Most years, I will just have all my students continue in their same lesson time as the previous year unless they require a change.
This year, I have a change that will require a revision of my teaching schedule.
The Augustana campus of U of A, where I teach sessionally, has revised its B.Mus degree to focus on applied pedagogy and studio teaching. As part of this, they have asked me to start a program that can provide Suzuki method teacher training and demonstration classes. This is very good news for the future of Suzuki music education in Alberta, but it does mean that I will have to change my university teaching day to Wednesday instead of Tuesday the way it has been previously.
Rather than just asking all my Wednesday people to switch to Tuesdays, I would like revise my entire teaching schedule, and give everyone a change to change their lesson time to one that might be more convenient, while things are up in the air. To this end, I will be asking everyone to give me three different times when they could come for a lesson, in order of preference. I will collect these times and try to create a schedule that is the most convenient for everyone. In order to see all the times in one place and make sure I haven’t missed anyone, I will be asking you to fill out a Google form with this information. Here is the link: https://forms.gle/QBj9xKFeNf2pUY9q9
Summer duet project:
In our last lessons in June, I was telling all of you that I wanted to try and set up some opportunities to meet outside and play duets, since we had not really seen each other in person since we all went to on line lessons mid March. Since I am now writing this at the beginning of August, it is pretty obvious that I haven’t done this yet. Unfortunately, life caught up to me – my husband, who had been on the waiting list for open heart surgery when the pandemic closed everything except emergency services at the hospitals, received a call at the end of June when things opened up, telling him to be ready for surgery mid-July. So everything came to a halt while we dealt with this. I am grateful that if it had to be done so suddenly, it did happen in the summer when our schedules were less busy. I would have had to take several weeks off had it happened during the lesson term.
I still want to do a duet project as part of our lesson start-up at the end of August, and get together outdoors before the weather gets too cold. Here’s the plan:
- Have our first lesson the week of August 31, and organize our duet assignment.
- Work with a recording of the second part the following week.
- Meet in person outdoors week of September 14, weather permitting.
I have always considered one of my most important goals as a teacher is to help my students learn to work independently. In order for this to happen, a student needs these skills:
- be able to learn by ear (hear pitch and key relationships, rhythm and meter, articulation, phrasing, dynamics, and other nuances )
- be able to listen to themselves objectively
- be able to self assess and make corrections without prompting
- be able to recognize previously learned patterns in new contexts
- be able to recognize when you don’t know something, and know where to go to find out.
- eventually, be able to read music
One of the best tools for developing the objective listening and self assessment is making recordings of your playing and listening to them. This is why we do this as a very important part of the graduation program. Back in January, I was drawing up a plan for having my students do more of this kind of work. And then COVID-19 came along, and we were all on line. To make up for the shortcomings of sound quality with lessons over the internet, I had many of you experiment with sending me recordings, and put a large amount of material up as on line resources, but it was all done in a hurry and not as well organized as I would have liked. Now I would like to take a deep breath and approach this in a more organized way.
So here’s the plan:
- There will be the occasional week where our lesson does not involve meeting at the same time.
- Instead, you will send me a recording of a specific practice project.
- I will send you written feedback and/or a demonstration recording.
- You will send me a second recording, showing changes based on the feedback received.
- We will review that recording together as part of your next regularly scheduled lesson.
Unlike an in-person lesson, where all playing and feedback is immediate, this asynchronous lesson will allow you to listen to yourself after you record, think about whether you are really accomplishing your goals in playing the piece, and make another attempt (or two or three, over several days) until you are satisfied enough to send it to me.
Scheduling asynchronous lessons for the weeks when there are statutory holidays will also help us to keep our momentum going over breaks without needing to reschedule lessons. I will still have extra lesson days as usual! Asynchronous lessons will be in addition to, not instead of, extra lesson days.