May 7th 2014 A Little Inspriation

As the year wears on sometimes we just need a little boost of inspiration. Creativity comes in many forms. Last weekend I attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. To meet so many people that are passionate about their craft was wonderful. The amount of new ideas was also inspiring. Sometimes I feel that as musicians we get so rooted in tradition that we forget to look outside the box. So this week take a look around. Whether you are taking piano lessons, playing the piano for enjoyment, singing in a choir, or just trying to make it to the end of the school year, try to find something new and fresh.
Here is a picture of one of my purchases. It is a supported spindle that is hand turned by a friend.

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Apr 20th 2014 Spring Recital

Scheduling recitals is a pain the neck. There I said it. Don’t get me wrong I love recitals. Students showing off what they’ve learned. Parents and grandparents sitting with their fingers crossed. The fact that the teachers get way more butterflies than the students do. It’s all part of music lessons.
However, trying to find an appropriate time for a recital is awful. For a small studio having just a few students unable to attend puts a serious hurt on the event. Trying to find a location that is affordable and convenient can also be a challenge. Finding the balance between scheduling too far in advance and giving the students adequate time to prepare can be difficult.
There are a few things that I try to work with when looking at the calendar. We don’t do December or May recitals unless the world is coming to an end. It’s just not fair to anyone. The students are stressed and distracted by school and the approaching holidays. Parents are busy running kids here, there and yon. I try to ask for dance and sports schedules. If everyone has Nutcracker rehearsals then there is no sense in adding anything else to those Saturdays. My objective is for a recital to be an important event. Not just another event to cram into the day.
I am still trying to figure out a date for a spring recital. It looks like it will be more of an early summer event. It also helps if the teacher is in town to attend!

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Feb 20th 2014 Mental Preparedness

Students from all over Charlotte, NC will be participating in the National Federation of Music Clubs festival on Feb. 22. We pick pieces we can learn successfully. We memorize. We polish. What is left? The students need to mentally prepare for the event.
I had a student in a lesson tonight who just hasn’t mentally prepared very much. Her pieces are fairly well prepared and she’s participated in this event before. In the lesson she just unravelled from the start. It was totally a mental game. She came in saying she was nervous and it showed. What are we doing to remedy this situation?
In lessons this week, we are having mock festival. The kids come in and play one scale. Then they pick which piece they want to begin with and play their first festival piece cold. I score them as if I were their judge that day. They then move straight into the second piece with no comments from me in between. After finishing their performance, we go over my written comment. Then we keep the comments sheet to compare to what their judges will say this weekend. Our goal is to try and not have any of the same negative feedback. If I said work on dynamics, then hopefully they will work extra hard on that between now and Saturday and upgrade their level of playing.
I’m having students have their parents record their performances and practice at home. Due to the snow last week, students were even sending me video for some long distance help. The added pressure of having it ‘on tape’ can help bring the flaws to the surface and simulate the environment of the event.
Then there’s the ever not popular stern lecture. You know the one. Buckle down and do your best. Don’t just throw away months worth of work. Fight for a good performance. Don’t let mistakes snowball. Once a mistake has been made it’s done. You can’t undo it, but don’t let it rattle you.
Being mentally prepared is just as important as having learned the music. So put those game faces on and go own your performances. Good luck!

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Oct 14th 2013 Upcoming November Performances

Brunner Studios students will be performing twice in the month of November. 

On November 2, they will be presenting a studio class performance at the Little Flower Retirement Village in Mint Hill.  Play for the elderly and infirm is a great opportunity for the students to serve the community.  We will be playing Halloween music, Patriotic music, classical, pop, and show tunes. 

On November 23, students will be performing at Miller Piano.  This will be our winter recital.  Christmas music, classical music, and everything in between. 

The November 23 performance is open to all who wish to attend.  There are plenty of seats.  The Nov. 2 performance, students will be limited to 2 guests as there is very limited room at the facility.

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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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Jan 7th 2013 Intermediate Madness

Last week was the first week back from Christmas break for about half of my students.  There were highs and lows.  Trying to get everyone to focus was challenging since it had been the first day back at school.  The kids were all excited to tell me how their break went and to let me know that they had practiced.  I told everyone that practice was optional over the break.  I’m happy they (or their parents) kept working. 

 

It seems that many of these students are hitting the early intermediate music at the same time.  It makes me a little nervous.  It is wonderful that they are working so hard and have reach this level so quickly.  The challenge is caused by that same dedication.  Most of these kids still want to complete pieces in a single week.  Their music has just gotten to the point that it just isn’t feasible for the most part.  Trying to explain that they haven’t done anything wrong, but it is going to take more time doesn’t always go over very well.  All they hear is that they didn’t get a sticker that week.  The next thing I hear is that piano is hard, and they aren’t having fun.  Trying to find the correct balance is a challenge.  Learning to appreciate longer term goals is just part of growing up.  Practicing dedication even when things get difficult and it doesn’t seem fun at the moment is part of growing up.  Coaxing these students through these challenging levels is hard work for everyone.  I just hope the growing pains aren’t too bad!

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Jan 2nd 2013 Lessons Resume Jan. 2, 2013

Just a reminder that lessons at Brunner Studios will resume on Jan. 2, 2013.  I look forward to the chance to continue on a musical journey with my students.  Festival registration for NFMC and NCMTA ends next week.  More students than ever will be participating. 

Brunner Studios is currently accepting new students for piano, voice and oboe lessons.  Please check the contact page for how you can reach us to schedule your trial lesson.

Off to teach some lessons!

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Dec 10th 2012 NFMC 2013

Brunner Studios will be participating in the 2013 NMFC Piano Festival and Piano Scholarship Festival.  As of now it looks like there will be 100% participation.  Festivals are such a great opportunity for students to gain confidence in their playing and to get feedback from someone other than their teacher. 

If you are interested in participating please contact a local teacher for more information.

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Nov 5th 2012 Holiday Mayhem

I’ve been bragging on my students significantly the past few weeks.  It pretty much came back to haunt me last week.  Holiday weeks are always hard for most of my students.  They get so hyped up about whatever exciting is going on that they just can’t/don’t focus like they need to.  I’m pretty sure they all put in their practice time, but the lack of focus during that time and during their lessons was obvious.  With the recital so close this was a bad time to lose a week.  It’s rare that I end up saying that lesson was bad to the student or parent but it ended up repeated endlessly last week.

So as we head into the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas how do other teachers keep the disruptions to a minimum?  Festival season is just around the corner and we don’t want to lose too much preparation time. 

I’ve found the most effective check point is to have the parents listen to the students practice more often during times of distraction.  Even if you don’t read music or play an instrument you can hear if progress is being made or if it sounds sloppy or even if there are wrong notes.  You don’t need to listen to the entire practice session but a quick drop in will keep them honest.  If you aren’t home when a student practices have them record their final run through of each piece at the end of their daily practice and then compare it to the previous day.  Does it sound better? 

Everyone has an unfocused lesson once in a while, but if that lesson is preceded by a week of unfocused practice then it goes from unfocused to ill-prepared.  Let’s try to keep ourselves in check during the upcoming mayhem of the holiday season and to continue to progress in our musical education.

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Nov 2nd 2012 October Competition and Prizes

This month in the studio we have been having a competition of sorts.  With the recital coming up, the students needed a little added incentive to work extra hard.  So I purchased a few small prizes and then declared that the grand prize would be a hand knit scarf of the winner’s choosing.  Pretty much saying Harry Potter scarf did the trick.    Here were the ways to earn points:

1.  Meet Your Practice Goal- 5 points

2.  Exceed your practice goal by 30 minute increments – 15 points per 30 min. interval

3.  Perfect Technique- 5 points

4.  Pass Ear-Training Test- 20 points

5.  Complete a Piece- 5 points per page

6.  Theory Completed- 5 points

7.  Theory Completed with no mistakes- 5 points per page

8.  Memorization- 2 points per measure

9.  Memorize an entire piece in 1 week- 20 points

10.  Memorize a recital piece by Nov. 1- 50 points

The students did really well in earning their points and trying to beat each other.  I can’t wait to tell them how they did at their lesson next week. 

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