Piano Pedagogy, Uncategorized

Summer Lessons!

We are heading into our last two scheduled weeks of piano lessons this year!  I think everyone is excited, even me! There is something special about summer.  I love the change of pace and flexibility in schedule that summer offers and a bit of a break is good for all of us.  However, it doesn’t have to mean that we don’t see each other again until September!  If you would like some help for your child over the summer or want them to learn new a couple pieces and have extra motivation to keep up the practicing, you have the option to book either A La Carte Summer Lessons or a Summer Lessons package!

A La Carte Summer Lessons will be 45 minute lessons for $40 each!

The Summer Lessons Package will be a package of three 45 minute lessons for $100 that can be scheduled at mutually convenient times throughout the summer.

When you book an a la carte or package, you will be sent a link to a signup page to choose from the available lesson times.

Happy Summer Practicing!


Newsletters, Piano Pedagogy, Private Lessons, Uncategorized

Welcome (or Welcome Back!) to Piano Lessons!

A very big and very warm welcome to all the new students and welcome back to all the returning students!  I am so excited to see you next week and begin another musical year together!  I had a wonderful, refreshing summer with several opportunities for professional development since June and can’t wait to share and use all the new ideas I gained!

Our first week of lessons begins on September 9th!  To the email I sent out, I have attached a policy letter and a calendar of the first half of our year with special dates like holiday closures, masterclasses and recitals on it.  You can print it off and place it on your fridge if you like to keep track of all the dates!  There will be a limited number printed and available in studio for those of you who do not have access to a printer.  NOTE: the date for the Christmas Recital is still waiting to be officially confirmed–if there are any changes at all to the calendar a new one will be emailed out.  So, as we prepare for next week, just a couple of things to remember to bring:

All Students:  LESSON TUITION, in the form of 10 post dates for Sept 1-June 1, 2 payments or 1 full payment made payable to MICHELLE MILLER, please.  If you have not done so already, this is due no later than your first lesson!

Sunbeam 1 students: 
just bring your enthusiastic selves and a parent (Sunbeams is a parented class!)
Sunbeams 2, 3 and Moonbeams 3 students:  bring your bags, tinsheets, castanet.  Leave last year’s books at home.  REVIEW YOUR NOTES!!!  There will be a note quiz! 😀
Private Students:  bring a 1″ BINDER as your homework book (this is NEW this year, but VERY important!) and any books you worked from over the summer to play out of for me…and review your notes for a game! Some of the new private students still need to submit their books fee for the books you had me pick up for your first lesson.  You can submit that as a separate cheque. 

We are at 38 “Likes” now…getting closer to the 50 mark.  At 50 Likes there will be a draw for prizes. If you haven’t already done so,  head on over and check out our facebook page which features videos of students, blog posts from my webpage and few fun things including Wednesday Words of Wisdom!  Then like it and invite friends and relatives to like as well for a chance to be in the draw for prizes!   Thank you to all of you who have liked the page already!  It’s been exciting to watch it grow!  There are even a few “likes” from across the globe!     https://www.facebook.com/mmmusicstudio

You can also find my blog with great ideas for working that infamous practice time into your schedule, choosing an instrument as well as regular newsletters (so if you can’t find an emailed newsletter, you can always find a copy there.  You can also subscribe to the blog and have it automatically delivered to your email each time a new post is created.  Find it at:  https://mmmusicstudio.wordpress.com/

There will be a couple of new courses offered this year for all the advancing students.  Starting in October, I will be offering a Intermediate Rudiments course.  This is for any students who have completed Basic Rudiments and/or Grade 5 Piano–some exceptions will be made for those who are currently working on a grade 6 level who haven’t completed the former two exams.  Intermediate Rudiments is a co-requisite to the grade 6 and grade 7 Royal Conservatory Piano certificate. It will be a weekly hour long course running from October to May.
The other course I will be offering will be a little more casual but I am really excited about it.  About once a month or so I would like to offer a PIANO PEDAGOGY (how to teach piano) class to all advancing students who have earned a grade 5 Piano exam or higher.  I would like to begin teaching these students how to teach!  In my studio, I like to really focus all levels of music towards learning life skills that allow us to give back in some way with our music.  Some ways we’ve done this is through composing and improvising and learning to harmonize or read lead sheets.  I would like my high school students to have the skills to give back through teaching….not because I think they will want to be piano teachers, but so that they have the ability to give back…maybe through community volunteer work or volunteering at a Senior’s home or Children’s Hospital.  The inspiration for this came from this youtube video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sNLsAbBWl_s  as well as from a fellow colleague from Coleman, Alberta who told me all about preparing her son to start teaching lessons right before he entered high school.

Enjoy this week!  It kind of feels a little like New Years in some ways!  See you all next week!


Piano Pedagogy, Private Lessons, Technology, Uncategorized

Incorporating the iPhone or iPad in Piano!

I have had my iPhone for almost two years now. My husband surprised me with it for Christmas 2010. We had purchased a tiny little phone with a flip keyboard for our daughter as she approached junior high and prepared to ride the city bus. Even though it was the cheapest little phone at the Bell store with the littlest and more basic plan, it was still nicer than my ancient phone. My husband didn’t think this was very fair, so the night before Christmas Eve he removed my phone from my purse and went and traded it in. Imagine my panic and distress to be running around last minute shopping on Christmas Eve and discover my phone gone! He was almost busted! 😉
Anyway, on Christmas morning both me and my daughter were very surprised—and I was a little relieved to find out I hadn’t lost my phone!
I hadn’t been pining for an iPhone or really considering it, but now I can’t live without it. And it has been quite handy for my studio too! Here are some ways I’ve used it:

Recording my students for feedback–this was especially helpful to them in preparing for recital and exams
Finding youtube videos of piano pieces or orchestral arrangements to share with my students and use with Fun With Composers
Receiving text messages from parents if they are stuck in traffic or unable to make it
Music Theory apps

I admit, I am still discovering new ways to incorporate it. I am sure there are teachers out there who have many more uses and I sure would love to hear about them. At a recent teacher development meeting we were even asked to bring an iPhone, iPad, or laptop if we had one for a session on technology. When I looked around at each table I noticed that almost 50% of each table had an iPad. Now, I sure would love an iPad, it would be easier to see what’s on the screen and someday I do hope to get one, but for now I am finding that my iPhone can pretty much do everything the iPad can–just in a smaller version.

Incentives, Piano Lesson Success, Piano Pedagogy, Private Lessons, Uncategorized

Group Piano Teaching

I have been teaching piano lessons for over 15 years and I have taught Music for Young Children for almost 6 years.  Even before I taught MYC, I felt that incorporating group lessons into the year of private lessons was important, but now that I teach MYC I feel it’s VITAL that my private students have the opportunity to play in ensembles, mentor each other, empathize, be inspired, develop relationships and learn new skills.  Each year I try to do 3 or 4 group lessons that incorporate ear training, ensemble playing, keyboard improvisation, theory, Fun with Composers or music history.  Each group lesson is always a little different with a specific focus.  But I just saw this wonderful youtube video on weekly group lessons and heard a little about Paul Coates and his weekly masterclasses and wish I could offer a group lesson each week.  If I can’t do each week, I am nonetheless inspired to continue offering group lessons as often as I can throughout the year!
And I can’t wait to get more ideas for group lessons from the Calming the Practice Monster workshop that is coming next month!

Incentives, Piano Lesson Success, Piano Pedagogy, Private Lessons, Recital, Uncategorized

Recording as Recital Prep

This past Friday was the annual year end recital for all my students and what a great night it was!  My students really out-did themselves this time!  We had a bit of a “Bach to Broadway” theme. I supplied the Bach by playing CPE Bach’s Solfeggio in C minor, and the students really enjoyed the piece.

This year as we prepared for recital, I tried something I haven’t done in a very long time to help give them a new perspective on their recital piece.  I asked each student or parent to bring their iPod to lesson (if they had one) so that I could record their performance.  For those that didn’t have iPods or recording devices, I used my own.  Then I had them listen to their performance while watching their music for different aspects: tempo, dynamics, melody.  Rather than me telling them what was great about the piece and what could use a little more work, I let them discover that for themselves.

Many of the students found it very eye-opening, some of them had never seen or heard themselves perform before.  It was a great opportunity for them to try on some new roles:

Listener– they had a chance to look at their music from my perspective or as an audience member and listen to dynamics or tempo.  As they listened and followed along in their music they were clearly able to see if they were incorporating the indicated dynamics or bringing out the melody line

Teacher–I let them evaluate their own piece, telling me what they liked and what they thought needed improving, and look at some strategies for improving the parts that needed it.

It also gave them a little extra performance experience as many of them felt just as nervous about playing for the recording device as they would playing for an audience.

I encouraged them to work through the things they felt needed improving over the week and record themselves again at home later in the week and what a difference I heard at the next week’s lesson!  I will definitely do this again before our December recital, it was well worth the extra time.

Piano Pedagogy, Professional Development, Uncategorized

Music Theory–Do we have to?

It seems that with my piano students, they either love theory…or hate it….or THINK they hate it actually!  So many of my students ask me why they need to learn it.  Can’t they just play the piano with having to do that theory? But how can you really enjoy making music or succeeding in your piano performance if you do not know how music works. The study of theory helps with sight reading, technique–those scales won’t seem so confusing if you know how they work and how to write them, and with memorizing your music. Music Theory is the study of how music works and without this knowledge a student is missing a big piece of the pie!

I have always incorporated theory into each and every lesson.  All of my students learn to harmonize scales with primary chords—this is theory!   I also usually assign a page of two of theory each week–this is sometimes met by limited success so I have had to take a step back with some of these students and think about what music theoyr should look like in order to make sure it is a part of each and every one of my student’s education.  If not, then I am not doing my job!  So, here is how I try to make sure each and every student is getting their dose of the Music Theory Vitamin:

1. Pointing out Theory elements in their assigned pieces:  identifying the key, the primary chords, naming intervals, naming notes, clapping rhythms, covering up the time signature and letting them tell me what it is by looking at the measures.

2. Games–yep, even when it looks like I am just playing a game with the student, it really is learning…and they love it! (and here they thought they hated theory!)

3. Group Lessons–I try to incorporate group lessons into the schedule throughout the year and they are perfect for incorporating music theory through games and partner worksheets and activities–it’s also a great time to add in some music history…again the students enjoy them.

4. Theory books–I still think that incorporating a page or two from a theory book is necessary.  Even the smallest student should be able to write a quarter note or draw a bass clef–but hopefully through the games and activities they will begin to realize that music theory really isn’t that bad after all! 😉 My MYC students have H pages of a Bright Ideas book and do a page of two of theory a week.  For my private students I use Piano Adventure Theory books corresponding to the lesson book they are in OR if they are a little older I use Ultimate Music Theory books.

For some of my students, that theory component is vital.  This year several of my students are working towards intermediate and advanced level national exams with the Royal Conservatory of Music.  These piano exams have theory co-requisites.  Which means:  if the corresponding theory exam is not completed along with or prior to the piano exam, they will not receive their certificate.

Since I had four students needing to do their Basic Rudiments theory exam this year, I decided to offer a Saturday morning class.  It was a bit of an accelerated program using these incredible new Ultimate Music Theory books by Glory St. Germain–we completed all the concepts for the exam along with a few weeks of review in only 12 weeks!  And I think they actually enjoyed it! 😉  My own 12 year old daughter was a part of the class–she was one of those students who thought music theory was a bore–and she told me she loved the class and feels she knows so much more about music.  She is convinced that she is a better performer because of it, and that her sight reading has improved immensely by being able to easily identify chords, intervals, notes and key signatures.

These students just wrote their Basic Rudiments exam on May 12th and are waiting anxiously to hear their results!  As their teacher, I am confidant we are going to see some great marks as they were all getting First Class Honors on their practice exams, one student even earned 99.5% on his last practice exam.  But, no matter what the mark, I know they have gained so much knowledge and confidence from our class and I will definitely be offering another one in the fall!

If you are looking for a great theory method check out: