Monday, January 24, 2011

Meaningful Musical Memories

Music is such a powerful medium. It evokes emotion, aids in recall and often brings to mind significant memories from the past. I often feel inspired by the often musical "Sabbath Day Inspirations" that my sister Kara shares on her craft/cooking blog so I thought I'd share a few of my own from time to time.
This weekend I was asked to fill in for our children's chorister at church and help teach a beautiful new song by Sally Deford. Our church is a bit atypical because the services last 3 hours, which can be a bit of a challenge for the children. As I listened to the song on repeat throughout the week I enjoyed hearing my little girl sing along and pondered how I could teach the song in an intriguing way and make the words from the following verse meaningful for the children.

"I feel the Holy Spirit as he teaches truth and right
He comforts me in times of need, he testifies of Christ
He speaks to me in quiet ways that fill my soul with peace
And when I listen with my heart, I hear the Savior's voice."

The lyrics brought to my mind an experience I had several years ago when I was pregnant with our 3rd child. I went in for the routine ultrasound mid-pregnancy and was informed by the ultrasound tech that our son had several cysts on his brain which are sometimes link to a serious chromosomal disorder. The tech was unable to get a clear picture of his heart so we scheduled another ultrasound the following week at the hospital where they had more high-tech equipment.
Throughout the week I thought about the many implications of the situation and felt a bit unsettled. Would our son even make it full-term? Would he ever walk or talk? How would this alter the lives of our little family? I reflected on the families I had known who had children or siblings with special needs and realized that despite the challenges we could be facing... it could also be an amazing blessing to have this special child enter our home and help all of us learn to be a bit more sensitive, kind and patient as I had witnessed in these other families. I said many prayers and felt much comfort and peace knowing that no matter what the results of the ultrasound were, the Lord would help us through it all.
Much to our relief, when we went in for the follow-up ultrasound it ended up that the cysts were completely gone and his heart was developing normally. He's now my healthy, energetic, happy, (sometimes stubborn) 6 year old who...

emphatically declared to me this week that he is done practicing the piano for good !
I guess my challenges aren't over yet :)

I am thankful for the chance that learning this song gave me to remember one of the many "tender mercies of the Lord" in my life.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Time Signature Song

Do your students ever have trouble remembering the meaning of the numbers in the time signature for state theory tests? I came up with this little song to help my students be better prepared this year.

The Time Signature Song
(sung to the tune of London Bridges)

The Time Signature has
2 Numbers, 2 Numbers, 2 Numbers
The Time Signature has 2 Numbers
Now let's learn what they mean.

The top # tells us
How many beats, how many beats, how many beats
The top # tells us how many beats
Are in a measure.

The bottom # tells us
What kind of note, what kind of note, what kind of note
The bottom # tells us what kind of note
Gets one beat.

This bit of inspiration was sparked by the catchy quarter note song on this video from the Faber Piano Adventures Teacher's guide . I've been hearing my son sing "It's got a head and a stem and its all colored in... " around the house all week after I introduced it to him at his lesson.

Anne Crosby Gaudet has some other fun songs for teaching about the bass and treble clef on her Piano Discoveries site .

Do you know any other songs you use to help teach theory concepts?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Clever Music Game

Thanks to a tip from Jeana's blog I picked up this Jenga style game for $5 at the local Family Dollar over the holidays and transformed it into Music Jenga. My students (and family) have enjoyed playing this game to start out their lessons this week.
I chose different colors to represent the different levels of terms/rhythms, but since it was hard to tell the blue and purple apart I turned all of the purple dots on the ends into notes. I put terms or symbols on 2 of the sides and plan to write 2 measure rhythms on the other 2 sides to create a more versatile game that I can adapt depending on what the student needs to work on.
I tweek the rules a bit depending on the student. For students who have been taking lessons for a few years I require them to pick another block if they can't define the terms.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Organizing Piano Books in the Studio Library

Organizing piano music can be a challenge since the majority of the book spines are so small that the title/color of the book isn't obvious when they are stacked on a bookshelf. I use these handy circle dots to color code all of my music by levels that correspond with the colors of the Hal Leonard method books I began teaching with (Level 1 Blue, Level 2 Purple, etc.). The colored dots "move up" the spine of the book as the level of difficulty of the music increases. For books with various levels of pieces I add multiple stickers. This has come in handy not only when I'm trying to locate a specific book, but also when I need a quick sightreading piece that is a level below a student's current playing abilities.
I also add a sticky name/address label on the back of all the music in my studio library to distinguish it from my students books and help them remember to return it to me.
I have loved the sticker color coded system with piano books so much, I decided to organize our children's books with stickers too. I chose different colors for nonfiction books, Accelerated Reader Books, Board Books, Early Readers, etc.  It makes it a lot easier to find a particular book, and when my kids put them away they just have to look at the colored sticker on the spine to find where it goes on the shelf.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Unforgettable" Sharp Key Signatures/Scale Aid

One of those "unforgettable" moments for me as a piano student was when my first teacher taught me this little trick for remembering the sharp key signatures. I can still visualize her writing out the goofy letters on my notepad as she sat in the chair beside me and it has stuck with me ever since.
The number of pencil strokes used to draw each of the letters (w/ a few clever adaptations like a rounded 1 stroke G and a pointy B) correlates with the number of sharps in each of the major key signatures).
This method would be especially effective with a kinesthetic learner if you have them write the letters along with you. I am primarily a visual learner... so just watching her draw this mnemonic device has stuck with me for life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Old MacDonald Had the Blues" Giveaway on Music Matters Blog

Don't miss out on the chance to win this fun collection of songs by Rebekah Maxner. Natalie at Music Matters blog is hosting a giveaway this week for the "Old MacDonald had the blues." My kids had fun dancing to and guessing the songs for the fun jazzed up renditions of these familiar tunes. The teaching aids and games on the "NoteKidds" website look like great additions for any studio. I

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blessings from Blogging

Being a part of the "blogging community" has been such an inspirational experience for me. I love gaining insight and tips from my fellow bloggers right in the comfort of my own home. A few months ago one of my favorite bloggers - Sheryl Welles at the Notable Music Studio awarded me (and several of my other favorite bloggers) with this award.

To accept this award, I must...
1-Link back to the person who gave me the award
2-Share 7 random things about my self
3-Pass the award along to other blogs I love
4-And make sure I tell the "awardees" about the award

So here goes...
7 Random Things About Me
1. I recieved my B.S. in Family Science at BYU but have since discovered that raising a family isn't much of a science... its more like an art. Raising children ... like piano teaching... can be so unpredictable and requires a lot of creativity, patience and adaptability. I am happy to be a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) to my 5 sweet children and to be married to my best friend and supportive husband, Jared. Taking care of my 5 little ones and trying to squeeze in piano lessons for them as well as my other students keeps me hopping... perhaps that is why it has taken me this long to find the time to accept this award.

2. I love saving money and living providently. I love to live by the saying "Use it up, wear it out, make it to or do without. The other day I realized that my "pajama shirt" was from a piano festival I helped out with in college about 15 years ago... still no holes in it after hundreds of washings. It's next stop is my rag bucket. (I'll spare you any pics on this one)
3. I am currently a teacher for the Relief Society -one of the largest women's organization in the world. Fortunately for me, I only teach the small group of ladies in our congregation.
4. I love to play games - board games, card games, party games, piano games. My favorite date night involves inviting over a bunch of couples to our home to play group games like Do You Love Your Neighbor, The Animal Game, Fruit Basket, Bing Bong Bounce, Dippity Dippity Dop, In the Manner of the Adverb etc.

5. I'd rather spend my time at the library then at the mall. I go there almost every week and check out my limit of 15 for the family. I especially love to read historical fiction, biographies and books on spiritual topics.
Looks like my daughter inherited the reading bug too!
6. I braved the frigid weather of Minnesota for a year and a half to serve as a missionary for my church - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormon). Although I still live in a cold climate... I'm happy not to be walking around outside in it everyday.

7. I'm married to my best friend... who happens to be a "marriage therapist." Going on dates with my husband Jared is the highlight of my week. He is so supportive, introspective, compassionate, devoted and hard-working. I truly feel like I have a "marriage made in heaven." I've really enjoyed having him as my newest "piano student" since he set a New Year's Resolution to start up piano again after quitting years ago as a child. So far... he's my best practicer this year!

Many of my favorite bloggers were already awarded by Sheryl or Natalie... but here are a few more to add to the list:
Music Blogs:
Dianna at Denley Music
Sing A New Song

Cooking/Craft: (For a beautifully decorated studio and delicious dinners after lessons- Check out her recipe index. It is my favorite part of her blog!)
Kara at creations by Kara (one of my amazingly talented sisters)