Choosing a piano teacher can seem very overwhelming.
“Of all the choices in my town, how do I choose the teacher that will be the best?”
“What should I look for in a teacher?”
“How will I know if my child will connect well with this teacher?”
Here is a list I suggest to parents to go over when they are in the process of choosing a new teacher:
Exhausted, but elated! Here's a quick show of what we've been doing the past few months:
In May 2017 we began talking with the landlord of the space. John is amazing - we seriously couldn't have taken on this project without his help! He gutted the place, soundproofed the walls, and installed beautiful floors and recessed lights.
While John was working on renovations, I worked on the plans for what I wanted this studio to be. What do I want it to look like and feel like? What colors should be featured? What kind of lighting should there be? What kind of video security system do I need? Who should make the sign out front - and what are the town regulations for anything inside and outside of the studio? What is my logo - shape, color, and wording? What shade of chrome should the toilet paper holder be in order to match the faucet? What services do I want to offer? Who are the clients I hoped to attract? What kinds of insurance did I need? How would I advertise? What billing system would I use? What policies would I have in place? How many iPads should there be at the lab space, and how do I make them child-safe? So. Many. Questions. Had to make a visual plan to keep everything straight and on time.
Slowly began taking shape.
We were given a temporary sign to put up while waiting for the permanent one. My amazing brother designed this for me.
After three months of intense planning and work, we're open! A real dream come true.
Hi from Chicago! This is my first "piano conference" - so I'm finally meeting for the first time other piano instructors I've known only through Facebook. Lots of interesting ideas have come up in sessions - I'll give an overview when I get home from the conference.
But in the meantime, while I'm enjoying a beautiful meal at a Brazilian steakhouse...
...my wonderful husband is still working away at the studio space! Still plenty of work to do but we're seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
The summer is flying by! Thank goodness the leaves haven't started changing yet, but Grace Piano Studio certainly has.
Big changes! Grace Piano Studio has changed its name to Belmont Piano Academy, and is moving into its very own professional space! Couldn't be more excited.
I think I may have just stumbled across an app that will revolutionize how your piano students will play their chords and scales!
All piano teachers (and students, and parents, and neighbors....) have to admit that the obligatory scale and chord work we do is our least favorite part of learning piano. It is necessary, however, for our understanding of music theory, muscle development, and body coordination.
But does it really need to be so boring?
Download the "Super Metronome Groovebox", and put a drumset beat to those scales and chords! It may be the best $7 you ever spent at the app store.
This will be a post for another day, but I just finished reading the book "Grit" (by Angela Duckworth) for the second time. If you haven't read this book, YOU NEED TO.
Part of what Duckworth proposes in her book is that work shouldn't be viewed as a means to a more rewarding end, but work is an end in and of itself. And she further proposes that we should be instilling this principle in children from a very young age.
Couldn't agree more! While I love creating fun piano lessons, I am perhaps more interested in instilling the life skills of hard work and diligence in my students. Piano practice is a wonderful medium through which to learn these qualities, and I am convinced that children are far more capable of diligent practice and work ethic than we give them credit for. They are at a point in their lives when their brains and muscles and attitude are growing and being shaped every day - what a perfect time for them to flex those muscles of hard work and discipline.
I just found a post on Teach Piano Today that has some great ideas for helping piano parents and students alike get their mind set in the right place for enjoying the work associated with piano lessons!
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...
Who says piano lessons can't be fun? I'm all about giving my piano students music that they love. My goal with each of my piano students is to instill in them a love for piano that will last a lifetime - and if that means we rely on a steady diet of Star Wars and Harry Potter themes, then I'm all over that! I truly believe that my kids can get a solid music education without having to play strictly "classical" music.
My music library needed a bit of a facelift, so I did some shopping for new music this morning. I keep lots of music on hand, so I can give them to my students as needed. Music and materials are part of lesson tuition at Grace Piano Studio, so parents don't need to pay extra for them.
Two of my go-to sites for new music are ComposeCreate.com and pianopronto.com. These two sites have lots of fun, interesting sounding pieces that students of every level will enjoy. Many of the pieces sound harder than they actually are - a win-win!
Michal Grace Harris
Piano Teacher & Accompanist