Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pass the Easter Basket: Group Lesson Terminology Game

This is another game I'll be playing with my beginner group lesson next week. It's just like hot potato, except you pass around a basket filled with cards. When the music stops, the student holding the basket has to choose and define a term.

For more instructions and the free printable, just look under the games section of the printables tab.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Easter Egg Rhythm Sorting Game

I'm planning a special group lesson over Easter Break week for my beginning students and in preparation I'm coming up with a few easy games that will help them review basic concepts.

This simple game helps students recognize and distinguish between 3/4 and 4/4/ time.

There are 4 pages of 'rhythm eggs', plus a blank page if you want to make up some more of your own. Simply print and cut out the eggs. Then get 2 baskets and designate 1 basket for the 3/4 eggs and 1 for the 4/4 eggs. The student must look at the card and decide which basket to place the egg into. You can do this activity individually in lessons, or as a fun group activity with 2 teams competing to see which team can get all their eggs sorted first.

You can view and print the game by going to the printables tab under "Games". Hope you enjoy this game with your students!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Celebrating a Breakthrough!

Teaching can be a frustrating business. Sometimes it seems that no matter what we do as teachers, a student reaches a point where they give up. I've had my share of experiences like that over the years, but I've also experienced some real successes with students, and I try to dwell on those positive experiences more than the negative.

I have a student who has been taking for about 2 years. When she first started lessons she was super enthusiastic and practiced with diligence every week. She was a fast learner and ate up her music.

Then something happened last fall. We really started having problems. She started hating practice, was having trouble remembering even the most basic music concepts, and was considering quitting piano. Thankfully, her mom was not willing to let her give up so easily, so we came up with a plan that I implemented this spring.

We scaled WAY back in lesson material, moving back to My First Piano Adventures to re-learn notes and review interval reading. I was a little worried that this would not go over well, but it's been a fabulous decision! The student LOVES the book and the songs, and her mom is playing along with her each week using the duet parts. I've seen a dramatic increase in her reading skills.

To help keep things interesting, we're also working on several pieces that are a bit more at her level so that she feels like she's working on something besides just the basics. But every week I try to apply what we're working on in the MFPA to the other pieces, and she's making the connections.

The biggest surprise was yesterday when she showed up for her lesson with 5 days of practice and over 100 minutes logged for the week! That hasn't happened in probably about a year- we'd gotten to the point where getting her to practice was like pulling teeth. But this new approach has made all the difference in the world. She has started enjoying practice again and looks forward to her lessons.

Have you ever experienced a breakthrough like this, where a student is just about ready to give up but you're able to develop a plan that helps them re-discover their love for music? It takes a little bit of extra effort, but it's SO worth it when you see their passion for music rekindled!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Growing as a Church Musician

I am reminded of this pretty much every week: if you want to succeed as a church musician without completely losing your sanity you have to learn to be flexible! It's really not about perfection, but about how well you are able to roll with the punches and deal with whatever is thrown your way.

Every year, our church collaborates with another local church for 2 consecutive Sundays. The first Sunday, our adult and bell choirs travel to their church to join them, while the following Sunday they join us at our church. It's always a wonderful experience as we get 2 Sundays packed full of music!

This year, as a member of the bell choir, I was secretly looking forward to a 'morning off' from my responsibilities as church pianist as we were traveling to the sister church where their church pianist would be taking care of accompanying the choirs and performing all the service music. I was also excited about the opportunity about actually singing with the choir instead of accompanying them!

Think again.

When we arrived, I was approached by the church pianist, who asked me if I'd be willing to finish up the service as he needed to leave early that day. I was still able to play bells and sing with the choir, but I also played all the music for the latter half of the service. So instead of a morning off, I ended up doing more than my usual weekly musical responsibilities.

But you know what the neatest thing was? The fact that I didn't mind being asked to take on those extra responsibilities! And the fact that I wasn't nervous about them either! A year or 2 ago, if I had been asked to fill in in that capacity, I would have felt extremely nervous about the last minute preparations, and it probably would have ruined my entire morning. But as I grow as a musician and especially in my experience as a church musician, I'm learning to keep my cool and be available and flexible in whatever task I'm asked to perform.

It's exciting to look back and see how I've matured in my almost 5 years as a church musician! If you are a church musician, what are some of the ways that you have grown over the years?

Friday, March 9, 2012

I get such a kick out of the way my students 're-define' musical terms from time to time!

Yesterday, I was working with a student on a piece that ended with a repeated pattern ascending by octaves each measure. As we looked at the section and he played through it, I asked him if he could help me describe the movement from one measure to the next. After a few seconds of intense thought, he turned and with a huge smile blurted out:

"A cocktail!"

After I explained that the term was actually octave, not cocktail, we went on with the lesson, but every time an octave appeared from then on, he'd get a mischievous look in his eyes and mention the "cocktail."

What's the silliest thing your students have come up with lately?!