With all of the exciting growth that’s been going at Music So Simple in the first month, I am thrilled to say that I, Ms. Meredith, am the newest teacher to join the studio!
Let me start with a little about my background. I have had an interest in music for as long as I can remember; I sang every word of every Disney song like it was in my DNA before kindergarten. And like any child with an older sibling studying piano, my mother signed me up for lessons with Ms. Reithmeyer. She was a wonderful teacher, and boy did I love getting those stickers when I played well! But getting me to practice was like pulling teeth, and I would stomp off with frustration (literally) when I didn’t play it right the first time.
Around the same time, I began choir at Prestonwood Elementary. Singing was easy for me and I had a natural talent for it. I did my first audition in the 2nd grade and scored a role as the Lead Zebra in our school play “It’s a Jungle Out There”. This turn of events helped me win my case a couple of years later when I begged my mom to let me quit piano- I convinced her that I was meant to be a singer and not a pianist, and I’m sure she was fed up with nagging me to practice, so she let me quit.
I was a choir member throughout high school at J.J. Pearce, and even earned a coveted spot in the all-girls acapella group my senior year. I absolutely loved the community that choir gave me, and it made me feel a sense of being a part of something bigger. But I became curious about piano again: perhaps because it goes hand in hand with being a vocalist. I asked myself, “Why did my mom let me quit piano? I wish I hadn’t of quit...I’d be sooo good by now!” It seems like everyone I have met who learned an instrument at a young age and stopped playing has asked themselves this very same question. So I started trying to teach myself piano again, with very, very slow progress, but this time I had a motivation that wasn’t there before.
I continued my musical studies while earning my music therapy degree at SMU, with a concentration in voice. I still remember attending my music theory class for the first time with no knowledge amongst students fresh from Booker T. Washington, and I had never felt so incompetent. I ended up having weekly tutoring from my very patient professor, Dr. Foster, and other students who volunteered their precious practice time. I was also required to take piano for 2 years, and it was this class with Dr. Karp that inspired me even more to practice. I also learned to play guitar my sophomore year of college (another requirement as a music therapy student), which solidified my belief that you really can learn an instrument at any age. For my readers who are convinced that they are too old to learn and that they missed their window- you are wrong!
All of the experiences I’ve had in my journey definitely play a part in my teaching. I understand those students who want to play perfectly right away and who hate to practice. I empathize with those who are frustrated trying to sightread something new. I share their joy when they earn a sticker for their accomplishments. Whenever I’m helping a student learn roman numerals for chord progressions in their workbooks I think of the days when I struggled to keep my eyes open in my 8 am theory class in college. And I always tell my students that there has to be a little bit of struggle in order to progress. I really am grateful for the challenges I faced in becoming a musician, and I know that I am a better teacher because of them.
-Becky Corley, guest blog with over 40 years of teaching experience. Becky is an amazing mentor who has taught me so much about teaching piano and running a music studio.
A few years ago, I did a day-long class with some students in Carrollton … similar to the performance classes we do before special events. Toward the end of the day, I asked them to write down some things they had learned about practice that day. Here are a few of their comments as well as some of my own.
Practice slow enough to be accurate.
Slow practice really pays off.
Be able to begin at any part of a piece, at any phrase. If you can’t, you don’t really know the piece.
If you make a mistake in practicing, don’t go back to the beginning (unless that’s where you made the mistake).
When you are practicing, you are the audience. Do you really like what you hear?
My weight should be divided, with more weight on my feet that on my seat.
Don’t settle way back on the bench; sit forward, ready to play.
Correct fingering is very important. Wrong fingering gets you into all kinds of trouble.
If you can’t play a fast piece at a slow tempo, you can’t really control it at a fast tempo
Set the tempo before you begin the piece, not in the fourth or fifth measure.
Practice makes perfect only if the practice is perfect!
This week’s blog is about all of the technology that is available in the music pedagogy world. In today’s world of fast fixes, we think that in order to learn any instrument, all we need to do is log on, watch, and play! While this can get us going, it will only get us so far. You don’t need me to tell you that there is something very important about human contact and the importance of the student/teacher relationship. Just a few things a teacher can provide (vs. YouTube video) are hand position, breathing techniques, correct fingering, dynamics, reading, and so much more!
The other side of technology is in the hands of a teacher. Great new programs and apps are available to teachers and students to help with technique. I have been using a great app on my iPad which allows the student to practice sight-reading. The app is able to listen for the correct notes and rhythm, and will award stars in order to get to the next level! It will also play the duet for the student to play along to! Teachers may assign extra work on these apps for practice at home. It’s awesome! It’s different than reading traditional sheet music, and it definitely takes a little getting used to, but students today catch on rather quickly! Even metronomes are available as apps on our mobile devices! There are software programs that assist in music writing and theory! I think this new technology adds a little twist and convenience to traditional learning.
Obviously, this technology doesn’t have to be used every time you practice, but it’s a great resource that is now available to us. Using it every now and then is ideal for a student of any age or stage. It can open your ear to the possibilities, have as a tool to perfect rhythm and notes: almost like taking your teacher home with you!
There have been a ton of articles written on the benefits of music, and of course we know that music is good for people of all ages. What exactly are the benefits?
...improve how we learn, remember, problem-solve, and pay attention.
...increase memory capacity through learning and memorizing pieces.
...helps time management & organizational skills in learning a piece, especially when preparing for recitals, festivals, and contests.
...teach responsibility by practicing, bringing music to lessons, and preparing for events.
...teach discipline and perseverance: how and when to practice, not quitting when it gets hard, working through challenges.
...improve mathematical ability (scientifically proven through multiple studies!)
...allow self-expression through making music.
...provide health benefits: reduces stress and anxiety, decreases pain, improve immune functioning, and aid memory.
...enhance coordination; reading music, hand-eye, using both hands and feet, and keeping a beat!
...relieve stress; students always leave lessons happy! Practice & lessons can be a great way to take a break from homework and be creative.
...teach etiquette by attending recitals and concerts.
...allow a student to build relationship with a teacher by working one on one.