A Lovely Night

Due to a number of unexpected circumstances last year, I made the difficult decision not to host any kind of Christmas recital for my students (after 20 years of that annual tradition!). Instead, my husband suggested that we do something for Valentine’s Day. I decided to give his idea a try, and we had an awesome concert last Friday night that several of my students and their families commented they preferred over the traditional Christmas recital.

We distributed invitations to all of the neighbors in our court and received a great response! It is so valuable for students to have the opportunity to share their music with others in a welcoming environment. Here are a few shots from the evening:

I’m so grateful to have a Clavinova in my studio that I can easily move upstairs for these concerts. Once we rearrange all of our furniture and bring in folding chairs, we can accommodate an audience of around 25 people.

My ever-willing-to-help husband agreed to be our reader for the evening, and shared several selections that included a poem, a Shakespeare sonnet, and some Bible passages about the love of God.

In addition to our piano solo and duet selections, we also had a guitar and vocal performance from one of my sons, and my brother graciously joined me for a cello-piano duo arrangement of the theme from the classic love story, Beauty and the Beast. It’s always a hit to have a variety of instruments and/or guest artists in our studio events! For those who are curious, here’s a copy of our program from the concert:

We concluded the evening with some simple refreshments, hot drinks, and a great time of fellowship among our studio families and neighbors. It was a delightful experience, and we’re all looking forward to the next Concerts in the Court event. 🙂

An Interview with Murray Perahia

Some of my favorite CDs growing up were those of pianist Murray Perahia, so a recent interview with him in Listen magazine published by Steinway & Sons grabbed my attention.

It was so refreshing to read Perahia’s comments relating to contemporary music and his preference for tonality, in particular the ingenious work of J.S. Bach. His explorations into the harpsichord and subsequent decisions about the use of pedaling in Bach’s music are also fascinating! His interview prompted a search for his Goldberg Variations recording and it truly is exquisite:

In an approachable and humble manner, Perahia shares about his editing work, his views on symphonic music, teachers who have influenced him, and more. I especially appreciated his closing remarks on how having a decided “point of view…inform[s] a lot of my musical decisions.” Whether in music or life, it’s good to be reminded that there is value in having a “tonal center” to ground us even when popular opinion presumes that all that is new must be embraced with equal fervor. I’m grateful for artists like Murray Perahia who continue to value and preserve and share the timeless beauty of yesteryear.

New Free Piano and Music Worksheets Every Week!

If you haven’t checked out the Music Matters Blog store in a while, you may be pleased to know that there is now a Free Resources section and every week I’m working on adding new free music theory and piano worksheets to the collection. Many of these have been posted over the years, but have been lost in the archives and are difficult to find. I’m hoping that this will keep them better organized and easier to find (for me, too!).

Those of you who have been here for a while know that I don’t typically use theory books with my students, so it’s essential for me to be able to pull out just the right worksheet to help my students learn or reinforce a musical concept in a given week. All of these worksheets are PDFs, so they can be downloaded and printed for use with your students or downloaded and used on an iPad or other tablet. If you have any suggestions for other worksheets you’d like to have, feel free to send me an email and let me know!

Best Easy and Effective Note Identification App

Alyssa and I have been focusing a lot the last several months on her note identification speed. We’ve been doing a modified version of our NoteStars Challenge and she has made great progress, so when I came across this NoteRush app recently I immediately thought of Alyssa.

The app is simple and intuitive, so in no time at all we set it up with the same “levels” as NoteStars and gave it a try. She loved it! The app calibrates to middle C on your instrument and then listens as you play in response to the notes shown on the staff. If you get it correct a new note quickly appears. If you are incorrect, the note remains and you can opt in the settings to have it offer you a prompt. A student could easily manage NoteRush on their own in a technology lab setting, or it’s a quick, hassle-free game to reinforce and evaluate a student’s note identification skills in a couple of minutes at the beginning of a piano lesson.

Questions to Ask Students

At our local music teachers association meeting this morning we watched a webinar by Dr. Barbara Fast and Dr. Andrea McAlister on Overcoming the Brain’s Negativity Bias: Empowering Students Through Positive Engaging Language. From Dr. Fast’s segment, I especially appreciated the specific questions she suggested using during a piano lesson (some she gleaned from a masterclass with Leon Fleisher):

  • What did you focus on this week?
  • What did you practice the most?
  • Can you tell me how you succeeded in what you were trying to achieve?
  • To what extent did you achieve what you wanted?
  • What questions remain for you?
  • Any places that you wish were easier to play?

I love these open-ended questions and hope to employ some of them with my students this week!

Dr. McAlister shared many helpful definitions as she discussed the importance of language. These are the top three memorable points she made that I hope to keep in mind as I teach:

  • Listen with the intent to praise, not criticize.
  • View those sitting on our piano benches not just as students, but as musicians.
  • Encourage curiosity (“the desire to know”).

I’m so grateful for the inspiration and fellowship of our local association meetings and teachers. If you’re not part of such a group, I encourage you to check out the MTNA website and get plugged in with an association in your area!

Unlimited Repertoire All Year? Yes, Please!

After a quick glance in July, I mentioned Chris Owenby’s new Practice Habits Online Community. However, over the last week I’ve spent more time digging into all that is included in the membership and I’m even more excited about the prospect of utilizing this throughout the coming year! If you sign up for a Gold or Platinum Membership, you will have access to unlimited downloads of sheet music, scale exercises, lead sheets, practice guides, and more.

As you can see, right now there are 65 pieces of sheet music and technical exercises available, and Chris is constantly adding new material to the site. His goal is to inspire students to practice, and so far my students have loved playing his music!

Now, for the best part – from today through January 12, Chris is running a special New Year’s promo. Just use the discount code (natalie) at PracticeHabits.co to receive 30% off any level of membership!

WIN A $50 AMAZON GIFT CARD!

Actually, maybe this is the best part…:-)…if you decide to give the PracticeHabits.co community a try, Chris is running a special contest where whichever blogger refers the most new members receives an Amazon gift card for $100. So, if you leave a comment below letting me know that you signed up with my discount code and I win the contest, I’ll split the gift card! I’ll use a random number generator to select a winner from everyone who comments and then I will send the winner an Amazon gift card for $50. And we all know we can use $50 at Amazon, right?!


Please note: The links to the Practice Habits community are affiliate links that enable us to receive a small commission from purchases made through them. We are so grateful for the support of teachers and musicians who use our affiliate links to help offset the costs of running Music Matters Blog and providing free resources for music teachers!

Start the New Year by Sharing Your Resources and Making Money!

I know there are many music teachers who have websites or blogs and produce all kinds of cool resources for their students, but have never set up an online store to share those products with others. If that sounds like you, perhaps as a New Year’s goal you’d like to delve into the world of eCommerce!

Ecwid

I’ve used a number of website store solutions since starting Music Matters Blog in 2005, but by far my favorite has been Ecwid. It interfaces seamlessly with any website, is intuitive to use, and its versatility makes it easy to sell both physical and downloadable products. Plus, the support staff has been awesome and is always a quick chat box away.

If you end up setting up a store on your site, or already have one, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email with a link because I’d love to do a post after the first of the year with quick links to other teacher websites with resources that are available for the rest of us!

$10 Off Any Item or 50% Off in the Music Matters Blog Store!

As we finish out these final few weeks of 2017, I wanted to offer a small gift to all of you Music Matters Blog readers. It’s been a full year with lots of unexpected happenings in my life, so fewer posts have made it to the blog, but I am still so grateful for this incredibly supportive and creative online music education community. From now through the end of the year, you can get $10 off any item or 50% off any two or more items in the Music Matters Blog store. Feel free to check out these testimonials from other teachers to find out what some of their favorites are to use with students in their studios. Just use the following codes accordingly:

To receive $10 off any single item: Christmas2017

To receive 50% off any two or more items: 50Off

Merry Christmas from me to you!

Free Downloadable Rhythm Cards and Game Idea

One of my studio go-to’s for an easy, educational game for group classes is Team Rhythm Dictation.

The students are split into two teams and are given a set of individual rhythmic note cards to use. (Click here to download a free set of individual note cards to use in your studio.) The barlines are made from some scraps of black foam board.

I indicate what the time signature is and then play a two-measure rhythm pattern on the piano. The students are encouraged to tap and count along, then see if they can place the correct note cards to replicate the rhythm that I played. Typically, I will play the rhythm 3-4 times, but after several patterns, the students were catching on quickly and often getting the dictation after only one or two plays!

A Fun Simple Rhythm Game for Piano Lessons

In keeping with our rhythmic focus for this year’s practice incentive theme, Beat the Pirates!, I’m trying to come up with new ideas we can implement in the form of simple, fun activities incorporated into a few minutes at the beginning of each piano lesson. Our latest one proved to be a big hit!

(This is a variation on the “Tune Tappin'” game included in 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson)

  1. Ask the student to name her top 10 favorite Christmas songs and then list them on a dry erase board.
  2. Close the piano fallboard and place the board so we can both see it.
  3. Take turns selecting and tapping the rhythm of one of the listed songs and see if the other person can identify which song it is.
  4. And that’s it! Have fun with this super simple game to encourage good listening and work on rhythm skills!