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How to dismiss a student with kindness

A studio full of hard-working and well-mannered students is every piano teacher's dream. But few teachers actually have the opportunity to live this dream for their entire careers. The truth is that most teachers have at least one student that they do not enjoy teaching. It might be due to a communication problem, a mismatched energy issue, a behav...
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Music enhances our quality of life

I doubt that any musician (and many non-musicians) reading this article would argue that the survival of music and art is critical to our nation's well-being. The final words in the previous sentence are the title of an article I wrote in 2008 and just rediscovered when going through some files in my office. 1    In writing an opinio...
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Closer look: The Music of Teaching

The Music of Teaching: Learning to Trust Students' Natural Development by Barbara Kreader Skalinder By inverting two words— teaching and music — Barbara Kreader Skalinder changes what could have been a fairly mundane title to one that intrigues and gives us pause. But it is her subtitle, Learning to Trust Students' Natural Development , that grabs ...
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Immersion

My bookbag struck the floor with a thud as I closed the door to my house. I made my way over to the piano and slumped down on the piano bench. Another exhausting day of tests had drained my energy, yet again. Practicing piano would be strenuously difficult for me, if not impossible. After running through my scales, I sighed and opened up a pie...
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Perspectives: Managing performance anxiety

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Mastering the inner game: Three "mind coaches" onmanaging performance anxiety by Ali Snow  Don't be nervous! You'll do fine!" "Take a few deep breaths and it'll all be OK." "Here, eat this banana. It'll help your nerves." "Just picture the audience in their underwear!" "You should put yourself in a lot of pressure-filled situations and soon yo...
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Variations: Being comfortable in your teacher skin

I recently met a passionate young teacher who told me this story: "One of my students came up to me the other day and observed: 'Mrs. L., you either love what you do, or you just can't find another job!' The child, only seven years old, had already intuited society's adage: 'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.'" We laughed together over this...
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Appreciation

I recently had the pleasure of hosting ten high-school girls from Kenya. This was their first trip to the United States, and the girls have been part of an online music teaching program at The University of Georgia, where I teach. These girls were very excited to see the U.S. and to try many new experiences. The visit was a grand success, and I'm s...
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Are you a workaholic? Seven ways piano teachers can fight this damaging behavior

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Authors note: They say it "takes one to know one," and I humbly submit this as someone who struggles with working too much, simply because I love what I do! I hope these thoughts and tips help you as much as they have helped me. Workaholism is rampant in western culture, and, unfortunately, piano teachers are not immune. A significant study involvi...
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Mind Matters: Retirement

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Imagine this: for many years you and your students have created many personal memories and memorable musical moments. You have contributed to your profession and felt emotionally enriched and, sometimes, financially rewarded. You have established a home, found a satisfying personal and family life, and planted roots in your community. You have atte...
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Why do you play the piano?

For years, I have written about and counseled many people regarding their performance anxiety.  ​I have lectured on the topics of symptoms and symptom reduction, as well as deeper psychological issues that fuel stage fright. I have heard numerous comments about "wanting to play perfectly," "wanting the audience to like me," and "not letti...
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What are they thinking? The key to your students’ best performances

The lights are dimmed and a hush comes over the crowd. The atmosphere is charged as your student takes the stage for her recital. She is well prepared and ready for this moment, but there are no guarantees. More than anything else, what happens next hinges on the thinking habits she has acquired during her practice sessions. The key to pianists' be...
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When students quit

I quit piano twice. During my last year of high school, I left my long-time teacher a handwritten note in an envelope on her desk. In it I detailed the reasons I was "quitting piano." I no longer remember what those reasons were, but I suspect they were related to feeling I had let her down by losing a then-recent contest. I don't remember that she...
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Walk a mile in your neighbor’s shoes: Gender issues in piano teaching

Change, learning, and growth are able to happen when conversations begin. Conversations about what I think, and what you think, and how I feel, and how you feel rarely happen in this screen-crazy, busy world we live in. Yet, there are often important questions looming in the background. These questions typically go unanswered, but they could be add...
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Mind Matters: Less is more

Full disclosure: I have repeatedly tried to write this column for a couple of weeks. I have thought about it for much longer. I usually have my Clavier Companion column completed long before it is due. I do not like last minute crunches. I have legitimate excuses. In the past couple months, I have been busy attending meetings, writing papers, and p...
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Mind Matters: The Odd Couple

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When I returned to graduate school in psychology, writing papers was a typical assignment. This was often the case in courses dealing with clinical material. I remember being assigned a paper in a class on Family Dynamics; we were asked to describe a family we were treating and discuss how the work was progressing. At the time of this assignment, I...
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Preludes: Wonderfully frustrating

Herbert Chatzky, my beloved piano teacher from my teenage years, passed away at the age of 78. His pianism and musicianship were a huge inspiration for me. Herb studied with Irwin Freundlich at Juilliard in the 1950s. He received his B.S. in Piano in 1957 and his M.S. in Piano in 1958, winning the concerto competition that year. His time at Juillia...
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Music lessons are life lessons

Have you ever been in a room full of people or at a table with friends where no one was talking with each other because everyone was texting?  Although "texting" is a relatively new verb in our language, I imagine that most people, in our Age of Cell Phone, would understand its current definition. While texting potentially makes communication ...
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Student wants and needs

During the late 1990s, I taught piano privately in New York City  to supplement my income while working on my doctorate. From time to time, the phone would ring, and I would find myself talking to prospective students. I soon learned that I did not need to feel very anxious about it, because only one thing mattered to them, and I could deliver...
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Size is key

We expect so much in our lives to be tailor made to fit our individual sizes and needs. ​This morning, we got up, put on well-fitting clothes and shoes, and popped on our prescription glasses or contacts. We got into our cars and adjusted our seats, steering wheels, rear view mirrors, and seat belts. If you golf, you are fitted with ...
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Music and the Brain 101

For many musicians, recurring performance anxiety can erode self-confidence, cause less than optimal performances, and ultimately have a damaging impact on one's career. Although we experience performance anxiety for a number of reasons, the fear that often looms the largest is that of having a memory failure. Neuroscientists have made significant ...
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