We are trying something new for the summer recital. Students will be playing 4-5 pieces that they have learned throughout the year. I thought it would be interesting for the audience to see how the students have progressed this year in terms of level of difficulty. It is also taking pressure off the students during the last few weeks of school and the start of summer vacation. I can’t wait to see how the audience responds.
We finally have a recital date. June 27 at 6:30 pm at Miller Piano on Independence Blvd. Students will be performing up to 5 pieces that they have learned throughout the school year.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.