Ever since I was 6 years old my favorite type of piano genre was probably classical music, classical somehow makes me intrigued to try harder to complete the piece. Not only has Orpheus introduced me to more amazing genres of music, but its pushing me to be the best that I can be.
Natalie is a very hard worker and has been practicing so much during these last few months. She loves to take on a challenge and figure out how to accomplish her goals. Every song I assign, she learns in record time - she is always ready with a song to perform! Keep up the great work, Natalie!
I have played piano for 2 years and I now know that it is so fun and joyful. My teacher is Ms. Valeria. I like her so much because she is so patient and nice. My favorite thing about her is not just music but that I can talk to her about everything! Some times learning music is frustrating and it makes me cry but after playing it for many days I feel so good. Music is like a power that brings me joy.
Lyla is a very musical and joyful 7 year old student In the last months, she has overcome her fear of making mistakes and now she is able to learn from them. She is willing to always listen to constructive comments and is eager to keep learning new songs! I am proud of all her progress, I enjoy teaching her very much as well as listening to her exciting stories she has to share! Congratulations Lyla! Thanks to her parents for being very supportive of her musical journey!
My name is Eliana. You can call me Ellie. I am nine years old and I sing. I love music because it shows a lot of feeling. When, I have had hard feelings before, music always helps me get through it.
I have had such a blast teaching Ellie and watching her grow over the past year and a half. She brings a super positive attitude and enthusiasm to all her lessons, is a great listener, and is always ready and willing to try new things. She is committed to working hard on our weekly lesson goals, and has made incredible improvement as a result. I also admire how she worked to overcome her fear of performing, and now she owns the stage every time she gets up there and is eager to perform at any chance she can get! Thank you, Ellie, for sharing your beautiful voice with the Orpheus Community!
My name is Noah and I enjoy playing the piano. One of the reasons I enjoy playing the piano is because of the unique sound it has. I also love music and it’s fun to be able to play the songs I like listening to. I love when I've been working on a complicated piece and then I play it correctly. It fills me with a sense of accomplishment. When I play the piano, everyone in the house can hear me play, which is really fun. One of the coolest features about the piano is that you can open up the top of the piano and see all the moving parts.
Noah practices diligently and is always prepared for his piano lessons. He is motivated, and challenges himself to learn new concepts and techniques. I was very impressed with his recent CD project because he prepared and recorded 17 songs! Noah is an excellent pianist, and I am grateful to be his teacher.
I like music because it always makes me feel happy when I am sad. I enjoy it because when I play on my guitar to people they have fun, especially my brother and sister. When i play to myself I always feel like I am getting better and better, and I like it!
Ayala has been studying with me at Orpheus for about a year and a half. In that time, I've seen her consistently improve as a guitarist and musician. She always brings a positive attitude to our lessons, and she always comes ready to play her best and learn more. Ayala shares her love for music with her family - her father Yarden often attends our lessons to support her and learn more about guitar himself, and her younger sister Avigail helped to present Ayala's first concert and host a bonus interview on Ayala's debut album.
Ayala just recently completed recording her first album entitled Deep In The Heart of Texas. Ayala sings and plays a variety of pieces on the album from a diverse array of musical cultures and styles, including selections from famous movies, pieces by great classical composers, and raw blues and folk music. This album features collaborations with professional musicians including cellist Sara Bravo and guitarist Michele Cotrufo, and was produced collaboratively by me and Yarden Mazor through the online digital audio platform, Bandlab.
Connecting to Students
Teaching students of any age in group or private lessons requires at least some emotional connection. Whose heart wouldn’t melt at the sound of a little one running down the hall, arms open wide, saying “Ms. Beff! Ms. Beff! Ms. Beff!” on the way to her piano lesson? Granted, this will not happen with a preteen young man, but I’ll take a “hey, whatssup” any day.
In a private lesson, of course, that is easier to accomplish because of the one-on-one dynamic. Establishing rapport with each student creates a loving atmosphere that encourages trust. I’ve always been a bit of a “Pollyanna”, but I do sincerely believe that if a student knows that their teacher cares about them, they can learn anything. How do we as private lesson teachers translate that same human connection, and even friendship, through online lessons?
Steal, steal, steal!
As a former elementary music teacher, I quickly learned the adage of “steal, steal, steal”. If someone else came up with an incredible idea and shared it, that idea is certainly open game to steal...I mean, use.
When we were first made aware of COVID-19 and had to start teaching solely online, I hit Facebook, Pinterest, and any piano-related forum available. Orpheus provided instant technical training and links to webinars so that instructors could prepare. We all jumped in and had moments of great success, and some failures. We rescheduled lessons when the screen froze because of a weak internet connection, or the sound wasn’t good. Those types of issues were easily fixed. My bigger concern was implementing ideas to keep the human connection while still reviewing and teaching musical concepts.
First of all, greet the student and parent (and other family members or pets) with sincerity to set the tone for the lesson. Second, give the student a “hook” to look forward to at the next lesson, yes even adult students. This may be a hint about a new song, a cool listening assignment using “Happy” by Pharrell, or perhaps asking to meet their pet or favorite stuffed animal at the next lesson. Third, notice their surroundings and ask a quick question. I learned how to hang string lights around the room, was inspired from mom and dad’s new office setup, got great advice on WiFi boosters, and discovered one student’s pretzel obsession! Finally, toss out some theme ideas that connect your studio. For me, this week is Crazy Hair Week...and it’s been hilarious so far! My colleagues have had a Hat Week, send grandma a video week, practice games, and even a baking challenge. I’m certain there will be even more fun ideas for Orpheus students coming soon!
In preparing for our first virtual recitals, I was concerned that students, especially younger students, might lose focus in this different format. I read about a piano teacher with a large studio that had an idea on how to guide students to be purposeful listeners as well as encouragers! Hoping my parents would buy in to the idea, I assigned each performer 2-3 others to specifically listen to, and then write them a compliment or words of encouragement. After the recitals, tears of gratefulness welled up as parents began to send me absolutely precious compliments, astute observations, and simply sweet words of encouragement from one student to another.
I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends
Unable to reach through the screen to correct hand position, or write in phrasing, I’ve become dependent on others to help. Parents have been amazing! I’ve observed they would rather me ask for their help than to keep trying to explain something in different ways. This need for assistance has created more open lines of communication for me with many parents. We’re texting and emailing more, sending videos, pictures of fingering, and new song ideas. This made my day: I asked a dad if his son had looked at a song I scanned for him, and he replied, “um, not yet...but I tried it!”. I love that.
Most adult musicians adapted easily to lessons online since communicating in this manner is a norm in their work or school environments. Across the board though, they miss the direct connection only in-person lessons provide. I spend a few minutes more with them than my younger students talking about what life is truly like for them, and encouraging them to find solace and peace in their own beautiful piano music.
My fellow instructors have been an incredible source of inspiration. Sharing fun ideas to try is great, but they’re also a wonderful sounding board for advice and support. For the first time ever in a Zoom faculty meeting, I confessed to being thoroughly exhausted. This way of teaching requires hours more prep and follow-up. A few weeks ago, I would’ve never been that transparent; however, I’m learning through this crisis to be what I want others to be with me...vulnerable. To parents, colleagues, adult students - please reach out with how things are really going, how you’re really feeling. Let’s support each other through this tumultuous season of our lives. And yes, that may include putting on your Crazy Hair and dancing it out, my friends!
By Douglas Stefaniak
If you’re like me, lately you’ve been trying to find more things to do at home. One thing that most musicians and students are realizing is that they have more time than ever to practice. And with all this extra time, we need to get creative. That is why I have put together a list of apps that will help supercharge your music practice! They add a great level of motivation and diversity for any online instrument lesson. You can practice for more time, be more efficient, and be creative while doing it. These are apps that I always use in my own practice and teaching, so I know they work!
1. GuitarTuna: Guitar, Bass tuner
GuitarTuna is an app that makes tuning your instrument extremely easy. The app shows you what string you’re tuning so there is no confusion, and you will hear a ding when you are right in tune! This app is great because it keeps you in tune for practice and your online lessons! GuitarTuna is also great because it has a metronome, chord library, and various games!
2. Music Tutor
Music Tutor is a sight reading app that I use in my lessons all the time. I really like this app because you can really customize the experience you’ll have when practicing. You can help your sight reading by limiting (or expanding) the notes you have to name, choose different clefs, or even answer by tapping the correct piano keys! There are different durations of quizzes, options to turn on sharps or flats, and even a practice alarm that remind you to play at the same time everyday!
With everything being online these days, having an app to organize all of your music is essential. That’s where forScore comes in! The app is able to copy PDF files from other apps like Safari and Mail, and keep them all in one place. There are multiple ways to view the music for performance, and you can annotate music like you do on Zoom lessons! Another cool feature is the ability to connect a foot-controlled page turner so you don’t have to worry while playing an instrument. Many of the teachers at Orpheus use this app, and so do many professional musicians that perform live regularly!
Tenuto is an app produced by musictheory.net that takes music theory learning to the next level. You can construct notes with Solfege or letter names. You can identify scales and chords. Are you looking to start learning guitar or transfer your skills to another instrument?. You can by learning to identify everything on a guitar or piano! This app was recommended to me many years ago, and it has only improved since then. If you are serious about learning how music really works, at both the beginner and advanced levels, this app is for you.
BandLab is a music creation platform that allows you to record multi-track recordings on PC or mobile. Have a CD Project coming up? This your answer! This app makes it easy to work with your ensemble partners to create performances while social distancing! You can play virtual instruments, create loops to play over, and “fork” (remix) music that other users have uploaded. This app allows you to be creative with others, something that everyone can benefit from right now!
6. Music Flash Class
Music Flash Class is another sight reading app that has different, fun games to name notes! My personal favorite is Hot Potato, where a timer counts down until a buzzer goes off! Another great one is play until you name a wrong note. Because of the games, it really doesn’t even feel like practice!
Here are some bonus resources that Orpheus recommends!
This is a website that shows you how to improve your practice, performance, and approach to music. Using scientifically backed research, Noa Kageyama gives you practice “hacks” that can improve your playing. Whether it’s finding motivation or being efficient, he has the answers to your questions. There is a blog, podcast, and free resources! I personally still use these resources all the time.
Ever seen amazing piano videos online or on Youtube like this? SeeMusic can do this for you with the click of a button! SeeMusic is available on the Mac App Store, and will produce visuals like particles and lights to match seamlessly to your playing. This download allows users to understand harmony through color, and create videos extremely easily. You could share them in your online music classes for all your friends!
What apps have you been using lately?
Mr. Doug and Dr. Klondike have challenged their students to collectively learn 100 new pieces by the end of the semester. If they succeed, the guitar students will be treated to an exclusive celebration party.
In order for a piece to qualify as one of the 100, students must evaluate their own playing based on a set of criteria they set for themselves. Criteria can include accuracy, and musicality, among others. Each criteria is rated on a 5 point scale by the student, and any piece that scores twenty or over is placed on the 100 Piece Challenge board.
“It is so great to see all of our students working together, and challenging themselves to accomplish a goal,” said Dr. Klondike.
As the students work to complete the challenge they learn accountability and self-evaluation skills. For Mr. Doug the best part about the project is the “conversation that the rating process creates.” He notes that students are able to “objectively assess” and “focus on specific ideas” related to their playing.
As of this writing students have learned a total of 71 new songs ranging from classical repertoire to today’s popular music.