I had this idea about 4 hours into my day yesterday to do a blog post about what I do in a day. I really do feel very fortunate to be able to set my own work hours and work from home (mostly). This flexibility means my husband and I can go to school and further our education and support ourselves in that endeavor. I also love teaching and after working in many different fields and jobs, I can tell you that if you find something you love and can support your family doing it, that's the dream.
Anyway, so here is a glimpse at a day in the life of a private music teacher...
I'm not gonna lie, I sleep in during the summer. More accurately, I try to stay in my bed until around 8:30 am. We don't have kids, so I realize this is a luxury most don't get to enjoy. And I really enjoy my morning downtime during the summer because I know that when school starts again, I have a 7:30 am class, which I am not particularly enthused about, but that's how the cookie crumbles.
I get out of bed and start my morning routine by making the bed. I can usually hear my husband out in the living room suffering through his morning exercise routine. I don't like to suffer, so I pound out a few push ups and crunches and call it good. I'm a night time shower-er so I don't worry about that in the morning. I get ready and head to the kitchen to make breakfast. My husband has gotten on a healthy kick recently, so I made us a smoothie for breakfast while he got cleaned up after he was done with his exercising.
If I'm smart, I immediately start on a to do list. Otherwise, I end up bonding with my recliner and Netflix. Yesterday was a good day and I started early with some practice time. Not only am I a student, but I am an active performer, so I have practicing to do. Part of practicing for me includes IPA and translation of texts in foreign languages. I spent a couple of hours doing that yesterday.
I do this for all of my foreign language pieces. I count this as part of my practice time because it helps me with my memorization and interpretation of the pieces. It is definitely one of the more tedious things I do during practice time.
By the time I was done with this project, it was lunch time. So I fixed myself some lunch and treated myself to an episode of The West Wing on Netflix.
Next up on the schedule was teaching time. During the summer, with everyone being so busy with traveling and summer fun, I don't always have a full teaching schedule. Yesterday, I only had 3 lessons to teach.
One piano lesson and two voice lessons later, and I was left to tidy up after my teaching adventures. I use a lot of props and such for teaching. And since our teaching space is also our living space, I always make sure to clean up right after finishing lessons.
I love using the exercise ball when teaching students about support. Truth be told, it's one of my favorite things to use when I'm practicing too. And last summer's stroke of genius to write up warm ups to keep at the piano and hand out to all the students has saved my sanity. Sometimes my brain just can't come up with warm ups on the fly.
We decided to take in a movie yesterday afternoon. So we headed off to the movie theater and enjoyed the new Star Trek movie. And because we're music nerds, I have to mention how much we love Michael Giacchino's movie music.
Then we picked up a little dinner on our way back to the house and I introduced a new show to my husband. My friend and I have recently started watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix. It's quirky and hilarious. And its' characters randomly burst into song. Hilarious songs. So I watched an episode with my husband and then watched an episode with my friend. Actually, she lives across the country. So we both watch and text each other during it. Because we're cool like that.
This summer, my husband and I have tried to take nightly walks. It gets pretty toasty during the day in Utah so we wait until the sun goes down and it starts to cool off. We go out and walk around a bit and now that Pokemon Go has come out, we catch Pokemon too. Because we're cool like that.
Then we come home and wind down for bed. My husband has been working on a puzzle.
Well, that's pretty much it. A day in the life of a Private Music Teacher. The routine varies a bit. On days when I don't teach, I spend time working on lesson plans or reading books about pedagogy. I spent 3 hours the other day planning for the Fall Group Music Classes for young kids.
And sometimes we have performances in the evening. Right now, we are performing at Desert Star Playhouse in it's production of "Perfect Pitch", which is a spoof on Pitch Perfect.
I am so grateful that my husband and I are able to continue to work to help us get through school. Our programs are very involved and we spend a lot of time at the school, so a regular job isn't as feasible for us. We take our job as teachers very seriously and work to make sure our students are getting a thorough music education.
Get Your Practice On
Practicing is a seemingly never ending gripe for every music student since the beginning of time.
"This is boring."
"I don't like this song."
"Has it been 30 minutes yet?"
"This practicing is really getting in the way of my Pokemon Go time."
If you're a teacher or the parent of a musician, you've heard them all. There's always a part of me that thinks practicing will improve when school gets out and summer comes. All of the "I have so much homework" excuses will disappear and hours of time each day will open wide open for practicing.
And then summer lessons get going and somehow practicing has gotten worse. "We've been out of town." or "It's so hard to have a schedule during the summer." or "I had to beat a level on my video game." We're all really good at making excuses.
And sometimes, as a teacher, I get really tired of just saying "Ok, but next week do better at practicing." Sometimes I run out of tricks in my bag to help students practice more consistently.
So how do we become better as teachers and parents at encouraging students to practice? I've got a couple of things that have worked for me in the past that I'll share with you in this post. I'd also LOVE to hear from other teachers and parents and students! Share in the comments what helps you!
Preparing to Practice
1. Try to find a quiet place to practice. Sometimes that can be difficult when you want to practice piano and you're the oldest of 6 kids (that was me). Quiet was something that wasn't plentiful at my house. But see if people could at least go to a different room/area or outside while you practice. You'll have a more successful practice session if you have fewer distractions.
2. Have supplies you need nearby. Pencils, metronome, timer, whatever you might need.
3. Technology can help, but it can also be one of those distractions we talked about earlier.
4. Make a goal before you practice. Pick something you want to accomplish by the end of your practice session. Write down your goals so they are more real and can refer to them during your practicing.
5. Figure out in what order you will be practicing things.
6. Practice smarter. Break things down into manageable pieces.
7. Don't always start at the beginning of songs. I usually rock the beginning of my songs. Because that's where I always start. I have to remind myself that if I want my song to be successful throughout, I need to start at the middle or the end to strengthen other parts.
8.Set a reward yourself. If I make it through a good practice session and achieve my goals, I like to eat a cookie or little treat.
During Your Practice
It helps if you have a map for your practice time. And I happen to have one I really like.
This helps my students map out their practice time and keep them accountable. I use it for my piano and voice students. If the students will use it, I've seen serious improvements at lessons. So often we just sit down and play songs and at the end, can't even say what we really did for 30 minutes. This helps kids identify the trouble spots in songs so they actually get better from week to week.
I also encourage my students to start practicing with their least favorite song. That way it actually get it practiced and the better you practice, the sooner you can pass it off and get a new song you might like better.
Practice Pays Off
It always feels good to be able to pass off a song and move on. Cookies feel better. Ok. Incentives in general tend to be pretty, well, incentivizing. Maybe you want to keep a sticker chart and once they pass off 10 songs, they can choose a "fun" song (i.e. Harry Potter or Disney or Star Wars), or pick a prize from a prize bucket. Or have them fill out their daily practice sheets and once they've turned in 8 completed, they get a prize. Maybe even recognize the top "Practicers" at a recital with a special certificate or gift card to a local music store.
And at home, you can do something similar. Have a chart your student can put a sticker on each time they practice and after it's filled up, let them have a special treat!
(I love all things disney. So Disney Cookies would be a real motivator to me.)
I am always ready to hear other good ideas to help with practicing. So If anyone else has ideas to encourage students to practice, I'd love to hear them! And if any of these ideas can help make your students practicing a little more pleasant, then I've succeeded!
Good Luck in your Practicing endeavors!
Summer Music Camp Recital
We wrapped up our Kids Summer Music Camp this week with a recital. It's been so much fun to spend 2 mornings a week with these kiddos! And they've worked so hard and have learned so much! I wanted everyone to be able to see what they were able to accomplish in just a short 4 weeks!
Of course we had to do our warm ups and show off our solfege skills. They hardly need any help from me! And the our littlest class sings their song. You get about 3/4 of it before my iPad decides it's too hot outside and shuts down.
We had a few older girls join us and I decided it would be "fun" for them to get to sing solos. They worked really hard and I'm really proud of them for being so brave and stand in front of everyone and sing.
This is the younger half of our older class. They worked with Adam to learn "I Won't Grow Up" from Peter Pan while I worked with the older girls on their solos. I love how much enthusiasm these kids have while performing this song! And please notice how well they all know the words and the audience can actually understand them! Way to go guys!
Our Boomwhacker attempt with the kids went better in practice than it did in the performance. They were a little passive about hitting the boomwhackers, which I promise you was not a problem in practice. This is our attempt at "The Imperial March" from Star Wars.
I'm so glad you asked! We're about to start our final week of the first session of Kids Summer Music Camp. It has been a lot of fun! The kids have been learning all kinds of things about music and they've been learning to sing some really fun songs too! In fact, they will be showcasing these songs at a mini recital at the end of Camp! I can't wait for the parents to see everything the kids have learned!
I've really love watching them discover a love of music. It's so fun for me to be their guide this summer! And I'm so proud of all that they've done!
Take a look for yourself! And sign up for Session 2 of Summer Camp starting July 18th (If there's enough demand) or sign up to join us this fall in our Weekly Music Classes for kids ages 3-12!
Here we are reviewing our note values! Our older class is working on knowing whole, half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes!
Here is the younger class singing their "Do Re Mi"s! Aren't they adorable?
And here is the older class giving you a sneak peak at their Chitty Chitty Bang Bang song they will be performing at the recital!
Isn't this all so much fun?!
Keep watching the blog and website for more details about the Fall semester of Music Classes for your kids! I have some more fun and exciting things for the kids to learn this fall and I'd love to have your kids join us!
For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam and Wendi have extensive music experience, as teachers and performers.