I have a confession to make…I like the month of February. Yes, sometimes it feels as if I’ll be stuck in winter forever and I absolutely do yearn for warmer weather. But I love this month because we get so much accomplished in the piano studio. There’s not much distracting us for weeks on end, so long-term goals (skills, musicianship, etc.) can be patiently worked on, seen improvement upon, and celebrated.
I love it. Here are some of the things in the studio that made me smile this month:
- Flashcard challenge
- Gifts from students
- Lots of students finishing books!
- Finding new music like Philip Wesley’s Dark Night of the Soul
- Beautiful hands of an adult piano student. They have done much work and seen much life, and produce beautiful music at the piano.
- New adult student giving me a hug when she left the studio
- Attending local concerts
- Master class at Colorado University in Boulder for a high school student
Book I’ve been reading (slowly!):
The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine
What made you smile this month?
I always enjoy January lessons so much. After the busy-ness of December, January feels like a dream. We are all ready for fresh new music and are usually quite motivated to buckle down into a daily practice routine. I feel like students generally improve their skills in these winter months quite a bit.
Here are some January studio happenings which made me smile:
- Student sight-reading through quite a bit of his method books over Christmas break
- New blinds and seating area means bright light and fresh feel
- Students jumping off the front steps after lessons – does this ever happen to you? I have a few students who I have recently observed hopping off the front porch steps as they leave the studio. I feel as though this is a happy expression of an enjoyed lesson and my heart jumps for joy when I observe this happiness. 🙂
- Teaching old pop songs to young students – “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey and “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. So much fun!
- Three new students! One seven year old beginner, one sixteen year old advanced student, and…
- New adult student who is returning to piano and is excited to practice and play again. Her enthusiasm has motivated her entire family to play again. 🙂
My January soundtrack (some of the pieces/composers I taught this month):
- Haydn, Sonata in E minor
- Dohnanyi, Rhapsody in C Major
- Pachelbel Canon
- Joplin, The Entertainer
- Satie, Gymnopedie No. 1
- Clementi, Sonatina in C
- Mozart, Minuet and Trio
- Chopin, Prelude in Db Major “Raindrop Prelude”
- Beethoven, Six Variations
- Willy Wonka, Pure Imagination
- Lord of the Rings, Concerning Hobbits
- Coldplay, Clocks
- Yiruma, River Flows in You
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Benjamin Calypso
- Journey, Don’t Stop Believin’
- Neil Diamond, Sweet Caroline
Pieces I played this month:I picked up level ten of Essential Piano Repertoire and was reminded how a good layout makes such a difference when learning music. I have played both these pieces before but really enjoyed playing them from this edition.
Hexentanz (Witches’ Dance) Op. 17, No. 2 by MacDowell
What a fantastic piece! Full of fast finger work (more for RH than LH), chromatic double thirds and scales, large dynamic changes, and a wide range of expressive elements. This is an ideal piece for competitions, festivals and recitals.
Sonata L.23 by Domenico Scarlatti
This well-known sonata is cheerful and so fun to play. This colorful piece includes horn calls, Baroque trills, good finger work on repeated notes, and extensive playing at the piano or pianissimo level. Also an excellent choice for public performance.
Books I read this month:
The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum
Wow! This book was so good. I found myself underlining so many passages. I will be publishing a separate post on this book soon!
Though December is a busy time for the piano studio, I am grateful to be part of the craziness. Here is what happened in my studio this month that made me smile:
- Christmas Piano Party – always a fun time! Get the details here.
- Sweet gifts and notes from students
- A teacher in our local teacher association retired and graciously sold her books and teaching supplies for a donation to her retirement fund. 🙂 I was able to pick up a piano footstool, several scores and a book. I have used all of these things many times already!
- Break time! Some down time and good novels hit the right note for rest and recovery.
This was the soundtrack of my life in the studio this month:
- Deck the Halls
- Frosty the Snowman
- Jolly Old St. Nicholas
- Over the River
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- Away in a Manger
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- We Three Kings
- Joy to the World
- Silent Night
- Let It Snow
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas
- Feliz Navidad
- Carol of the Bells
- O Holy Night
- Linus and Lucy
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- The First Noel
- God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
- We Are Santa’s Elves
- Go Tell It On the Mountain
- Silent Night
- Jingle Bells
- Jolly Old St. Nicholas
- Jingle Bell Rock
- There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays
- The Twelve Days of Christmas
- River Flows in You
- What Child Is This
- Rise Up, Shepherd
November was a bit of a whirlwind with our major event, the Multiple Piano Festival and a family trip to NYC for Thanksgiving break. The students were excited to learn new Christmas and holiday music, and I loved teaching it to them!
- Student playing “River Flows In You” for her grandmother’s memorial service – the grandmother had that song as the ringtone on her phone
- High school students adding terms to white board with new terms coined from their names – “drisando” coined from “Drisana” 🙂
- After pulling out music from my music cabinet, student remarks: “I didn’t know you actually used those books. I thought they were for show.”
- Fourteen students passing auditions to participate in local Multiple Piano Festival
- Participating for the fifth year in the Multiple Piano Festival, a concert sponsored by our local teacher’s association
- Transcribing Christmas music for young students
And the book recommendation:
Usually I read through books pretty quickly. However, this is a book to savor. I have loved every part of this book, and I feel that my interest in classical music has been reawakened. Swafford’s description of composers temperaments and their lives help us remember that composers were people. His analysis of their works is just deep enough to have real substance, but not too deep to get mired down in technical matters. His wider research into world events helps us remember that composers and music are shaped by the world and culture. One of the best parts of the book is Swafford’s recommendations for listening.
I got this book from the library, but I have already put it on my Christmas wish list. This will become a reference book in my studio.
Feel free to leave a note about happy moments in your teaching life!
My life is filled with music and my job gives me the opportunity to interact with great students and families on a near-daily basis. I am so thankful to be able to teach piano. Here are some things this month that made me happy:
- Inspector McEye – a cute teaching aid from Teach Piano Today
- Board of terms – see my blog post on this here
- Students auditioning for and being accepted into jazz bands at local schools. On a related note: attending their jazz band concerts is a happy moment too!
- 12 year old beginning student asking to learn “Linus and Lucy” for Christmas. I have been teaching it to him by rote and he is so excited as he learns each new section that he jumps off the bench! 🙂
- Young student excited to earn Mozart composer card
I love how our music teaching community comes together at conferences and through social media, podcasts and blogs. I have been listening to the new podcast, The Musicality Podcast (also recommended!) and enjoyed episode two featuring Natalie Weber, blogger at Music Matters. She mentioned a book entitled “The Piano Shop on the Left Bank” which intrigued me enough to request it from our local library. I loved it. Not only was it a sweet story of a man returning to his love of the piano after many years, but it was incredibly informative on different types of pianos, piano tuning, and even Parisian culture. I highly recommend it!
What have you been reading lately? And what has made you smile this month? Feel free to share!
Our September has been mainly warm and summer-y, but these last few days have definitely turned into fall. Inside the studio my students and I have returned to weekly lessons with enthusiasm and joy. Here are some things that made me smile this month:
- Young student who had been away returning to studio with enthusiasm
- New resources and ideas for the new school year
- New curtains!
- Eleven year old student transposing music just for the fun of it
- Nine year old student improvising on jazz scale
- Six year old student’s invitation to come stay at his house if our house ever burned down. 🙂 “You can teach us on our piano!”
- New binder cover designed by student
- After complimenting a student on her fine performance, she replies: “I learned a lot from my teacher.” 🙂
What made you smile this month?