This week, I want to highlight the importance of having a solid music library within the studio, and how lucky we were in building ours. Generally, a music library consists of method books, theory books, sight reading, and books exploring certain genres, styles, and/or composers. The library should also have a wide variety of supplementary pieces, which we use for Halloween and Christmas, recitals, and festivals. While method books are essential for learning new concepts, it is important for students to spend time practicing these concepts with supplementary music before jumping on to the next topic.
Most teachers acquire their library over time, if ever. My guess at the average cost of one method book is about $8.00, so it’s quite expensive to buy all of the materials at once. Stathia had quite a few books already to start our library, but we were very fortunate to receive a large donation of used music from her piano teacher, Jerry Stephens. He brought us at least 10 boxes full of music from his old studio, and it was like Christmas morning opening them up and discovering all of the gems inside. Over the summer, we sorted through everything, decided what music we wanted to keep, and organized it by genre. We decorated some old file cabinets, and now all of our music is neatly stored there.
Besides having access to additional repertoire, it’s great to have the library in case a student forgets their books at home. This will really be helpful whenever we have a space of our own, but for now, our library is great for when teachers want to choose pieces for their students ahead of time.
We also allow students to borrow our library books and play through a couple of pieces before we buy them a fresh copy- that way, you can make sure you like it before investing in the book. Its super easy for us keep track of the books we lend in My Music Staff, so we want to encourage our students and families to explore all of our available resources. If you or your child want to explore a certain piece or genre, just let us know and we can bring some options from our library to the next lesson. Also, if you are unsure of what to do with your child’s previous books, ask your teacher! We love to take them back and use them as reference copies! It’s a great way of recycling and “sharing” the music we all love!
Cancellation policies are one of the most controversial conversations among private music teachers. If you look at the cancellation policies of various studios, you will find some teachers never allow make-ups, some do monthly group lessons, and others always offer make-up lessons. We like to be somewhere in between- it all depends on the circumstances. As a busy mom of two, I understand the craziness of parenthood, but I also know that I do not always have time to make-up every missed lesson, especially if I travel to a student’s home. Our policy allows us to set boundaries yet be flexible at the same time.
Our policy reads as follows:
Lesson times are permanent for the year and scheduled at a mutually convenient time for the student and teacher. Regular attendance is expected and necessary for progress.
Ultimately, makeup lessons are solely up to the the teacher’s discretion, based on their teaching schedule. Lessons missed by the teacher or due to a school closing will be made up. Refunds are not given for missed lessons.
If you have to cancel a lesson, we ask that you give us 24-hour notice. In this case, we do try to schedule a make up; it could be immediate or it might be later in the school year. School holidays, early release days, and holiday breaks are a great time to get in make up lessons if both teacher and student are available. Another option is to split up a make-up lesson and extend the regularly scheduled lessons in the following weeks (i.e. splitting up a 45 min lesson into three 15 minute chunks, then having three 60 minute lessons).
If your child is sick, please let us know!! We all have busy schedules and don’t need to pass the sickness around!! More than likely, we will gladly make-up a lesson to prevent getting sick!
If you cancel a lesson with less than 24 hour notice, please do not expect a make-up. If we have a cancellation in our day, we will tell you know. Your child getting in their lessons is very important to us, but we also ask that you respect our busy schedules and personal family life.
We are really excited to debut the 40 piece challenge in our studio this year, which has been steadily gaining global attention. It was created by Elissa Milne, who is a piano teacher in Australia. I first learned of the challenge in April when I attended Elissa’s presentation at the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) conference, and I was very impressed with the results in her own studio. The following excerpt is from Elissa herself:
“Once upon a time I was a teacher in Australia teaching my students the way teachers in exam-oriented and competition-oriented culture have always taught – spending between 4 and 9 months working with students on their exam/competition repertoire and then having a few months per year for “fun” pieces that weren’t “for” anything. Students working this way would be learning between 6 and 10 pieces a year total, as a rule. The more students progressed in degrees of difficulty the more their sight-reading skills lagged behind. And at the end of about 10 years of serious study throughout their childhood the students would cease lessons with a slew of certificates and awards and probably never really play very much again. The students who could play quite well by ear tended to be the ones who kept on playing after formal lessons stopped. And that struck me as signalling that there was something very wrong, possibly even unethical, with the way I was teaching. Shouldn’t 10 years of serious study equip you for a lifetime of engagement with your instrument?”
With an exam-oriented and competition-oriented approach, I think the answer to her last question is no. What I like about this approach is that it shifts the focus of learning challenging pieces that take months to learn to reading new music and material constantly. I’ve always felt that it is more important for students to learn shorter, easier pieces that they can sightread fairly easily to build their skills. If sightreading is too much of a struggle, they are not independent learners and are more likely to stop playing altogether. I believe the 40 piece challenge will help students stay motivated throughout the school year, all the while gaining self-esteem and pride once they’ve completed the challenge.
The 40 piece challenge is not suitable for all of our students, but for some it could be just what they need to reach the next level. If your child is a good fit, your teacher will bring it up at your lesson to discuss possibly participating (it’s a great sign that your child is accelerating!)
For more information about the 40 piece challenge, visit the website at https://elissamilne.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/where-did-the-40-piece-challenge-begin/
click here to see the list of students who have completed the 40 Piece Challenge!
With the beginning of a new year comes a new schedule, homework load, and activities. Obviously if you are reading this, private lessons is one of your activities! Once you get a lesson time nailed down (whew!), you have to “schedule” in time to practice. Sometimes we think that the hard part is getting an ideal lesson time, but often we forget how hard it is to set aside a specific time in our schedule to sit down and practice. Well, maybe it’s us as parents reminding the kids to sit down and practice- but regardless, it is the one thing that gets put to the side because it’s not always scheduled into our day like lessons, soccer practice, or ballet class.
So, you want to know how to “schedule” in practice time? Here are some ideas about when to practice:
You might want to try a couple of different combinations to see what works best for your child and your family. He/she might be great to practice early before going to school, but if the baby is still sleeping, you definitely don’t want to wake them up!! We also recommend (if possible) that you as a parent try to sit in on the first couple of practice days to make sure that your child is practicing correctly- it’s harder to relearn a piece if learned incorrectly! So, try a few different ways and once you find the right fit, keep it in your schedule. Another way to keep them motivated with practicing is to remind them that they can earn music bucks for practicing, and that at the end of the month, they can spend their bucks on special prizes!
Need more tips on how to set a successful practice schedule? Talk to your teacher- we know lots of ways to make practicing more enjoyable and less like pulling teeth!