Week 1 is done, and I completed each challenge! It was nice to take a little time each day to do some professional development--although to be honest there were a couple of challenges that were completed at 10 pm in my pajamas because I procrastinated. Oops! I will try to manage my time better in week 2.
Here is my wrap-up of week 1:
Review one piece you have performed in the past.
- Done! Although, I feel like I may have cheated a bit on today’s challenge, because I reviewed several short pieces I performed very recently—in April, in fact! These pieces were duets, selections from “Carnival of the Animals” (Saint-Saens), “Dolly Suite” (Faure), and “Mother Goose Suite” (Ravel). Even though these pieces weren’t too rusty, it definitely made me aware of how much my practicing has slacked off since April’s concert. I definitely need to make daily practice more of a priority!
- Done! I chose to analyze “Arabesque” by Burgmuller, a piece I have taught many times before. Since this is an easy one, I analyzed not only the harmonies but also the form, the phrase structure, and the melodic patterns. Although I have taught this piece many times, I had never noticed that every single melodic pattern is based on one of 4 five-finger scales: A minor, D minor, C major, and E major. There are also a couple of V of V harmonies that I should be using as teaching points with my students. I definitely learned some things that will help the next time I teach this piece.
- Done! I can’t remember the last time I played in one sitting all the major scales and arpeggios in progressive rhythms up to 4 octaves. Thank goodness for muscle memory! I guess I feel about playing scales the same way I feel about exercising—I don’t always feel like doing it, but I always feel better when I do! Maybe I should brainstorm some ways to make practicing scales more exciting for me and my students this coming year….
- Done! Since today is Independence Day here in the USA, I decided to research a few unfamiliar American composers. I turned to a trusty studio resource—Jane Magrath’s “The Pianist’s Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature” and read through the 20th Century Literature section of the book. One composer that stood out was Seymour Bernstein; I think his two sets of pieces entitled “Birds” might be a great choice for one of my students this year who has written a few bird-inspired compositions. Another interesting character was Virgil Thomson, who wrote hundreds of “musical portraits;” his subjects would sit for him, as if posing for a portrait, and Thomson would write a piece that reflected the subject’s personality. Interesting stuff!
- Done! This is a topic that has been on my mind recently because I have a few gaps in my schedule for the fall that I would really like to fill. Here are my ideas (but I would love to hear from other teachers what they have done too!):
- Let my existing families know I have openings for new students—especially those with siblings or those that could extend to a longer lesson. I find the most reliable and committed new students are those that are referred to me by the students I already teach. I think this would be a great place to start marketing.
- Email a few of my fellow teachers and let them know I have openings. I have referred students to these teachers many times when my studio was full; I am sure they would be happy to return the favor if they have students they can’t place in their own schedules!
- Investigate the Nextdoor app. A teacher friend of mine recently told me that he received 4 inquiries from new students in one day after a student’s family posted his information on the Nextdoor app for their neighborhood. This might be a great way to market for myself!
Listen to a piece by an unfamiliar composer.
- Done! Following up on my challenge from Wednesday, I listened to a couple of Virgil Thomson’s portrait pieces for piano solo. While I listened, I read a bit more about his compositional process, and how he incorporated into the composition not only the personalities of his portraits’ subjects, but also events that happened as he was composing the music…for example, the time that Picasso dropped by as he was working on a portrait! I’d love to listen further to Thomson’s works when I have more time this summer.
Read a blog post or article about a pedagogical topic.
- Done! I read an interesting article by Wendy Stevens of ComposeCreate.com about improving your studio by finding your “hedgehog concept.” This concept is a combination of what you are most passionate about teaching, what you do well, and what drives your “economic engine.” By focusing on these things, and letting go of the things that aren’t working for you, Wendy suggests you can move your studio from “good to great.” I think the article makes some great points. I would add that I think it is also important to maintain a balance between the “tried and true” techniques that work for your studio and learning new ideas that help you to continue to grow and stretch as a musician and teacher. You can read Wendy’s article HERE (and check out the many other great resources on her website!)
So, that is it for Week 1! What are your thoughts on this challenge? I would love to hear from you in the comments!