I’m please to announce that I am the winner of the 2013-14 Minnesota Music Teachers Association Original Duet Composition Contest. My duet “Frolic–a duet in C” was selected in the Junior A level and will be performed at the MMTA Honors Concert in June 2014.
After two months of lessons this school year, I am happy to report that lessons are going very well. I currently have seven new students who are brand new to the piano, and it’s been exciting to watch them grow and learn. Reading music is a whole new language of symbols and meanings, and every person reacts differently to the complex task of reacting with their bodies and brains to this new language. Parents should be assured that every students learns differently and at a different pace. They all hit roadblocks that take a little time to climb over, but they all will get over the top and move on to new challenges. I hope all the students are having a good time learning and exploring music. It’s a joy like few others in life.
I am continuing to challenge my returning students. They are figuring out how to fit daily practicing into their schedule. I know that every new grade means more homework and new activities, and that all parents are helping the kids understand how important practicing is to their musical and personal development. Lessons don’t yield much results if students don’t practice at home.
I will continue to work on communicating to each student my expectations for their work at home. I have discovered that while I write down in their notebook what I want each student to work on, some students don’t look at the notebook very often. If you feel that the notebook doesn’t work for your child or you, or that the information is incomplete or confusing, please let me know so I can make a change. Some teachers have their students write in the book, but I have found that this takes time away from other things in the lesson, and I don’t want to give up that time.
Speaking of time, I am grateful to those parents who agreed to increase lessons to 45 minutes. For me, it is making a huge difference. The extra time is allowing me to cover everything more thoroughly, and in some cases include more things in the lesson, such as ear training and composition. I am more relaxed in lessons, without feeling like I have to rush to get to everything. Again, it is different with each student, but with everyone the extra time is being used constructively.
At the November 17 recital, my goal is for each student to demonstrate their skill and artistic abilities at the piano. I try to keep the experience as relaxed as possible while still giving them an important musical experience. Playing for others, and the hard work necessary to achieve a high a level of excellence in their recital performance are worthwhile experiences. This year two adults will be playing pieces by Chopin—myself and an adult student who really enjoys performing for others. I look forward to seeing you there!
Some parents have asked about the effectiveness of lessons during the summer, when there can be two, three or even four weeks between lessons. My first response is that four weeks between lessons must be better than 12 weeks!
If students don’t take any lessons over the summer, they usually aren’t playing the piano over the summer, and that means their skills diminish and they start the next year behind where they ended the previous year. Even if they are practicing a little, they don’t get the direction and support that lessons provide.
Students can progress if they practice regularly and have at least 6 lessons during the summer months. While summer can be a busy time, it is without homework and the other demands on time that school places on kids. It is possible to carve out 15-30 minutes several times a week for practicing.
And remember, learning discipline is part of what learning a musical instrument is all about. If parents just let go of practicing over the summer, they’re losing the opportunity to teach their children the lesson that regular hard work is what’s necessary to learn, to improve, and to achieve their goals.
One positive about the summer is that kids might realize that reduced practicing and fewer lessons results in much slower progress.
I am looking forward to seeing all my returning students in the fall, as well as several new students!
I have changed my studio policies for the 2013-14 school year. Please read the “Studio Policies” page (menu at the top).
The Spring piano recital for my students will be on Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 2 p.m. Grace University Lutheran Church will once again host us. Treats afterward! Please put this on your calendar.
I have a student who has been working on a wonderful Sonatina by Beethoven. Progress, however, had been slow over the past 5-6 weeks. At her most recent lesson, she played the 2nd movement beautifully, a huge leap from the past week. When I asked her what had made the difference in her playing, she thought about it and said, “My mom. She made me play it over and over and over.”
Thanks to mom for making this student realize that hard work pays off. I hope the lesson sticks!
Practicing is different than playing.
Here are some practice tips for students:
1. LEARN IN SMALL SECTIONS. When beginning to learn a new piece, learn small sections or phrases and repeat them 3 times before going on to the next section.
2. START SLOW. Begin with a slow tempo when learning a new piece. When practicing, if you make mistakes in notes or rhythm, start over at a slower tempo.
3. GET THE RHYTHMS RIGHT. Clap the rhythm of the music while counting out loud.
4. USE CORRECT FINGERING. Many mistakes can be eliminated with consistent fingering.
5. WORK ON TROUBLE SPOTS. Play through the piece and note where you have trouble (these are called “trouble spots”). Now go back to the trouble spots and play them over and over until you master them. Then play one measure before the trouble spot and continue until one measure after the trouble spot. Do this over and over until you have mastered it. Then move on to the next trouble spot, or back to the beginning of the piece.
6. PLAY EACH PIECE AT LEAST 3 TIMES. Each time should be better than the previous time.
Strive for perfection, which means:
- Correct notes
- Correct rhythms
- Correct articulation
- Correct fingering
- Correct tempo
- Communicating the dynamics to the listener
- And finally: memorization
Many students make the mistake of practicing a song UNTIL they get it right. But you must practice until you can play it correctly many times. Stopping when you finally get it right doesn’t make up for all the times you played it wrong. Or said another way, practice until you CAN’T play it wrong.
All of my students are able to perform at Minneapolis Music Teachers Forum (MMTF) recitals, held on Sunday afternoons throughout the school year. Four of my students will be performing at the Feb. 24, 2013 recital.
Students must perform music written specifically for the piano (no pop arrangements), and must play from memory. Judges write critiques of the students’ performances and share these with teachers and students. Students earn certificates, ribbons and trophies for their performances throughout the years.
The MMTF recitals provide an excellent experience for young pianists. The challenge of performing from memory for an audience of other students and parents is one that all students should attempt at least once. They also benefit from listening to the other students performances. The critiques offer insight into the student’s playing beyond that of their regular teacher.
Here is a link to a video of one of my students performing at an MMTF recital in 2012. http://youtu.be/43Vxf2KR41M