A little pre-exam cheer…

It is that time of year…I keep reminding my students as they go into recitals and exams to trust their preparation and to remember that playing the piano is something that they love to do! (See this great post on the subject)

And here’s a little something that made me smile…Anne Crosby Gaudet made this a few years ago, but I just came across it now and it makes me happy. Watch how he bops his foot along to the beat!


Musings on the passage of time

Happy New Year everyone!

The last months of 2011 were tough in the Miss Luba household, and while all sorts of musings have been bouncing around in my mind, the time to put pen to paper (or whatever we say in the digital age) was simply not there. I’ve been keeping up, reading all my favorite teaching blogs, but I have missed writing and hope plan to get back to it in 2012.

A few weeks before the holidays, one of my students shared with me a video that he created. Since I only really see my kids in the context of piano, it was a great reminder that as time goes by, they grow up into full grown creative individuals!  And of course, it was wonderful to hear his piano playing as the “soundtrack”…

Who Made All This Up?

As we were working on scales the other day, (talking about the patterns of whole steps and half steps, intervallic relationships, the circle of 5ths and other such musical wonders…) my student asked one of those classic deep questions: “Who made all this up, anyway?”

Feeling a little harried by the lack of preparation on the aforementioned scales, I replied with: “Well, nobody made it up, really. It all has to do with physics…and acoustics…and the vibration of sound waves…and such things.” I know. Hardly a worthy answer of the mathematical marvels that underpin the very existence of Music.

But really, where to even begin?

Luckily, the other day I came across this fantastic video! It illuminates in the most approachable way the nature of the overtone series, the behavior of sound waves, and the way our ear and brain translate all of this into sound. Vi Hart has a fantastic YouTube channel, Mathemusician, where she posts videos bound to get anyone and everyone excited about math.  So, the next time one of your students needs an explanation of the science behind their scales, just have them watch this:


In My Other Life…


Why hello there, world-wide-web. It sure has been a while. I would love to say that I am off lounging about and relaxing in the summer sunshine. In fact, I am right here—home in freezing and raining San Francisco.  In the summer, I actually work more hours in a week that I do during the school year.  This is partially on account of the fiscal realities of summer in piano teacher land; but to be honest, I cannot resist the urge to become my alter ego: Miss Luba, the fun, hip, musical theater camp vocal coach!

I have worked for San Francisco Arts Education Project every summer for the last seven years as a vocal coach and accompanist. The Broadway Bound summer camp is a chance for kids ages 9-14 to develop the skills of a “triple threat”—singing, dancing and acting.  Working all day in front of large classes of high-energy theater kids is a total shift from my usual routine. Except that after camp, I go ahead and do my usual routine too, teaching my piano students who are in town for the summer.  Every hour of the day is packed and I always feel like I am forgetting something crucial that needs to get done…Still, it sure is a lot of fun!

I’ve realized over the years that I love my camp job because it lets me indulge in a bit of instant gratification. Over the course of a two-week session, I get to see true transformations take place! It is such a thrill to discover a child with passion for performing and giving him a push to really shine.  Not that I don’t regularly thrill at a relaxed thumb, a level wrist or a curved knuckle, but, well, those little things take a long time! And while those details are occasions for a teacher’s celebration, their subtle drama is often lost on the student. Not so with the addictive excitement of getting on stage, belting your heart out and nailing your choreography!

Miss Luba’s alter ego also approaches teaching music with a different energy in this environment. I am able to be both closer to the kids, and to be tougher with them. It makes me happy to find that even when I am exhausted after a day of camp, some of that “theater” intensity finds its way into my piano lessons!

Last week, our campers had a special treat. The young lead performers of the Billy Elliot national tour came and presented a master class. It was quite the big deal for our youngsters, a few of whom even got interviewed by the local news!

Here’s to a bit of instant gratification now and then!