February was a bit of a stressful month around my studio. Many of my students were preparing to participate in our local National Federation of Music Clubs’ Junior Festival. And as nervous as they were about playing, I think I was even more nervous for them.

Needless to say, we’re all a bit more relaxed now that Festival is over, but I like to help ease my students back into their normal routine So how do you unwind after an event such as this — or similarly, a recital or big audition?

Here are a few of my favorite ways to do so.

The Music Lesson
How do you teach music? When do you start teaching musicality? What is musicality? What is music? In his book, The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music, Victor Wooten, five-time Grammy Award winner bass guitarist, gives many avenues for discovery into these questions. I found it to be a very provocative book and plan to read it again. Those who have read Richard Bach’s Illusions will find this story very similar. Additionally, there is an audio book available that is excellent and was named as a 2011 Audie finalist.

In Measure One (chapter one), Victor, a struggling bass guitarist finds himself low on income with no upcoming performance engagements and decides that he better “practice.” Practicing scales, chords, and arpeggios, he quickly loses interest and gets sleepy. Suddenly, the teacher appears, dressed in a NASA-style blue jumpsuit with a motorcycle helmet on his head, carrying a skateboard in one hand and a burlap sack on his back. His name is Michael and he states that he is a teacher. When asked of what, he replies, “a teacher of nothing.” The discussion winds its way around to music, and Michael asks the student, “What is music?” After more dialogue, Michael finally says, “Music comes from the word mu which is the ancient word for mother; sic is an abbreviation of science. Therefore, music is the mother of all sciences.” “Music is important.”

DSC06240 copyMany years ago I instituted a policy in my studio about playing in outside ensembles. The policy states that beginning in 6th grade, every student must commit to a weekly ensemble experience outside of lessons and group classes (my core program includes a weekly private lesson and bi-weekly flute group classes). School band or orchestra, local area chamber music, youth symphony or wind ensemble, even a group of kids forming a rock band that agrees to meet regularly, all ensemble opportunities “count”.

Two common struggles of teachers/studio owners are motivating students and keeping students long-term.   These are, of course, related to each other.  A student who isn’t motivated to practice his instrument probably isn’t enjoying the experience and isn’t progrPejman-Recital-Hollandessing, and it’s likely that it won’t be long before his family feels the investment is a waste of money and decides to pull their child out of lessons. 

That said, I’ve never been one to implement reward programs to try to motivate a student.  I’ve known teachers who provide prizes or even monetary rewards for students who practice a certain number of times per week, but in my experience these can be ineffective and expensive.  Instead, I have found that providing students with performance opportunities motivates students to practice and in doing so, helps encourage a long-term relationship with the student and his family.

Carnegie hall Attention: Music Teachers! Do you know how your students can get to Carnegie Hall? Of course they have to “practice, practice, practice,” but you can increase their chances by recommending that they participate in The Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program (TAP for short).

WHAT is it?

TAP provides a recognized national standard of musical success through an effectively sequenced course of study from beginner to advanced levels. First of all, a bit of recent history: last year The Royal Conservatory Program partnered with Carnegie Hall to create TAP. Prior to TAP, the program here in the United States was formerly called The National Music Certificate Program (NMCP) and before that, The Royal American Conservatory Examinations (RACE). Though it is fairly new here, the Royal Conservatory was founded in 1886 as the Toronto Conservatory of Music. Interestingly, its founder, Edward Fisher, was a young organist born in the U.S. The Conservatory offically opened in September of 1887 and is now celebrating its 125th year. The mission of The Royal Conservatory is “to develop human potential through music and the arts.” Notable alumni include Glenn Gould who graduated from the Conservatory with highest honors at age 12.

TAP encompasses four main areas: repertoire, technique, musicianship, and musical literacy. The program covers all instruments, voice, and the academic areas of theory, music history, and pedagogy. The Piano Syllabus consists of ten Grades with a theory assessment requirement beginning at Grade 5. Included also are elementary and intermediate piano pedagogy, as well as diplomas in Piano Performance and Piano Pedagogy.