Can you believe it’s that time again! I can – it has felt like ages since I’ve seen all my favorite cello pals. To get ready, let’s be sure to update your checklist:
- Practice what we mutually agreed on
- Fill out your practice chart
- List questions to ask during lesson
- Trim yo’ nails
- Bathroom break before lesson
- Wash your hands
- Get ready to be positive and creative!
- Keep an open mind
- Don’t forget to take notes!
Y’all. It has been an INCREDIBLE 24 hours in the studio. In order for one of my students to graduate from Twinkles, they have to finish the Twinkle Marathon: play all 6 Twinkle variations, in a row, with me accompanying them. It’s like 8 minutes straight of playing, so a huge feat for a tiny cellist.
AND 3 OF THEM COMPLETED IT IN 24 HOURS!
Students work on this with their parents for quite some time; they practice a few in a row at home over weeks/months, and then like marathon training play 6 in a row. (Come on, marathon runners don’t run 26.2 miles to prepare for it…) But seriously, that much music is almost the same length as a sonata movement. Oh, and while I play a harmony part, so add 30% confusion as they can’t visually watch me at all.
So I wanted to shout their stellar accomplishment from the rooftops! There’s something in the air in my studio – and I can’t wait to see what we can do with it. I know it is Groundhog Day, but I feel like we lived the perfect day on our first try.
Big shout out to littles K, C, and L – stellar job, tiny cellos!
Motivation comes in many forms, and one of the whimsical ways it currently shows itself is the “Ninja Hunt” in the studio.
Each week ninjas show up in random (and hidden) places and the students get a chance to look for them at the end of the lesson – if they didn’t locate them already. Sometimes it is easy, other days is hard. The fascinating thing is that the older students are equally invested in the fun (maybe even helping the ninjas hide some weeks.)
These “Practice Ninjas” look at the students from all angles, checking the bow hold, bow path, posture, and those hidden thumbs that students can conceal if you aren’t careful.
With recitals this Friday, it has been helpful to inject a bit of posture-oriented-fun into the lesson without having to be the teacher that is the enforcer 🙂 Enjoy the day everyone, and Ms. Ella Fitzgerald (or Lobster Fitzgerald) wishes you a happy and safe all- hallow’s eve!
- Help my students to attend more concerts and
- Encourage students to listen to more orchestral music
I’m going to post some playlists to help get us pumped up to explore new musical events! Welcome to the first one.
Saturday, October 1: Conservatory Camerata and Orchestra Omaha present Coming to America.
This is a beautiful show of an introspective Bloch Concerto Grosso no. 2, the roiling Dvorak Symphony no 6, and featuring my lovely colleage Yulia Kalashnikova on Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no 1.
See you Saturday!
>> photos by @creativecoffee, filters by color story & afterlight
Old dead white guys. Guidonian hand. Sturm and Drang. WAGNER. Every professional musician must go through what usually seems to be wading through hundreds of years of probably-important-but-I-just-don’t-see-why details called Music History. This collection of information is supposed to teach us where we are going based on where we have been, but we get so lost in “sacred music of the 17th century” that we fall asleep and forget to ask how this helps us to be better musicians. Knowing when Mozart died only helps you slightly.
What I want is more knowledge about why they did what they did. For example, when Rossini wrote lyrics to “Di Tanti Palpiti” and says “It will be happy – my heart says, my destiny – near you” does it help you understand it more knowing he wrote the lyrics while waiting for risotto at a restaurant? I think it would.
So after years of complaining that music history classes haven’t found a way to connect music of today that all humans understand and connect it to music history of years past I just about fell off my chair when I came across Switched On Pop – a podcast of a songwriter and musicologist that did just that.
The first episode I listened to really struck a chord (ha!) because a few months ago a student complained that her middle school music history class was just so boring and I said “wouldn’t it be great if they could explain it to you and connect it to current artists students today like, such as Taylor Swift?” And what was the first episode I listened to by these two smarty-pants? The Oeuvre of Taylor Swift. At a later episode they equate how primal dance beats of “boom, boom, pow” can be traced back to a French renaissance composition of a cappella. (Insert mind blown emoji here.)
So I thought I would list a few podcasts that I currently love learning things from, in hopes that something sparks that “what? I have to tell someone this random fact!”
I’d love to hear if there are any other hidden gems I’m missing out on in this new (to me) world of podcasts! Here I’m listing a fun one about the evolution of the Star Spangled Banner (origins up through Beyonce!)
Star Spangled Banner
**Just to be clear, check for any explicit language if you are concerned (should be marked on each episode.)
>> photos by @creativecoffee, filters by color story & afterlight
In the spirit of the olympics, I am taking this week to reset, not work a million hours, and prepare for the mindset of a new academic year that begins on August 20th.
This summer I gave my younger students the challenge of tracking their practice minutes by connecting a dot-to-dot page for each minute they practice. The best part is IT HAS 1000 DOTS! A few of my littles have turned them in and it is so inspirational to hear stories of them asking to practice so they can figure out what in the world this picture is supposed to be. Adorable!
Next week I will prep the new practice charts, goal pages, and start planning the epic cello class that starts in September. Oh, and buy new stickers! You can see the beloved sticker bones that students ravaged this week.
See you on the 20th!
Sitting through hours of teacher training at the Chicago Suzuki Institute brings to light a few important things: I am a good teacher > I don’t know everything > my studio families are amazing > and I can help them more.
My incredible teacher trainer Carey Cheney had us do something very inspirational: she asked us to write ourselves a letter of the things we want to do when we get home to improve our teaching and studios, and in 6 months she will mail it to us. That is called accountability, my friends. So here are a few things I included in my letter to inspire myself.
- Help parents more. I think my studio parents have a good understanding of what their child is asked to show me for the next lesson, but I think I can help more with the structure of practicing at home with their child. Parents, this family activity is not easy, and I want to help make it simpler.
- Expect more. There are moments where I don’t want to push a student too hard to discourage them, but you do not grow unless you find limits you must push past. Humans are capable of incredible things, but great skill only comes after being asked/encouraged/demanded to get there.
- Preview more. I can honestly say I am not a teacher that expects students to perfect everything about a piece before starting to work on another when they are in the beginning stages, but require review to get us there eventually. However, I want to be more strategic about what review is assigned and how to do it, as well as preview very small parts of upcoming songs to make them easier. I do this, but I want to look even further ahead to make skills feel more natural.
So, there is what is essentially my “cello teaching resolutions” for the year. Perhaps I should put them up in some kind of beautiful way in my studio to keep me on course…
[photo below: Carey Cheney teaching a master class to a 5 year-old student playing the Breval Rondo from book 6. She rocks that 1/10th size cello!]