Coming Soon – Carnival of the Animals: A Classical Christian Music Camp!

I was so inspired by the Classical Conversations Parent Practicum that I attended last week that I’ve been working on developing our studio music camp program this year using a Classical Christian education model!

Carnival of the Animals Classical Christian Music Camp

It’s been a ton of fun using the Topic Wheel to generate ideas and put together what I think will be the best music camp program yet! I’ll keep you posted as plans develop!

A Free Downloadable Curriculum Based on The Topic Wheel

Yesterday I shared about The Topic Wheel and how I’m finding it to be a valuable tool in planning our studio summer piano camp this year based on a classical model of learning. In studying and preparing for it, I came across a great free resource that you can download and explore. It will give you an idea for what this approach looks like when applied to a curriculum unit. This particular resource is on dolphins and is based on the movie Dolphin Tale 2. I’m enjoying perusing it and gaining lots of inspiration and ideas!

 

Exploring a Classical Model of Education

The first several days of this week I had the privilege of attending a Parent Practicum put on by Classical Conversations. What a fascinating and thought-provoking experience! An article by Dorothy Sayers called, “The Lost Tools of Learning” seems to be the underlying call of this movement to return to the more effective methods of education employed in earlier periods of history.

I hope to write much more about the things I’m learning in the days ahead, but for the moment I thought I would share one of the most useful tools for thinking and planning: The Topic Wheel

Right now I’m employing this tool to help plan our studio sumner piano camp and I’m so excited about how it’s helping me organize my objectives and ideas to hopefully make the camp a rich learning experience!

AMT Inspiration – Work Hard!

Several years ago I came across a quote in Tim Tebow’s biography, Through My Eyes, that I have oft-quoted during piano lessons with certain students:

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

That is the heart of the message that I took away from the second installment of an article called “The Art of Possibility” by Steven Brundage in the June/July issue of American Music Teacher. He presents some fascinating quotes and research that address the ongoing debate of talent versus expert skill. Perhaps most fascinating is the experiment conducted by Laszlo Polgar with his three daughters to see if he could  train them to become expert chess players. His experiment produced incredible results, with all three daughters becoming world-renowned chess players.

Brundage goes on to observe:

“Most children, and adults for that matter, never dedicate themselves to skill development with the same deliberateness, methodology and guidance of child prodigies because, in most cases, they lack the opportunity, guidance or motivation.”

I was greatly encouraged by his recounting of numerous worthy achievements by men and women later in life who devoted themselves to the pursuit of various skills and then reached a high level of expertise (there is hope for us at any age if we apply ourselves and work hard!). His final paragraph includes this point:

“…there are those lacking talent who will achieve greatness because they possess more than the proper training and opportunity. They possess the burning fire of motivation and the determination to spend time and energy pursuing skill development without short cuts.”

This reminds me of a proverb that reveals the same truth:

“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kinds; he will not stand before obscure men.” Proverbs 22:29

In a video our family recently watched by Dr. Jeff Myers, he issues a similar challenge to young people, noting that:

“Talent is distressingly common, but hard work is extremely rare.”

Learning to Play the Piano Benefits You in Numerous Ways – Guest Post by Dustin Williams

Learning to play the piano provides numerous health benefits. Individuals find they experience less stress upon learning to play this instrument and their cognitive development and eye-hand coordination improve. Thanks to home study courses, anyone can now be playing this instrument in a short period of time.

The Benefits of Learning to Play the Piano

A study published in Cognitive Systems Research showed eye-hand coordination improves when one learns to play the piano, and regular practice on a daily basis instills discipline in the child. Neuropsychology reported in a 2011 study which found that musical training protects mental sharpness during the aging process, while the British Journal of Psychiatry found that music therapy successfully helps to treat depression.

Barry Bittman, a Pennsylvania physician, and Loma Linda University School of Medicine researchers found learning to play an instrument helps individuals to relax and stimulate their immune system. Furthermore, E. Glenn Schellenberg, of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, found that children who undergo music training witness a rise in their IQ. These are only a few of the numerous benefits of learning to play the piano.

Playground Sessions

Individuals wanting to learn to play the piano may find Quincy Jones’ Playground Sessions to be of great help. The program features innovative technology to teach users how to play the piano using video lessons. The program makes use of popular songs, so the user already knows the rhythm, and this makes learning come more quickly and naturally. The beats and rhythms of these songs are used to demonstrate musical concepts in the various lessons, and users learn to play by ear, make their way around the keyboard and more. Students may choose from the rookie, intermediate or advanced tour options.

Interactive Video Lessons

With the help of interactive video lessons, students quickly learn to play the piano. Each song is broken down in simple steps, making the music theory concepts easy to grasp. The student first views how to play the song, and then he or she plays along with the instructor. Constructive feedback is offered along with helpful tips.

Engaging Instruction

David Sides, known for his “Apologize” rendition on the piano, provides the lessons, ensuring users stay engaged. Sides makes use of progress visualizations to help students stay on track, such as charts, and students find the charts allow them to see where they are excelling and where more practice is needed. Seeing improvement in various areas helps to keep students motivated.

The Gaming Element

Real time scores and feedback allow the user to make adjustments immediately. This prevents bad habits from being formed and encourages the user to try harder to beat his or her last score. When a note is played correctly, it turns green. When the student is close, the note changes to a pink color. Miss the note completely and it turns red. The gaming element makes learning to play piano fun and something children will look forward to doing.

Individuals wishing to learn to play piano need to consider this program in their search for lessons, as many find it to be helpful. Playground Sessions offers the tools needed to succeed in mastering this instrument.


Playground Sessions 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.

KMTA Conference this Weekend

I’ve refrained from live-blogging the whole conference, but thought I would share a brief post from our state music teachers conference this year. We are currently enjoying a masterclass with our conference artist, Gila Goldstein:  

It’s been inspirational to spend time with colleagues sharing ideas, learning about new repertoire, listening to beautiful music, and growing as teachers. If you have the opportunity to attend any local, state, or national workshops or conferences, I highly recommend it as a way to re-energize your teaching!

AMT Inspiration – Ask My Piano Students Better Questions

One of the perks of being an MTNA member is a subscription to their bi-monthly publication, American Music Teacher. I enjoy reading each issue and always take away some sort of inspiration for my teaching. Instead of keeping it to myself, I thought it would be fun to start a specific section here on Music Matters Blog to share some of the great thoughts and ideas with you!

In the April/May issue, Courtney Crappell, NCTM, in his regular column writes about the importance of “Fine Tuning Our Questions to Engage Modern Students.” He draws on the ability of a good story, especially a mystery, to capture our attention and engage our senses, and then encourages teachers to trade in our blase (“Did you practice this week?”) or generic (“What kind of piece is this?”) questions for ones that elicit more excitement and thoughtfulness (“How does this piece make you feel?”).

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve asked such unproductive questions in my lessons, so this is especially challenging for me! He makes his case effectively, though, when he asserts that:

“Music lessons designed to promote discovery through effective questioning also serve as models for our students’ practice sessions. Their most productive practice sessions will include periods of thoughtful exploration rather than simple repetition of physical motions. The questions we ask in lessons will ideally become the questions they ask themselves in practice.”

And I love this perspective on  lessons as a whole and practice in particular:

“We need our music lessons and their practice sessions to feel as engaging as reading a good story. They must feel the need to solve the mystery and discover solutions for themselves, and if they do, we can feel confident that they will be hooked into lifelong learning.”

The wheels are spinning, and I’m excited to consider how I can become more of a storyteller who  effectively engages students in the thrill of discovery in their lessons and subsequent practicing!