teaching help

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Hi, I am a new piano teacher and I just had a few questions. First of all what suggestions or tips can I give a student after they have been playing a piece for awhile. I have been racking my brain trying to remember previous lessons I have had, but apparently they must have all been tramatic experiences because I can't remember anything! I'm looking for things I should be listening for and be ready to suggest to the student - like phrasing, a dynamics and stuff. (I'm the type of person who likes to know every possible little thing about anything!) Secondly, how would I go about trying to encourage a student who is deathly afraid of playing in public to do so, with out scarring them for life. Third, about how much playing experience should a student have before attempting Flight of the Bumblebee? And what kind of pieces should lead up to it. Thanks!

-- Michelle A (mayler@radford.edu), October 21, 2004


Your first and third question suggest to me that you need to take some lessons in pedagogy as well as further lessons for yourself. As for your second question, it can be avoided if you make recital participation mandatory. I state in my welcoming sheet that even if you are too afraid to perform, you can learn from hearing the other students (and hopefully see it's not all that bad). But some children will simply not even do that. Then you let it go.

-- Anita (anitagreenways@hotmail.com), October 24, 2004.

First of all, thanks for getting back to me. Maybe I do need to take lessons in pedagogy, but I'm the type of person who likes hands on learning and doing things that will benefit me right now. Perhaps I phrased my question wrong. A better question would be what do you all, as teachers, look for when you are listening to a student play. I know quite a bit about making sure the rhythm and accents are right, ect, but I just what to know everything that I should be looking for and be ready to comment on. Yes, I am a beginning teacher which is why I really want to have my bases covered. And happen to think that real experience is more beneficial than a class. If anyone could recommend any books for me I would definitely appreciate that. And also, concerning my last question, I would really like to know where I could get a list of graded repertoire. I never really played much beginning\intermediate music (by this I mean classical, I used Alfred for the first four years of piano then jumped to late intermediate classical pieces *because I could*) so I really can't list tons of beginning and intermediate pieces off the top of my head. I know that Flight of the Bumblee is a difficult piece, but I don't know if it would be considered an advanced piece or late intermediate or what. IF someone could point me in the direction of website or book with graded pieces in it, that would solve a lot of my problems. I don't want my students to play just the popular pieces of their level, but to have a rounded repertoire. That's all. Thanks for reading and your advice will be greatly appreciated. If you know of any pedagogy classes in the VA\DC area, please let me know.

-- Michelle A (mayler@radford.edu), October 25, 2004.

I think you are missing the big picture. You will learn faster and make fewer mistakes with your students (that other teachers will undoubtedly have to fix) if you take the time to take a pedagogy course. I'm not saying that experience isn't important and that it isn't a good teacher, but a good pedagogy course will answer your questions and so much more and give you and your students a good foundation.

Catholic University in DC has a pedagogy program, I believe.

-- Arlene Steffen (asteffen@fresno.edu), October 26, 2004.

The Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada publishes a graded syllabus which may help you. I doubt if Flight of the Bumblebee is in it, however, as they generally do not allow arrangements of pieces not originally for piano. Their website it www.rcmusic.ca.

-- Alice Dearden (alicedearden@look.ca), October 26, 2004.

I absolutely agree with Arlene (as I usually do!) regarding a class helping you avoid making mistakes with real students as you gain your experience. But if that just isn't an option for whatever reason, you could get back in lessons yourself, with an experienced teacher. I've been teaching for about 12 years now, but I still have a teacher myself. She helps me be accountable for my own practice and progress, plus I love to take in books I teach from, just to get her ideas of how she would present a new concept or teach a particular piece. It's quite fun really. And if you are teaching, the cost of your own lessons (as well as mileage to your lessons) is tax deductible (in the US at least).

Beyond those suggestions, I would also recommend (as I think someone else already did) that you invest in a set of graded repertoire books that come with study guides. Frederic Harris publishes a series called "Celebration Series" with levels intro through 10. Each level has a repertoire book, book of studies/etudes, workbook (this would be VERY helpful for you), and a CD with all pieces from the rep and etude books. There is also a teachers handbook with teaching tips for every piece in the rep books (also VERY helpful). At the time I bought my set, there was a signficant discount for purchasing the entire set (as opposed to just a few books). I think it cost me around $250, which sounds like a lot, but you need to be willing to invest in your business and in your personal growth. (btw, this would be another tax deduction).

Another good series is published by Alfred, edited by Jane Macgrath, entitled Masterwork Classics. Actually I like the pieces (overall) in this series better than Celebration, but I don't happen to have experience with the study guides that go along with it. (I think those are called Practice and Performance). The rep books come packaged with a CD for, I think $9-$10 each (10 levels) and I think the study guides are $7-$8. Use a place that gives a good teachers discount (ie www.burtnco.com which gives 20% off) and it's really a very affordable way to get a lot of self-education.

For your other questions: a student who is deathly afraid of peforming needs to "ease into it" a bit. Have this student play for another student (and vice versa, just to make it "fair"). Have the student find opportunities to play once a week or so for one person that s/he is comfortable with (a relative, friend, or neighbor). Have her play the same piece for a couple of other people. Continue slightly enlarging the audience, as s/he continues to play this (by now) familiar piece. The best cure for stage fright is a series of successes. And unfortunately we all have some disasters along the way, but eventually it gets easier. Regarding "Bumblebee," if you are just starting out teaching, you won't have anyone ready for this for a while! I'm curious why you ask about this particular piece (out of the zillions of pieces out there). Is this just something you love and look forward to teaching someone someday? Just curious. pianoannie

-- Annie (no_name_poster@yahoo.com), October 26, 2004.

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