Goals for 2014: July Update

Goals for 2014: July Update

Can you believe we're more than halfway through 2014?! It's been a crazy year so far but a lot of good has come from it! Here is an update on the goals I set at the beginning of this year:

Schedule more emails - Boomerang is the best. I schedule all my invoices at once each month - huge time-saver!

No checking email after dinner - I did pretty well with this during the semester, but I've slacked off this summer. Time to get back to better boundaries!

Streamline the workflow of my business - I did some research at the beginning of the year on invoice management programs, but I'm not sure it's the right time to introduce something like this into my studio. Working on a few new plans for billing and payments to implement in September.

Start a new mini blog series - Yes! I created a Taxes for Freelancers series this spring - see posts here, here, here, and here.

Read The $100 Startup - Started it this month!

Piano Olympics Festival

Piano Olympics-01.png

Aren’t the Olympics exciting?! 

I love how they bring people together – across nations – to recognize and celebrate hard work, excellence, and achievement

These are things I want to celebrate in my students.

So, inspired by this year’s Winter Olympics and drawing on the five colored rings in the Olympic logo, I created a piano festival based on five key aspects of musicianship:

Blue – Sight-Reading
Gold – Memorization + Performance
Black – Aural Skills (clap-backs, sing-backs, play-backs)
Green – Creativity (improvisation, composition)
Red – Technique

This festival is based on a series of weekly “events” – students will have the opportunity to choose which events they would like to “train” for and participate in. 

My goal is to focus on one ring at a time, for teaching efficiency and to keep students from getting overwhelmed. Together, we will choose events (2-3 per category); I will give students practice materials to take home so they can prepare for the events. Most events are designed to take place in the lessons. 

Once students successfully complete the required number of events for a given category, they will earn that Olympic ring.  After all rings have been earned, the student will receive a certificate of achievement and perhaps a small prize for participating.

The events are as follows:

Blue: Sight-Reading

Olympic training: sight-play something new 7 days in a row

Sight-Reading Events: Choose 2

Halfpipe: sight-play two contrasting short pieces
500m Freestyle: sight-read two contrasting rhythm exercises, counting out loud
Remix: sight-play a short exercise with RH, then LH
Short Track Relay: sing, speak rhythm, and play new piece on your own

Gold: Memorization + Performance

Olympic training: practice 7 days in a row

Memorizing + Performance Events:Choose 2

Speed Skating: polish and memorize 1-2 pieces from earlier in the year
Giant Slalom: learn a continuous technique sequence from memory
Semifinal: perform two pieces from memory for friends or family

Black: Aural Skills

Olympic training: copy tonal and rhythm patterns from recording – sing-back or clap-back

Aural Skills Events: Choose 2

Curling: perform two contrasting rhythm exercises, counting out loud
Free Skating: create your own rhythmic series for practice – minimum: four bars
Qualifying: sing and play a new song by ear – choose something you know

Green: Creativity

Olympic training: transpose three short pieces to a new key this week

Creativity Events: Choose 2

Freestyle Skiing: compose a new piece
Bobsled: perform a structured improvisation with teacher or family member
Figure Skating: compose or improvise a duet with a friend

Red: Technique

Olympic training: practice a different technique exercise every day for 7 days

Technique Events: Choose 3

Ski Jumping: play five continuous 5-finger or one-octave scales in steady tempo
Cross-Country Skiing: play three major/minor triads (Prep B/Level 1: with inversions), HS
Biathlon: play one 5-finger or one-octave scale – one hand legato, one hand staccato, HS
Snowboarding: play two 5-finger or one-octave scales, descending first, then ascending, HS
Ice Dancing: play two 5-finger or one-octave scales in contrary motion, HT

Free Download:
Piano Olympics Planning & Resource Guide

Download this free guide, complete with helpful resources and materials for facilitating these events with Preparatory A, Preparatory B, and Level 1 students (based on the levels of the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Music Development Program).

Resources used in this project:

Please note: some of these links are affiliate links, which means if you decide to purchase through any of them, I will earn a small commission. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue creating free content. Thank you for your support!

Gig Harbor Music Teachers Association
Susan Griesdale
Chanson Voice Studio
Joy Morin/Color in My Piano
Keyboard Musicianship for the Adult Beginner (Frances Clark)
Music Tree Activities, Part I (Frances Clark)
Royal Conservatory of Music, Music Development Program
Developing Musicianship Through Improvisation (Azzara/Grunow)

The Adjunct: The First Year

You're probably wondering, "What happened after that post about becoming an adjunct back in August?  How were the classes?"  Well, I'm back with a full year of college teaching experience under my belt and four classes (two each semester) on my resume.  But that's not enough for me.  I want to know what I can improve, how I can teach more effectively, and how the students perceived the class.  What better way to get this feedback than by creating an end-of-the-semester assessment!  (Dorky, I know.) The university does a course assessment at the end of each semester; however, I as a teacher did not receive this feedback until FOUR MONTHS into the next semester!  My solution: Create my own one-page assessment to give to students on the same day as the university assessments.  I had two envelopes - one for me and one for the university.  This way I get instant results... and feedback from the school in about four months.

I asked the following questions about the course itself:

1. Please state your reason(s) for taking this course (i.e. elective, interest, minor) 2. Did you have any prior experience with the piano prior to taking this course? 3. Please describe your favorite aspect of this course 4. How can this course be improved in the future? 5. Did this course meet your expectations?

Then I asked students to rate my teaching effectiveness (5-point scale: 1-Strongly disagree, 2-Disagree, 3-Neither agree nor disagree, 4-Agree, 5-Strongly agree)

1. Demonstrates commitment to each student's progress 2. Seeks a good, working relationship with students 3. Selects appropriate material for learning new concepts 4. Establishes a welcoming learning environment 5. Introduces new concepts in a clear manner 6. Demonstrates enthusiasm in teaching 7. Addresses technical challenges and works to resolve them 8. Presents an extensive knowledge of musical style 9. Introduces music theory concepts in a clear manner 10. Establishes strategies for effective practicing 11. Respects the needs and goals of the student 12. Prepares and encourages students for and in performance 13. Manages class time effectively 14. Approachable; open to communication

I had 11 students submit responses.  Here are the results:

Course Assessment Question #1: Almost half stated, "Interest in improving piano skills;" about a third said, "Elective;" and only one indicated "Humanities requirement."

Question #2: Five said, "Yes;" six said, "No."

Question #3: One indicated, "Sheet Music;" one said, "How we were tested;" five students said either, "Playing the piano," or "Learning how to play;" one said, "Learning how to read music;" one said, "All of it;" and one said, "Being able to make constant strides in the understanding of the piano and how to play it."

Question #4: One commented, "Better classroom;" four students said, "More class time," or "Meet more times per week;" two had no suggestions for improvement; one suggested, "Instructor play more;" and two said, "Spend more time on important lessons rather than going at such a fast pace."

Question #5: All students responded, "Yes."

Teacher Assessment #1 - Six students said, "5-Strongly agree;" five said, "4-Agree" #2 - Ten students said, "5-Strongly agree;" one said, "4-Agree" #3 - Nine students said, "5-Strongly agree;" two said, "4-Agree" #4 - Seven students said, "5-Strongly agree;" four said, "4-Agree" #5 - Eight students said, "5-Strongly agree;" two said, "4-Agree;" one said, "3-Neither agree nor disagree" #6 - Six students said, "5-Strongly agree;" five said, "4-Agree" #7 - Five students said, "5-Strongly agree;" five said, "4-Agree;" one said, "3-Neither agree nor disagree" #8 - Ten students said, "5-Strongly agree;" one said, "4-Agree" #9 - Six students said, "5-Strongly agree;" five said, "4-Agree" #10 - Nine students said, "5-Strongly agree;" two said, "4-Agree" #11 - Nine students said, "5-Strongly agree;" two said, "4-Agree" #12 - Eight students said, "5-Strongly agree;" three said, "4-Agree" #13 - Eight students said, "5-Strongly agree;" three said, "4-Agree" #14 - Ten students said, "5-Strongly agree;" one said, "4-Agree"

I was pretty pleased with the results!  The answers to these questions are so helpful in my future course-planning.  I can self-evaluate all semester but in the end, it's the student opinion that matters the most.

If you made it this far, thanks for bearing with me!  I not only survived my first year of college teaching, I learned a great deal!  Looking forward to more opportunities like this in the future.

Setting Studio Goals

This is the first week of the spring term at the Studio and I have all of my piano students setting goals.  #1: Practice ___ times per week, #2: Practice ___ minutes per day. The idea came in part from a suggestion from a parent on an assessment that I sent out at the end of last semester.  She was seeking a way to keep her 7-year-old daughter more accountable at home.  To paraphrase, “She loves playing and she looks forward to lessons; yet somehow she never forgets to do her homework but she always forgets to practice the piano.”  In response, I created a one-page chart listing Monday-Sunday with a column for items practiced and number of minutes.  The two goals are listed at the top.

It’s interesting to hear the goals these students set for themselves: most say they will aim to practice 4-5 times a week with practice sessions ranging from 15 minutes to 25 minutes.  They also get a thrill adding up the number of minutes they will practice per week.

I think goal-setting is extremely important.  I could dictate that my students practice 5 days a week for 30 minutes each day but I feel that it’s important for the students to set these initial goals themselves.  After a few weeks of hopefully successful practicing, I might suggest that we increase those goals.  This way, however, the student has the ownership.  It’s not a mandate from me or from their parents, it’s a goal they themselves set out to achieve.

This is the first time I have presented practicing goals to my students so we’ll see how much they achieve in the weeks to come!