Program Development

Art of PossibilityIn March, I traveled to New York City for the Music Teachers National Conference. Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, gave the keynote address on themes from the book that he and his wife wrote entitled, “The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life.” A colleague and I arrived early for the session and were greeted warmly with a friendly smile and handshake by Zander himself! He inquired where we were from and took a sincere interest in us. I knew at that moment that this would be a special session. And it was – it was truly transformational.

Zander began his talk unconventionally by walking from the front to the back of the room. He mentioned why people choose to sit in the back or the front row. Often, people won’t choose to be in the front row because they think it is saved for V.I.P. “Back rowers” like to be able to make a quick exit, sleep or text. Those who choose to be in the front row are open to receive (we had hesitantly chosen to sit in the front row!). Since the front row seats were not full, he invited folks to move up into them.

We all have the choice to be in the front row of our lives. According to Zander, our choices can be boiled down to either an upward or downward spiral (winning or losing, succes or failure), or the “radiating circle of possibility.” He said, “The world will show up entirely in the way you create it.” In other words, the secret of life is that, “It is all invented.”

Integrity definition Spring has definitely sprung! Soon your phone will be ringing (or your inbox will by chiming!) with parents of prospective students. How do you handle a transfer from a different teacher? If handled poorly, you lose respect among your colleagues. I have experienced both sides of the transfer student dilemma. When faced with this circumstance, one must practice integrity. Webster’s defines integrity as “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”

The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) provides a Code ot Ethics that addresses this issue in its Commitment to Colleagues section:

    The teacher shall maintain a professional attitude and shall act with integrity in regard to colleagues in the profession.

Furthermore, the last two bullets in the Commitment to Colleagues section speak to the ethics involved in transfer situations among students, parents and teachers:

mtJG4LWAs the end of March approaches, I am aware that there are just a few short months until summer. For music teachers, summer brings change. It may mean more work, it may mean less, it may be a stressful time because of money worries, or a relaxed time because of advanced planning and clear expectations. But no matter what your summer holds for you this year, chances are that it will be a break from your typical weekly music teaching schedule.

From the time we were young children, going to school was a given, an expectation. For many of us, that pattern of school year/summer break continued well into adulthood with college and often, further advanced degrees. But then, one day, it stopped. No more required exams. No more automatic private lessons on our instrument. No more crunch time at the end of each semester. Most of us breathed a sigh of relief. We began working, teaching, performing, auditioning, all the while acquiring new skills as we began our professional music careers.

Then one day we all come to a point of feeling comfortable in our career. We know the landscape. We are good, solid teachers and performers. We have enough students and gigs to pay the bills. But is “comfortable” enough? Do you feel knowledgable about the new technology available to music teachers? Have you expanded your repertoire of music, of teaching ideas, of different learning styles? Are you caught up on the current music education research and methodologies?

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.

Summer IdeasWhat do you do in your studio for summer? Do you teach? Do you take the summer off? How do you support yourself during the lean summer months?

Perhaps a summer camp is an option to fill the void. If so, now is the time to start thinking about summer. In the past, I have not required that students take lessons during the summer. Typically, I teach six weeks during the summer and students who do take must have at least four lessons during that time. I do this primarily because I like my summer free time! However, I see how it negatively effects those who do not take lessons (not to mention how it negatively effects my pocketbook!) and I may decide to take the plunge this year and require that students either a) Sign up for at least four lessons, b) Sign up for a studio music camp or special class offering, c) Attend a summer music institute or camp of some kind outside my studio, or d) All of the above! Realizing the importance of continuing music study during the summer months, those students taking summer lessons, camps or classes would be guaranteed a reserved lesson time in the fall.

I researched several piano pedagogy textbooks on summer camps and found a plethora of ideas in Beth Gigante’s book, The Independent PIano Teacher’s Textbook. She gives the best advice I could find on researching, developing and organizing a summer a summer music camp. Here is a series of steps I developed for myself in creating a summer program for my studio: