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Posts Tagged ‘music readiness’

As a piano teacher and as a parent I can say without equivocation that being a parent is tremendously more difficult.  This is true in spite of 6 years of music lessons through my grade school years that prepared me for 6 more years to attain 2 college degrees that prepared me just to enter my profession as a music teacher.  So, the advice I give here is given humbly because I think both of us want your child to be a resounding success in their music study.  I want to succeed because of my calling as a music teacher and I’m sure you want to succeed because of your vastly more difficult challenge of being a good parent.

Musical Family
I’m not going to give you 12 points on how to be a good “piano parent”.  I’m not going to give you 7 points, or even 3 points.  I’m just going to give you 1 simple point. That point is …….

PREPARE YOUR CHILD TO BE A GOOD STUDENT

student

When I became a parent in the late 1970’s there was a move away from the view that “a child should be seen but not heard”.  Children were encouraged to interact with adults.  Children were taught to be assertive. Children were taught to express themselves confidently.  As parents we listened to our children and did our best to respect their thoughts and wishes.  All these things are proper and good.  However ……..

……. these good traits do not always work for the best in a teacher-student relationship.

teacher student

The most common issue teachers face is the student that looks on the teacher as their buddy or their friend.  Sometimes teachers affectionately refer to these students as a “Chatty Kathy”.  Of course I consider all my students my little friends but in a teacher-student sense.  Some students will take each lesson as an opportunity to tell me everything that’s going on in their life.  I must say that sometimes this is all very interesting but it’s really not critical that I know that their little brother hid the beans he didn’t want to eat for supper behind the trash can.  And I certainly don’t want to know that mommy made daddy sleep on the couch last night! It’s important for a young child to know that even though their teacher is friendly and interested in them, that the main reason they come to the piano lesson is to learn about playing the piano and not sharing their life experiences, interesting though they are.  Their relationship with their teachers is a special one; and one that is unlike other relationships they will encounter in their lives.  It is a relationship that’s different than the one with their parents, or, their relationship with their peers.

Teachers love it when students feel free to communicate and interact with them during their lesson.  This free flow of communication helps the teacher in many ways.  It helps the teacher in making good educational decisions.  If a student expresses his like for a certain kind of music and his dislike for another kind of music that is important information for a teacher to know. A good teacher will consider this when choosing appropriate music; music the student will enjoy practicing.  However, this free communication does not mean that the teacher is duty bound to direct the student to music that is limited only to their area of interest.  A teacher-student relationship is one where the teacher helps expand the view of his student.  A good teacher will never discount the views of his student but he will want to expand the views to take in more territory.  So, it is important for any child to know that in a teacher-student relationship the teacher is going to be expanding horizons and moving the students out of their “comfort zones” in order to expand those horizons.  This is part of the teacher-student relationship.

Again, it is very helpful when a student is assertive.  If a student is assertive and says I DON’T LIKE FINGER EXERCISES that is very useful information for a teacher to know.  With information given that bluntly, the teacher can immediately respond.  When I’m confronted with this type of assertiveness I do not take offense.  I do not take it personally as an attack on my teaching.  I want to know “why” the student asserted this.  I will ask the student many questions to determine the “why”.  Were the exercises too difficult.  Were they uninteresting.  Were they intimidating because of the speed I may have demonstrated the exercise.  Were the exercises awkward for their hands.  With the student’s assertiveness I can immediately go about solving a difficulty.  However, this assertiveness does not mean I abandon the idea of finger exercises.  A student needs to know that in a teacher-student relationship assertiveness does not translate into a capitulation on the teachers part.

We live in an age when bullying is an issue we must confront.  We teach our children, quite correctly, not to be intimidated by bullies.  We teach them to be confident in their convictions, to stand up for themselves as to not be influenced by the tactics of a bully.  However, taking this attitude into the teacher-student relationship can be problematic.  This attitude often comes up in a piano lesson when the teacher will make a correction in a student’s performance, on a piece they’ve prepared for their lesson.  The student will resist the teacher’s instruction, confidently thinking the teacher is wrong in their evaluation.  Often when this happens I will try to come from a different angle to make the same point.  Again, in the teacher-student relationship the teacher is there to educate the student in their musical and pianistic understanding and this will often challenge the student, especially as the student gets into the junior high and high school years.  Again, a major part of the teacher-student relationship is to correct and refine.  All quality teachers do this with the student’s best interest in mind.  It is never done to tear a student down; though, at times, especially if the student is having a bad day, it may feel like it.  It is done to build them up and make the student better.  To have a good teacher-student relationship this must be understood.

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parent student teacher

I certainly understand the difficult demands of raising children in the 21st century and if I were a parent I would certainly teach my children to interact easily with adults,  to be assertive, to express themselves confidently.  I would teach them in how to deal with strong personalities and bullies. I would do my best to always respect their thoughts and wishes.  I would even give them a certain suspicion of adult authority figures. But, I would also temper these thoughts where there would be limits in their interaction with adults where adults would still be given due deference.  I would temper their assertiveness with the ability to listen to the wishes of others.  I would temper confidence with humility and teach them the best way to gain the respect of others is give due respect in return.  I think these points will all go towards preparing young children to be good students where music lessons will be the resounding success we desire for student, parent and teacher.  And, I think it will develop outstanding teacher-student relationships.

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Animals

Monkeys, Lions and Turtles (and even Butterflies) …….. OH MY!!

Four very different creatures.  Four very different characters!!  Let’s talk about each one.

What is the character of a MONKEY?  Think of a word that describes a MONKEY?  What’s your word?

My word is PLAYFUL.

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What is the character of a LION?  What is your word that describes a LION?

My word is MAJESTIC.  This is why LIONS are known as the KING OF THE JUNGLE.

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What is the first thing that pops in your mind when thinking of a TURTLE?  What is your word?

My word is S—L—O—W.  My mom would often tell me I was as slow as a turtle.

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Finally, what one word best describes the character of a BUTTERFLY?

That one is pretty tough.  My word is FLIGHTY.  Butterflies quickly bounce from place to place.

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Music can express these same characteristics.  Music can be MAJESTIC.  Music can be SLOW.  Music can be PLAYFUL.  Music can be FLIGHTY.

You are going to hear four excerpts of music.  Listen closely to see if you can hear its characteristics.  Is it MAJESTIC?  Is it SLOW?  Is it PLAYFUL?  Is it FLIGHTY?  Which animal is best pictured by each musical example.  Are we listening to LION MUSIC or TURTLE MUSIC or MONKEY MUSIC or BUTTERFLY MUSIC?

SET ONE

Which of the four examples was MAJESTIC ….. which one was SLOW ….. which one was PLAYFUL ….. which one was FLIGHTY?

In no particular order you just heard …..

1) March from the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint Saens.

2) Concerto for Recorder, Oboe and Bassoon by Antonio Vivaldi.

3) Etude in G flat major by Frederic Chopin.

4) Offenbach melody from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint Saens.

Let’s try again with another set of musical examples!!

SET TWO

Listen to each example and ask yourself; which one of the four examples was MAJESTIC ….. which one was SLOW ….. which one was PLAYFUL ….. which one was FLIGHTY?  Are we listening to LION MUSIC or TURTLE MUSIC or MONKEY MUSIC or BUTTERFLY MUSIC?

The MAGIC of music is that it can express almost anything even without using words.  In fact, some people say music is one of the most powerful languages that humans can experience.

In no particular order you just heard …..

1) Birds from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint Saens.

2) Fragments for Woodwind Trio by Robert Muczynski.

3) Jupiter from the Planets by Gustav Holst.

4) Cello Sonata in D major (excerpt) by Johannes Brahms.

Thanks for listening to MR SEVERINO PRESENTS —Character in Music   and until next time — KEEP PRACTICING!!

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An Old Man In Front of A WindowLook at this picture.  What do you see?  Most people would say I see an old man.  If that was your answer you are absolutely correct.

But is that ALL that we see?  What else do we see?  Do you also see the window in back of the old man?  YES!  This picture also contains a window behind the old man.

This picture teaches us about FRONT and BACK.  The old man is in the front of the picture.  The window is in the back of the picture.

Music also has a front and a back.

What we see first in the picture we can call the FOREGROUND.

What we see next in the picture we can call the BACKGROUND.

Music also has a FOREGROUND and a BACKGROUND.

The FOREGROUND is what our ears hear most easily.

But if we listen closely we will notice other musical sounds.  These other sounds make up the BACKGROUND.

Let’s now listen to a piece of music to find the FOREGROUND and the BACKGROUND.  Let’s listen to a song by the famous composer Franz Schubert.  Franz Schubert lived 200 years ago when the United States was a very young nation.  George Washington could have seen Franz Schubert as a little baby had they lived in the same nation.  Franz Schubert was born in Austria, one of the nations of Europe.

Franz Schubert composed beautiful songs with beautiful melodies.  The song we are going to listen to is called Hedge-Roses.  Let’s listen!

What did you hear FIRST?  What was in the FRONT or in the FOREGROUND?  Did you hear the singer?

But, upon listening a little closer did you hear a different musical instrument?  Did you hear an instrument that was in the BACK, or BACKGROUND?  Did you hear the piano?

This song by Franz Schubert has a FRONT and a BACK just like the picture of — An Old Man in Front of A Window.

The next time you listen to music listen for FRONT and BACK.  Listen for the FOREGROUND part and the BACKGROUND part.  This will help you to listen to music better and you will enjoy it more.  Learn to be a GOOD LISTENER!!

Thanks for listening to MR SEVERINO PRESENTS — An Old Man in Front of a Window   and until next time — KEEP PRACTICING!!

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Mr. Severino Presents – STEPPING STONES

Every student who has studied a musical instrument has been challenged.   Every emotion listed on this chart is felt by almost every piano student at some point.  Sometimes a piece looks so difficult that you feel it’s not even worth giving it your best effort.  This is not a very fun place to be but know many of your fellow piano students have felt this same thing.

More frequently you may feel I CAN’T DO IT!!  Piano teachers have heard these words from piano students for as long as they have been teaching.  When we feel this way it seems like we cannot possibly get to the top step YES. I DID IT!

Some student that have taken lessons for a while will say I WANT TO DO IT but they are not yet convinced that they CAN do it.  But then these students decide to take up the challenge and decide HOW DO I DO IT?  They know they need a plan or some special help from their teacher that will  help them through the difficult spot(s).

Whenever I hear a student say I’LL TRY TO DO IT I know the student has just put himself in the path to success!  All that is not necessary is the practice time to accomplish the work.

When the student begins to do the work they finally get to that point where they realize I CAN DO IT!  When students reach this point they themselves know success is within their reach and they are full of the energy it takes to overcome the challenge to play the piece.

When a student says I WILL DO IT the student has set his will to succeed and nothing is going to stop him from mastering their music lesson.  Then comes that magical moment when all the practicing pays off and the notes just seem to roll of your fingers and you know YES! I DID IT!

SO STUDENTS ….. Whenever you are assigned a challenging composition use this chart.  You can print out your own personal copy of this poster by clicking Stepping Stones HERE.  Put it by your piano or musical instrument and decide what STEP you are on in the poster and move yourself up the staircase until you reach the top – YES! I DID IT!   Sometimes JUST TRYING is all it takes to move up the Stairway.  Sometimes you will need your teacher to help you through the tough parts.  But after you succeed to the top several times you will gain in confidence and before you know it you’ll be beginning on the higher steps of the Staircase – I CAN DO IT.

Thanks for listening to Mr. Severino Presents — STEP RIGHT UP!   and until next time — KEEP PRACTICING!!

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