Back to School, Back to Lessons!

Happy Back to School for those of you who sent your kids off today (this is week two for us!).  We are less than a week away from our own Back to Lessons! Just a couple things to let you know this week!

Invoices/receipts were sent out last week on the 29th.  If you did not receive one by email, please check your junk mail.  I am using a new accounting system this year that automates and customizes invoices and receipts and your email may have not recognized the address origin (mailer@waveapps.com).  It will show Michelle Miller Music Studio as the sender.

Schedule and Calendar is up on this, the main website:  mmmusicstudio.com     You can bookmark this address OR I usually include it in my email signature to make it easy to find.   I am currently working on booking the Christmas recital so just know that is TENTATIVELY scheduled right now and will be confirmed hopefully very soon!  You will also find newsletters, announcements and practice tips posted there as well, so if you can’t find it by email, check out the site and it is usually posted there too!

I am off to get a little more last minute organization and re-decorating done in the studio now!  Looking forward to a wonderful new year of music making with all of you!!  See you next week!

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My Young Composers

I find this a little bit hard to admit (and almost even believe now) but up until about 7 years ago, I never really taught composing to my students! I used to think that I didn’t have the time, creativity or real talent to compose…so how could I possibly teach it? Then, in 2007, I took the Music for Young Children certification and found out that if I wanted to be a certified MYC teacher, I’d have to suck it up and just do it…because part of the curriculum each year is composing! And, not only that, but MYC has a huge international Composition Festival each year and MYC teachers are expected to have their students participate! No pressure…right???? That first year of teaching composing and mailing off compositions to a festival was terrifying for me.

But I discovered something: Composing can be easy….and FUN! And now, years later, I look forward to every January because that’s when I start my annual composing unit with my students. We spend about 6 weeks working little by little on a composition. And how do we begin? Well, I tell my students that each composition starts with a teeny, tiny idea. In music we call this a MOTIVE. A motive does not need to be big, in fact look at Beethoven, he started an entire Symphony with a super tiny motive that went something like: duh, duh, duh, duuuuuh (Symphony no.5) and look where that led to!

So, our first week of composing is spent just on creating a little motive. Sometimes, I’ll throw a few ideas out to them like choosing a sentence to determine your rhythm and then adding notes. We did a little exercise with this. One student chose to use the sentence, “Ninjas on the rooftop”. Once we figured out that rhythm was just titi titi ta ta, she was free to add notes to it. 5 minutes later she had a motvie!

Each consecutive week, we learn a “trick” to add to our motive to expand our motive. Like this:

Repetition: easy! Just repeat the motive!
Sequence: move the motive up or down (did you hear this one in Beethoven’s Symphony?)
Retrograde: play it backwards!
Inversion: Turn it upside down!
Diminuation: make the rhythms shorter! (did you hear this in Beethoven’s, too?)
Augmentation: make the rhythms longer

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Before they know it, that one tiny motive has become a full page of music! As my students grow and mature in their composing, they don’t always do it “by the book” and that’s okay, too. But knowing these little “composer tricks” and finding out even the “big guys” like Beethoven used them too, makes the whole composing process much less intimidating. And guess what else? Knowing these little tricks can also make IMPROVISING a lot less intimidating. Getting that creative process going starts with just an idea!

And now, we are done our composing unit for another year and the compositions have been shipped off to the MYC International Composition Festival….but I don’t think my students are done with composing….just yet! 😉 And that makes me extremely happy, because really, shouldn’t it be my goal to slowly be working myself out of a job by creating happy, independent musicians who can create their own music?

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Summer Fun and Preparations for the Fall!

Wow! I can’t believe it’s August already! Where is the summer going? I had all these plans and so many things I wanted to do. And I have done some of them, I suppose. I completely re-organized all of my music and now everything is neat and orderly in Magazine folders with labels on my bookshelves. My registration binder (or bible!) is all cleaned out and organized with the registration for the fall and ready for even more new registration!
Last summer I made a floorstaff carpet and, this summer, I still hope to make a floor keyboard carpet! But there are already so many exciting things around the corner that I’m not sure I’ll have time! Next week is the MYC teachers semi-annual professional development meeting in Red Deer. Then the following week I am hosting the Edmonton APTA teachers for a coffee meet and, the day after that,  participating in a Royal Conservatory iScore webinar and, before we know it, lessons will begin on September 10th–the very same day Paul Coates and the Practice Monster should be arriving in our city to do a fun-filled and inspiring workshop about turning practice into exploration!
It’s not the summer of lounging and reading that I thought it would be, but is sure has and will continue to be crammed full over fun over the remaining three weeks!
And for those of you still on the fence about piano lessons or music classes, check out the schedule on my MYC website: http://www.myc.com/teacher/MMiller