Saturday, April 4, 2009

More From the MTNA Convention

I'd like to get up several more posts today about the MTNA convention in Atlanta since I'm headed out of town for the week tomorrow! These are short general summaries of some of the seminars I attended. I'm keeping them short because MTNA will offer the recordings for sale, and it doesn't seem like a fair thing to do to just reproduce all of the main points here. Perhaps you'll decide to order a recording after reading my summary! (Click here to see all of my posts from the 2009 MTNA National Convention.)

Survivor MTNA Edition: Promote, Manage, Excel
Gulimina Mahamuti, Erika and Evan Kinser, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City, MTNA Collegiate Student Chapter

This seminar presented results of a survey taken from mostly MTNA keyboard teachers. Some of the results were quite interesting, such as this one: Most teachers considered their studio to be a business, but almost none of them had a business plan or any savings for their business. I must confess that my business plan exists only in my head, and is based mainly on what is possible after the demands of mommyhood. I think it would serve me well to map out on paper what I'd like to see happen in my studio and to come up with concrete plans for how to make it happen. And after attending this conference, I know that I'd like to be able to attend a similar conference at least every other year, and that requires some savings. I now have plans to open a savings account for my studio so that I can stash away some cash toward that purpose and toward the acquisition of equipment and such. The presenters also discussed some ways to promote your studio which included ideas like offering community outread recitals - our association does this at a local retirement home - and sending out press releases about your studio activities and your students' achievements.

The blank slate: First-year piano technique
Ted Cooper, Levine School of Music, Washington D.C.


One of the best things I took away from this seminar was the importance of separating our efforts at shaping technique into sound-producing activities and non-sound producing activities. For beginners, the sounds and the gestures are all new, and learning them at the same time can be difficult. When a student sees and feels excellence away from producing sounds, they have greater success. For instance, when working on hand position, practice building a good piano hand in a deliberate way at the beginning of the lesson, before making any sound. Similarly, learning to recognize the sound of, say, staccato, should be done separately from learning the gesture necessary to play it. The presenter used some very good video clips to demonstrate building a good piano hand and teaching students to aurally recognize tone color and legato/staccato. If you listen to the recording, I think you’ll get some good ideas. I found this to be one of the better seminars I attended.

Becoming Omnipresent Music Teachers With Online Social Network Tools
Mario Ajero, Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas
Courtney Crappell, University of Texas at San Antonio


I will confess that, as much as I have enjoyed Mario Ajero’s podcasts, I sat in on this seminar because there wasn’t another seminar going on that I really wanted to attend. If you’re reading here, Mario and Courtney, please don’t take offense – keep reading! Becoming omnipresent…well, I’m not sure I want to be omnipresent to my students. I do use Facebook, but I really don’t want my students or their parents seeing the communication that passes between me and my old college friends! And Twittering, well, I just can’t see the appeal. But, I actually left this seminar very glad I attended and excited to use some of their ideas.

The presenters described how they use Twitter to create a supportive community among their piano students. Imagine tweeting that you are having trouble with your practicing and then getting encouraging and helpful tweets back from your fellow students and even your teacher. I have to wonder, though, how many students will be tempted to spend more time tweeting than practicing. I suppose, though, that the temptation is there whether or not it has to do with piano. So, better to be tweeting about your piano practice than about less important things.

I had never heard of Ning, but it is another social networking site like Facebook where you can create a group that has its own page with a dedicated URL. Because it’s private and password protected, it’s a good place to post videos or other content that you don’t want available to the general public. I’m considering creating a Ning group for my studio. I think this would be a great tool both for posting educational content and creating camaraderie. Unlike Facebook, it would be limited to just my piano students so they wouldn’t be seeing my status posts when I write things like “If your piano students drive you to drink, can you deduct the alcohol as a business expense?”

I was intrigued by the idea of sending “video on the fly” using the private messaging feature on Facebook. If you have a camera on your laptop, it’s very easy to record a quick video and attach it to the message. I’d always assumed that it would be hard, and I had never even tried it. In fact, I’d never even used the camera on my laptop, but after seeing Mario demonstrate sending a quick video to a student to demonstrate an idea he’d forgotten to mention in the lesson, I was eager to try it. I went home that night and sent my husband a video with a Facebook message – in less than a minute. Wow. Since then, I’ve learned how to attach video captured from my laptop camera via email. It isn’t hard at all, although it does take a few more steps than using Facebook. If students have that capability at home, it makes for an easy way to ask for help when they have practicing problems during the week.

4 comments:

Mario Ajero said...

I'm glad we didn't have much competition going on during our session, Laura! Seriously, we're glad that you and so many other attendees came out to our presentation. I agree how not every teacher wants to be omnipresent for their students. I actually considered starting the presentation with the question, "Don't you wish you could see your students more?" I pulled it after fearing that I might get a resounding, "NO!!!"

Anyway, thanks for sharing your review of our presentation on your blog. I too have to watch how I behave while I'm on Facebook, knowing that I have students following. However, there are some very effective privacy settings on Facebook that allow you to hide those communications between your college friends from students and their parents. (You can even hide that funny status update that you mentioned!) Unfortunately we didn't have time to get into all of that, but if you ever want some help or advice in how to handle privacy settings on Facebook, let me know!

Keep up the great work!

Laura said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mario! Obviously, I haven't fully explored facebook but I'm glad to discover that there are ways to hide things! I've actually decided that I'm going to host a parent seminar next fall on using technology to help students succeed and discuss such things as videoing students practicing, networking with fellow students via the social network options mentioned here, and sending me videos for checkups during the week. Maybe I'll even open it up to my local association and invite their parents, too. You've really sparked something in my studio! Glad I went to your program after all! :-)

Natalie said...

Laura; You could even start a Facebook Fan PAGE that would allow you to mass communicate with your students and they could comment and create discussions. Facebook has great privacy settings and also has wonderful control features for administrators of fan pages. ie only fans are allowed to view this page.

Laura said...

Great idea, Natalie!

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