First Groupmuse Hosted – Success!

Well, I survived hosting my first Groupmuse concert here in New Orleans and, I must say, it was an overall wonderful experience.

 

If you haven’t read about Groupmuse before, see my post to learn a little about it.  Groupmuse is a platform that connects people who wish to host classical music recitals in their home (or office) with performers and concertgoers.  Now that it is in New Orleans, I’ve attended two Groupmuse events, one held by the President of the New Orleans Opera and the one I hosted myself.

 

So far, I’ve had a blast both as an attendee and as a host.  At the first Groupmuse I attended, the concert was given by a clarinetist, bassoonist, and pianist.  At my Groupmuse, I hosted a violinist, Eva Liebhaber, and a cellist, Rachel Hseih.  Both musicians were members of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and drew audience members therefrom.

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Not to downplay the truly lovely performances I’ve so far seen, I wanted to talk about how much Groupmuse appears to be creating a vibrant community of classical musicians and lovers.  At my Groupmuse, I met many LPO members, interested future hosts, local composers, singers, conductors, avid fans, and all around interesting and good people.  As a pianist, which can often be isolating, it was really lovely to spend time talking with other musicians of different disciplines.  We even spoke of collaboration in the future!

I also appreciate the community Groupmuse fosters by providing more intimate, relaxed, classical concerts in a salon-like atmosphere.  New Orleans is not a city with a huge chamber music scene (although there are Birdfoot Festival and Friends of Music), and this makes that music more available to New Orleans concertgoers who have an especial interest in this music.  Lastly, I love that Groupmuse will provide a new outlet for classical musicians to perform in this city.  In a city with a million jazz clubs and blues dive bars, it can be hard to participate in the vibrant musical culture as a classical musician because there just aren’t as many less-formal environments in which to perform as there are with other genres.  I think the accessibility of these concerts will encourage and even drive more classical musicians to share their solo or chamber works and make the community that much better.

With that said, it’s time to schedule my next hosting event!

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Freebie Friday! Worksheet for Intermediate/Advanced Music Theory Student (with answer key!)

This worksheet is pretty simple.  It is designed for the student who has learned how to recognize and draw the following key signatures:  C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, and E Major.  Additionally, it is designed for a student that has some experience playing and recognizing basic chord progressions; I’ve included two in this sheet and asked the student to identify the key and the chord (by roman numeral).  The chord progressions are ii-V-I (from Jazz Theory book by Levine) and IV-V-I.

Lest students find this worksheet with it’s key online, I’m going to share only by request.  Comment below, comment on my Facebook page, or email me and I will gladly send the answer key your way.

WORKSHEET_key signatures and chord progressions

key signature worksheet pic

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Freebie Friday! Find C, D, and E on the piano.

Happy Friday everyone!

In today’s giveaway, I’d like to share a quick worksheet I made to help reinforce learning note placement on the keyboard.  This sheet is limited to the notes in the two black key group, C, D, and E.  can be given as a homework assignment following playing my Memory Matching Game (preferably using the C, D, and E cards only if the student is very young).

Without further ado, please enjoy this worksheet.  Comment below if you use it and let me know how it went!

CDE worksheet

Download here.

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Announcement: Hosting my very first Groupmuse concert

For those of you who haven’t yet heard of Groupmuse, it is platform designed to pair people who want to perform classical music with people willing to host their performance and people wanting to attend.  It’s basically a classical music house party.  The event is different from your average classical music concert in that it is much more casual; events are often BYOB and offer floor seating.  It’s also different in that it tends to bring together a particular community of all ages (classical music lovers) and encourages them to engage with one another socially.   You can read more about Groupmuse here or learn about them straight from the source at groupmuse.com.

At the first Groupmuse I attended here in New Orleans, I ran into musicians I knew, met some members of the local orchestra I didn’t know, met the President of the New Orleans Opera, and many more interesting classical fans. And, I got to hear some great chamber music.  What could be better?

My event is long in the planning – I first heard of Groupmuse years ago, but it had not yet made it to New Orleans, so I had to wait patiently.  Finally, my patience was rewarded and I am thrilled.  This movement will bring new life to the New Orleans classical scene and encourage more performances of solo and chamber works.

If you are in New Orleans and would like to attend, the event starts at 7:30.  You can get all the details by following this link.

Hope to see some of you there!  If not, please check out and support Groupmuse in your area or plan to attend the next one in New Orleans which is on May 31, 2017.

IMG_4970_Moment.jpg

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Freebie! Name the note on keyboard worksheet.

I recently created this simple worksheet to help my young students learn where the notes are on the piano.  I find that between the Faber, Bastien, and Alfred very young beginner books, there just aren’t enough activities, worksheets, etc to reinforce the concepts week-to-week.  So I’m in the process of making several.

This one is simple.  It shows either a 2 black key group or a 3 black key group with a white key colored in and then asks the student to name the note.  Important to note that the entire musical alphabet (not sharps or flats) is covered on this one sheet, so make sure the student has already been taught all the notes in order to use this effectively.

WORKSHEET_Id notes all

WORKSHEET_Identify the Notes on the piano

One way of teaching keyboard note recognition is the game I shared in my last post.  Check it out if you need an engaging game to teach note names to young ones.  You can break up the deck into just a few notes at a time or play with all of the notes, once all the notes have been introduced and become familiar.

Anyway, to get the worksheet, simply click on the image below and it should download.  Happy Teaching!  (And Mother’s Day!)

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New! Teaching the Young Beginner; tips from the trenches. (And free game!)

Recently, I’ve made some significant in roads in an area of teaching that has always proven difficult – teaching students ages 7 and below.  Like many teachers I know, I too often told parents that their child was too young to start private lessons, but lately, I’ve taken on three five-year-olds, two girls and one boy, and after a few rough sessions, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it!  (Funny story, I’m also a licensed attorney and after one of the first lessons with a five year old, I texted my boyfriend and told him I thought that teaching that age might be more adversarial than the practice of law.)

But really, it just takes some flexibility, creativity, and LOTS of planning to make it work. In the last few weeks, I’ve had a lot of success in teaching my five-year-olds the names and locations of the notes on the piano using a simple game that the children really enjoyed (one told me so himself).  So today, I’m going to share that with you.

The game is simple – memory – that game where you get to turn over two cards at a time and try to find all the matches.  You may even play it yourself on your smartphone.

For my version of the game, I created cards with either the two black key group or three black key group on them.  Then I colored one note on the card, using all the same color so as not to make the children think the colors had any significance.  Then, I divided up the cards into two sets – 2-black key and 3-black key.  The first time we played the game in a lesson, I would use just the 2 black key set.  After the student had mastered it (and could retain the information until the next lesson), I would play with the 3 black key set.

Student playing Memory Game

Here’s how the game works:

  1. It’s you versus the student (or if student has a parent present, have the parent play….creates an added bonus of making sure the parent learns the notes so that she can reinforce them outside of lessons).
  2. Lay all the cards out face down in random order.  Explain to the student that the goal is to find matching cards.  Whoever matches the most cards wins.
  3. Let the student turn over the first two cards.  Ask the student if the cards show the 2 black key group or the three black key group.  If they match and the student hasn’t noticed, ask the student whether the cards are the same.
  4. If the student finds a match, tell the student the name of the note indicated.  Then inform the student that she can get extra points if she uses the cards as a “map” to find that note on the piano.  Go with the student to the piano and help guide them to the right key by asking questions such as: Are you looking for a 2black key group or 3 black key group? Which white key is colored on the card?  Can you find the key on the piano? (Are you sure that’s the key….[point out a difference]?)
  5. Once the student has used the map to find the key, ask the student to find all those keys on the piano to get the extra point.  Do not be strict with requiring no mistakes.  Just encourage each correct answer and give a chance to retry given an incorrect answer.
  6. On your turns, generally try to lose most of the time.  Only try to make matches after the student has learned the key.  Allow the student to “steal” the points from you if she can find all the notes on the piano.  (Score-keeping really isn’t important here.  Just make sure the child wins if trying).
  7. Every time a card is flipped, if the student has already identified it on the piano, ask the student to name the note shown on the card.  Don’t introduce new notes until it has shown up as a match however.  This way, you have the students getting familiar with what to look for without having yet to identify it and the student learns only one new note at a time.

So far this game has been very successful both in entertaining my students, educating my parents, and in educating the students.  I almost fainted when one of my students came in for her next lesson after learning C, D, E in the previous lesson and she could still identify C, D, E on the piano.

Some key lessons I have learned from this activity and other recent experiences are:

  1.  Plan a good game to introduce a concept (although this one is pretty obvious it is worth mentioning);
  2. Introduce one concept at a time and give it a long time to sink in with multiple methods of reinforcement (visual, aural, tactile, etc).
  3. Use a gentle form of the Socratic method (asking questions designed to lead the student to the correct answer) to help students figure out answers themselves.  This makes the student feel better about the work she does and also tends to make it more memorable.
  4. Make sure your activity involves movement to some degree.  If the activity is a short one and won’t take more than 5 minutes, then maybe no movement is fine, but otherwise, remember that little bodies need to get up and move around to stay interested.
  5. Don’t try to stick with one piano method.  Pull things that work from the different methods as you see how the child is developing.  I use Alfred for some of it’s activity and ear training and notespeller worksheets, and Faber for a song to sing together, and Bastien for starting pieces using just the black keys.  And sometimes I change all of that and do something different.  HAVE MANY TOOLS READY TO GO.
  6. Always have something to color or draw if they get restless or bored. It’s a safe back up.
  7. Let the child have a few minutes to “improvise” on the piano if they show an interest in just playing at the beginning of the lesson.  Just inform them that they only get 3 minutes to play before the next activity.
  8. INCENTIVES.  Don’t forget to have stickers and prizes for your students.  I give my students stickers for good behavior during their lesson and a visit to the prize box for special accomplishments or winning a particular game.  (More on my prize box later.)
  9. Make sure your lessons for little ones are only thirty minutes.
  10. Pick one or two concepts to teach in a particular lesson and come up with at least three different activities to teach them.  Some activities may not work or may bore the child or something else might go wrong, so plan to have backups (see step 6 when all else fails).
  11. It’s easier to teach multiple five year olds private lessons than it is to teach just one.  If you are going to have to make all the plans and effort for one student, you might as well have other students of the same age so that your effort/student ratio is reasonable.
  12. Always start the next lesson with a review of last lesson’s information.  This is especially crucial with the young beginner because seeing you once per week is a long time in their comprehension of time.

Now, to share my memory game. To print, use cardstock and print on both sides, flipping on the short side.  Be sure to print in color two if you want the notes to be colored in red rather than being gray.  Click this link here to download: Memory_ ID THE KEYS Final.  Here’s a preview of what it looks like:

If you use this in your own studio, please comment with how it went and any insights you might have to offer.

Teach a lot of young beginners?  I’d love to hear from you too!

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A quick tip: UIPianoPed

Happy Monday, everyone!

Today I’m going to share with you a resource that I’ve been using for a long time, but I’ve never thought to share until now.  I was prompted to share when I found myself recommending it once again to a student of mine — I realized that maybe it’s worth mentioning because maybe it’s not totally well-known.  (Or maybe it is and then, no harm, right?)

And the resource is this: the UIPianoPed youtube channel from the University of Iowa Piano Pedagogy Project.  This channel has something like 3,000 videos of well-executed performances of beginner to intermediate (intermediate/advanced) piano pieces.  I noticed that the last upload occurred about 1 year ago, so I don’t know if new videos will be added, but this channel is a great resource for examples of pieces that are played and uploaded by many, but aren’t always played well or recorded well, etc.  So often, a student plays an intermediate piece – Ivan Sings by Khachaturian, for example, and all that can be found recording-wise on the internet are some home videos of various intermediate students playing, when what I really want to show my student is a professional level performance.  This is where UIPianoPed is so handy.

If you have a student learning the old standby of Sea Mist by James Bastien, for example, and you go to YouTube and search for performances, you get the following results:

 

Fortunately, in this instance, the UIPianoPed video is the third result.   However it’s often the case that you have to wade through scores of videos (if you don’t give up) before you find something suitable to show your student.  And that just won’t do.  And having students finding videos on their own, to me, seems like a recipe for disaster – what if they choose to imitate bad or incorrect playing or technique?  I’d much rather show them a good performance then have them find a bad one on their own.

Just today, it was a handy resource for one of my adult students who is playing a piece from Music for Millions: Vol. 27.  The piece in the book itself is unhelpfully identified merely as “Sarabande” by GF Handel, but without much more information, search results return other sarabandes in that key, none of which are of the actual music from the book.  When my student texted me saying he could not find a recording, I decided to check UIPianoPed.  Sure enough, the entire volume of the book was performed and recorded and I was able to quickly find a good example to send my student.  It is unfortunate that I only have one performance to share with him to prevent him from any tendency to merely “ape” that performance, but we can’t always get everything we want 🙂

Another way this YouTube channel has been of use to my piano studio is as a resource for discovering unfamiliar  beginner/intermediate works as a teacher OR as a way to allow your students to go “piece shopping.”  I frequently recommend to my older students that they spend time listening to the videos from this channel because they might find something they want to play that I’ve never heard of (because I don’t have the book or because it was composed recently, etc) and that can be of pedagogical and artistic value and might be something outside of the usual festival fare.  It also makes it a lot easier to offer choices to your students without owning every copy of every intermediate collection in existence.  I discovered a set of pieces that I love teaching through this channnel, Shostakovich’s Children’s six movement Children’s Album, that I would likely never have found out about because it appears in none of the more common collections that I own or have had students purchase. Listen to how delightful this piece is:

 

Or how lovely this simple waltz is:

 

When I went to purchase the sheet music for this particular music, I could only find it in a stand alone edition by Kalmus, which I would probably have never purchased without having first heard the music through UIPianoPed.  (Music linked with image if you are interested).

Anyway, I hope you gained something from this post and have a great week!

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