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Family Music for Toddlers

playing resonator bars

Today we completed an awesome semester of music with toddlers!

Every Thursday morning ten little ones brought their grown ups into the studio for 30 minutes of nursery rhymes set to music.  We danced, we hopped,  we went this-a-way and that-a-way…all day long!   Well, even if the class was not all day long, I received reports of their singing at home. Wonderful!

Allee Galloo galloo

Each  week we confirmed the notion that “nursery rhymes lend themselves to musical activities because they are rich in rhythm, meter, inflection, and song.”*  Most importantly, though, the children and their adults had a delightful time clapping, tapping, jumping, skipping, and singing, the best way we know to build musicality!

 

*Musikgarten – All Together Now! Nimble & Quick, card 2

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Happy New Year!

Being an Independent Piano Teacher is very rewarding.  However, being an Independent Piano Teacher is a lot of work. Even though my husband takes care of the studio bills, yard maintenance and anything else required from a a handy man, I still have to schedule the students, plan the lessons for the different age groups, order books, plan a yearly incentive, organize all the studio stuff, sweep and mop the floors, vacuum the rug, and clean the bathroom!

Oh wait…I also need to teach…

So here is what I have planned so far for this New Year:

Pre-piano 2 will be  singing and dancing through Musikgarten’s Music Makers: Around the World and Sing and Play for the piano introduction part of the class.

Group Piano 1 will be using  Music Makers: At The Keyboard book 1 and Music Discoveries for a little bit more of theory and pre-reading skills.

Group Piano 2 and 3 will be working on Music Makers: At The Keyboard book 2 or 3 and A Dozen a Day Mini Book or Preparatory level for additional reading exercises.

This year, because my Group Piano 4 has had some changes, I’ve decided to transition them into a traditional note reading method book while continuing aural activities, singing and dancing.  The Mayron Cole method will be the core of this class.

The rest of my planning is for private piano students.  Most of them prepare for The Piano Guild  which would be their classical music repertoire, A Dozen a Day (listed above), a book of fun repertoire/recital pieces, and a worship song book.  Those who are not preparing for a specific medal (GUILD) have different classical repertoire books such as Mastering the Piano or Kabalevsky’s Opus 39.

Would you like to share your piano plans?

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(Piano) Exercise with Your Child Week

Today is the beginning of  Exercise with Your Child Week (Aug. 8 – 14) which reminds parents and guardians of the importance to exercise with their children as part of a healthier lifestyle.  And now that I have reminded you  about this, allow me to turn this into a call to practice piano with your children.

Exercising (the piano) with your child will:

  • Improve their overall musical well-being – When you “send” your child to practice the piano alone in a separate room  you send a message of “I’m not interested”, “I need you to leave me alone”, or “My time on the computer is so much more entertaining”.  All of these might be true, but not helpful to their musical progress.  Most of the time children are taking lessons because you, the parent, want them to and being isolated in a room for 30 minutes is really a punishment, not a good thing.

 

  • Maintain a healthy love of music –  The weekly assignments that your child needs to review are vital nutrients for their musical development.  When these nutrients are enjoyed with someone special, a stronger connection is created.  A good example is my new habit of drinking a green juice of vegetables and fruit, every morning.  I am encouraged to continue because family and friends are happily expecting their cup of juice every morning.  We have created a special connection, a stronger bond.

 

  • Reduce the risk of dropout – Many of the complaints that I receive from parents have to do with practice at home.  “Johnny doesn’t want to practice”, is a weekly melody.  Most of my students love coming to their lesson, but hate to practice. If they do not practice, they make no progress.  A daily battle rages at home finally the parent gives up and another piano dropout is born.  However, when daily piano exercise following the teachers assignment of musical nutrients is combined with a strong parent/child connection, the risk of being a dropout is greatly reduced.

Make this week the beginning of a healthier and  musical lifestyle!

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Smart Phones and Piano Lessons

If you know me, you know I go EVERYWHERE with my smart phone.  It is the only way I know what I have to do next.  I might not always use it as a phone, you know, like for answering calls… but it has my calendar, schedule, emails, maps, camera, and files.  And then I can TEXT anyone, anywhere.  I can GOOGLE any subject right away.  Oh! so much can be done with a smart phone.

I have been accused of being in the CLOUD instead of being in the moment.  I have been accused of being a workaholic (ha!) because that is what I usually do with my smart phone – however, I will not use it while I teach unless I feel it is an emergency.  Often I just leave the smart phone on my desk in the office while I teach, and the volume is always off.

So what is this post about?

It is about parents, smart phones, and piano lessons.   About half of my piano students are in group classes.  45 minutes of class and then the parents join the class for another 15 minutes with their children.  This is where I explain what is new, what is expected at home and answer any questions.  I have provided a tall stool for each parent to sit on beside their child’s piano, a pencil for notes, a neatly typed assignment page.  So many parents are grateful for my efforts to make this part of class easier.  But there are those who totally ignore me, their child and basically are just a warm body present in the room but drifting in the cloud.    Really? yes, indeed. When it is their child’s turn to play a solo piece for the class,  they are busy emailing, ‘texting’ or playing a game. One of these parents even told me that he did not understand what his daughter had to practice at home!  And guess what?  This family is no longer enrolled at my studio…

Put the phone away!

I am not a confrontational person.  I like to keep the peace and want to believe that everyone is happy and  get along with each other. I will take a parent to the side and talk about issues, but I would much rather they turn on the common sense switch and realize these 15 minutes are precious time that they are PAYING FOR!  Really and truly, it is a generation of parents who just want to pay for lessons and drop the kids off, pick them up and maybe remind them to practice during the week.  Thankfully I only have one or two parents that don’t get it, my frustration is because those are the families that need to pay attention.

You put up a sign?

I do.  In the small waiting area of my studio I’ve been known to post signs for everything for the simple reason that I hate being the bad guy, and I would rather focus on making music than rules and regulations. In the past I have posted “TURN CELL PHONES OFF”, “NO FOOD OR DRINK”, and “DON’T PLAY WITH THE NEIGHBORS TOYS.”  It has worked for me 99% of the time.

Smart Parents

I cannot forget those parents who use their smart phones wisely.  A few beginner parents videotape the 15 minutes that we are together in order to remember how to practice at home.

That is exactly the way a smart phone should be used during a piano lesson!

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At The Seashore

What a delightful resource Musikgarten has published!

I have adapted this summer curriculum for 4 one-hour classes once a week in the month of July.  Ages in this summer’s class range from 4 to 7 and during our first class they connected very well.  Even though I have taught this curriculum several times, each time I change it up a little based on the experiences of previous years.

This year instead of a gigantic seashore display I quickly put together a seashore in a box (above) with sand from Florida, different types of shells, a starfish and a seahorse.  The plan is to change the items each week.

I use beach buckets to store their poster, beach towel, crafts, etc. for the day. They do not take it home until the last day of class.  However, they do take home their CD and parent booklet.

 

After an hour of singing, playing the piano and moving like seaweed we turned on the water got wet and had a fun snack of blue Hawaiian Punch and Goldfish.

Come join us next week!