I love to play and listen to music, as it makes me very happy. I love that Ms. Beth teaches me new songs (especially the Disney ones). I have a lot of fun playing them.
Sharanya has been a piano student at Orpheus for about one year. She is very involved and has participated in performance classes, recitals, and Postcards for Seniors. Sharanya practices diligently and is so excited when learning a new concept or song! I am proud of her hard work and truly enjoy teaching such a talented young lady!
Our son Nathaniel has improved in his guitar skill last year. Mr Jeremy is a great teacher and has connected with Nathaniel in special way. His teaching skills and methods are efficient
Nathaniel has continued to show his work ethic and enthusiasm in every lesson through his preparation and musical personality. He takes great attention to detail in the clarity and musicality of his pieces alongside demonstrating a high level of technique and tone. The progress that he continually makes every week demonstrates his perseverance and love for the guitar. Nathaniel’s curiosity and strive for excellence will bring him far in anything that he tries and I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with him.
When one of my students was struggling, I encouraged her to learn about her family’s favorite music. She discovered that her aunt loved the song “Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield”, and so she decided to play it with her two younger sisters at a family reunion.
Over the next few months, her practice accelerated, she mastered difficult music theory concepts, and she began to play with joy and zeal.
Sisters, Misha and Ashima, perform a duet for our Musical Postcards for Seniors project (jump to 1:08).
When the sisters performed the piece at their family reunion, they felt a huge sense of accomplishment because their performance had special meaning for their family.
Maybe you can think of a song that is particularly significant for you and your family?
Lucas plays the bass line to a song called "The Erie Canal" while his sister Emma improvises along to it.
Music can connect you to friends and strangers living miles away (just ask the thousands of seniors who’ve received our Musical Postcards), but it also has the power to strengthen your bond with those closest to you: your family.
Few activities bond families in the powerful way that music does.
Alex and his mom play a duet .
The Musical Journey is not just a system of goals and milestones that students accomplish, but a way for students to find internal motivation with creative projects that they choose.
With lessons online, we knew students needed a way to stay motivated with Musical Journey projects they could do at home. Orpheus teachers worked with their students and other faculty to envision new ways for students to share their music online. Many students have performed home concerts via Zoom or YouTube live, other students have created YouTube albums. The online format has opened up new possibilities we never would have imagined before.
Graham T.'s YouTube Live Concert
Celebrating these accomplishments is just as important. The admin staff and teachers have worked together to make students feel special even though we can't meet in person. This summer we hand-delivered over 25 trophies, and mailed over 90 milestone bracelets.
Britten W. Earns His First Trophy
Despite being online, the Musical Journey continues to spark growth, creativity, and independence in our students.
Milestones are mailed with a special note, and trophies are hand-delivered to the student's home.
By Aylin Tanriverdi
Musical Postcards for Seniors brings joy to seniors, through music, during these unprecedented times. Studies have shown that music has many positive effects on health, including neurological, cardiovascular, and psychological benefits. It can improve memory and immune functioning. It can also reduce anxiety and pain. Music lifts spirits and unites people during a time of self-isolation and separation. In Musical Postcards for Seniors, we send weekly music concerts (aka “musical postcards”) via YouTube videos created by students.
I was inspired to launch this initiative after seeing the comfort that music brought my grandparents during the pandemic. Normally, I only get to see my grandparents once a year because they live far away, but this year, due to the pandemic, we have not been able to reunite in person. Rather, we are trying to stay connected through video calls and music. My grandfather, in particular, loves listening to classical music. When we visited him in previous years, I remember he was listening to Bolero, Rodrigo’s guitar concerto, you name it. He is actually the one who asked me to play my first virtual mini-guitar concert!
What started as one concert for him turned into a weekly concert for all of my grandparents. During the pandemic, music helped us cope with the stress of uncertainty. It was a gift that brought us together even when we were thousands of miles apart. After a while, I started to think that other seniors needed the gift of music and the connection it can bring. So, when I heard about the nursing home crisis on the news, I knew it was time to reach out. Orpheus supported this idea, and we worked to bring students together to launch Musical Postcards for Seniors. As of July 2020, we have reached 758 nursing homes. These nursing homes include 26 states in the United States, 4 provinces in Canada, and 3 states in Australia.
Our initiative has been rewarding in many ways. As an organizer, seeing the positive response from students and teachers made another special kind of connection. Friends, brothers, sisters, and musicians of all ages were eager to share their music with strangers in isolation. Some students even composed their own pieces! With the help of Mr. Klondike and the directors, we worked as a team to put this together. Students who wouldn't otherwise practice and record pieces liked the cause, and went out of their way to dress up, practice, and record a huge number of pieces! The project brought out the best in everyone involved.
Our impact has gone beyond the Orpheus community Music has proven to be a vehicle to connect people globally. It is the universal form of expression that brings us hope and helps us cope with uncertainty. Whether it be from balconies in Italy, Facebook live streams from popular artists, or videos for seniors created by Orpheus students. During these times of uncertainty, we wanted to spread joy to seniors and show that we care, and I think we achieved that. Even if we can't see the seniors, we can feel that they are listening to our music. The response from nursing home residents and staff has been overwhelmingly positive: we used to reach out to them, and now they are reaching out to us for even more videos! One of our partner nursing homes in Austin, Overture Arboretum, even reached out to us and asked if we could perform live concerts through Zoom.
We would love to reach more nursing homes and help to grow this initiative. If someone is in a nursing home or has friends/family in a nursing home and would like to receive Musical Postcards, please reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email, please let us know the name of the facility and the email of the activity director (if available).
More coverage of this initiative:
Austin high schooler creates virtual concerts for nursing homes
I am very excited to nominate Caden as Student of the Month! Caden is the type of student that will surprise you each and every lesson. Some of these surprises include learning a new challenging song on his own, learning WAY more than I had planned for lessons, or playing a piece I didn't even know he knew in a performance class (I was speechless in said performance class)! He recently passed his Level 2 test only one semester after passing the Level 1 test! It has been my pleasure working with Caden, and I look forward to our continued collaboration in the future. Nice job Caden!
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!