The Music Teachers National Association conference is held every year at different locations throughout the US and Canada. This year it was held at Disneyland (nuts!) and it was magical. The reason I say magical is that it seems the tides are changing. Here’s how my colleague and business partner, Bradley Sowash called it:
Bradley unlocking the secrets of chord symbols. His tips are incredible!
I’ve just returned from the Music Teacher’s National Association conference in CA where I was fortunate to serve as chair of the jazz/pop track along with project manager Leila Viss [that's me]. I’ve been swimming upstream on the subject of teaching creativity as a necessary ingredient to comprehensive musicianship at music teacher meetings all over the country for several years. So it was with particular delight to find that we could attract a packed room of teachers for nine hours of sessions with experts on the subject of teaching popular music styles, improvisation and creativity.
It seems the old model of only teaching the “masters” using only the written page is finally giving way to a more balanced approach or as someone at the conference quipped, “the Queen Mary (of music education) is slowly turning.” I can get even more dramatic by declaring, “The eye/ear revolution has begun!” Read more…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music News, Professional Development, Teaching Tips
Every year I organize a studio holiday recital. This is our biggest recital of the year. While the more advanced students usually play their classical repertoire, most elementary-intermediate students like to play holiday/popular music for the festive season. I am on the look out for new holiday/popular music for my students, which include young beginners, budding intermediates, serious competition-ready musicians, teenagers that listen to Justin Bieber and Carrie Underwood, and adults who enjoy Christian melodies and soothing new-age styles. With this diversity in mind, the following new titles have caught my eyes.
Christmas Solos for Students, arranged by Tom Gerou
This is a collection of three books, containing graded solos that range from late elementary to intermediate levels. They are carefully arranged with students in mind for technical accessibility and immediate appeal! Tom Gerou’s style is fresh, with pianistic figurations, clever but simple use of ties and dotted rhythms, and unexpected harmonic turns that involve frequent use of 6ths and 7ths, these arrangements of timeless holiday classics will bring students and their audiences lots of joy! Read more…
Posted in Music News, Product Reviews, Teaching Tips
One of the unique features of MusicTeachersHelper.com is how it continues to build a growing community of musicians and teachers around the globe. Recently, Elena Cobb--from the UK–contacted me–from the US–via MusicTeachersHelper.com to check out her books. Besides finding a new Facebook friend and fellow teacher across the pond, I’ve enjoyed playing some new music.
Elena is clearly a fan of jazz and the 12-bar blues (yes, this American form made its way overseas) and sees the importance of introducing this standard pattern to early level pianists. Higgledy Piggledy Jazz is packed full of pieces targeted for “inexperienced” pianists while the second book she shared, entitled Blue River, features more intermediate to late intermediate selections. This collection ranges in style from ballad to blues to Latin. Both books include clever, original compositions that fall into the standard blues form. They could serve as supplementary repertoire or provide great material for a studio jazz–themed unit.
The Higgledy Piggledy Jazz book features…
1) Ten pieces with a CD of live jazz band recordings.
2) Four tracks of varying tempos of witty arrangements for play-along enjoyment. The CD is great training for building solid rhythmic skills and confidence for future gigs with a “real” band.
3) Color coding (in some pieces) of chord changes to enhance reading security.
4) Colorful, full-page illustrations.
5) A considerable amount of extra staff instructions including fingering, counting numbers, phrase markings and chord symbols. Read more…
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music News, Practicing, Product Reviews, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper
As you may recall, I posted a survey to find out if music teachers integrate jazz/pop music into their teaching. Although the results below are taken from the 1,114 responses received (wow!), I can only see the comments and Poll Daddy detailed reports for the first 200 responses. Many of the first 200 survey participants left insightful comments and I wish I could share them, just not enough space here. The comments of the rest (800+) will go unread as I didn’t want to pay the extra $200. The initial data below provides plenty of interesting findings and may generate further discussion here.
So, what do you glean from this survey? Are the results surprising? alarming? pleasing? as predicted? Will you change how you teach after seeing the results of this survey? If so, how? Is jazz/pop music a legitimate style to integrate in your curriculum or should it be used to “entertain” students who are losing interest in lessons? Do you feel validated in your present approach to teaching jazz/pop? Is there a disparity in how you were trained and what you actually teach? What are the implications for the future of music education, publishers and your teaching style? Did I miss one important question in the survey?
I have my opinons, but I’d love to hear yours!
1) Are you a classically-trained teacher?
- Yes 92%
- Somewhat 7%
- No 1%
Posted in Financial Business, Music History & Facts, Music News, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips
To be completely honest, I am a ‘just’ piano teacher. I am not an expert in childhood development nor would I ever claim to be. But as the mom of a child with some extra needs, I have learned firsthand about the importance of childhood development, how music can help, and how it can be hard to for a child with extra needs to accomplish certain tasks in their music lessons. After working with my son’s therapists, I couldn’t help but pick up a few things that I found to be helpful for him and for my music lessons. If you have a chance to take some occupational therapy training, or even speak with an occupational therapist, I highly recommend it. Having an awareness of special needs, learning disabilities, and other childhood struggles can assist your teaching, your student, and their music. Here are a few things to think about.
Posture and muscle tone. Do you have that one student that just can’t ever seem to sit up straight? No matter how much you remind them, they struggle with good playing posture? This may be a child with low muscle tone. They may be perfectly healthy, but just have muscles that aren’t quite strong enough to help them sit or stand with good posture. You’ll typically see them slouch, lean on one hand, or “W” sit on the floor.
Body awareness. Some children struggle with knowing where there body is in space. They may be constantly in motion because they don’t feel settled, comfortable with themselves, or they may lean on you constantly, run in to you, or crash on things to help them ‘feel’ where they are.
Posted in Music News, Teaching Tips
In need of energetic, supplemental piano repertoire to “save a student” or “please that hard-to-please boy?” Interested in digital editions that can be downloaded with ease? You might consider Danial McFarlane’s collections entitled Soundscapes, Soundwaves and Supersonics.
Here are some thoughts after a brief encounter with these sizable collections:
What You Will Find
Sounds: As the titles indicate, the collections contain pupil-pleasing, contrasting images of sound. Each piece is aptly titled and the fonts for titles are cleverly matched.
Style: These accessible “sounds” capture various current styles–salsa, ragtime, funk, boogie, new age…with distinct rhythm patterns and unique, catchy motives.
Syncopation: McFarlane has a vast rhythmic imagination–get your counting skills out and tune them up.
Etudes: Each piece provides technical challenges within fun patterns (many times for the LH!).
Inspiration: A fresh change for those who need a break from the classics, but hints of Bach and Beethoven, Chopin do appear occasionally.
Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Product Reviews, Teaching Tips
I am completely fascinated with online networking. It’s such a fun way to interact
Are you a social media expert?
with people you know and meet people you don’t. In fact, social media is all the buzz in advertising in today’s market. It’s free, it’s fast, and you can hit a large market. Big companies are even hiring social media experts whose full time job is to tweet you, text you, and message you about hot deals and cool stuff. It’s the next big thing in marketing. But should you use it for your private music teaching studio? I do.
Posted in Customer Support, Music & Technology, Music News, Press, Promoting Your Studio, Site Announcements, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper
I am writing to see if anyone else from the Music Teachers Helper community is going to the Music Teachers National Association 2012 National Conference held in New York city from March 24-28. This will be my first time attending a national conference for music teachers, and I am super excited!
The Conference Schedule is packed with workshops, masterclasses, exhibition showcases, and there is a very strong focus on the business side of teaching music, with a whole day dedicated to PROFESSIONAL STUDIO INSTITUTE: Building a Successful Studio in Any Kind of Economy. For those that already have a thriving studio and may not be interested in studio marketing, there is an alternative session called Teaching Artistry, where “Attendees will learn strategies for teaching artistry to students of all levels. Four tracks will explore the topics of technique, basic essential repertoire, advanced repertoire/competition preparation and developing artistry.”
Posted in Music News, Professional Development
The pursuit of mastery has been a popular topic in recent years, with plenty of research and information being presented in books like Outliers. The basic assertion of the mastery research is that to become a master, one needs to do 10,000 hours of practice. Studies have been done on chess masters, musicians, and even youths who grow into soccer pros. Part of the research on the process of mastery has been the assertion that high intelligence is of little or no help to the process after a point.
Now, there is research to counter that assertion. New research indicates that intelligence does indeed play a role. Read more…
Posted in Music News, Practicing
I recently was requested to review a site called LYRICSnMUSIC. I was told that the site had lyrics, band bios, tour dates, and useful links one one page. This sounded interesting to me, as I frequently search for music, lyrics and backgrounds on the internet for my students. When teaching a student a new song, I find they are more interested if they have knowledge of the artist, history, etc.
I decided to give the site a try, so I went to www.lyricsnmusic.com and was impressed by the homepage. I saw several tabs at the top for Lyrics, YouTube, Touring, Buy Song, Images, and More. Below the tabs was a search box as well as icons linked to popular music players, such as Pandora, and music news sites, including Billboard and MTV. It was now time to try a search, either by song title, artist name or words in the lyrics. I tried each and, to my surprise, was taken to the appropriate page. Read more…
Posted in Music & Technology, Music History & Facts, Music News