The school year is over and my summer teaching doesn’t start till next week (um, by the time I’m finishing this, that would be tomorrow…), so I guess this week is/was vacation?
Vacation might be a strong word since we spent the week completely upending our living room (i.e. my teaching space) in preparation for some new arrivals (a post on that coming soon!). But having a week off from teaching has given me some moments (in between Ikea trips and sorting piles and piles of music) to reflect on the year. So, in no particular order here are some highlights and insights:
Offering a regular studio class to my SFCM Pre-College students was one of the highlights of the year for me. We had five Sunday afternoon classes over the course of the academic year. Each class was structured somewhat differently but all involved the students playing for one another, giving feedback and support, some ear-training, some music history, and lots of time to be musicians together. Here’s a recap of one such class.
In our final class of the year, the kids worked together to organize the recital program, making decisions about how to group the various repertoire people had prepared. This collaborative effort definitely made a difference in the final performance. Through my work in musical theater I’ve witnessed the power of “putting on a show”– the way that collaborative performance strengthens individual performers, energizes them, and provides the enthusiasm that can transform “nerves” into the rush of being in front of an audience. My hope was to tap into some of that energy in the context of a piano recital, where performers are all alone on a big empty stage. In the past, the students have all sat in the audience, but this year I offered them the option of being all together back stage. Sitting out in the recital hall, I hoped that their time together over the year would allow them to support each other, and hopefully experience some of the thrill of “putting on a show”. Here they are at their collective curtain call:
This isn’t the first year I’ve tried this, but it once again proved a success. Rather than having recital programs organized youngest to oldest or beginner to advanced, repertoire was grouped thematically or by historical period. In my private studio recital we still started with the youngest students (to avoid creating sleepy, cranky five-year-old pianists!) but the rest of the program was mixed. I like giving students a chance to take the stage more than once (if they are playing multiple works) rather than being up in front of the audience for an entire set of pieces. I figure each walk up to the instrument is an opportunity to practice managing nerves! Plus, I’ve found that the students listen more to each other that way. Plus, it’s more interesting!
Embedded google calendars!
Sometimes it is the little things… Last August I mustered all my technological know-how and figured out a nice plug-in to use for calendars on this site. I know there are simple ways to just embed a google calendar, but I wanted something that looked a bit nicer, and found this. It was probably 4 hours or so of tweaking and searching and cut and pasting code that I didn’t quite understand, but the results have made my life so much easier this year.
I am a google calendar junkie and have separate calendars for all my various activities (studio teaching, teaching at SFCM, my church job, bills, and many many more). So, in a stroke of brilliance, I created a make-up lessons calendar. Whenever I was notified of a lesson cancellation, I would switch that time slot to the make-up calendar. And through the magical powers of the internet, that time slot would pop up on this lovely calendar here where parents could check periodically and simply email me a request to come at one of the available times. This was a tremendous time saver! Writing one email response to “what available times do you have?” only takes a moment, but writing those emails day after day sure adds up. I also kept a calendar of relevant dates (scheduled vacations, exams, competitions, deadlines, recitals). Only having to enter the info in my own calendar and having it automatically update to that cute little widget in the upper right hand corner– the best!
Those were some of the thoughts buzzing in my head this week…but there are many more! And speaking of lists, I started one of blog posts I intend to write but never actually get around to posting. Who knows…maybe I might just write something again soon!