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AN ONGOING CONCERN for many independent music teachers is the change of commitment level of students during the summer months. While some teachers enjoy the usually lightened studio schedule during the summer months, most of us depend on our teaching as our livelihood and have bills that do not go away during this time. I would love to hear your ideas, especially those of you that have been successful at insuring yourselves regular employment year long!

ESTABLISHING A SUMMER REQUIREMENT (a minimum number of lessons, with the option of replacing some private lessons with one of the various summer workshops), has been most helpful for me in keeping things going in my studio.  Though I  cannot really make anyone take classes, the ones that do are assured their slot, or first choice of times in my schedule when the school year comes back around.  My students and parents seem to really enjoy the flexibility with having a couple of options for summer lessons and a variety of supplemental classes.   [···]

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(Improvisation Journals, Preparing the Soil & Planting Seeds)

“How do I get really good at improvisation?” a student will ask me from time to time.

Most successful artists practice their craft daily. Think about any artist you may know. If you go into their studios, you will likely find evidence of the artistic process in many different stages of  creativity. With a creator of fine paintings, you might find a pile of rough sketches, pencil drawings and canvases with texture and shading patches; four or five versions of a still life of flowers and fruit, varying in color value, styles and techniques; and a landscape in water color sitting on an easel ready for finishing touches. The studio walls are decorated with finished works done by the artist, as well as pieces created by his contemporaries and influences which provide an inspiring work setting.

Journals are used by writers to keep the creative juices flowing, and to record their ideas.

Next spring, my students will be encouraged in their daily musical creativity with new improvisation journals! These journals will be specially created by the students themselves. There will be lots of space for jotting down melodic ideas, lyrics, doodles and drawings. Every other page will be manuscript paper, my intentions being that a great deal of the journaling will be done in a musical language (i.e. traditional notation, chord progressions, lead line, short hand notation, etc.).

We will have a journal making day in early spring when the students will put their books together and personalize their covers with pictures, pretty scrap booking paper, and collage. Manuscript paper can be downloaded from the internet and printed out from your computer. You might have access to a binding machine, or take the journals to an office supply store and have them spiral bound. You may also choose to use a simple audio software program (here is a free one you can download: audacity.sourceforge.net/) to do regular recordings of the students’ ideas. CD pouches are available also at an office supply store, and can be adhered to the inside covers of the journals.

Our journals will be divided into four sections, labeled “Planting Seeds“, “Budding Ideas“, ” Blossoms“,  and “Bouquets” to set apart the various stages of the creative process involved in improvisation and composition.   [···]

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After last month’s article, are you still looking for:

  • A few ideas for a fresh new way to start off a lesson?
  • A few quick improv games to use in a group setting?
  • A reward activity for a student’s hard work on an assignment?
  • Starter ideas for the next composition:

In each part of this series, we are exploring a different angle in the music creativity process. So, today we are going to explore improvisation with an activity I call…

“Walking the Dog!”

Excuse Me? You may be wondering what exercising your pet has to do with improvisation techniques? I have found this to be one of the best and ways to help my students to understand and practice development of motifs and phrases. Most people can relate to having a new pet with fond recollection, and so you’ll immediately have their eager attention to try this exercise when you greet them with “Today we’re walking the dog!”

The Motif: A Mini Melody

I first ask the student to play a mini, or baby melody, 3 or 4 notes (recommend mostly steps and maybe one larger interval).  [···]

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