Saturday, September 29, 2018

I challenge you to a duet!

Two weeks ago, a few of my summer students got together to play duets. They had each been working on their part of their duet.  I had played with them at earlier lessons, but this was the first time they met together with their duet partners.  They had so much fun working together.  They were patient with each other, and offered suggestions if their partner stumbled. 

We had reserved 45 minutes for them to learn to play together, then we invited the parents to hear their accomplishments.  What a treat!  The parents were obviously proud of their kids, and happy to hear the completed piece.  (It hadn't occurred to me that they were hearing only part of the music all summer long.  They knew something was missing, and hearing the duet played together was satisfying.)  I was especially tickled that they had learned to listen for their partner.  They started together, maintained tempo, and ended together. 

When we finished with the duets, the kids took turns playing solo music that they had been working on.  It was a party!  A definite success, and something they've asked to repeat. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April Fool!

This past week was my Spring Break, and the weather was rather spring-like.  Mostly rainy, not too cold.  Beautiful day yesterday, (I'm visiting family in New Jersey), and I had the pleasure of accompanying my grand-niece on the Easter Bunny Train in Whippany , NJ.   She wasn't so sure of the Easter Bunny, but I was amused. 

Tomorrow I return home to weekly, regularly scheduled lessons, and it's supposed to snow!  I already have lessons to make up from the First Day of Spring snowfall.  I am ever hopeful this is an April Fool's joke from the weatherman. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Group piano class

I was feeling badly that my younger students hadn't had a performance opportunity over the holidays.  The Frederick County Music Teachers Association hosted a Holiday Recital in December, but none of my kids were available.  In the past, I have hosted a Twelfth Night party for my kids in early January, giving them an opportunity to play what they've worked so hard to master in December, as well as a reason to continue to practice over the Christmas break.  Again, I picked a date that was already filled on my students' (parents') calendars. 

So finally, before the spring break rush, I scheduled a piano class, just for the kids, no parents (my house is too small).  I haven't done a group lesson in many, many years.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  We had a good turnout, only one student had a conflict this time around.  Everyone had at least one relatively polished piece to perform, after which we talked about the difficult sections, the techniques involved to make the music interesting for both the performer and the audience.  We then reviewed scales, everyone showing whatever scales they knew, and naming the key signature, after which we made scale chains.  Black and white beads, indicating the notes of the C Major and G Major scales (so far).  We will add more beads as everyone learns new scales.  (An aside - I've been doing this little craft for years, and have bought alphabet beads for the whole alphabet.  How happy I was to find individual letter beads on!  I only need to buy A-G ever again.) 

I think everyone enjoyed the event.  My 2 students yesterday brought their scale chains back, in anticipation of adding new beads.  I need to find a way to display them, so the incentive stays current.  Did I say I ended the group lesson with cookies and soda?  I've been enjoying the cookies myself -- most of the kids told me they don't like sweets!  Maybe I'll serve veggies and dip next time?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Looking ahead

I've done it.  I'm committed.  Summertrios, look out, 'cause here I come.  I'm coming back in June!  Some of my earliest posts were about going to Summertrios, summer music camp for adults.  That was 2010, and I'm so excited to be able to go back this summer.

I like to give myself these challenges every now and again.  I like to convince myself that yes, I can, like the Little Engine that Could, and I like to put myself in my students' shoes, being the performer, to remember those nerves so I can still relate.  Nice thing about being a private teacher, I don't have to perform, and I went through a phase when I couldn't.  I just didn't have the wherewithal to git 'er done.  The clincher was subbing at a church  one Sunday morning a few years ago.  The choir director insisted I play the hymns at her tempo, which was much faster than I had imagined.  And during the offertory, my music blew off the music stand and no one came to my rescue!  I had to fake it.  I was a wreck.  I think I'm on the other side of that phase now, I've had more opportunities to play for others and succeeded, and I am thoroughly enjoying the process of learning this new music.

I've been working on Beethoven's Piano Trio No. 1 in c minor.  I've been working for a few months already.  And I've got most of it.  A few tricky spots still have my fingers a bit tangled, but I am working through them.  These next few months, I need to learn another trio (! that was a surprise to me, as if one trio wasn't enough) and work on the subtle nuances of the Beethoven.  I've listened to it a few times on YouTube, different performing artists, different settings.  My biggest struggle will be the tempo -- it flies by!  But I sit down just about every day, and review, and dissect, and play, and it's coming together.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Practice, in a nutshell

A cold winter, indeed.  Perfect weather to stay indoors and practice!  Learning to play the piano takes time, takes focus.  You’re not going to get it the first read through.  As a teacher, I like to challenge my students to work a little harder, extend the hand a bit, learn a more involved rhythm.  Sometimes it can be frustrating.  I review practice techniques at every lesson in order to demonstrate how to go about practicing between lessons.  You don’t want to start at the beginning and play straight through.  No, no.  Work in sections, a little at a time.  When you feel comfortable with the different sections, then try playing straight through.  Oh, what an improvement!

Okay, so what are you waiting for?  Oh, baby, it's cold outside.  Go practice!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Happy New Year 2018

And it's about time!  Toni is back, and hopes to be more blog-friendly this year.  I happened upon an article from 2013 that piqued my interest.  Check out 

This is your brain on Vivaldi and Beatles
Listening to music activates large networks in the brain, but different kinds of music are processed differently. A team of researchers has developed a new method for studying music processing in the brain during a realistic listening situation. Using a combination of brain imaging and computer modeling, they found areas in the auditory, motor, and limbic regions to be activated during free listening to music.
and then perhaps follow up with a more current study,    
Your brain responses to music reveal if you're a musician or not
How your brain responds to music listening can reveal whether you have received musical training, according to new research. By applying methods of computational music analysis and machine learning on brain imaging data collected during music listening, the researchers we able to predict with a significant accuracy whether the listeners were musicians or not.
All fascinating!  I hope to make more time to read articles such as these throughout the year.  I'll share the good stuff.  
Toni                                                                                                                                                            Piano is my Forte