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Posts Tagged ‘piano’

Things I dreaded as a kid: my list of chores each week, nights my mom served meatloaf, getting my report card (I went to a Catholic school and the priest handed them out. I felt that if I got anything lower than a B, I was offending God. Needless to say, I was a conscientious student), and piano recitals.

Without fail, my elderly piano teacher put on one recital each year in the spring. It was a big deal. She would talk about it weeks in advance. We discussed which piece would I play, made sure no one else was playing that piece, and then I’d do a zillion repetitions to get it memorized. It was the only time all year that I was asked to memorize a piece. It ended up being the real fear during the recital. It didn’t matter if I played musically. The real goal was to get to the end without a memory lapse, take that bow, and say a thank you prayer to God afterwards for having it all behind me.

At home my parents prepared for the recital too. They would arrange to pick up my grandmother, shop for a new dress and listen to my piece a zillion times as a trial run. The carrot they dangled in front of me to go through with it was going out for ice cream as a reward after the recital (They knew that I would do just about anything for ice cream. Some things never change).

Why was it such a traumatic event? Now that I am a Suzuki piano teacher, I realize that it was because recitals were an annual event and because I was not taught how to memorize music.

The Suzuki method encourages the concept of frequent performance. The student is encouraged to play often for family members in an informal atmosphere, during monthly in group lessons, and in formal recitals at least twice a year. I encourage my students to have music nights for their families in their homes. Once a week they gather the family, maybe after dinner, and just play anything they are working on. It is fun for the parents to see the progress, good for siblings to hear the music and beneficial for the student as a means of self evaluation so that they know what to practice in their next session. At group lessons students are asked to perform for each other. Although they are encouraged to play something that is perfected, they may not have perfected pieces that often. The act of getting up in front of others that frequently takes the fear away. The student realizes that if they make a mistake it’s ok and they learn how to deal with it. It raises their confidence and gives them the ability to listen to the music rather than worry about being the center of attention. With two or more formal recitals during a year, students shed the fear of performance. It just becomes a natural result of their efforts. The students then become eager to share their hard work in front of others. The parent is expected to attend the lessons, so playing in front of the parents becomes a non- threatening event. They realize that their parents are a support system rather than critics. In doing so, Suzuki students often feel comfortable performing and volunteer to play for other audiences.

Sharing music is one of the many a benefits of studying an instrument. So, if you are a student, be brave and perform. If you are a teacher or parent of a student, provide performance venues. I will write again on the importance of memorizing music and how to accomplish the goal.

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I have had many hits on my page about virtual piano lessons. So, as I predicted, the interest is out there. I am offering a free lesson to the first person willing to give it a try. Write me a note and we can coordinate a time. No gimmick, just fun. Take a chance and read up about the idea. Ready, set, go!

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Want a piano lesson on line? Check out the Virtual piano icon under “pages” on the right hand side. Very cool and I am ready to go!

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Want your child to score high on standardized tests? Want your child to grow to be self-confident and show initiative? Do you want your child to develop patience and sensitivity? Then enroll them in music lessons.

It is no secret to me that statistics state that children involved in music lessons score 27% higher on standardized tests. Nor am I surprised when the top ten in a graduating class are announced and some of them are music students.

As a music teacher, one of my goals is to teach children to make beautiful music. But simultaneously, I am teaching children life lessons or what I call non-music goals. These are some of the reasons that all children should study music and why, I feel, that music should be a daily event in our children’s school day.

As a piano teacher, I am teaching how to accomplish goals. Children study a piece for weeks, or sometimes months, gaining understanding and technique. Accomplishing long and short term goals becomes their daily quest, These skill carries over into their class work when they are asked to work on a term paper or asked to complete daily homework assignments. From having to accomplish long and short term goals the piano the student is able to transfer the behavior to their school work.

Music lessons teach discipline and time management. Learning a piece of music takes repetition, and daily repetition is most successful. The student has to manage his time to include practice as a daily routine. Time management is important with school work. The student has to make decisions about how long an assignment might take. He may have to ask himself, “Do I have time to watch TV or not?”

Playing an instrument builds listening skills. In order to play a piece well the student listens to recordings and tries to emulate what he hears. Or the teacher may play a segment and ask the student to reproduce what is heard. Sometimes the nuances are subtle and that encourages the student to listen intently. Listening is a key component to learning. When a child is asked to listen critically his attention has to be focused. In school, the student will be able to listen to the teacher’s lessons much easier. It will be easier to block out class disruptions because his concentration has been strengthened through the music .

Musicians are often asked to perform. Being in front of an audience takes courage and confidence. When a child does a piano recital they are alone on a stage with nothing to hide them or help them. If they play a wrong note they have to rescue themselves or if they forget a passage and have no music in front of them they have to jump in and try to make it look like it was intentional. No way around it; it’s scary! However, in doing a recital a child learns self sufficiency, confidence in being in front of an audience and pride. Doing a book report in front of their class seems like a simple task in comparison. And then, someday making a presentation in a business meeting will seem routine.

These are only some of the reasons why I teach piano. When I was a child I asked my parents weekly if I could quit piano lessons. Their answer was always the same, “no!”. As a piano teacher I give the same advice to parents. Do not let a child quit music lessons. They will thank you later. No adult ever said, “I’m glad I quit piano as a kid.”

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I just returned home from Kingston, Ontario Canada where I teach at the More Than Music Institute. I have been going to the Queen’s campus the first week in July for many years. Each year the experience validates the value of music education and the richness of attending this summer institute.

I began attending the institute for the teacher training classes. Although I have a masters degree in music with a concentration in piano pedagogy, I lacked the Suzuki training I was so curious about. What I discovered was a method of education that involved family commitment, aural skills, and a fun way to learn. Since I learned piano the traditional method, I often felt frustrated by reading music, played simple pieces for years beyond my age, and most of all, felt isolated from family and fun because I had to practice. Needless to say, I found the Suzuki method to be tremendously attractive.

In years following I began bringing my piano students and children to the institute. Because the Suzuki method is a family concept, parents and siblings come with their child who is enrolled. Parents attend lessons during the week, go to enrichment classes, sleep in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and attend daily concerts with their children. The faculty and families come from all over the U.S. and Canada. There have been groups from Brazil and France and music becomes the international language.

In bringing my children, I observed real master teachers in action. I was stimulated by their creativity, their love of children and music. The classes were, and continue to be non competitive; every child is applauded for their accomplishments regardless of their age or abilities. That encouragement develops success. I saw the children and parents walk away with a sense of pride and were thus motivated to achieve higher levels. I saw friendships develop amongst children, parents and teachers. I often brought my children home in tears, sad that the week was over.

I have just completed my ninth year as a member of this prestigious faculty. Although I have been attending for nineteen years, first as a trainer, then a parent and now a teacher, I continue to leave believing that I have been part of a miracle. I cherish the faculty with whom I share teaching ideas, friendship and laughter. I value the parents who place parenting above all in their lives and come each summer with their children creating a special bond. I love the children who come who look at me with loving eyes and an eagerness to learn.

Being a part of the Suzuki summer institute in Kingston is exactly what the title implies- more that music. It’s magic.

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As a child, I never thought I’d see the day that I would become a piano teacher. I took piano lessons and hated it! I disliked the practicing, the repetition, the isolation, and the day after day routine. Every year I asked my parents to allow me to quit. The answer was always a firm ‘no’.

I ended up auditioning to music schools because I wanted to be a jazz singer. I loved the syncopation, the harmony, the accapella sound. Piano, of course, was part of the audition. Low and behold, I was accepted as a piano major. I took music education classes with piano as a major and was determined to never practice again after I graduated. I was put on the track to teach elementary classroom music and choir. I loved the classes and got my first job doing just that. Although I didn’t end up being a jazz singer, I was happy.

As any teacher starting a career, I needed extra money. So I took a few piano students vowing to stop as soon as I was financially secure. It felt very hypicritical asking kids to practice so I could make some money. Would I really put them through what I perceived as torture? In doing so, I discovered that although practicing and performing was not my desire, I loved teaching the instrument.

Many years later……

Now I am married, have college age children, and have taught public school music and piano for many years. I have discovered I truly believe in the value of piano lessons. I have found that some of my most valuable lessons, exciting career advancements and opportunities have been through teaching piano. Piano lessons are much more than about music and this is why I teach piano. It’s the benefit of the non -musical goals, such as discipline, reaching for perfection, learning to accomplish long term projects why I teach piano. These are the skills that will benefit the child the rest of their life.

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