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The Academy of Piano

Expressing Yourself Through The Art of Piano

Encouraging and Inspiring Notes

September  12, 2019

I challenge you to put a smile on your face.....yes....right now!  I recently read an article in Psychology Today that said there's magic in a smile.  Okay, so maybe not magic, but wow, there are enough benefits to make you want to keep on smiling.  It can change your mood as well as those around you.  It can also make us appear more attractive to others.  It's contagious!  Apparently our brains have a party when we smile, activating neural messages that benefits our health. 

First of all, there are neuropeptides that help fight stress.  Dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are three neurotransmitters that help relax our bodies, lowers heart rate, blood pressure and can act as a pain killer.  Serotonin serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter without any side effects. Have you ever notice, people treat you different when you smile? They will see you as more attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere.

Life Lessons: Try smiling at the people you encounter in your daily schedule. If they are wearing a name tag you may try, "Hi ______. you are looking good today". Or, while smiling, try to give them a compliment. I'm sure you will find your day to be a lot brighter.  If nothing else, keep smiling!  It will make people wonder what you're up to.  

September  2, 2019

It's that time of year again.  Some local schools have already started and the rest will begin this week.  Learning to set goals can be one of the more important skills learned in life. Too many people/students either don't make any goals or they make the common mistake of setting too many, too big, not specif and without deadlines.  Using the SMART method can turn dreaming into reality.  I'm teaching my students how to use this method. 

 First, be SPECIFIC.  Together, we talk about specific musical concepts they would like to work on this year.  Ideas could include focusing on Rhythm, Dynamic Phrasing, Sight Reading, Ear Training or specific repertoire.

 Second, it needs to be MEASURABLE.  How much can we improve the first half of the year and then the second half of the year? How much can we do each week to reach that goal?

Third, Is it ACHIEVABLE?  This is where I come in.  Discussing these goals with someone who knows what it takes will be a sounding board for each student. Some students have no idea of what they can achieve, while others think they will sound like a virtuoso with only one year of study. 

Fourth, Is it REALISTIC?  Working to know each students capabilities gives me the feedback they need.  Each student is on their own musical journey.  I've never had two students that were on the exact same path. Each of us are different and unique.

Fifth, Is it TIMELY?  Can we see success in a month?  6 months? A year?  When selecting or presenting new repertoire to a student, I like to remind them of what they worked on last year. Comparing year to year is similar to the growth marks on a wall. 

Life Lessons:  This method isn't only for piano study.  It can be used in all areas of your/my life.  Relationships. Physical. Spiritual. Emotional. Bucket lists. Write it down and find yourself an accountability partner.  Dream big and begin to use the SMART method to make it happen.  This could be your most successful year!

August  20, 2019

Motivation is a debatable topic in the corporate world.  Can we motivate others or should they motivate themselves?  As a piano instructor, I've been asked by colleagues and parents,  "what do you do to motivate your students?".  My response?  I don't!  Students either come motivated or not. Those that are self motivated last, the other don't.  If I were the best teacher in the world, but, the student doesn't do what is asked or required, there isn't any progress. We have performance classes, recitals, music artistry programs and local competitions where students are able to participate.  It's up to each of us to better ourselves. What do you do to motivate yourself?

Life Lesson:  As I was working with one of my students who is self motivated, I told her, "thank you for always working hard!  When you work hard, it makes me want to be a better teacher for you".  Self motivation is contagious for those who want to be better and do better.

August  5, 2019

Another mass shooting cannot be ignored! If you haven't been affected by this topic personally or by casual acquaintance, just wait. It's becoming inevitable.  I have seen, first hand, lives that have been needlessly shattered, altered forever.  Having friends on both sides has caused me to take a close look at this issue.  This is a matter of the heart!  Guns alone don't kill people.  People kill people.  In order to stop future killings we need to be able to change peoples hearts.  In reality, I alone cannot change the hearts of our nation or my city. As humans we can face extreme emotions from depression, enraged anger to cloud nine excitement. How we process or react to these emotions can change our future.  How do we do that?

Life Lessons:   I think about my influence on my family, friends and students.  As a piano instructor, I have approximately 25 to 30 families.  I don't just teach them piano skills and how to read notation.  I am teaching them how to express themselves through the art of piano.  In processing music with my students, we often face extreme emotions. I am there to help show/teach them grace, compassion and love for themselves and for others.  Do you and I have these components in our own life, enabling us to show/teach them to others?  Who do we need to be showing these three components? Together we can make a difference.

July 24, 2019

As a home owner, there are many tasks I don't enjoy. One of them is weeding the flower beds.  I do, however, take pleasure in the look of a well maintained yard and garden.  Weeds don't just pop up over night.  It begins with a seed, and with the right components begins to grow into a mess.  In a short amount of time they ripen into seed and continue to spread.  If I stay on top of the task, it never festers into a huge job or continues to spread.  If neglected, it will take valuable hours of blood, sweat and tears to remove the deep rooted, noxious weeds.  

Life Lessons:  The weeds of bitterness, anger, laziness, lack of self discipline or jealousy don't just pop up over night.  In the right condition they will grow, bursting into full bloom spreading more of its kind.  Weather we find yourself in a difficult relationship or a challenging situation, its up to us in how we approach the weeds.  Are we going to pull them out giving room for healthy growth? Or, do we allow them to take over creating an ugly mess of our life?  The choice is ours.

July 17, 2019

I love to play tennis! One of my favorite players has been Serena Williams. Her focus and determination is admirable. This year, Serena made it to the finals of the Wimbledon tournament. In recent years she has taken the title by storm.  I watched this great athlete compete against her opponent who was 10 years younger and less experienced. What took place was shocking. Time after time, Serena hit the ball into the net.  Her opponent was aggressive and full of explosive energy making shots that didn't seem possible. To my surprise, Simone Halep took the title.  Asking myself, "How can this be?" I listened to the commentators who enlightened me to the situation.  Ms. Williams didn't compete in as many tournaments this past year.  It appeared her efforts didn't support the title.

Life Lessons: Focus and determination are mandatory for succeeding in any area of life.  Once you have reached a certain pinnacle, you cannot sit back and rely on past success to carry you into the future. Whether it's piano or another passion, you have to put in the focused time and effort. No one else can do it for you!  What are you passionate about? What do you want?

July 4, 2019

The day was filled with festivities.  Good friends, food, hanging out at the lake together were precursors to watching the fireworks!  You hear it take off...but can't quite see it. Then, all of a sudden, with a loud boom, the sky lights up!  Being an independent piano instructor/composer is often similar.  Watching students grow in their journey of music begins slowly.  We build relationships, eat many treats after recitals, and spend many hours together working out fingering, rhythms and notes.  We watch and listen for progress each year, then all of a sudden they are seniors in high school and BOOM! They have exploded into a wonderful musician.  

Life Lessons:  As I continue to grow in my own journey of music, I'm taking all of this in. It takes time, friends and determination. Learning new technology and methods of sharing my own compositions has been quite an adventure. I may not see the progress as quickly as I would like, but with patience and time it will explode into a beautiful firework.  What fireworks are you waiting to see in your life?

June 24, 2019

Multiple times I kept relating my backpacking trip this past weekend with piano lessons.  When I take a new piano piece to learn I think it's going to be exciting and fun!  Then, the work begins and there are moments I think to myself, "What ever made me think I could do this?"  As an avid backpacker, I'm always on the lookout for a new destination.  It will be exciting and fun, I tell myself. Then, I begin hiking with a 35 lb. pack on my back.  The trail gets steep, real steep.  Miles and miles of relentless elevation gain.  Inclement weather stings my face. There are often slippery granite rocks to climb, treacherous cliffs that make me feel like a mountain goat. Yet, I continue to persevere, telling myself it will be worth it in the end.  

Life Lessons:  Yes, life is hard! At times, it's harder than others.  Learning new things can be difficult and challenging. Take short breaks to take in the view and breathe.  Continue to persevere with one foot in front of the other. Little by little you will get there and it will be worth it in the end.  The satisfaction you receive, will have you looking for the next destination or the next challenging piece of music. Whether it's an alpine lake or the latest piano piece, it is worth it! 

June 18, 2019

What are the basics?  These words are learned at the beginning of piano lessons.  As students embark on a new piece, I often ask them to list the basics for me.  Notes, fingering and rhythm, they respond.  Yes!  These three elements must be mastered before anything else.  Once the basics are mastered, then we can work to create a masterpiece with our sound.  Students are given tools to make educated decisions within their pieces.  

Life lesson:  When we become overwhelmed with life, we need to stop and get back to the basics.  Once our basics in life are mastered, there will be room for extras.  Once our basics are mastered we will be able to make better decisions in life.

Our First Blog Entry

June 11, 2019

One of my favorite quotes;  

A painter paints his pictures on canvas, but musicians paint their pictures on silence.  ~ Leopold Stokowski

I'm reminded I am an artist. Working to shape, chisel and create a certain sound on my instrument takes time.  Giving my listener an aural picture, mood or complete story is extremely satisfying for me.  As I work with students on a weekly basis, helping them to create a beautiful sound within their pieces, I often remind them to slow down.  When we slow down, we can grasp the details in a deeper understanding, allowing us to create a natural instinct in our final performance.  Great art is not haphazardly slapped together.  

Life lesson:  What are we creating within ourselves....within our relationships?  Society tells us to go...go...go! You can do it all! I'm saying  SLOW DOWN!....give yourself time.