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Recital Teacher Etiquette

Belated Thanksgiving wishes! Right before the holidays, the fall recital commenced. I had two students who were interested in performing. As a first year teacher, I’m pretty sure I was overly anxious making sure I exhibited correct teacher etiquette. If you’re wondering what that is—I’ve surmised it three stages: Recital Prep, During Recital, and Afterwards.

I know every teacher wants to make sure that their student feels comfortable performing. What I didn’t think (until I was there) is the following:

  1. Will my students be able to find me in the room? They want to know I’m there.
  2. How much is too much smothering? If there parents are already “calming” them, should I give tips, helpful advice, or just do a “best of luck” gesture.
  3. How do I give solid encouragement where they feel uplifted and it doesn’t sound like false praise.

I know I have a billion thoughts going on am I doing the right thing as a music teacher, if only due to this being my FIRST time seeing students that I’ve taught play. I never thought of any type of recital teacher etiquette before, and definitely replayed my past memories of when my early piano teachers attended my events. The range was everywhere. My earliest piano teacher was in the room, but she was not touchy-feely. She did give good assessments after I was done. Another teacher I had was the encourager, back rubber, and hugger all in a few minute span time.  I definitely winged my own method of etiquette, tailored to my students, and hoped for the best.

My Recital Teacher Etiquette

I would definitely love your input! Any strategies or methods, or words of wisdom that you use with students during and afterwards would be appreciated. I personally went with what I felt would be beneficial to my students.

  •  Direct line of vision
  • Took pictures (when appropriate)
  • Met & talked with family

In the beginning, I hope I didn’t seem too standoffish, but I didn’t want to completely smother my student with attention (they have their family to do that), and I wanted to make sure if they needed me, they had a direct line of vision as to where I was standing. It was a full house. Secondly, I made sure to get some great snapshots when she received her certificate and right before she started playing. This particular student had her piece memorized. I was SUPER excited because she was one of the few pianist with pieces memorized. I think as a first year teacher, that’s my AHA! Success! moment. Anyway, she performed beautiful, and my little heart couldn’t take it afterwards when I was able to congratulate her and meet her family.

I also received a request from a teacher who inquired about the piece of repertoire I had chosen. That made me feel great! I think picking out interesting pieces matters so much during a recital.

I was sad I couldn’t stay and mingle because I had to jet back to the library. It did motivate me to make sure my students are prepared for the really big spring recital. I can’t wait!

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Short Music Hiatus: Speaker at 2014 YALSA Literature Symposium

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I’m currently in Austin, Texas to speak on “Bridge to Tweenabithia: Reader’s Advisory for the gap between juvenile and young adult.”

1. Why is Texas so cold? I left snow—to come to the deep south and freeze as well.

2. Why is the food soooooo good? I haven’t had a bad meal— yet.

3. I absolutely love the Texan accent.

This year’s Symposium is fantastic. The themes and topics are so relevant—and I just LOVE professional development.

I am excited about a piano recital that awaits my students as I come back! YAY!

Fall Happenings

This fall has been spectacular!

1. I have a new voice student.

Let’s start with #1: vocal happenings. I’m super excited to start teaching a beginning vocalist. I’ve been pulling out all types of musical warm-ups, lessons, and a variety of beginning arias, and popular songs. I’m excited to start pushing myself as a music teacher being a vocal teacher. I’m about to go on some major blog raids of vocal teachers. If you know of any good voice educators, post their blog link in the comments!

2. I have new experimental music book that looks SO COOL!

My one year first date anniversary was Sunday, and to my wonderful surprise I received a bulk of amazing gifts. The gift I’m most currently obsessing over is this surprise gem of an album: Song Reader by Beck

From what I understand, Beck released these songs for any artist to sing and interpret as they see fit. It’s fun to listen to collection of what others have done, and I’m extremely excited to be a part of experimenting with these songs included in this beautiful bound collection. If you Google image search the book you’ll see examples of how the album book was put together and the graphic art designs, but it still doesn’t do the book justice.

3. I have an upcoming fall recital and a few students that maybe interested in performing.

Last week, I felt like a horrible music teacher. I found about the studio’s fall recital super late.  I have one student who is super excited and prepare, but I’m not sure about my other students. I would only have about two rehearsals with my students, and I’m not sure that is sufficient time to prepare them for a recital. I’ll definitely be prepared for the spring recital, but fall just crept upon me so quickly!

4. I am now connected (again) with Sibelius software! What a life saver.

I’m using Sibelius for ALL THE MUSIC THINGS! The worksheet templates are such a lifesaver when it comes to theory homework, sight reading, or basic notation worksheets. I’m still trying to schedule time to write some easier versions of different songs my students have requested an interest in, but I may just break down and purchase them online. We will seeeeee!

Halloween Piano Style!

It’s almost time for Halloween! I’m really big on giving my students Halloween themed repertoire. I find it’s fun if they have a monthly piece to play for the holiday. I found some great free themed music:

I love when students pick out classical pieces to play and helping give shape to that piece. Whether it is explaining how they feel when hearing the piece, doing research about it or just having them creatively write their own interpretations whether in a story or lyrics form—-helps student engage in bringing that piece of music to life.

I give my students a few choices based on their interests and skill level. I find that most of my students will dedicate themselves to stay on task practicing because they not only want to learn this piece, but want to make sure they have it ready by Halloween. Watching their excitement at being able to play a piece for family and friends at a Halloween gathering or liking to practice in order to achieve this goal makes me happy.

Finally!

This site is up and running! My goal is to post once a week documenting any musings I’ve had past or present (mostly present) of being a music teacher. I did not really how much I missed music and even better music instruction, until starting as a piano teacher again. Let’s take this musical musing journey together—I can definitely promise the following:

  • Weird Amounts of Randomness—- I’ll try my best to stay on topic!
  • LIBRARY WORLD—while I will try to keep it a minimal sometimes both my jobs may intertwine
  • GIFS—-I love them oh, so much. I mean meme’s are great—-but gifs are just that much more…”showy”
  • My current favorite show is Miranda…I hope I won’t make (that many show references) …but you never know…

Creating Joy

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“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

I smile a lot. I avidly am working out those smiley muscles. I’m naturally optimistic and I infuse optimism as a part of my instruction. I always get questioned (with teens at my library) about my smile, and that same question bleeds into my instructional lessons from students, also. The question  I’m always asked, “Why do you smile so much?” or its rephrased counterpart, “You don’t have to smile so much—-is it ever fake?” I love that (teens) especially are concerned with me “going through the motions” or are just “weirded” out by my happiness. I usually aim to show that there are some genuinely (non-faking) people in the world that are just enjoying life. If that is something you are interested in being—it can be YOU, too!

I am consistent with my optimism as I know that music can be frustrating at times, and there is no adversary quite like yourself.  I recently read a blog post concerning adult learners on the difference between strict and being mean. I had to smile because (haha) because I think that views on piano instructors and librarians are the same: MEAN.

I was raised under a strict teacher who was dedicated to making sure we were prepared to compete. I would always measure myself against other, especially my brother and it took me up until reading The Art of Possibility: Transforming Personal and Professional Life to truly let go how I rated my personal playing. The author, Benjamin Zander, has a fantastic TED Talk can be found here.

It wasn’t until I went to college that my piano professor shattered my world at how much she created joy in each lesson. Her bubbling spirit matched my jovial moods and we connected. Her lessons always exuded so much passion and warmth while interlacing instruction on how to improve, how to be better, and always made sure I was striving to the top without putting any pressure. She knew I was self-motivated, knew I would practice long hours, and knew I was my own worse enemy.

For example, I will never forget that I had a particular music passage that I would always just crash and burn when trying to play it. Frustration started setting in and I was highly irritated at myself over the fumbling of notes. My professor calmly told me that mastering certain piano techniques is similar to a good wine. It has to resonate within the fingers by sitting a while and being revisited. I still went home with the mindset of “I GOT TO GET THIS! MY FINGERS BETTER LEARN IT RIGHT TODAY!” drills, which

just proceeded to wear me out. I did the next best thing (followed her advice)  and waited a few days, practiced other pieces and eventually revisited the passage. I saw that when my body and mind was not pressed or exhausted by a continuous ritual of “WHY IS THIS NOT WORKING FOR ME!” —I was able to execute the piano passage perfectly. She even warned me that once I graduated and the piano pressure was not the center of my world, I would blossom. Such a wise professor.

What does that have to do with beginning instruction? Reminding students (ever so often) the joy is in the learning of the piece. The joy of music is not necessarily getting “to the next level,”  but creating joy in working through the present pieces. I take pride in engaging my students in the present, grabbing their focus to learn the technique, and take pride in executing that to the best of their ability. Recently, I brought a ukelele to a mentoring session, and I was able to take SUCH enjoyment out of teaching how to tune, how to strum a quarter note pattern, learn a few chords, and make up a silly song.

I realize now, that in playing, I was so content in getting music perfect, it wasn’t until later I discovered to take enjoyment out of my playing. My professional goal as an instructor this year is to instill joy of their own playing into my students.