This is a fun little game to reinforce note names that I sometimes do for group class or young musicians.
I keep a bowl of small items that I’ve collected from around the house. Things like a rubber band, a screw, a clothespin, a paper clip, a dog biscuit, a piece of gum, or anything else that I think might fit onto a piano key.
I will then lay out the items on the piano across several octaves. When the child comes into the lesson, they are fascinated by the decorated keys.
A few years ago, I took the weekend course Suzuki Principles in Action (SPA), a continuing education course for experienced Suzuki teachers. Rather than being a “here’s a bag of tricks you can use in your studio” kind of course (what I had expected), it was a “let’s look at the bigger picture” kind of course. It significantly changed how I approach teaching.
In the course, the concept of The Accomplished Learner was presented. The term “Accomplished Learner” gives a concise label to what we all want our students to become: Accomplished musicians who have become active and independent Learners.
My new assignment sheet for this year has a new check box indicating if a student should send me a video of their playing during the week. Here’s my assignment sheet and how I enabled student video upload.
Six hours after sitting down to hammer out my next Songwriting Class assignment, my brain is tired, I’m very hungry, and I feel only marginally closer to my goal. I suspect that if someone else were around, I’d discover that I was a bit cranky, too.
I am diligently following processes professor Pat Pattison recommends online and in his book Writing Better Lyrics, optional reading material I am finding quite necessary. There are steps a lyricist can take to discover ideas, word combinations, and effective story telling. For me, some of it straightforward (object writing), some tedious (exploring the thesaurus, identifying rhymes), and some quite difficult (finding an effective angle, avoiding cliches, finding metaphors).
All of this creates great sympathy to my middle school and high school piano and composition students, and it has offered me some opportunity to reflect upon what it takes to learn a new skill.
Continued professional development is important in any field. In the past few years, I have been expanding my professional development experience to beyond the annual teacher or musician conference I would attend. One valuable resource I have learned to tap is the world of Massive Open Online Courses. These are online courses open to the public, typically with thousands of enrollees.
I am a big fan of coursera.org. This site currently aggregates over 400 mini-courses (typically 5-6 weeks long) presented by respected universities and colleges across the world. There are more than a handful of courses related to music that I have on my watch list for future participation.