Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Why You Should Attend Music Conferences

modern font header 12I just got home from the 2013 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. This is the second music conference I have attended this year; I also attended the MTNA Music Teachers National Conference in Anaheim held in March at Disneyland, CA. Last year I attended the MTNA Music Teachers National Conference in New York and the MTAC Music Teachers Association of California Convention in San Diego. If you have attended these or similar large-scale conferences, you do not need to read further – I hope to meet you someday! If on the other hand, you have not experienced conferences of this nature, I would like to share with you what it is that keeps me coming back:

 1. The sessions

I am sure I do not need to convince anyone the importance of continuing education and development for ourselves as teachers. Attending conferences is such a great way to be educated, re-educated, inspired, and challenged. It is easy to be accustomed to our own way of doing things and our favorite teaching materials, but it is so important to hear other points of view and review our own philosophies and methods of teaching. There were so many inspirational speakers at this year’s NCKP – all the PED talks, Alan Walker on Liszt, and in particular Pete Jutras on the future of piano pedagogy. One of my post-conference resolutions is a commitment to include more improvisation in my lessons. The focus of my studio has been mostly Classical, but I am proud to say I am 100% convinced of the relevance of improvisation for students of the 21st century. This does not mean I value the Classical tradition any less, but it is about giving students options and providing a different path for some students. Thanks to Dr Richard Grayson, an amazing speaker and performer, this will be easy to implement from his Improvisation Handbook – click here for free download!

2. The famous

Being in the presence of great minds is uplifting. Where else can you find so many famous teachers and performers under one roof? Their wisdom and artistry are like cocaine for the soul – it is addicting! I feel fortunate to be able to once again experience the magic of a Peter Mack masterclass and the respect and love surrounding Marvin Blickenstaff, who was honored at a special banquet for his twelve years of service as President of the Frances Clark Center. Then, on the top of my list of this year’s conference highlights is without a doubt the Sean Chen noontime recital. What a superstar of Classical Piano he is! Fresh from the Van Cliburn competition where he won Third Prize, he touched every single soul with his unbelievable Bach French Suite in G major, Ravel Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, and his own arrangement of the Ravel La Valse. As a fellow teacher in the audience said to me: “I will remember this concert for a very, very long time.”

3. The music

Two other highlights of this year’s NCKP for me were the lecture/performance on History of the Piano by Ratko Delorko and the lecture/performance on rare Nocturnes by Michael Landrum. Mr Delorko gave the most informative and interesting lecture on the development of the piano from its inception to the present day – we heard him perform on 22 authentic period instruments via pre-recorded video segments, as well as live on the modern grand piano. Dr Landrum’s research on rare Nocturnes also left a big impression on me. His demeanor was so genuine and sincere, and his playing so exquisite and unpretentious. I feel very happy to have acquired his CD when I saw him again by chance at the end of the conference. If anyone is interested, it is available on Amazon.

 4. The vacation

For me, coming to a music conference is also like taking a vacation – time to get away temporarily from my studio and family life. This little break from my daily routine allows me to recharge. I always go home feeling refreshed, I have more enthusiasm, and I am ever more appreciative of my students and my chosen career.

 photo-205. The freebies

I must also mention that another exciting thing about coming to music conferences is the freebies you get from attending publisher showcases! Not only do you get to learn about the latest teaching materials out there, you get to take home many of the featured books, either free of charge or at heavily discounted prices. I also make the most of the exhibit booths by placing large enough orders so I get free shipping. This means I get most of my studio shopping done before the new school year starts – method books, repertoire books, teaching aids. This saves me a lot of time and money later on.

 6. The network

Through attending the sessions on Technology, I heard about the Professional Piano Teachers on Facebook, founded by Kathleen Theisen. This is a great group of piano teachers all supporting one another. Many people have also shared their NCKP experiences on the page. You can ask questions and get help and support from fellow teachers. I am new to this group, and already I am learning a ton from just reading past threads and comments.


Do you also regularly attend music conferences? What were your favorite sessions at this year’s NCKP? If you missed it, you can read detailed accounts on many of the sessions on Joy Morin’s blog Color in My Piano. It was impossible to attend every session as many of them happened simultaneously, and I am grateful that Joy has taken the time to write about the sessions she attended. The NCKP is held every two years, so the next conference is in 2015. Perhaps I will see you there?


About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]


  1. Arlo

    Thanks for sharing. There are a lot of conferences out there, knowing which ones to go to and which ones to avoid is key…nothing worse than spending a lot of money and time and feeling like you didn’t learn anything!

  2. Yiyi

    Hi Arlo – you are right about maximizing your conference budget. If you are a piano teacher, you can not go wrong with NCKP; even MTNA is also geared mostly towards piano teachers. I believe other instruments also have their own conventions. Most conferences post a detailed schedule and summary of featured presenters/performers on the website, so you can see if the sessions are worthwhile or not before registering.

  3. Nathan Sw.

    I particularly like reason number 4. The vacation. The life of a musician can be very busy and demanding sometimes. So its good to take a break while getting reeducated. What website would have a list of numerous conferences? As of right now, I only hear about these things by word of mouth.

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