Piano Pedagogy & Studio Technology Musings

I recently attended the Piano Pedagogy Workshop presented by the Calgary Arts Summer School Association, featuring Paul Sheftel, American composer, teacher and pedagogue and his wife, Dr. Sara Sheftel, Ph. D. Students can improve their note reading, ear training and more on the computer,  Photo by R-M Arca.

Paul shared with us the various techie toys and gadgets he uses in his studio, from PowerPoint to Home Concert Xtreme (click on the link for more info). He also touched upon audio recording, video recording and the use of webcams in lessons held with his students in another state. He also ran a couple of sessions on "Performance with Commentary", which I unfortunately was unable to attend.

Sara held open forums for teachers to discuss the challenges of keeping students motivated, handling teacher burnout and knowing when to let go of a student. Sara would add her comments and share her advice as we spoke. I would have liked to hear more of Sara's insights before going into an open forum set-up.

I walked away with two kernels that are percolating in the back of my mind:

  1. Protect yourself. If you're too run down or your life is out of balance, it hampers your ability to teach and help to others.
  2. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). Make the most of the technology you currently have at your disposal first before adding a whole bunch of gadgets and programs you are unfamiliar with (and don't have the time to get familiar with).

Immediately after the workshop, I sat down to redesign Studio Central, the mircosite for my students. Gone are the pages they never looked at. It's now streamlined to house things to download.

The Dazzling Downloads page remains, containing handouts and studio forms. New is the online A/V Library I'm building. When complete, my students will be able to download funky grooves at various tempii and time signatures I've recorded from my drum machine, to use for improvising or as an alternative to the metronome. Scales will be more fun to play with a rock or funk groove, right?

On the video side of things, I'm recording a series of 12 Practicing 101 demos, so when my students forget how to do the Countdown Drill or drill their memory stations, they can watch the video.

Then the piece de resistance, the Student A/V Lesson Files pages. Gone are the days where we're fiddling with ProTools, exporting a .wav file and burning it to CD (only to find that they can't play the CD in their CD player). No more transferring of mp3 files from my audio recorder to the computer to a student's memory stick. I'm just going to upload the A/V snippets of their lessons to Studio Central for them download. Each student will have their own page, their personal A/V library collection.

Back to my point of just keeping things simple. I have Finale Notepad, Sibelius, ProTools, a stage piano and drum machine. I have yet to find the time to sit down and explore each to their fullest, or to explore their connectivity capabilities. A friend just told me about Audacity, a free audio recording and editing program. However, that will have to wait for another time. I have figured out how to connect my drum machine to my Mbox to record using ProTools and I already know how to transfer audio and video files taken by my portable audio recorder and camera; so that will do until I figure out the rest of the techie toys and invest in a really good video recorder.

Who knows? Maybe sometime in the not so distant future, music teachers will be holding an Open Chat Night once a week on one of the ISM programs or Skype for students to pop in and ask questions. Teacher PodCasts. Studio Parent Chat Nights. Virtual concert nights. The sky's the limit.

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