music teaching tips

music teaching tips

Welcome to our member spotlight series. Today we have Angie & Marcus. The questions are answered by Angie, but the husband and wife duo teach music lessons together in Boise, Idaho.

How long you’ve been teaching?

15 years

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The Virtual Music Education Conference produced by Janice and Kevin Tuck packs four days with online presentations by experts in the field of music education. Even though it’s been around for years, my very first time to attend the online conference was this year. To be honest, I attended because I was invited as a presenter for the conference. I discovered that it was not only an honor to be included in the schedule as a speaker but also an honor to have access to the highly esteemed conference and learn from so many leaders in our field. There’s still time to access the conference. Learn more here.

I was glued to my seat listening to the first day’s presenters. In fact, I already purchased a couple of books while listening to the first two sessions! One of the books that I’ll be rereading soon is Todd Whitaker’s entitled, What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most. As I listened to Whitaker speak and then while reading his book, I kept thinking that I should have absorbed his advice years ago. It would have helped me to deal more professionally and effectively with troublesome student behavior and needy parents!

As I know you’ll want to purchase his book yourself I won’t “ruin” it by providing those 17 things here in this post. Instead, I’ve made some tweaks that show how I applied Whitaker’s advice for me as an independent piano studio teacher. For those you don’t teach piano, please make minor adjustments!

Begin each of the following sentences with: Great piano teachers…

1) Know that it may be the teacher that needs to improve before the student can improve at the keys.

Ex: Before you believe the student is the problem, check to see if you might be the problem and make steps to find a solution.

2) Understand that the method book and exams are not the keys to measuring success on the bench.

Ex: If a student wants to play “Fur Elise” great teachers will adapt their curriculum and realize that even though this may be the 100th student in their studio playing “Fur Elise”, it’s the student’s very first time to experience and enjoy “Fur Elise.” [···]

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well played... and next a bow!

well played… and next a bow!

Life-after-music for teachers might be full of family, work, caregiving, education, etc. For stressful times I recommend a bare-to-the-bones group (master) class rather than anything prep-intensive. I couldn’t have been more pleased with my latest. I use these classes partly to prepare students for a recital, partly to take advantage of teaching in a different setting, and partly to allow them to spend time with others in private instruction (let them know they’re not alone J).

Ahead of Time:

I searched for possible games and found or invented four.

Printed out or gathered materials for games.

Purchased ingredients for snacks and put them together (cookie frosted snowmen and crackers & cream cheese snowmen).

Wrote a list of my goals for the class.

Entered the group/master class into the MTH calendar.

Tasty snowmen

Tasty snowmen

What I Brought:

Four games contained in Ziplock bags (we had time for only two of them, but it’s best to be prepared).

Snack bags for each student (again, I made four extra just in case).

What We Did:

1. Brief discussion of recital etiquette.

I asked for an example of bad etiquette, and my cell phone rang.

Unplanned. Sure, it was funny. But as it turns out, my mother had fallen and

broken a vertebra. My husband was calling from ER.  A neighbor had shown up

as my students were arriving, to tell me about her fall. That’s when I turned on

the phone. It turned out to be a great teaching moment—when is it acceptable to

have a cell phone on?

2. How to bow.

A couple of students demonstrated a simple bow. Then we had a few examples of outrageously bad bows.

3. Mini-recital.

Each student played a piece for the others, and they made positive, specific comments about each performance. One student faltered pretty badly, and someone highlighted what a great bow he’d done!

**Did you notice that up to this time there were no props? Only the piano, which was already in the room.

Around the Clock in 4/4 Time

Around the Clock in 4/4 Time

4. Two group games.

One game to practice reading rhythms, the other to practice naming keys (Most

of those who came were young beginners). They had a blast!

Say 'em, then play 'em

Say ’em, then play ’em

How it Ended:

I handed out the snack bags. The students not only thanked me for them and for the class, but most told me they’d pray for my mom. How sweet.

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How Long the Class Took:

1 hour, 5 minutes.

 

Afterward:

This is when I became really grateful for the simplicity of the event…

I put game materials back in baggies, grabbed my purse and coat.

Closed the piano lid, turned off the piano light.

Turned down the thermostat.

Turned off lights and locked up.

Drove to the hospital.

Ten minutes!

Follow-up:

Mom had an MRI. We’ll see the surgeon later, so all I can report now is that we are thankful for the care she’s receiving at the hospital.

I’m grateful that I didn’t serve snacks and beverages in the fellowship hall afterward. No vacuuming, no washing floor, dishes and tables, no dozen trips back and forth to load up the car.

Keep It Simple, Sweetie! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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