Sunday, March 10, 2019

Motivation in the Music Studio by Del Parkinson

Motivation in Music Lessons

It was a privilege to be able to attend a UVMTA music workshop recently presented by Dr. Del Parkinson, professor of Piano Pedagogy at Boise State. His combination of humor, genuineness and helpful tips was refreshing. It is easy to see why his student's mention these elements in his rate the professor remarks! Following are my notes from his presentation
including discussion comments and remarks that I found helpful from other music teachers in attendance.

He began the presentation with a punch line from Dear Abby in response to a student who was begging her students to quit lessons.
"Music lessons are like a a vaccination.  It's painful at first but it's worth it!"
One of the benefits of music lessons is that playing an instrument is a lifelong skill and it is also widely known to enhance brain development and math skills. When motivation is waning we need to discover...
 "What is the key to every single child?"
  • Sometimes it is waiting for them to pass through a phase. Even Dr. Parkinson had a "lull" phase
  • Keep changing things up
  • Use different approaches for different age levels
  • Explore different lesson formats, not always predictable
  • Buddy Lessons
  • Group teaching
  • Music camps
  • Sibling ensemble playing

Benefits of Ensembles:
  • Develop accompanist skills (Balance, continuity, etc.)
  • Requires listening, counting, continuity
  • Cure the practice wired bad habit of "Stop and Fix"
  • Ensemble is more like a performance... don't fix, just keep going
  • Sight reading is helpful with someone else to encourage continuity
  • Learn to take and give feedback from other students and teach each other
  • "We learn more through teaching then we ever do through studying."
  • Ensemble practice is socially motivating

Preparing students for "What if" moments at Performances
  • Identify Jump Spots to enable them to start from almost anywhere in the piece.
  • Play practice games with sections labeled as numbers, fruit or anything memorable for the student are helpful.
  • At least 2 spots on every page and definitely one on the last line.  If they fudge the middle at least they can jump to the end and finish the song!
  • If you mess up in the middle if you begin well and end well you are forgiven.
  • Aim to keep the same mindset for practice and performance. Tone up the practice so mind is highly engaged and super sensitive during practice, tone down the performance mind so it is more calm and relaxed like a practice session.
  • Practice performing "Play-ins" at least 2 months before start performing in groups for each other every week.
  • For Advanced Levels one teacher required performances from start to end in different settings at least 12x before Master's Recital.
  • Student's plan their own recital at teacher's house and do their own invites and refreshments.
  • Have students perform for x # of people between lessons and obtain signatures of the neighbor, sibling, mailman, grandma, etc. between lessons.
  • Performance prep - wear gloves to keep hands warm and keep your heart rate down.
  • Record often to simulate performance anxiety setting
  • Play every piano at the church to get used to different touches of various instruments.
  • Lay down in a dark room and visualize your piece from beginning to end.

Teaching Manner Matters
  • Replace old school style pedagogues direct harshness approach with more kindness.
  • Can we find the good?
  • Most of us are our own worst critics.
  • Example: Cassals and Piategorsky - cello teacher applauded his first performance at the lesson despite many flaws.  The student felt the praise was undeserved, but the teacher had the view that we can always find things we like in the piece
  • "And for the rest leave it to the ignorant and stupid who judge by counting only the faults.  I can be grateful, and so must you be, for even one note, one wonderful phrase."

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