Halloween Piano Tutorial

I’m sure I’m not the only piano teacher who’s had students come in to their lessons unprepared but when asked to play something…anything…they’re able to play a piece they’ve learned from a YouTube tutorial.

Granted, this is not the preferred way to learn a piece of music, but if it gets those fingers moving and inspires a student to take a second look at actually picking up a piece of music and reading it, then I’m all for it.

Besides, it will do in a pinch when Halloween is only three days away and the sheet music is hard to find.



Music App Performance

I came across this video this morning via Dewey21C on ArtJournal. com. I like it because…

  1. It starts out with the iPhone’s piano app.
  2. It shows creative marketing on the part of the band, Atomic Tom. I admit I’d never heard of them before, but now I’m a fan.
  3. It puts those music apps on the iPhone to good use.
  4. It got me scrolling through Richard Kessler’s blog and reading many interesting posts about arts education.
  5. It’s sure to generate a whole slew of creative music app performances.

One Half Hour a Week

Here is an example of one day in the week of one of my 10-16 year old piano students:

Wake up at 6 am. On the school bus at 6:50 am. In the classroom at 7:20 am.  In school until 2:50 pm. Soccer practice right after school. Piano lesson at 5:00. Swim practice every evening until 9:30.  Homework until 11:30 pm. Go to bed and start the whole thing over the next day.

No wonder I’ve heard on more that one occasion, “I don’t have time to do the things I want to do.”

Or, as a first grade student recently told me, “My favorite time in school is when we get a time-out so I can put my head down and it’s quiet.”

So what can we piano teachers do in that half-hour from 5:00 to 5:30 every Wednesday afternoon?

Several rounds of Hanon? Nail down the fingering for the f# minor melodic scale? Maybe throw in some Pischna for good measure and finish off with a read through (since there was no practicing) of a couple of Bach Inventions?

Maybe, but I doubt that’s the best way to inspire the overbooked student – one who we all hope will come away from piano lessons with a love of music. One who will attend orchestra concerts and recitals. One who as an adult will sit down at the piano after a busy day at work and read through those Bach Inventions for pleasure.

Unfortunately, most of our piano students are required to spend the better part of their day in what Sir Ken Robinson calls the killers of creativity – the “factory-style” schools born of the Industrial Revolution. This is the very generation of students that has been called the Creative Generation. They are part of a much larger world than the world we grew up in where information is spread faster then ever before and connections are made instantly. They are musicians and artists, collaborators and composers. They are not exactly suited for our current educational system.

In the meantime, private piano teachers are lucky not to be slaves to  standardized testing, lesson planning, and large class sizes.  We actually can make a difference and we can start now. We can make that 1/2 hour time slot an oasis of creativity in each students’ week.

Jeroen Boschma, co-author of Generation Einstein, says this new generation understands our new world better than we do. They are one step ahead of us in many ways.  We will work best with our students when we let them inspire us. When we respect them we will get the respect back.  When we admit we don’t know something we will encourage them to help us find a solution. In other words,  as Jeroen says,  just “be real and be yourself.”

I’ve found that the more dialogue I have in the lesson with my students about what direction they want to go with their music, the more open they become with me and the more we get accomplished. Whether it’s putting together a solo recital for friends and family, finding the best way to practice a difficult piece, or learning a new musical skill – we’re able to work together without one-sided lectures to make that 1/2 hour each week something special.

Marketing Classical Music to Teens (2)

Yesterday afternoon I attended a wonderful piano recital at a local church. The soloist performed Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Takemitsu, Prokofiev and a premier of a work by Reiprich. The price of admission was a donation of canned goods to the church’s food pantry. There was a full audience…casual…not exactly your symphony subscription ticket-holders. But as I looked around I counted exactly 2 audience members under the age of 21. One of them was my daughter.

It couldn’t have been the ticket price…surely everyone could find a can of beans or soup to donate. I don’t think it was the programming…there was something for everyone’s taste…if no other piece, then the Rondo Alla Turca from the Mozart K331 Sonata would have grabbed their attention. The pianist addressed the audience between pieces so it wasn’t an off-putting tux-and-tails performance.

So why weren’t there more teens in the audience?

We’ve seen that marketing classical music is a tricky thing. And speaking of the Philly Orchestra, Greg Sandow wonders what kind of family the marketing department had in mind with their recent attempt to engage the whole family with a “Free Neighborhood Concert.”

I face a similar problem each time I hold a Salon Concert at my music studio. There some of the most engaging improvisatory performances by guest artists from around the world take place without one piano student in the audience… even after I send out notices to all 40 students and their parents announcing the events. It can’t be because they don’t like music because why would I have students clamoring to perform on my little Coffeehouse Recitals? (As I wrote before, the sense of  community of  is the big draw there.)

I think part of the answer can be found when we take a look at what the youth marketers are saying. Last week the Generation Einstein conference brought experts from all over the world together to discuss the future of marketing and communication in a round table conference in Amsterdam.

What can classical music presenters take away from this conference? Here’s a snippet of the round table conversation…about how to improve communication:

We have to take the first step to make it better, to open that door again. We have to regain their trust by treating them as individuals and partners in the conversation instead of as a researchable targetgroup. In order to do that, we need to:
1. Change our mindset: listen instead of talking.
2. Change our way of thinking about target groups: fans instead of targets.
3. Change our research methods: search for inspiration instead of testing and checking.
4. Change the creative process: in-creation instead of co-creation.
5. Change the way we work: love-oriented instead of task oriented.

Read the entire summary of their findings here.

Perhaps we classical music presenters can learn from this research and also take a lesson in marketing from companies like Threadless, or venues like MasMas. I’m willing to give it a try, and I’ll keep you posted on my students’ attendance at the next Salon Concert.

International Chopin Piano Competition

International Chopin Competition

Once every five years the best of the best meet in Warsaw for the International Chopin Piano Competition and this year we are lucky to have access to some of the most amazing performances by the new generation of piano virtuosi via streaming video. The third stage finished up this morning and now we have to wait to find out who made the final cut. Starting Monday there will be a final round with performances of Chopin’s concerti. In the meantime the performances from the first three stages are posted in the video archive. Enjoy a weekend of Chopin! I know I will…