Archive for November 30th, 2008


I love and respect art, and have found that painting a story during piano lessons is a very useful tool.

Varlery Lloyd Watts, concert pianist and teacher from Canada (she’s the performer of the Suzuki piano literature) is exceptional in her field for creating stories around the pieces she plays. Often in concert she will begin by telling the audience a story she created about a piece. She will tell the story and insert snippets of the piece so her audience is able to correlate the visual idea to the aural. It’s a great way for audience members of all musical backgrounds to get more involved with the music by providing a heightened opportunity of listening.

Valery does this also with her piano students. In master classes one will often hear her say, “When I hear that music it makes me think of…”. Then she proceeds to further her picture with the student and collaborate ideas. She is a master at this technique.

Although my stories are a bit less entertaining than hers, I love using this technique with students.
Here’s why:
1. It uses the right brain instead of the left. So often teachers say, “play forte here, add a ritard there….” Wouldn’t it be more fun to say, “play like a happy giant here who is slowing down to capture an annoying bird”?
2. When thinking a story the child’s brain focuses on the story instead of technical points, over all, creating a performance that includes more passion.
3. It helps the child get the big picture which brings unity to the entire piece. I especially love creating stories to sonatinas because of their structure. They lend themselves easily to a beginning, middle and end.
4. It gives incentive to practice. I would much rather think about practicing a piece about a princess who gets rescued by a handsome prince than think about watching my hand position, the exposition, or the diminuendo, etc.
5. It brings creativity and fun to the lesson.
6. It gives the child another tool to use when practicing. I have had students come to me with stories they created. My daughter has told me she uses the story technique when she goes to concerts and creates stories in her head while listening.

What I also like to do is start a piece with a story and then have the student finish it themselves for the next lesson.  It almost always results in a more passionate performance.

So grab your paint brush and give it a go!


Read Full Post »

There’s a children’s song I teach in Kindergarten called ‘The Hokey Pokey’ and the last line is, “That’s what it’s all about.” So, I just had to play around with Wordle once again to see what my teaching philosophy was all about. I was very pleased with my first attempt (my blog called “Priorities in Teaching”) but I was curious what would surface if I copied in the text from many of my blogs.

In my first attempt, the words praise, respect and children surfaced in the largest font. I was sooo happy to see this. I truly believe that the largest factor in successful teaching is praise and respect. When a student believes in himself and he can trust his teacher his learning potential grows.

My second wordle attempt as shown above, is obviously a Suzuki music display. The words Suzuki and music are the emphasis. What I found interesting though are the words which are the next font down: children, parents, teacher. In Suzuki education the child, parent, and teacher are the triangle of learning. If one member of the triangle is weak, so will be the learning. Isn’t that true in all aspects of our children’s education?

I am glad to have discovered Wordle and am interested in using it in my classes in school. I think it will be a fun learning tool for children.

Read Full Post »

This is very fun! I just tried “Wordle”. If you want to give it a go, click on “confessions of a band director” in my blog roll to get started. Very easy! I was very glad to how my educational priorities stacked up. I think my graphic describes my philosophy quite well.

Read Full Post »