Adult Students’ Potluck Party

17 May

For our adult piano students’ at Piano Pathways, we decided to have something more fun and relaxed than a traditional piano recital to celebrate the end of a semester. After all, I have never had an adult student tell me he or she wants to relive those recitals from their childhood piano lessons! Though most adults aren’t jumping at the opportunity to perform, many adults do get a point where they want to share a favorite piece of music with others, in a relaxed and fun setting. So this year at Piano Pathways, we had a potluck for our recreational music making (RMM) classes. Recreational Music Making classes are focused on the experience of learning music– it is about the journey in learning to play piano! At the potluck party, each student brought a dish, and they could also bring a guest to the event. While we were eating and talking, students played for us when they felt ready, providing our dinner music. There was no order, since students could decide when they felt ready to play. The potluck was a very relaxed setting, since everyone realized their performances were not the focus of evening. It was a great party of fellowship and beautiful music!

 

Adult Piano Potluck- Recreational Music Making

Having fun at the Potluck!

Adult Piano Potluck- Recreational Music Making

We had a great evening of dinner and music together at Piano Pathways’ Potluck for adult RMM students.

Miguel and Patrick Playing a Duet "Dueling Fingers" at the Potluck

Miguel and Patrick Playing a Duet “Dueling Fingers” at the Potluck

Cindy and Angela

Cindy and Angela playing “Amazing Grace.”

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“Evernote” App

20 Jan

For the new 2014 semester, I decided to try a different approach with my students’ practice assignment folders. I have always copied assignment sheets for the semester to write down detailed notes for every lesson, expecting students and parents to review these weekly notes for at-home practice. I take great detail in writing down and discussing with the student his or her goals for practicing each week. But, if only all students and parents read these notes! In many lessons, I end up telling students some of the same things as I told them in previous lesson. I was writing these details in the assignment folder, but the message was not being received by student (because they don’t read the notebook)!

So out with the old, and in with the new! I decided to try an app called “Evernote.” It works the same way as paper folders–every student has his or her digital notebook, and I can take notes for them in each lesson. At the end of each lesson, I can send the note to the parents via email or text. For middle and high school students with phones, I can send it directly to the student. If clients have an iPhone or iPad, they can download the app to the device, and the child’s notebook can be shared between the two parties. The app syncs with all devices it is used on, including Mac computers. I make checklists for each students, noting exactly what should be worked on each week. At home, the student or parent can mark off the list as each goal is reached. If the notebooks are shared, I can see their activity in the notebook during the week, and I have an idea of their at-home practicing. In each lesson, the student can pick out an emoji as a reward for a successful practice week. How fun is that!?

There are other features I am anxious to explore in the app, like attaching photos or videos to each note. Need to remind a student what a piece sounds like? Make a quick recording on your device and attach the video recording to the note. Need to show a student a fingering for a certain passage? Take a picture of his  or her hand on the keys with the correct fingering and attach the picture to the note.

I am using Evernote to help students with his or her at-home practicing, but I am finding that it is also helping my lesson preparation. I can easily review exactly what was worked on and discussed in the previous lesson, and be ready for those same skills as the initial focus in the next lesson. The possibilities for using this app in your piano studio seem endless! How could you use Evernote in your studio?

What You Learn in Piano Lessons

11 Jan

When I think of all of the reasons to enroll in piano lessons, what comes to my mind first and foremost are the many musical benefits that piano lessons can provide– learning songs to play on piano, learning to read music, performance skills, music theory and history, ear training development, and broadening your understanding of a variety of musical genres and styles.

These musical byproducts are wonderful things that come from taking piano lessons. However, there are also many wonderful non-musical results that can come from piano study. These non-musical benefits are not typically at the top of a teacher’s list of “why to take piano lessons.” But these benefits are very important to developing students and are actually quite necessary to playing an instrument!

Some of these non-musical benefits learned in piano lessons include:

  • goal setting
  • time management skills
  • performing under pressure
  • self-evaluative skills
  • listening skills
  • memorization
  • delayed gratification
  • fine muscle coordination
  • ability to respond to criticism
  • how to handle winning and losing
  • problem solving

What are other music or non-musical benefits that you or your child have learned in piano lessons? Happy playing!

Recitals and Performing Publically

22 Dec

Piano Pathways finished up the fall semester of lessons and classes this past week. The semester concluded with 3 studio recitals last Saturday. Students who played in the first recital were all students who had studied piano one year or less. The other two recitals were students ranging from age 5/6 through high school age, divided equally between the two events. These students prepared one or two pieces from memory to perform for an audience at a venue other than the studio.

There is really quite a lot that students must prepare beyond the musical selection in order to perform confidently in a recital. Some of those things include how to:

  • Walk to the piano
  • Adjust the bench to correct distance from piano or bench height
  • Put hands in his or her lap when sitting down to the piano, in order to prepare mentally
  • Prepare mentally for the start of the performance
  • Think through rhythm, tempo, dynamics
  • Finish the piece and conclude the performance by placing hands in his or her lap
  • Bow
  • Walk away from the piano

These are all important things that can affect a performance. These things also take time to learn in order for a student to have an artistic performance! Beyond these considerations, challenges in the musical part of the performance include memory, check points to recover from potential memory slips, balancing sounds from the audience, pedal, and nerves, and listening and adjusting to balance, tempo, dynamics, mood, and note/rhythm accuracy.

A practical way for a student to learn to play better in public is by having them play in public frequently. One way teachers can do this is to provide more performance opportunities in the form of group or studio classes. Piano Pathways holds studio classes twice a semester in place of private lesson appointments. In these classes, students have a performance that is still pressured, but much less so than a formal recital or competition.

A more important issue to ensure a high-quality performance is that the teaching behind every lesson is fundamentally solid and not turned up only at the end to ensure one, successful recital piece. In other words, teachers should teach each piece as if it were to be performed in a recital, not focusing on achieving only one polished recital piece at the end of the year. How students are taught throughout the year will be reflected in their public performances!

 

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

8 Aug

Here are a list of commonly asked questions that interested clients ask about Piano Pathways:

1. What classes or lessons do you offer?

At Piano Pathways, we offer private lessons for students of all ages, partner lessons ( 2 students who take a lesson together based on similar ages and playing abilities), and group classes ( 3 or more students). The different lesson types give you options based on what you may be interested in to accomplish specific goals and also which environment you may prefer. For example, the group classes have a large emphasis on technology with our Yamaha Clavinova lab, LC3+ conferencing system, Classroom Maestro display via TV, and MIDI accompaniments!

2. How long is enrollment in each semester?

Our semesters run for 16 weeks in the fall (August-December), 16 weeks in the spring (January-May), and 6 weeks in the summer (June-July). That totals to 38 weeks of instruction for the year.

Enrollment in piano lessons is for the entire semester, with each semester concluding with a recital. We do ask that you complete the semester in its entirety, if your child decides to not re-enroll for another semester. If you do decide to register for lessons in another studio, please let your teacher know that you have transferred from Piano Pathways!

3. We are out-of-town most of the summer and will not be able to continue lessons in the summer. Do I have to enroll in summer lessons?

We do ask that all Piano Pathways students enroll in some type of summer instruction, with the exception of adults and online clients. This policy is put in place to ensure that your child won’t forget everything that we have worked so far to attain during the school year, to maintain the business during the summer months, and also to reserve your lesson place during the school year. So much can be learned during the summer months in one of our summer classes that are offered in lieu of private lessons, and there are lots of ways to be creative and flexible to accommodate summer lessons if you have a unique travel situation!

4. Am I required to have a piano at home?

Yes, we do ask that you have an acoustic piano or appropriate digital instrument for at-home practice. It is very motivating for a student to have the same instrument at home as what they practice on at the studio, and also to build good habits right away from the very first lesson to practice during the week between lessons. If you do not own a piano, we would be glad to put you in touch with someone at O’Neills Music to ask about their options exclusive for Piano Pathways’ clients!

5. What will my child learn in piano lessons?

We strive to make every lesson or class a musical experience by using resources and books most appropriate for each child. We believe that learning to read music is the best way to play the piano, even with all of the wonderful technology tools available on the Internet to quicken playing skills. The skills that your child will learn in piano lessons– music reading, performance skills, aural skills, practice techniques, listening and evaluation of music, music history and theory, duet and ensemble playing, and some composition and improvisation.

6. I am an adult interested in piano lessons, but I only want to play a specific piece– not scales and technique. Can I still enroll in piano lessons?

Absolutely! As an adult student, your personal goals for wanting to learn to play are very important, and we will make sure that those are the center of our curriculum that we craft together. We want you to grow as a pianist, and understand that sometimes those basic tools for learning correct movement on the piano keys aren’t so bad after all!

7. I don’t want to do any recitals or festivals. Can I still take piano lessons?

We strongly encourage that all students at least participate in recitals at the end of each semester. Over the years of my teaching experience, it seems that students who tend to lose interest in piano lessons are the who do not participate in any events during the school year! Recitals are a wonderful time to work towards a goal and celebrate a great accomplishment with a supportive audience. The festivals and competitions most appropriate for each student to participate will be determined by the teacher, parents, and students.

8. Do you have adult recitals? I am not sure if I want to play in public for anyone!

As an adult student, you will never have to perform in public if you do not want to. However, we would encourage you to consider playing in our of our many “Piano Parties” that are non-recitals! In other words, these are small gatherings of students and friends who have pieces prepared that they want to share with an audience. They are very informal, often with food and drinks, and students can play as much or little as they want in these fun gatherings.

9. Do you offer any discounts for lessons?

Piano Pathways offers exceptional lessons and classes with a range of pricing options. There are no discounts for any lessons, to ensure that every lesson and class is our top priority in teaching, and you can get the highest-quality of teaching possible at the studio. Always talk with Rebecca about a unique situation if there is something of concern that may prevent you from enrolling in lessons.

10. Do you have any make-up classes?

Your appointment at Piano Pathways is an exclusive time reserved only for you. Once your time in a lesson is missed, we are unable to use that time with another student. We do not offer any make-up lessons, with the exception a 24-hour notice to possibly swap a lesson with another student’s appointment in that same week. Make-up lessons are always offered if the instructor misses a class. Be sure to ask Rebecca what all your tuition covers at Piano Pathways!

11. What should parents do while waiting for their child taking a lesson?

Parents are encouraged to utilize the waiting room at the studio, with free wi-fi access. If students arrive early before their appointment time, they can warm-up on the keyboard in the studio and have materials ready for their lesson. Parents of very young children may be asked to sit in on lessons to help with at-home assignments and practice, but older students should attend lessons independently.

You don’t have to have talent to play the piano– you only need the desire to play piano! If you have always wanted to play the piano or your child shows a strong desire to play piano, contact the studio to register for one of our classes or private lessons!

Summer Piano Lessons- To Give or Not to Give

23 Apr

This time of year is extremely busy for everyone. Louisiana schools just finished taking the LEAP and iLEAP tests, there are piano festivals every weekend until May, and between other games, practices, and recitals, teachers, students, and parents alike are ready for the school year to end! This is the time of year that I have to gently remind parents summer lessons are required in Piano Pathways’ studio policy. Since new parents sometimes think that summer lessons will be impossible to make happen with traveling and camps and no practice routines, I want to offer a brief explanation to parents about the benefit of summer lessons.

Summer lessons at Piano Pathways are two-fold: enrolling in summer lessons will hold your lesson spot in the schedule as a returning student for the fall, and it is a financial security for the business, as well as my livelihood. For the past several summer, many new parents want to sign their child up for lessons. If I know that “X” number of students are not returning in the fall by their absence in summer lessons, I will gladly open my waiting list and begin taking new clients. However, if current students take the summer off and then change their mind about fall lessons, then my declining new students is lost income for those summer months from current students, new students, and potentially beyond that time. Summer lessons also provide income that is necessary for the business to operate, as well provide the teacher’s salary for the months of June and July. Imagine if your work decided there would not be work or pay for two months and you cannot take on new work to make-up for your lost income, but you can gladly return in two months with your regular position and salary!

Students who take summer lessons are also at a huge advantage to progress. Parents and students often find that without their regular commitments to school and other activities, even without a regular practice schedule, they gain so much ground in summer. Students who do not have instruction from May-August will forget skills and concepts that we have worked all year to attain, and what you don’t use, you lose! It will take months to get back to where we left off in May without summer piano lessons.

This year, in lieu accepting new clients for private lessons, Piano Pathways is offering summer piano camps for beginners. These camps will be in our state-of-the-art Yamaha piano lab. They are a great value for summer piano lessons and the perfect way to “try out” piano instruction while having fun with other children! For my current students in lieu of private summer lessons, I am also offering intermediate and advanced classes to explore other skills we do not practice as much during the school year: improvisation, duets and ensembles, movie tunes, even a “rock star” class for the older kids to learn some classic rock songs! These classes will meet for 6 weeks between June and July at a reduced cost than what students normally pay for two months of instruction at the studio.

Some parents question about what to do if they will be out-of-town and will be missing several classes. There is always something creative that we can come up with to make the summer piano lessons work. Blending the classes with a few private lessons, or mixing up enrollment between classes when you are in town are possibilities. I encourage parents to always talk to me about any questions or concerns they have, and I know we can come to a solution that everyone is happy with!

Piano Camps- Summer 2013– at Piano Pathways

4 Apr
Piano Pathways Summer Piano Camps 2013 Baton Rouge Louisiana

Piano Pathways Summer Piano Camps 2013 Baton Rouge Louisiana

Looking for a summer camp for your aspiring pianist? Piano Pathways is hosting summer piano camps for beginners of all ages. Your $175 fee for the week-long camp includes all supplies, including book and CD. Campers will learn piano foundations while playing in our state-of-the-art Yamaha Clavinova lab. Students will learn to play piano basics while having fun in a social, technology-driven class! The camps ends with a “celebration day” at O’Neill’s on Perkins to show parents what all was learned during the week. There is limited space in each summer piano camp, so be sure to reserve your place soon! Head over to Piano Pathways and click “Summer Camps 2013” for registration, and also details on more class schedules for older students and adult classes.