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First Looks: Apps for Teaching

Paper leaves a trail, and usually the trail leads to the trash can. For that reason, I prefer to avoid paper and ink and offer virtual lesson assignment sheets. All my notes for student lessons are written in Pages, a word processor app similar to Word and available for all iOS devices. The notes are emailed as a PDF (portable document file) after ...
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Keyboard Kids' Companion

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To print, use the PDF below. Just click on the black bar at the top and click on the print icon!  Alternatively, you can use the down arrow and save it to your computer for sending to your favorite local office supply store for printing.   Download PDF File Here
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Pencil Practice 101

​Recognizing chord symbols is one of the biggest obstacles faced by beginning improvisers learning to play from lead sheets. Just as foreign language students write conjugations to become better speakers, pianists can improve their chord fluency with pencil practice away from the piano. Writing chords by key Follow these steps together with your st...
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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 "How-Tos" of Practicing

Probably the most important thing we can teach our students is how to practice. And, one of the most challenging things we teach is how to practice well. When we teach practice strategies that instill attention to detail and develop problem-solving skills, we help students understand how to organize life's challenges into daily, weekly, and longer-...
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Tackling a twelve-year old's slump

Katherine, one of my more talented students, recently gave me this honest description of a typical practice session. She is twelve.  "It takes me forever to get myself to stop what I am doing and go to the piano. When and if I do get there, I usually begin my practice by playing a chromatic scale the entire length of the keyboard— first with m...
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What matters more: talent or effort?

Recently I saw a cartoon that showed two smiling parents watching their child as he brushed his teeth. A banner was posted over the top of the bathroom mirror that said, "Congratulations on brushing your teeth!" One parent was looking adoringly at the child, hands clasped, while the other stated, "I just feel like we're setting him up to be disappo...
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Thoughts on the Tiger Mom debate

To say that Amy Chua has touched a nerve with parents is an understatement akin to saying that Franz Liszt had an influence on piano performance and teaching. Since the publication of her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in January, and the subsequent Wall Street Journal article "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior," a firestorm of discussion and ...
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How can student notebooks be more effective?

W hen I first started teaching, I was determined not to make my students fill out the dreaded practice log. As a young teacher, I still had fresh memories of my own student days, and times spent scrambling right before a lesson to reconstruct (or perhaps invent?) my practice times for the week. Even as a kid, it seemed like a pointless exercise to ...
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Chopin's teaching

We all know Chopin's piano literature-almost every serious piano student plays (or aspires to play) his works. But what do we know about Chopin's teaching? After  all, teaching was an important part of his life and provided his main source of income . 1 What can we take from Chopin's teaching in the 1800s and apply to our own professional mode...
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Preparing for competitions

Piano instruction in France I grew up in France, where the system of piano instruction is totally different from that of the United States. It is virtually free to the student, costing about three hundred dollars a year. To continue lessons, however, students must pass rigid examinations in piano performance; these include twelve progressive levels...
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How do you assign repertoire to the "overstretched" student who has little time to practice?

In recent  conversations with piano teachers, several have expressed some discouragement in their teaching because  students frequently come to lessons too exhausted to play, or even think, and have had little time to practice. After reflecting on this, I believe as piano teachers, we are music educators first. Being professional musician...
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Culture of caution

Our culture is saturated with slogans, advertising and otherwise, encouraging people to be bold and brave and fearless. No fear.  You go, girl!  Go for it!  Just do it!  Yes  you can! Given the sheer volume and intensity of these and other slogans, one would think that we all would have assimilated the message by now and ou...
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Praise for nothing means nothing

My six-year-old granddaughter plays soccer in a league where the coaches and parents refuse to keep score, because they want the children to "feel good about them- selves and their performance." One afternoon my husband made the mistake of cheering on Corinne's team as it made a goal. Within earshot of our granddaughter, the coach took him aside an...
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How do you teach students who learn at a slower pace? Part I

from the series: Issues and Ideas: Perspectives in Pedagogy Rebecca Johnson, Editor Over the years, I have received requests to teach students with vari ous disabilities. I have always refused because I felt ignorant and ill-equipped to work with children who have these kinds of challenges. However, about a year ago I accepted into my studio a...
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A Teacher's Roundtable on Solutions to Common Practice Problems

from the series: ​The Other Teacher: Home Practice Elvina Pearce, Editor For our Home Practice column in this issue, we have invited five highly successful teachers to become a roundtable panel and share with us some of their solutions to the most common issues  which have to be addressed in their own studios, and which those of us who te...
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How do you teach students to listen to themselves as they practice?

from the series: ​The Other Teacher: Home Practice In an interview with Nelita True which appeared in the Home Practice column of the Autumn 2002 issue of K eyboard Companion, she was asked, "What do you consider to be the most important thing you do when practicing?" Her answer was, "Listening!" In the same article, when asked, "What things a...
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What practice strategies would you assign for the "Fantasy Dance" from Op. 124 by Schumann?

from the series: ​The Other Teacher: Home Practice Elvina Pearce, Editor Over the years I have always found the "Fantasy Dance" of Schumann ("Phantasietanz," No. 5 from the  Album L ea ves, Op . 124) to be an excellent teaching piece for the early advanced student. Marked pre s to, it is brilliant, and dramatic - a wonderful "show-off" pi...
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The Other Teacher: Home Practice

Elvina Pearce, nationally recognized pianist, teacher, lecturer, author, and composer, studied piano with Isabelle Vengerova and pedagogy with Frances Clark. For 14 years, she taught pedagogy and directed the Preparatory Piano Division at Northwestern University. She currently teaches at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois where she also ...
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How Do You Motivate Your Students to Practice Technique?

I am often touched by the sincere desire of music teachers to improve themselves and the lives of their students. It's ironic that so many large international corporations have only recently discovered the virtues of continuous improvement (one of the buzzwords of business in the '90s), for indeed we music teachers have known its benefits all along...
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