Since this was our last week of lessons (next week we have our Year-End Evaluations) I let each of the students choose what they wanted to do for the lesson. Several (not surprisingly!) chose games. They love to skim the 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson book for ideas!
One of my students chose an older version of Music Bingo that has collected dust in my studio closet, and it ended up being a fun and effective way to review music terms and symbols! We each managed three cards and then took turns drawing a card with a music term or symbol, then telling the other one what it was and what it meant.
And one of my students, inspired by Jon Schmidt’s crazy, comical performance of “Dumb Song” donned his own wig for this recording:
Several students (notably, the ones who started out in the amazing Piano Safari method!) wanted to play the Mystery Song Game and can play nearly every piece in their books by memory! Another student and I also pulled out a Pattern Play book and created some cool improvisations. We all had such a fun time that it almost made me want to let the students choose what they want to do at every lesson. Almost. 😉
It’s hard to believe that Musical U is already celebrating 2 years! What Christopher Sutton began as EasyEarTraining.com in 2009 is now an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to improve their knowledge and skills as a musician. To celebrate their 2-year anniversary as Musical U, they are giving away several free memberships to aspiring musicians. This would be a great resource for older students who want to go beyond the scope of what a traditional piano lesson will cover, friends, or parents of kids in your studio who have always dreamed of becoming better musicians.
The ear training section of the website still has a plethora of information and resources for those who want to develop a better ear and more musical playing.
One of my favorite things to do is brainstorm creative and effective ways to streamline processes and organizational ideas for both myself and my students. That’s one of the reasons that I develop a practice incentive theme for my studio each year. It provides a ways for students to set goals, manage their progress, and achieve success. Plus, it helps me remain organized from lesson-to-lesson and stay on track with each student’s goals. I also love using Music Teacher’s Helper to manage my studio bookkeeping in an organized and professional manner. However, one area I have consistently struggled with is keeping track of my students’ repertoire in a systematic and organized way. I’ve tried a variety of different approaches, both pen-and-paper style and digitally, but nothing has ever clicked for me in a way that I was able to maintain consistently. Until last month.
Amy Chaplin’s inspirational series on using Evernote for studio organization prompted me to re-download the free software and give it another try. I first tried it several years ago, but wasn’t able to stick with it. Even after downloading it this time, it sat on the “back burner” because I couldn’t figure out quite how to use it in a way that worked for me. But it all started to come together when I was adding a book to my Goodreads reading list and writing a brief review of it last month. As I did so, I wished that there was a repertoire database like Goodreads that would allow me to search for a particular book, add it to my list, create and tag certain categories to place it in, and write my comments about it. I don’t know of any such repertoire database in existence (if you know of one, please let me know!), but as I lay in bed that night I began to wonder if I could use Evernote in a similar manner to at least organize repertoire for my studio and students…
By the time the next morning came around, I was ready to open Evernote and get to work! Amy’s series helped me understand how to use the tagging system effectively, so I started creating a folder-type system using tags. I am SO excited about this system and think it will finally be something I can maintain consistently! Here’s a screen shot of how I ended up structuring it:
Here’s the step-by-step run-down, just in case anyone else wants to give this approach a try!
- Create a tag named, “Repertoire.”
- Create what will become the next layer of tags: By Era, By Key, By Level, By Meter. Then I also added a few other tags that were included in this second tier: Duet, Rote Pieces, Sacred Arrangements, and Student Favorites.
- Create the next layer of tags that will be nested inside the previous ones. In the By Era one I created tags for: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, 20th Century, and Contemporary. In By Key, I created one for each major and minor key, plus a tag titled, “Modal.” In By Level, tags included: Beginner, Elementary, Early Intermediate, Intermediate, Late Intermediate, and Advanced. By Meter has: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8 so far. (It’s tempting to try to think of every possible tag that I might want to use for a piece, but I decided to stick to these four main criteria so that it wouldn’t get overwhelming trying to keep up with every detail for every piece!)
- Within each era, I started creating a tag for each composer, titled by last name, then first name so that they appear in alphabetical order by last name.
Next, I created a tag and labeled it, “Events.” In this one, I didn’t nest any secondary tags, but instead I will create a note for each event in which I have students participating. The event is labeled by year, month, and then event title. For example: 2017.04 Music Progressions. This way they are arranged chronologically. In the note, I list each student and the pieces they are performing for the event, plus any other relevant information.
Finally, I used Joy Morin’s suggestion of creating tags for “Students-Active” and “Students-Inactive.” Then within the active students, I have a tag for each current student. Nested in that, I have three tags so far. Each one begins with the student’s name and then has either “Performances,” “Rep Ideas,” or “Rep Learned.”
This is where the tagging system is ingenious! Here’s the process for adding repertoire and assigning it to categories:
- Create a new note with the title of a piece of repertoire.
- Tag it with: which era it is, who the composer is, what level it is, what key it’s in, what meter it’s in, and then if I want to assign it to any particular student as a piece of repertoire that they’ve learned or as a repertoire idea for a piece I want them to learn. Now it is handily placed in all of those categories and is visible when I click that category. And to add notes, links, or any additional info, all I have to do is change the note once and it’s reflected across the board. So cool! Throughout the years I can keep adding tags to assign it to other students as well.
The other thing I do is click back on the event I created and tag it with the “performances” tag for every student who participated in that event. This way I can make any changes I need to to one event note, but then have it automatically updated for every student who participated in the event.
Now that I have a workable system in place that I love and that makes sense to me, I am so thrilled to be able to use it consistently for lesson planning, archiving events, tracking student participation, filing repertoire ideas and notes, and keeping a record of repertoire that every student has learned. I’m sure I’ll keep tweaking this in the days ahead, but for now I am excited to have one landing place for all things event and repertoire-related!
Chris Owenby, of PracticeHabits.co, has not only written a wonderful review of our Mini Music Manual, but has also made a special offer that anyone who purchases one by the end of today, April 22, will receive a free piece of sheet music from his shop! Wow, what a kind and generous offer!
The Mini Music Manual has been a great way for my students to take ownership of their learning, memorize new musical terms, keep track of scale fingerings, and take notes on anything else of interest to them.
Summer is just around the corner and with it the opportunity to switch gears and host some fun alternatives to traditional lessons. One of my favorite summer activities over the years has been putting on piano camps. We typically do a one-week camp, with students meeting every day of the week for several hours. By far, our most-loved piano camp is Carnival of the Animals.
Jennifer Foxx, of the inspiring website Music Educator Resources, has just posted a review of Carnival of the Animals, so if you’re interested in getting more of the inside scoop from another teacher, just head on over to her blog to check it out. (She’s also got a coupon code for $10 if you’d like to purchase the piano camp package and use it in your studio!)
Here’s a snapshot of my students at the end of our week of the Carnival of the Animals piano camp, displaying their completed art projects and the fun student workbook they used throughout the week!
Piano teachers are notorious for keeping busy, and Jerald Simon is perhaps at the top of the list! As a Utah piano teacher and prolific composer, he keeps busy creating and providing all sorts of music and resources for the piano teaching community. I was thrilled to see that he has compiled many of these onto a page of FREE Piano Resources on his website. This is a page I’ll be back to often as I search for just the right resource for each of my students!
#3 – Marie
#7 – Hannah
Congrats! Each of you will receive a sheet music piece of your choice by composer Chris Owenby. I know you and your students will enjoy it!
When I’m selecting new music for my students the first criteria that it must pass is that I like the piece. I know, that’s probably a bit self-serving of me as a teacher, but I figure if I’m not excited about the music, then I’ll have a hard time encouraging the student to be excited and to work hard to learn it. So it’s really for their own benefit. Right? 🙂 I also know that I really like a piece if I get to the end of playing it and find myself wanting to play it again. Just for fun. That’s the kind of music I want my students to learn.
New composer, Chris Owenby, scores on both of those points. After playing through “That Fall Feeling,” I had to play it again. And again. When I played it for a couple of my students and asked them what they thought, they remarked, “It’s pretty!”
Now, for the best part…Chris has offered to giveaway two of his compositions to two Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. Two winners will be drawn using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Friday, April 7, 2017.
Or this post could be titled, “Reason #47 Why I Love Piano Safari!” 🙂
When Alyssa first began piano lessons last fall we tried some simple improvisation activities, but she was reluctant to play anything without knowing that it was the “right” notes. As we’ve worked through my all-time favorite piano method – Piano Safari – she’s gradually gained confidence and creative freedom. After a couple weeks of hashing out some ideas and discussing possibilities at her lesson, she came back with this fabulous original composition, Thunderstorm Over the Prairie.
The way this is presented in the method was perfect for her! She got to draw a picture to represent each part of the thunderstorm, then come up with musical ideas to reflect each element. She told me after she played this at her lesson that having the pictures was so helpful for enabling her to memorize her composition and keep track of where she was. As you can hear, she also enjoyed incorporating a familiar folk tune into her piece. I just love watching my students flourish as musicians who are comfortable all over the keyboard, whether playing written music, pieces by rote, or original compositions!