide an oasis. What if you’re the only one who really listens? You are undoubtedly providing a mode of expression that can last a lifetime.

So be encouraged, music teacher. Leave your utterly unique fingerprint on that life.

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Summer lessons…

Do you lose students (and income) over the summer? Are you tired of the same old same old? Would you like to infuse new life into your summer lessons? Would you like to keep your income and promote your studio?

Here are 15 options to consider:

  • Break it up into three-month-long “semesters” and let families choose one, two or three months of summer lessons.
  • Teach piano students to play by chord symbol.
  • Zero in on a specific genre (folk, country, pop, blues, classical…)
  • Immerse the studio in theory. Use games.
  • Teach students a new instrument (guitar and vocal students could learn some piano, while piano students could learn to match pitches vocally, or learn some guitar chords/teach them all to play recorder…).
  • Use a video series, such as Mark Almond’s Piano for Life. or see Reuben Vincent‘s article in Music Teachers Helper blog.
  • Use an online series such as podcasts from James Dering.
  • Show them how to create their own arrangements.
  • Teach composition. Have them put a favorite poem to music.
  • Choose a theme and songs to go with it (oceans, animals, bugs, space, summer fun…).
  • Have a duet summer, and pair up students for lessons. Or just bring them together near the end.
  • Have an ensemble summer and teach them their own parts alone, then bring them together for a few weeks before they perform as a group. Add other instruments.
  • Teach every student one or more songs on several instruments (piano, guitar, recorder, voice,percussion,  bass…).
  • Many churches look for special music in the summer–teach them appropriate songs. Take on an older student as an apprentice—let them teach with your supervision.
  • Put on one-week camps, emphasizing rhythm, technique, note-reading… Ideas from,

More camp ideas from Sara’

How do you change it up after the school year ends?

Have a stupendous time teaching summer lessons!

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