Project 28 Studio Practice Incentive Theme Now Available! Special $5 Off Offer!

In Courtney Crappell’s article in the latest issue of American Music Teacher, “Dealing With Narcissism: Are Our Students Self-Absorbed Or Just Afraid?” he shares two concepts gleaned from another author that we can embrace as teachers to help our students overcome fears that may hinder them from learning: 1) Letting down our personal guard; and 2) sharing in personal growth. He goes on to say, “Showing another that I am a work-in-progress is scary and immensely challenging. Perhaps most significantly, this act requires us to believe in, and promote, our current level of ability rather than something more. Instead of selling ourselves as the perfect model teacher and performer, we must sell who we truly are.”

Largely inspired by my time last summer at the Pattern Play Teaching Intensive and the Creative Life Conference, I did exactly what Courtney suggests, I let down my guard and committed to sharing my personal growth with my students. That became the impetus for one of our most enjoyable and fruitful Studio Practice Incentive Themes: Project 28. You can read more about the philosophy behind the theme in my guest post for Easy Ear Training: 4 Steps to Playing By Ear. The way I set up this theme required a bit of a paradigm shift, particularly as I pondered what it means to study music as a language and what it takes to become fluent in another language. Thus, the assignment pages were completely revamped to include a space for Hear Music, Speak Music, Read Music, Write Music, Think Music, and Live Music. I was nervous about how it would all play out, but I found that as I approached each lesson with a willingness to learn and work with my students to help them achieve their goal, we had a ton of fun together and learned a lot!

Project 28 begins with the student answering the question, “What do you want to be able to do by next May that you can’t do right now?” From there, the teacher and student work together to determine their first 4-week (28 days…hence the title, Project 28 :-)) goal and what skills and resources will be required to achieve it. This becomes the basis for the assignments from week to week, thus adding an element of relevancy because the student and teacher have a clear idea of the purpose of each assignment. Every four weeks is dubbed, “Film Week,” and the student has the opportunity to share on camera (either verbally or musically or both) what they have accomplished in those four weeks. My students really enjoyed the Film Weeks, and they provided great accountability as they worked toward their goals. In fact, here’s a shot of a brother and sister duo who loved putting together creative presentations for each Film Week:

All of the details and resources for Project 28 are outlined in the downloadable theme package. And from now until the end of June, you can use the following code to receive a $5 discount on any purchase from the Music Matters Blog store: E91O40F4.

I hope this serves as a great tool and motivator for you and your students as you work together to become better pianists and musicians!

The Music Arranger’s Page

Thanks to Christopher Sutton, of Easy Ear Training, for hosting Hans Hansen, I discovered this new website that is practically a course in music composition on a website! The Music Arranger’s Page is a collection of extensive posts on how to arrange music, write good melodies, figure out intros, and lots more! If you or your students are interested in learning more of the ins and outs of writing and arranging music, this website is sure to give you an education! 🙂

Review and Giveaway of Be Still by James Koerts

When James Koerts contacted me about his new collection of hymn arrangements titled, Be Still, I jumped at the chance to play through them! After having such a satisfying experience with his new book of Christmas piano arrangements a couple of years ago, I had high expectations for this latest release. And I was not disappointed. 🙂

The book of piano solos was just as advertised, “A reflective collection of 10 piano solos designed to encourage and inspire. Ideal for the late intermediate to early advanced pianist.” Since it’s sold exclusively as digital music, if you’re not into the e-music reader world yet (I confess, I haven’t yet crossed over into the new era of digital sheet music yet…), you’ll have to print the sheet music yourself, but I decided to just “bite the bullet” and print the whole book at once and then put the pages in plastic sheet protectors. This worked out nicely and Be Still was quickly added to my repertoire of prelude music.

In fact, funny story…I was in the process of selecting prelude music for a local homeschool graduation ceremony and decided to use several of these arrangements in the mix. When I was at the rehearsal for the ceremony, all the parents were being lined up outside the entry doors, so I decided to get a feel for the piano with some of the prelude music. I began playing James’ arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Unbeknownst to me, the parents started filing in, and by the time I realized what was happening it was too late to transition over to the piece I had intended to play for the parents’ processional. In the end, the “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” worked out so well that I decided to keep it there and use it for the actual ceremony. The style was perfect for the occasion and many people commented on how much they enjoyed the music.

Now…for the exciting news! James has generously offered to giveaway three copies of Be Still to a Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing to win your copy of this collection of lovely piano solo arrangements of favorite hymns. The winners will be chosen using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Thursday, June 27.

Monday Mailbag – 5 Suggested Resources for a New Teacher

I have been reading your site for the past year and have found it very helpful. I am a new teacher starting out so I have 4 students right now. In the fall I will be partnering with an after school program doing private lessons with possibly 8-10 more students. I saw your post about memorizing where you recommended Thinking as You Play: Teaching Piano in Individual and Group Lessons. I am planning to order a copy of the book but was wondering if you might have any other resources you would suggest to a teacher starting out.

Even though I have been teaching for 15 years now, I still feel like a new teacher in many ways! However, I am grateful for the many excellent resources in the music education community that have helped me develop competency and confidence as a piano teacher. Here are the resources that have been the most helpful to me in the order I would recommend them:

1. Association with music teaching colleagues – This is by far the number one most valuable resource you could ever have! If you have a local association in your area (check the MTNA website for local affiliates), you should definitely join it and become active in the meetings and student events. It would be impossible to measure the extent to which the teachers in our local associates have influenced me and my teaching. I have learned SO much through their input and example, and I honestly doubt that I would still be teaching if not for their encouragement and instruction. I know that not every area is blessed to have an association and not every association is populated with welcoming and generous teachers, so in that case I recommend moving to Kansas. 🙂 And if that’s not a possibility, then find some way to connect with other colleagues, perhaps through an association you can travel to once a month, a state or national conference, an on-line community, a collection of bloggers you can follow and interact with, etc.

2. Subscribe to industry magazines – in addition to being an avid book reader, I also love magazines! Industry magazines even have an advantage over books in that they can disseminate more current and relevant cultural trends and information about the latest musical research and technology available to music teachers. They also feature articles written by our contemporaries who are dealing with the same issues and student needs as we are. There are three magazines that I read regularly and highly recommend: American Music Teacher, Clavier Companion, and Listen.

3. Read a wide variety of books – there are a handful of specifically piano pedagogy books on the market that all have helpful insights related to both teaching and running a studio. However, I have found that I receive just as much inspiration from reading books on other subjects where I can relate the ideas and philosophies to teaching in a different way. Sometimes that might be a biography of an educator or a pianist; sometimes it might be a philosophy book; sometimes it might be a history of specific educational theories; sometimes it might be a theological book and how our view of God relates to the way we live and interact with others. (If you happen to be interested, here are links to the posts I’ve written for the past six years that compile brief reviews of the books I read during that year: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012) If I had to pick a few personal favorites to recommend, though, here are the three (other than Thinking As You Play) I would choose: The Savvy Musician by David Cutler, Color Outside the Lines by Howard Hendricks, and The Musician’s Way by Gerald Klickstein.

4. Study teacher guides – if you want to get to the nitty-gritty practical side of teaching, one of the most helpful things you can do is study detailed explanations and ideas from other teachers on how to teach or reinforce specific musical concepts. Some piano method series publish a guide for the teacher that is extremely useful for understanding the pedagogy behind certain activities or approaches. Legendary pedagogs Randall and Nancy Faber have an on-line guide with videos for their Primer Level piano method. The relatively new Alfred Premier Piano Course has an online assistant with lots of supplemental resources for teachers and students. And the one I’ve been poring over recently (and will be posting about much more extensively soon!) is the Teacher guide for the fabulous new Piano Safari method!

5. Follow piano teacher blogs – lastly, as a long-time blogger I would be remiss in not extolling the virtues of the myriad blogs now comprising the online music education community! There is nothing quite like peeking into the studio of another teacher and seeing the creative ways they run their studios and teach their students. It’s so much fun to look at pictures, download carefully crafted resources, and implement the imaginative ideas gleaned from other devoted teachers.

Those are my top 5 suggestions for new teachers, but I’d love to hear from other teachers as well! What advice would you give to a new teacher? What resources have been the most helpful to you in your teaching endeavors?

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!

Friday Film Find

I’m sure most of you have seen this video before, but it’s one of my all-time favorites! I especially love to show it to beginning students to inspire them to think more musically and creatively in their playing. Don’t you just love how much fun all these guys are having?!

The 4 Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument Online – A Guest Post

The internet has changed the way people do everything, and I mean, literally EVERYTHING. Musical instrument tutorials are constantly cropping up online, with some businesses actually coming together and earning a living from starting these businesses.

Below is a list of reasons as to why learning a musical instrument online may be the way forward:

1. Access: Those interested in learning musical instruments can often struggle to music teachers in the area that they are based, which can result in either long drives, or a sheer lack of lessons. Learning a musical instrument online via video cuts out these access issues, meaning that those interested in learning a musical instrument can, from the comfort of their own home, without having to travel miles. Additionally, there is the issue for those looking to learn exotic or uncommon musical instruments. Even if the would-be student can’t find a site which specialise in the online tutorial of the specific musical instrument that they are interested in learning, the chances are that there will be some form of instructional Youtube video to watch!

2. Affordability: Hiring music teachers can be incredibly costly, with many music teachers asking for hundreds of pounds for a one hour lesson. Online videos, which are often pre-recorded, meaning that they can duplicated, enabling the teacher to provide an already recorded video, which can be sent or downloaded by anyone which wants lessons in the specific instrument. This cuts costs, enabling online teachers to provide their services at an affordable price for students.

3. Pace: Learning an instrument with a music teacher can be stressful, with music teachers often pushing their students at a pace that they are uncomfortable with. Learning music online without a direct teacher means that students can download their video at any time, and can replay it at any time, meaning that they can learn as fast or as slowly as they desire.

4. Quality: It’s often the case that teachers of musical instruments aren’t competent enough at the instrument they teach, to teach it. This can lead to awkward situations where the student is looking to cancel, but feel awkward doing so. By purchasing online music lessons, if the student isn’t happy with the quality of the lessons they are receiving, they can simply cancel their lessons via cancelling their direct debit, leaving no hard feelings for the student, who can choose to take their lessons elsewhere with minimal fuss!


This post was written on behalf of The Online Academy of Irish Music, an established online tutorial service of traditional Irish musical instruments.


The Online Irish Academy of Music is our newest advertiser here on Music Matters Blog and we are grateful for their support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send me an e-mail and I’ll let you know about our advertising packages.

Van Cliburn Finalists

Even if you missed the live coverage, you can still catch the archived recordings from each round of the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition! Here’s a rundown of the winners:

First Prize: Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Gold Medal and Van Cliburn Winner’s Cup:
Vadym Kholodenko

Second Prize: Silver Medal
Beatrice Rana

Third Prize: Crystal Award
Sean Chen

Audience Award:
Beatrice Rana

Steven De Groote Memorial Award for the Best Performance of Chamber Music:
Vadym Kholodenko

Beverley Taylor Smith Award for the Best Performance of a New Work:
Vadym Kholodenko

John Giordano Jury Chairman Discretionary Award:
Steven Lin

The Raymond E. Buck Jury Discretionary Award:
Alessandro Deljavan

Jury Discretionary Award:
Claire Huangci

Building Awareness of Rhythm in Piano Students

Joy Morin, of the Color in My Piano blog, has a fabulous article on Building Awareness of Rhythm in Piano Students in the latest issue of Soundpoint. She suggests that there are three essential components of rhythm (pules, meter, and rhythmic values), then goes on to discuss each one in more detail, along with specific activities that piano teachers can use to help their students develop better rhythm skills. I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue lately and found Joy’s article quite insightful!