Archive for the 'Piano Practice' Category

Sep 4th 2013 A Return to Lessons

Brunner Studios in Mint Hill, NC, will begin the fall semester on September 10.  Hopefully everyone has had time to get those school schedules settled and is now ready to either resume or begin music lessons.  Brunner Studios offers piano, voice, oboe, theory, and music history lessons.  Tutoring for AP Music History is also available.  We will be having recitals and performance opportunities throughout the year. 

Please call  or email and ask about scheduling a trial lesson to decide if Brunner Studios is the right musical home for you or your student.

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Aug 22nd 2013 Curriculum Questions

As students are heading back to school here in Charlotte, NC, and all over the country, we should ask ourselves; are we teaching the way students learn in today’s environment.  Honestly with the competition between extra curricular activities we as teachers need to be up to date on the latest methods and learning styles.  Are we incorporating the newest technology in our lessons?  Are we excited about teaching?

What are questions that we should ask ourselves as teachers and what same questions should parents be asking?

1.  What curriculum do you use?  And part two of this question.  Why do you use this curriculum?

As as teacher, do you use the same material because it is always what you’ve used, or because you believe it is the most relevant to today’s students?  Do you use the best correlation with local festivals?  Do you try to expose students to a wide variety of music and print styles? 

2.  Are your students active in the community?  Festivals, talent shows, recitals, playing at nursing homes. 

3.  Do the students use technology to help keep them interested during the challenging parts of the curriculum?  Online apps or flashcards?  Notation software?  Youtube performances?  Are you utilizing these resources?

4.  Are you following a curriculum of any kind that can aid a parent in understanding the rate of progress for the student?

5.  Are the students learning about areas outside of music that relate to music?  Roman numerals, world history, different cultures that have influenced nationalistic music?

Many times I think as teachers we can get in a rut.  Even with a tried and true curriculum, there are opportunities for evaluation and introspection.  As parents are calling and emailing, do you seem excited about the coming year or are you feeling the grind of hearing those same pieces again?  It is up to us as educators to try to instill excitement for music and knowledge in our new and returning students.

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Aug 13th 2013 A Break, A Sabbatical, A Vacation, A Return

I’ve been either in school or teaching full time since the fall of 2000.  That is a long time!  The month of August is a notoriously slow month on the lesson front.  This year, I decided to do something different.  The studio is closed for the entire month of August and the first week of September.  What about the students?  Most were vacationing at least part of the month, and all were glad not to have to negotiate the first few weeks of school with an after school activity. 

 

I’m using this time to think about my methodology and where I want the studio to go in the next year.  What’s been working and what needs a revamp? 

 

The most useful thing that I’ve done this year is to have started using either a candle or incense on lesson days in the room off the studio.  This combined with a quite minute.  The quality of lessons has improved dramatically.  So many of my students come directly from school or other activities.  The students just aren’t as focused on that 30 or 45 minutes as they should be.  As the student enters the studio we talk briefly about how the day went and get the books arranged at the piano.  Then I ask the student to close their eyes and think about “how you practiced, what did you improve upon, and what you want to show me in your lesson.”  Just a minute of silence for most of the students allows them to reset and leave the rest of the day at the door.  I feel as a teacher that I’m getting a more accurate read on what the students are accomplishing during the week.

 

As we come back in the fall, I hope to have more students signing up for The Music Development Program exams.  Previously known as RACE and the Carnegie Hall Achievement Program.  This is a program that I believe in strongly.  Whether the student takes the exams or just uses the principles laid out in the curriculum, my students are on a stronger and more through track than ever.  Having an internationally recognized standard makes it so easy to know how a student is truly progressing in the literature.  If you would like to find out more about this program, please let me know.

 

As always, Brunner Studio is scheduling lessons.  Just because the studio is on break doesn’t mean that my email and phone don’t work!  Please call or email if you would like to know more about piano, voice or oboe lessons for this fall.  I can’t wait to hear from you.

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Apr 30th 2013 My Baby…Grand That Is…Was Sick

Nothing like a sick piano to make a piano teacher break out into a sweat.  Last Monday one of my students was playing a Chopin Nocturne.  Since this student can a time be little gung ho with the arm weight, I recommended trying the Una Corda.  It was a good effort, but didn’t produce the desired results so we moved on to other ideas.  The next thing I knew the piano was sounding a bit odd and the student said that the und corda pedal was not working correctly.  Oh boy.  Sure enough it was stuck in the ‘on’ position. 

Tuesday morning I called my wonderful tech to set an appointment.  The soonest he could come out was next Tuesday.  That was a week of odd sounding lessons.  I thought it was interesting that some students noticed the strange sound and others didn’t.  I many have to explore that issue.  So the tech finally made it out today.  Turns out that it really was a case of being stuck.  A little Teflon power later and we were back in business.  The tuning was in pretty good shape so other than some minor adjustments it was a quick fix.

Come back later this week to find out which group of my students has had the best long term success based on what time of year they started lessons.  The answer might surprise you 

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Feb 22nd 2013 Reminders for NFMC Festival in Charlotte, NC

Tomorrow is the big day for a whole lot of students in the Charlotte area.  They’ve spent months preparing to play for the National Federation of Music Clubs Festival.  What do they need to remember for the big day?

1.  Take your music!  Yes, it is memorized.  However, the judges need it.  You cannot play if your music is not there.

2.  Dress nicely.  You are representing yourself and your teacher. 

3.  Give yourself plenty of time to find parking and the correct building.  Arrive and be ready to play 15 minutes early.  This will give you time to take a few deep breaths, go to the bathroom, and get some water.

4.  Learn something.  Whether you have a good performance, a bad performance, or something in between.  Pay attention and learn something from the experience. 

Good luck! 

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Feb 18th 2013 Last Lesson Before A Festival

Today, I just want to pose a question to help teachers evaluate what they are doing to prepare for festivals.  What do you do in the last lesson before a festival?  Do you do run throughs, mock judging, spot work, pick out new pieces?  How do you use those last few minutes to prepare for an event that you have spent months getting ready for?

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Feb 8th 2013 Good luck NFMC Charlotte Musicians

I just want to wish good luck to the students who are participating tomorrow at Queens University in the NFMC Festival.  Whether it is instrumental, voice, pianist, or scholarship, I know you have all worked hard.  Do your best and try to learn something from this event.

 

Also, a big thank you to all the volunteers that help make this happen!

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Jan 30th 2013 What Songs Take You Back

We all know that music has the power to transport and transform us.  Where do certain songs take you?  Here are a few of my favorites and what they bring back.

1.  Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden takes me back to my Sophomore year in high school and getting to drive myself to church and school as I had just gotten my license.

2.  Whiskey Girl by Toby Keith takes me back to the summer of 2006.  My husband and I were waiting to hear if he was getting a job here in Charlotte.  It was so hot that July.

3.  Stays in Mexico by Toby Keith was our road anthem for a trip out west in August of 2006. 

4.  Beam Me Up by Pink makes me remember September 2012.  Wayne was out of town for the whole month and I was getting ready for my first fiber festival.  The weather was warm and humid.

5.  And just because I probably need a classical piece on this list.  JS Bach’s Prelude in Bb minor.  This piece reminds me of October of 1999.  Leaving senior activities to go home and practice to get ready for college auditions.

These are just a few that came to me off the top of my head.  What songs take you back?

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Jan 27th 2013 Visions Fugitives

Over 10 years after learning #10 of Visions Fugitives and progressively learning more, I still love this set of pieces.  There are still some that I just can’t manage very musically, but I love them all.  Prokofiev certainly knew what he was doing when he composed this set of pieces. 

Somehow I just now dragged out my copy to play these on my new piano.  It was magic.  When your favorite music sounds perfect on your dream piano, it makes all the effort worth it.

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Jan 9th 2013 Setting Up For Success

The blog today is more of a thinking questions that anything else.  How do you help your students mentally prepare for a successful lesson?  So many of my students come into lessons with their minds just buzzing from their day.  The level of distraction is pretty crazy.  We spend the first few pieces just trying to get into the correct frame of mind to remember what we practiced and to slow down. 

For the next few weeks, I am going to ask my students to take 1 minute and close their eyes and try and clear their minds of any distractions.  Just take deep breaths and get into a piano frame of mind.  Think about how they practiced and what they want to remember.  My hope is that it will we will be able to focus better and have a more disciplined lesson.

For myself, I plan on taking 5 minutes before I begin teaching to go through the same process.  So often teachers just run straight into a lesson with no breathing room.  It sometimes causes our daily stress to bleed over into our teaching manner.  I want to try to minimize this impact.

So how do you help your students focus?

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