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4 Challenges Of Every Music School Owner, Actually All Small Businesses

So you know you can teach music…congratulations!

It’s only the first step.

Offering your services and successfully running a profitable business is a whole other problem. This is the problem most music teachers who want to grow a successful business face.

It feels like a massive tangle of problems:

How do I get clients? How do I maintain the ones I have? How do I manage running the business while teaching. How to make sure you have enough cash left at the end of the month so you can actually pay yourself something.And it costs energy, time and what little money you have. Not to mention sanity!

Does this sound familiar?

There’s actually a deeper reason behind it all. It’s the belief that you know what you’re doing.

That’s it.

Most teachers have never been trained to think like a business person. So they follow what the crowd is doing or saying. Unfortunately, they don’t know either. Sometimes, they get lucky and something works. But because there’s no understanding of the big picture, it runs its course and doesn’t work anymore.

It’s like dentists. There’s a bunch in my family and friends. Graduating with honors from a top dental school only enables you to work for someone else. It’s the same with music teachers.

Therefore , it requires a shift in belief. You have to stop thinking in small tactics and address core problems. It’s like putting tiny band-aids on gigantic wounds. You’re not going to stop the bleeding.

I suffered this mentality for years. I kept diving from one program to another thinking, this one trick should do it. From now on, I’ll be successful, mwah ha ha ha!

But it’s NOT about what your “click-through-rate on an ad” is. “Postcard marketing” is not the answer. It’s not about “Yelp vs Facebook vs Google.” It’s not even about your makeup and billing policy.

The real answer is that you need a framework for thinking about business and delivering results for your students.

I’ve been the President of a local business support group for the last two years. One thing I’ve seen over and over again is that every business has the same challenges. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dentist, a real estate agent, a life coach, a graphic designer or a yoga instructor.

Everyone who is in business, either solo-preneur or bigger, has the same challenges.

I wish I knew this years ago.  And now you will have it.

Here’s the four areas every business needs to master to become a success:

  1. A steady flow of new prospective clients (leads)
  2. Cashflow and pricing
  3. Time management
  4. Your process – curriculum – secret sauce

It’s actually simple.

But it’s also interesting how many music teachers are stuck on the 4th point. Curriculum is important but it’s much more than that if you want to make a real livable wage from your teaching.

Now that you know this, you can take stock of where you are and start to dive deeper into each area that needs improvement.

I’ve made it my life’s mission to help people learn life skills through music. But I can’t do it alone. I need energized, passionate and purpose-driven educators who are reaching as many students as possible to join me.

If you would like help growing your business, and are an awesome educator who believes in the power of music to change the world, then I invite you to book a Breakthrough Call with me.

NOTE:  Please DO NOT book a call if you are just looking to get 3 more students on your roster.  I’m looking for educators with vision who want to make a bigger impact and are coachable, open-minded and in integrity.

And note, It’s not just about my curriculum. I can help you with all of the 4 challenges.

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How Open-Minded Are You as a Music Teacher?

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” -Frank Zappa

How open-minded are you?

It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t say they’re open-minded.  But in reality, it seems very few teachers are.

Look at the glacial pace of change in education across the world.  Every other field is experiencing massive disruption and great leaps forward due to the embrace of new ideas, new ways of doing things, and new technology.

This is costing our very livelihoods as educators.  In school systems, music and arts are being cut everywhere- it’s seen as non-essential.  For those lucky enough to keep a classroom music teaching job, they are now being asked to cover lunchroom duties or schoolyard monitoring- non-teaching administrative functions!

And in private lessons, it’s not much better.

Students are looking to learn to play music because they listen to it everywhere.  But when they go to their first lesson, they are given complicated, boring exercises only useful for prodigies.  It’s no wonder so many students walk right out to never return!

The problem is that many of these old guard teachers believe that there’s only one way to teach.  It’s a traditional model that has lasted for hundreds of years! Just think of it, these traditional methods are the same method books that were being used when we were wearing wigs!

It’s a big disconnect.

Everywhere we turn, there’s music.  Every hip new restaurant has a hip new playlist.  Every retail store has a designed music ambiance. Even political candidates have a playlist.  Did you see the recent NY Times article that details each Presidential hopeful and their playlists?  Fascinating.

And yet, so many teachers can’t seem to deliver lessons that connect with the continued love and enthusiasm for music.

So what’s the solution?

Give the people what they want.

And that begins with opening the minds of music teachers.

I’ve been interviewing teachers for my school.  One of the questions I always ask is,

“What are you listening to these days?”

It’s a simple question, but if you ask many music teachers, it seems their playlists got stuck on their old Victrola.

It’s fascinating how many say they are open-minded, but upon further digging, it’s like they could be living in 1819, not 2019.

A simple way to start cracking open the door of your mind is to start listening to other types of music.

I read on another music teacher forum recently a teacher saying, “I have no time to listen to music!”

How sad.

If music has lost its spark for you, how can you light the candle of your student?

I encourage you to reinvigorate your musical life.  Listen wide, deep, and often. Subscribe to streaming services.  Did you realize how much music is available in your pocket?

And if you need some inspiration, here’s some recent listening according to my playlist history:

  • Bomba Estereo – Ayo
  • Harry Belafonte – Angelina
  • Eric Whitacre  – Lux Arumque
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Jeff Beck – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
  • Louis Vierne – Messe Solennelle – Kyrie
  • Steel Pulse – Earth Crisis
  • Louis Prima – I Wanna Be Like You
  • Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere
  • Sebastian Yatra – Un Año
  • MC5 – Kick Out The Jams
  • Santana – Soul Sacrifice from Woodstock
  • Pedro Capo & Farruko – Calma remix
  • Benjamin Britten – Peter Grimes

Listen to something different today.

I’ve been mentoring music teachers and business owners for years.  I have a few openings.  If you’d like to book a free breakthrough call with me, click here.

It’ll be the best 45 minutes you’ve ever spent on your business.  It’s free.

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Best practices Mindset Professional Development Successful Teaching Business

How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. – Steve Martin

Too often, I hear music teachers say they are struggling to pay bills and can’t seem to attract enough students.

And I get it.  Most of us teachers starting teaching out of a love of sharing our gifts.  We studied music, theory, composition, pedagogy, and history – but not business.

It’s similar to dentists.  They go to dental school and learn all about taking care of us, their patients.  It’s incredibly difficult and specialized. But as soon as they graduate, they are thrust into building a practice.  Or they go and try to work for someone else. No one ever told them about how to start a business.

I think entrepreneurship should be taught beginning in grade school.

Some kids get it.  They start lemonade stands and then move onto other products or services.  One of my neighbor’s kids knocked on the door one Sunday morning and asked if we would like to buy breakfast services for the next month.  She was only 8 years old! That’s cool.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. –Benjamin Franklin

In this article, I want to share with you a roadmap to a successful teaching business that anyone can do, whether you are just starting out or have been teaching for years.  Along the way, we’ll discuss some limiting beliefs that can block your way to success as well as some empowering mental models that will accelerate your progress.

Why?

Over the last decade or so, I’ve built a successful teaching business.  It wasn’t always easy and not everything worked. I’ve also taught this process to other teachers as a one-on-one coach and also in online training programs.  

Here’s a visual overview of a successful teaching business.  

Think of it as the map of the territory. The thousand foot view.  This first part is what you need to set up.

 

How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss p1
The Setup Phase and Key Decisions

 

And once you have it started and running, here’s the next phase – operations.

How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss p2

 

To be really useful, you should know where you are in the journey of your business.  

Are you just starting up?  

Have you already found a core ideal audience and now need to tweak the operations?  Are you looking to scale your success outside your geographic or client base area? This is a great article about stages of business.

Each one of these areas can be fully explored in a book, course, or months (years?) of coaching.  The problem arises when one goes to find help on starting a successful small business, and they are inundated with very specific help in a very specific area.  Usually, it’s one small part of this big picture. I wish I had a vision of this when I was just starting out. It’s my hope that this roadmap can be a guide for helping to know what you know and don’t know so you can  then seek further information.

I have helped many music teachers and school owners around the world with problems on this map.  Some needed help with the whole thing. Others just needed to tweak a small strategy within a small section.

Save Yourself Time, Energy and Frustration

Below are some recommended books that I think can eliminate much of the clutter.  It’s the 20% that will give you the 80% effectiveness. The signal from the noise. Mindset is a big part of it and shifting from a habitual state of lack to abundance is key.  But even as a self-directed learner, I believe if you are serious about your success, you need to invest in coaching.

By working with a coach you can greatly accelerate your progress and avoid the many pitfalls and dead-ends on your journey.  If you would like to discuss private or group coaching, please contact me here.

Some Recommended Books and Resources

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Carol’s Students Learn Faster and Have More Fun With Color

Though she had already been working with young music students, Carol found that it was often difficult to transition them from early childhood classes to learning to read and play instruments. That’s when she came across the idea of using color as learning scaffolding and The Musicolor Method Masterclass.

Carol has since adapted the Musicolor Method to work with her youngest preschool students, as well as some of the elementary school kids. She loves how they take to color and can learn to play faster and with more fun.

Carol Koczo
Manassas, VA

First instrument: Piano
Age I started playing music: 8
Other instruments: Voice
Number of years teaching: 35+
Number of current students: 15 

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Currently listening to:

All kinds of music: pop, Broadway, classical.

I’ve taught music as a side job for years

Many times, I was also involved in choral groups. I have always been involved in music in some capacity. For a long time, I might have just one music student while I was working outside the home.

I got really interested in History Preservation, and I got a degree in it, but it didn’t really help me get into the workforce. I kind of fell back into music again and started focusing on it more.

Right now, I teach all levels

I know one of Andrew’s philosophies is to focus your attention on one set of students.

For a while, I has a school like that. I had been focusing mostly on the 8-12 year olds.

When I started as a private contractor with Take Lessons, it opened the door to any age from as young as 5 to 60. That kind of changes with teaching also. In some ways, it makes it more challenging and a little harder to keep track of who is where and when.

I wanted to focus more on younger students.

I started searching for something to make it easier for me to teach younger students, because they were so challenging. I hadn’t really taught that age before. So, that is what led me to The Musicolor Method Masterclass.

I spent a lot of time looking at and reading some of his articles about his philosophy and his approach.

I was searching for something that would help me, and I think it was during those articles I began thinking this may be something I am interested in.

I just knew it. It was a gut feeling that this was something that I thought I could work with, I liked the overall approach, the structuring of the program. I think it was, you know, I think I just thought this is pretty neat. So I am going to jump out of my box and try it.

I started using the color for different ages

I started using it with 8 year olds and even one of my 12 year old students. I adapted The Musicolor Method to different ages. Most everyone of them really took to the color really quickly. It was like “Oh, that’s easy. I can identify that the red is C and I can look at it and match colors.”

It was so easy for the kids, and I kind of thought they would take to it easily.

Prior to finding The Musicolor Method, a lot of what I had seen with the color was connected to rhythm—like with Boomwhacker sticks. They’re long tubes, and what you can do is use them for counting and for music.

That is another reason why I decided to take The Musicolor Method Masterclass. I realized that Andrew had actually put color into a piano format and he had evolved it so that we could use both hands.

The business lessons helped me think differently about my teaching

I am an analytical person. I think reading some of his thoughts, how he wanted to approach and structure the program and the philosophy behind it was beneficial. It helped me organize and look at my teaching in a different way.

I noticed right away that the program was very organized. Very thoughtful in the way in which he put together his program. I did like the approach overall.

It’s been well worth the investment

I know he has added things since I took the Masterclass, for example, when to buy your first piano and a few other things. All of this is helpful.

He created the whole package. He is always making changes too, and he is always presenting information differently. I couldn’t quite believe how much information and work he had put into his program. It’s been worth the investment.

Overall, I am a big fan.

Another thing that I liked that I haven’t done, is I like that he included some of the other string instruments in the program. It’s something that’s just a little different for younger students to be exposed to. I like that the information is available if I do want to use it.

I know this is a complicated process, but I am very pleased with everything he has done and continues to do. I am glad I did it.

Why I’d recommend The Musicolor Method Masterclass

I never realized when I was taking piano that it was that hard to teach. There have been a few times that I have looked at students and said, “Hmm. How did I learn this?” I think it is harder to teach than one would think.

I think Andrew’s approach has made it easier. You don’t have to use so many words, you rely more on the visuals.

There are a lot of layers to the Musicolor Method. Andrew has put a lot of thinking into, how and when you want to bring a certain idea into the lessons.

I think putting all this together into this format has been really good. I don’t think I could have done it.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

Read Carol’s product review of The Musicolor Method Masterclass on Tim Topham’s website 

Click here to see Carol’s profile

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My interview about the Musicolor Method on Tim Topham’s podcast

I was recently interviewed on the influential Creative Piano Teacher podcast with Tim Topham. Tim’s a wonderful educator who has a very active blog, podcast, and a membership site. If you’re a teacher and never heard of him, you’re in for a treat.

In the interview, I discuss

  • How and why I decided to create a method book
  • How color is used in the method
  • Why the Musicolor Method starts with vertical notation
  • How it avoids position or finger number based thinking
  • My 7 core principles of music teaching
  • Which type of student this method is particularly suited to

I also talk about a special offer on our newly updated Musicolor Masterclass

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Anne Reinvented Her Career With The Perfect Part-Time Piano School

After a long recovery from surgery, Anne was wondering if she would ever be able to have the stamina and drive to teach music again. She reconnected to her love of early childhood education, and her passion for playing, when she came across the Musicolor Method.

Now, Anne has reinvented herself as a private music teacher to preschool and elementary age children. She’s got a thriving, part-time business with a waiting list of eager students.

 

Anne Vardanega
Sydney, Australia

First instrument: Piano
Age I started playing music: 7
Number of years teaching: 38
Number of students before The Musicolor Method: 3-4
Number of current students: 14, plus waiting list

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Currently listening to:

Bohemian Rhapsody movie soundtrack.

I’ve loved music since childhood

I started learning piano at 7 years old. I studied for 5 years, and I took exams for it in high school for what we call here in Australia, the HSC. In the U.S., I suppose you would call it your high school graduation.

I didn’t actually think I was clever enough to study music to graduate from high school. But I was encouraged by an inspiring and dedicated teacher who told me that I could do it.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher

At University, I studied early childhood education, and I included music in my teaching studies.

I was actually a musicology major. I didn’t have to actually do a performance, but I had to do musicology arranging and composing. I absolutely loved it.

Professionally, I focused on classroom music. I played the piano, the guitar and sang with my students.

I had my son when I was 30. I taught early childhood music classes with him. He was able to come along when he was 2-5 years old.

My son’s early music lessons were a disaster

He started at age 4 with the piano, and it really didn’t work. At that time, there didn’t seem to be childhood classes that bridged early music and formal lessons. If he had the Musicolor Method back then, he would have loved it.

My son started studying guitar in school. Now, he and his wife are professional musicians living in New York.

I started performing later in life—teaching was always first

My son inspired me to learn bass guitar and voice and start performing in my 40’s. I was the bass player, backup singer, and music director of the church.

When my son was older, I got a job at his school teaching High School music and as the performing arts convenor. It was a role that I loved.

I was helping students perform for their exams, their performances and prepare for their graduation. At the end of the year they were doing performances.

My son and his fiancee (now wife) said, “Why don’t you start off because you have your early childhood background, your general education background. Why don’t you start teaching piano?” So I taught Kinder Music and Music Theory after the school year was over.

The Musicolor Method created the next phase of my career

I was recovering from hip replacement surgery, and I was actually feeling quite down and out. I was thinking that I might not be able to teach any more.

Andrew contacted me through LinkedIn, and he sent me information about his program.

As a parent and a teacher, I already knew there was a gap for young musicians. That’s what I had experienced with taking my son to piano lessons at age 4 – they were way too hard and really turned him off learning piano.

I could see the value in the Musicolor Method right away.

Plus, I have always loved color. If I showed you around my house see you got  bright color paintings. The creative use of color in the Musicolor Method really appealed to me too. And  it has been fantastic.

The kids are engaged and excited by the colors

I just loved the colors, and the children took to it straight away. My students started singing a lot more, which appealed to me as an early childhood teacher.

We love singing songs and they loved collecting the ribbons. I made a fun folder for them. We could go slowly through it, it didn’t matter how long a child had to stay. I could slowly go with the child depending on how they were developing.

It bridges beautifully with the early childhood years of music with 3-4 year olds. It’s the perfect solution until they’re a little older and can go on to reading music.

I believe there are still not a whole lot of good resources that bridge that Kinder music phase in young children. A lot of books have young students playing on the black keys. I do utilize that as one tool for visualizing different positions on the piano, but it gets boring, and it is not as creative as the colors.

The colors inspire creativity and compositions

I do integrate composition a lot in my lessons as well because the colors make it so easy for the children to write something. I am putting together a book actually, to show Andrew what our studio here has composed.

The kids get inspired by something that happened at school, or being on a holiday, or even by the stuffed toys I have in my studio. They use all of them to write song.

Even if they are struggling with playing with five fingers, they can still be creative. I love that. If they were learning traditionally they wouldn’t  feel so good about themselves as musicians.

My part-time roster is full

I have students from age 4-9 on the Musicolor Method, and I have some older students who have gone on to other instruments but they come back to practice with me. But they actually started with the Musicolor Method.

I use it to build that transition solidly so that my students don’t lose that love for music or say it’s too hard.

The Musicolor Method helps connect with older students too

One student is turning 11 this year. I have actually said to him, “I think you need a better piano teacher now because I just focus on early childhood.”

But he’s still with me, learning harder songs like Star Wars and Harry Potter. We’re also learning chords, Beatles songs, and having fun singing together. I think that is quite interesting that he could really go to a different teacher, but for him, it is about the connection and the fun and creative process. He can play without the colors, but he still enjoys that creative side.

There are two older girls, and they are playing clarinet and saxophone. They are in grade 6. They are both in bands and they come back to me to practice. I don’t play clarinet or saxophone, but they feel confident enough with me to come back for me to help them practice. Their moms pay me to help them, I feel that connection is there to support them in their music journey.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

  Visit Anne’s studio website here. 

 

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Blog Mindset Professional Development

How to activate creativity, innovation and invention?

“What do you think?”

When was the last time someone asked you this?  And if you answered, did you just regurgitate what you heard some other expert say about this topic?

When was the last time you asked your children or your students this question?

There’s a problem in that the school system of today was created over a century ago to fill factories with workers who could follow direction.  The modus operandi: We know everything; Fill your head with facts; Follow directions.

In other words, shut up and follow orders.  Color in the lines, not outside. Do this, not that.

When I was young, I thought my father knew everything.  Anything I asked him, he had an answer for. Even when he would say, “Because I said so.”

But this mindset doesn’t work in today’s world.  We need curious, passionate, questioning people. These are the people who will be leading corporations, governments and shaping the world.  Every company, organization, the government is seeking problem solvers. People who ask questions that lead to innovation, invention and improvement.

It’s a shift in how we teach.  Instead of automatically giving facts, data, answers, we use questions.  And it’s best when it’s an open-ended question.

An example of a closed-end question is one that can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”  It’s a question that has a definite answer and usually does not provoke discussion.

An open-ended question needs more than a single word to answer and often leads to even deeper questions.

In my music lessons, I try to answer questions with my own questions. They often produce a surprising answer.

I asked one of my young students how you would describe this music I had just demonstrated.

“It’s like a fight between left hand and right hand!”

Such a memorable and exciting way to describe music.

Another came up with a hysterically funny way of describing dotted half notes as “the one with the poop behind it.”

Another time, I asked a student what they thought the song “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers was about.

“Maybe this person couldn’t walk too well and they had to lean on their friend.”

Yes!

These kinds of insights are much more meaningful and memorable than anything I could have said.

But as students get older, I’ve noticed that they are less likely to give an answer or even ask a question.

It’s as if school has taught them to wait for the right answer.

Sometimes I push further and say, “But what if you did know?”

We’re rapidly moving to a world of artificial intelligence.  Machines that have all the answers. Every child now knows how to ask Alexa, Google or Siri about so many things.  But these are all factual. Without the ability to think and ask new creative open-ended questions, what kind of jobs will be left?

In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, researcher Kai-Fu Lee writes

“While AI is great at optimizing for a highly narrow objective, it is unable to choose its own goals or to think creatively. And while AI is superhuman in the cold-blooded world of numbers and data, it lacks social skills or empathy—the ability to make another person feel understood and cared for…

What does that mean for workers who fear being replaced? Jobs that are asocial and repetitive, such as fast-food preparers or insurance adjusters, are likely to be taken over in their entirety. For jobs that are repetitive but social, such as bartenders and doctors, many of the core tasks will be done by AI, but there remains an interactive component that people will continue to perform. The jobs that will be safe, at least for now, are those well beyond the reach of AI’s capabilities in terms of creativity, strategy, and sociability, from social workers to CEOs.”

Social-emotional skills are what separates us from the machines.

We need to encourage thinking.  Encourage questions. Kindle curiosity and wonder.

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” – Socrates

Here are some questions that you can use to generate original thinking and more questions:

  • What do you know about this topic?
  • What do you want to know?
  • What have you learned about this before?
  • How do you know this is true?
  • How do you feel about this?
  • What actions should you take?
  • What new questions do you have?

What questions do you use?  What do you think? Please share below.

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Mindset Practice Tips

Scaling Musical Mountains Of Mastery

Strategies To Teaching Children Music Without Overwhelm

Teaching music to children is highly rewarding yet extremely challenging if you have never done it.  There’s so much information to cover.  Where to start?  

As you progress in learning any new skill, fact or process, new vistas reveal themselves.  It’s like climbing the mountain of progress.  When you were at the bottom, you couldn’t even see that there were lakes, rivers, and other towns in the distance. Again, as you climb higher, you can now see over the next mountain range and then again new valleys and maybe even the ocean!  

The key to mastery in any subject is to know what you don’t know!

The path to mastery looks something like this crazy list below.  Try to follow along.

  • You don’t know – you are basically a newbie
  • You know – now you know, a little
  • You know you don’t know – you begin to realize what you don’t know
  • You don’t know what you don’t know – then you start to see there are things you probably don’t even know about
  • You know what you don’t know – ah, you figured out what you need to learn
  • You know you know – you have achieved some competence
  • You don’t know that you don’t know what you don’t know – but you still have blind spots.  You don’t even realize it!
  • You know that you don’t know what you don’t know – but now you know there’s a possibility of something else
  • You know what you don’t know that you didn’t know you even knew existed – and you now have something else to learn
  • You know you don’t know – and it never ends!

As a music teacher, I want to guide my student up the mountain.  But looking at that mountain can be very intimidating and scary!  To prevent being overwhelmed, I use blinders of a sort.  Something to get them not to look at the final goal, but to see just the next few steps in front of them.  

Strategies to Prevent Overwhelm In Reading Music

1) The Spotlight

One of the techniques I have used in the past, was a focused flashlight to shine a light on the small passage I wanted the student to focus on in the sheet music.  

A quick aside, I have often been the first person to notice a child’s need for eyeglasses.  Because I see the child every week and am seeing how they focus their eyes or if their nose is buried in the pages, I can usually alert the parents well before the school teachers or nurse.

2) Post-It notes and Pies

I should own stock in 3M already!  I go through reams of these every year!  The power of Post-Its is that they are removable and opaque.  I can cover up the entire page leaving just a “window of focus” for my student to see.  It has been hugely successful as the student then says something like, “Oh, is that all?  That’s easy!”  I can then either move the window or widen it as we progress.

For my younger students, I tell them that learning a song is like eating a pie.

What kind of pie do you like? What’s your favorite flavor of pie?

We go through all kinds of flavors. I’ve heard everything from apple pie to

pumpkin pie, to weird ones like salt caramel apple or oatmeal custard!  

Some strange pies out there.

Then I ask them, “Do you eat the whole pie in one bite?”

“No! Of course, not.”

“You take a slice, right?

“But do you eat the whole slice in one bite?”

“No.”

“We take a bite, so here’s a little forkful.”

I then cover up the whole page and leave just a little “forkful” of music.

This can lead to fun rewards like a slice of pie if you practice well this week.

3) Bigger Is Better

By copying just a passage of the music and enlarging it to a huge size, it looks ridiculously easy!  I have done this with beginning music readers.  I also use it for memorization games.  You can see this previous post about the Hat Game/Dice Game.

4) Simplified Arrangements

Most of the sheet music for popular music is just not suitable for early beginners.  By using a music engraving software you can re-arrange the piece for your student.  Most of my young ones can’t spread their hands an octave, so just delete.  You can also enlarge the staff, colorize note-heads, do system breaks, and page breaks in more logical places.   Another thing is you can strip out any confusing symbols or terminology until you are ready to cover it.  For example, you may not want to use the word ritardando just yet, maybe write in “Slowing Down” instead.   I will devote a future article about tips for simplified arrangements.

What are your favorite strategies to scale the mountain of mastery?  Please share them in the comments below.

Categories
Mindset

51 Vital Reasons to Save Art Education

Happy National Arts in Education Week! It’s a moment to celebrate the life changing effects that the arts have on children. This is the time to shout loudly about the huge benefits that music, dance, visual art, and drama bring to our education system.

For those of us immersed in learning, teaching, or simply enjoying the arts, it’s easy to take for granted their value in our lives. We know first hand that how vital the arts are for nurturing happy, healthy, and inspired children.

But here’s the thing:

Not everybody gets this. In fact, the very purpose of National Arts in Education Week is not only to celebrate arts in our schools but to save them. And for good reason. Arts Education hangs by a thin thread. Schools are now notoriously underfunded and their dwindling resources are being piped into core academic subjects like math or science.

There has never been a better time to sing from the rooftops, boldly proclaiming the benefits of the arts in education. This visualization by We The Parents highlights 51 powerful rewards kids get from engaging in arts subjects:

Our children deserve to learn in an environment that attends to their mind, body, and wellbeing. This simply isn’t possible when the arts are removed from the syllabus.

Participating in music, for example, provides children with a huge range of experiences that would otherwise be missed. Through the process of creative exploration, practise, mastery, public performance, and group collaboration they develop their sense of identity and boost self confidence. Often, they also get the chance to bond with other children from other walks of life, expanding their world view and fostering openness and tolerance.

Let’s unite during Arts in Education Week. Let’s share our personal stories of creativity and life transformation. And finally, let’s chant in unison: the arts are vitally important and they must be here to stay!

 

Categories
Mindset

What Happens When You Ask A Preschooler If They Can Do Anything

Ask a preschooler and see what happens.

Imagine this scenario.

You walk into a preschool classroom of three year olds and pose a series of questions to the children:

“Who here knows how to dance?”

Every hand shoots up.

“Who here knows how to sing?”

Again, every hand is in the air.

“Who here knows how to draw?”

The process is repeated over and over with virtually any subject.

Then, you walk into a classroom of 8 year olds and ask the same questions.

“Who here knows how to draw?”

One or two hands go up.  

“Who here knows how to sing?”

Maybe two and a third tentatively rises.

And it goes on with less and less hands going up to each question.

What happened?

About a dozen years ago, I was spending a lot of time in a preschool classroom. My son was three and he was experiencing a high degree of separation anxiety. The school’s policy was to not leave the child in distress and thus, I was in the class everyday.  In fact, it’s as if I enrolled in preschool all over again. I didn’t interact with the class, I just sat in the corner where my son could see me, and I observed.

The preschool teachers were kind, compassionate and patient.  They were in control of the room without resorting to yelling or scolding.  There was structure, order and everything just flowed.

I observed firsthand the incredible confidence of three year olds.  They thought they could do anything. The kids would try anything.

Shut Down By 8

In my music school, we have students in a range of ages, though most start at around four or five.  

What I’ve noticed is by the time a child reaches third or fourth grade, self-doubt has begun to creep in.  Even students who previously were fearless and brimming with confidence began shying away from certain activities.  

“I’m not good at singing.”

“What?!” I would exclaim.

“Who told you that?  You just sang beautifully at the last recital.”  

“No, I’m just not good.”

Sometimes I would dig deeper and find that an older sibling, a cousin, a neighbor or someone who had told them they should stop the activity.

It’s incredibly heartbreaking.

Some of it is a growing consciousness – an awareness in the child’s personal development.  And of course, we can’t all be good at everything.

But much of it comes from external factors.

I know this firsthand

When I was in second grade, I was cast as the Artful Dodger in our class production of the musical Oliver.  I would belt out that song clearly with full conviction. I was fearless.

The day of the show came.  My parents were in the audience.  I was on stage and my song came on.  I sang it to the back of the school gym to and received a thunderous applause.  But as my final notes were ringing out, I spied someone in the crowd. He was a boy who had bullied me, who was snickering and whispering to his friend.  My voice caught. I shrank inside. Something shifted. I forgot my stage directions. I mumbled through the rest of the show.

That day, I stopped singing.*

“I’m not enough, so why even try?”

This mindset is poison.  

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about teaching preschoolers music is the power to prove “you are enough.”  By teaching life skills of perseverance, practice and focus, you can truly surmount any obstacle.

If we, as a society, can teach in a way that breeds confidence and self-worth, hopefully, this poisonous mindset will dissipate.  It will give enough protection to guide these children to adulthood.

It’s the difference between mindsets.  Scarcity versus abundance. Givers versus takers.  Rescuers versus victims. Contributors versus the welfare state.

I think one of the reasons we as a society worship celebrities is that on some deeper level we recognize they have broken through this limiting belief.  

Who gave these people permission to believe that they are enough?

It comes down to just one person – yourself.

Of course it’s easier if you have a support network of family, friends, church, sangha, mastermind, coach, whatever.  

But in the end, it’s yourself.  I’ll talk more about igniting cognition rapidly in a future post.

*By the way, I do sing now, quite a bit.  I’m an active member of my parish choir.  But it took me years of unwinding that internal misplaced belief.