Rhythm and Dynamic Fun! October 2017 Master Classes

This week we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled private lessons and MYC classes (we do this about 5 times a year) and enjoying our first Master Class group sessions of the year!  And what fun we are having!

1. Icebreaker:  each student introduces themselves and say their favorite Thanksgiving treat

2. Piano Charades:  I used the Decide Now App to create our own little Wheel of Fortune of Musical Terms to review/introduce and then we played the game like this:

A) First I called out the words such as: piano, forte, fermata, ritardando, presto, largo, etc. and asked students to act them out physically.  For example: piano could be walking on tip toes while ritardando could be jogging in place and gradually slowing down the pace–like a train approaching a station.

B) After all terms were physically re-enacted I had each student come up to the piano one at a time to play their solo piece OR to play one phrase of a well-prepared piece as the composer intended.

C) Then after that the performer had to spin the wheel featuring all the terms just reviewed without letting the others see where the Wheel-of-Fortune-like spinner stops.

D) The pianist at the bench then played the same phrase but this time changed the performance to “portray” the term.

E) The audience had to guess the word and if they did, everyone got a treat as the performer was successful in communicating the music term through a performance and the audience demonstrated excellent listening skills.

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3. Rhythm Cups and Bucket Drumming:  I chose a rhythm to put to Cups or Buckets.  One they had mastered the rhythm and where to put it on the Cups and Buckets we added in some suspenseful music….In the Hall of the Mountain King!

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4. Notespeed Game:  This is a super fun new card game I found by Tara Cunningham that is very reminiscent of Dutch Blitz.  Tara has her students play it as a 2 player games but I divided the students into groups of 4 kids more like Dutch Blitz.  It was a HUGE hit among all the students and if you are looking for a fun and educational Christms gift or stocking stuffer that would help to foster great note reading skills you can find the game here: http://amzn.to/2xR9t6p

 

I had a bonus activity from Teach Piano Today up my sleeve just in these activities didn’t fill the time but I didn’t need it at all for classes this week but I’ll be saving it for the next class for sure:

Rhythm Telephone:

Instruct piano students to sit in a row, one behind the other, with their eyes closed. The oldest student should be at the back of the line. Your row can have as few as 5 students or as many as 20!

How To Play:

  1. To begin, show a two-measure rhythm to the oldest piano student (who is allowed to open her eyes) at the back of the line. (For example “quarter, quarter, half, half, quarter, quarter”).
  2. Next, instruct the oldest student who was shown the rhythm to tap this rhythm onto the back of the student sitting in front of her. This student then taps the rhythm onto the back of the next student.
  3. The chain of tapping continues until it reaches the final student, who then leaps up and writes the rhythm on a white board or poster paper.
  4. Next, reveal to your students the original rhythm. Did they pass it along correctly or did the rhythm get morphed somewhere down the line?
  5. Each time the group is correct, score one point for the kids. Each time the group is wrong, score one point for yourself (the teacher).
  6. Continue the activity with increasingly difficult rhythms.

 

 

 

 

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April News and Registration

It looks like we are finally getting some Spring weather….just as our Spring Break comes to a close! I hope you all had a wonderful Spring Break. Mine was very busy…and felt rather short…but I am excited about the coming weeks ahead!

Our year is rapidly coming to a close. We have less than 10 weeks left in our year and many exciting things to fill these last few weeks. The month of April will be busy with recital preparations as we have only 5 weeks until our annual Spring recital is here. This week students will be busy choosing their recital piece and we have a few fun ensembles to rehearse together. Our recital will take place on Friday, May 9th, at 6:30pm at the First Church of the Nazarene. Extended family and friends are most welcome. Due to the busy-ness of the sport season and dance recitals, we will not be having a reception following this recital as we did with our Christmas Recital. Instead students will receive a refreshing treat and be encouraged to go and enjoy what will hopefully be beautiful spring weather! 😉

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We are kicking off an exciting new practice incentive this month that is very relevant to our recital preparation as it’s all about performance preparation. Students will have 4 weekly projects to complete and are encouraged to try and complete all BEFORE our Spring recital, however, they will have to the end of May, if needed.

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The schedule for next year’s MYC classes is up and ready for registration. Private students, I will need to know ASAP whether or not you wish to register and return for next year in order for me to know whether or not I will be able to accommodate any graduating Moonbeams 3 students who might wish to continue on.

Slight adjustments have been made to both the schedule and the tuition fees so please be sure to go to both the Schedule page and the Piano Lessons page to check it all out.

Now…let’s get ready to ROCK! 😉

Welcome (or Welcome Back!) to Piano Lessons!

A very big and very warm welcome to all the new students and welcome back to all the returning students!  I am so excited to see you next week and begin another musical year together!  I had a wonderful, refreshing summer with several opportunities for professional development since June and can’t wait to share and use all the new ideas I gained!

FIRST WEEK OF LESSONS–WHAT TO BRING!
Our first week of lessons begins on September 9th!  To the email I sent out, I have attached a policy letter and a calendar of the first half of our year with special dates like holiday closures, masterclasses and recitals on it.  You can print it off and place it on your fridge if you like to keep track of all the dates!  There will be a limited number printed and available in studio for those of you who do not have access to a printer.  NOTE: the date for the Christmas Recital is still waiting to be officially confirmed–if there are any changes at all to the calendar a new one will be emailed out.  So, as we prepare for next week, just a couple of things to remember to bring:

All Students:  LESSON TUITION, in the form of 10 post dates for Sept 1-June 1, 2 payments or 1 full payment made payable to MICHELLE MILLER, please.  If you have not done so already, this is due no later than your first lesson!


Sunbeam 1 students: 
just bring your enthusiastic selves and a parent (Sunbeams is a parented class!)
Sunbeams 2, 3 and Moonbeams 3 students:  bring your bags, tinsheets, castanet.  Leave last year’s books at home.  REVIEW YOUR NOTES!!!  There will be a note quiz! 😀
Private Students:  bring a 1″ BINDER as your homework book (this is NEW this year, but VERY important!) and any books you worked from over the summer to play out of for me…and review your notes for a game! Some of the new private students still need to submit their books fee for the books you had me pick up for your first lesson.  You can submit that as a separate cheque. 

FACEBOOK UPDATE
We are at 38 “Likes” now…getting closer to the 50 mark.  At 50 Likes there will be a draw for prizes. If you haven’t already done so,  head on over and check out our facebook page which features videos of students, blog posts from my webpage and few fun things including Wednesday Words of Wisdom!  Then like it and invite friends and relatives to like as well for a chance to be in the draw for prizes!   Thank you to all of you who have liked the page already!  It’s been exciting to watch it grow!  There are even a few “likes” from across the globe!     https://www.facebook.com/mmmusicstudio

BLOG
You can also find my blog with great ideas for working that infamous practice time into your schedule, choosing an instrument as well as regular newsletters (so if you can’t find an emailed newsletter, you can always find a copy there.  You can also subscribe to the blog and have it automatically delivered to your email each time a new post is created.  Find it at:  https://mmmusicstudio.wordpress.com/

NEW COURSES THIS YEAR
There will be a couple of new courses offered this year for all the advancing students.  Starting in October, I will be offering a Intermediate Rudiments course.  This is for any students who have completed Basic Rudiments and/or Grade 5 Piano–some exceptions will be made for those who are currently working on a grade 6 level who haven’t completed the former two exams.  Intermediate Rudiments is a co-requisite to the grade 6 and grade 7 Royal Conservatory Piano certificate. It will be a weekly hour long course running from October to May.
The other course I will be offering will be a little more casual but I am really excited about it.  About once a month or so I would like to offer a PIANO PEDAGOGY (how to teach piano) class to all advancing students who have earned a grade 5 Piano exam or higher.  I would like to begin teaching these students how to teach!  In my studio, I like to really focus all levels of music towards learning life skills that allow us to give back in some way with our music.  Some ways we’ve done this is through composing and improvising and learning to harmonize or read lead sheets.  I would like my high school students to have the skills to give back through teaching….not because I think they will want to be piano teachers, but so that they have the ability to give back…maybe through community volunteer work or volunteering at a Senior’s home or Children’s Hospital.  The inspiration for this came from this youtube video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sNLsAbBWl_s  as well as from a fellow colleague from Coleman, Alberta who told me all about preparing her son to start teaching lessons right before he entered high school.

Enjoy this week!  It kind of feels a little like New Years in some ways!  See you all next week!

 

Sports, Group Fitness and Piano Lessons

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Seven years ago, I suffered from migraines. Horrible, debilitating migraines. They would strike at any time–in the grocery store, teaching lessons–and leave me feeling nauseated, drained and utterly useless as a parent and teacher. My doctor tried different prescriptions and some would work for a while and then stop. When the migraines increased to 3 or 4 or more a month, she sent me to a neurologist. He ran many tests and asked lots questions. Finally he asked me how much I exercised. Now I’ve always been proud to say that I come from a very active family. My parents strapped a pair of figure skates on me when I was 5 and I never looked back. My parents also loved hiking and biking and camping. Laying around at our house wasn’t an option. All through university, I skated and ran and biked and hiked and skied. So, I proudly told him that and that I also currently walked my son to preschool almost every day–a twenty minute walk there and another twenty back. He looked unimpressed and said, “Well, that would be great….if you were a senior citizen.” What?! He went on to tell me that I needed real exercise at least 3-5 times a week. Exercise like running, kickboxing or bootcamp. He told me he wanted me to try it for 3 months and if it didn’t help, then we would try Botox. I left feeling annoyed, but what other choice did I have but to try (although, I was secretly hoping for the botox). I tried running and,after a just a couple weeks, I could see improvement but I was bored and it was lonely and so easy to just skip it. My friend and I decided to try bootcamp classes at a local rec complex. It was an agonizing hour of torture and if I hadn’t committed to doing it with her there is no way I would have gone on my own. After a while another friend joined us and we’d have a quick coffee and visit after class. Now there are 5 or 6 of us and sometimes we do bootcamp, sometimes it’s spin and sometimes it’s just on our own doing a crossfit or workout of the week. We go pretty regularly and faithfully because we get to see each other. It’s social and there are things we can do together (partner exercises, spotting each other on weights) that we couldn’t do alone. Oh, and those migraines? Can’t remember the last time I had one!
So, how does this relate to piano lessons? The piano can be a solitary instrument. As you advance you take private lessons, you practice on your own….by yourself. I do enjoy running on my own–occasionally–but it can start feeling lonely and piano is the same way. This is why I do group lessons several times a year in my studio. It provides the students a chance to get to know each other outside of recitals, to build camaraderie, to know that they aren’t alone…..that there are others struggling with the same challenges and working towards the same goals. It also allows me to do activities or teach skills that I either don’t have time for in a private lesson or just can’t in a one on one situation….like improvising or “jamming” or ensemble playing or games. Since starting group teaching six years ago, I have noticed that my junior high students are no longer quitting in junior high! In fact, I just can’t seem to get rid of them! LOL! One of my students is heading off to university this year and still wants to take lessons with me! Why? Because they are involved and engaged, they feel like they are part of a family. They have friends and know that they are not alone, they feel safe and supported….and they are learning skills that will allow them to enjoy playing the piano for life either on their own or in a social situation. Being surrounded with friends with like-minded goals can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your success!
And just take a looks at sports programs. My son is in lacrosse. He loves it and wouldn’t want to miss a practice. Why? Because his team feels like a family to him.
Group fitness wasn’t what inspired me to start group teaching–a piano teacher named Melody Bober did–but being involved in a group activity myself has truly helped me experience the value of it. This week, I was able to listen to a podcast interview from another piano teacher who teaches studio group lessons for her private students exactly the same way that I do and with the same frequency….and in hearing that, I felt that instant camaraderie and support!

Wacky Wednesdays and a little March News

What a terrific showcase of compositions and contemporary pieces we heard during our Contemporary Showcase this month! Congratulations to all the students and their hard work. I was both humbled by and proud of their creativity and accomplishments in both writing their compositions and performing pieces. And the titles!!! Some of my favorite titles were: Teddy Bear Comes Alive!, Prancing Poodles, Crocodile Creek, Rush Hour, Wave of Emotions….the list goes on!

This week were back to our regular routine…..well sort of! We had a power outage here on Wednesday! It lasted almost 90 minutes and so we had to “evacuate” to my upstairs living room where we could see our books. I scrambled quickly to hide a few messes and close a few doors and then we were back to work again in minutes. The Sunbeams 3 group enjoyed sitting on sofas instead of circle mats and doing theory pages and rhythm stories on a coffee table instead of the floor. “Couldn’t we do this every week?” they asked. It was fun and took me back to 10 years ago when I was teaching out of my living room all the time….but as soon as the power came back on my family was looking at me as if to say, “Um, what are you still doing up here?”

Well, March is here and with it the downhill slope to the end of the year…it’s true! This month comes with some very important dates to take note of. Please mark your calendars where appropriate to you:

RCM AND CONSERVATORY CANADA EXAM REGISTRATION DEADLINE MARCH 4th and 7th:
For those of you in Moonbeams 3 or private lessons who have spoken to me about doing a national exam this is just a reminder that the deadlines to register for the June exam are ALMOST here! To take a Royal Conservatory exam in June you must register by MARCH 4th. To take a Conservatory Canada Contemporary Idioms exam in June you must register by MARCH 7th. Please contact me if you intend to do so. If your students does not feel ready yet that is just fine, there is another opportunity in August or even next January. It is still possible to register after these deadlines but there will be an extra charge for a “late fee”.

SPRING BREAK–March 23rd to April 1st
We will continue with our regular schedule over the next few weeks until March 23rd when we will break along with school for Spring Break. There will be NO LESSONS during that week. This is for ALL STUDENTS from Sunrise to Private Lessons. Enjoy your well-deserved break…..but don’t forget to keep practicing!

SUNRISE PRESCHOOL CLASSES
Sunrise 2 will wrap up on March 18th with a Teddy Bear Pajama Party. Sunrise 3, our final block of the program, will begin on April 8th and run until June 3rd.

Noteworthy Items and Reminders

As we finish up October and prepare to dive into November, I have a few important reminders and requests for you.

First of all, let me just say what a fantastic couple of weeks we have had.  The students have been working so hard over the last almost 8 weeks and the Practice Tree is just full of stickers and that Treasure box has been opened many times over the last two weeks–it’s already half-empty!!  Time to go shopping! 😉

MAKE A MUSIC VIDEO
The treasure box is one great way to celebrate all their hard work, but I was reminded this week of another terrific way to do celebrate at home.  I have often encouraged my students to call grandparents on the phone and play for them or take advantage of when they are over for a visit and put on a little concert, but this week one of my little students proudly showed me a video of herself playing the piano that her mom had shared on facebook.  We have so much technology at our fingertips now and so many of us have iPhones–take advantage of it!  Making a “Music Video” of your child and posting it on facebook or youtube is a wonderful way of sharing with family and friends as well a great way to show your child how important you think their music is and build their self-esteem and confidence!  Thanks, Ayla and Amanda for that great reminder!

WAITING AREA–IMPORTANT REMINDERS
I have had a chance to talk quickly at some of our classes this week about what to do when you are at the studio waiting for your class to begin, but there are few classes and students that I missed getting this message/reminder out to.  When you come into the studio for your lesson, please wait on/near the brown chairs around the corner, quietly and out of sight of the piano if at all possible.  When some of our classes were arriving this week, I noticed some students and parents standing about near the sofa and keyboards while a private lesson or class was still in session.  It’s easy to forget how intimidating or nerve-wracking (not to mention distracting) it can be to a student to see half a dozen adults and the same number of children watching them out of the corner of their eye.  Some of my private students feel a little nervous playing just for me, imagine how they must feel when a whole group shows up at the end of their lesson….especially if they weren’t feeling as prepared as they usually are to begin with.  This is especially important to remember if there is a private lesson going on before your class/lesson begins.  Many of the private students only get a 30 minute lesson.  If you are in a 60 minute class and think the time flies by, imagine what a race we have to get through everything we need to in 30 minutes and how vital it is that we can spend those 30 minutes un-distracted.  If you show up for your class 10-15 minutes early and you are talking, whispering or moving around in that student’s line of sight, they can be feeling nervous or distracted for up 30-50% of their lesson–that is a huge chunk of their time.  And, to be honest, they are not the only ones distracted.  I will often see little ones waving at me and I can’t help but wave back but my student needs 100% of my attention for their lesson.  So, please, if you can remember, try to come into class only 5-7 minutes early and wait quietly on the brown chairs, the sofa area is intended for parents and siblings of private students who need a comfortable place to study/work for 30-60 minutes while they wait for their child or sibling to finish their private lesson.  I know it can be exciting and inspiring to hear what those older students or other classes are working on, but make sure you listen in as quietly and as invisibly as possible! Emoji

CHRISTMAS IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER
“Oh, my did she really just say that”, you ask, “we haven’t even gotten through Halloween?!”  Yes I did, and yes I have even bought a couple of Christmas presents already!  Christmas is only 2 months away and our Christmas recital is only approximately 7 weeks away.  If that thought has given you indigestion, I apologize, but swallow it down because we are going to be ramping up for our annual Christmas recital VERY soon.  My family has already heard me playing through several Christmas pieces as I choose and prepare to accompany some of the class ensemble numbers our classes will do and trust me, they have groaned loudly but I ignore them and play on!  If you have only been skim-reading my newsletters (shame on you!), then you may have missed the announcement about the when and where of our recital so here it is again–just in case:

Annual Christmas Recital:  Friday evening, December 14th, in the First Church of the Nazarene  Main Auditorium located at 14320 94 street.  I believe our time will be 6:30-7:30pm, but I will need to confirm that with you a little later–as soon as I hear the date and time of my husband’s work Christmas party. I may have to run the recital from 6-7pm.  I do apologize for the late date, I was hoping for December 7th, but, alas, it was unavailable.

With the recital just weeks away, we will begin working on special ensemble pieces in our music classes as well as some piano duet or solo opportunities.  All the MYC classes will find that seasonal music is actually included there in our books, but private students need extra supplementary books of their own.  So, all of you in private lessons: please take this weekend to go through your piano bench or magazine file beside your piano and dig out ALL your Christmas books–then bring them to piano lessons NEXT WEEK, we need to make sure the level of the book is still appropriate or if you have “out-grown” it and are in need of a new book/level.  We want to begin our preparations no later than the first week of November so we are confident, prepared and not cramming last minute practice into an already busy season!

Incorporating the iPhone or iPad in Piano!

I have had my iPhone for almost two years now. My husband surprised me with it for Christmas 2010. We had purchased a tiny little phone with a flip keyboard for our daughter as she approached junior high and prepared to ride the city bus. Even though it was the cheapest little phone at the Bell store with the littlest and more basic plan, it was still nicer than my ancient phone. My husband didn’t think this was very fair, so the night before Christmas Eve he removed my phone from my purse and went and traded it in. Imagine my panic and distress to be running around last minute shopping on Christmas Eve and discover my phone gone! He was almost busted! 😉
Anyway, on Christmas morning both me and my daughter were very surprised—and I was a little relieved to find out I hadn’t lost my phone!
I hadn’t been pining for an iPhone or really considering it, but now I can’t live without it. And it has been quite handy for my studio too! Here are some ways I’ve used it:

Recording my students for feedback–this was especially helpful to them in preparing for recital and exams
Finding youtube videos of piano pieces or orchestral arrangements to share with my students and use with Fun With Composers
Receiving text messages from parents if they are stuck in traffic or unable to make it
Music Theory apps

I admit, I am still discovering new ways to incorporate it. I am sure there are teachers out there who have many more uses and I sure would love to hear about them. At a recent teacher development meeting we were even asked to bring an iPhone, iPad, or laptop if we had one for a session on technology. When I looked around at each table I noticed that almost 50% of each table had an iPad. Now, I sure would love an iPad, it would be easier to see what’s on the screen and someday I do hope to get one, but for now I am finding that my iPhone can pretty much do everything the iPad can–just in a smaller version.