11 December 2012

Randomness: On Teaching Music + Country

I don't think that I ever divulged this in my earlier posts, but I am an avid music lover, play piano (since I was 9), and I teach piano as well. I taught my first student when I was 12, and have continued ever since. I love the Faber series for teaching beginning students, but I'm always on the prowl for other methods (with differing pedagogic approaches) to incorporate into lessons with all of my students. The following is a re-post from my CN blog when I was contemplating such things and just musing about music materials in general:

All I want for Christmas is money. I have so much to buy! I need textbooks for next semester, I'd like some new clothes/shoes and hair accessories, and I need to buy new books for my students! I'm adding 3-4 more bambinos to my roster next semester, which means more revenue for me, but also more responsibility in how well I prepare my lessons and selecting quality materials to use.

The Faber Piano Adventures series is my favorite, but it's also one of the pricier lines and it has lots of supplements. They recently updated the first 3-4 levels in the series to a newer edition that is an even better version of the first, so now there's teacher's guides (I've never used one to teach piano before; but I think it'd help me get new ideas and techniques), CDs, at least 6 repertoire books, sightreading, flash cards, assignment books, etc. It's slightly overwhelming to say the least.

Recently, I've experimented with different methods of music theory, as well. I tried Level A of the Alfred Basic Piano Library with one of my students, and it's not going well with the music alphabet. So I brought in good ol' trusty Faber to remedy the situation. She's doing fine now, so she just might be getting the second half of Faber next semester. One successful deviation from Faber has been the Hal Leonard series. I started one of my more vivacious students with it, and it teaches in a manner very similar to Faber. I especially like the multi-sensory way that it goes over the music alphabet (utilising a goodly number of learning modalities). She's on Level A, and graciously, it comes with a handy checklist in the front pages, and a CD in the back for listening. A great all-in-one method for beginning students.

One of my most challenging aspects has been deciding which series to use with which students. The success of a particular method of teaching can depend a lot on the student's personality. More math-y students do well with Alfred. Faber is great for anybody, and is strong on theory, sightreading, scales, chords (inversions, progressions...) and whatnot. Hal Leonard is likewise. Bastien is a stuck-in-the-70s version of Alfred. The pictures are distasteful and clownish looking. Ugh.

For every student, I've basically narrowed down what I do to select . I typically give 30 minute lessons, give 5-10 minutes depending on different variables. Within that time frame, it's not possible to use the lesson, theory, performance, and technique books. The attention span and distractability (yes I made that up  ) of 6 year olds just doesn't permit it. So, at minimum, I buy the lesson, theory and performance books for every student. The flashcards I hold off on until they learn some basic terminology (dynamics, note values, music alphabet, grand staff, etc.), and those are easily split apart since they're color coded. I may or may not do technique, depending on the student. The kiddos I have this semester all have very small hands, so I'll be adding in some technique next semester. Besides all that, I ask each child which type of repertoire book s/he wants. One boy wanted the rock 'n roll book because he said that he likes rocks lol. Little kids...

Ooh! I forgot to mention that Alfred actually also updated its entire series to become the Alfred Premier series. I'd like to invest in the complete kit and look it over, but that'd put me out $35 :-/ Maybe they have sample books...

So, there's a peek into my non-hair related life. I think I'll do more posts about music, actually. I love it, and teaching is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life. Y'all don't mind, right? :-) I love sharing music with others.

I have another bit of non hair-related anecdotes. I shared this with one of my good friends (and fellow DMV curlies), Raven, from the CN forums. It brings me so much joy now:

Remember how I embarrassed myself with that cute camera guy last week (another story for another day)? Well, something similar happened yesterday when Matt (one of my friends from Scholars; we live 10 minutes away from each other and Julia [another D-mas resident], so we carpool a lot) was driving me home on Thursday. He likes country music and I'm not opposed to it, so we listened to it on the way back to the sticks of Damascus. As he turned onto this dark, winding road, there was a bit of a lull in our conversation, and suddenly (Seymour - Little Shop of Horrors, anybody? :-D ), a man's voice came from the speakers and began to melodically pine for the girl that he was sitting next to. Neither of us said anything, but in my head I was like o_O Then, right after that song, another one came on about a man driving some girl home, and how his eyes were on the road but his mind was on her body. Matt and I both have long arms, and we both happened to have had our elbows on the arm rest in the center. I froze, unsure as to whether it would be more awkward to keep my arm against his or quickly bring it back to my side. Hardly had I time to contemplate this decision, when yet another ditty played, sung by some whiny woman wanting her boyfriend back. The level of awkwardness (in my mind, at least) went from a 10 to a 99.999 (on a scale of 1-5). We did start talking by the third song, but I could still hear the lyrics o_O

SN: So many funny things happen with Matt that I've decided to give him a special spot in my blog: Schwarzenberg Tales! I'll likely have installments every week :-D

And there you have it...a glance into my mundane life. More musings to come if y'all don't mind! :-D

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