And We’re Back… Sort Of, Or… What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

I learned, virtual piano lessons are better than no piano lessons.

I also learned that I really like the model that I created for piano lessons 26 years ago. I have tweaked the format here and there, but I do believe that it remains an entertaining, efficient, and effective way to teach piano. Kids love to be around other kids. They are inspired by each other’s accomplishments. There is an opportunity to teach music in more depth including theory, history, and general appreciation. This will translate into lifelong learning. 

While I would love to get back to that model for everyone, I have decided to offer two options for lessons:

  1. In-Person Lessons: Small groups of up to four students during an hour in my home. I will work together with parents to create the groups and follow guidelines (masks, etc.) to keep students as safe as possible.
  2. Virtual Lessons: Individual lessons over FaceTime or Zoom. I will try to include a deeper knowledge of music as we move through the lesson. 

Feel free to give me a call or email with interest or questions. 

But most of all, what I re-learned over my summer vacation, was that, especially during uncertain times, music can bring joy and comfort to your family and to your home. If you have provided your child with piano lessons and they enjoyed it, continue to encourage them to play. If you can continue lessons, great. If that is not possible right now, be sure they keep playing. Have them play old favorites and try to read new music. You will all be glad you did.

Because… Music lasts a lifetime. 

Virtual Piano Lessons?

In the last few weeks, we have been exploring virtually everything, virtually!!!  While I am not intimidated by technology, I am not an expert, so getting up to speed on different platforms and devices has provided me with the opportunity to learn something new.  In other words, “Yikes.”  I have now added Virtual Piano Lessons to my resume. There are challenges to this which include: camera positioning, sound delays, extra copies of music available to me, and my favorite… the need to say, “your other right hand.”

When teaching, I have taken for granted some of the everyday givens like being able to point to the music and ask, “What is this note right here?”  I have been forced to explain terminology and concepts unnecessary when teaching in person. It is sometimes best to introduce concepts on a “need to know” basis, but with this virtual platform, they “need to know” now. Happily, we are figuring it out and the students are progressing.

Parents are busy trying to manage their own work as well as their child’s work. Fewer programmed activities means parents often feel responsible for keeping their kids busy. There was a time when kids were expected to entertain themselves. As a child, being bored was an everyday occurrence. You had to get un-bored or your parents would give you some extra chores. Very few kids were starting lawn mowing businesses and amassing a fortune. Most of us were collecting acorns, climbing onto our roofs thereby seizing the high ground that would give us an advantage in the massive acorn war that would commence unless there was a cease-fire because it was time for dinner.

For me, there were other days when I got un-bored by playing the piano. At some point, piano lessons became less of a struggle and more of an outlet, a joy, a way to be alone and not feel lonely. Music allows you to be a part of a community but can also get you through times when you are forced to entertain yourself.

If you have not been able to figure out how to fit virtual lessons into your child’s week, then I would encourage you to ask your child to keep playing: review songs, play old favorites, pick up a new song and try reading the music. Fill your homes with music. You might be surprised at how they experiment and explore the piano. If you know how to play, by all means, take a few minutes out of your day and try a new song or play your old favorites. Weekly lessons keep you going. They give you something new to practice and direction, but if you can’t do that right now, don’t throw out your acorns just because it is time for dinner. Keep your collection safe and check on it. Add a few new ones and cherish the ones that are special.

Playing an instrument and singing are gifts that can stay with you forever. Sing together as a family. Ask grandparents to share some old favorites. Demonstrate for your children that music spans generations. Make sure that they understand that…

… Music lasts a lifetime.

The Value of the Live Performance

Yesterday I went to Lincoln Center to hear the NY Philharmonic. I love this activity. I’m hooked. My formula is usually:

  • Cheaper Seats x More Concerts  = JOY

(Although, yesterday’s seats were a little too crummy, even for me. It is good to discover your limits.)

In a time when any piece of music can be heard by commanding Siri, people underestimate the value of the live performance. And, by the way, although I love to hear that my students have been to a classical performance, I am referring to any type of live performance.

So here are some reasons to jump in with both feet and experience live music.

In no particular order:

  • No “devices” allowed.
  • Dress up clothes are encouraged.
  • The event feels special.
  • Musicians have skills worth seeing. They act as a team. There is a quarterback, special teams, kickers. They must play with precision, moving and breathing together.
  • Watching an instrument being played is amazing.
  • Hearing music you never heard before is educational.
  • Live music sounds and “feels” different than a recording.
  • Depending on the venue, certain behavior and ritual is expected. This is all part of the discipline of music.

Here are a few suggestions.

  • Before you go, listen to the pieces you will hear. You don’t have to study them, just play them in the background so they are familiar.
  • Bring a little pair of binoculars. Even from the cheap seats you can see the instruments close up.
  • When you sit in the theatre, check out the program.  There are often notes that guide you to listen for certain elements. That makes it more fun. Some of the pieces tell a story.

I highly encourage you to give your family the gift of this experience. It does not have to cost a lot. For a little more than the price of a movie ticket, you can share this experience. You will be making a life-long memory.

Because, you know,

… Music Lasts a Lifetime

 

Movie Day Musicals

Every 6-8 weeks I declare “Movie Day”. This means each student plays the piano, but we substitute a movie instead of theory. It is usually a surprise. The only qualities it must possess is that it has to be a Musical and I try to pick one that I think the students have never seen. This means that many are old, in black and white, and a little slow paced off the start. Sounds dull when I put it that way; I know. This activity is really all about exposure. Many times when the movie starts, the kids look at me cockeyed with an expression that says, “Really? Well I guess it is better than theory.” But then later I glance into the movie room and see them trying to tap dance like Fred Astaire or laughing at slapstick humor or just snuggled up listening to a sweet song.

If you grow up in a family that has regularly experienced the non-animated Musical genre, it is not shocking to see an actual person break out into song about… I don’t know… the price of lettuce, let’s say. But if this is not your go-to activity for family fun night, it seems a little weird. Just this week a student said, “Why is there so much singing?” and another replied, “It’s a Musical.”

So this week we watched the Rodgers and Hammerstein rendition of “Cinderella”. Produced in 1965, this is one of those movies that was broadcast on TV once a year, and I will never forget it. This Musical is really lovely. I searched for it for literally years and then there it was on Amazon. At first glance you will think it is a Mr. Rodgers episode as the staging, etc. is surprisingly simple, but then all of a sudden everyone is entranced.

Another reason I picked this movie is that this weekend the Wilton High School is performing a similar version on stage. High School performances are crazy good these days. They are very reasonably priced and a great way for your kids to get exposure without breaking the bank. I am hoping that some of my students will now be a little more familiar with the music and their families may go see this show May 18th, 19thor 20th.  You can purchase tickets online: wiltonps.org

If you cannot fit this activity into this weekend, keep your eyes open for shows in other towns. This is a wonderful experience and if you follow it up with ice cream, you are creating a full-fledged memory! Come young, come old. When it comes to the Musical,

… Music Lasts a Lifetime

Spring Fever ??

Sometimes when the weather gets nice out and the days get longer, it is tricky to get your child to practice the piano. Here are some ideas that might help.
1. Schedule practicing for a time just after your student has had a chance to do a more physical activity.
2. It might be time to add a little extra positive comments … let him or her know which are your favorite songs and have them play those again for you.
3. We are getting ready to have our “concert day”. Maybe you can talk about what song will be played and do a little pre-concert playing or end each practice session working on that song.

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