As a member of the New England Piano Teachers' Association I get to participate in some fantastic piano teaching workshops every month. This past Monday, Lisa Parker (who was the longtime director of the Dalcroze Program at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA) came to give us a workshop on using Dalcroze Eurhythmics in our piano teaching.
What is Dalcroze Eurhythmics? Find out here.
Lisa's philosophy is that rhythm is a full-body experience, and especially as pianists we need to get away from the thought that rhythm is only felt and experienced through our fingers. It is important for our students, from their very first lesson with us, to do exercises that allow them to understand and feel rhythm holistically.
Beginning students have trouble holding long notes and rests for full-value, or have trouble maintaining the same pace through the whole piece. Advanced students also have natural tendencies to rush, and in performance settings they can lose the sense of pulse because of adrenaline.
As one example of an exercise we can do with our piano students, Lisa suggested buying some tennis balls for each of our studios. In our lessons, Lisa said we should turn off the metronome and turn on some music. Both the teacher and piano student should walk, move, and toss the balls from hand to hand along with the beat of the music. I tried this in my lessons this week, and I definitely saw immediate improvement in their playing!
If you are a piano teacher in the Boston area, the Longy School of Music hosts an annual summer Dalcroze Institute.
Some people are obsessed with shoes, some are obsessed with cats, and some are obsessed with new office supplies. Ok. Maybe I'm all of those things.
I recently purchased a laminating machine - and have set to work laminating nearly everything in my studio. PIANO TEACHERS - buy one of these miraculous machines! I found mine at Aldi for about $15, and it could be the best $15 I've ever put towards my piano teaching supplies.
I christened my laminator with these cool piano practice questions for parents that I found on teachpianotoday.com. I'm hoping that these questions will help even non-musical parents as they try to encourage their child in practicing piano.
Along with shoes and cats and office supplies, I'm definitely obsessed with finding new and more interesting ways to motivate my students to practice at home. I only see my student once a week for a 45 minute lesson. Although I believe in quality piano teaching, I think the biggest factor in a student's overall success with piano lessons hinges on the kind of practicing they are doing at home.
"Practice: it's not a matter of time spent, but mind spent."
I'll be rolling out a new practice rewards program in lessons this week. It's quite simple, but will hopefully be a "sweet" incentive for students!
I will need parents and practice partners to sign off on their child's assignment page each week, to verify that the student practiced. I'm hoping that this will not only make practicing more enjoyable, but will offer a goal and a reward for hard work!
I also appreciate your thoughts and good vibes as I resist diving into a giant box of candy sitting in my house...
Michal Grace Harris
Piano Teacher & Accompanist