Hot Off the Press!

Thinking As You Play - Teaching Piano in Individual and Group Lessons

This brand new book on pedagogy has just arrived at the publisher’s warehouse and is available for purchase. I found a great price for “Thinking As You Play – Teaching Piano in Individual And Group Lessons” at Amazon. This book was written by Dr. Sylvia Coats, Professor of Piano Pedagogy at Wichita State University and a wonderful teacher and mentor to me over the past 5 years. I can attest to the practicality and usefulness of her many ideas. My own playing and teaching has been significantly impacted as a result of Dr. Coats’ willingness to invest in me.

Anyone who reads this book is sure to find new ideas and concepts to enhance their teaching and lots of inspiration to strive for excellence in every aspect of their teaching.

From the Top

As I was tracking down links for my MTNA 2006 National Conference post, I came across the website for the radio program From the Top. It is very professionally-designed and is chock-full of content! Here’s a brief overview from the How to Use the Site page.

Fromthetop.org is one of the most novel and flexible music-education tools available. By familiarizing yourself with the ways to use the material on this site, you will be able to weave selected content into an interlocking educational narrative, offering your students a unique, engaging learning opportunity. Fromthetop.org provides multiple ways for students to learn about music and young musicians:

1. LISTEN
Listen to all archived From the Top radio shows or specific repertoire.

2. EXPLORE
Search for specific performers, instruments and pieces of music.

3. DISCUSS
Ask questions and interact with others on community discussion boards.

4. DOWNLOAD
Find ready-made From the Top activity pages and lesson plans.

5. EXTEND
Read supplemental articles, fun factoids and special features.

MTNA 2006 National Conference

Here is some information I received from MTNA about the 2006 conference that will be held March 25-29 in Austin, Texas. I attended the conference in 2004 when it was held in Kansas City. It is a wonderful event for any music teacher! There are numerous sessions to attend, opportunities to meet other teachers from around the country, listen to amazing performances and browse the extensive Exhibitor’s Hall. I came home with a bunch of free music and other goodies from the conference! Plan now to attend this year’s conference!

The 2006 MTNA National Conference is just around the corner. Did you know that it will be the largest gathering of independent and collegiate music teachers in the country? This year’s conference will feature all the things you’ve come to expect from an MTNA conference, in addition to much more.

You won’t want to miss any of the conference events. With more than 100 educational sessions and industry showcases, there is something for everyone. Legendary pianist Van Cliburn will officially kick off the conference with his keynote address at the Saturday evening Opening Session. The popular Group Teaching and Technology Tracks will be offered again this year along with the new Just Duet sessions. Just Duet, offered four times during the conference, will give attendees an opportunity to sight read popular duet literature from favorite composers. In addition, the Texas MTA Student Ensembles will perform duet concerts twice during the conference. Also Van Cliburn amateur winner Michael Hawley will give a performance, in addition to a collaborative concert by the Amadeus Trio. Saturday through Tuesday of the conference will feature the finals of the MTNA Student Performance Competitions and the Winners Concerts.

The evenings will be just as exciting as days with special events such as the Monday night FOUNDATION FUND Gala, where the MTNA FOUNDATION Fellows will be recognized. Stanislav Ioudenitch, Van Cliburn Competition gold medalist, will play a recital on Sunday evening and From the Top, one of the nations most popular public radio shows, will be recorded on Tuesday evening in conjunction with the conference.

Arrive early to the conference to take advantage of three pre-conference sessions-Pedagogy Saturday, Professional Studio Saturday and Collegiate Expo. Pedagogy Saturday, headlined by Robert Duke of The University of Texas at Austin, will focus on the art of teaching, while Professional Studio Saturday, with invited keynote speaker James Jordan of Westminster Choir College, will encourage music teachers to take a closer look about the time they spend in various areas of the teaching profession. Collegiate members are encouraged to attend the first ever Collegiate Expo. This new, day-long session, will offer students an opportunity to network with colleagues and speak with experts about starting an independent studio, obtaining professional certification, completing auditions, submitting compositions and preparing portfolios and résumés.

Your schedule won’t be complete without spending some time in the exhibit hall. This year’s hall will offer a variety of print music, music technology, instruments and more.

To find out more about the conference or to register, visit the MTNA conference website. Remember the early registration deadline is February 16, 2006.

Private Lesson No-No’s

Here are a few excerpts from this site where students communicate their thoughts about teachers and lessons:

What this student wants from a teacher:
“…be organized, consistent, give specific feedback that a student can work on, be prepared in the sense that if you are about to assign a new piece you are familiar with the technical challenges and have a plan of action ahead of time that the student can work on.”

A complaint this student has about some teachers:
“Teachers who never actually mention a lot of the students’ mistakes. For example, intonation…gone to the wind. In scales, my old teacher would really grill me on my notes, but my current one? Heh. I might as well have been playing open strings for all that he notices. Which I suppose leads to another point, teachers who don’t care. I could not practice at all, and he won’t speak a word-not that I don’t practice. I can bomb an audition, screw up a piece, and all I get is silence. Teachers who seem to think that everything is A-Okay not only annoy me, but I’m beginning to believe that he hates me.”

Another complaint about some teachers:
“…teachers that push students way too fast. It’s useless to move on at such blinding speeds that essential skills become only half-developed and barely mastered.”

These are all things that I recognize, at least sub-consciously, but it’s hard to not fall into such traps in teaching. I’m still looking for that perfect balance of being encouraging and fun while maintaining high standards and expecting each student to strive to reach their full potential.

Piano Teachers Policy Site and Great Idea Exchange

If you’ve never visited it before, I highly recommend checking out the Piano Teachers Policy Site and Great Idea Exchange. It is a collection of studio policies and ideas from music teachers all over the world. The exchange that led to the creation of this site was an invaluable resource to me when I was writing my studio policy. (In fact, my policy is listed somewhere on the site, but I can’t remember which letter it is!) My current studio policy can be viewed on my studio web site.

Implementing a studio policy is one of the best things a teacher can do. Here are a number of benefits that I’ve found from having one:

1. It forces me to think seriously about my teaching practices – why I’m teaching and what my goals are for my students.

2. It provides a way for potential students to determine before arranging an interview whether my philosophy and policies will be a good fit for them. (I send all lesson inquiries to my website to review my policies with instructions to e-mail or call me after reading over them if they want to arrange an interview. I have been very pleased when, on several occasions, I have received a call from the parent expressing that after reviewing my policy, they decided either to not take lessons at all or to pursue another teacher. This is exactly why I do this – so that we can avoid potential conflicts that might otherwise arise after lessons have begun.)

3. It allows me to clearly communicate with all of my students what my expectations are and what their responsibilities are.

4. It assists me in making difficult decisions. When questioned, I can state my position matter-of-factly according to what is written in my policy. I have become much better at kindly, but firmly, stating, “No, it’s my policy to charge a flat monthly rate regardless of the number of lessons that month.” Or something along those lines, depending on the situation.

As long as you teach, your policy will need periodic tweaking. Don’t be afraid to try something new and then adapt as necessary according to what works best in your studio.

Free Sheet Music

After clicking on a link provided by another teacher to free sheet music for Happy Birthday, I spent a few minutes on this site.

There are a number of sites offering free sheet music, but this is the first time I’ve come across this one. The list of how many instruments they offer music for is quite etensive: guitar, piano, bass guitar, flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, trumpet, violin, cello, ukulele and recorder. Within each instrument category are numerous other categories, including folk tunes, hymns, classical pieces, Christmas music and more.

This looks to be a good resource for basic familiar melodies already arranged for different instruments.

A New Year!

What a whirlwind life has been since the middle of last month! I know you all can relate! As you’ve no doubt observed, I took off a number of weeks from this blog due to the many other responsibilities that required my attention.

Now that the new year has begun, I hope to post more regularly with helpful information and resources for independent music teachers.

I had the privilege of attending a Music Conference at The WILDS in North Carolina last week. I highly recommend it for any church musician. The registration fee for the entire conference, including lodging and meals, was only $130 and throughout the course of the week I received at least that much in free music from many of the major publishers of sacred music. The dates for the conference next year are January 1-5, 2007. If you are looking for a refreshing and inspiring way to start off your new year next year, you should definitely consider attending this conference!