Friday, December 30, 2011

Making Practicing Easier

   Many parents feel frustrated with practice sessions at home. They often feel the conflict that arises about practice indicates they are bad parents. Children can behave in strange and bizarre ways when it is time to practice. It is not unusual for children to resist being told what to do. As a teacher, parents often appeal to me to tell their children to practice because they feel their child will not listen to them. So, what is going on if this is a universal problem?

Edmund Sprunger has some important ideas on this subject in a book called, "Helping Parents Practice". There are three ideas in the beginning of the book that make sense to me.
1) Children are vulnerable and want to look good in the eyes of their parents. They crave attention as a sign that they are loved. If their actions get attention, good or bad, they feel safer. Keep in mind that your child feels insecure when she is not able play perfectly. When practicing gets hard, behavior can become trying for the parent.
2) When dealing with your child's vulnerability, notice if what you are doing is improving the situation or making it worse. Pay attention to outcome of your suggestions to your child.
3) Prepare yourself to try new ways to infuse your practice time with your child with more calm and help them enter the "Land of Easier". Wouldn't it be great if you, as a parent, had a magic wand to make hard things easy? It is time you told you child that you really don't have a magic wand. But, you can make things easier.

"This book contains specific strategies for working in ways that are easier- and more effective in the long run- than fixing and correcting bad things."
I will be revisiting this topic and ideas to make practice easier in subsequent posts.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why Are You Giving Your Child Piano Lessons?

Dear Parents,

  Why are you giving your child piano lessons? You may be asking yourself that as the winter holidays come to a close and no one has touched the piano. Let me remind you of some of the reasons you are doing this very good thing.
  1)You come from a musical family and the joy of music has is permanently in your DNA. No? How about these reasons:

  2) You always wanted your child to be bi-lingual and music is one of the most beautiful languages.
  3) Your child showed signs of musicality from the beginning.
  4) Playing and reading music is related to achieving intellectually.
  5) Musicians have skills in self-discipline
  6) You want a well rounded child and the piano is a stepping stone to other artistic endeavors.
  7) Playing the piano is a life skill which benefits others.
  8) You know your teenager will need an outlet for their fluctuating hormones.
  9) Your child needs to learn how others feel and playing music by different composers is a doorway into the soul of another human being.
 10) You don't want to hear your child say,"I wish you had made me practice and learn the piano."

   I cannot begin to count how many adults have said to me that they wish they had kept taking piano lessons. But, to date, no pianist has told me that they wished they had spent their time on something else.
So, chin up, lets go forward and listen to another semester of beautiful music.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Piano Accompanying: Not Just Performance but Service

  Several weeks ago my student played a duet with me during a church service. She is a beginner musician but plays with feeling and thoughtfulness. She had the melody in both hands and I played a accompaniment. Her gift of service was well received and fortified her confidence in playing the piano. My daughter-in-law felt I had taken her advice to heart. "Children need to know why playing the piano is useful." Her words ring true and make it worth the effort to find opportunities to use my student's emerging skills.

  In my church this month the congregation is singing Christmas carols fifteen minutes prior to the service beginning. Two of my students, who attend the same church, are playing carols with me as accompanists. They are new to this skill and I have been singing with them to help them learn to follow another musician. Will they play perfectly? Probally not, but the leaders of this church understand the need to groom the next generation of church musicians. Abiding a few mistakes is a small price to pay for the huge reward of having volunteer, amateur pianists ready to assist a group and to provide music.
  You may have other musical venues to train your students, but I see the most consistent place, for those students who are in my church, is the prelude and postlude times in church meetings. They are not in the spotlight and I "break them in" as duet accompanists with me. Then later I can assign them a time to prepare music for the entire prelude or postlude period.
   I am a volunteer organist and am very vocal about music. Those leaders who organize music see the wisdom in my requests and I have support from them and from their parents.
   I can give credit to my responsibility as a church musician for my staying active in piano lessons for ten years. These opportunities to use my skill made me practice.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Teaching Piano Over the Internet

   We have heard that it is possible and thought how it might work in our studio and now I want to report I have had my first lesson over the internet. My student is my granddaughter who lives a half hour away. I see her often during the month but not every week. She is my guinea pig, and a cute one, if I can say so myself.

   Here are some thoughts on my first experience. There must be some learning curve time. My son and I both had to investigate the best service to use and practice calling each other. I had some issues with Skype on my PC so I was looking for another option. We settled on Google Video Chat because many people have a Gmail account which is what this service requires. Google has a plug-in to download and I had to solve an issue with my Apple Laptop working with Google but I prevailed and we found it very easy to call once the set-up was in place. The easiest service would be for Apple users as their FaceTime feature is already installed. This must happen from Apple to Apple devices.
   My laptop was the best solution to placing the camera at a good angle so that my student could see me and my piano keyboard. I slowed my teaching pace down so that I could show her more on the camera. and her mother was essential in the process as she could correct what did not seem to make sense to my granddaughter.
    Way back in olden times, we dreamed of this but who "wouldda thunk" it would happen.