I do hope that you had a great Thanksgiving break and are now back to teaching refreshed. December is the month of non-stop activities and piano is no exception. The secret to getting through the month is of course, time management. Pace yourself with all of your recitals, gigs and holiday parties. Try not to schedule too many within a week and always allow at least a day or two between events. This will ensure great performances without burning your candle at both ends. Here’s hoping you have a great December!
When I was a young teacher, I believed students should have lessons year-round (I still believe this). I taught 50 weeks out of the year, only taking off the week of Spring Break and Christmas. It didn’t take me long to discover parents forced their children to take all those weeks. Students resented lessons, eventually ceasing lessons. As I grew older, had a child of my own, I realized that it was healthier to take more breaks throughout the year. Students were eager to come back to lessons, ready to tackle their music. I also discovered that I was in a better place. I missed their smiling faces, excited to see them come into the studio and have avoided burn-out. Taking a week here and a week there to rejuvenate your soul is a good thing! You will want to engage and so will your students. Hoping you are taking off this Thanksgiving week, spending it with loved ones and getting you ready for the rest of the holiday season.
How soon is too soon to begin playing Christmas music? As a consumer, it always rattles my cage when I see Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween and it seems to get earlier every year! As a musician, I look at playing Christmas music a little differently. I actually have my students begin practicing their pieces in late August. Why you ask? Well, they have several venues that they will be playing and in order for them to be ready with more than one or two pieces, it takes that long. I add a piece or two to their regular repertoire, so it’s not overwhelming. It’s also a great time to encourage duets. By doing this, they will have at least 4 or 5 new pieces by December. It’s a win-win.
I have a very dear friend and colleague once say to me that the point of learning the piano is all about performance. I was quite taken aback by this thought and I couldn’t disagree with it more. Although I do think performance is very important, I don’t think that is why most students take lessons. The pure joy of playing for yourself is reason enough. As we approach the holiday season, teachers must be mindful of why their students are taking. We want to encourage our students to have the confidence to play in public but work with them if they are not. I only require one recital per year for all of my students, all others are optional. If you have students who are timid about performing, think of alternative ways for them to share their music and progress. Perhaps have them do a video or perform in small venues. Get creative, ask their opinion. They may never love to perform, but as many other things in life, it is a learning experience.
I have discovered over the years there many teachers who are hesitant to teach children younger than 6 or 7. While it can be a challenge if you are not very patient and think fast on your feet, the excitement you see on those little faces are well worth it. The key of course is to have a solid plan and be able to include body movement along with keyboard activities. I highly recommend as series called “Music for Little Mozarts” (Alfred Publishing). It is designed for students aged 4-8. It captures their imagination with Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear. I have been using this series since it came out in the early 2000’s. I will also say that all of my students who started with this series, stayed with lessons though high school. That’s a win-win for everyone. If you are considering teaching little ones and need some guidance, don’t hesitate to contact me. I love working with teachers!
Today is World Pianist Day, how are you celebrating? Me, I am giving piano lessons! I have been blessed with so many piano students over the course of 44 years. I cannot even count how many students have been through my studio. I have had the honor of watching these students become fine pianists and the world is a better place. Whether you are a concert pianist or just play for your own enjoyment, you have a gift and are to be celebrated today (and every day).
This is a delightful little story about Tchaikovsky as a young boy.