Being a person who is strongly nourished by sunlight and warmth, this is a hard time of year for me. That makes mid-winter a great time to remind myself why I really do love my job. This list is a compilation of many individuals’ thoughts, so most of us will find something we can relate to.
I get to keep learning new music all the time.
I am giving a gift that will last a lifetime.
My young “clients” are adorable and amazing.
Nothing compares to seeing a face light up when a child finally “gets it.”
Small accomplishments bring great pleasure.
I connect to children at the level of their hearts.
My job is much more meaningful than a typical 8-5.
I am sometimes the first person to alert parents to a learning or visual challenge.
I teach kids to rise above negativity and self-doubt to create beautiful and very personal music.
I get to witness generations of musicians enjoying their music.
It is gratifying to know that I am an important part of a child’s life.
I enjoy the constant challenge of finding better and more effective ways to teach a concept.
I am never bored—I get a whole new personality to enjoy every 30-45 minutes.
I have the privilege of helping to keep the arts alive in our culture.
I am helping to make someone’s dream come true.
I am able to model for a child smart work habits, diligence, perseverance, patience, and confidence.
I never really know how much impact and influence I am having, so it keeps me on my toes every single day.
Music is a unique form of human expression and I get to draw it out.
This makes it worth pouring my heart, soul and love for music into my work every day. Even the cold, dark days of winter. Please share your inspirational thoughts below!
After you received your undergrad music degree, performed a stellar recital of the classics, turned in that
lofty thesis, passed a professional accreditation exam or somehow earned shiny, new initials behind your name, you probably felt a great sense of achievement. Perhaps you felt like I did? After I received my Master of Arts in Piano Performance and Pedagogy, I felt my career was professionally wrapped up and ready to launch. Although my intent is not to discount the importance of the academic achievements listed above, I’m wondering if you–like me–had your bubble burst, your box tipped upside down and your bow unraveled when you entered the real world of piano teaching? Yes, I could play and teach Beethoven and Ravel, I could design a sequential curriculum for early learners but when asked to read from a lead sheet, my skills fell embarrassingly short. Read more…
When I look at my first music book from when I was seven, scrawled across each page are my teacher’s increasingly frustrated exclamations of, “fingering, fingering, FINGERING!”
We’ve all been there though as music teachers! Why do our pupils always ignore our reminders we write on their music for them? No amount of pencil annotations seem to help!
However, in a moment of frustration, I accidentally stumbled on a very useful solution which I now use all the time in lessons with good success!
Tip 1: “Follow the Yellow Brick” Post-it® !
• Cut up pieces of brightly coloured Post-it® notes to the appropriate sizes
• Carefully attach the sticky Post-it® note at the exact position over or under the problem area on the sheet music
• Write a helpful reminder with a marker pen (e.g. “LOUD,” “QUIETER,” “PAUSE,” “FINGER 2,” etc.)
• Sit back and watch the instant improvement. Magic!
• When the issue is finally resolved, simply lift the Post-it® note without marking the music
Students find it hard to ignore such bright and bold messages and therefore bad habits are quickly fixed.
Tip 2: Mission Impossible!
Do you sometimes give pupils a time restricted challenge? For example, how quickly can they get their hands into the correct position before sight-reading a new piece of music? Instead of using a conventional timer, try playing Read more…
The issue of internal or external motivation is a debate that is sure to continue as long as there are music students and music teachers. One reason for this is the uniqueness of each student and each teacher. There is no one right answer.
Everyone seems to agree that an internally motivated child is the ideal. But what do we mean by “internally” motivated? Is it the child that seems to practice every week without wanting or needing stickers or prizes? Is it internal motivation to want to please your teacher or parents, or must it involve some level of personal enjoyment of the activity?
Dan Pink, in his TED Talk, describes three elements of internal motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. We can we strive to incorporate these three elements into our lessons. Certainly teaching students to be good readers and helping them to understand the fundamentals of music and harmony will promote a sense of autonomy. Training a student carefully in the elements involved in high-quality playing and taking pieces to completion, should develop a sense of mastery. A sense of purpose might come from discovering how their musical abilities can be used to serve and bless other people.Read more…
My friend Mary was cornered by a 4th grade student one day, who told her, “You’re pretty smart, for a music teacher.”
Mary asked the little girl why she thought most music teachers weren’t so smart.
“Because you only teach singing and playing instruments. Can you multiply? Can you divide? Can you do fractions?”
How would you answer this little girl?
Does this tell us something about our compartmentalized world? The little girl was learning music but should she have been taught the connections music has with everything else?
Should music teachers make these connections obvious? Or are we so intent on making music fun and doable, or on accomplishing specific tasks involved in learning a skill or satisfying a curriculum, that we don’t have time or mental space to tie things together as we teach?
I find that making connections in music learning to people’s work lives, to school subjects, to decisionmaking, to learning, help people learn music better. But I can’t say I methodically connect all the dots. Do you?
Below are some connections meant as food for thought for music teachers. (And please, add any subjects or angles that you feel are missing!) Read more…
The UK composer Elena Cobb has been busy recently!
Hot off the press is her latest book for complete beginner pianists entitled “My Piano Trip to London.”
Printed in full colour landscape, the first thing you notice is a sticker page that children will love using when they complete each song.
Each of the 17 songs represents a different London landmark or icon, giving a nice opportunity to engage the pupil in conversation outside music and then to relate it back to the lesson at hand. It’s quite an adventure to embark on with the pupil as you work your way through the book, from the Royal Albert Hall, to the London Eye, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben to mention but a few.
Over the years I’ve seen piano methods that contain lots of detailed instructions and exhaustive advice that quite frankly nobody bothers to read. Elena Cobb has really struck the balance I think in keeping each page clean and simple so that the teacher can do their job but also providing concise facts and tips that will be useful and enjoyable. I laughed to myself when reading Read more…
With this post, I’m going to start a short series of blogs on the theme ‘An Invitation to Performance’. I will be exploring performance as an action, a skill, and as something that every teacher should consider offering as an integral part of his or her teaching studio. As my students and colleagues well know, I can get quite evangelical about the importance of providing access to performance – in particular experimental performance (about which more later) — to all students, whether aspiring professionals or dedicated amateurs.
Performance offers us commentary on and access to a part of our musical self that no other medium can: it is the window into our true, communicative, musical responses, while at the same time being in the only venue in which we can observe or consider those truths. Performance is a lot of other things as well, things that my friends well know that I take great pleasure in discussing far into the wee hours. It’s a space; it’s a shared arena for action; it’s the special place where only musical things happen; it’s our only access to the creativity of our audiences.
I’ll be saying more about these and other ideas surrounding performance in future blogs, but for now, let me me start the series by banging a favourite drum regarding an effective practical option available to all music teachers who wish to give their students more access to the joys and intrigue of performance: the institution of the studio masterclass.
Making masterclasses work
There can be few experiences more stimulating for both music teacher and student than witnessing an expert performer working with a student in a masterclass setting. Once the hard graft of technique, musicianship, and style have been addressed, and once the many long hours of practice have been clocked, the opportunity for students to step out into the light of the concert hall and begin to experiment with performance under the expert guidance of a professional is an invaluable one. It is the crucial step between practice and performance, in particular, professional performance – in my opinion, the crucial step.
And yet, not all teachers make the space for masterclasses as part of the regular studio activities. Read more…
Recently, we asked a series of questions to over 300 students of Music Teacher’s Helper users. Today, we share some of that data, which is likely representative of most private music teachers. So please share with your peers.
99% said that their teacher runs their studio in a professional manner. We hope Music Teacher’s Helper has played a part in such an impressive number!
I heard from the music school that a new student had signed up, so as usual, I called him to find out what level he was at, what he wanted, what his email was so I could send him a link to register with Music Teachers Helper.
It became clear soon into my phone call that this new student was hesitating at the music school’s requirement that he sign up for 4 lessons to get started.
“I think I only want one or two to get started,” he said.
I told him that it was a good idea to give it a few lessons to get started and see how it worked, though of course if it didn’t seem a good fit, it was fine to drop out.
“I think really I only want one lesson,” he said.
I said, well, we can get started with some basics in the first lesson, but the second lesson is where I see what he took in, how he did, and where to take it from there.
This month I’m going to use my blog format to do what it does best: simply to spread information.
This past week, I was at voice faculty meeting at my conservatoire in Canada and one of our teachers, who is also an active chairperson in our local chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, gave a short presentation on an exciting new educational NATS initiative: “Vocapedia“, a website dedicated to the science and pedagogy of the singing voice.
Here is a quick overview, quoted from their site, of what they aim to do with the resource:
The mission of Vocapedia is to present educational resources relevant to:
the anatomic and physiologic basic of singing
the acoustics of the singing voice; the acoustical basis of resonance
the physical health of the vocal mechanism
the science of learning and mental processes involved in singing and teaching of singing
current and historical thought on pedagogical practice.
The intent is not to prescribe techniques, services, practices, or styles of singing, or the teaching of singing. Rather, the aim is to present resources that provide rational thinking and facts as they are currently accepted in the scientific community, from authors who have demonstrated their expertise.
The site promises to become a foundational point of reference for those seeking information about all aspects of singing physiology, technique, and pedagogy.
I do encourage everyone to click through the links and spend some time exploring this exciting new initiative!