A tour of the Steinway Piano factory in NYC with background piano music by Julie Lovison.
A tour of the Steinway Piano factory in NYC with background piano music by Julie Lovison.
Julie and Reno Lovison represented the Robert Pace publications at the National Keyboard Pedagogy Conference in July of 2011, in Lombard, IL. The tone of the conference was upbeat and contemporary and Julie and Reno enjoyed discussing the Pace concepts of comprehensive musicianship, multi-key playing in early levels, and group teaching benefits with teachers while acquainting them with the diverse range of musical styles in the Pace repertoire.
“It was a mad scramble to catch a session here and there in between visiting with colleagues, friends and other exhibitors,” said Julie.
One of the things I love most about summer is introducing teachers to the creative and far reaching ideas included in the Robert Pace materials, and the fun of working together, sharing ideas.
Narjes Soliman, director of DaffodilMusicStudio.com and Charapin Pongtornpipat, member of Chicago Area Music Teachers Association, participated in this summer’s Comprehensive Musicianship Teacher Training Seminars at The Lake Shore Music Studio, and received certification in Music for Moppets (pre-school) and Level I Robert Pace curriculum from the International Piano Teaching Foundation.
Julie Lovison waves the “magic wand” to turn white keys to black, and black to white, as Charapin Pongtornipat changes the D 5 finger pattern to Db on the magnet board (E-ZNotes.com), and Narjes Soliman finds the keys on the piano. Studying D and Db as opposite patterns helps in memorizing the scales.
This Magic Wand was hastily created from electricians tape wrapped around a rod, and fancy wrapping ribbon, but one could be found easily at Halloween time. The magic wand creates a playful element that makes learning fundamentals more FUN.
In this example, everyone in the group has a role to play, which rotates so students get a turn to experience from different learning perspectives (tactile and visual), and help check each other as well.
Students in the Pace approach learn to transpose to all 12 five finger patterns in the early levels of study.
Stay tuned for next summer’s schedule of teacher training seminars at LSMS.
by Julie Lovison
Little kids love them, older students want to throw them against the wall and are sure they are conspiring against them. Just what is a metronome?
Metronomes are devices that keep a steady beat. The first metronome was invented, according to the Harvard Dictionary of Music, in 1812 by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel but named after Johannes Maelzel, who took the idea and popularized it. Beethoven was the first to publish suggested metronome numbers as a guide to correct tempi for his pieces. A metronome marking of 60 to the quarter note would mean each quarter note would equal a second. Most Sousa marches are played at 120, (imagine Stars and Stripes Forever at two beats per second.)
The original mechanism was a pendulum whose speed could be altered by moving a weight up or down. The familiar triangular shape was popular for many years. In addition to the original pendulum type, electronic, quartz and digital metronomes are also popular today, and many keyboards and software programs have built in metronomes. Many play along jazz educational CDs have built in combos as a very cool way to feel the beat. In our Moppets programs, we build “human metronomes” into our playing in the form of a partner playing a steady beat duet to our songs.
Young students are captivated by the original metronome mechanism, and enjoy keeping the beat with rhythm instruments or with body movement as they enjoy their songs. A typical use for a metronome for an intermediate level student would be to practice a piece like a sonatina a bit under tempo, with very deliberate attention to staying with the beat of the metronome. The metronome identifies which passages a student might be rushing or hesitating on, and helps pull these passages into steadiness. It very often FEELS like it surely must be the metronome that is off, thus causing frustration for students who are not used to working with the metronome. A good way to become friends with the metronome is to begin practicing 5 finger patterns or scales. These are easier to keep a steady beat with initially than a piece which has many types of musical and technical complexities involved. A general feeling among music teachers is that metronomes help students in many ways, but that students also need to establish a good natural sense of internal beat that can be relied on without a metronome’s help.
For more about metronomes see www.en.wikipedia.org/metronomes
by Julie Lovison
Soccer, basketball, baseball, chess, swim, track … our students have much familiarity with these teams. Did you know your children are also members of a “piano team?”
We began this term with inviting students to think of their class as a “piano team.” Just like any sport, our team requires practice. All team members are responsible to the others to come to their lesson sufficiently prepared through their weekly follow up at home, to move on as a group. This means they need to have assimilated, memorized or mastered the requisite skills and concepts. This could be physical mastery of technique or memorizing some fundamentals such as note names, chords, scales, or key signatures (the structures of music.) Our curriculum layers new concepts upon previous ones every week in a systematic structure. The student’s assignment sheet gives them the “game plan” for practice every week.
The practice “game plan” includes many components beyond simply playing through their new piece once or twice. Each component is budgeted into a few minutes of concentrated practice per day, with the new piece being one aspect of the total practice time. Students need to budget ½ hour of practice time minimum at least 5 days a week to accomplish the required practice for our programs (6 and 7 year olds may begin with 20 minutes).
Each team member makes sure the whole team “gets” each new concept, by helping to explain it in their own words, then by evaluating each other. Teaching one another crystallizes their own knowledge.
As in any team activity, when players miss practices, it fragments the team’s cohesion. This is why it is important that attendance at lessons is a priority. It is better to come to even a portion of the lesson, or leave early, if your schedule has to be adjusted for some reason.
As team members we celebrate each other’s victories such as when we achieve success with a new piece, master a technical skill or memorize important fundamentals.
Yes we are a team. We do not have weekly contests to “win” against outside opponents. Nevertheless, we do have challenges to meet against two opponents – - discouragement and commitment as we challenge ourselves to improve. Our score is kept by evaluating our growing musical knowledge; our improving skill level; and our ability to perform and enjoy beautiful music.
The improvement in student progress since focusing on our “piano teams” this year has been dramatic. Students have been eager to share their accomplishments with their team members. Each lesson is infused with a creative, dynamic energy that has made teachers and students excited to be in this piano sport together.
When competing against ourselves we are often facing a formidable adversary. All teams thrive on energetic cheerleaders and fans. Parents, friends and family can help our teams and players by recognizing their efforts, supporting their activities and enthusiastically appreciating their exhibitions.
by Julie Lovison
Everyone loves to hear the polished pieces performed by students with confidence at the recitals. This is an easy measure of what students have accomplished at the piano. What is not as well known is the depth of comprehensive musicianship students are gaining as they work through the years at LSMS, and the methods by which this is achieved.
We have an ongoing curriculum of study of applied theory and technique. Every week we present new concepts. We rely on students to follow up with daily study and digest this new information and skills to be ready to add a new layer of understanding to the previous concepts and skills the following week. Students take home a weekly practice plan which outlines the expectations for practice in many areas (technique, sight reading practice, theory fundamentals, creative reading and improvisation, transposition, new and review pieces). Students need to spend a small amount of time working in each category every day. The purpose of the check off boxes is to help students keep track of which categories they have completed so they make sure they get to everything every week. Each student must pull his or her own weight to enable the group as a whole to move on.
Parents, you can help students get organized by asking your child to explain the assignments to you and show you how they do them, then checking to make sure they do them. The goal of LSMS is to create independent learners, that is students who know how to ask the correct evaluative questions as they practice to achieve results on their own and make new discoveries unaided by a teacher. This will ensure a personal lifelong relationship with the piano.
The night before the lesson, help your student organize all books and the practice sheet into his/her music bag and put it wherever it will go to make sure it gets to the lesson. Students need their own books for the lesson. We do make important personal notations in the books, and also with several students in a group studying the same book, we would not have enough spare studio copies if several students forget the book on the same day. Another important concept in building success is continuity of attendance. Although our policy does allow students to visit other classes when unable to attend their own, students need to feel that their weekly input into their own group is important. The spirit of cohesiveness that develops with a group is sometimes the one thing that keeps our students happily involved in piano study. Arriving on time is important as well, as the teacher plans the curriculum around a particular agenda, and a student who arrives consistently late will miss a significant aspect of the lesson. However, it is better to come to a portion of the lesson than miss it for the week. Even 20 minutes of contact time will secure a new forward direction of practice for the student.
If you have to come late or leave early, please come anyway. If you forgot your books, come anyway. If you didn’t practice all week, come anyway. If you jammed a finger, broke an arm, sprained an ankle, have drops in your eyes from the eye doctor, come anyway. We can work with all those. However, if you have the flu, it might be best to stay home!
by Julie Lovison
A very happy surprise came to me Saturday in the form of last minute tickets to the Simon and Garfunkel concert at the United Center. Hearing these beloved icons of my teenage years was a visceral reminder of the intense feelings people have at this age – - feelings of belonging to a group — yearning — elation — frustration — hope and sadness. From a musical standpoint, I loved the close harmony of the duo and the intriguing orchestrations. These days nothing floats my boat more than an hour of my favorite Artur Rubenstein Chopin CD, or some favorite piano stylist’s arrangements of Ellington or Gershwin.
I was glad when one of my parents asked if there was a way we could incorporate into the lessons some of the music that her 7th grade son Gabe particularly related to. I was thrilled when he showed up with a CD of his favorite songs. We listened, and found there were quite a few parts we could play by ear. We then extracted the bass lines, the guitar chords and drum parts and orchestrated them on our sequencing program. We were also finding relationships to the classical songs, theory and technique skills he was working on already. Gabe might not always be so specifically interested in this music, but for now it is speaking to him in a real way.
Allie was haunted for years by the theme song in an Asian movie she had seen with her parents. She finally found the right connection that led her to find and download the sheet music off the Internet. She is thrilled to be playing this song which has so long been in her emotional memory bank. I still have the memory of Kyra’s rendition by ear of Watermark by Enya. Last week Emily brought in a beautiful arrangement of Scarborough Fair she had fashioned from the basic tune and chords presented in the Robert Pace Level 3 books. Cody has been bringing in ear tunes by Kiss. Steven has found a resonance with the classic jazz sounds of Misty and Autumn Leaves. Claiborne is excited to be able to play Twist and Shout, and also is crazy about Oklahoma and Sousa marches.
The music that feeds the soul of a person may change from age to age, but there is no doubt that it fills a real longing for that person at that moment. I challenge all of our students to bring in a piece of music that moves them –let’s find a way to approach it or learn from it. If you don’t have one, then, for heaven’s sakes, let’s keep looking until we find one . Everyone needs a music soul mate to help them through this crazy world. Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water it will ease your mind.
Julie Lovison, Director of The Lake Shore Music Studio in Chicago presents Essential Music Concepts that can be introduced to piano students (or general music education students) using the simple tune Frere Jacques (Brother John) . The idea is to see that you can explain important music theory at any level of learning and also that simple melodies and music phrases are found within more complex pieces as the student’s repertoire advances. This was presented as part of the Lee Roberts Music Publications Showcase at the MTNA Conference Milwaukee 2011.
This is just a 10 minute “taste” of her longer program “One Stop Shopping With Brother John – Exploring 35 music concepts using the tune Frere Jacques.” By focusing on only one melody it is enlightening for teachers and students to see the various concepts within the structure of one simple musical theme.