Post to my students 2016

A parent said recently,

He really enjoys playing. He’ll just walk by the piano and stop and play a song. Before he started having lessons, we discussed what we wanted for him. We wanted him to have fun learning music.

This parent went on to explain that he was “forced” to learn violin as a child, and did not enjoy that one bit (“You WILL practise now!”)

Yes, I think more than anything else, that’s what I want for my students. I need to see that they are enjoying what they are learning, and not dragging themselves to my lesson. I want to know they are pleased with their achievement, pleased with themselves, and realise all that they know now, compared with a few months ago, or even the week before. The joy is in the journey.

Duet with Edward

Goal-setting is good too, and I’m a big fan of AMEB Piano for Leisure examinations. Personally, I like the range of pieces, and think it’s a great way to introduce a student to different styles of music. They are fabulous pieces! I kid you not, the people who arrange the pieces for even the earliest level – Preliminary Grade – they’re geniuses!

I play Sherlock Holmes or March of The Goblins or The Mischievous Basketball to my students and say: do these pieces sound awesome or what? My kids are playing them whether they intend to take exams or not!

Meanwhile, this year Mia, Emma, Josh, Luke, Keely, Sasha and Jessica, Arthur and Gwyneth, Edward, William, Faith are working towards sitting their first exams next year. Tooru is preparing for Piano for Leisure Grade 6, while Darcie (Preliminary PFL) and Natalie (Grade 5 classical Piano) passed their exams with flying colours! Well done!

Duet with Reuben

Crystal spotted a book in my collection,  John Thompson’s Teaching Little Fingers To Play. She was fascinated with the illustrations, and played so many pieces from that book during the term, I eventually bought her a book of her own. After playing a piece we would have a discussion about the accompanying pictures and how they related to the song. That taught me something about the attractiveness of a book, even though the pieces themselves are already ones I like very much. Charli W started practising regularly this term, and it is really showing in her playing. When Emma started with me this year, she discarded her old way of learning, and stepped up to the challenge of playing and reading music with no handwritten notes anywhere on the music. Well done all of you!

Duet with Emma

piano recital 2
Crystal plays ‘At The Zoo’

Many of my kids played in front of an audience for the very first time in their lives, in our first mini piano recital in May. I was so proud of them, as were their friends and family. Our next recital is scheduled for April 2017, so we can all look forward to that! Thank you to Mrs. Kylie Guthrig for that photo.

Edward comes into lessons with a radiating smile, keen to show what he worked on, and Charli R’s powers of concentration and determination are amazing for one so tiny!

Amos moved to New Zealand at the end of the year, and he wanted to play to his mates at a school assembly before he left. I’m going to miss that lad so much! The first time I ever taught him, he was like a buzzing bee, and when the bell rang for break, he just ran out of the room, leaving me sitting there speechless!

Later, when he twigged how to read notes, there was no stopping him.

“Ahh…so that’s how to do it,” he would say, and he played accurately and without using the designated fingering. He used his own random fingering, which was how I knew he really did understand which notes to play. He didn’t just see the note D and press “finger #2”.

Duet with Maya

Joshua wanted to learn Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It’s way beyond where he was in terms of learning. But he was determined, and learned each hand separately with patience and tenacity. Over the last term. he slowly put both hands together, working at full throttle from the beginning right to the last five minutes of the half hour. In that last five minutes, we would play something different for light relief. He repeated passages methodically, never losing his temper, he corrected his mistakes at once, never wanting to be sloppy or inaccurate. Josh is playing a piece of music I wouldn’t have given him for another year. He wanted this, and he has achieved it. We can all learn from that.

Being a happy teacher doesn’t mean not being strict. If I am putting you in for an exam, I will want you to play accurately. I might only assign you four bars or one phrase from the exam piece, for the week. This way you have a very small bit of music, to play accurately with good timing, and all the accidentals and dynamics included.

How many of you have been driven crazy with me yelling: “One, rest, rest!” while learning March of the Goblins? Mia plays it so well now, she was completely unphased with me harping on about the rests, the slurs, the staccatos… She impressed me no end.

Along with an exam assignment, you’ll be given another piece of music as well, something you can let rip with, and I won’t be quite as pedantic about it 🙂

Duet with Denilson

Last week, I decided to learn a completely new classical piece for myself. While I was learning Le Petit Negre (The Little Negro) by Claude Debussy, I could hear all the things I tell my kids:

Don’t speed up during the parts you know better…You have to repeat the difficult bits a lot until you master them…read accurately…

It was an excellent exercise to remind me what it’s like to read and play something from scratch.

This music is whimsical. (that’s like you Reuben!) I play the beginning part and imagine a little boy walking along the road on his way home. Then the music changes – what’s that? He sees a bird, and wanders off to follow it. The bird lands on a bush and the little boy watches, then tries to reach it… but it flies away. Ah well. Enough distraction. Back to walking home.

So kids, this is a song from me to you ❤

In 2013 my very first students in Australia wrote a poem, and we made a duet out of it. Here are their handwritten lyrics.


And here’s what we did with it.

Thank you Jess and Sasha for showing me how fun teaching can be.

Laszlo, Denilson, Peggy and Peter, Scarlett and Angela, William, Edward, Charli R, Crystal and Allana, Micah, Amos, Josh and Isaac, Kiara, Mia, Kristine, Megan, Charli W, Declan, Juliet, Cassie, Zara, Faith, Joshua and Reuben, Maya, Luke, Gwyneth and Arthur, Tooru, Darcie, Natalie, Keely, Jessica and Sasha, in many ways you guys teach me as much about learning as I teach you. Thank you to you and your parents for a great year, and we’ll do many more exciting things in 2017. Have a wonderful break! ❤

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