Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Maybe Piano Teachers are Gullible

This was an email I received today. I have received several emails just like the one described below. Consider this a public service announcement today.

Dear music teacher:
Here's a timely reminder about internet scams directed at music teachers.

As many of you are likely aware, there has been a marked increase in the efforts of individuals performing acts of fraud via the Internet. Until recently these acts were not specifically targeted to independent music teacher; however, over the past few weeks many music teachers have received e-mails inquiring about having international students study with them. The person sending the e-mail poses as a parent interested in having their child or children study with them. The music teacher is offered prepayment for a certain amount of lessons, and once a cashier's check is sent and in the bank the teacher is asked to refund a large portion of the check because of some emergency or to pay for the fees the "parent" incurred in transferring the money and obtaining the check or for their children's travel. The cashier's check is an elaborate counterfeit and it takes the bank longer than usual to discover the fake.

If you receive an e-mail similar to one of those above do not respond to them. Due to the high number of these scams, it is impossible to investigate each e-mail. If you or someone you know have lost funds because of this type of fraud, please contact your local field office of the Secret Service. A list of field offices is available at http://www.secretservice.gov/field_offices.shtml.

For more information about common types of Internet fraud, visit the FBI website at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/cyber/.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You need to B Sharp!

A student needed to work on a few measures, isolated. I wrote in her notebook, #12-16, hands alone 2 days, then together like a turtle. She cocked her head, and said, "12-16 pounds?" Can you just see her trying to figure out how she was going to lift that much hands alone then together? She's 8! Oops!

It took us both a minute to stop laughing. Then we made the long list of all the things a # might stand for! We got the following list:

Number sign
Pound Sign
Measure Number
a Hashtag for Twitter (currently)
and her favorite: tic-tac-toe

It's even on your telephone, "after entering your pin, please press Pound (#)" for example. It doesn't say press "sharp", or "measure number". No wonder why she was confused!

Sometimes, it is all a matter of perspective. And sometimes, I still need to state the obvious because it may not be as obvious as I thought it was.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Welcome Address

I thought this was worth reading. Should I post this on my blog or on my Facebook "Wolf Piano" page? This time, I'll try both!http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

IMT Meetings

I have been to a lot of teacher meetings in the last two weeks. My local, two classes, and a state level meeting have jarred me back to the life I used to live. I used to float among my peers and jabber with them, without any second thoughts. I took a 4 year sabbatical of sorts from many of these meetings while I was at my church job, and now I'm back, I think.

In those years of teaching before my hiatus, I became numb to the comments of the independent music teacher. I guess I trusted them and knew their personalities and could shrug my shoulders to much of it. I liken it to watching and getting desensitized to horror movies? Sort of?

I have recently found myself speechless when I usually had a quick retort to the various things that music teachers say. Don't get me wrong. I put myself in this select group of people. It's not our fault you know. We teach in a cave. We are isolated from our peer group and routine office banter. We are critically listening to students for hours on end. We even critically listen to the radio. We are encouraged to share our critiques with our students, and we begin to edge toward a teacher-student relationship with everyone, even people with whom we should be friends. I am one of the younger teachers in this arena, and I think I am sometimes regarded as needing daughterly advice. This is merely a guess.

So what happened to me? Why do these fairly innocuous conversations have me perplexed and wondering, what, exactly, did I used to talk about? Did I speak to others this way? I am so sorry when I did.

I will share a few examples with you for which I was dumbfounded. Perhaps you can help me think of something witty that I could have said. Maybe your humor will help me put aside my shock at these obviously common occurrences. May I be quick with an apology when I find myself becoming more like that. And I probably will because I will spend more time with them.

Piano teacher #1 approached me as I was seated in the classroom. She has known me over 20 years, but I was already coloring my hair back then! She was already graying then and has a beautiful, coiffed silver style today. She checked my roots (because I was seated!) and asked whether I color my hair. She commented on the pretty highlighting in the back and wondered how I had done that. I said only that I had been in the sun a lot this summer in my garden. Then I didn't answer her question. I just looked at her.

Piano teacher #2 at the break of the same class commented on my purple jacket and wondered whether it was real leather. When I said I didn't really know, she asked what I had paid for it, because that was one way to tell. I told her I had bought it at Macy's and she said that answered her question, turned around and left me standing there.

Piano teacher #3 skipped pleasantries other than a smile and a hello, and asked me what I was charging now. Her sister-in-law is teaching in my neighborhood and although her s-i-l only played through high school, she likes to charge $1.00 less than I do and was hoping I had raised my rates.

It seems a strange way to be welcomed back, but I'm back, I I I guess. Or I could just stay in my cave.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carnegie Hall and The Achievement Program (TAP)

I think every pianist dreams a little dream to play at Carnegie Hall. I know that I did. There is something about it, about the very sound of 'Carnegie Hall'. There is an old joke that asks how to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. What "it" really stands for is probably different to each person. So many people have now performed there and do not go on to international fame, or have remained faceless in the sea of amazingly great pianists. Perhaps the grandeur of Carnegie is lost? NAH! Never! But we are in a different time and place than our pianist forefathers.

The Royal Conservatory (think Canada and England principally) already had in place a standard of assessment for musicians. They have now teamed together with Carnegie Hall to bring a national standard of measurement, as I understand it, to the United States. I am going to find out a LOT more information about it, and hope to share it with you over the next weeks and months. They have decided to call it TAP, The Achievement Program. Click on the New York Times article here if you want to read about the unveiling.

I have a LOT of questions before I read anything on their website or from the packet I received. Can students progress through levels at their pace? What areas does it cover? How strident are the exams? How would I implement it into the studio? Can we jump in in the middle? Where are the exams taken? What kind of volunteer work does it mean to me? What are the fees? Would it take the place of anything I'm using now or would it be an additional system to master and choose from? Would I get any willing studio families that might prefer a national exam to the Minnesota state exam? Are they comparable to Guild?

There is something compelling about a national standard to me. Wolf Piano currently uses the National Guild, which is malleable to each student. Teachers choose the elements of the exam that best showcase the students' attributes.

I have noticed that an intermediate student, or a level 5 student means nothing across the country, however. There is a part of me that would like to believe that a level 4 student knows x, y, and z. But it is rarely true. I know that there are gaps in some of my teaching for each student. Sometimes it is about the lack of time in a 30 minute lesson to get everything covered. Sometimes it is a matter of me; sometimes it is a matter of the student or the parent not wanting history, composer information, not too much theory, or technique. There is so much to bring to life about music!

What about the composition elements I teach and the other programs I already use? Would we do it all? What about the jazz and popular styles that many students learn here at my studio? Is it strictly "classical" (lower case "c")? Is this a good studio fit? Will it meet students where they are or try to bend them to the program?

I am a little reluctant to learn another new program. But I AM curious. Even my curiosity is curious. I am settled into a really good routine here. Why should I want to bother? Other progress programs are out there, tepidly. I already have favorite activities for each type of student. I am trying really hard to teach each student rather than use a standard method book or system for the whole studio. When I go to adjudicate at Guild, I notice some teachers that use the same pieces with every child. Suzuki teachers use the same pieces too. I just can't do that.

I have heard rumors that TAP may prepare students and earn college credit, similar to the AP (Advanced Placement) exams. Because it would be a national standard, it is a very interesting scenario when I, as a private teacher, could help contribute to a student's college admission in a tangible, real way!

A new program would change some of my teaching-it always does. It adds new deadlines, new mastery and new challenges for me AND the student. But would it change it for the better? I'm going to find out more.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Avast there Mateys!

After I took a week off this summer, which turned into 3 months, I have returned and it's Talk Like a Pirate Day! I will probably try to inject some "arrggg" into my lessons today, will you? I am excited to get back to writing this fall and have quite a few plans to investigate some new programs. I hope you'll stop by and 'weigh in' with your comments, and perhaps even 'blabber about it to yer mateys'. This is Shipmate Wolf, looking forward to sailing the musical seas with ya this year - avast! Keep yer spyglass 'pon this site for more messages in a bottle soon!

Who's been to Visit?