Thursday, April 30, 2009

Technology and Classical Piano

Last weekend in Princeton, I had finished adjudicating a student and then took a break. I came out in the hallway, and she was there, texting. For whatever reason, I decided to joke and make small talk with her and told her if she gave me her number, I'd text her the results of the exam before her teacher found out.

She stopped dead in her thumb thumping tracks, looked at me dumbfounded and said, "You TEXT?"

(Oh, No, I thought momentarily, I must look really OLD!) I laughed and said, "yes, and I Twitter, I blog, and have a Facebook too. Why?"

No kidding, she dropped her phone! I was then told that I was definitely not from around her area, because the teachers around there don't even know what Facebook is. Her teacher doesn't have a cellphone or email.

Interesting. I'm really going to have to think about the ever growing generation gap that technology is making. Can you relate to a piano student at their level, in their world? In my opinion, and that is all it is, I can not expect them to want to know about my wonderful world of classical music, the history, literature, pianists, or the amazing sounds of it all, if I do not also expect myself to learn a part of their world.

Some of the piano teacher colleagues in my world will view this blog and shake their heads; they know of whom I speak. It is obviously not about you because you're reading this! Our state music newsletter will soon come via email only, unless you specifically request a paper copy. Many of our elder colleagues do not want email. I have a concern that we may lose millions more students who will see our antiquated ways as quaint, and from a different age.

I am ever a student, even if texting is the way to ask them if they've practiced yet today. Your opinions?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Royalty Check Arrived!

You may not know that I composer under the name C. S. Wolf and I'm published by FJH Music Company. I have three piano pieces with them at the moment for which I receive "royalties". They are two piano solos-Monkey Business, Chestnut the Gerbil, and a piano duet, I Wanna Be a Spy.

Seeing if I could get published was an immensely fun project that spanned about 3 years of my life. I was in a writing whirlwind. Ideas flew from my pen. I tested them on students and other teachers. I was enthralled with the whole process. I submitted four that I thought were the best examples of my work, and they liked three of them. Only now do I realize how fortunate I was as a first timer. I have heard countless stories of unpublished writers and composers who are really good but have not gotten their foot in the door yet.

Once the publisher would like to purchase your piece, they send you a contract and you sign away all rights to your work. They now own this intellectual property and can change it and edit it freely. They also send your manuscript back to you as they are in the publishing stages for your editorial assistance. I've never scanned anything for details so hard in my life! And as I look back at their published forms, I still see small things I'd like to change. Such is life, I guess.

I receive 10% of sales. In case you ever thought about being a professional writer or composer, rethink 10% of $1.95 sheet music. In addition, the publishers don't always sell your music at $1.95. To the major music stores they sell it for half of that or less, so that the stores can make a profit too.

So, I was so excited that I received a royalty check in the mail yesterday-for about fifteen seconds. It was for $9.47. This is a quarterly payment for 68 copies of music. I'm not saying it's not fun to receive ongoing payments for something I did 3 years ago, but, really. I guess could buy you and myself a latte to celebrate!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Things I Thought While Judging

(Note to readers-the first sentences are what I thought; the second are what I wrote)

A half note is still two beats in length. It should not be however much you feel like, any less than two beats, or a staccato for one beat with a rest. Without a pulse, your piece is dead. Have you considered Mr. Metronome for this piece? A steady tempo is your next goal.

Imagination is a must. if you're performing a sneaky detective piece, be mysterious. If it's supposed to be cool, go for it. I have sometimes heard this bear as the biggest, meanest, nastiest bear in the woods. He walks heavily (pesante) and growls!

The damper pedal is not either on or off like a light switch. Changing your pedal with the harmonies will will enhance the effect of this piece.

Dynamics people. Bringing out loud and quiet moments of your echo song can really make it come alive.

There is an inverse relation between the number of times a measure is circled and the likelihood that the student will play it correctly. I see that you are still working on measures 7-8 where your teacher has marked it. Keep listening-it's worth it!

A chair can be a friend or an enemy.

Details make the difference. In everything.

I don't like fast food.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Princeton sites and sights

I'm back from two long days of judging over forty students and their end of the year piano exams. They are really called guild auditions; students are auditioned to become a member of the guild of pianists across the country. The national piano playing auditions are held around the world, usually in the spring and last year over 125,000 students participated. My audition site had everyone but one pass. That's another story.

The pianos left something to be desired. Both pianos should have been tuned before this event. The upright (ahem) was in very bad shape, and the littlest children couldn't reach the floor. The bench was loose and squeaked. One of the precious discovered this immediately and began rocking inbetween each piece while I was trying to write. Finally she asked me if I heard her. I said yes, wasn't it funny? And she replied, "You're a nice lady. This would drive my mother CRAZY".

Who should complain about a grand piano? Well, when the hammer action is loose, the pedals are not adjusted, and the middle is extremely bright from their praise band keyboard stints, I can't help be wonder if there's any good instrument in town? I'm sure there is, somewhere.

I had folding tables and hard chairs. I liberated a chair pew at around ten a.m. each day because I don't know if my back would have been very happy with me. It is a reminder to me to have a great seat for our judge.

Because of a wedding at church number one, we had to move to church number two. Across the street from church number one was this cute little "gingerbread" house; I guess everyone in Princeton refers to it that way. Not knowing that I asked the chair if the city owned the gingerbread house, and she wondered whether I knew it was really referenced that way? It does look like frosting doesn't it?

And "up north", as northern Minnesota is called, you'll see signs for wild rice dotting the landscape. They usually sell rice in pristine condition, plus bags for less money that are rice pieces, not whole. I don't mind either. After I soak it to get some of the wild flavor out of it, I usually mix it with long grain white rice or make soup. This sign was unusual because of its second option. I didn't stop to buy any, although I was curious. Would you try it?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gone Judging instead of Just a-Wishin'...

I'm leaving early for a judging stint in northern Minnesota. In the event that there is not internet access (gasp), I'll post Friday's pictures early.

Many of my parents use the lesson time to walk around our pond. They tell me what they saw, or enjoy a little time to themselves all seasons of the year. Here is a virtual walk for you. Pond, meet the bloggers, bloggers, this is "the pond".
Peace and enjoy your weekend!

Keynote Address

Hey-cool news. I was asked to be the keynote speaker for a state conference in August. Here's the blurb I gave them for the marketing part. You all can help form this presentation in the next few months. Does this make you want to attend?

The Pleasure of Participation
Musicians and teachers are poised on the edge of a great new challenge-making more music makers in the 21st Century. Be renewed, invigorated and reclaim the
joy, fun, and inspiration of life's musical moments.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Theme Thursday - FIRE!

Known for his catch phrase "You're Fired!" from the apprentice, Donald Trump is our FIRE(d) element of Theme Thursday this week.

A few years ago, a colleague of mine had a student that just wouldn't practice. Talented, capable, but lazy, this student came week after week with nothing new prepared, nothing to say but a shrug of the shoulders, and wore down my friend.

Finally, she had HAD it! The lesson had just begun, the student sat there. So my friend asked if the student had ever seen the show The Apprentice. Oh yes, they replied.

Well, she said, "if I was the Donald, I would fire you. I would look you right in the eye from my desk, lean over with my finger pointed like this, and say, 'You're fired'! Now, I'm going up to read, you are going to spend your lesson practicing. And when you're finished, I'll follow you out to your mom's car.

Practice improved but the family quit after that school year. I don't think I could ever 'fire' a student like that. Could you?

Polystyrene-the students speak

I asked the students what they did at school for Earth day today. Most of them didn't even know it was Earth Day! This could be the subject of my blog! But I'll refrain.

One young man retold a story of how his time on the student council had been full of talk, information gathering, and reporting the facts regarding getting rid of the styrofoam trays used in the lunchroom. Several of the students had taken it upon themselves to get information on the hazards of polystyrene, and what other products were available for use in the classroom.

The principal and staff allowed the students to present to the district. The district school board ultimately shot down their proposal due to the increase in costs of the recycled paper trays suggested as an earth friendly alternative. The next year this young man did not even try to get re-elected to the student council. He said that they don't listen to kids' good ideas anyway.

I don't like the feel or texture of styrofoam in my mouth so I've always brought along a mug for church. We have had a recent official proposal to invite anyone to bring mugs to cut down on the amount of styrofoam we are using every Sunday. Some of the bigger churches in the area use 1000 cups per Sunday morning. Each cup spends 500 years in a landfill.

So, in honor of Mother Earth, here is a little more information about polystyrene and a website you can check out for more recycling information.


Styrofoam is a trademark of the Dow company, but the material itself is called polystyrene. Like so many other plastics, it's all around us - very commonly used in packing material as peanuts or expanded foam, in food trays and a wide variety of other products - even explosives such as napalm and hydrogen bombs!

The bad news is (aside from its use in WMD); polystyrene is manufactured from petroleum. It's highly flammable, and a chemical called benzene, which is a known human carcinogen, is used in its production. Polystyrene foam, used commonly as padding in appliance packaging, takes an incredibly long time to break down in the environment and additionally, animals may ingest it which blocks their digestive tracts and ultimately causes starvation. This foam is also abundant in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Given the nature of polystyrene, it's surprising that such an energy intensive, oil sucking and toxic substance is allowed to be use as packaging for food; particularly for items such as meat where the food has direct contact with it. Nearly two dozen cities in the USA have banned the use of polystyrene for this purpose.

Packaging and products containing polystyrene can usually be identified by a recycling triangle logo with the number 6 inside it stamped on the item.

It's likely to be a very long time before the use of polystyrene is totally discontinued, and while we can try to buy products that don't utilize the stuff, we need to deal with the styrofoam that winds up in our hands instead of it heading straight to landfill.

Unfortunately many curbside recycling programs don't accept polystyrene and given its bulk, it can be difficult to store. Also, polystyrene is often recycled to be used in single use products; such as more packing material, so it's really important to get the word out about recycling this form of packaging.

A pound of polystyrene recycled is a pound of new polystyrene that doesn't have to be created. Currently in the USA expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam packaging is being recycled at a rate of approximately 10-12% each year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Peace Outside Starts with Peace Inside

Groaning in the labors of spring, the buds on the maple are in heavy red clusters.

Last night, we started recording and M. got unexpectedly nervous. This child is usually good under pressure, so I asked what was new. Now that we are recording onto a CD, he believed it had to be perfect and didn't think he could do it! This is an unusual response I had not thought about when I decided last month to make the switch from cassettes. I'll need to continue to assess what the difference is to a child.

We practiced 2 exercises in my studio last night. Breathe in peace, breathe out crud. Breathe in peace, breathe out crud. Repeat as needed. I didn't need to point out that breathing is, sort of, well, a human requirement.

Then we imagined our instrument and us in an unbreakable bubble. The sounds outside the bubble are muffled, like the sounds you hear under water. It's just you and your music; nothing else matters. He played wonderfully from his bubble, and we had the recording to prove it.

After the lesson, the Dad wanted to talk to me a moment and sent M. to the car. "That was terrific, what you did for him back there", he said. "Thanks for letting me hear that too." Dad was actually misty. I don't know what that was all about; maybe there's more to the story?

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Was Scaling Along

My blocks came out again today. I am teaching and we're reviewing scales, chords, and arpeggios for our upcoming exams and guild auditions. I love the lightbulb moments when students "get it". And today there was another one-did you feel a disturbance in the force?

She knew D Major. We have worked out Db Major before. But today, spelling them out with blocks was when it hit her-they are photo negatives of each other! I like to refer to this as the "Magic 7" rule-the number of sharps and flats will always add up to seven! The scales also mirror each other in color on the piano keyboard.
C=0 plus Cb=7
D=2 plus Db=5
E=4 plus Eb=3
F=1 plus F#=6
G=1 plus Gb=6
A=3 plus Ab=4
B=5 plus Bb=2
I loved figuring that out one day when I was a kid. I sat there, "Doh!" Why hadn't anyone told me this sooner-it makes it so much easier! Well, now you know...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Lazy River

The pieces of the new lazy river for our town's waterpark are waiting for their Monday craftsman. Although they look like skateboard ramps, they will provide many soothing hours of relaxation and probably a little sunburn. Coming soon to a face near you!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tip Me Over and...

A student was having trouble understanding inversions. He wanted to change the notes as he inverted them. I have a great set of blocks for such a time as this. We discussed the fact that if I tipped him upside down, he wouldn't get a different head or arms. If I tipped him upside down, he's still the same boy.

Here's a D Major chord in its 3 inversions. On the piano, F# is a black key, so the block is colored accordingly. Even though the left most note is different in each inversion, it is still a D Major chord. D is called the root of the chord, just like his feet are the place he's most comfortable standing. He can stand on his head, but most of the time, he stands on his feet.

Cool huh?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Happy Birthday

I met with a relatively new teacher today. She lives a distance from me, and although we share a lot professionally, we had not gotten together. What a privilege to shares common stories and ask each others opinions on work matters. Independent music teachers can live in caves, so to speak. We can do our own thing, make our own policies and never come out of the hole to see what others are doing. What do others do about absences, practicing schedules, summer lessons? It's wonderful to talk-that's one of the reasons I am a big fan of the annual music teacher convention-2 days of colleagues. I wish we could have chatted longer.

A memory came back during our conversation. A few years ago, I went to a salon style recital. It was a beautiful room that held perhaps 150 people and we had an outstanding up and coming nineteen year old young artist in our midst. The Steinway was in the middle of the space. He played extremely challenging literature; he was fabulous. We had a champagne reception for him afterward, caviar, crackers, posh posh, when suddenly someone exclaimed, "It's Carolyn's birthday today! Let's sing!"

The prodigy was near the bench, so this room full of musicians turned, expecting him to lead us into the song. He turned ashen, and walked away from the piano. He stammered that he didn't know the piece. We all hastened to relieve his embarrassment by jumping into an a capella arrangement, but I'll never forget that moment.

I think about that every so often to this day. Am I giving my students ALL the tools they need? In the Mahna Mahna song I posted earlier today, I have used it to teach 1/2 steps that the leader sings. The student plays the leader part, I play the pink pig's. Who knows how crazy they think I am. I think I better check their Happy Birthday skills next week! I sure hope they know it.

Mahna Mahna

Some of my students didn't know this song-travesty. It's Friday! Have a happy!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Theme Thursday - EARTH

The planet we live on is 2/3 water. So why do we call it Earth? There is music all around us in this world if we only listen...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


One of the hardest parts of teaching for me is deciding how to criticize a student's playing, practice or performance. The critique needs to happen. The student grows from learning how to make their piano playing better. Here are 3 things I've been trying to take into account lately.

Privately - no one likes to be called on something in an obviously public way. In my opinion, it is not acceptable to call the parent into the room to berate the student's ability, practice habits or attitude. I would like to respect the student as much as possible, mention it until it is resolved and will choose not to bring it up in group lessons or in writing if I can absolutely help it. I inwardly groan when I hear adults speak painfully of their embarrassment in front of peers toward a music mistake. How demeaning to be told you're tone deaf in front of the rest of the choir! That child carries that baggage with them perhaps forever.

Self-realizing - I have become a big fan of the student hearing and realizing the mistake on their own. There are a few tricks to doing this successfully. I have played the piece with them. I have 2 pianos here; one for each of us. When they hear that we are not playing it the same, they stop and look at me. Like a puppy cocking his head to the side, they sometimes ask why I played it wrong! Or, I have asked them to become the teacher. Then we record the piece and use the music to really listen for what they would tell this "student", who is in fact, themselves. And I just love the new iTunes approach. We go online and buy a ninety-nine cent artist's concept of their piece. I challenge them to listen carefully. I ask them perhaps to purchase a similar artist, talking about some of the great pianists listed. They then have an ear for the potential music of the piece. Many students do not listen to classical repertoire at home. They don't know what to listen for.

Gently, with humor and grace - One of the best parts of learning happens when they realize mistakes happen. I have been known to murder a phrase of their piece in their lesson. I trip, stumble over the notes, count incorrectly, and we laugh. I have shown them my music, marked beyond recognition in some "hard parts" and they realize over time that we are in a state of becoming. We are all learning.

I won't give up. I can't. They are SO worth it. I will bring it up one more time, in another way, make a crash-and-burn sound, oooooh noooo, "dun, dun, DUN!", or the famous question, hmmmm, "how exactly did you practice this?" We'll get there, we'll get there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

or-chid you not

Some of my students will be taking Minnesota's graduation standards exams tomorrow. This has negated many of their potential practice hours. I have strong opinions about the testing process, the actual "meaning" of the exam, and its results.

Honestly, as adults, did the score of your exam change anything? As I read the literature sent home to prepare our children, the biggest impact will be on the school's ranking within the state and nation. Dear student, don't let your school down! Oh please, school, don't let your students down.

In general, the following advice is simply good for life. But perhaps, we all could be reminded.

In case you are doing something tomorrow that will "affect your whole life", as the kids were told, here are some helpful hints to secure a good score. After all, we all know that these scores determine our futures, right?

Ø Eat a good breakfast. Avoid sugar and caffeine.

Ø Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test.

Ø Wear comfortable clothes. Our classrooms are generally about 71 degrees. A sweater or sweatshirt to put on or take off may provide more comfort if temperatures fluctuate.

Ø Allow yourself time. Arrive early to allow a few minutes to collect yourself.

Ø Read over the test and plan your approach.

Ø Relax yourself physically. If you notice you’re not thinking well, lay your test aside and take several deep breaths.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wake Up!

There's a whole wonderful day out there! Like grass growing through a concrete crack, we've been given an amazing moment to be, to grow, and to love. I love new beginnings! Go and tell it!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

There is such joy in using the egg dipper to scoop your egg from the dye-how does it look? Should we let it get darker? Even without children, I would color eggs.

We draw with crayons, we make one into a strawberry, we've tried ty-dying, using rubber bands to make white stripes, stickers. We've dyed them with red onion, coffee, and other foods. Every year, there's a standout. I like the neon green one with the Light of the World church logo on it this year!

Then we take them to Grandma's, crack 'em and eat them! May you feel the Light this Spring!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Empty Upper Room

I was imagining the Upper Room last night. Jesus and the disciples had ate and drank, washed each other's feet, had a great time, shared a lot of cameraderie and love for one another. What a great night. I've had a few of those, the "philos" love is palpable. Then took off for the garden, where Jesus wanted to pray. Did they leave the dishes? Did they dump the foot wash water before they left?

Or after their beloved was killed, did they come back and find the tables and the towels where he and they had left them? I like to imagine it this way-that they could walk around the table remembering, reliving the night before, picking up the leftover bread, crying, and wailing to each other, or in stunned silence clearing the table. Perhaps I'm a cinematographer in my head and this would make a great movie-larger than life. Peter kicking a chair and then weeping uncontrollably. John fingering the towel Jesus used to wipe dry his feet. Thomas, staring out the window as Passover begins. Nary a word spoken between them-all lost in their own thoughts. May you find time to be lost in your thoughts today.

What a weird way to save the world.

(I'm getting new carpet today, my room is empty too.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Theme Thursday - EGG

We love to use Egg Shakers at the studio. There are many ways to play them as the video suggests. But I can only imagine the video we'd get if Maddelyn made it!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Musician in Me

In the land of many hats, this week the piano teacher is also a guest clinician, board member, Discretionary Funds Committee member, Holy Week musician (that's a few extra services and rehearsals), artist practicing oboe accompaniments, and Judge Education convention session planner.

I am excited to have been asked to be give a key note address in August, present at
the state convention in June, perform with an oboeist for Thursday Musical, help with a Senior Recital, interview a new student, judge out of state, judge IN state, submit an article for possible inclusion in Clavier Companion, demo my blocks invention at the Piano Pedagogy conference, and I said yes to all, because I love to do new things. Look at it this way-there will be lots to blog about!

And regular life goes on too...

In the land of home maintenance, I am now the owner of a new washer and dryer. New carpet is on order. The television at the repair shop can not be fixed, they say. Heavy sigh. I can think of oh so many ways I would have rather spent the money. But if you are the person who thinks break-downs come in threes, I should be all set!

They say April showers bring May flowers. This last week has felt like a torrential downpour! but oh, oh, oh, it's all good. AMEN!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pity the Meek for They Shall Inherit the Earth

This quote by Don Marquis met me when I went online this morning. Needing more clarity on "meek", I was directed to these definitions:
1. humble in spirit or manner; suggesting retiring mildness or even cowed submissiveness; "meek and self-effacing"
2. very docile; "tame obedience"; "meek as a mouse"- Langston Hughes
3. evidencing little spirit or courage.
Then I went to a Bible Study where we discussed the holy Thursday event of Jesus washing feet. I work with children every day and tell them, "You are my future! I'm so glad".
Do all of these ideas live in harmony or in tension with each other?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Vocabulary Words

Today was a day full of learning new music words. I seemed to have a question every lesson about something in the score. Last year, I wrote a matching game for my young ones, written in words they might understand. I've un-scrambled them for you here. Feel free to scramble them back up and use it at your studio!

Memory- I can play it from my heart, without the book.
Accuracy- I can play without too many note mistakes.
Notation- Sometimes the same as accuracy. I aced the notes, rhythms, and the special details like staccatos and fortes.
Rhythm- I’ve got the beat.
Tempo- I went the speed that the composer liked.
Steadiness- I stayed at the speed the composer liked
Technique- My fingers are strong and curvy.
Tone Quality- I “spoke up” through the piano; people could hear my playing in the back of the room.
Articulation- The little extras like staccatos and accents that make the song alive.
Balance- My melody was standing in front; my chords or the rest of the piece was sitting behind my melody.
Dynamics- I played LOUD and quiet and in between so the audience could hear the difference.
Phrasing- I breathed at the end of the musical sentences. Holding my breath is too hard!
Ritardando- Sometimes shortened to rit., it means Woah, slow down here.
Stage Presence- I had fun and was proud to play. I took a bow and smiled at the audience. I looked and sounded GOOOOOOD!
Style- I made my mom cry or my dad dance, I made the piece come alive.

Planting Seeds

Do you see yourself as a music leader? Can you start to envision yourself emerging from following, moving forward to share and bring others into worship? What does that mean to you? What is worship?

Our mission church held a “playshop” retreat on Saturday from 9-3. We called it play, because it certainly wasn't work, yet it was demanding and exhausting. It was an amazing event; 19 people shared their time, energy, music and passion. We had a short lecture on what worship in the 21st century is becoming, we shared why we were there. It was such a holy time. As much as I would like to focus on the spiritual event that took place, I will today focus on the music aspect of that great day.

The rhythm of most of the music we learned on Saturday had an insistent beat; if I were to write it down in 4/4, it was 2 dotted quarter notes, quarter note. Simple, singular and driving. It was challenging to some, others were innately gifted. The presenter had brought several instruments I had not ever had the privilege to play, and one I had never seen. Later in the day, we used the guitars, keys, voices of our time, it was such a mix of musical styles and time periods.

We did some Latin American music. I don’t speak Spanish, but it really didn’t matter. The words were not hard to learn, and because it is repetitive, you get it quickly. Many people do not read music today in a traditional sense. Now everyone can participate in song. One of the statements the presenter said will stay with me a long time. “Where else do people come together to sing?” Karaoke bars are focused on one person. Choirs are trained to sing a certain way and are rather exclusive. School children sing in class, but what adults sing together? There is deep connectedness to life itself when all people raise their voices together: men, women, children, high, low, old, young, pitched, and non-pitched. Those lucky lucky villages where everyone comes together to chant and sing.

Imagine 19 grown people-put yourself among us, learning traditional African percussion instruments and singing in an African language. Although we were musicians we were taught orally and aurally, in the African way. Repeating the phrases over and over, harmonies started to emerge on their own. The percussion sounds filled our shoes and we started moving. We stood in a half-circle and the music seeped into our very skin. One woman’s short hair stood on end! The song was a call to worship, and it called us all.

I planted seeds of leadership and music on Saturday. It will be so fun to watch them grow. (Lola's pot-head hair has sprouted, sort of. It's pretty thin!)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Big week at the Studio

"Welcome back from Spring Break, you great students. I hope you practiced hard while I was off galavanting about the country."

This week was a rude awakening to the teacher more than the student. What do you mean there are only 7 weeks left of the musical school year? Will they get all these pieces ready in time? What was I thinking?

A few weeks ago, I took a step back to reevaluate some of the programs the Wolf Piano Studio uses. Many are near and dear to us, and have tremendous value in teaching and furthering their development. I have concluded that theory exams, the MMTA competition and piano exam, Federation Festival and the Guild Auditions are worthwhile, fun, and will stay in the studio.

After the Guild raised dues and enrollment rates again this year, I took a look at aspects of this program. What other programs are out there for an end of the year assessment? The presumption here is that an end of the year analysis of our progress is beneficial and needed. What do other music events cost and what do other student fees across other programs look like? What did families perceive the value of end of the year report cards to be?

Minnesota Program Options, as I saw it:

A. National Guild Auditions –it’s been a good program. Fee=approximately $32 per audition for a 10 piece program, includes technique, etc. a wide variety of dates, and is in our backyard. I'm the chair and run a site right here in town.

B. Minnesota Music Bridges – a newer, very creative MMTA outlet, $25, 5 total elements, takes place in St. Louis Park, mid-April. It brings in elements of the other arts; some students paint, draw, dance, recite poetry.

C. Piano Exams through MMTA. Sat. 5/16/09 is the only date, it’s at the U of M, cost is around $27.00 plus gas and parking, should have taken the MMTA Theory also. 4 memorized pieces from a list, some history, sight playing, and technique elements. Comprehensive but not for all students-it is a serious classical piano exam.

D. Upper Midwest Music Festival – 2 pieces for memory, very similar to our current Federation festival, $30.00, end of April. Too much like what we do already in January-and no cost savings.

Other event fees:

A. A Karate tournament - $50 per event entered, plus travel expenses. No critique.

B. Golf tournament - $35.00, no coaching, but you’re out there playing.

C. Scouting? Dance? Clubs at school? A sports season? I’m at a loss to make an even comparison for an individual event in which you, the student, are the focus, your progress is assessed for the year, a professional in the field is brought to you. The other music programs were of a similar price although the student played fewer pieces and drove a distance to it.

But then best answers came from my families! Most of the families that have used Guild for many years see that it is like no other, it “keeps the students engaged and learning in the spring”, we loved “the scope”, and “character building things go into the preparation and performance…it’s about so much more than piano, you know”. One former student wrote that her college acknowledged guild auditions. Another former student felt it prepared her for the big projects of college. Well said. I appreciated all the feedback, pro and con.

So here we are getting ready for the end of the year. Can we be ready? I believe it, but a little dessert doesn't hurt. A fruit tart and chocolate raspberry cake from "Pardon My French", a wonderful cafe just north of my studio.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Theme Thursday - TEN

Fingers, playing a huge Rachmaninoff chord! (Cody O. is our hand model today, working on this very Rachmaninoff Prelude! Thanks, Cody!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Joke

Look at my view this morning! I'm disgusted and want to crawl back into bed. Coming back from a vacation is hard work. The studio is a buzz-I'll write again soon!

Who's been to Visit?