Rank #1: PPP091: Learn about musical career possibilities with Piano Teacher, Lisa Donovan Lukas
Lisa Donovan Lukas has been a teacher in the Los Angeles area for 15 years. Tell us your personal piano story as well as how you chose piano teaching as a career. I started formal piano lessons when I was about 5 ½, almost 6 years old, and studied classical music with the same teacher until I graduated from high school. His name was Ed Willumsen and he was an excellent pianist and teacher, and he was also a composer and played popular, contemporary music as well as classical repertoire. As I advanced through classical repertoire, he would also have me play a pop song or a show tune or a standard at the end of the lesson, and he taught me to compose my own original music as well. We had a piano in our house when I was really little, because my grandfather (who lived nearby) was a self-taught pianist and lived in an apartment building – and he was getting complaints about the noise…so he moved his piano into my parent’s house. He would come over and play the piano and he also would make up little ballets that my sister and I would dance around the living room to, all dressed up in my grandmother’s petticoats. I fell in love with that piano immediately and I remember my mother telling me that when I learned to read books I would have piano lessons as well.My mother was an elementary school teacher and taught 3rd and 4th grade, so she taught me to read before I went to kindergarten, and I remember I just couldn’t wait to learn how to play that piano. I was very extremely shy and all through my childhood I think I thought of that piano like a best friend. I just always loved it.I was a music composition major and graduated with a degree in music composition from USC, and I also studied piano while I was there, throughout my college years, and afterward as well. After college, I continued to study composition and orchestration privately for another 4 years with a film composer and orchestrator named Albert Harris. And I studied songwriting with Lehman Engel in a workshop called the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop.When I was a teenager, I dreamed of being like Joni Mitchell. I wanted to sing and write my own songs. And by the time I got to college, my goal was to be a composer. During college, I worked as a singing waitress and played the piano and sang in a restaurant, and I also played a lot of piano bar gigs, weddings, restaurants, hotels.After college, I continued studying with my composition teacher, and worked in piano bars and restaurants until I finally got a job in the studios, working as a proofreader and a copyist for film composers. I loved that work because I had the chance to study musical scores all day long. I ended up doing that for about 20 years.Even though piano study was such a huge part of my childhood, I never intended to teach piano. I always wanted to be a composer, and that was my total focus. Being around music preparation did give me opportunity to write music and have some pieces placed in a film or tv show every so often, so I was always on that path of music composition.But, when my son was about 10, I decided to leave music preparation as my career. The job could be very intense, lots of deadlines, lots of long days and nights, unpredictable schedules, and I felt I was missing out on my son’s life. So, I thought to myself, well, if I teach piano and work as a piano teacher, I’ll be home more and that will be a better career for me, while my son is young. I loved music prep so much,
Rank #2: PPP092: Post-Recital Reflections
This episode was recorded the day after my 2018 Spring Recitals. My Spring Recitals are held the first Monday and Tuesday of May each year. Now that recitals are done, I’ve declared this day, “International Post-Recital Lazy Day” and you are welcome that I at least changed out of my pajamas to record this week’s show! 🙂You would think after 28 years of annual spring recitals, I would have this down and wouldn’t have any issues or problems. No matter how many times I’ve done recitals, there is always some new variable and this year was no different. The Problem with Procrastination This year’s recital was held in a new venue, First Presbyterian Church, Tyler, Texas. While I’ve attended many other musical events at FPC, I had never held one of my recitals. I had never been “behind the scenes”. Because I was facing a new and different challenge, I did what I usually do when facing the unknown…..I procrastinated. I waited to contact the church receptionist to confirm my recital dates.I didn’t finish making my recital programs – I went to the copy store THE DAY OF! What does all of this have to do with your piano kid?I think the same problems I experienced can happen with your child as well. If they are putting up a struggle with practicing, maybe they’re feeling unsure about the unknown.Even though I waited to print my recital programs, I had systems in place to make creating my program an easy process. Even though your piano kid may be fearful about an upcoming event, you can encourage them to follow the systems, the practice routines, you already have in place.To learn more about creating a practice routine listen to Episode 001. Put in the Repetitions One thing I was not worried about with this year’s recitals was the preparation of my students.My biggest concern for my students when they play in a recital is that they have a good, positive experience. I don’t want them to have a meltdown or memory lapse and leave the piano feeling bad about themselves.I used to require students to play their recital piece from memory but over time, I have come to realize that the musical score can be a nice safety net. The performer may never even look at their music but they feel more secure and confident having it there on the music rack.For the 2018 Spring Recital preparation,
Rank #3: PPP059: The One With My Piano Tuner
Dan Kessinger has been tuning my piano since 2000. Dan, who is completely blind, learned the Piano Technician trade during his high school years at a school for the blind in Little Rock, Arkansas. For maintenance of your acoustic piano, Dan recommends the following: Find a good, qualified tuner. Check the Piano Technician’s Guild website for a tuner near you. Hire a tuner to check over a piano you are interested in purchasing. Clean the surface of the keys with a damp cloth. Window cleaner works well. Spray cleaner on the cloth, not directly on the keys. Store your piano in a climate controlled area only – not in a garage or outside. To reach Dan Kessinger for piano tuning in the east Texas area, call 903-561-0022.
Rank #4: PPP077: Practice makes PROGRESS (not perfect…ever) with Teacher, Valerie Altman
Valerie Altman is a piano teacher from New York. She knows what students face as they work to sight-read new music and try to find time to practice. She encourages her students with lots of genuine praise. Tell us your personal piano story as well as how you chose piano teaching as a career. When I was born, my mother looked at my hands and said I had piano fingers. They were pretty long when I was a baby, although they are now pretty short haha! I received my first toy piano at the age of 1 like I’m sure many children do, but by the time I was 5 (my mom says I was 3…hard to believe) I was teaching myself to play by ear. My father taught himself to play guitar by ear in his early 20s and he will also dabble with the piano. We were unable to afford lessons until I was 10, but that didn’t stop me from begging! I took lessons for 8 years (until college where I focused on voice) while also doing choir, performing in 4 theatrical performances a year, writing and recording my own music and studying advanced placement music theory. Music was just in my soul! I studied voice in college and then music education. I had the desire to perform and work in a school, but through a lot of life changes, I realized that teaching lessons one-on-one was what I enjoyed the most. I wouldn’t have it any other way! Teaching lessons is something that feeds my soul just like music did when I was growing up. Were you a good student? I say yes and no! I tell my students stories about myself as a student and how I used to lie about practicing and that my teacher always knew when I was lying even before I played sometimes! My mother always tells this one story….she was going out to run an errand and told me to practice while she was gone. I said “okay” but of course I was busy watching something on tv. Before I knew it she was home and I panicked. She came in and asked if I practiced to which my response was “yup”. My mother looked at me and said “the keyboard is put away…you never put it away…you’re lying”. Caught! Haha. After the first year or two as I felt more confident in my reading (I had trouble learning to read so learning to read music was also a struggle) I began to practice more and of course, once I started learning pieces that I wanted to learn…I would constantly practice! I was (always have been) always polite and asked lots of questions. I had the desire to play but lacked the drive when things got tough…not unlike a lot of my students now. When I got my first piano, things changed for me; I felt more excited to play. What is one thing you often say to your piano students? I am not a particularly strict teacher. I don’t scold my students if they don’t practice! However, I always tell them “if you don’t practice, you won’t get better”. The big thing I tell them is “practice makes PROGRESS” (not perfect….ever) and I always remind them that they have the capacity to do ANYTHING!!! Listen to this episode for tips on finding time for regular piano practice: Episode 55 Let’s talk about practice Is there a common struggle your piano parents deal with? How do you help them through it? The parents do struggle sometimes when the kids aren’t practicing as much. Sometimes I feel parents are more willing to quit for their kids than the kids are. Fortunately, we have always been able to sit and discuss and the kids always pull through. I am very open in communications with my parents and I have to say that I hit the jackpot when it comes to the families that work with! What keeps you motivated as a teacher? The progress of my students. When they finally finish a piece or even when I get there and they are just happy to be playing….that’s motivation enough! Do you have a favorite piece that you enjoy teaching your students?
Rank #5: PPP083: Learn how piano parent, Erica Hyland, incorporates the whole family in piano lessons
Piano parent, Erica Hyland is the mom of Emily, an 11-year-old student in my studio. Emily began piano lessons in first grade and continues to learn to express herself and gain more confidence at the piano with every lesson. Why are piano lessons important to your family? Music was always important to Erica but in the early days of parenting, she and her husband could not afford to purchase a piano. Her older son wanted to learn piano but without an instrument to practice on, he couldn’t take lessons. He was finally able to begin lessons in high school and Erica regretted that he didn’t get to start sooner. Because of that, she made sure Emily started lessons as soon as possible. Erica’s grandfather was involved with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as director and organist. Every child has limitations, every HUMAN has limitations. Rather than focusing on what we cannot do, it is better to build on what we can do. Emily’s dwarfism might make some physical activities more challenging but that hasn’t stopped her from enjoying life to the fullest. Studying piano is an activity that Emily can not only enjoy for herself but she can use music to enrich the lives of those around her as well. How do you schedule practice at home? With a busy, large family, Erica has to be a flexible mother. Trying to keep a regular and regimented schedule just would not work in their home. Erica also knows that Emily works best in a positive, encouraging environment so she doesn’t give her a time limit of practice or set a timer. Instead, she tells Emily to practice her assigned pieces a certain amount of times. This helps Emily have a specific objective to accomplish rather than watching the clock. Piano parents, be careful to avoid making piano practice seem like a punishment. Try different things to find out what works for your piano kid. Do what causes the least amount of stress for the whole family. Piano study shouldn’t become another point of contention; it should be a “soft place to land”. Home piano practice is a family affair for the Hylands. Emily will often FaceTime her grandmother to play her pieces and get feedback on how she’s doing. What a delightful thing to share between a grandparent and a granddaughter! When her older brother is home from college he helps her with her theory homework. Many members of the family listen to Emily practice and give her encouragement while she works. I love this photo of Emily playing a duet with her grandmother. Look at those smiles! What motivates your piano kid regarding piano practice? Emily is motivated by the fact that God has blessed her with talent that she can give back to Him. She can use it to share with others. Knowing the answers in her 5th-grade music classes makes her feel pretty special too! In the future, Emily and Erica hope she will be able to serve her church with her piano playing. What struggles have your piano kids overcome through piano study? As Emily’s teacher, she and I analyze each piece to figure out the best way for her fingers to play the keys. Sometimes we alter the suggested fingering in the music score. Sometimes we alter the notes or eliminate a note. This provides great discussion about which note is most important and must not be edited. I try to help her think through the physical requirements of each piece and take ownership of how she needs to adapt it to be able to play it. With shorter legs, it is important for Emily to have a footstool to rest her feet on and give her stability as she sits on the piano bench. When she began lessons with me, I upgraded my Rubbermaid plastic footstool to a wonderful pedal extender. The pedal extender not only serves as a footrest but also allows Emily to press the damper and soft pedals. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the pedal extender to our spring recital last year!
Rank #6: PPP080: Ten Books to Read with Your Piano Kid
Ten Books to Read with Your Piano Kid Welcome to the Piano Parent Podcast show notes for Episode 080. Every tenth episode features a list of ten things to help you in your musical journey. Today’s episode is one of my favorites: Ten Books to Read with Your Piano Kid! Click here to listen to the other Tenth Episodes. Thanks to my co-host and fellow book lover, Dawn Ivers for offering her top picks. Book One Children’s Book of Music DK Publishing (Reference book for all ages) We like this book as it serves as a great reference for piano students to learn about musical time periods, types of music, and listen to great music. You can study a few pages at a time and enjoy different parts depending on what you interests you. Here is a YouTube video of Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” Book Two Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue Anna Harwell Calenza (Picture book with listening CD for ages 6-9) This book gives the backstory behind the composing of Rhapsody in Blue. The more history I learn about a topic, the more interested I become. This book tells an interesting story with lovely, colorful pictures. Gershwin’s masterpiece was featured in Disney’s Fantasia 2000. I just love this video! Book Three Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist, Nina Simone Alice Briere-Haquet (Short picture book for ages 4-8) In addition to telling the story of Nina Simone, this book also conveys the idea that music is for all people and dreams need to be taken care of. Highlighting the subject matter, this book uses lovely black and white illustrations. A moving book for children and parents alike, just in time for February’s Black History Month. Nina Simone was the recommended musician that Nicola Cantan referred to in her teacher interview in Episode 071. Book Four Becoming Bach Tom Leonard (Picture book for ages 4-8) A beautiful first book written by illustrator, Tom Leonard. Even if you aren’t interested in music, the book is worth a look for the illustrations alone. This book features patterns which are a mainstay of music while telling the story of Johan Sebastian Bach. These Bach pieces contain lovely pattern-based melodies that you and your piano kid might enjoy. Bach Cello Suite in G Prelude in C for piano Book Five a href="https://www.amazon.com/Sergei-Prokofievs-Peter-Wolf-Fully-Orchestrated/dp/0375824308/ref=sr_1_1?
Rank #7: PPP071: Is There Hope for Your Non-practicing Piano Kid? Piano Teacher, Nicola Cantan, says Yes!
Is there hope for your non-practicing piano kid? Are they going through a season of no motivation to practice? Are they needing some new music that they are passionate about learning? Nicola Cantan shares the value of great music and encouraging parents in today’s show. Nicola Cantan is a piano teacher from Dublin, Ireland. Nicola readily admits that there was a time in her younger years as a piano student that she didn’t practice as much as she should have. This should be music to the ears of piano parents with children who are struggling to get to the piano. Help them get through this season and spur them on with engaging music and positive feedback. In addition to being a passionate piano teacher, Nicola is also a blogger who offers helpful resources to piano teachers. You can find her blog, Colourful Keys, here. She also runs a wonderful membership site, Vibrant Music Teaching, where teachers can download amazing teaching resources to help gamify musical concepts for their students. Last summer, Nicola even compiled a blog post with several articles and resources, especially for piano parents. You can read it here. (There is even a mention of a certain podcast we all know and love – wink, wink!) Were you a good student? No. While Nicola was pleasant and participated well during her piano lessons, she wasn’t motivated to practice as much as she should have and made slow progress early on. Once she transferred to a different teacher who gave her more interesting music to play her love for music and making interesting sounds at the piano flourished. This is great news for piano parents! Just because your piano kid isn’t practicing like they should doesn’t mean all is lost. Consider communicating with your teacher to find music that will make a better connection with your child. You may also need to evaluate if a different teacher would relate to your son or daughter more than the current teacher. Make adjustments but don’t give up. Listen to Episode 069: How Young is Too Young to Start Piano Lessons? to hear Nicola’s excellent response to my question about helping young students to be successful in their lessons. What is one thing you often say to your piano students? Nicola says she often reminds students to “Go slower!” – not just young students but older students as well. There is a big difference between the student’s version of slow and the teacher’s version of slow. Piano parents can help their children have a more successful practice session simply by reminding them to play their pieces slower. When they think they’ve played the piece slowly enough, play it again even slower. Is there something you often have to remind piano parents about? Creating a practice routine is vital. Aim to play your piano pieces at the same time of day or after the same activity every day. Establish a consistent practice habit early. If you practice every day at 4:00 pm there is so much that can be added to that as your child progress. You can make the sessions longer, aim for higher quality; there is so much scope to make the practice better. However, if your practice is haphazard and lacks regularity it will be so much harder to implement those things and you will get much more pushback from you piano kid. Unfortunately, this need for consistency is the same for adults!
Rank #8: PPP069: How Young is Too Young to Start Piano Lessons?
As parents, we want to give our children every opportunity to learn and grow and experience wonderful things. Sometimes our eagerness can cause us to start our children in activities before they are ready for them and can get the most use out of them. Music Classes for Preschool-Aged Students Kindermusik Musikgarten Music Together Kiddy Keys
Rank #9: PPP068: When it Comes to Piano Practicing, the Best Defense is a Good Offense
Newsflash: Parenting is hard Piano Parenting doesn’t make things easier. When it comes to piano practicing, a good piano parent is prepared when their piano kid puts up an argument. The next time your piano kid tries to get out of piano practice, give these offensive maneuvers a try. State the Facts Because you’ve listened to past episodes, you know that it’s best to schedule piano practice ahead of time. When practice time rolls around, simply tell your piano kid, “It’s time to practice.” There is no need for argument, no need to negotiate. Expect them to push back and try to get you to wait until later. Don’t fall for it. You know that “later” will only bring more complaints and stalling. Do the practicing now and enjoy other activities later. Don’t Overreact to Their Overreaction When your piano kid overreacts to the practicing statement above, keep your own emotions in check. Don’t let yourself respond with more arguing or complaining. Someone has to be the grownup, right? As the parent, that responsibility falls squarely on your shoulder. Don’t be surprised by their reaction but don’t let it throw you off track either. Give Them Ownership Rather than asking, “Do you want to practice now?” (Because you know the answer will be no.) Ask, “Which do you want to play first, this piece or that piece?” Your objective remains the same in both scenarios: to get your piano kid to the piano to practice their assignment. By approaching them with the this or that question, you are giving your piano kid a voice. They don’t get to decide if they will practice but they can decide what they will practice first. Be aware of what works best for your child. Some children need lots of guidance and direction when they practice. Other children prefer to be left alone to practice and make mistakes in privacy. Very young children will certainly need your assistance to help them know how to practice their assignment. Help is Here for You You are not alone, Piano Parent! The PIANOVEMBER Practice Challenge was designed to give your piano kid extra motivation to practice. The challenge goes through November 30 so it’s not too late to join the fun.
Rank #10: PPP078: How to Learn Music You Don’t Really Like
This week is one that I look forward to every year. It is the week where I rehearse with local band students as they prepare for UIL Solo & Ensemble Contest. I love meeting the students and seeing them hesitant to play our music together at first. Later in the week, we are more familiar with each other and are able to follow musical cues better. Finally, when we meet with the judge, I hope to be a source of support and confidence for them so they are able to perform their very best. It is exhilarating! However, along with the excitement comes the responsibility of learning pieces that might not fit my normal tastes and interests. I have to learn to play music that I might not like or at least don’t like until I get to know it more. I like to give my students a choice One thing I like about Piano Adventures, the piano curriculum that I use is the variety of music in every unit in the lesson books. I often have a specific piece that I call a “for sure” piece, meaning they need to make sure they practice that piece. They are free to choose one or two of the other pieces to learn as they match their personal preferences. Sometimes we must learn music that we might not choose on our own I have a student preparing for the UT Tyler Piano Skills Festival. She is learning two pieces that fit in the required range for her division. They may not be pieces she would have chosen to play for her own enjoyment but they are pieces she needs to learn for the festival. We’ve got to find a way to connect to these pieces when there isn’t an intrinsic, immediate connection already. Later this spring, several students will be preparing for the Texas Music Teachers Association Convention Ensemble Teams. The piece for each ensemble is chosen by the director. Though the director certainly aims to select music the students will enjoy, there is no guarantee that every student will love that piece at first play-through. How Can You Connect with a Piece You Don’t Like? To learn How to Approach a New Piece of Music, listen to Episode 008. Study the music away from the piano – before you play, take a good look at the score. Notice repeats, accidentals, key signature changes, time signature changes, etc. Make note of any possible pitfalls that might slow down your ability to perform the piece well. Give the music a slow play-through – slowly play the music. You could play one hand at a time or one line at a time. Slowly and carefully start acquainting your hands with the musical notation. Listen to the music – YouTube is a valuable resource for listening to performances of many (not all) of the pieces your student is learning. If they are playing the music correctly, listening gives them assurance that they are on the right track. Listening also helps them hear nuances of the music that their eyes might miss. Be an active listener – follow along with the music as you listen. This teaches your piano kid to be a more discerning listener. They learn to see expression and articulation marks in the music and listen for them in the performance. Discover the History of the Piece or the Composer – learning the “back story” can often help your child make a personal connection with the piece they are studying. (I love the backstories of the songs I researched in a href="http://www.pianoparentpodcast.