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This isn’t exactly a music-related resource, but I’ve found it to be a great tool for earning money to spend on music-related resources, so I thought I would mention it again now that I’ve been using it for a while (plus, I get some sort of special credit if you sign up through my link)! Swagbucks is an online search engine that you can install in your toolbar along with your other search engines. As you use it to search, you earn credits that can be traded in for various products and gift cards. I always use mine to buy Amazon gift cards and have earned $60 so far just by searching like I regularly would online. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the search engine, so if I need to do some fast or serious searching online, I still use Google. But if I’m just doing routine searching and want to earn money for it, I happily use Swagbucks. 🙂

Voice Lesson Resource

Last fall, a friend of mine who is a vocalist and I decided to trade lessons – she would teach me voice and I would teach her piano. I’m afraid her job is considerably more difficult than mine! She alerted me to this website with Free Online Singing Lessons that has a wealth of information that is a great supplement for anyone teaching or taking voice lessons. Of course, we all know that online reading material can never truly take the place of a live music instructor, right? 🙂

If any of you vocal teachers or students have other recommended resources, I’d love to know about them! I do think I’ve improved considerably, but I still have a long road ahead of me…

A Compendium of Composers

Yesterday, I shared a little bit about the Galaxy of Composers group class that we held in the studio last week. In preparation for this each student selected (or was given) a composition by a composer of interest to them. I tried to keep the duplicate composers to a minimum, but of course we did still end up with several of the more famous names!

I used to be opposed to using simplified arrangements of classics, but now I love them! I’m still not a huge fan of simplified arrangements of piano repertoire, but I love using themes from other instrumental and symphonic works to help familiarize the students with music they might otherwise never hear. I’ve compiled a list below of the pieces that were prepared for the Galaxy of Composers group class, along with links to the books in which they are located (these represent some of my favorite collections for both piano and simplified classical arrangements!). Hope it’s helpful!

Prelude – Isaac Albeniz

Kind im Einschlummern (Child Falling Asleep) – Robert Schumann

The Village Prophet – Jean Jacques Rousseau

Theme from New World Symphony – Antonin Dvorak

Theme from Trepak – Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Maple Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin

Rondo Alla Turca – Frederic Burgmuller

Solfeggieto – C.P.E. Bach

Fur Elise – Ludwig Van Beethoven

No Fear – Luke Wisner (original composition by the brother of a student)

Theme from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Pop! Goes the Weasel – Benjamin Schweitzer

Theme from Symphony in C Minor – Ludwig Van Beethoven

Wedding March – Felix Mendelssohn

Caprice No. 24 – Niccolo Paganini

The Magic Fountain – Szidor Bator

Firefly – Nancy and Randall Faber

In the Hall of the Mountain King – Edvard Grieg

Night of the Tarantella – Nancy Faber

Country Dance – Ludwig Van Beethoven

Theme from Fantasy-Impromptu – Frederic Chopin

German Dance and Allemande – Michael Praetorius

Stars and Stripes Forever – John Philip Sousa

Romance – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Taps – Daniel Butterfield

Theme from Spring – Antonio Vivaldi

Group Class Briefing Session: A Galaxy of Composers

In keeping with our Exploring a Galaxy of Music theme for the year, last week’s Briefing Session (a.k.a. group class) was themed A Galaxy of Composers. Here are a couple shots from the evening:

I held this session at the studio, so twenty of us crammed into the small space to listen to performances, play games, and learn about the various composers.

Prior to playing their piece, each student shared a brief report about the composer of their selection. I was impressed with the creativity employed in putting together their reports (the one pictured included a PowerPoint presentation)!

I’ve uploaded a free set of the A Galaxy of Composers Lesson Plans I developed for this class. If you’re interested in doing a composer-themed group class with your students, feel free to download and use the file and corresponding activities. We had a ton of fun with it!

Monday Mailbag – Taking Time Off

How do you schedule the right to take a week off each semester?

This is the exact wording from my studio policy:

The schedule for each semester, including weeks that there will be no lessons, is posted on the website (here) and included in the September newsletter each year.
The schedule is structured to allow for one additional week of no lessons each semester. This may be scheduled at Natalie’s discretion. In the event that such a week is not scheduled, the student will benefit from an extra lesson that semester.

At the beginning of each studio year I figure out my schedule and make note of what weeks I’ll be traveling or taking breaks. These are reflected on the studio calendar. The additional week off mentioned in the policy is primarily in case I am sick or have another emergency that prevents me from teaching. In theory, I could just take off the week if I wanted some time off, too, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to do this. So usually, my students just benefit from that extra week each semester. 🙂

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

Free Online Music Resources

In the same e-newsletter from Music Educator’s Marketplace that I mentioned Tuesday, there was a link to free online music resources. The page it led to is this fabulous collection of Free Online Resources for Teachers, Students, Parents. The page is divided into several helpful categories:

  • Teacher Helpers and Resources
  • Free Teaching Aids to Print Out
  • Free Music Graphics and Clip Art
  • Free Online Student Activities
  • Resources to Share with Parents
  • Free Piano Music to Download/Print
  • Not Entirely Free But Worth a Look.

Karen Koch is the one responsible for compiling the list and she has done a fabulous job of it!

Piano Buyer Guide Online

One of my goals this year is to purchase a piano to replace the current acoustic piano in my studio. The current piano is a low-end instrument that is 30+ years old. Some of the repair work it needs now would cost significantly more than it’s worth, so I finally decided I better get serious about saving for a new piano. I’ve started doing some preliminary research and came across the Piano Buyer website. Larry Fine’s popular Piano Buyer Supplement can be read for free online! There are lots of other great resources on the site as well. A place I will undoubtedly be visiting many times this year!

I would love to have input from some other teachers on pianos. What brands and models do you really like? Which ones do you not like? Any other advice on choosing a piano? As much as I would love to have a grand piano, right now both space and financial considerations have limited me to an upright. I’ve heard that some upright grands are a close second to a real grand, so that’s what I’m hoping to find!

Incredible New Scale Resource

Last weekend I received the e-newsletter from the fabulous Music Educator’s Marketplace and saw this brilliant new product: Nate’s Scale Plates. They were developed by a 9-year old piano student, and they are exactly what several of my students need! It baffles me that scale fingerings are as difficult as they are for some students, but even some of my most diligent students struggle to master them. These scale plates seem like the perfect solution. According to the newsletter, Music Educator’s Marketplace will be at the MTNA Conference next month, so I’m putting this at the top of my list of things to buy. I can hardly wait to give it a try!

If you don’t already receive the free e-newsletter from Music Educator’s Marketplace, you can sign up for it at the bottom of their home page. I highly recommend it! In addition to product information it also contains some great teaching tips and other helpful links.

Monday Mailbag – Playing in Student Recitals

Do you ever play a piece in your student recital yourself? I was thinking about doing this in order to show students and parents the possibilities of the piano, but I am not sure if it doesn’t look like I “need” an audience. Actually, my students could attend some of my own recitals if they want to hear me. What do you think?

Yes, I almost always play in my student recitals. This is mostly because I don’t enjoy performing, though, so I do it to let my students know that I’m willing to go through the same torture I put them through! 🙂 Actually, many of my students and I have experienced significant improvement in our performing abilities since I started holding regular group classes with informal performance settings several years ago. From my experience as both a student and a teacher, I would say that it is always a positive thing for the teacher to perform something in student recitals, even if it’s a duet or ensemble with a friend or advanced student.

Rather than it looking like you “need an audience” or appearing showy, I think performing for your studio families lets them see how much you love playing your instrument. You are sharing your music with them, and they love to hear it! Does anyone else have input into this question? Do you perform at your student recitals? Do you think a teacher performing at his/her students’ recital could be perceived negatively? How so?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

Free Downloadable Music Theory Worksheets

Jerald Simon, of the Music Motivation Blog, is developing a page full of fabulous free downloadable music theory worksheets! Current worksheets include major and minor pentascales, intervals, chord inversions, and chord progressions. What a great resource, especially for students preparing for state theory tests! He is planning to add one new download every day for the next eight months, so you’ll want to keep an eye on this site.