The Creative Piano Teacher

II III II III II III II III II  Something amazing happened last week at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Thanks to the visionary planning of Dr. Samuel Holland, director of the division of music and Leila Viss (author of The iPad Piano Studio), forty-eight private piano teachers signed up for a multi-day workshop to learn to teach creativity both on and off the printed page at the Institute for Piano Teachers . II III II III II III II III II  What exactly did we do? In a variety of settings including lectures, hands-on piano labs and simulated private lessons, my esteemed colleague, Forrest Kinney (author of the Pattern Play series) and I explained and demonstrated topics such as Understanding Chord Symbols, The Four Arts of Music, Going Further with Lead Sheets, Creative Group Teaching and many more. In addition, Leila Viss presented several tech-savvy sessions such as Apps to Spark Creativity and Kristin Yost demonstrated how playing and arranging pop tunes … Read more…

88 Creative Keys Travels to Ohio – Leila Viss

You know you’ve got a good thing when the dog jumps in the back of the car. Marlow was gently coaxed out of the hatch to make room for the drums, guitar, notebooks, Toebourines,™ a couple of computers and of course some iPads all for the first day of our 88 Creative Keys Camp in Ohio. (FYI: 88 Creative Keys is a camp founded by Bradley Sowash and me to encourage creativity beyond the page. There are tracks for teachers and students.) For a number of years, Bradley Sowash has worked with Suzuki Music Columbus for Strings and it was suggested (somewhat at the last-minute) that this year we hold our camp in collaboration with theirs held every year at Otterbein University. As it’s hard to say “no” to such an offer and as we were both willing to improvise on short notice, we agreed and made plans to stake our claim … Read more…

Opportunities to Learn About Improvisation

In a recent thread on a social network group for piano teachers, I asked this question: “True or False? Improvising enables your students to express themselves musically.” The supportive comments that followed remind me of the importance of my work as an educator specializing in improvisation. M.H. wrote: “I think limiting lessons to reading can be crippling to a potential creative thinker who can become a true musician. There is more to music than what’s on the page, and how else do people create new music? They experiment with sounds and use the useful knowledge of theory to explore and enjoy the art of creation. I felt like a trained monkey at the piano until I learned how to play off the book, without a guide, scales, chords, improvisation.” L.H. wrote: “Students develop the ability and confidence to create music on their own, by us showing them that it is … Read more…

Interactive Improv at MTNA 2014 Conference

MTNA conferences are HUGE. There’s no way to see and do everything even if you go non-stop from the first 8:00 a.m. session to impromptu midnight gatherings with friends in the lobby.  The buzz is such that you ride along on an energy wave from learning sessions to exhibit booths to interesting hallway conversations, often forgetting to eat or even sit down. Here’s what I love about MTNA conferences in no particular order: Checking out new resources, instruments, and teaching tools in the exhibit halls. Hanging out with colleagues and old friends. Eating fabulous evening meals with interesting new people. Dreaming up collaborations with music entrepreneurs and go-getters. Giving and getting hugs in our uniquely friendly profession. Great people-watching from fuddy-duddies to fashionistas. Seeing people in person that you met online. Picking up teaching tips from peers in their sessions. Pedagogy Saturday My responsibilities for this year were to co-chair the … Read more…

Indiana Music Teachers Assoc. Conference

I had a great turnout for my three presentations as a “featured clinician” at the Indiana Music Teachers Association conference yesterday at Butler University. Scaling the Chords My first session titled Scaling the Chords (shown here as teachers arrive) presented tips on making chords and scales more fun to practice and, more importantly, how to use these basics as a springboard to creativity.  A highlight of this session is when I ask for a teacher who can self-describe as “inexperienced with improvisation” to come up on stage so I can lead them into an improvisation at the piano in a safe and comfortable way in front of their colleagues.  Many thanks to the enthusiastic unnamed volunteer (I regret that lost the business card she gave me). This is really important because when I demonstrate improvisation concepts myself, some may think, “Well of course you can do it.  You are one … Read more…

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