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Just a quick post today!

I just finished updating one of the studio business forms from the Printables page for the 2019-20 school year.  It is called the Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment PDF.  I do not currently use this form myself anymore, but every year I receive requests from teachers asking if I would update it for the upcoming school year!

In case you haven’t seen this, here is how the form works: Write your students’ names in the first column.  Each week, write the lesson date (in a month / date format) in the column for that week.  This is how you can track attendance.  The small circles in each cell are where you can write checkmarks indicating tuition payments.  Whether you charge by-the-week or by-the-month, you can place a checkmark by each paid lesson date.

Download it below or on the Printables > Studio Business page.

Note: There is a file embedded within this post, please visit this post to download the file.

P.S.: Here is a link to where I explain my more recent system for tracking payments received.

[Visit Freebie: Lesson Attendance Sheet Updated for 2019-20 to view the original blog post at Color In My Piano.]

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[Note: This is a follow-up to 5 Reasons to Perform Alongside Your Students at Studio Recitals.]

Looking for ideas for pieces to play when performing alongside your students at student recitals? Here’s a few considerations.

  • Don’t think your piece has to be long, overly advanced, or showy/virtuosic. The goal is to share something fun and valuable for your students to hear. Why not play a piece your high schoolers could play someday? Why not refresh a piece you’ve previously learned?
  • Is there classical repertoire you are currently working on, or would love for your students to hear? How about a Beethoven or Haydn Sonata movement, or a Chopin Nocturne or Waltz? Or how about a short piece by Debussy, Muczynski, Gershwin, Tcherepnin, or Bartok?
  • Short on practice time? How about an intermediate or advanced sheet music single by a pedagogical composer, such as Melody Bober, Catherine Rollin, or Robert Vandall?
  • How about something familiar and/or popular? For example, an arrangement of a classic such as “What A Wonderful World” or “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”? Or what about a lovely hymn arrangement? For something flashy and fun, how about a virtuosic transcription by Jarrod Radnich? Did you know Nancy Faber wrote a fun jazz/pop arrangement of “Canon in D”?
  • Do you like to compose? How about playing something you wrote yourself? Students with the same inclinations might find this especially inspiring!
  • Do you have an advanced student or colleague who would enjoy playing a duet with you?
  • What friends do you have who play instruments other than piano? It might be fun to collaborate with another instrumentalist.
  • Idea from a reader: Have students vote from a shortlist of pieces you could play at the recital. Surprise them on recital day with the piece that gets the most votes.
  • Switch it up each year!

I’m curious: What are examples of pieces YOU have played at your studio recitals? Please post in the comments.

P.S. Perhaps you’ve noticed: My web host company has been having server issues for the past few days, causing my website to be difficult to access. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. I believe the issue is now resolved. Thanks for understanding!

[Visit What To Play at Your Students’ Recitals to view the original blog post at Color In My Piano.]

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Here’s a few reasons why I perform alongside my students at our studio recitals.

1: It creates an opportunity for my students to hear me play. They shouldn’t be surprised that, yes, their piano teacher can perform and play quite nicely! ;)

2: It gives me a goal to practice towards. This is good for me! It makes me practice. 

3: By putting myself through the same performance situation as my students, I stay in touch with what it feels like for my students. Empathy helps me be a better teacher as my students go through the recital preparation process.

4: It creates an opportunity for me to be a good model for my students, in terms of conducting myself onstage, playing well, etc.

5: It’s fun to pick out and perform a special piece to show my students.

I’m curious: Do YOU perform alongside your students at studio recitals?

[Visit 5 Reasons To Perform Alongside Your Students at Studio Recitals to view the original blog post at Color In My Piano.]

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Over the weekend, I held my fifth annual masterclass exchange for my students.

What’s a masterclass exchange? Well, it’s when I ask a piano teacher friend/colleague to come in and work with a group of my students. In return, I offer to work with a group of his/her students. I hold this event every year as one of my students’ monthly “Piano Party” group classes. We use it as a way to rehearse for our upcoming studio recital.

This year, I asked my friend Ana Yoder Coulter of Toledo, Ohio if she was interested in doing a masterclass exchange with me, and she kindly agreed. And so, last Saturday I worked with a group of her students. On Sunday afternoon, she worked with a group of my students.

Each student performed their recital piece for Ana and received a piece of advice for how they could improve their performance.

It’s so good for them to experience playing for another teacher. And it’s good for me, as a teacher, to hear another teacher’s perspective!

I think it’s important to create multiple opportunities for practicing performing. Students are more likely to experience success performing when they have more opportunities to practice performing.

I find it so much fun to work with other teacher’s students, too, in a masterclass setting. I know how helpful it can be for a student and their teacher to get feedback from a third party. Sometimes, hearing something from a third party means more than from your usual teacher.

Thank you, Ana, for doing the masterclass exchange with me this year!

Are you inspired? Perhaps you’d like to approach a piano teacher friend/colleague near you and propose a masterclass exchange! I highly recommend it. It’s been a great way for my students and I to grow and have fun together. And I appreciate being able to partner with a colleague each year.

Check out last year’s masterclass exchange here!

[Visit 2019 Masterclass Exchange to view the original blog post at Color In My Piano.]

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[Click here to go back to Day 1Day 2Day 3, Day 4, or Day 5.]

Wednesday is always the final day of the MTNA national conference. There were two morning sessions on the schedule.

8:00am Teaching The Way We Learn: Applications Of Edwin E. Gordon’s Music Learning Theory (MLT), by Amy Chaplin & Joy Morin

Amy Chaplin and I were so pleased when we were notified our proposal was accepted back in June! It was an honor to be able to give our presentation about some of the core principles from Gordon’s Music Learning Theory (MLT) at a national conference.

When we created this presentation, Amy and I spent a great deal of time coming up with principles we thought teachers new to MLT could start immediately applying to their teaching. Despite the fact that many conference attendees had to catch flights early on Wednesday morning, we still had a good turnout to our session. And we received some great questions from audience members, some of whom came up to us afterwards. They seemed very interested in learning more about MLT. (Related: Check out my blog post, “What is Music Learning Theory?”)

(Enthusiastic response on Facebook from a young teacher who attended our session! <3)

In case you’re interested, here’s my calendar of upcoming speaking engagements. I’ll be speaking this summer at the NCKP conference in the Chicago area, and also appearing at the OregonMTA state conference in August (2019). To learn more about the workshop topics I offer, click here. I’d love to speak for your music teacher association!

9:15am Creativity Throughout: A Panel Discussion On The Business Side Of Teaching, by Roberta Brooke, Amy Chaplin, Joy Morin, and moderator Justin Krueger.

For the next session, I participated on a panel about the business side of teaching. Justin Krueger, the moderator for the panel, led a series of questions about considering things such as business structures, expenses, taxes, belonging to professional associations, and diversifying one’s income. It was fun being part of this panel!

(A photo with some teachers friendly teachers from Oregon!)

That concluded the 2019 MTNA conference experience! Because my flight home wouldn’t leave until the following day, I had the rest of the afternoon free to explore Spokane with Amy and my host, Ruth Michaelis. Here’s a few photos from the rest of our day.

We took a walk to the historic Davenport hotel. Seeing the inside was like taking a step back in time!

We walked around near the river.

Ruth led us to meet the garbage-eating goat of Spokane! ha! (Watch the video below.)

View this post on Instagram

The great garbage goat of Spokane.

A post shared by Joy Morin (@joymorinpiano) on Mar 21, 2019 at 10:13am PDT

Ice cream! Nuff said. :)

Late that afternoon, Amy and I borrowed Ruth’s car to take a 45-minute drive to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — a charming resort town. Beautiful country.

Early the next morning, Ruth dropped me off at the airport. Ten hours of travel time later, I arrived safely home!

A huge thank you to Ruth for offering to allow me to stay with her at her home during the conference. She was a great host, and such a fun friend to spend time with.

If you weren’t able to attend the MTNA conference this year, I hope you’ve enjoyed following this series of blog posts and experiencing this year’s conference vicariously. :) If you’ve never attended an MTNA national conference before, I hope these posts have given you some idea of what’s it’s like and inspired you to make work of attending one in the future! It’s not easy to make time to get-away and to tuck away money for something like this, but it’s well worth it! It’s such a great experience to meet other teachers, learn new things, and get filled up with fresh inspiration and enthusiasm for teaching.

Thanks for following my MTNA journaling!

[Visit MTNA 2019 (6): Wednesday, March 20 to view the original blog post at Color In My Piano.]

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[Click here to go back to Day 1Day 2, Day 3, or Day 4.]

On Tuesday morning, Ruth, Christina, I spent some time in the exhibit hall, checking out more booths and shopping for music. :) For example, we visited Eik at her Sproutbeat booth.

While in the exhibit hall, I bumped into Sam Holland and took the liberty of introducing myself. He and I have been corresponding recent via email, because I am serving on the conference planning committee for the next OhioMTA state conference (October 24-26-, 2019) and Sam is going to be our guest pedagogue!

11am The Ottline: Examining The Legacy Of Margaret Saunders Ott, by Nancy O’Neill Breth, Donald Manildi, and Greg Presley

The next session I attended was an interesting recounting of the legacy of nationally renowned teacher Margaret Ott, presented by three of her former students.

Ott, fondly known as “Margy May”, was in great demand as a teacher in Spokane from the late 1940s to 2010. She held a masters degree from Julliard. She studied with and also served as personal assistant for the venerable Olga Samaroff. She taught at both the college and pre-college levels and actively served in MTNA-affiliated local and state chapter. In 2003, MTNA granted Ott the first-ever national Teacher of the Year Award. Here’s a few interesting notes I took from this session:

  • Ott believed in always expanding the horizons of the student, and not just in piano. For example, she believed part of the reason we study piano is self-discipline — learning to control your body. She was a life coach to her students.
  • She loved to make students laugh, and she laughed a lot.
  • She liked to ask: “How does the music make you feel?”
  • Practicing should be very soft and very slow to build sensitivity and awareness, and also to allow the muscles to play without tension.
  • Practice long legato passages non-legato with pedal to create a beautiful line without relying on finger legato.
  • She encouraged her students to teach, play chamber music with others, research their pieces/composers, and read more to relate music to other professions, to world events, and to psychology.

For lunch, a group of us walked to a restaurant called The Onion. I ordered a delicious BBQ pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and onion straws. We had fun in our cozy booth!

2:15pm The Curious Careers Of “Originals” And Independent Music Teachers, by Karen Thickstun

Karen Thickstun presented a session considering Adam Grant’s book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” and examples of young teaching professionals today with non-linear, diversified career paths. I really enjoyed hearing about the insights Grant offers in his book regarding originals, and was also humbled to have been included among Karen’s examples of young teaching professionals (my career is definitely diversified: I am first and foremost a piano teacher, but also am involved in speaking engagements, my blog’s online shop, my online course for piano teachers, and my Piano Teacher Retreat). Here are some notes I took from Karen’s session:

  • Grant suggests that “the hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists”.
  • Originals and entrepreneurs often have a wealth of good ideas. The key is to be able to choose the right idea and follow through on it.
  • However, quantity of ideas is what leads to quality ideas.
  • Our peers/colleagues are better at predicting the success of our ideas than ourselves, our managers, or focus groups. I think this means we ought to seek and value input about our ideas from our closest friends.

That afternoon, I helped Paula once again at her Little Gems for Piano booth.

For dinner, Marilyn Lowe and I enjoyed a meal at Ruth Michaelis’s home. We talked about all sorts of things, including music teaching of course. :)

Stay tuned for notes from Day 6, the final conference day!

[Visit MTNA 2019 (5): Tuesday, March 19 to view the original blog post at Color In My Piano.]

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[Click here to go back to Day 1, Day 2 or Day 3.]

Here are more of my notes from the 2019 MTNA Conference in Spokane, Washington!

8:00am The Royal Conservatory of Music showcase: Well-Rounded Musicianship: The Pathway To A Lifetime Of Music Making, by Janet Lopinski and Elaine Rusk

First thing in the morning, I chose to attend the RCM showcase session highlighting the Celebration Series books (I LOVE these books and use them constantly in my teaching, especially the Prep A and Prep B levels. Yes, they are expensive, but they are worth it IMO) and the accompanying Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests books. RCM always does a great job with their showcase sessions.

After that, I helped Paula Dreyer for a little while at her Little Gems for Piano booth in the exhibit hall again for about an hour.

10:30am Teaching Rhythm, Not Math! by Hannah Creviston

Hannah Creviston gave a 20-minute presentation “Teaching Rhythm, Not Math”. She discussed how rhythmic understanding should not be taught intellectually or mathematically; it must be felt and internalized. She began her presentation by briefly covering some background information about Edwin E. Gordon and his Music Learning Theory (MLT), and then shared a few movement-based rhythm activities.

11:10am What’s in a Saying? by Stephen Pierce

I have enjoyed Stephen Pierce’s presentations at past conferences, so I decided to attend his session about useful and not-so-useful sayings. I’m guessing is that Stephen normally gives this talk as a 60-minute presentation instead of in 20 minutes. He moved quickly through the material he presented, making it not easy to keep up. But he shared such great quotes and mistruths. Here’s a few of my favorites:

  • “Kids become what you tell them they are.” –Dorothy Delay (1917-2002), great violin pedagogue.
  • “Words are so powerful. Musicians are the worst criminals in being careless about what they say.” –Doris Delay [Note: You might be interested in this interesting article I found online with more about Dorothy’s teaching here.]
  • “Teach the easy before the difficult.” –Mrs. J. Spencer Curwen
  • “Teach the thing before the sight.” — Mrs. J. Spencer Curwen
  • “Ask a question when you want an answer; give a directive when you want the student to take action.” –Stephen Pierce
  • MISTRUTH: if we match our teaching to a student’s preferred style (e.g., VARK – Visual, Aural, Read/write, and Kinesthetic sensory modalities), they will learn better. The reality is that so-called “learning styles” are completely unproven by research; and yet, the myth persists.
  • “There is no end to learning.” — Robert Schumann

For lunch, I went with a group to a Thai restaurant. The food we had there was astoundingly delicious. I ordered yellow curry. Yum!

1pm Exhibitor Showcase: Alfred Music: Create Xcitement In Your Studio, by Melody Bober

After lunch, I attended the Alfred Music showcase. I absolutely LOVE Melody Bober’s music, and was glad to learn about some of her latest publications. Later, in the exhibit hall, I purchased Book 6 from her new Solo Xtreme series for a student of mine who I know will love it!

After that, I helped Paula at her booth in the exhibit hall for an hour-and-a-half.

3:30pm Making it Work: 21 Tactics for Successful Supplemental Group Classes, by Christina Whitlock

My friend Christina Whitlock (check out her conference notes here) presented an engaging session, with beautiful slides, sharing strategies and tips for implementing supplemental group classes in your studio. A few takeaways:

  • DO have a lesson plan. Each class, for example, could involve performing, a rhythmic activity, listening activity, and a few games.
  • DO plan for more than you need.
  • DO keep your lesson plans simple.
  • DO have an objective for everything.
  • DON’T neglect to communicate benefits to your studio families.
  • DO create studio “buzz” about your classes year-round.

That evening, Ruth Michaelis (the teacher I was staying with), Amy Chaplin (my friend from PianoPantry.com), and I held an informal gathering at Ruth’s home. We invited anyone we knew was attending MTNA or we ran into during the conference. We ended up with such a lovely group and had a wonderful time! Here’s a group of us traveling via Lyft from the conference hotel to Ruth’s home: Samantha Coates (of BlitzBooks.com, and all the way from Australia!), me, Christina Whitlock of Indiana, and Valerie McInroy of Texas.

Ruth truly rolled out the red carpet for us and provided a variety of delicious appetizers. (She is in the photo below — the one in the apron!).

I hope you don’t mind — but I have a bunch of fun photos from our gathering.

This moment was priceless. As the night was starting to wind down, someone suggested we take a group photo. So, we moved to this area of Ruth’s studio to use the chairs arranged there. Then, Samantha Coates begins leading us through a rhythm clap-back activity! Yes, this is the kind of thing music teachers do for fun when..

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[Click here to go back to Day 1 or Day 2.]

Sunday the 17th was the first full official day of the conference (not including the optional “Pedagogy Saturday”). That means the exhibit hall now open open, and there were a couple showcase sessions (sponsored sessions) scattered throughout the day.

For this year’s conference, my composer friend Paula Dreyer had asked me if I would be willing to be part of her team working at her Little Gems for Piano booth in the exhibit hall. I happily agreed, and enjoyed helping out a few hours each day at her booth! I also helped with Paula’s first-ever showcase session.

8:00am Little Gems for Piano: Rote and Pattern Pieces That Motivate and Captivate: Spark The Love of Music With Simply Beautiful And Expansive Repertoire For All Levels!, by Paula Dreyer

Paula Dreyer gave a wonderful presentation about her compositions for young pianists and why/how to use rote pieces in your teaching. She has a number of books of rote pieces for students now available, plus an early advanced suite called “Under a Flamenco Sky”.

Paula’s first releases were Volumes 1 and 2, later coming out with her Primer Level book which is based on the technique sequence of Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey method.

Paula’s latest release is the “Advanced Primer” book — a collaboration with Marilyn Lowe to create rote pieces in alignment with Marilyn’s MLT-based Music Moves for Piano method. I bought two copies while at the conference, and can’t wait to try them out with my students. Because the pieces are all to be taught by rote (by imitation, using the eyes/ears), the book is suitable alongside any method series you might be using with your students. The book is unique for having creative prompts for improvising/changing the piece, allowing students to come up with their own titles, and providing small boxes for students to add their own drawings.

Visit LittleGemsForPiano.com to learn more about Paula’s music. Hardcopy books as well as digital studio licenses (for most items) are available there on her website.

9:15am Plenary Session: Keynote by Alan Walker

This plenary session was definitely a highlight of the conference. Alan Walker, author of several important and wonderful biographies of musicians — most recently, Chopin — gave a wonderful talk about his experiences as a researcher and writer, and shared some of his insights into Chopin’s life. Alan is a wonderful writer, and great speaker, too. It was enjoyable to listen, and enjoy his wonderful sense of humor as well. Here’s the link to his new book: Chopin: A Life and Times, by Alan Walker. I’m pleased to see there is an audiobook version available! I’m adding it to my “to-read” list. :)

11:00am Celebrating Excellence: The Innovative Principles Of Piano Teacher Education 60 Years Later, by Sara Ernst, Amy Glennon, and Rebecca Mergen Pennington

Sara Ernst, Amy Glennon, and Rebecca Mergen Pennington presented about Frances Clark’s teaching legacy in America, exploring how her philosophies remain relevant to today’s students. After summarizing Frances Clark’s philosophies, they presented an interesting timeline of piano pedagogy history and explored the current norms and available resources as far as piano teacher education goes.

At lunchtime, I joined up with Amy Chaplin (PianoPantry.com) and D.J. Smith, friends of mine both from Indiana.

1:00pm The Bastien Family: A Tribute to Jane and Jim Bastien, by Lisa and Lori Bastien

After lunch, I chose to attend the Kjos Music Publishing showcase — which was an incredibly touching presentation celebrating the life of Jane Bastien (1936-2018), presented by her daughters, Lisa and Lori Bastien. It was both enjoyable and moving to see old photographs and hear stories from Jane’s growing up and young adult years — as well as about her husband James. Jane was a devoted piano teacher and authored such a multitude of teaching resources. The Bastien family has been quite a force in the piano teaching community over the years! Here’s a link to the Bastiens’ latest piano method.

2:15pm The Elephant And The Blind Wisemen: Exploring Sound Through Multi-Sensory, Whole-Body Processes, by Jessica Johnson and Midori Koga.

Jessica Johnson and Midori Koga presented a session demonstrating ways to help students of all ages to experiment and explore finding their own voice and their own sound as musicians.

Teaching “the whole student” means teaching body, mind, and spirit. Only with all three is learning truly powerful and transformative. And so, we honor the experiences of all the senses, both internal and external: sight, hearing, smell, visualization, taste, touch, and internal proprioception. Jessica and Midori shared a number of videos demonstrating how they integrate these modalities through interactive activities with students. The unique voice arises from the Singer, the Voca-Gesturer, Dancer, Conductor, ConDancer, and Actor.

For the rest of the afternoon, I helped Paula Dreyer with her Little Gems for Piano booth in the exhibit hall. It was fun talking with teachers, and Paula’s books did marvelously! She sold out of nearly everything by the end of the conference.

Here’s a photo of Paula’s whole team! Paula Dreyer, Grace Lee (of the Note Quest app), Marilyn Lowe, and me.

After helping Paula close up the booth at 5:30pm, I hung out with my friend from Northwest Ohio, Heidi Clausius, in her hotel room. Heidi and I are currently co-presidents of the Toledo Piano Teachers Association and we like to call ourselves “partners in crime”! ;) We compared notes about which sessions we planned to attend for the rest of the conference and talked until it was time to head to the OhioMTA dinner meet-up.

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[Click here to go back to Day 1.]

I’m so excited to share with you highlights from the recent 2019 Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) national conference!

Pedagogy Saturday is an optional day of the conference, comprised of a variety of “tracks”: Advanced Piano/Teaching Artistry, Entrepreneurism, Musician Wellness, Recreational Music Making, and Teaching Students With Special Needs. It’s not easy to decide which sessions to attend, but I ended up choosing the Advanced Piano/Teaching Artistry track for most of the day, and then I switched to the Recreational Music Making track in the afternoon.

8:00am The Secret Lives of Phrases: Lies, Near Lies and Red Herrings, by Deborah Rambo Sinn

Deborah Rambo Sinn gave an interesting session about deconstructing phrases in order to build lyricism. She shared interesting examples from the piano literature where the phrase markings are confusing or deceiving.

So often, we find phrases marked in a way that does not reflect the way the phrase seems to go. Why do composers write slur markings that end before the phrase actually ends? Sometimes, it because the composers are making sure we don’t break a phrase in a particular place. Today’s composers are doing a much better job than composers of the past in marking phrases the way they want them played.

In her teaching and in her own study, Deborah finds it useful to find and mark the phrases, sub-phrases, and sub-sub-phrases in a melody. In this work, there are no right answers. Instead, it’s a matter of finding an answer that works.

9:15 The Art of Interpreting Keyboard Music from the Classical Period, by Kay Zavislak

Kay Zavislak gave a fascinating presentation, based on the work of musicologist Leonard Ratner, about the art of interpreting keyboard music from the classical period.

The most important thing in music performance is understanding and portraying the underlying character and personality of the piece. However, in Classical era works, titles such as “sonata” or “sonatina” are often used — letting us know it is an instrumental piece as opposed to a vocal piece, but providing little indication of the character and personality of the piece.

A solution to this problem is to pay attention to the style being implied by the composer’s notational markings for the piece.

In the 1980s, musicologist Leonard Ratner’s presented his “topics” theory: “From its contacts with worship, poetry, drama, entertainment, dance ceremony, the military, the hunt, and the life of the lower classes, music in the early 18th century developed a thesaurus of characteristic figures, which formed a rich legacy for Class. Some of these figures were associated with various feelings and affections; others had a picturesque flavor. They are designed here as topics–subjects for musical discourse.”

Here is an overview of Ratner’s “topics” for Classical period music:

A. Dance types: B. Styles:
1. Minuet
2. Sarabande
3. Ländler
4. Polonaise
5. Bourrée
6. Contredanse
7. Gavotte
8. Siciliano
9. March/Entrée/Intrada

1. Military and Hunt Music
2. The Singing Style
3. The Brilliant Style
4. French Overture
5. Musette/Pastoral
6. Turkish March
7. Storm and Stress
8. Sensibility/Empfindsamkeit
9. The Strict Style/The Learned Style
10. Fantasia

[Note: Curious to know where to learn more about Ratner’s topics, I did some Googling and found his book available on Amazon here as well as the the most recent Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory here. Both books look interesting.]

Kay then conducted a listening game, where she played excerpts of classical period music with the audience guessing which topic they were hearing.

Many Classical works employ a number of these topics, rather than just one. For example, Mozart’s Sonata No. 12 in F Major begins in singing style, followed by the learned style, hunting, storm and stress, minuet, and more. Haydn’s Sonata No. 62 in E-flat Major begins in the French overture style followed by singing style, brilliant style, learned style, hunting, and more.

Kay stated she has found it useful to have familiarity with these topics for helping pull her students from being overly focused on notes and fingerings instead of style and character.

10:30 Teaching Artistry: Do These 5 Things Now and Forever, by Veda Zuponcic

Veda Zuponcic gave a presentation about how we can develop artistry in the youngest student by consistently using five artistic building blocks. Veda has taught for ~50 years of teaching at the collegiate level and ~25 years at the pre-collegiate level. She accepts all types of students of all levels and abilities (no audition required for acceptance in her studio). She is a firm believer that stylistic comprehension and ability to deliver the style of a piece can be taught. Artistry is a process.

Artistry and technique: you can’t have one without the other. Here are the five artistic building blocks:

  1. Build fingers,
  2. Build a musical intellect,
  3. Build taste and style, and in the final analysis,
  4. Build artistry, and
  5. Develop confidence.

In a sense, Veda teaches her six-year-old beginners exactly the same way she teaches her college students. Of course, we must use different language and expectations in accordance with students’ ages, but the five points are still true.

Here are a few other notes I took from her session:

  1. Use good GREAT materials from the first lessons. Veda uses the best materials in order to get to Late Elementary/Early Intermediate levels (e.g., Anna Magdalena Bach) in one year. She uses primarily the Russian School of Piano Playing books, heavily supplementing to control the pacing (using Waxman’s Pageants, John Robert Poe’s Animal World, and many, many others). Veda encourages teachers to use the best materials they can find, especially for the early years.
  2. Master every detail in the score — written or implied. The goal is to make the child musically literature to everything on the page.
  3. Work to a comfortable physical approach to the piano that allows a student to create a variety of sounds. This is different from technique. Emphasize physical freedom, using materials that are designed to avoid “positions” and constant contiguous writing.
  4. Build a big technique. Scales, arpeggios, inversions, with speed — contrary motion, etudes, etc.. You can’t play big literature without big technique.
  5. Provide opportunities for performance. At least a portion of the student’s repertoire should reach a high level of comfort and confidence. What’s the primary value of these performance opportunities? Preparation! Everybody needs deadlines, and children are no different.

Veda then showed excerpts from the Russian School of Piano Playing books, presenting the sequencing in those books. It begins with non-legato, a free arm, using only finger 3.

Next, she looked at a few examples of intermediate-level classical repertoire where the artistic building blocks still hold true and discussing how we can help students master the art of balance, sound production, fingering, voicing, form, and character. If we give our students these things at the beginning, they have a chance at continuing it to the end.


For lunch, a large group of us walked over to a nearby Mexican restaurant called Maracas. So fun!

1:00pm Artistry–Can It Be Taught? by Hans Boepple

Hans began his presentation by sharing an analogy. Technique, musicianship, and artistry are like a three-story building. Technique can exist on its own. Musicianship relies on the support of technique, as a voice to existence. And artistry must have the support of both in order to support itself.

  1. Technique is the highly refined skills set that is required for the sound we want. It is the sound making. Required for dynamics, articulations, etc.
  2. Musicianship: balance (vertical), voicing, shaping (horizontal), rhythmic control (time control), pedaling, more. It’s the nuts and bolts of music making. Counting is an important skill.
  3. Something can be well executed, but lacking artistry. This is a performance that leaves you wondering: why are my emotions not stirred? Artistry is emotion and imagination. Technique and musicianship skills are not enough — they are to serve the music to project the core value of the music: its character, emotions. Artistry needs language to express itself, and the language of musical performance is musicianship.

And so, the question: Can artistry be taught? Technique and musicianship are skill-based. Artistry cannot be taught in the same way, because it is of a different nature. However, it can be brought to light. Most students are interested in being musicians, instead of keyboard operators.

Hans then discussed ways to build technique, musicianship, and finally, artistry in students.

Technique work is like athletes working only on mechanics to develop facility and prevent injury. Character pieces are wonderful for working on musicianship skills such as balance, dynamics, etc. and guiding students’ artistry development, much like creating a soundtrack for a movie. “Is this an indoor piece, or an outdoor piece? What is the weather like? What time of day is it? What is he/she wearing? A hat? How is she feeling? Why is she sad?” With a little leading, the student can create her own story. Then you can ask: “Can you play it that way?”

Dealing with this question many times over a year certainly helps build the imagination: “What does it feel like to you? So, how can we make it feel like that?” It’s asking students to invest themselves in the process and make it personal.

2:15pm Teaching Artistry Through Form, Phrasing and Dynamic Planning, by Theresa Bogard

To Theresa, artistry is learning how to make musical decisions yourself. Can artistry be taught? Yes and no. It’s not completely teachable, but you can cause a student to make it happen. But it’s definitely not the case that musicians are either “born with it” or not.

Theresa drew a distinction between being “unmusical” versus merely “inexperienced”. Our students are inexperienced. Becoming musically expressive is something that can be learned and must be taught.

What contributes to a less-than-satisfying performance by an inexperienced student? These are the issues Theresa discussed:

  • Technical issues associated with tonal control, such as poor balance between the hands, weak voicing, and poor tone matching.
  • Lack of external listening
  • Lack of subtlety in interpretation of dynamics markings
  • Problems in tempo flexibility
  • Lack of understanding of phrase length and shaping (this is related to the previous issue)

Theresa believes it’s important to develop students’ independence — meaning, ability to make musical choices. Developing musical taste takes time, but it’s worthwhile.

3:30–4:30 p.m. Heather And Joy: The Beginnings Of Group Teaching, And Activities To Keep Students Engaged, by Heather Smith and Joy Morin

Next, I switched rooms to head over to the Recreational Music Making (RMM) track. Here, I listened to Heather Smith present about her recent forays into offering keyboard classes to groups of up to eight beginners and preparing them for the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Preparatory A level exam by the end of the school year. It was neat to hear about and learn from her experience doing this!

Heather’s half hour session was followed by my half hour session, which was called “Activities to Keep Students Engaged.” In my presentation, I discussed what “engage” means (hint: it’s not only about holding someone’s attention; it’s also about inducing them to participate) and then described how I hold my monthly “Piano Parties”. Then, I described six games that I consider “go to” games for use during my Piano Parties.

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I’m back from Spokane for the 2019 MTNA National Conference! It was wonderful. Here’s is the first of a series of posts about the conference and the sessions I attended.

My flight departed from Detroit on Friday the 15th at 4:30am (!!). After late night packing on Thursday, I decided to stay up rather than go to bed (haha), because my husband and I needed to be up at 1am to be able to leave on time to get to the airport an hour’s drive away. I managed to doze a little on the first flight, fortunately. I had a two-hour layover in Denver and landed in Spokane around 10am.

My wonderful host, Ruth Michaelis, had her daughter pick me up from the airport. Then, Ruth and I spent a couple of hours just chatting and getting to know each other. She is SO much fun.

I had offered to give Ruth’s students an informal masterclass, which we held at 2pm that afternoon.

Ruth’s students are preparing for their recital this weekend. I worked with each student on their piece, while engaging the rest of the students in the room in listening and responding to what they were hearing.

For dinner that evening, Ruth and I met up with Lynnette Barney. We enjoyed a nice meal and chatted about teaching and life in general. For some reason, I forgot to take a nice photo of us enjoying our time together but I remembered to take a food picture. (haha!)

I turned in to bed pretty early that evening, because my body was still on Eastern time. :) Tomorrow was to be Pedagogy Saturday: a full day! Stay tuned.

[Visit MTNA 2019 (1): Friday, March 15 to view the original blog post at Color In My Piano.]

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