August 2, 2011
July 20, 2011
I recently was looking over the assignment book, The Right Notes, available through Alberti Publishing. Jen recently reviewed it, if you want to take a look at her post. This looks like such a fun resource! It looks like not only a fun, colorful assignment book, but also a great outline for talking about some of the details that tend to get left on the shelf. It has composer biographies, definitions and explanations of other musical terms, descriptions of eras, etc. Some of these things are certainly on my list of not-very-strong points! Just because they aren't my strong points doesn't mean that they won't me my student's, however. This assignment book will allow you to help you student learn about many different details from many angles.
July 14, 2011
June 27, 2011
June 24, 2011
June 22, 2011
June 20, 2011
June 16, 2011
June 9, 2011
May 31, 2011
May 26, 2011
May 23, 2011
- Recital "Dress Rehearsal" by Sheryl
- Recital Week: Recital Dress Rehearsal by Sarah
- Practice Performing by Joy
- Recital Success! by Sheryl
- What To Do When A Student's Performance "Bombs" by Joy
- Recital Week: The Recital's Over...Now What? by Sarah
- 2011 Spring Recital by Wendy
- My Year-End Recital by another Wendy :)
- Recital Nightmare by Miss Dorla
May 21, 2011
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
The words of this song have gone through many revisions and changed hands many times before coming to us in our English form as we know it today. It is thought to have its roots in twelfth-century monastic life.
The original poem was called “Rhythmica Oratio” by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. His father was a knight and his mother has been said to have been a person of radiant goodness. Bernard chose monastery life while in his early twenties. Martin Luther said of him, “He was the best monk that ever lived, whom I admire beyond all the rest put together.”
The original poem had seven parts, with each part discussing various parts of Christ’s body as He suffered on the cross, His feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face. Our hymn text is only the seventh portion of the poem, and was originally entitled, “Salve Caput Cruentatum”.
The German translation was done by Paul Gerhardt, a German man who suffered much heartache in his life. He went through the Thirty Years’ War, and while still a young man lost his wife and four baby girls. He is credited with writing 132 hymn texts during his life, which are said to be a reflection of inner spiritual wealth. One person has said, “Many were written under circumstances that would make most men cry rather than sing.”
James Waddell Alexander translated the English version of this song. He was a history teacher, but always had more of an interest in hymnology. He translated many German and Latin texts that were published in a book titled, “The Breaking Crucible and Other Translations.”
Although not much else is known about the history of this song, it has certainly been used of the Lord throughout the years, not only in the lives of these three men, but also in the lives of many more of God’s people. Philip Schaff said, “This classic hymn has shown in three tongues – Latin, German and English – and in three confessions – Roman, Lutheran and Reformed – with equal effect, the dying love of our Savior and our boundless indebtedness to Him.”
~Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!
Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.
My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.
Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!
Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.
For further reading:
May 16, 2011
As you can see in that first picture, I have more circles made out to cover every Roman Numeral that we might need. Or at least, all the ones I could think of! This way we can always use them to review major/minor chords, intervals, etc.
May 13, 2011
So what about you? Do you ask for your students to keep their nails short? How do you enforce that aspect of your policies? How long does a nail have to be to interfere with proper playing?
May 10, 2011
♬ Guest Post ♬
Enjoyable Piano Lessons???
Discovering a Relative and Fun Method to Piano Teaching
By Emily Matthew
I believe a tragedy has occurred in both piano studios and student’s homes across the country. Piano students dread going to lessons because their teacher is “boring” or “strict”; teachers are unoriginal and rigid in their teaching styles; and parents are tired of the constant battle to practice. The result? More students discontinue piano lessons. This is a problem that I believe could be corrected by parents and piano teachers, both of which who will in turn influence the students.
This article is not intended for parents; however, I will quickly say this: I believe it is the parents’ responsibility to give their child the opportunity of music lessons. I believe that learning to play an instrument is a necessary discipline in the life of a child, both musically and otherwise. Learning an instrument instills in a child invaluable qualities that will benefit him throughout all his life. I believe it is the parents’ job to support piano lessons just as they do math, history, and science classes in school. If your child did not enjoy math homework, would you allow him to drop out of math class? Of course not! I’ve had parents tell me that they wish their child had a desire to take music lessons, but since their child isn’t interested in music or committed to practicing, they will not be required to take lessons. I really believe that is sad! While a career in music isn’t for everyone, I do believe that several years of musical discipline are necessary for a child’s education. However...that is another subject for another time!
Now for the teachers: I believe it is your responsibility to foster in your students a love for music. Let’s face it: many a student will end up in our studios who really doesn’t want to be there. He, in fact, is determined to hate the piano. Bravo to the parents who make him come! It is now the teacher’s job to convince him that music can be rewarding and even fun. James Bastien said, “The teacher, not a set of books, is the determining factor in quality results.” The teacher should demonstrate to him the great fulfillment and enjoyment that can be had from music lessons.
Private piano teachers today are competing with a multitude of other activities that are vying for their students’ attention. Sports, movies, video games, and other modern entertainment are FUN! Why would your student want to sit 1/2 hour with someone who is twice his age explaining to him how to interpret little black dots on a page full of lines? If you were in his place would that be fun to you? I believe it is time for teachers to step back and re-evaluate their teaching methods. I am NOT advocating reducing a high quality of a musical education. I am definitely not suggesting that you throw out theory, scales, and classical study or that you lessen your high standards for performance. My students spend plenty of time investing in these areas, and they also know that doing less than their best is simply not an option. What I am suggesting is that you adapt your presentation of these musical areas to make them appealing. Ignite your student’s curiosity about theory. Make him want to master the last scale in his book before anyone else has ever done. Fascinate him with the classical masterpieces and the men who wrote them. Make music come alive!!!
I believe piano lessons can come alive by the teacher being real, relevant, and enthusiastic about what he is teaching to his student. Get to know your students. Discover their learning style and use that knowledge as a stepping stone to bring them to the realization that music can be enjoyable. Do crazy things during your lessons to make your students laugh and relax. My students and I have come up with the strangest and craziest stories that express the mood of a song they are learning; but you know what? After coming up with those “silly” stories, they play the song better and they enjoy doing so! It’s amazing! Hold studio competitions for titles in the “Piano Hall of Fame.” Use colored pencils and highlighters in the child’s favorite color. Play musical games, with the challenge that you’re pretty hard to beat. I appreciate what a Chinese Proverb states, “Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.” Make each minute of lesson time count by actively involving students and doing your best to make lessons enjoyable. Be relative to your students, and please don’t lose another student simply because he was bored with you.
In my piano studio, I strive to give my students a quality musical education. We do all the “boring” stuff such as theory books, scales, arpeggios, Hanon, classical music, but *read* it is not boring to the majority of my students. Why? Because I have strived to make it enjoyable for them. I hold studio competitions year round (with fun names, of course). Last June and July, I hosted “Sizzlin’ Summer Studies”, where students could become “Piano Superstars” by completing some tricky assignments. During the majority of the year, I hold a much more in- depth competition. Last year, we embarked on “Treasures from the Past: the Lives of Great Composers.” We spent the year with an emphasis on classical music. My students had the options of listening to classical music, completing extra credit worksheets, playing additional songs at the foremost level of excellence, working extra hard on their given assignments, practicing extra time, etc. all for the purpose of earning “Treasure Chest Coins” which could be traded in for some awesome prizes. I hardly heard any complaints about practice time or scales. Two of my students were so competitive about the contest that they called each other during the week to see how many “Treasure Chest Coins” they were going to earn that week to see if they in turn needed to practice more or do some extra work. Those two students tied as winners of the contest. They surpassed my musical expectations for them! They learned so much more than I required of them and enjoyed doing so! Why? I suggest that it was at least partially because piano learning was made fun.
I believe another huge motivator is simply your praise. I can’t remember where I once heard this suggestion, but it has been a huge help to me! “Never let a lesson go by without praising your student about something they did well.” Now, I will admit, this can be very difficult at times! Maybe your student didn’t practice at all, missed most of the notes in his song, and completely ruined the rhythm...well, use your imagination to find something good that he did do! :) Time for some out-of-the-box thinking! What about his dynamics (on those few notes that were correct that is)...praise him for it. Try this, “Billy, you have some incredible dynamics while you’re playing! I especially like that forte at the very end! It sounded just like a lion roaring!” Of course we need to address the problems too, so then try this: “You know Billy, we really need to get these notes and rhythm right. I can’t wait to hear it next week! I know once you get those things right, it will sound amazing with those incredible dynamics I already heard today!” What do you think? I think that it helps your student see that you’re not “against” him. Find something he did right and tell him how much you like it!
You may be reading this and thinking, “This is all great, but I don’t think it will solve all my ‘bored student’ problems.” You’re right. It won’t. But, you’ve done your part; now, just keep trying! Keep getting to know your students as individuals, and find one thing that they enjoy doing that motivates them. Once you’ve found it, use your imagination and work with that knowledge! On my beginning student/parent questionnaires, I ask the parents their child’s learning style, temperament, and motivators. I have found those answers to be so helpful to me as I teach! If you have a majority of “bored students” in your studio, why not try a few new and innovative ideas? Those bored students just might change their minds!
Are your students having fun during their lessons, or do they dread them? I suggest that you re-evaluate your approach to teaching. Become a relevant teacher and motivator rather than a strict and strenuous instructor. It is our responsibility as music teachers to do our best to instill in our students a love and a passion for the instrument we teach.
Emily Matthews and her husband Jared currently live in Minnesota, where Emily enjoys being a homemaker and piano teacher. You can visit her piano studio website to see what she's all about. Emily is also an avid couponer and blogs about her homemaking and couponing adventures on their blog, Day by Day.
May 6, 2011
You can get these tabletop keyboards here.
May 4, 2011
Jesus Calls Us
Miss Cecil Humphreys was just 21 years old when her first book was published. Entitled "Verses for Holy Seasons," it contained a hymn or poem for each Sunday of the year, with special verses on holidays and special occasions. Written as a result of Miss Humphreys reading of "The Christian Year" by Rev. John Keble, it has been called "A Christian Year for Children."
In one of her Sunday School classes, her students were puzzled about the meaning of some of the words in the Apostles Creed. Unable to adequately explain to them in their terminology, she resorted to making her teaching in poetic form. For the first phrase, "I believe in God the Father Almighty," she wrote, "All Things Bright and Beautiful." For "Born of the Virgin Mary" she wrote, "Once in Royal David's City." And to explain the meaning of the death of Jesus who was crucified and buried, she wrote, "There is a Green Hill far Away." In 1848, the year she was married, she published her second book, "Hymns for Little Children," which included the songs inspired by the Creed.
One afternoon in 1852, her husband, Rev. William Alexander, found her writing a poem as a result of the sermon he had preached the Sunday before. He had preached on the burial of Moses, and she had been so inspired by the message that she wrote these words:
By Nebo's lonely mountain, On this side Jordan's wave,
In a vale in the land of Moab, There lies a lonely grave.
But no man built that sepulcher, And no man saw it e're;
For the angels of God upturned the sod, And laid he dead man there.
Her husband was so moved by these gripping words, that he asked her to write a poem for his sermon coming that Sunday. He was going to speak on the calling of Andrew by Jesus in Mark 1:16-18. After reading the passage through, Mrs. Alexander wrote these words:
Jesus calls us o'er the tumult, Of our life's wild, restless sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth, Saying Christian follow me!
By her death in 1895 Mrs. Alexander had written over four hundred hymns and poems. Over a quarter million copies of “Hymns for Little Children" was sold, but nothing ever received the attention that her song, "Jesus Calls Us," has received.
~Ernest K. Emurian, "Living Stories of Famous Hymns"
May 2, 2011
Then I had to put the front back on so that they would have a place to rest their books for the rest of the lesson. One student was sure she could just lay her book down, but I didn't know how well that would work. :)
April 30, 2011
To follow up on our two-week study of the best and worst ways to practice, I made a simple sheet to ask my students some questions about their own practicing. This has given me incredible insight into how they practice at home, and how to help them enjoy it more.
If you remember, I had gotten the handout and idea for my “group” game over at Sarah’s blog. She also had posted a sheet of questions that she used to follow up on the handout, but I felt my students needed something a little simpler. So I just gave them five easy questions to answer, and crossed my fingers that it wouldn't take them long to fill it out!
I have one student that is 7 and can’t read very well yet, so I asked him the questions orally. Because they are such simple questions, he didn’t seem to mind answering them out loud.
Here are some of the eye-opening answers I’ve received:
1. What is your favorite part of practicing?
-That after lots of practice I will be able to play without looking at the notes. (hmmm…)
-Exercises (Who would have thought? She does the Edna Mae Burnam prepatory book. And she actually spelled it “exersioses” - how cute!)
-Playing my songs
2. What is your least favorite part of practicing?
-hard songs that take a long time to learn.
-“Watch Your Step”
-You have to look everywhere (meaning there is a lot to think about and pay attention to!) (at least I hope thats what he meant!)
-That I have to keep switching my hands from left to right.
3. What makes it hard to practice?
-The lines and spaces
-Wanting to be doing something else
-Learning the new notes.
-To do everything right.
4. What is your favorite song to play?
-Love is patient
5. Have these practice tips helped you?
-So far they have all said yes!
So here is my question for you: How do you help your students enjoy their practice time? I know that they are not going to enjoy every song they have to learn, but overall, do your students enjoy practicing?
April 28, 2011
Here in Canada, the flu bug has been rampant for the last month. There have been very few people that haven’t been affected by it. For most, it hits hard and lingers long. Recently the plight escalated when it reached our local nursing home. Last week the flu hit the residents, and I heard that seven have died. It has been tragic.
One man that passed away was a relative of some men in our church. We knew him a little bit, from our monthly services at the nursing home. He used to attend our church years ago, as he was able to. The funeral service was held at another church down the road, where he was a member for years.
Because of our connections with some of the family members, we were asked to provide some special music. A relative was supposed to sing, but was unable to at the last minute. So my parents and two of my siblings prepared two trio-style hymns, and I played the piano for them.
Why am I telling you all of this? To point out that sometimes, as pianists, we get unexpected and last-minute opportunities to play. We may or may not have a chance to practice adequately. In what ways can we be prepared for these situations?
1. Be mentally prepared. As a pianist seeking to honor the Lord, I know that I am not playing to “perform” or to impress people. I want to honor and glorify God, while doing the very best that I can. If I do my best, and keep in mind Who I am doing it for, it keeps everything in the right perspective, and keeps me from getting the jitters! :)
2. Practice regularly. If I am known locally as a pianist, chances are I am going to be asked to play for things like funerals when the need arises. For this reason, I should always have good practicing habits on a daily basis. Not just practicing the stuff that I “have to” (things for church, events coming up, etc.) but staying brushed up in every area so that I’m ready for anything at a moments notice. Some of what I include in daily practice are scales and technique, hymn playing, arrangements, classical, etc.
3. Compile notebooks. This could include a book of wedding songs, funeral songs, your “go-to” church offertories, a book of popular folk songs, the list could go on and on. From time to time review these notebooks and evaluate the songs. Make sure that the songs included are not extremely difficult, but easily manageable at your level of playing. Then when a need arises, you have songs at your fingertips.
4. Be flexible. You may start to play and find that half the keys don’t work on the 100-year-old electric keyboard you have to use. You may find that the damper pedal doesn’t work. You may find that you have to bang to get any sound out. You may find your book closing on you or pages fluttering to the ground. The vocalist you are accompanying may break down in tears...or laughter. The person leading the service may cut in on your arrangement, thinking you were through. (Hopefully you were on a tonic chord!) Whatever happens is part of life...and life happens! Learn to go with the flow, and make the best out of every situation. In a few years (even months!) no one is going to remember that your song was interrupted...unless you make a big deal about the situation and cause a scene. As the pianist, its not all about you...and people really aren’t paying as much attention to you as they are to the vocalist or song leader. 95% of the audience won’t ever know the difference! So learn to be as flexible as a slinky! (Yes, all of those scenarios have happened to me. And maybe that keyboard wasn’t 100 years old, but it seemed like it.)
Those are the things that I came up with while thinking about this opportunity. What did I leave out? Anyone else have any ideas? Or have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?