Submitted by Miriam Shingle
Telling It Like It Is
Happily, many of us have returned, at least in part, to teaching music in person. This may depend on both your comfort level as well as that of your students; or perhaps the studio franchise where you teach is still in virtual mode. Whether you have been enjoying this new normal, or whether you’re eager for the old normal, the fact remains that many of us currently teach in front of a screen and probably will for a few more months.
The Opportunity For Growth
Okay, so we didn’t ask for this, but despite the upheaval of the past year, there have been many blessings as a result. No, COVID is certainly not a blessing, but the adaptation and knowledge that came by force-of-circumstance, and the need to grow beyond what we were before, has caused us to become better teachers, more tech-savvy, and more open to possibilities that otherwise might not have been revealed.
What Did We Learn?
About the students…
We Are Not Alone
Amazingly, and thankfully, music educators around the globe have had our backs. Aside from ample technological advice, there has been an ongoing surge of available resources that can add additional creativity and fun to our lessons. As colleagues, we can support each other by sharing ideas or websites that we come across from time to time. Let’s share our thoughts, ideas and resources with each other by clicking COMMENT on this blog. Here are just two that I recently came by:
Submitted by Jonathan Flowers
Conventional webcams cannot provide the high resolution needed to display sheet music clearly during online lessons. Did you know that you can use the superior camera on your iPhone or iPad as a document camera in Zoom? This video shows you how!
Submitted by Elaine Friedlander
After 50 years of teaching piano I can honestly say I have finally been to enough lectures, conferences, talks, events, presentations, recitals, demonstrations...you get the picture. During all that time it has not been the teaching of piano that has changed but the world and society in which we teach. When I started teaching the television was our main competitor for a student’s time. There were only a few choices for methods of teaching and everyone knew they produced better trained musicians in Europe than we did here in America. Now we have multiple distractions for students. We teachers have many choices of method books, games, apps, and even instruments to enhance our teaching. And, the European teachers have come here which has caused the training of young pianists to improve exponentially. In the meantime children are still children.
We want the knowledge and skill we impart on them to be reinforced at home in the form of practice. Most people do not understand the amount of effort and time it takes to become a musician. They see talented young people and assume their ability to perform well is all about their talent and not the work or the training. The level of training has improved dramatically over the last 25 years especially locally. Competition level students are playing much more difficult pieces at younger and younger ages. Not much has changed in the way these students are taught. They are given solid, time tested skills for playing the piano. They are motivated and wise enough at a young age to do exactly what their teacher tells them. Which proves that it does not matter what method book you use, students will play well if properly (or some might say old fashioned) taught.
So where does that leave everyone else? If our students do not play well enough to compete should we just tell them to go home and forget the piano? Of course not. The difference between teachers and their approach to student’s needs is as varied as there are people. It’s the music that demands adherence to the discipline of the art. As a judge I am frequently amazed at how children can get from key to key with collapsed knuckles, drooping wrists or flat fingers. They are certainly pleased that they can make some music but I doubt their teachers feel the same way. We know that a healthy hand position will allow for speed and control, that keeping time is as important in making music as playing the right notes, that all the dots and squiggles on the page are important. Our biggest challenge has always been encouraging students to see the importance of reading, practicing, memorizing, polishing and performing music correctly. So why is this important in the 21st century?
I started writing these thoughts before COVID-19. I had stopped on the previous paragraph because I had not made solid determinations about the need for serious music study. It is important to me but it’s value to others was not as clear. Since this pandemic has struck, I have been teaching remotely through the use of the internet. I have been most grateful for this amazing tool we have now and have used it almost constantly for weeks. As the world slogs through this devastating time I have noticed something new with my students. They are practicing much more regularly than before. Remember all those distractions I mentioned earlier? Gone. They do their school work at home so there is no bus ride, sports, dances, club meetings, etc. Many other activities are curtailed so what have they found to occupy them? Music. The piano is sitting there, out of tune but still friendly. They have lessons to prepare for so they do it. As much as I find listening to them over the net to be difficult and taxing, I am enjoying the new found excitement my students have in learning new music honing their technique and presenting their finished products with pride. Now I know. From the perspective of a piano teacher the art of playing the instrument is still an important part of children’s lives. I will continue to do my best for them and enjoy the beautiful results.
Submitted by Miriam Shingle
Many of us have been contemplating the return to in-person private lessons, and perhaps some of us have already done so. It is a somewhat elusive decision right now, as pandemic circumstances are
Some teachers and parents may not yet feel comfortable with in-person lessons. Keeping a disinfected and well-circulated environment, tolerating extended mask-wearing, and staying socially distant are all factors to consider when planning for reopening.
While willing to continue lessons virtually, I plan to at least offer in-person lessons to my students starting in September. I feel that giving parents a choice is important for my business to remain intact. In so offering, I will be sharing my safety procedures, such as disinfecting doorknobs and wiping down the keys with hydrogen peroxide between lessons, using hand sanitizer before and after lessons, and requiring the use of a mask. Additionally, I am pleased to say that I had an Air Scrubber installed on my HVAC system this week. It is a whole-house UV bulb that kills viruses, bacteria, allergens and mold, mainly in the air but also on surfaces.
Please comment to share YOUR plans for Fall lessons, as there are certainly things to consider not yet mentioned. Questions to our members would also be great!
Submitted by Miriam Shingle
It is Recital Season. How does one create the opportunity for instrumental performance during our current situation of having to stay in our homes? What resources are out there for this? Are there any apps that can help?
There is the issue of sound quality and household internet bandwidth problems while livestreaming, the which I am sure many of us have been experiencing in our online teaching. Some of us may be considering posting video recordings of performances, something that I personally currently plan to do, in the HOPES that the videos will actually get watched by families!!
I am hoping that some of us can contribute to this blog by commenting with their recital ideas or already-utilized solutions. Or, perhaps someone out there would like to write a whole blog dedicated to this purpose! I think we as teachers would like to know what each other is planning to do-- or not do. Anyone? Let’s share and continue to support each other...
Submitted by Miriam Shingle
This blog is created for the purpose of teacher discussion as to how we can circumvent the impact that the Coronavirus is having upon our private teaching. I am sure that many of you are wondering what is happening in other teachers’ studios in this situation.
Some teachers have no doubt opted to suspend lessons for a few weeks, while those who teach in a community center or school are forced to cancel lessons due to a shutdown. In addition, out of an abundance of caution, many parents are choosing not to send students to private lessons, even though these do not take place in a group setting.
So far, I personally have opted to continue with private lessons at my home, assuring parents that keys are being disinfected between lessons and students are using hand sanitizer before and after lessons. This seems to alleviate parental fears for now, as no one has told me they would prefer not to come.
Additionally, we as teachers have already told parents not to bring students who are ill, including the parents themselves.
What I would like to accomplish here is for our teachers to weigh in on how they are dealing with this unique situation. And indeed, if you have moved to online lessons, please offer your insights and procedures for accomplishing this.
Thank you all in advance for contributing to this blog!! Let’s support each other in this difficult time.
Submitted by Carol Angus
Going through some old papers, I came upon a letter sent to parents and students from 2002. The sentiment shared then is still appropriate today. I took my own words and tweaked them a bit to share with you. We may have modern devices and new attitudes but the basic sentiment still applies.
Allow yourself to enjoy the satisfaction of making music. One’s life is made better with the making of and appreciation for others making music. Review the following positive reasons for studying piano or any musical instrument.
I like to equate musical studies as a “musical adventure”.
My goal remains that every student should be given musical challenges that can be met without frustration while nurturing a love for music that grows with each musical accomplishment. Learning to play the piano or any other instrument is not an easy task. Developing the art for playing any instrument especially the piano takes time, patience, fortitude and self-discipline. Along with good parental support and willing students, it is my hope that I have made an impact on the students who have graced my studio.
Submitted by Felicia Lohidajat
My encounter with this book was a wonderful series of odd circumstances - my accidental entry into a percussion class for a Music Education major I never pursued, an awakening of my interest in drum set, a last undergraduate semester with great freedom, taking Drum Set Class after 7 semesters of pining for the instrument led by Dr. Chris Hanning – who recommended this book written by Phillip Farkas, principal horn in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as part of my preparation for my Piano Performance Major senior recital.
This book changed my approach to practice and refined my understanding of a wide variety of musical details in about 50 short pages, which in turn enhanced my communication in my teaching. These are some of my abridged notes and highlights from selected chapters of the book, some obvious points and some subtle points. I’ll highly recommend picking it up and seeing the full contents for yourself – a copy resides in the West Chester University’s Presser Music Library. For our March 2020 MLMTA meeting, I will be focusing on an excluded section regarding performance for the 5 Minutes For A New Idea presentation.