Friday, October 18, 2019

When the cat's away...

I'm planning a trip, and that takes me away from my students.  What's a teacher to do?  And just before a performance opportunity!

In anticipation of my absence, I uncovered a Practice Challenge I had downloaded from Tim Topham's Inner Circle.  Basically, keep track of your practice dates and times.  I've extended the challenge to include what you've practiced, and at the end of each week, give yourself a self-lesson.  Listen with your ears as you play, critique your performance.  Did you keep a steady tempo?  Is your staccato crisp?   Is your Halloween music suitably Halloween-y?

I'm hoping this will help each of my students stay focused.  I'm hoping this will help keep them somewhat accountable to their practice time.  I'm hoping that rather than simply playing through their practice pieces and thinking that's enough, they will start to develop some listening skills.  And yes, we have a Post-Halloween recital coming up upon my return.  I'm hoping that carrot will keep them practicing.  I've explained my approach to the parents as well.  It's an experiment.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


You learn something new every day.  I've been at this job for nearly 4 decades.  Arranging for performance opportunities has been part of the job description from the beginning.  Requiring commitment from  my students has never been a consideration.  Through my participation with the Frederick County Music Teachers Association, I have actually questioned the need for permission slips and recital fees.  Last month I learned the folly of my ways.

Each of my summer students worked on his or her own portion from Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals.    One or 2 students let me know early on that they were unavailable for the performance, and I worked with the remaining students to divvy up their animals among those students who, I assumed, were committed.  I did not ask for permission slips.

The week of the performance, 4 kids backed out.  Yikes!  I considered cancelling the performance, but I didn't want to disappoint those remaining students, young and old, who had worked so hard over the summer!   I worked my own fingers very hard that week to get those missing pieces up to performance level.  

I learned a lot in the process.  RSVPs are crucial.  Don't get me wrong, everyone put in effort to learn their pieces.  And I think everyone wanted and intended to participate.  The children's parents were enthusiastic and supportive.  But we sometimes over-schedule, either our children or ourselves.  We forget, or don't allow enough time for all of our commitments.  Perhaps a permission slip will act as an event reminder.  I don't want to tack on recital fees, but I am holding onto that concept as a future incentive as well. 

I also learned that my students and their parents enjoyed hearing me perform.  This was a student performance, and I did not want to take away from that.  I hadn't realized that the only "performing" my students hear from me is in dribs and drabs, phrases here and there in their music during lessons.  It was a revelation.  I think they liked seeing me nervous too!

We have another performance opportunity just around the corner.  Due to scheduling conflicts in October, my students will perform their post-Halloween recital on Friday, November 8, at 5:30, at Centennial United Methodist Church.  Although I never require performance participation, I will request RSVPs this time.  I hope everyone can be there!