Aug 14th 2014 Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Perfect Octave. I keep telling my students to pick songs they know to help recognize intervals.

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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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Feb 15th 2014 For the Love of Music

Since yesterday was Valentine’s Day, my thought is just to ask you one question. Who inspired your love of music? Was it a piano teacher? A parent? A recording artist? If you are able to thank that person, do so. They would love to hear that they’ve had an influence on your life.

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Nov 4th 2013 Bad Bowing is Contagious

There are still a few things that make me want to roll my eyes and giggle as a teacher.  Simply because I’ve been guilty of doing the same things.  Bowing well it’s a wasteland of poor etiquette.  I remember my teachers telling me over and over that I needed to give a good bow.  That I was telling the audience thank you for listening to me play the piano. 

Last Saturday I took my students to a local assisted living facility.  This was a very informal event but a chance to hone our skills before the big winter recital in a few week.   Before we began, I reminded the students to bow after each piece.  Then one of my more bowing conscientious students gave us a demonstration of what a proper bow looks like.  Off we went to the performance.

The first round of pieces was somewhat dubiously played but perfectly bowed.  The second round started and the playing was better but the bowing was headed down hill rapidly.  After about 4 half-hearted bows, a student made a break for it with only a head nod.  I had to interrupt between students and remind them that I expected correct and polite bows.  Then we were back on track.

It seems like if just one student slacks off in the bowing department it sets off a chain reaction.  We will be practicing a little bit more before the winter recital. 

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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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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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