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1508, 2017

Technique with a Purpose

By |August 15, 2017|Motivation, Teaching, Teaching Philosophy, Technique|

I’m pretty passionate about this fourth key point of my teaching philosophy.

4. I firmly believe in technique with a purpose: more convincing musical communication (and injury prevention).

Technique is an important part of a piano education. However, it is the means to an end. It’s always problematic when the means become the end. When it becomes all about playing something as fast as possible and perfectly cleanly, something is seriously wrong. Again, piano playing is about making music, not being perfect!

Technique needs to be about making music too. Each technical adjustment should have a musical purpose. Each technical exercise should have […]

908, 2017

Learning Requires Taking Risks

By |August 9, 2017|Encouragement, Expectations, Motivation, Teaching, Teaching Philosophy|

Below is the third key element of my teaching philosophy.

3. I aim to combine high expectations with a friendly, encouraging atmosphere in order to motivate students to ask questions and take risks.

Did you ever notice that some of the most effective learning happens when we fail? This is why it is so incredibly important for a teacher to create an atmosphere where this can happen.

Teachers need to expect high quality work. Tolerating sloppiness invalidates any attempts to motivate students to pursue excellence.

However, if students always perform virtually perfectly, they likely aren’t learning much. Part of high expectations is stretching students […]

108, 2017

Effort Outweighs Natural Ability

By |August 1, 2017|Talent, Teaching, Teaching Philosophy, Work Ethic|

The second key element of my teaching philosophy is simple.

2. Commitment, effort, and diligent practice, in combination with quality guidance, far outweigh intrinsic “talent.”

Many parents feel it isn’t worth investing in their children’s music education unless they show signs of special talent. However, I like to think of it this way: Imagine each child as an empty glass. Natural ability might allow a child to begin with a tiny bit of water already in the glass. Each hour of effective practice and each pearl of on-target feedback pours more water into the glass. Ultimately, the natural ability makes little difference. […]

2507, 2017

Music is Part of a Holistic Education

By |July 25, 2017|Memorization, Teaching, Teaching Philosophy|

I thought I’d begin a series exploring the key elements of my teaching philosophy and why I chose to include them.

1. Learning to play a musical instrument is a valuable component of a holistic education.

There are plenty of studies out there evaluating the question of whether music makes you “smarter.” Some claim it does. Others refute the idea that listening to Mozart will make you more intelligent. There is reason to believe that studying a musical instrument has a positive impact on your brain . . . whether that means it makes you “smarter,” who knows! Studies aside, what are […]

2005, 2015

On the Spot: Czerny and the Role of Improvisation in Classical Piano Education

By |May 20, 2015|Improvisation, Memorization, Music School, Practicing, Preparing to Perform, Talent, Teaching|

Thank you so much for your patience as I finished up a busy semester! As my first post back, I thought I’d share one of the things I was up to while I was gone. Below you’ll find my music history research paper. It’s kind of long for a blog post, so I’ve included an abstract too. Enjoy!

Abstract:
Throughout his career as a piano instructor, Carl Czerny emphasized teaching improvisation, an art that may have contributed to the harmonic understanding, technical development, and musical memory of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century pianists. Improvising publicly was common practice during Czerny’s life. His treatise on […]

2203, 2015

Notes or Music?

By |March 22, 2015|Performing, Talent, Teaching|

Since I’m super busy and I was unable over break to write enough blog posts for the entire semester, I’ve decided to take the opportunity to post something different today. Someone shared this video with me as a good reminder that every single note we play should have character. It’s also really funny. Enjoy!

View on Youtube at this link.

So let’s not just play notes, let’s make music. Please share your responses in the comments section!

Photo Credits: “Finger face with a question” by Tsahi Levent-Levi. CC BY 2.0 Text added to original.| Derivative of “Music sculpture” by Ruth Ellison. CC BY-NC-ND […]

903, 2015

How to Pick Good Music Schools

By |March 9, 2015|Expectations, Melody's Story, Music School|

It’s easy to find a list of good music schools. According to FindTheBest.com, the top ten are

But what makes a music school a top school? Are the “best” music schools in the United States necessarily good music schools for you?
How Rankings Are Done
FindTheBest.com’s rankings are “calculated by looking at representation of alumni in ten major orchestras, 2013 Grammy Awards recipients, and 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival participants.” Though this can be helpful if these are your goals, it does not consider many other aspects of what makes a good music program.

Other college ranking services calculate music school rankings using other […]

1502, 2015

Finding Motivation to Practice

By |February 15, 2015|Expectations, Motivation, Music School, Practicing, Preparing to Perform, Work Ethic|

Are you having one of those days? Are you looking for every possible reason why you don’t actually have to practice today. I can relate. Sometimes the biggest challenge is just finding the motivation to practice. So what do we do when we don’t feel like practicing?

1) Just start

If you just start practicing, you’ll often notice that you want to finish what you’ve begun. Once you’ve started, it’s much easier to keep practicing longer.

2) Plan to do it first thing in the morning

Having a specific plan for when you practice will help. Often doing it first thing in the morning […]

102, 2015

On Stage (Preparing to Perform – Part 2)

By |February 1, 2015|Nerves, Performing, Preparing to Perform|

As you might recall from Part 1, there are 3 steps to performing in a concert. Now that we’ve covered the practicing and the practicing performing, it’s time to actually perform.

How do we deal with those annoying butterflies in our stomachs and play as well as ever?

There’s no magic trick, but here are a few suggestions when preparing to perform.

1) Try holding a high-power pose for 2 minutes before your performance

Research shows that this increases risk tolerance, lowers cortisol levels, and increases testosterone levels, configuring your brain to be assertive, confident, and comfortable.

2) Breath and take your time.

It feels much […]

1801, 2015

Performance Practice (Preparing to Perform – Part 1)

By |January 18, 2015|Performing, Practicing, Preparing to Perform|

Performing in a concert or recital involves 3 basic steps:
1) Practicing (preparing the music itself)
2) Practicing performing
3) Performing

Since it can be difficult to practice performing without just performing, we often skip step 2.

If our performance practice is limited to the performances we do throughout the year, however, we’re setting ourselves up for inconsistent performances and years of practice before reaching our goals.

I’d like to share a few strategies I’ve learned to use as performance practice before every concert or recital.

1) Simulate Nerves

a) Get your heart rate up (run up and down the stairs or do jumping jacks)

b) Record yourself […]