Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another Choir Year is Almost Over!

We had our final church choir rehearsal yesterday evening. Our director always turns our final rehearsal into a party at her house. We have a brief rehearsal, and then some time to relax and socialize! It's always a fun and special time, but a little bittersweet as well as it means another year has come and gone- where has the time gone?!

The choir always shows their appreciation to the director, organist, and pianist (me!) by presenting us all with a small gift, and I happen to just love the gift they got for me this year. How cute is this coffee/tea travel mug?! I used it this morning, and I'm sure that every use will bring back warm memories of the years I've been a part of this church.

Our choir still has 2 Sundays left to sing, but then over the summer months we rely on other special music for offertory. I'm already hard at work coordinating music for the ensuing weeks- lining up youth musicians from our congregation and pulling in other musician friends.

If you're a church musician how does your church handle the summer months? Does your choir get a break? Who is responsible for the music over the summer months?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Question of the Week: May 28, 2012 - Making Theory Fun?!

My spring recital is over, the final week of lessons for the term is behind me, and I just have a few make-up lessons to get through this week before my term break! It's a good feeling. :)

I've spent some time over the last day or so looking over term evaluations from my students. I'm always interested to see what has worked for them and what is not working.

The most popular answer to the question of what they enjoyed the least over the term?
 Theory Homework!

All of my students use the Faber & Faber Piano Adventures Lesson, Technique, and Theory books, and while I rarely see any of them complaining about the first two, theory just seems to be something none of my students are crazy about. It's the one assignment that is most frequently incompleted when students show up for their lessons as well.
So I'm asking for your advice and suggestions. Do you have a problem getting your students on board with theory assignments? If so, what have you done to deal with the problem? Do you have any approaches toward theory in your studio that have really helped inspire students and gotten them excited about theory?

Please leave your comments and thoughts below!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spring Recital Success!

My studio recital was this past Friday evening, and it went off beautifully! I was so proud of all my students and the work they had put in over the past term.

As always, I played (no pun intended ;) ) an active role in the recital by accompanying each student on at least one of their two pieces, so I asked my mom to snap a few shots for me:

Most of her pictures ended up being the back of students as they played...

and so on and so get the idea! :)

I still have one week of lessons before the end of the term, but this week is always less stressful as we do a wrap up/evaluation/preparation for the next term.

How many of you still have lessons left to teach for the spring term? Do you take time off between spring and summer terms? Will you be teaching at all this summer?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Recital Week Group Lessons Recap.

Tonight's the big night in my studio! It's been quite a hectic week, but this morning I'm actually feeling prepared and excited for what this evening will hold.

In between some regular lessons this week, I also held group lessons for my students. We had a lot of fun preparing for the recital and playing some games together. I always try to make the recital week an exciting and fun week for my students! Here are some of the activities we did in group lessons:

1. Music History Crash Course: With my intermediate group, we did a quick survey of music history. I provided informational print-outs on each period of music history, and students cycled through the stations filling out a summary worksheet. We finished the activity with a group discussion, and then I handed out the music history timeline I discovered last week as an additional resource for their binders.

2. What Would You Do?: It's always good to be prepared for the unexpected...even in a piano recital! I used plastic eggs and put a scenario inside of each egg. For my younger students, I hid the eggs in the front yard and they had to find one. For my older students, I just tossed the eggs to them. Each student had to open their egg, read the scenario, and then as a group we discussed the best way to handle the 'problem'.

3. Spelling Bee!: I played this game with my younger students as a good tie-in to all the flashcard work we've been doing this past term. They divided into groups of 2, and each group was given a grand staff and several manipulatives. I called out a word, and they had to 'spell' that word by placing their manipulatives on the correct lines and spaces on the staff.

4. Jeopardy!: I finished each group lesson with a musical version of jeopardy. Categories ranged from Music History to Rhythms to Intervals to Key Signatures and many more. The game got pretty intense, especially with some of my younger students!

If you've had group lessons in preparation for your own studio recital, I'd love to hear about what you did in those lessons.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Music History Discovery: Printable Music History Timeline

In prepping for group lessons this week, I stumbled upon this excellent music history resource available on the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra's website.
The timeline has a brief summary of each era of music history with information on the characteristics of each era, information on the role of the conductor, and a handy list of famous composers from each period. Along the bottom is a running world history timeline to provide some context. I'm really excited about using this in my group lessons (more on that in a later post)!
The site also has some great handouts on the instrument families, activity pages, as well as some music notation worksheets. It looks to be a great resource! I love it when I stumble upon a great resource like this completely by accident! It makes my day. :)
I'm interested if any other teachers have found some great music history resources on the web. Please comment if you have any to share!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Nursing Home Visit: The Ministry of Music

This morning I had the very special opportunity to minister through music at a local nursing home with one of my students. We've been working on several duets over the past few months, and I've been itching to get her into a few more performance venues (she's a very hesitant performer) so this seemed like a perfect opportunity!

I had such a wonderful time performing duets...

and seeing this student get up the courage to perform a solo piece! For the remainder of the time, I played some hymn arrangements on my own. It had been too long since I'd done any kind of music ministry- I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

The audience was very engaged and responsive, especially one dear woman in the front row who clapped after every song, sang along with some of the music, and thanked us with tears in our eyes as we were leaving.

I used to perform at a nursing home on a weekly basis right after I graduated from college and my studio and church responsibilities weren't quite so demanding. I was always blessed by the experience, and I'm determined to try and make it more of a regular occurrence.

I'll keep you posted, but I'm hoping to get more of my students involved in visits over the summer! I want all my students to see their music as a ministry- something they can share with others, and taking it to a community like the one we visited today is an excellent way to get that thought process started.

Do you do trips like this with some of your students? Or do you minister personally in your community? I'd love to hear about ways you're using your music as a ministry!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week :)

I don't know if this is just something that is celebrated in the US or not, but this week was Teacher Appreciation Week. While it's mostly for school teachers, some of my students always extend their appreciation to me as well with small gifts and tokens to show their thanks.

To me, it's always about more than the gift that's given, it's about the fact that my students took the time to think about thanking me for being their teacher, giving recognition to the time and effort that I put into making sure that I am the best teacher possible.

And on weeks like this, I'm always reminded of the fact that I need to be more vocal in expressing my appreciation for others. One little kind word or action can go a long way in brightening someone's day!

Did any of you have students who gave you special gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week? Or have any of your students done anything extra nice for you recently?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Know I'm Late...

Students and parents come up with some pretty interesting excuses for not being on time to their lessons. I'm sure we all have our share of stories! :) But what happened at one of my lessons last night was just too cute not to share.

A mother and daughter showed up about 10 minutes late for their lesson. Their excuse? The mom says:

"I couldn't get her to stop practicing!"

You can't be too upset with that kind of excuse, can you?! And especially since this was coming from a student who had been a real complainer about practicing until we tried something new this term. She's improved tremendously in both attitude and practice this term, and I'm so proud of her!
What interesting excuses have your students come up with recently to excuse late arrivals? ;)