Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2017 MTAC Convention Musical Conversations with featured musicians

I always feel inspired by reading biographies, watching or hearing interviews of great musicians, scientists, philosophers and well-known spiritual leaders about their life stories and paths to success.

This is exactly how I felt about these new sessions called "Musical Conversations" at this year's MTAC convention. I had such joyful time attending the interviews of these featured artists: Cheng-Chow Trio and Mr. Jon Nakamatsu.

Although I have known Angela Cheng and Alan/Alvin Chow as professional colleagues through my affiliation with the OhioMTA and have attended their concerts, this was the first time I heard fun stories about their personal life. Above all is that they passed on valuable guidances about playing duet/trio music:

  • listen to your partner attentively.
  • discuss musical ideas and sound intricacies with "who carries the melodies" in mind.
  • adjusting sitting position, especially with three pianists at one piano.
  • how the primo person shall practice when he/she is not the one who uses the pedaling during the performance.

In Mr. Nakamatsu's interview, I was moved by how he rose to the occasion when there are obstacles in his life, like performing with a high fever. During his recent chamber concert in Santa Cruze, he nearly fainted at the backstage but still carried through the performance, only to find out later that he should be hospitalized in his condition. This truly demonstrated that human minds and determination can overcome grave challenges even physical illness.

He also talked about his journey of becoming a Van Cliburn Gold Medalist. He worked as a high school German teacher for financial support when prepared the competition. During the event, not only did he need to perform under such pressure, he also squeezed time to grade his students' papers! This leads me to think that many of my college students were double majors, and learning/practicing music has helped their concentration and discipline which evidently brought benefits to their study in another profession. Although most of us often choose one profession when we need to fully commit to it, musician or not, MUSIC remains the joy of our lifetime, and that's the beauty of it! 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

2017 MTAC Convention "Technique" Sessions

Since healthy techniques and musician wellness are the core principles in my teaching, I resonate tremendously with these two sessions that I attended during the convention.

Dr. Gayle Kowalchyk's "Technique for Life" has virtually covered all techniques that an elementary student should have learned and mastered. Each of the techniques comes with three music excerpts that range from elementary to advanced levels. She has addressed some quintessential techniques such as "Arm Weight" "Rising Wrist" "The Thumb" etc., with emphasis on playing without tensions.

If you like to know more about her session, the handout is available on the MTAC Convention website.

Talking about "tension free," Dr. Fred Karpoff's showcase presentation - "Faber Piano Institute: The Power of Technique and Artistry" has echoed and reinforced my philosophy on how important that is to teach healthy techniques to young students and the ability to play naturally with as little tension as possible. He talked about an important concept of the "Three Dimension Playing," in which a performer shall move freely around the keyboard including in and out motions. He demonstrated techniques like Thumb Crossing Under (when playing scales), Thrills, Repeating Notes to Parallel Octaves and 3rds with detail explanations. If you are interested, please visit his piano technique website Entrada for video demonstrations. However, please keep in mind that since Dr. Karpoff is the director of the Faber Piano Institute, Entrada will soon merge with the Faber Piano Institute's website.

Among the showcase materials, I found that Hanon-Faber: The New Virtuoso Pianist a good resource for teachers to address these techniques in a productive and organizing way. If you consider incorporating Hanon into your students' finger exercise routines, this book provides tips on how to practice these vigorous exercises with information like Wrist Rotation, Circles & Rotation for Trills and more.

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 MTAC Convention Music App Sessions

One of the most important thing to attend a convention for me is to learn new ideas and seek improvements in my teaching. Today, I enjoyed Ms. Lelia Viss's "Music App" and "Baroque theme" sessions as well as Dr. Gayle Kowalchyk's "Technique for Life." Both of them provided ample information on how they use those tools and concepts in their teaching.

In Ms. Viss's App sessions, I am glad to learn more about music history/appreciation apps, which I have been researched for some time. Some of them are really fun and educational. She also talked about her teaching approach of "bench time," in which students will work on assigned apps for about 30 minutes while prior or after their lessons. This is an efficient way to foster student's learning on the subjects of theory, ear training, and history which does not always get done when they are assigned as weekly assignments.

However, when designating a "study time" on those learning subjects right before or after their lesson is a good way of ensuring their learning. I have seen tremendous results and improvements for the past 10 years when I started to require my students working on their ear training requirements of the RCM/MDP 15-30 minutes right or after their lessons on their "tech time," and this even doesn't require of me being there since the software or apps will correct their mistakes! All I need to do is to give learning guidances and tips when they starting a new subject or level. Then I can fully concentrate on teaching them repertoire and technique as a "Piano Lesson" intended to be!

If you are interested in incorporating technology into your studio with traditional lessons but are new to this approach, consults with Leila Viss's website, which has a lot of information. There are some useful tips on using apps for a variety of subjects on my app review page as well. (Just a quick reminder that all the apps that recommended by Leila are only for ios, iPad/iPhone.)

You can DOWNLOAD THE HANDOUTS on the MTAC convention website or check out more invigorating sessions!!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

2017 MTAC Convention Day 1 cont.

Many joyful things happened in the exhibit hall....

Being a member of both MTAC and MTNA/CAPMT,  I am delighted to help out at the CAPMT booth and promote the organization during the convention.  It is a privilege to belong to both of them, with MTAC being the longest CA professional music teachers association and CAPMT being affiliated with the National MTNA. They provide professional connections and invaluable resources for both teachers and students. Here is my picture with the CAPMT president Noreen Wenjen since I was the first one to help out on an opening day! 10 am sharp. It was good that I had the jetlag from traveling to Asia to keep me wide awake in the morning hours.

One of the best advantages of attending a conference is to visit the exhibit hall and check out the books and music that I want. Not to mention the opportunity to meet with the authors and composers whom I admire! Got an autograph from Mr. A, Dennis Alexander, on his favorite solo piece collection when cruising Alfred's music booth, lucky me! 😊
Since there is no line, Mr. A and I had a bit of discussion on his compositions and teaching with using technology just right before his inspiring presentation, which he included my new fond app "SuperScore." Hmm, time to update my app review as well.

I have also discovered an excellent survey book on piano concertos, which just published this year, with an inclusion of contemporary composers! Exactly what I am looking for over the years. My review is coming soon!