Sunday, December 23, 2018

Workshops and a Master Class in 2019!

Greetings! It is a privilege to share pedagogical ideas with teachers. Here are a few of my scheduled events in 2019. I will update them with an individual link and announcement when the event draws closer.

Feb. 9, Sat, Curriculum Workshop, Cal State East Bay Piano Pedagogy Symposium
Feb. 13, Wed, Curriculum Workshop, MTAC Santa Clara Branch
Feb. 16, Sun, Master Class with MTAC Alameda Branch
June 28, Friday, Technique Workshop, MTAC 2019 Convention in Santa Clara

Merry Christmas and Happy Teaching in the New Year!

Monday, December 3, 2018

5 considerations when choose a method book

My pedagogy class has recently surveyed some wonderful and creative methods books for the beginners. However, when it comes to choosing the ones that suit and motivate our young students, what are the principles shall we consider?

Here are the five considerations:
  1. Age: A child, particularly younger than 6 years old, will probably draw to the books that are colorful with attractive graphics. I had a student who practiced significantly more because the method book is full of lovely and fun cartoon figures!
  2. Content: is the method book in an all-in-one format that includes theory, ear training, and repertoires? or it comes in separately like the lesson, technique, theory and supplementary materials? does the piece sound attractive? does the content layout look too busy or clear?
  3. Pace: some methods books progress faster than the others, and this is a determining factor for choosing a particular method for your student. Too fast pace may end up frustration and too slow lead to boredom. 
  4. Approach: does the book focus on position reading or intervallic reading or both? does the author emphasize a specific teaching idea? 
  5. Teaching and learning styles: does the method book seem to be in a logical order or approach to you? do you prefer your students to begin with black or white keys? on or off-staff reading? Is it a good fit for a visual or auditory student? 
There are tons of incredible methods in the market, here are just a very few methods books that I reviewed based on popularity, longevity and unique approach. The rote teaching methods were introduced in my previous blog

Alfred's Basic Piano Library: Moderate pace with intervallic approach to landmark notes. This series is probably the most popular one along with the Faber Piano Adventures.

Faber Piano Adventures: Slow to moderate pace. Comparing to Alfred's Basic Piano Library, this series progresses at a slower pace with more detail drills in each exercise/concept. Almost one-third of the primer book focuses on the off-staff and finger number reading.

Bastein New Traditions All-in-one Piano Course: Slow to moderate pace with detail/repetitive drills of each concept, addresses both position and intervallic reading with popular tune arrangements. Comes with fun and colorful drawings. Primer A is only for off-staff and finger number reading. Primer B starts staff reading with middle C.

John Thompson's Modern Course For the Piano: Teaching Little Fingers to Play: Moderate to fast pace with colorful animal figures. Intervallic approach with an emphasis on "stepping up and down, then a skip." There is no off-staff reading. Moving hand positions, playing with hands together and crossing hands are included in this book.

Tales of A Musical Journey by Irina Gorin: Moderate pace with an emphasis on building fundamental techniques such as the firm fingertips, free moving wrists and arms by starting with strong fingers (3rd finger) first and non-legato playing. The book introduces the musical concept through a fairy-tale telling.

Poco Piano for Young Children: Similar to Tales of A Musical Journey, this method starts playing with the 3rd finger. Like its title, it is meant for children probably younger than 5 years old. Strong emphasis on staff line and intervallic reading with big colored staffs and notations. There is no off-staff reading.

Piano Discovery: Slow to moderate pace with pastel color art-work background and characters. The on-staff starter book centers on the notes of middle C position with step-by-step detail instructions. 

Happy exploring! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Piano Pedagogy Practicum Class II for Teachers!

This "practicum" class offers a practical approach to teaching and is designed especially for piano teachers. In this class, the participants will receive in-depth information and solutions to common issues on specific topics and levels.

This class is the second one in the practicum series. It continues from the previous beginner and elementary and addresses some of the challenges and difficulties that students face when transiting from elementary to late elementary or intermediate level:
  • Learning obstacles that cause a student's progress to slow down or want to quit.
  • Struggle with playing up to tempo with good quality tone and control.
  • Technical aspects: fingers independency and dexterity, hands coordination, balance, playing chords with voicing, etc.
  • Teaching scales and arpeggios 
  • Reading and rhythmic counting issues
  • Musical phrasing and dynamic control
  • Effective pedaling
  • Memorization and practice strategies
Class information:
  • Siting limitation: each class will only accept 3-5 participants to better address individual concerns 
  • Class format: seminar with lecture and group discussion 
  • Length: 75 minutes 
  • Location: Sunnyvale studio, CA
  • Frequency: Four classes every two weeks. Participants will have the opportunity to review and experiment what we have discussed in the class.
Please contact me 408.675.9896 for detail information and enrollment. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

10/18 MTAC Los Altos Curriculum Workshop

It is a great pleasure to present another popular workshop of my: the Nitty-Gritty Comprehensive Curriculum Exams for the MTAC Los Altos Branch.

This session will share insights of two international programs (ABRSM and RCM) and the CM that help music teachers exploring their options and determining which CC is best suited for their studio teaching and students' level. Plus, strategies on teaching sight reading and ear training!

An editable comparison chart with an additional bonus handout will be available for teachers during the workshop! a simplified sample version can be downloaded here after the presentation.

Date: 10/18/2018
Time: 10 am
Location: Teachers' private home, member invitation

Monday, September 17, 2018

4 Study Plans that Ignite the New Academic Year!

Like my students, I am looking forward to the new academic year with excitement and the feeling of exploring the new adventures. Here are a couple of fun ways to bring my students up to the speed for the new semester!ignite
  1. Curriculum Exam: It helps your students and their parents know which level they are currently in and what to look forward to. It also requires students learning all aspects of music that includes not only playing pieces but also the theory, ear training, and techniques (scales, arpeggios etc.). There are many wonderful state and international (RCM, ABRSM) curriculum exams to choose from. When interview a new student who never took the exam before, it is important to consider both his/her musicianship and performance ability in order to place the student in an appropriate level. Here is my workshop on this topic, which compares a variety of Curriculum Exams, pros and cons, and how to help students preparing them. The Nitty-Gritty of Comprehensive Curriculum ProgramsNitty-Gritty of Comprehensive Curriculum Programs. It will be featured again on 10/18 for MTAC Los Altos Branch Program
  2. Events: There are adjudicated events and competitions that can definitely motivate your students learning! And some of them are in progressive levels 1-10 too. For busy parents and high school students, the online submission will be an excellent choice too, e.g: MTNA eFestival
  3. Recitals: It is important that students shall play at least once a semester to showcase their learning, particularly if the students do not wish to participate in the exams or events. In addition to studio recitals, check out your local teachers' associations for additional performing opportunities!
  4. Repertoires: The exams, events or your "theme recital" can be the guide for choosing the repertoires. I like to pick the repertoires that target both students' strongest and weakest areas to give them both pleasure and challenge. I also enjoy adding new composers' compositions into my teaching library. My recent ones are Lera Auerbach and Lowell Liebermann. Here is a wonderful blog by Dr. Jane Magrath on the subject! Choosing Piano Repertoires for your Student. 

Have a great start in the new academic year!! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wonderful moments in teaching!

It is the end of the semester and my students and I are working diligently on their recital performances as well as the curriculum exams. During the preparation, I realize that there are many wonderful moments in teaching that is so rewarding and worthing sharing!!

  • Engage: This is probably the best moment when I see the sparks in my student's eyes with such understanding and enthusiasm in learning. We connect!!
  • Mature: When my students showed me the pieces that were thaught previously with such fine execution and precision, I enjoyed this moment so much and pray that they will remember this matured playing throughout their musical journey.
  • Littel musicians: Just when my students master the techniques and musicality of a piece, they infuse it with their personality and expression. What a glorious moment for a teacher to savor! A fine little musician is born, and I am so proud of them.

Of course, all these wonderful moments won't exist without learning from mistakes, hard-working, and patience. We won't get here without these complete learning cycle.

Most of all, thanks to all the parents' unfailing support. You are the reason for your child's success!! And I am grateful to have you embarking this journey with me. (A lovely bouquet from a parent 😊)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Pedagogy Workshop for MTAC Los Altos Branch 5/24!

It was delightful to receive the invitation from the MTAC Los Altos Branch to present one of my most popular workshops "Essential Teaching Tips for Beginner-Elementary Students, and Beyond"!

If you missed it in January, please join me for this workshop which shares information not only for piano teachers but also teachers with other instruments!

Experienced awkward hand position, bent joint, very little practice or counting problems? This workshop provides solutions to these common issues by focusing on three aspects of teaching: (1) the fundamental techniques that shape the future advanced playing, (2) the efficient practice strategies that ensure successful at-home practice, and (3) the hall-of-fame music apps that make reading/counting drills and ear training so much more fun!!!

Date: Thursday, 10:15 am, 5/24/2018
Location: Private teacher's home, please contact me

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Workshop Q&A - repertoire levels

There are many vivid discussions after my Jan workshops. This one tops the list.

Q: What are the repertoire levels?  It was asked by many novice teachers.

A: I have addressed this question in my FEB workshop Comprehensive Curriculum Program in which repertoires levels are one of the determining factors to assign students to an appropriate level. It is such crucial knowledge to require for teachers! Without this understanding, students often suffer from learning a piece that is too difficult for them to master the technique or too easy that they get bored with it very soon.

The good news is that there are many outstanding resources such as CCP or adjudicated events repertoire guidelines and anthologies that can help solve these problems. To summarize:

In general, there are about 10 levels/grades of 4 stages at the pre-college classical piano studying:

  • Beginner (Preparatory - level 1); Elementary (level 2-3); Intermediate (level 4-7); Advanced (level 8-10)
  • Standardized curriculum exams such as RCM or ABRSM are graded based on these stages of development. However, there are discrepancies among various grading systems.  
  • Examples of famous piano masterworks correspond to the levels: Kabalevsky's op. 39 Clowns is at RCM and ABRSM level 3, Beethoven For Elise is at RCM level 7 (Intermediate), and Debussy Clair de Lune is at RCM level 10 (advanced).
  • When in doubt, it's best to use anthologies like RCM Celebration Perspective Series (prep-level 10), and Keith Snell's Piano Repertoires 

Here are two "teaching repertoire bibles" that can guide you to have a better understanding of the levels of repertoires.  

  • Pianists Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature by Jane Magrath - This is a must-have book that provides an invaluable resource of piano literature from Baroque through Contemporary periods.  The difficulty levels of this book are ranged from beginner to early advanced repertoires like easier Beethoven piano sonatas.
  • Guide to the Pianist's Repertoire, Fourth Edition by Maurice Hinson and Wesley Roberts - Comparing to Dr. Magrath's pianist's guide, this book is also a repertoire survey but meant for advanced and professional pianists. Like the pianist's guide, it includes all periods of piano compositions with brief descriptions and levels of difficulties.
Want more? visit my teaching resource page for more info.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Piano Pedagogy Practicum Class for Teachers!

This "practicum" class offers a practical approach to teaching and is designed especially for piano teachers. In this class, the participants will receive in-depth information and solutions to common issues on specific topics and levels.

For example, one of the classes is the continuation of my most popular workshop "Fundamental Techniques for Beginner and Elementary Students and Beyond." This class includes techniques, dynamics controls, articulations, practice strategies, and musicianship drills. It addresses the following subjects but not limited to:
  • How do I fix awkward hand position or bent joint?
  • Why are the fast passage notes sounded uneven or having unison problem?
  • Why can't they play musically? 
  • Why can't my students practice correctly?
  • How can I improve my students reading or counting ability?
  • How do I choose repertoire to motivate students?
Class format:
  • Siting limitation: each class will only accept 3-4 participants only to address individual concerns with the benefit of small group discussion
  • Time: 75 minutes session
  • Location: Sunnyvale studio, CA
  • Length: Three consecutive weeks per topic/level concentration. Participants will have the opportunity to review and experiment what we have discussed in the class during the following week
Please contact me 408.675.9896 for detail information and enrollment. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Workshop with composer Mr. Dennis Alexander

It was always a privilege to meet with the composer or the concert pianist in person and gain the insights of their compositions and performances. Monday was no exception! Thanks to my local chapter CAPMT Santa Clara Valley, we had Mr. Dennis Alexander as our featured guest and clinician. He shared his newest publication "Nocturns" as well as teaching tips and stories behind his composition inspiration.

Mr. A is a very expressive performer, like he said, "romantic at heart", which resonates with my strong belief in playing music with expression. No matter what kind of techniques we try to teach to our students, they serve as means to fulfill the musical purpose. In my conversation with Mr. A, he talked about how he choreographs physical movements to help students play more expressively. He also demonstrated using a body leaning movement to add more arm weight when playing big sound.

Talking about rhythmic counting, Mr. A emphasized the importance of counting out loud when playing! Totally my teaching philosophy. As many of my professors have addressed, if you can't count aloud when you play, you don't know the rhythm well enough nor develop the rhythmic pulse in you. He also offers ideas such as tapping the rhythm with the "practice version" of the CD to gain a thorough understanding of the piece.

Here are a video of his Chopinesque Nocturn and photos highlights!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Feb CAPMT Pedagogy Workshop in San Jose!

Look forward to presenting an informational session "The Nitty-Gritty of Comprehensive Curriculum Program." This workshop is FREE to the public, NO registration required!! There are refreshments and coffee provided in this gathering. 😋

This session will share insights from two international and two CA state CC programs that help teachers to explore their options and determine which CC is best suited for their studio teaching and students' level.

Highlight: It will include comments and views from the examiners/evaluators!! 

Date: Wednesday, 2/28/2018
TIme: 9:30 am
Location: San Jose Greene Music
Host: CAPMT SCV Chapter

Monday, January 29, 2018

Photos from CSUEB Piano Pedagogy Symposium

Thanks to Dr. Omri Shimron and fellow presenters Gail Lew and Lynda McManus, we had such a nice turn out and a group of enthusiastic teachers and students! It is delightful to see that we are getting pedagogy events hosted in the Bay Area and raise the awareness of Music Education!

Presenters and the host: myself, Omri, Lynda, and Gail

Vivid discussions after the symposium!

 With a group of young teachers who are founding a non-profit DPAC organization for music!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Turkish Bazaar - explore repertoire (late elementary)

Many of my students loved playing this late elementary piece because of its unique oriental sound and fun chromatic scales! I have included this one in my YouTube Performance and Practice Series (PPS) and you can find it in the RCM Celebration Series Repertoire level 2.

Monday, January 15, 2018

CSUEB Piano Pedagogy Symposium in Hayward CA!!

Here is another exciting pedagogy event host by California State University East Bay on Jan 20, Sat 2018!! It is FREE and opens to the public, please join us if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here are the event schedule and information. This Symposium includes topics like:

  • Studio Business - Lynda McManus
  • Contemporary Music Materials - Gail Lew
  • Effective Teaching Strategies that address fundamental techniques, practice quality, and music apps - my session

Hope to see students and teachers join us for this educational event! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Performance and Practice Series (PPS)

Happy New Year!!

So exciting to finally launch this project PERFORMANCE AND PRACTICE SERIES on YouTube! Its purpose is to remind students how to practice when working on these repertoires at home, and the performance part serves as a "motivation/model." Every single piece contains two parts: the first is the performance of the piece and the second is the practicing tips that I addressed in the lesson.

Here is the Solder's March by R. Schumann's from the series, and I start at the Elementary level, which coincidentally is the featured topic for two of my upcoming workshops in January! "Effective Teaching Strategies for Beginner - Elementary Students, and Beyond: Techniques, Practice, and Musicianship"