Thursday, April 28, 2011

More alphabet cards

Here's a simpler version of the alphabet cards, also available for download

Spring Themed Alphabet Cards

I'm sure you've all seen these cards before but I thought I'd create a set of new alphabet cards in a spring theme. The full resolution file is available here.
If you're downloading and printing these cards for your studio, I would love to hear how you're planning to use these in your classes. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don't Miss your Favorite Cartoons!!

The last year and a half spent working and practicing with my son has been quite a learning curve for me from a parent's perspective. It's quite different explaining practicing strategies and sending students home with an assignment than actually being in the process of practicing with a student.  I'm constantly finding ways to keep the focus and inject fun in hopes of motivating my 6-year old to enjoy the music making process.
So I was at the piano bench and my son asked " how many more times do I have to play this?", sounding quite evidently bored and hoping that I'd come up with a number he was looking for.... "Zero". He loves watching his favorite TV shows and it came to my mind that I'd create virtual cartoons made up of sections in his music.

When I announced the game, my son's eyes lit up and he regained focus in an instant! I made up "episodes" of Spiderman, Max & Ruby and Mighty Machines that he surely wouldn't want to miss. In order to complete a full episode, he would have had to meet a specific goal like observe the fingering or correct a wrong note in a given section. Much to my surprise, he was suddenly able to rise up to the challenges! 
To add to the fun, I made up funny words to the melody.  He said afterwards, "let's watch Spiderman over again,  jump to Max & Ruby and play Mighty Machines backwards!"
It was odd and I never would have imagined being motivated to work this way as a young child but I'm glad it brought about enthusiasm while still achieving our practice goals...
This makes me ponder deeper into the power of focus and how much more students can achieve through mindful practice. To fellow teachers, I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on methods, tools or incentives you have found useful to promote a happy and healthy habit of practicing at home....
My own experience as a young student was simply a phrase my dad used to say that still resonates till today.
"LISTEN and USE your brain!!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Inspiring Moment

This morning, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop presented by the world renowned Canadian pianist, Ian Parker.  What a tremendous learning experience it was!
An amazingly delightful and articulate speaker, Mr. Parker shared tips about practising and preparing students for recitals, exams and festivals. His passion and wonderful sense of humor is unmistakable! He really captivated the audience with the most amazing analogies that simply find marvellous ways of revealing the most abstract concepts.
My favourite was definitely “The puzzle” analogy that is so relevant and something that kids can easily identify. I had always struggled with communicating the idea of playing and feeling in longer lines.  But when Mr. Parker spoke about how learning a piece is like putting a puzzle together and smoothening the seams as he referred, this immediately clicked as I connected with this simple and yet powerful analogy. What a perfect way to explain!
It was such an inspiring hour that left me in good spirits all day. That leads me into thinking about how invaluable a coach is as teaching is indeed an art and lifelong learning skill. The energizing words of wisdom and encouragement go a long way in shaping my musical journey, both as a teacher and performer. I'm grateful for the gems I'm able to pick along the this truly makes my musical path so rewarding and meaningful...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Weekend Project with Pointing Sticks

I have always loved crafts even as a child.  When I was at Wal Mart over the weekend, I came across Crayola's air-dry clay that got me really excited about the world of possibilities in my MYC classes.
One tool that the children really enjoy using is the pointing stick when they reverse roles so kids get to point for parents. They love pointing and counting out loud to make sure mom or dad keeps the beat and follows all the rules on the music! I  had earlier found the wooden dowels and cute little critter pieces from the dollar store and along with the Crayola clay, I set out on a fun project to create new pointing sticks for my studio. I can't wait to surprise the little kids at their next class!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

60 second Doodle

There’s just something about children and doodling.  When I was introducing the half rest yesterday to a group of 5 year olds, I gave each student a half rest cut from foam and asked what they thought it looked like. Of course it didn't take them long to blurt out "the hat" and I was ready to associate it with “2 beats of silence” when one child quickly said “ but it’s way too small for me!”
That caught me by surprise but gave an idea for a quick creative activity. The children squealed with excitement when I brought out a small white board for each child and announced the delightful “ 60 second Doodle Time”.  I was amazed at how quickly they doodled away . And now, here’s a picture to share these cute little creations :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Beloved Piano

I too was inspired by Joy Morin’s post when she asked “What kind of piano do you have in your home?” as well as Anne Crosby’s post on “A Trip through Time”. As I reflect on my past, it is a wonder how fortunate I am for what I am able to own today. Never in a million years would I have ever thought of owning a grand piano and Clavinova in my studio. I grew up with a Grotrian and then 2 Yamaha grands and there was an episode of my life when I had no instrument for years. This changed when I arrived in Canada and was blessed with a Yamaha Clavinova, then a Yamaha U3 and now a Boston GP178. I’ve yearned for a grand piano for years when my sweet husband purchased this beautiful piano 2 years ago. It’s not the Steinway Model “O” but it is more than I can ever dream of having and more significantly, one that holds a lot of sentimental value.
What else do I love about my piano? 
It’s the profoundly rich bass and the warm, lush tone of the instrument that feels so magical..

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A new Initiative with Parent Newsletters

This year, I started a new initiative with monthly parent newsletters and I’m surprised to discover that I actually enjoy putting this together. It’s a short one-page newsletter that highlights photos, studio news, events, student achievements, practice and fun tips to enlighten parents on how they may offer support at home and play an active role in their children’s musical education. It’s been a fun experience so far getting to explore and be creative with this little project and not to mention, it certainly is very encouraging that parents are noting these tips to keep practice and music making fun at home.  

I'm happy to share this newsletter template if anyone is interested in personalizing for their studio. Click here to download

Friday, April 8, 2011

The amazing work of Anne Crosby

I was very pleasantly surprised to find the Barnyard Friends and a lot more amazing resources that were created single-handedly by a very talented teacher, pianist and Canadian composer, Anne Crosby.  Her compositions continue to excite my students and her ideas; teaching aids and resources are such wonderful inspiration to me and many other studio teachers. Thank you Anne for the exquisite work!! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fun with pencil eraser toppers!

Recently, I had fun using manipulatives like pencil eraser toppers to help students remember the notes to their scales. We placed these eraser toppers on specific keys, like B Flat to help students anticipate playing the black key on the F Major scale. The children had a good chuckle watching these “guideposts” fall and didn’t seem to mind the repetitionJ
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