Robin Steinweg

 

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.

1126220728

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.

Read More
Student blooms musically

Student blooms musically

Best compliment I ever received (from a fellow musician) following a student recital:

“Your students made music—they didn’t just play notes, they played musically.”

I tucked it away in my heart, and I pull it out every so often. This is my highest goal for students. I have lots of goals for them, but none compare. I want students of piano to have a fine, rounded hand shape and non-collapsing knuckles—but it would be pointless if the music didn’t come from inside them at some point. I want them to practice till they are note-perfect—but I’d rather hear a few klinkers in a piece played with the whole heart than a flawless robot-like rendition.

But how do we get them from playing or singing halting, stilted notes—or even perfect notes—to making musical magic? Can it be taught, or only caught? Or must it simply grow to maturity?

Guitar PlanterMy present thought is that I can teach all the components that go into a beautifully musical performance, but something has to happen deep inside the student. It’s like a seed. I must amend its soil, cultivate it, fertilize it, remove weeds, water it, warm it, show it the sun… but I cannot force it to grow and bloom. The things I provide all go in, but what comes out is beyond my control.                                                                 

Before music happens, students must hear the real deal. Heart-felt performances by other musicians (try youtube, or better yet, encourage your students to attend concerts—oh, and don’t forget to demonstrate it yourself!). They must hear about the real deal, too. Awareness helps. I tell about and show them the details that go into it. If there are lyrics, we talk about how we’d say or sing them. The high points and low points, any surprises. We talk about how music makes us feel, and why. I tell them they have the capacity to move their audience, to entertain them. Or maybe they are their own audience—can they play so movingly that it affects their own emotions? Do they throw themselves into it?

I love it when the student reaches the point where I can say, “Excellent. You have the notes down perfectly. Now let’s make music!”

What do you think? Can making music be taught, caught, or must it be grown? How do you get your students to blossom–to do more than simply play notes on a page?

Read More