Recently I met with a lovely family interested in private tutoring. The child had been in band all year and was interested and engaged in learning music but the parent referred to the sound coming out of the flute as "noise". Within half a minute I saw that I had my work cut out for me. For over six months the child had been holding the flute incorrectly, with fingers in the wrong places (but compensating in a very creative way!) and hands in a position that made it very difficult to switch from note to note. Thankfully the interest was still there and the child was blowing well.
There are simply too many kids in band, and too many instruments with one teacher to catch problems as they begin and turn into habits. Kids can learn a lot in band but some struggle, especially at the beginning (and the flute is one of the most difficult instruments at the start). These kids are some of the most rewarding to teach. But- most of them don't get that far. They get frustrated or give up and quit band after a year or less.
So please, as soon as you see your child struggling in band, set up a few months of private lessons! It doesn't have to be a long term commitment. Often a short period of instruction can transform a negative experience into a positive one and point a child back on the path of music learning with a solid basic technique.
Just a quick post to say that I am looking forward to our spring studio recital! It will be Sunday, June 10th at the Redmond Regional Library. There will be two separate recitals between the hours of 4:30 and 7:30. Look for more details as the date gets closer!
Spring has sprung! That means many parents are well on their way with summer plans. Last summer my family went on a big road trip so this summer I am looking forward to some time at home, as well as running two music summer camps in Bellevue.
If you are looking for a summer music camp for your young flutist, consider Flute Boot Camp (August 6-10). I am also very excited to announce a brand new camp this year, Junior Flute Camp (July 30-August 3)!
Registration is open for both camps, and while there are still spots open for both camps, they are going quickly. So if you're planning to register, get your form and deposit in today! I am happy to answer any questions about camp to help you figure out if it is a good fit for your child, or to decide which camp would be best.
More information and registration:
What tools or methods have you used successfully to help establish habits in other areas of your life? Have you used a paper calendar or log to write down successes? Enlisted the help of a friend as an accountability buddy? Put your intention out on social media to hold yourself accountable? The same tools that work to help establish other habits such as healthy eating or exercise can also be effective with music practice.
We live in an age of an app for everything, and most kids (and adults!) love to use technology as a tool when working toward a goal. There are all kinds of apps that can serve to help with practicing, including reminder timers, scheduling practice as a recurring calendar event, recording apps, apps that include the option to share your successes on social media, and apps specifically designed to establish habits and routines.
My studio will be doing a practice challenge this winter to help establish or reestablish those regular practice habits that make for steady progress. Stay tuned for details!
This post is going to be more personal than most, but I decided to share anyway because farewells are part of teaching. This week I bid a bittersweet farewell to a top student. No, she is not quitting, but rather going on to study with a master teacher who teaches in the music department of one of the local universities.
She studied with me for two years, during which time she made truly amazing progress. She worked very hard and consistently, asked great questions, and really took my advice to heart when I let her know what she needed to work on. As a result she was able to participate in one of the top ensembles in the state as a middle schooler, and audition into BYSO where she has excelled musically as well as thoroughly enjoying the experience. I really feel as if she has grown wings.
For my students, I encourage studying with other teachers, whether for short periods of time supplementing our lessons or transferring when the time seems right. I have good relationships with many of the other teachers in the area and reach out when a student is transferring to let them know what we have been working on. I have studied with many different instructors on both piano and flute throughout my life and each has taught me unique tools and different ways of looking at music, practice, and performance.
Our job as teachers is to help students to be independent. Essentially, we know we have done a good job when, well...we work ourselves out of a job! It is rewarding to see students move on with a love of music and skills to keep them going for a lifetime of music. I run into many of them at local events and online (as they follow my studio page on Facebook or create their own LinkedIn accounts), and I look forward to seeing the amazing adults they become!
To quote author and TV personality William Sears, "If there were no goodbyes, there could be no hellos."
I am on vacation with my family. We've been on the road trip I've been wanting to go on for years. I hope all of you reading this have taken some time to relax this summer, whether at home or traveling. A break is good for coming back refreshed and renewed.
Next week, fall schedule begins! Scheduling is NOT an easy task. But I look at it like a puzzle. And so far, I have been able to fit all students continuing on with lessons into the puzzle. I'm very thankful for everyone's patience and flexibility.
As far as openings go, I was surprised to see I have a couple of decent openings (prime times of the afternoon/evening) since some of my older students are now able to transport themselves and have switched to earlier after school times. It's fun to see them grow up!
Should I take the summer off? Continue with weekly lessons? Or step it up a notch and come twice a week since my schedule is more open?
There is no right answer for everyone. I don't recommend taking the entire summer off from playing your instrument, though. It just makes it harder to get back into it when you pick it back up again in the fall, and that can be discouraging.
Summer is a good time to get in some extra practice time and jump up your playing a notch. I have several students coming twice a week during the summer months, and I expect they will be happy with their progress over the next two months.
Many students are preparing for fall auditions so that is a goal to work toward. If you don't have any upcoming auditions, you can pick one aspect of your playing that you would like to improve. Perhaps it's sight-reading, rhythmic accuracy, technical facility, or getting familiar with a new style of music. Be sure to let your teacher know your goal!
Summer is also a great time to take a break. Take a couple of weeks off and don't play your instrument at all. If you can get away with, don't do any work and go offline. Ahh.. There is magic and rejuvenation to be found in nature and spending relaxed time with family and friends. If you really have hard time taking a break, consider that research backs up the value of learning in cycles in everything from athletics to music. (This means intense times of learning, interspersed with time for the knowledge to soak in and your body and mind to grow and recover.) I am looking forward to a couple of weeks off at the end of August, where I plan to take a road trip with my family and enjoy National Parks, and swim and wander as much as possible.
So, what to do with music this summer? Depending on your goals, I recommend some combination of playing your instrument and taking time off.
Speaking of goals...have you set a summer music goal yet? I have!
A quick congratulations to all my students who performed in the Lake Washington School District middle school Solo/Ensemble last weekend. All had successful performances and came away from the event with a positive feeling, including two 6th graders performing for the first time. Thanks to the adjudicators for being encouraging and supportive! I was happy to be able to attend all the performances, and to play the piano accompaniments for all my flute students performing solos.
This week in lessons we reviewed the performances, which included going over what went well as well as what could be improved upon for future performances. And they can all put this into practice soon, as our studio recital is coming up!
Planning a recital is a big exercise in project management. I want to share some of the basics of the process here to help parents understand some of the preparation that goes into pulling of a successful recital. It's a lot of work, but all worth it!
First, book a venue, taking into consideration school calendars, holidays, and open dates at the venue. Let students and parents know about the performance.
Plan the music. This takes the most work! I like to give students a say in what they will perform, so I guide them through some options and generally let them make the final decision. When selecting music for a student, it's important to consider the difficulty of the music and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of that student. I try to avoid two students performing the same piece in the same recital and aim for variety of music in a recital to keep it interesting for the audience.
Get students working on the music. Make sure they are on track to "peak" at performance date. It's a tricky balance between allowing enough time to prepare but not so much that the piece becomes stale from over-practice. More advanced students have complex music that can take months to learn while young beginners rarely need more than a month on a particular song.
Plan the theme, if a themed recital. Design and print programs. Plan and purchase refreshments. Make sure students know exactly what to expect and practice their entrance, stage presence and bows as well as their music.
Recital day! Make sure to pack the car with everything needed and save room for any passengers. Arrive early and count on wonderful parents to help set up the room. Sit back and enjoy the show!
After the recital, more wonderful parents help put away chairs and pack up refreshments. Enjoy having some time to talk with students and their families. The next week in lessons, debrief about what went well and what can be improved upon for the next performance.
I've heard it over and over as a teacher, and know it to be true as a parent: What REALLY motivates my child to practice is a performance.
So does that mean we should have studio recitals every month? While I feel these events are important, there are many other opportunities for performance you can find or create.
Planning your own performances offers several advantages: you can schedule them where and when it's convenient for your family, performers don't have to be restricted by time limitations, and they have the freedom to choose the music they want to share.
Parents frequently let me know about performances outside of the studio, and with enough lead time I can incorporate preparation for these performances into our regular lessons. Recently I've had a student perform several pieces for a large wedding in India, another perform for an event at her church, another play for his school arts night, and yet another student record songs for a CD of family music for the purpose of raising money for charity. This is in addition to the many smaller events and family gatherings students play at regularly.
It's true that children (and adults!) step up the preparation and practice when they know they will be playing their music in front of others. Performing regularly is the best cure for stage fright, and helps young musicians view performance as a regular part of life instead of a big scary thing. Help ensure a positive experience by allowing enough time for preparation, and starting small.
Don't be dissuaded by the thought of having to plan a big event to feature your child. A "performance" can be as simple as setting a weekly or monthly time for your children to play the pieces they're working on for the family. (Remember that faraway relatives can be included via Skype or FaceTime.) And of course, whenever you have family or friends visiting, be sure and ask your children to share their music!
Hi! My name is Mariya, and I teach flute and piano lessons in Redmond, WA and am a performing musician. Here I share thoughts about learning music and helping others learn how to play an instrument.