Monthly newsletter for the piano students of Beverley McKiver
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Piano Keys
Newsletter from Beverley McKiver's Piano Teaching Studio
Volume 1.1 January 2015
Hello Everyone and Happy New Year! January marks my first anniversary as a piano teacher. To celebrate, I decided to start a monthly newsletter about music. As a music teacher and music student myself, I would like to share information about what's going on musically and pass on interesting articles and resources that I have found. I will also share some thoughts about learning and practicing piano. I want to take the opportunity to thank all of you for your efforts, whether you are a student or parent of a student. I am so honoured and humbled to be part of your musical journey. I've enjoyed our musical adventures together and am looking forward to more!

News and Fanfares

(A fanfare is a flourish of trumpets or other similar instruments,
used for military or ceremonial purposes, or music that conveys this impression.)
Here are some highlights from my first year of teaching piano:
  • I enrolled in the Piano Pedagogy Certificate program at University of Ottawa. This program offers professional training and courses with a practical orientation to piano teachers who are already giving lessons in private studios and music schools in order to provide them with the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge in their chosen field.
  • Held two music appreciation workshops for children at Knox Edwards United Church to introduce the music of Ludwig Van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach. At each workshop, we watched a movie from the Classical Kids series about the composer, had snacks and did a related craft. Thanks to Jan Brown for assisting. Watch for upcoming workshops! In the works: Tchaikovsky Discovers America and Canadian Songwriters. Let me know if you have ideas that you would like to explore for a workshop.
  • We had a festive group lesson in December. Alisha, Layla and Alysha played their Christmas pieces and lots of songs in their repertoire for each other. Everyone has worked very hard on their selections and it was fun to hear what each other was doing. The adults have been playing Christmas songs as well. Easy to learn, fun to play, Christmas music is a wonderful part of the piano repertoire!
  • Alisha and Layla both participated in the Knox Edwards United Church Christmas concert. Layla played The Silver Skates and Alisha played Away in a Manager and Up on the Housetop. Congratulations Alisha and Layla!
Grace (holding Bach Potato), Layla and Alisha with their J. S. Bach picture frame creations at the Mr. Bach Comes to Call workshop.
Notes from the Studio
The Art of Practicing

As the old joke goes:

The absent-minded maestro was racing up New York’s Seventh Avenue to a rehearsal, when a stranger stopped him. “Pardon me,” he said, “can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Yes,” answered the maestro breathlessly. “Practice!”

Read more about the origins of this joke here:

How much practice? When to practice? What to practice? For the month of January, we will be talking about the art of practicing during our lessons. Even at this stage in my piano-playing career I am learning how to get the most out of my practice sessions. In our busy days, time is at a premium and the goal is good quality, focused practice to get comfortable with the mechanics of playing and to achieve good sound.

Students can benefit from learning how to practice. Good practice habits should start early. Piano practice is one of the few learning activities that's not done in a group and it can be lonely and frustrating. Parents can support and encourage practice with their presence. Practicing doesn't have to be a pain. It can be challenging and exciting to experience musical growth and improvement from purposeful and thoughtful practice habits.

Dr. Gilles Comeau, Director of the Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa offers a few tips:
  • Students, parents and teachers should agree on a realistic time goal with a beginning and an end.
  • For beginning students, practice should be short. Four sessions of 5 minutes each are better than 1 session of 20 minutes.
  • Practice should be done in a comfortable environment with as few distractions as possible. Ensure that there is good lighting, temperature is comfortable, the piano or keyboard is in good condition.
  • Try practice sessions at different times of the day since moods and attention spans can change during the day.
  • Once interest has waned in the practice session, stop the session, but try again later.
  • For elementary and intermediate students, a daily logbook is recommended to record practice sessions and assignments worked on.
  • Work in small sections and start with the most difficult items.
  • Work hands separately until each part is mastered before putting hands together.
  • In the early stages of working on a piece or technique, practice very slowly and increase speed very gradually.
Here are some more tips on "Creating a Practice Nest" from my favourite piano-teaching blog:

Next month: Ear playing vs. sight-reading. Both are important!
January Composers' Birthdays
Do you share a birthday with one of these composers?

( 1/06/1838 - 10/02/1920 )    BRUCH, Max
( 1/06/1872 -   4/27/1915 )    SCRIABIN, Alexander Nikolaevich
( 1/07/1899 -   1/30/1963 )    POULENC, Francis
( 1/11/1875 -   6/23/1956 )    GLIERE, Reinhold
( 1/23/1753 -   3/10/1832 )    CLEMENTI, Muzio
( 1/31/1797 - 11/19/1828 )    SCHUBERT, Franz Peter

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