Monday, June 15, 2015

88 Creative Keys Conference: New Tricks For This Old Dog

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They say old dogs can't learn new tricks. I hope they're wrong! As I prepare for the 88 Creative Keys conference this summer (have you signed up yet?), I’ll confess that I’m feeling a little nervous. We’ll be learning from Bradley Sowash and Leila Viss all about incorporating more creativity into lessons using improvisation, lead sheets, and cool ipad apps. I am excited about what I'll learn, but I’m also feeling a little jittery! I suspect that my concerns might be similar to many of yours. Maybe you’ll see yourself in the list below, or maybe you have some advice for me. I’ll be blogging about my experiences as I attend the conference, and hopefully, I’ll be addressing all of these topics (and probably more) during this summer and in the teaching year to come.

Improvisation is scary – for me. 

True confession time.  I took improvisation courses in college as part of my organ degree programs.  I wrote out my assignments at home and memorized them. While we were supposed to plan the piece out, we weren’t supposed to write it out. Why did I do that? Because learning to improvise in a contrapuntal style with proper voice leading felt like trying to make boeuf bourguignon when I wasn’t yet very good at hamburgers. Prior to those courses, the only improvising I had ever done was some simple embellishment of hymns at church. My earlier piano teachers never ever asked me to invent my own music in any way, shape, or form, and I was a “color inside the lines” kind of kid. Even now, give me a lead sheet and ask me to change up the accompaniment style, and I’ll probably resort to a simple arpeggio or an oom-pah-pah. These feel like Mickey Mouse choices and I think I’m supposed to already be much better than that. 

My students are digital natives and know more about the ipad and computers than I do. 

It's always a little demoralizing to pull out the ipad in a lesson, have trouble with an app, and have my student (who has never used that app) tap a few buttons and fix the problem. I've already learned how to do several things on the ipad just in the process of downloading the materials for the conference. I'm so far behind this game that I only just recently learned how to create an iTunes playlist.Yeah, seriously. My 12-year-old daughter showed me how. And, I can’t bring her with me to the conference, so I’m gonna be on my own. Scary.

Sometimes my students are better at playing by ear than I am. 

This is because they’ve actually done it more. They’ve spent hours sitting at the piano trying to find the chords for that song they just love and want to play. I haven’t, and I don't know a lot of the music they want to play. Sometimes, I feel like I’m not the expert any more. I don’t like that feeling. I hope I'll have that feeling less often after the conference.

Stay tuned for more reports as I prepare for 88 Creative Keys!

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