An interview with Wendy Brentnall-Wood, a music teacher in Australia.  (Part 1)

Website:  Wendy’s Music

Wendy and I connected on a LinkedIN Music Teacher’s group and got to talking.  She has a successful music studio and will soon launch an online training program.  She is a wealth of information and so I have broken up our interview into several parts.  This is the first of three.  Enjoy!



What do you think makes you unique as a teacher?

Writing my own teaching program is something that not many teacher get around to doing and mine covers currently 6 instruments with more underway.

What frustrated me early in my teaching career, was firstly the number of children or adults I saw who wanted to learn to play an instrument who were being turned off learning music because it was too hard for them or too boring and so they dropped out of lessons. Secondly they weren’t being taught to read and understand making music or exploring improvising,creating and the other facets of music in an easy to understand way. When I started teaching, it was very traditional. So I ended up putting together my own method. The method encompasses reading and playing technique, theory, performing, improvising,listening skills. But it’s put it together in a structured system so it’s very easy to follow.

So what makes it different than other methods out there?

The simplicity and variety of activities that cover all the different areas of musicianship,listening,playing, reading,creating,understanding,technique and so on. I broke down every musical concept beginners will use in their first two or three years of learning and structured a lesson plan that works with every concept. Both students and teachers have an easy to follow and interesting routine of activities on which they can place more or less emphasis as needed or according to their interest.
For example the first notation reading a student learns is the semibreve or whole note. This squashed circle or egg shaped symbol which tells us to “make a sound” and hold that sound for 4 musical heart beats. Play – hold-hold-hold.
We start with rhythm on its own, without pitch or staves and not using  traditional counting with numbers as they are just too confusing!…..

So we don’t count in numbers like 1-2-3-4 for a four beat note.

So what do you say?

We say “play”, as they play it and make a sound and then they hold and hold and hold. Then they go on the next one. And when they do a two beat note, it’s just “play” and hold. And a rest is “rest” or if it’s a two beat rest, it’s “rest rest.”  This simple language is actually describing WHAT they have to do.

Students usually learn one concept each week such as the semibreve or whole note and we do exercises together in class exploring the concept, then they have some tunes they go home and play with backing trax.  Each concept has a flash card, a homework theory or writing page and we have some creative improvising they can do to backing tracks. It’s a package of different activities all related to semibreve. And then the next week, after their homework review we’ll do the same activities using the minim or half note concept.

These are all private lessons, one on one?

Currently I do shared lessons as well. Two students coming to a class together. In the past, I’ve also done small group lessons of 3- 5 children.

In the next part of the interview, Wendy shares some great tips on running a successful music studio and the business of administering and managing employees.  Stay tuned.

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