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Studio Sign

Thursday, 12 September 2013

September 2013 Newsletter

Cedar Grove Piano Studio 

 September 2013 Newsletter

New Students:
                I’m very pleased to welcome back all of my students from last year! It’s great to have you back again.  I have a few new students this year.  A big welcome to Donna Leroux, Sharon Murray, Hayden Mader, Kyle Gaucher, Johnny Everett, Chris Everett, Sonja Frei, and Lauren Lafleche. As you can see, I am very busy this year and rescheduling lessons will be difficult.  Please remember to give me as much notice as possible to facilitate this process.  Remember that I am not obligated to reschedule and I only do so if we can come to a mutually agreeable time. Your current payment allows for at least 3 missed lessons during the year.

Congratulations Lauren and Evelyn!!!
                Special congratulations goes out to Lauren Roberts and Evelyn Cumming!  Both Lauren and Evelyn completed a Grade 5 Royal Conservatory Exam this past June.  They both received a mark of 85% - earning them First Class Honours!  Congratulations on all the hard work you both put into this exam!

Fall Challenge:
                Interested parents may want to take a peek inside the music room to see the dancing music notes taped onto my wall.  Stickers are earned for completed homework, exercise books, scales, sight-reading, and of course songs learned. For every three stickers earned, your student’s name is entered into a draw for a prize. The draw will be done the second to last week of lessons in December and the prizes awarded the last week of lessons. From years past, I know that there will be lots of little eyes watching the progress of the “note thermometers”!

Piano Tuning:
                Now is the time to make sure that if you have an acoustic piano that you get it tuned.  It only costs a little over $100 and is well worth it to make sure everything in your instrument is operating properly and is in good tune.  Students should have their pianos tuned at least once per year – more if it tends to go out of tune. If you need a recommendation for a piano tuner, please try Peter Kilpatrick.  He is very thorough and the best that I know of.  His phone number is 613-346-0460

Everyone is expected to participate in the recital at the end of the year.  It is a wonderful way to celebrate the progress that has been made during the year and to use our talents to entertain.  

Festivals and other performance opportunities:

            We have 2 performance opportunities this year in addition to the year-end recital. The Kinsmen Music Festival, if it runs as it did last year, will take place in February with a December deadline.  This is not a competitive festival, but a workshop in which the students perform and receive specific feedback to improve their performance in a workshop setting.  This is appropriate for those who are not beginners.

In April, the MCM Festival takes place at the Abbey for the arts in Glen Nevis.  In the past, this has been the main festival in which we participate. Their deadline is mid-February and performances take place in mid-April during the week Pieces prepared for one festival could be performed in the other to keep things simple!

            I am also tossing around the idea of a “Studio Festival” where just students from this studio could participate in a workshop/festival.  For those who find it hard to participate in the MCM festival, or find it expensive, this would be a great alternative. It would also be a great warm-up for the MCM festival as I would plan to hold it just prior to the MCM festival. More on this later in the year.

            These are great opportunities for students to “strut their stuff” so to speak.  I do not require students to participate, but I would highly recommend participating in at least one of these, as it allows students to play in front of other students at their own level and to receive adjudication from someone other than myself.  The experience opens their eyes to new songs and degrees of excellence that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to see.  It can really excite them to continue their studies.... and everyone wants to see that happen. I will have more details later in the year for those who are interested.

Practicing: (ouch!)
Signing up for piano lessons is one thing… practicing every day is quite another. Unlike other extra-curricular activities in which your child might participate, learning an instrument takes a commitment each day to practice (translation for kids – play their tunes). Here is a time guide:

First year students under 8 years old:  15 – 20 minutes each day
All other students:  minimum 30 minutes each day – or the same length as your lesson time.

 If you set a time for your child to practise every day so that they get into the routine of doing it, you will find that they will progress very well. By establishing a routine, they will understand better what is expected, and you will have fewer problems getting them to do it. Just treat it as a necessary thing - like brushing their teeth. Some parents find it easier to “dangle a carrot” - so maybe a small reward if their practising is completed every week - a treat - or special privilege can do the trick. Whatever works for your household and manner of parenting.  If you need some suggestions, let me know and I can help you with that. I will be giving guidance to each student on that topic.
I’m thrilled to have so many returning pianists this year and of course beginning students. It’s exciting to see the lights go on once they understand how to read notes.  And it’s exciting to see them enthusiastic over an instrument that I really love!  If you have any questions or issues, please feel free to discuss them with me at the beginning of your child’s lesson or over the phone or email.


Tips and Tricks to keep your aspiring pianist practicing:

1. Be present:  This means that you need to interact with them while they are practicing.  Words of encouragement such as “good try”, “let’s hear that again”, “I really like that song – can you do it again for me?”, and encouraging them to play for family and friends, really makes playing the piano fun.  Try to keep comments positive.

 2.  Length of practice versus quality of practice:   The quality of practice always trumps the length of practice.  If a student is not following my instructions or practicing the assigned pieces, then there is no quality of practice and their time is actually wasted. I give time guidelines for practice because I know from experience that it usually takes a certain amount of time to cover a certain amount of material at a given level.  However, it is more important that the student practice each song the way they have been told, for a minimum of 3 repetitions ( 5 is best).  So if your child finishes in 20 minutes what others need 30 minutes to do – then fine.  Just make sure they are actually practicing what is written in their notebook.  Some kids just love to “mission” the work, and others are more diddly about it.

2. Try shorter but more frequent practice times:  Perhaps your little one is finding 20 minutes too long to sit.  You could try 10 minutes twice a day. I’m not sure how many families have the luxury of doing that, but if it might work for you, then give it a try.

3. Be consistent:  Find a time that works every day for you and your child.  Our kids practiced every day before school… all three of them if you can believe that!  We started at 6:30 in the morning and went until 8:30.  It was a necessity since our piano was always busy after school with lessons.  If possible, pick a time when they are rested and fed, and can focus, and make it the same time each day.

4. Try not to over-schedule:  I often have kids come in quite frustrated that they have not been able to find time to practice.  They just have too much on the go every night of the week.  Piano requires consistent practice and it should be done every day.  If your child has an activity every night of the week, it becomes difficult for them to fit in the practice they need to succeed and they become overwhelmed and frustrated.  Just be watchful of this.  We all seem so busy, rushing here and there.  Sometimes it’s better to be really good at one or two things than mediocre at a lot of things.

5. Make it fun:  Some kids have a hard time with the idea of having to repeat a song 5 times every day. So do something to make it fun if you have this problem. 
Buy some small candies like smarties or rockets or use raisins or chocolate chips, and let them have one each time they play the song. You can line up 5 on the piano and let them eat one each time they play.  It might be healthier and almost as much fun to have little buttons or animals that they move over as they complete a repetition.
Some of you might see that I’ve put 5 checkmarks beside their songs in their books.  They can use a different colour each day and mark off each time they play the song on each checkmark. 
Some kids respond well to having a chart each week to check off when they’ve practiced and how many times they’ve played the song.  As long as they are honest about this (and you as a parent can keep an eye on this), it can be quite rewarding just seeing all the stickers/checkmarks at the end of the week.  I know it may seem silly, but if you could only see how many of the kids are checking out the Fall Challenge wall of Stickers every week, you’d know how well this can work. You can make this more interesting by offering a small reward for work well done – like earning computer time or some other privilege that the child values. 

6. If your child is under 8 years old:  You really need to be involved.  Children below 8 years of age are not likely to practice independently.  Yes, some will, but the majority will not.  I know you did not sign up to spend the time everyday to sit with your child, but that is the reality of what you need to do.  Be in the room, listen, make sure they are reading their book, or read it to them.  Even If you don’t know a thing about the piano, you can still be a big help. Reading their notebook to them, or just helping them keep track of how many times they’ve played a song – really helps.  And encouraging words are always appropriate. Don’t be afraid to sit in on their lesson to find out what we are doing and where they need help.  You are always welcome.

7. Make sure the punishment fits the crime.  Too often I hear parents threatening that if practice is not done, then something drastic is going to happen…. No birthday party for you… or you can’t go to your friend’s party, or - yikes! You’re not going on vacation with us next week! Really?  Kids are not stupid.  They know when it’s overboard and they really do expect you to be fair.  They also need the discipline of you being able and willing to follow through with your punishment. So find the thing that turns their crank… are they always on the DS/computer/reading/whatever?  Then use that to your advantage.  Make them earn the privilege of having that item in their life.  For however many minutes of practice, they earn an equivalent number of minutes for their privilege.  It’s a no-brainer.  Some kids just thrive on this.  Others don’t need it at all… they do better with rewards like stickers or a small treat. Better yet, try to avoid the punishment thing and go with rewards… always seems to work better – even for us adults

If you aren’t having problems – Super!  Just keep these suggestions handy for when you might have some trouble. These suggestions will work for a season to get you through a rough patch or to help you establish a routine.
There is a page up on the website that addresses some different ways to practice problem areas for students in Grade 1 and beyond. Be sure to check it out if your child is in a more advanced level.

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