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a head start in music, math and life

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PIANO LESSONS

I am constantly working to be the best teacher I can be.  I will work with you and your student to create the best course of study for your needs.  I don’t use method books alone any more.   Instead, I prefer to use individual books and allow the student to learn at their own pace.  This results in a highly individualized and flexible program.  I teach theory and technique through the music which is the best way to show it’s relevance.  I also provide sheets for study as needed.  I have two grand pianos so we can play duets and two piano repertoire.  

At the lesson, the student plays and I make comments to teach and improve their presentation.  I evaluate on the basis of right notes, fingering, rhythm, steadiness, dynamics, markings in the music and musical style.  I try to incorporate both musicality and good technique.  Often left brain dominant children are good at reading music but don’t play beautifully.  Right brain children are good at memorizing and play beautifully, but struggle with reading the notes.  We will try to bring balance as much as possible so that the music is both beautiful and accurate.

At home, you should practice each piece at least five times, but not all in a row.  Please play all the way through the pieces and then all the way through the pieces and then all the way through the pieces, etc.  Research has shown that you actually learn your pieces by practicing in this way.  If you play them five times in a row you will not get the full benefit.  If there is a section that needs more work, make sure you play other pieces in between your repetitions.  You may choose to use pianomarvel when a beginner.  Pianomarvel is an online program that allows the student to get immediate feedback.  It will show them what they did right and what they did wrong so they will know how to fix it.  It is a graded program and by the time they finish they will have played 2500 pieces!  It is so much fun and they get scores that they no longer fight over practicing.  You can send practice reports to me so I can manage how they are practicing.


VOICE LESSONS

 

I teach voice with a technical approach.  We will start the lesson with exercises designed to help train the muscles to move in the correct ways.  I am a proponent of bel canto singing.  This is the most relaxed  and beautiful production of sound.  It will not damage the vocal cords, but is capable of creating vocal flexibility and strength without strain.  Some students struggle to match pitches.  This is relatively easy to correct.  The technique will correct problems with matching pitches, yodeling and weakness in the upper range.

I teach mostly Broadway and Classical repertoire.  I generally like to have two songs going at any given time.  We work on the style of the piece, interpretation of the text, and physical presentation.  My goal is to prepare the student for performance through offering wisdom about presentation, and student recitals where the students sing for each other.  The students are very supportive of each other and help each other learn how to perform.  Students who are preparing an audition will be advised on audition procedure, proper music, and preparation.  I am able to edit accompaniment cds to provide a cd for the audition.

My background is in Classical Music.  I am capable of coaching in Italian, French and German, including Art Songs and Opera.


WUNDERKEYS:

 

The program is really aimed at providing foundational concepts for the eventual study of music.  They are designed for the individual student.  We start each lesson with finger plays designed to build strength and identify and individual movement for each finger.  We sing songs that help the child with rhythmic counting.  Then we have piano time where they are encouraged to learn and play their way through some very basic songs for recognition of black keys and rhythm.  Basically, it's me playing and they add in parts.  They are also learning to look at music and play at certain times.  The songs are really cute.  I would provide recordings to practice with at home.  Then there is a little book lesson.  I provide the books and they have exercises to do at home and some we can do in the lesson.  Sometimes it will be cutting and pasting, etc to do a fun concept like high vs low, fast vs slow.  And last we can play a game or play on some instruments.  I have some cards that are matching how many notes with a number and it's a memory game.  The idea is to keep moving from activity to activity but keep it all music related.  Hopefully, they start to increase their attention span and we spend more time actually playing piano.  The goal is to get to a place where we can start to play out of a book for beginners.  It is a half hour once a week.

From an article by Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D

“The most important part of music study takes place at home, not at the lesson.  At home the student tries out new ideas, plays his assignment as specified, and has fun experimenting.

“Research shows that maximum retention occurs if repetition - that is, practice - takes place within 24 hours or less.  The retention is approximately 90%.  If repetition does not occur until 48 hours later (skip a day), the retention drops drastically.  By 72 hours the retention is virtually zero.

“Your child will be very frustrated with his inability to carry out the lesson assignment at home the longer he waits between practice sessions.  Daily practice will net your child the most progress for his effort and keep frustration to a minimum.

“Practicing seven days a week may not be practical.  However, the day after or before the lesson is not a good day to skip.  You should have a post lesson review -  after you return home sit down with your child and play through the lesson assignment one time.  Ask your child to describe what he is supposed to do and why.  This will acquaint you with what you should be hearing, and your child will know that you are aware of the goals the teacher has set.  If you don’t know what the teacher wants, call and find out the first day so you practice correctly.  This is a tangible reminder that you support his efforts and are vitally interested in the content of what he’s doing.  Another benefit is that the immediate repetition of the assigned material ensures almost 100% retention of what the teacher said at the lesson.

“With young children you may have to be involved directly for the entire practice session at first.  Do not expect your child to carry out his practice entirely by himself until he is about 10 years old.  Even if your child doesn’t need your sustained participation, he may crave your presence because he is lonely in the piano room all by himself.  Don’t imply by words or body language that you’d rather be (or should be) somewhere else.  That attitude is an eloquent negative.

“The main reason children want to quit piano study is that the parent assumes the child can carry out the assignment by himself and he can’t.  Frustration, confusion, and despair set in.  Who’d want to prolong a situation like this?  Don’t expect the child to practice on his own!  Learning how to practice is a different skill altogether from actually playing.  Be directly involved.  On the bench, if the child is young, the secret weapon is you!”

 

MY THOUGHTS ON PRACTICING

Piano:

Piano lessons require a lot of work.  What may start out as an exciting prospect for a child can soon become frustrating.  Piano lessons will be more fun if it gets positive attention from parents and siblings.  Practicing should be an inclusive activity (as opposed to lonely and boring).  Parents need to be supporting and encouraging, listening and attentive.  Many parents are so busy they don’t think they have time to sit down and listen.  But your children are starving for your attention.  If practicing piano gets your attention they will be more willing and even excited to do it.  If you banish them to another part of the house and force them to practice for 30 minutes, it will become a chore and eventually a fight.  I provide many opportunities for students to perform by having student recitals and advanced recitals for others to listen to.  If you can’t make time for these activities, your child may think it’s not important to you and so it shouldn’t be important to them either.  This is best a cooperative effort.  You child needs help to be willing to work through the hard part of learning.  The good news is that after a while it becomes a habit to practice and more fun to listen to.

Voice:

Again, it’s a good thing if you can be supportive.  However, some voice students are embarrassed to sing in front of others at first.  Many of them wait for everyone to leave the house.  Only you can know which is better for your student.  The students who make the most progress are the ones who embrace the technique and practice every day.  I give them an mp3 with exercises to help them learn to sing the vowels correctly.  They should practice them every day and then work on their songs.  Songs should be memorized and then prepared for presentation.  It takes several weeks for the muscles to learn the song and become relaxed.  You should stay with the song as long as there is something to be learned from it.  It takes a little “ponder time” to decide what the words mean and how to act them.  Therefore, it’s best to stay with a song for around two months.

 

Why Study Voice?
Most people understand that studying piano can take many years.  Many people do not understand that studying voice can also take many years and you can improve your singing voice.  Even my doctor and I had a conversation about the fact that most people think that you are either talented or not.  The fact is that it may take some time to uncover your talent.  For instance, tension will cover up your natural voice.  And you may be doing damage to your voice by singing improperly.  For a look at destructive techniques look at www.voiceteacher.com/damaging.html.   We work on finding your natural voice and making it easier to sing.  With all the online singing lessons now, you may think you don't need a person to train you.  But, you do need someone who can listen to you personally and make corrections.  Please find a teacher!