Friday, July 30, 2010
After teaching a Violin Pedagogy class at Peabody last week, a comment from a Conservatory pedagogy student, whom I had taught during her high school years, struck me. After working on ways to help young students learn to balance the bow comfortably at the frog, she said “Oh, now I REALLY understand what you were doing with my bow arm all those years!” While it may seem like an insult to our teaching when a student doesn’t fully understand what we have been doing, I think it is a reminder, instead, that even when the motor memory takes over as we work on physical aspects of playing, it is often later that a string player fully understands the concepts behind the motions. Now that she is more mature and is revisiting her own playing from a teacher’s perspective, all those years of martelé strokes and “wobbling” at the frog are making sense on many levels and her own playing is falling beautifully into place with fuller understanding. What does this mean to younger students and parents? It means just keep doing those warm ups every day so you develop freedom and fluidity in your playing, and ask your teacher questions along the way.
String Dept. Chair
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Sunday, July 18, 2010
Video: A Critical Teaching Tool
I would like to share with you how to use the medium of video quickly, easily and inexpensively to maximize results and shorten the learning curve of your students. I am on the faculty of Peabody Preparatory and I am the director of the Maryland Talent Education Center which offers violin, viola, cello and piano lessons. This center also runs a public school Suzuki string program which serves 90 students in 1st through 8th grades. Videotaping my students is a critical component and one of the most useful and important teaching tool I utilize in all these programs.
As you may have noticed, this current generation of teens is obsessed with looking at themselves. Turn this obsession to your advantage. I have found that one picture is truly worth a thousand words. For example, sometimes, after years of reminding a student to keep their violin scroll higher, I finally show them a video of one of their concerts and they exclaim with amazement that “wow, my scroll really does drop.” (I think that they honestly believe that we make this stuff up!) Video is also a particularly effective teaching tool when it comes to helping students notice issues with intonation, dynamics, posture, stage presence and for string players, bow distribution.
For my public school Suzuki program, we have “video days” where students will perform solo pieces or selections from their orchestra music. I then upload that video to a MY CITY page that I have created for each child in ClassicalMusicCity.com and write a couple of sentences in the “reviews” section. The parent can then reference the video to better understand the suggestions and comments. Parents and their children can watch the video together and discuss what the child is doing well and what would use some attention. This is critical in a program where parents are not present observing the lessons. Students work more consistently and diligently because they love making their videos.
But I also film all the performances of students in the Maryland Talent Education Center and my students at Peabody. The parents in these programs are at the lessons, but I find that the children really benefit from seeing how they have performed in a live concert setting. It is fun, inspirational and educational to watch a child grow and improve over time. It is sometimes hard for a child to see their own progress on a weekly basis, but watching a video from a performance a few years ago, really shows what has been achieved and inspires both parent and child to continue practicing.
In the past it has always been challenging to figure out how to share video with students and parents. There are privacy and quality issues with sites like YouTube. I have found ClassicalMusicCity.com to be the solution. This website was created and designed with teachers and students in mind. It has thousands of pages of video, links, articles, news, events about the classical music industry which can be discovered in the main city. Each of my student’s families has their own “MY CITY” page in the social network area of the site where their video is archived. The MY CITY pages can be set to private, contacts only or public which solves the issue of privacy and safety and the upload system they provide allows for video clips of more than just 10 minutes and the quality is excellent. (Remember, that some quality issues relate to your internet access speed) Just become a member of ClassicalMusicCity.com and there are instructions for uploading video at the top of the MY CITY page. It is simple and best of all, free.
Recently, I have discovered another very important use for each child’s video archives on their MY CITY page. Students have been using a link to their MY CITY page to fulfill the requirements for the Arts Supplement on the Common Application form for undergraduate admissions. Since there is plenty of archived video of live performances, there is no longer a mad rush and the anxiety of putting together audition tapes.I encourage you to start using the power of video soon. I believe it is a great shortcut to better results with students.