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What are we learning in piano study?

Revealing beneficial intersections In recent years, education in the United States has seen an increased focus on STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. At Clavier Companion , we always look at the "M" in STEM and think that it should stand for music. Here's a quick reminder of just a few of the many things that s...
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Breath: Teaching piano students how to utilize a vital tool

Breathing is the only function of the autonomic nervous system that can happen both consciously and unconsciously. Research has shown the many benefits of practicing controlled breathing techniques such as stress relief and improved functioning of the immune system. 1 When applied in a pedagogical setting, teaching controlled breathing techniques a...
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Elizabeth Medici
Absolutely love the idea of using a windmill to help students control their breathing. Adding the physical element to this makes i... Read More
Monday, 08 October 2018 13:43
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Toward integrated teaching

Would you teach your students to play only the first six notes of each major scale? Of course not! Good teachers introduce a complete concept, often from multiple perspectives. They may emphasize the building blocks of scales, key signatures, logical fingering, good practice habits, and healthy technique. Out...
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May/June: Perspectives

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Change When you think of the word "change," what comes to your mind? Without trying to think too hard, or second guess if I am after something specific, find a piece of paper and a pen/pencil (remember those?), or go to your computer or other device of choice (haven't we all changed to rely heavily on electronics?) and make a list of what come...
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Perspectives: Why I love teaching learning-challenged children

As a piano teacher, I love working with students who catch on to new concepts quickly, who are respectful and obedient, who are able to give polished performances, and who progress rapidly. Yet, over my two-and-a-half decades of teaching piano lessons, I feel my biggest success stories are students who did not do any of these things. My biggest suc...
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Mind Matters: Thinking about thinking

What do you think about when you think about performing? Take a few minutes before reading further and make a short list. Below, I have listed some frequent responses about performance that I have heard from teachers and students: • I am afraid I will make mistakes. • I will feel embarrassed if my performance does not go perfectly. • I freak out ab...
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Putting it all together: Creating a great lesson

I've recently been inspired to think about the essential elements of a successful lesson, prompted in part by Pete Jutras's column "Quality Ingredients" ( Clavier Companion , July/August 2015) and a superb 2012 workshop that Marvin Blickenstaff presented at Nazareth College, just outside of Rochester, NY. Jutras's points—that every lesson should ha...
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Perspectives: Diversity in the teaching studio

Walk a mile in your neighbor's shoes: Diversity in theteaching studio   by Rachel Kramer and Bennyce Hamilton Music is the universal language. ​ This phrase has been in my vocabulary since I was young enough to understand what it meant. As I have become a performing musician, music educator, and community arts participant, I continue to believ...
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Why do you play the piano?

For years, I have written about and counseled many people regarding their performance anxiety.  ​I have lectured on the topics of symptoms and symptom reduction, as well as deeper psychological issues that fuel stage fright. I have heard numerous comments about "wanting to play perfectly," "wanting the audience to like me," and "not letti...
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Music notation: A brief look at its historical evolution

In early Medieval times, if one wanted to learn a song, one listened to someone sing it.  ​It wasn't until the ninth century that monks began to experiment with various ways of notating music in written form, with the goal of helping people across a wide geographical area remember the many musical accoutrements of Roman Catholic religious serv...
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If my studio is full, why should I keep marketing?

Marketing piano lessons is most often used to refer to the process of obtaining new piano students.  ​Consequently, when our studio is full or has a waiting list, it is easy to think that we no longer need to market. But marketing is also about retaining current students, especially since we want the diligent ones to continue in our studio. In...
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Does word-of-mouth advertising fall on deaf ears? Seven web essentials for marketing

Word-of-mouth is often accurately touted as the best way to market piano lessons.  But the concept of word-of-mouth has changed tremendously in the last ten years, both in how it works and what it really is. 1  Consequently, word-of-mouth is starting to fall short in effectiveness and conversion for those who do not have some essential co...
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Music lessons are life lessons

Have you ever been in a room full of people or at a table with friends where no one was talking with each other because everyone was texting?  Although "texting" is a relatively new verb in our language, I imagine that most people, in our Age of Cell Phone, would understand its current definition. While texting potentially makes communication ...
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Student wants and needs

During the late 1990s, I taught piano privately in New York City  to supplement my income while working on my doctorate. From time to time, the phone would ring, and I would find myself talking to prospective students. I soon learned that I did not need to feel very anxious about it, because only one thing mattered to them, and I could deliver...
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Piano Talk

​For quite some time, I've found myself noting the vocabulary we use to describe our peculiar life-enterprise as pianists. We steal from everywhere, and each theft seems to convey some facet of our identity. Some of those identities might best be discarded; others serve to remind us vividly of music's broad affinities.  I was first struck...
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Preparing the mind and body for performance: Conquering stage fright through effective practice

The brain is a complex organ. It controls our systemic functions and sparks our moods, thoughts, and actions.  Physiologically, the brain registers fear differently, depending upon the threat. People suffering from panic attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a "flight or fight" response, but those grappling with performance anx...
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The power of one--a legacy of beautiful music

Back in the 1930s a young Venezuelan pianist wished to further her musical studies , and did exactly what many aspiring musicians from North and South America chose to do in those days: she went to Europe to study. After completing her studies in Paris, she made two life-altering decisions: she returned home to Venezuela, and she became a nun. Sist...
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Changing the tune

We've all had the experience of having a lesson veer into high intensity, whether from an overstressed student, a grumpy teacher, or both. The result? As the tension mounts, the learning process gets stymied. This is particularly likely to happen when preparing a student for an upcoming evaluation, recital, or competition. We can try to plow throug...
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An ethical dilemma

​Most of us have, at some point in our lives, been urged to be the best that we can be—to work the hardest, study the longest, practice the most. But what if you hear that the person against whom you are competing for a job or important gig is taking enhancement drugs that allow them to need less sleep, stay more focused, and become mentally sharpe...
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