I’m working on a certification through MTNA (Music Teachers National Association). This is a long and challenging process, but a very good one that forces me to examine my teaching, my methods, my raison d’être. After teaching for 20 years, here is my evolved teaching philosophy crafted over the past few months. (this relates specifically to piano lessons). In the words of Sergi Rachmaninoff, Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.
My goal as a music educator is to foster a lifelong passion for music and the arts. My role includes mentoring and collaborating with students as they navigate their individual music paths. Music is a language and it is my job to teach students to read, write and express themselves artistically in this language. I tailor the curriculum and lessons to accommodate each student’s learning style. More about specific activities for different learning styles can be found below. Many of my students study with me from the early elementary years through their senior year in high school.
I use an array of materials in the studio including a variety of method books. (Piano Adventures, Succeeding at the Piano, and Faber and Faber.) As students progress, we move away from the method books as repertoire is drawn from a variety of composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Kabalevsky, Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, Beach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Bartok, Gershwin, Copland, Ponce, Nazareth, and Turina, to name a few.
While working with traditional repertoire, it is also my job to teach music lessons relevant to the lives and interests of my students. For example, one of my students loves playing video game music. As it turns out, video game music was the hook I needed to push him into the next level of music reading which, in turn, renewed his interest in learning traditional repertoire.
Piano lessons in the Lauramusic Studio are offered year round for ages 4 years old-adults. Lessons include technique (scales, arpeggios, chords, technical exercises), music reading, and exposure to a variety of classic piano repertoire (baroque, classical, romantic, and modern eras). We also explore folk songs, blues, lead sheets, jazz, and popular music. Our recitals reflect this diverse repertoire, for example, the winter recital features traditional concert pieces. In the spring, our recital revolves around a specific themes such as the Beatles, jazz standards, movie music, and rock ballads. During the summer, each student composes a piece of music and learns to notate their music using computer software (SongWriter by Finale).
Assignments and practice recommendations are recorded in the students’ music binders. Assignments also indicated (by post-it notes) in the students’ music books. Students are required to practice and come prepared for their lessons with books and materials in hand. Students should practice five days per week from 15 minutes a day for my very young beginners to 1 hour or more per day for my advanced students.
A typical 45 minute lesson includes the following activities:
- Body-mind warm-up and focus exercises
- Technical exercises and scales
- Review of last week’s assignment
- Introduction of new material
- Listening to a recording or a mini music history lesson
- As time permits: a mini concert, duet playing, improvisation, composing, games, rhythm instrument playing
Examples of music lesson activities to accommodate different learning styles:
Auditory learner activities may include digital piano with playback recording, CD listening corner (with a variety of CDs including classical music, world music, folk songs, jazz and blues), browsing websites with a listening focus including King FM’s, Explore Music.
Kinesthetic learners, enjoy the Brain Dance (a movement curriculum developed by Ann Green Gilbert), rhythm instruments, experiential games played on the floor such as the magnetic white board, music card games, and digital piano that allows students to change the sound with the turn of a knob.
For visual learner, I rely on books about music history, colorful flash cards, card games, worksheets, You Tube links to great piano performances, and games on the websites such as, Color in My Piano and Piano Morning.