An Apple-icious Practice Incentive!

The days feel just a bit cooler and I’m seeing apples on trees everywhere!  I think this means that our September kickoff is just around the corner and piano lessons are almost back in session!

In preparation for this, I have been working away in the studio and one of the projects I’m super excited about is a practice challenge for my entire student body.  I wanted a challenge that would work for every student, from beginner to advanced.  One that would introduce the beginners to a daily practice routine and one that would help the experienced students return to that daily practice routine.  As it’s the start of the year, I also wanted something simple so as not to be overwhelming.

Several years ago Teach Piano Today put out a fun apple-themed practice challenge, but though all the work was done for me, I wanted something a little less involved for our kickoff…and the chance to have a little fun with Canva  and some simple graphic design was an added bonus.

applechallenge

I’m really excited with how it turned out and if you’re a parent who would like a copy for your child at home or a teacher who would like to try it in your studio you can get it right here.

In keeping with the apple theme, I dug out my old “practice tree” and placed little apple name tags all over the tree with my student’s names.  Each week they complete one of the challenges, they will be able to place a sparkle apple sticker on their name.  This challenge will wrap up just in time for our Thanksgiving master classes and we will celebrate completing the challenges with an apple-y treat!

I can’t wait to show my students!

appletree

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Creating a Practice Nest!

practice nest

All last week on the Facebook book, I shared 5 tips courtesy of Teach Piano Today on how to create a special place for your child to practice….so they will want to practice over the summer!  If you missed the posts, or do not use Facebook, here they all are together for you!  Thank you so much to Andrea Dow of Teach Piano Today for compiling these wonderful ideas!

1. When choosing a location for your piano, select a space that is lived-in, welcoming, and well-lit. Keep it close to “the action” but not in the action. Your children will gravitate to the piano more often if it is in a central place in your home. Avoid bedrooms, basements and other “put away” places. Feeling shut-off from the family while practicing will inevitably lead to a reluctance to spend time on the piano.

While choosing an appropriate space, also consider the noise factor; not only from the piano, but also from your family’s day-to-day activities. Your children want to be close by, but not competing with noise from TV’s, dishwashers and washing machines.

2. Make the space warm and welcoming. Your children will be encouraged to spend upwards of 30 minutes every day in this space. Is it a happy place to be for this amount of time? Small adjustments to lighting and heating can make a world of difference. Seek out places with natural light and ensure it is a cheerful and welcoming space that will encourage your child to visit the piano often for their own enjoyment.

3. Ensure your children have all required materials at hand. Help your children put together a small basket or bin of everything they may need for home practice. Pens, pencils, highlighters, and post-it notes will give your children a sense of organization that will then spill over into their practice habits. Your children will also need adequate lighting to see their music, and a comfortable bench at the correct height to practice comfortably and correctly.

4. Make the “Practice Nest” a communal space.  Children of any age appreciate company while they practice. Having a chair, couch, beanbag chair or pillows nearby where family members will be inclined to sit, listen and enjoy the music immediately sets the tone for happy time on the piano. Encourage siblings to stop by and listen quietly, and allow yourself even just 10 minutes to sit and listen with undivided attention each time your children practice. A set-up that is conducive to including the family in home practice will encourage everyone involved to make piano practice an activity the entire family can be a part of.

5. Set the stage for organization. Ensure your children’s practice space is uncluttered and organized. Clear out old sheet music and books from the piano bench, use a magazine organizer to hold current and favorite materials, and minimize knickknacks and other distractions from the top of the piano. If you can, avoid having the piano room do “double-duty” for laundry, toys and other clutter. Having the books your children need at their fingertips reliably ensures that no time is spent searching for lost or crumpled music. Get into the habit of placing the piano books in their appropriate space immediately after each piano lesson so they are ready and waiting.

Plus one more! Adding small surprises to your children’s practice nest (fresh flowers, a hand-written note of encouragement, a small treat, a new sticker pad, a special pen etc.) helps to show that you value the time they are spending on the piano and that you appreciate their efforts and dedication. Preserving the “specialness” of their practice space encourages positive feelings towards their home music time.

 

Aren’t those just fabulous tips!!  Enjoy creating a special place for your child to enjoy their piano practice!

 

Piano News November 2016 Edition

 

What a chilly November morning!!  I feel like a bit of a broken record when I say that October went by in a flash!  I expect the next several weeks will too!  Here are a few things to keep you updated:

DRESS UP WEEK

The boys of my Moonbeams 3 piano class requested that this week be “Dress Up Week” .  If you are not already sick of dressing up from a weekend of fun and yesterday (they assured me that they would definitely NOT be sick of dressing up!) then feel free to come to lessons in costume this week for a little bit of extra fun (Oct 31-Nov 4). 😊

PRACTICING

The students have been using the “What’s in my Musical Mind” posters to share with each other what they’ve been learning each week and how many days they’ve been practicing.  It’s a little bit of accountability and motivation rolled up in to one.  We will continue this both this week and next week before we roll out our new practice incentive after the Remembrance Day/Fall break.  Speaking of practicing, I came across this great article and just shared it on the Facebook page:

https://www.pianoinaflash.com/blog/child-doesnt-want-practice/

FALL BREAK

My children and several of my piano students have most or all of the week following Remembrance Day off, so there will be NO LESSONS November 11-18….instead, students will be encouraged to spend that extra time on the Christmas pieces they will be assigned both this week and next week in lesson….and I will be using that time to really start organizing and preparing for our big annual Christmas recital…which will be?? That’s right!

DECEMBER 16, 6:30pm ANNUAL CHRISTMAS RECITAL

Mark your calendars for our annual Christmas Recital on December 16th at 6:30pm in the main auditorium of First Church of the Nazarene, 14320 94 street.  Our theme is:  Christmas in Our Jammies….feel free to dress accordingly!  There will be photo ops AND photo props! 😉 We will begin preparations this week.  Expect fun ensembles, lovely piano solos and yummy treats!

May News and Year End Dates

Hello, Everyone!

It seems like just yesterday we had our lovely April recital and now we are in the second week of May with only 5 weeks of lessons left!

Our recital went so well and I cannot thank everyone enough for the help you gave and the many ways you all contributed!  It was our earliest ever Spring recital this year (one week earlier than last year) and because I was away for all of Spring Break, it felt like a short time to get organized, but with your help I think it came off better than ever AND I think the early time ended up working out really well as it kind of pumped us all up and has given us extra enthusiasm and a renewed energy for the remaining weeks of lessons! Something that will be especially great for those doing Conservatory exams in June…and for those that aren’t doing exams there is a renewed enthusiasm for getting some extra pieces learned before June! Some students have challenged themselves with learning 30 pieces this year! Phew!

A couple of you have shared a picture of the recital, but I would just love to see more–pictures or video.  I was not able to get pictures or videos taken myself as I have in the past and I missed getting a picture of all the MYC grads.  So please feel free to share!!

YEAR END DATES AND FINAL MASTERCLASS
The kids have all been asking when the next master class is.  Normally I have done a master class as the very last class of the year because I am often away during the May long Weekend week.  However, this year I am not going to be away!  So, I am changing up the schedule just slightly this year.  We will have our last master class of the year during the week of May 24th, immediately following the long weekend.  Then we will have two more regular lessons/classes before finishing up for the year on June 9th.

I will send out the master class times for May 25, 26, 27 in the very next email…expect that in the next day or so.  And you will be able to indicate the time you wish your student to attend, but putting it in the subject line of your reply to that email.

PRACTICE CHALLENGE
Also starting next week will be our final practice challenge of the year.  It’s going to be a lot of fun and offer some more creative ways to look at your piano practice to keep the energy going right to the end of the year…when I issue this year’s Summer Practice Challenge!  A handout will be coming home with each student next week and the summer practice challenge will go home with them at the last lesson of the year, so be sure to continue checking those music bags regularly over the next few weeks!

In the meantime, have a lovely day!  Looks like we’ve got some sunshine again!

Piano Pajama Day Master Classes

Happy Family Day!! I hope you have some time today to spend with your family!  Just a quick reminder that this week we will be having Piano Pajama Day Master Classes in lieu of regular lessons!  If you haven’t yet signed up, there is still lots of room on Thursday at 4:30pm as well as some room on Wednesday at 5pm!

Pajama’s are absolutely OPTIONAL but we have a lot of fun PJ party themed activities (including performances, improvising lullabies, ear training, sight reading and theory games!) as we kick off a fun morning practice challenge.  With Spring approaching and the days getting longer, I will be challenging students to do more of their piano practicing in the morning.  They will be challenged to collect 7 morning practices (a full week’s worth!) OR MORE over the next few weeks. Once they reach the 7 morning mark (not necessarily in a row!! Each week they come to lesson they can put a sticker on for each MORNING practice they did!), they will receive a LEVEL ONE morning practice super star certificate! 🙂  Let’s see who can get to level 3 by Spring Break!  Of course, they may continue to do after school or evening practices too, we still want those 5 practices a week….this is just a fun challenge that shows them the benefits of morning practice and how it frees up the  rest of the day!  And may develop a great habit for when soccer season arrives or warmer weather and more after school and evening activities begin!  Teaching colleague from BC, Andrea Dow, shares why she believes in morning piano practice!

“I was in Grade 11 (at exactly the same time I met my most massive time-stealer… Trevor) when I realized there was no way I was going to accomplish anything with my piano if I didn’t practice. And with homework, singing lessons, musical theatre, sports and… Trevor… it truly was impossible to get anything done after school or in the evenings.

So I did the one thing I absolutely hated to do; I got up earlier to practice piano. And it did wonders for my progress.

Why does morning practice work?

  • Studies have shown that sleep directly (and positively) affects the learning of a fine motor skill. We actually did an interview with Dr. Karen Debas on this topic.
  • No matter how many activities your students have scheduled after school, morning practice ensures their piano is never forgotten, crammed in or done haphazardly. Frenzied or rushed practice results in negativity towards the piano, practice fights with parents and other things we piano teachers would rather avoid.
  • The excuse of “no time” is completely eliminated. With a simple adjustment to the morning alarm, your piano students can have all the time they need.
  • The discipline of getting up early and practicing every day establishes habits that are pro-active and that will carry over into other areas of your students’ lives as well.
  • The likelihood of parental involvement in practice increases, as your students no longer practice alone while parents are at work, driving siblings to other activities etc.
  • As your students become teenagers, homework, jobs, friends and other extracurricular activities no longer pose a threat to their piano progress (none of those things happen in the morning!)
  •  The parental “guilt” from daily practice being repeatedly forgotten is eliminated, taking one more stressor away from busy families.
  • Starting a day off with music starts your students’ days with all of the wonderful benefits that music has been proven to provide such as mood improvement, stress-reduction, and mental alertness.

All of these factors combined means morning piano practice is one of the most powerful ways you can ensure that your piano students are practicing and progressing.”

February Newsletter

Hello, Everyone!

Well, here we are!  We made it through January! And a number of us ended it off with a night at the Opera on Thursday night!  What an experience that was!  If you missed it, Edmonton Opera has just announced next season’s line up and among it is Rossini’s La Cenerentala (Cinderella!!) and Puccini’s Turandot (a story of the kind -hearted Calaf who risks his life to melt the icy heart of Princess Turandot).  Hopefully one of them will have an evening education dress rehearsal again!
http://www.edmontonopera.com/season/2016-17

As we head into February, just a few things to bring to your attention:

1. CAUGHT PRACTICING!  We have 7 students up on our caught practicing wall so far!  Keep emailing those awesome pictures!

2. FEBRUARY MASTER CLASS:  The week following Family Day (February 16-18), there will once again be no regular lessons due to the holiday Monday.  Instead we will once again have special themed Master Classes.  February’s theme will be a Piano Pajama Party…because what could be better than wear your pajamas during the cold winter season! 😉  It will also lead perfectly into our brand new practice challenge that will be kicked off that week and run until Spring Break (How?  You’ll see!).  I will be sending out a Master Class sign up sheet separately in the next day or so!  As a heads up the Tuesday class will be 6pm, the Wednesday class at 5 and the Thursday class is TBD but likely 4:30 or 5.

3. SPRING BREAK:  February is a short month and I am sure Spring Break will be here before we know it.  The calendar on my website has been updated for you to check out but, in the meantime, I am letting you know that we will be having a 2 week Spring Break this year from March 21-April 3.  I have been invited on my daughter’s grade 11 class trip to Mandeville, Jamaica as a chaperone and have also been asked to run a music camp and piano clinic at the orphanage and church respectively while we are there.  In addition, we will be building some much needed extra room onto their buildings, teaching swimming lessons and doing soccer camps with the kids!  I’m looking forward to an exciting, rewarding and thoroughly exhausting time with the 14 teenagers and three other chaperones!  We will leave March 20th and return April 2.  Regular lessons will resume on April 4th.

4. RCM EXAMS:  For those of you doing theory or piano exams this May and June, the deadline to register is March 1st. I will be sending you more information including which centre to register for very soon!

5. SPRING RECITAL: Is officially MAY 6th!  Mark your calendars!!!