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Bring the Ring!

By Sondra Tucker

I am not by any means a master gardener.  But every spring, I get excited when my local nursery begins to display their colorful annuals and perennials for sale. I shop for old favorites like geraniums and sweet-smelling marigolds, and add new varieties that are different and beautiful.  I fill my car with what I hope will be hardy plants that will grow and blossom, making my yard more beautiful, and I carefully plant, fertilize and water them throughout the summer.

Handbell choirs can be like that, too.  Each new season brings an opportunity to greet old friends and integrate new ringers into your ministry.  Providing the right mix of instruction, inspiration, and music can make your handbell ministry flourish and become an integral part of your church’s music ministry, both within your congregation and out in the community.

What are some essential steps to grow a handbell ministry?

  1. Honor the time and gifts of your volunteers in music ministry by being prepared, punctual, enthusiastic, and on task as their director. Create a rehearsal plan and know what you want to accomplish for each piece you rehearse.  Communicate your goals clearly to the ensemble.  Expect regular attendance, punctuality, attention, and willingness to work on details from each of your ringers. Walk that tightrope between worship needs and ringer availability to schedule ringing in worship.  Since it is so difficult to rehearse with missing personnel, I highly recommend maintaining a sub list, so that occasional absences are less of a problem.
  2. Meet your ringers where they are, not where you want them to be. This means selecting music that is within your ensemble’s ability to prepare and ring successfully. Music that is too easy can be boring.  Music that is too difficult can be frustrating. Just as important is allowing enough rehearsal time to adequately prepare the music you have selected.  Within the range of music in your folder, make sure to provide a variety of styles, with enough ease for working on nuance or specialized techniques, and enough challenges to provide opportunities for growth.
  3. Find plentiful opportunities in worship for ringers to be successful and which complement and enhance the worship service. Since for most groups, handbells have to be moved and set up within the worship space each time they ring in church, it makes sense to play more than just a prelude or offertory.  Resources abound for processionals, peals, and accompaniments to enhance the entire service.
  4. Find opportunities for children and youth to use handbells, both in worship and in Sunday school. Music for children is usually graded Level 1, and is for two or three octaves of handbells.  Remember: a C4 in the hands of a 9 year old is proportionally the same as a C3 to an adult!
  5. Provide good music –
    • which is at an appropriate difficulty level
    •  which is written for the size bell choir you have (2 octaves to 6 or more octaves).
      • Most published music is written in 2-3 octave or 3-5+ octave versions. It takes 7 people to ring two octaves, 11 to ring 3 octaves, 12 to ring 4 octaves, and 13 to ring 5 octaves, although experienced ensembles can sometimes get by with fewer folks.
    • which is well crafted and interesting, with creative and emotional impact. I am quite proud of our Alfred Handbell catalog, which contains music written by leading composers and arrangers in our art form, and which ranges from very easy to quite difficult, and for all sizes of ensembles.
    • which fits the worship style of your congregation. Our reproducible handbell collection Bells & Chimes for Special Times provides wonderful music for each season of the church year.
    • which combines music for bells and choir, and bells with other instruments.
      • Many possibilities abound! For example, Joe Martin and Tina English’s Ring the Christmas Bells  is written for SATB with a part for 2 octave handbells.
      • Many of our handbell anthems contain parts for other instruments. One example is All Praise and Glory which is a majestic upper level handbell anthem with an optional part for organ.
  6. Offer opportunities to grow skills. Attend your local or area festivals, director’s seminars, and national events. Handbell Musicians of America is an active organization, and provides a national event each year (the next one will be in July 2019 in St. Louis!), opportunities for advanced ringers to come together, and events in each of 12 regional areas. Find them at http://www.handbellmusicians.org and join!  HMA offers affordable Ringer Memberships as well! Watch fabulous groups from around the world on YouTube. Support your local community handbell ensemble, and attend live concerts whenever possible.
  7. Remember that musical ministries in the church exist to support the worship of the larger congregation, but also exist as small groups, and the bonds between members of a bell choir can become precious and long-lasting. Empower everyone in your group to minister to one another.

If you “plant” your handbell ministry in the right soil, with the tender care and encouragement, you will reap the rewards of a vibrant musical garden. Enjoy!

 

1437683702Sondra Tucker, BSE, MMus is Handbell Editor for Alfred Handbell, a division of Jubilate Music Group. She is a retired Organist/Choirmaster and Chair of Area 6 of Handbell Musicians of America, and teaches composition at the Master Series of classes sponsored by the Guild. She is in demand as a conductor and clinician for denominational and Guild events. Sondra is an accomplished organist and flutist, and her published works include music for choir, organ, and instrumental ensembles in addition to handbells. She lives in Memphis with her husband, and has two children and two granddaughters.

Musica Russica: Bringing Russian Choral Music to the World

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Vladimir Morosan

In 1979 a young American graduate student named Vladimir Morosan won a Fullbright Scholarship togo to the Moscow Conservatory to study choral performance in pre-revolutionary Russia. The Soviet state had banned public performance of sacred music decades before that in 1923, and vicious attacks on and repression of the Russian Orthodox Church combined with strong censorship over creative output practically eliminated Russians’ access to their own sacred musical tradition and the continuity of that tradition throughout the Soviet era. Nevertheless, because Morosan was an American citizen, not a Soviet citizen, he was allowed to access historical materials, articles and sheet music relating to the Russian Orthodox sacred tradition. Recognizing the extraordinary opportunity this presented, Morosan’s supervising professor at the Conservatory, himself secretly a believer, said, “Vladimir, you understand our situation, of course. We cannot perform our great sacred music openly. So I’m charging you to gather everything that you can and take it to the West, and teach them in the West how this music is to be performed so that it’s not lost forever.”

MusicaRussica.jpegBy 1987 Morosan had founded Musica Russica, setting out to compile a historical anthology of Russian sacred music to mark the millennium of Russian Christianity celebrated in 1988. The result, published in 1991, was One Thousand Years of Russian Church Music, a collection of 79 pieces covering a wide range of styles and genres of sacred music from early chant fragments through Golovanov’s “Lord’s Prayer” (“отче наш“/”Otche nash“), originally published on the eve of the 1917 Revolution. Major figures like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov are not included in this anthology but are instead given their own volumes, each focusing on a single composer’s complete sacred works. Today Musica Russica’s growing catalog encompasses Russia’s major sacred works, as well as a number of folk songs, and continues to extend back into the rich historical catalog and to support the reinvigorated Orthodox tradition of the post-Communist era.

What is it that distinguishes this music from the Western sacred choral traditions? Perhaps most instantly recognizable are the octavo basses, followed very closely by a fullness of sound across voice parts and registers. Though some of the more recent choral works contain optional instrumental accompaniment for concerts conducted outside of church settings, all of the music is composed to be able to be sung a cappella, as Russian churches don’t use instruments at all. As such, a lot of what we’d recognize instrumentally in the Western style became internalized in the choir, including those very same deep octavo basses.

The most critical element of Russian sacred choral music, though, is the word. In fact, some people say it’s not even appropriate to call Russian sacred choral music “music,” as “music” was something created in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance as the interplay of instruments. In the Orthodox understanding, Russian sacred choral music is deemed to be “singing,” which illustrates that the core experience is the sung word and that what is sung draws its raison d’être from the word. How the singers and conductor interpret something, how they experience it and how they communicate it to the audience, therefore, is of the utmost importance.

This is also true musically. Performing Russian sacred choral music without a sincere regard for the words is rather different than doing the same with Western sacred choral music. If we listen to the masses of Bach, Mozart or Brahms, for instance, what we hear is an interplay of musical sounds that incidentally have some text. The core, however, is an instrumental musical structure. In stark contrast, Russian sacred choral music contains little in the way of imitative counterpoint or fugal structures. There are a lot of vertical chords that aren’t always so interesting if you strip away the words, but if you pay close attention to the linguistic phrasing, what emerges is an ancient chant synthesized with the ancient Russian tradition of communal folk singing delivered through the lens of some of the greatest compositional masters of human history. This makes it some of the most singable repertoire in the world. As Morosan says:

Russian choral music is idiomatically choral. It encompasses so much of what we experience any time a group of people gets together and sings something in common.”

To give you a glimpse into this quite remarkable catalog, perhaps listen to a short piece by Rachmaninoff, “Rejoice, O Virgin” (“Bogoroditse Devo”), the sixth movement from his All-Night Vigil (Всенощное бдение/Vsenoshchnoye bdeniye), often considered to be one of the most beautiful choral pieces ever written. In many ways this piece is rather simple, but perhaps that is why we can connect with it so deeply.

As one of Rachmaninoff’s favorite compositions, he even requested that the fifth movement, “Lord, Now Lettest Thou” (“Ньине отпущаеши”/“Nine otpushchayeshi”), be sung at his funeral. This movement has a notorious final descending scale in the low bass line that ends with a sustained B-flat 1 (i.e., the third B-flat below middle C). Rachmaninoff recalled that when he first showed this passage to Nikolai Danilin, conductor of the Moscow Synodal Choir, before the premiere, “Danilin shook his head saying ‘Now where on earth are we to find such basses? They are as rare as asparagus at Christmas!’ Nevertheless, he did find them. I knew the voices of my countrymen.”

For those already familiar with Rachmaninoff, it’s perhaps worth taking a look at the 20th-century neoromantic composer, Georgy Sviridov. Living most of his life under the Soviet regime, Sviridov wasn’t able to simply publish sacred music. Like many of his contemporaries, he wrote sacred music “into the desk drawer,” knowing that the pieces may never be heard, but he also managed to find clever ways to get around the Soviet censorship system. A 1973 staging of Alexei Tolstoy’s play, “Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich,” a Romantic-era play set in the late 16th century, provided an opportunity to present a trio of sacred choruses at Moscow’s Maly Theater under the guise of incidental music. These Three Choruses — “Rejoice, O Virgin” (“Богородице Дево”/“Bogoroditse Devo”), “Sacred Love” (“Любовь сбятая”/“Liubov sviataya”) and “Verse of Repentance” (“Покаянный стих”/“Pokayanniy stih”) — employ actual liturgical chant melodies, as well as a heterophonic texture stemming from ancient folk singing.

Musica Russica offers these pieces and many more, complete with performance notes, detailed transliterations, English translations, pronunciation tracks and even a DVD called The ABC’s of Russian Diction to help choirs outside of Russia connect not only with the language, but with the entire essence of this deeply soulful and uplifting musical tradition.

Discovering Mårten Jansson & Bärenreiter’s Jansson Choral Competition

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Mårten Jansson

Every time we listen to Swedish composer Mårten Jansson we can’t help but get swept up in the whirlwind of emotions he creates. His music is full of all of the compositional elements that choristers love to sing: sweeping melodic lines, open chords and expressive dissonance.

Ultimately, though, performers and audiences alike fall in love with his music because they are drawn to the fundamental honesty at its core. Jansson approaches traditional sacred texts with humility, and he openly shares his experience of it through his music in a way that amplifies the text without pretense or contradiction.

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This honesty should not, however, be confused with simplicity or naïveté. Jansson’s stunning Missa Popularis, for instance, manages to connect us to a profound range of emotions, while uniting many layers of thought and tradition into the microcosm of a single piece of music. In addition to all of Jansson’s neoromantic tendencies, the Missa sits atop a foundation of Swedish folk dances and simultaneously also sounds strikingly Medieval. This is perhaps most obvious in the opening of the “Kyrie” and the “Agnus Dei,” but the feeling of the chant is present throughout the entire Mass.

By uniting modern constructions with ancient ones, Jansson not only brings his Mass into the long tradition of the sacred ritual, but also brings the listener into communion with that tradition and with those who have celebrated it for centuries. The past shines through to the present, and the present holds its hand out to the past. Time becomes circular in celebration of the ritual, and Janssons’s Missa Popularis allows the audience to experience that in the music itself.

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A similar combination of modern and ancient also underpins Jansson’s “Maria (IV),” which simultaneously elicits a deep-seated sympathy for the universal, fundamental suffering of motherhood and brings to life Mary’s individual sorrow as the mother of a child who belongs not to her, but to all mankind. Commissioned by the Royal Swedish Court for the Feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 2013, this piece served as the focal point of Bärenreiter’s Mårten Jansson Choral Competition.

Ten choirs from around the world entered videos of their performances of “Maria (IV)” in the competition, and those videos were judged by an international panel of choral experts. The top three choirs all received vouchers for Bärenreiter choral publications, and the winning choir also received a commission for a new Jansson piece to suit their particular needs.

Here is the video submitted by the winning choir, the Jugendkonzertchor Dortmund from Dortmund, Germany directed by Felix Heitmann. This performance was praised by judges as “an absolutely perfect performance” and one that “really felt like the ensemble wanted to tell you something they feel is important.”

The University of Denver Lamont Chorale from Denver, Colorado, USA, directed by Catherine Sailer, came in second place with a video of a live performance of the piece that judges praised for “a nicely balanced full warm sound” and “an equally great interpretation,” as well as “excellent and well-structured dynamics and agogics.”

Rounding out the top three was Warsaw’s Vocore, a much smaller ensemble of eight singers founded only in 2017. Praised for being “the most ‘together’ performance among the entries,” the judges appreciated the choir’s warm tone and clear and present middle voices.

ABRSM Exams: Inspiring Musical Achievement

ABRSM’s graded music exams are recognised and respected around the world.  Find out more about what’s involved and how these assessments can support your music teaching or learning.

ABRSM’s mission is to inspire musical achievement and our graded music exams are a big part of that. These world-leading assessments have the authority of four Royal Schools of Music in the UK, and have been supporting and motivating students around the world since 1889.

Our graded music exams are available at eight levels – Grades 1 to 8 – for a wide range of classical instruments and for singers. You can also do exams in Jazz, Music Theory and Practical Musicianship.  Students of any age can take these exams and you can start with any grade or skip grades if you want to.

What happens in an ABRSM exam? Continue reading ‘ABRSM Exams: Inspiring Musical Achievement’

Spring School Choral Concert Winning Programs!

This spring, Sheet Music Plus held a school choral program contest, in which choir directors at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels were encouraged to submit the repertoire list for their schools’ spring choral concerts. The choral programs were judged based on originality, thematic content and age appropriateness. The winners received a $200 gift certificate to Sheet Music Plus. They shared the inspiration behind their creative programming with us. Congratulations, winners!

Elementary Winner
DeLeigh
Iron Forge Elementary School
Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania
Theme: “The Iron Forge Construction . . . Through Music of Course!”

“I was working down the hall one day last spring when I heard a very loud “bang, bang” Continue reading ‘Spring School Choral Concert Winning Programs!’

Tim Topham: The Ultimate Piano Teaching Conference

Guest post by Tim Topham, host of the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast.

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Well, this is super exciting news. After months of planning, we are just weeks away from Piano Pivot Live, my very own piano teaching conference here in Melbourne.

I’ve spoken and been to conferences for years now.

If you’ve been to a piano teaching conference, chances are you probably learnt quite a few things.

But there was probably room for even more professional growth.

Meet the speakers: Here are my fabulous keynote speakers for Piano Pivot Live

That’s why I’m going to do things a bit differently at Piano Pivot Live 2020.

It’s going to be a two-day conference that features the lot — workshops, teaching and of course tips on how to run your business.

I’ve hand-picked each presenter, and I’ve seen them all speak before so I know they’re fantastic. I’ve also included masterminding sessions so that you can make action plans right away…and much more.

Dual Focus: Business and Teaching

One of the big differences I think at Piano Pivot Live is going to be the dual focus on piano teaching and also business.

As teachers, we often start with that early on. We feel more comfortable teaching and being at the piano than we are with running a business.

This is where we let ourselves down — we can be a bit lazy with the administrative side or just don’t know enough about how to run a business and can actually miss out on maximising our income.

That’s why at my piano teaching conference, I want to put a big focus on piano teaching business as well as creative teaching techniques.

A well-paid, happy studio owner makes a happy piano teacher.

You will leave this conference excited and with actionable ideas you can implement RIGHT AWAY.

It’s unlike any conference you’ve been to before!

One-Stream, Group Learning

If you’ve been to a multi-day piano teaching conference, you know how crazy it can be trying to fit everything in

Sometimes, you just can’t.

Sessions clash or you don’t have the time to fit it all in.

Well, at Piano Pivot Live you won’t be forced to pick between presentations!

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Our one-stream event setup means we all share two days together, and listen and learn from each other.

Also, the presentations will not be passive.

Learn by listening and by doing. Experience workshops, live teaching, masterminds and implementation sessions.

Rub shoulders with some of the world’s most creative and innovative teachers.

Speakers and Presenters

As you might have guessed, I will be your host!

But I’ve also enlisted the help of some of the world’s brightest music minds to bring you the best in music pedagogy.

I have amazing keynote speakers in Samantha Coates, Carly McDonald, Philip Johnston and Anita Collins.

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The wonderful Nicola Cantan, Joyce Ong, Paul Myatt and others will also be speaking and presenting at the event.

There are a few different types of presentations you can expect at Piano Pivot Live from these wonderful speakers.

  • Keynote presentations: You can’t have a conference without some keynote speakers sharing their wealth of knowledge with you.
  • Live teaching: Watch me teach a student live on stage! You will see exactly how I teach creatively on stage for 30 minutes.
  • Masterminds, Fireside Chats and Panel Events: Connect with other teachers and share your knowledge in our mastermind sessions, guided by a topic expert. Ask your questions to our panel of experts. We’re here to help you.
  • Practical workshops: Sometimes you just have to DO things. After learning a variety of pedagogy and business techniques, you will brainstorm ways to implement them so you can leave the conference with an action plan.

More Information

To find out more about Piano Pivot Live 2020 and to grab your ticket, just click on the button below.

I’m so excited for you to share in what will be an incredible learning experience.

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TimTopham.jpgTim Topham has one mission in life: to stem the tide of children quitting music lessons by helping teachers maximise student engagement through creativity, technology and innovation. Tim hosts the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, Californian Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

Sky Macklay: The Process & Joy of Subversive Humor

ManyManyCadencesOver the summer we found some time to connect over Skype with composer, oboist, installation artist and professor Sky Macklay, who was in the middle of what sounded like a truly magnificent residency at Civitella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy. Macklay’s work, especially her chamber music and intermedia pieces, has been receiving more and more attention recently, especially in light of her 2017 Grammy nomination for “Many Many Cadences,” a chamber piece written for Spektral Quartet and appearing on their 2016 album, Serious Business.

The measured but sincerely eager thoughtfulness that Macklay employs in conversation about her art is also a key component of her work, which simultaneously revels in playfulness and freedom. The themes and concepts covered by her oeuvre, whether sociopolitical or linguistic or purely sonic, are almost as expansive as the tools she employs to explore them and convey her perspective on them. Her curiosity seems to be matched only by her omnivorous gravitational pull on the world around her: everything is on the table to explore via every means she can get her hands on. And the results are surprising, head-turning, eye-opening — and continuously exciting.

Leonard Bernstein, in his February 1959 Young People’s Concert titled “Humor in Music,” deemed surprise and shock to be the crucial element in all humor, including musical humor. This allows humor to strip the daunting sacred pillars of society and culture of their power and bring them back to reality. This sort of humor is at the heart of Macklay’s work, which simultaneously subverts the established traditions and insists on saying something new through her own strong voice.

Macklay’s website is loaded with fantastic videos of her work, and watching those is, of course, a much better introduction to what promises to be an incredible and lauded career than any words we can use to describe it. We have, however, included a transcript of our interview (edited for content) so that you can also get to know her through her own words.

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Sky Macklay

Sheet Music Plus (SMP): How would you describe yourself as a composer?

Sky Macklay (SM): I see myself as a composer in the experimental contemporary Western art music tradition. I write music for all kinds of different ensembles — chamber ensembles, orchestras, choirs, theatrical music, and intermedia music that combines different art forms like video and electronics. More often I write chamber music because I enjoy working with individuals who are my friends. We can have deep collaborations and try new things.

Some of the topics that my music often touches on or the musical interest that my music deals with are oftentimes process. I’m a very process-oriented composer. I want the listener to hear transparently — hear what’s going on the piece, that is, hear a sound go through a transformation that they can follow over the course of the piece. I often use tonality in more experimental or surreal ways combining different tonal systems or blurring tonal harmony in a way that is reminiscent but yet new. I often incorporate humor and theatricality and extremes into my music.

SMP: You’re talking about chamber music and what sounds like almost a collaborative process between you as a composer and the instrumentalists. How does your experience as an instrumentalist inform that, and what do you find productive about the dialogic element?

SM: Being a performer myself is, of course, insightful. I just finished a piece for saxophone and electronics. It’s actually for sopranino sex and bari sax (but with only one sax player who starts on sopranino and switches to bari) and with electronics. It’s for my friend and collaborator, Ryan Muncy, who’s a saxophonist with International Contemporary Ensemble. We’ve known each other for several years, so I’ve heard him play a lot and heard him improvise and heard the intense and extreme sounds that he is gravitating towards. That gives me inspiration and opens up new ideas that maybe I wouldn’t have thought of entirely on my own.

In that particular case, I was exploring a psychoacoustic phenomenon called difference tones. If you have one frequency that is 2000Hz coming from one sound source and another one that’s, say, 1500Hz coming from a different sound source, theoretically you’ll hear another tone that’s 500Hz (the difference between the two frequencies). If you use certain conditions that are really good for hearing difference tones, it sounds very localized in the ear. I wanted to create these particular patterns with difference tones, but I needed to test it and see if it actually worked. I tested it with my oboe and with the electronics. With an oboe, I could get a similar range to the sopranino saxophone, and from doing that it just evolved. I ended up like playing it on the oboe so much that I realized I could also make an oboe version of the piece. I actually think that’s what I’m going to do because through the experimentation process I realized it works really well.

Another example is a piece I recently wrote for andPlay, which is a violin/viola duo. It was very connected to the biographies of the particular individuals and to their friendship. It has a video part on YouTube that has little avatars for each of them, and they go around on maps to different parts of New York City. It’s based on the places that they really go in real life, but if you zoom out, it’s also about the bigger picture, talking about public transportation, in general, and how we measure time, and how it feels different based on whether you’re stuck in traffic or on the subway or waiting when the train is delayed. It’s a very individual story, a very specific personal story, but hopefully with resonance to anyone because there are bigger themes involved.

SMP: I’m interested in how you approach music as a medium. It seems like it’s just a piece of the puzzle for you. For instance, with the “Harmonibots” installation, the entire piece is interactive: the music is a piece of it, but then there is a physical interaction with the installation, as well as a visual-spatial-architectural element. Then with the piece you describe earlier, there’s the personal narrative and the video piece in addition to the music. How do you see music interacting with these other artistic media?

SM: I’m a very conceptual composer, and sometimes that manifests in purely a psych concept, but sometimes it spreads beyond the bounds of sound like in the cases of my installations “Harmonibots” and “MEGA-ORGAN,” my piece with video maps of friendship, and, for example, some pieces include text or are intermedia in that they’re semantically engaging with language. “Lessina Levlin Levite Lavora,” for instance, is about different birth control methods, and it uses reactions from different people online talking about the different side effects.

In the case of “Harmonibots,” it started as a sonic idea, but it’s intimately related with how that sound is produced. With instruments, a composer is always thinking about how the sound is produced physically. With harmonicas the sound is produced by just blowing through the reeds. You don’t need to have a special embouchure. I was inspired for those pieces by seeing the wacky, arm-waving tube people advertising car dealerships, and I was thinking about whether the air blowing through them would be enough to make a harmonica vibrate.

Robotic instruments are also an interesting concept. Is there any advantage to have robots playing an instrument versus humans. For particular musical situations there are advantages if you want an instrument to do something that humans can’t do (like hundreds of harmonicas playing at the same time for an hour straight). I thought of that as creating this instrument doing something that humans can’t do, and it evolved into this interactive space where anyone could come in and improvise and play any instrument by squishing the sculptures instead of how you traditionally play a harmonica.

When I have an idea, sometimes it needs to grow beyond the bounds of only sound and be an intermedia piece, meaning different kinds of media are integral to the whole.

SMP: Between the advertising tube men and experiences with birth control you mentioned earlier, as well as the different sounds of language that you explore in “Alabama Gala,” for instance, it seems like you’re drawing inspiration from all of these different sources around you. How does that process happen for you?

SM: I usually have a moment of inspiration that gives me a tiny, little seed of an idea, and then I have to work it out and think it through and develop it. I think I am lucky that sometimes I do get inspired out of the blue by some idea, and it can come from things I encounter in life or personal experience. No composer or artist is in a vacuum. You have a lot of influences coming at you. But then, of course, turning an idea into a piece is the hard part because it’s all in the craftspersonship and executing it well. To me it’s really important to have a strong concept and a strong execution.

And then if I need to write a piece and I don’t have an idea already, sometimes I’ll write the instruments down on staff paper and meditate on the instruments themselves and whether those particular instruments want to say anything to each other.

Sometimes I have to write proposals for pieces before I’ve even written the pieces, then I’ll go back to it later and have to figure out how to use that in the piece. You come up with ideas, and then you’re not really sure what will end up making it into the piece, but some stuff does make it into the piece.

SMP: How does the proposal process affect your composing? There’s something very natural about sound and how pitch and rhythm are physiologically innate to the human experience, but then putting those concepts into language is tough because it’s already a level of abstraction away from that. And then once a proposal is accepted, you have to return to that language to ensure that you’re fulfilling that proposal with the sounds you create. Does that mediation of language have any effect on your process and the work that results from it?

SM: I’m a very verbal person, and when I’m first brainstorming ideas for a piece, I write down words and sentences describing what I want to do so I don’t forget what I’m thinking of. Those words might mean nothing if someone else read them because I write in my own language so that I know what I’m talking about.

In general, I think that, being a composer, it’s good to be able to describe your music to other people, and I’m very grateful that other people are interested in my music and want to know more about it. I think I’ve become better at talking about it and explaining it in words. Trying to continually find the language to explain my music is helpful because if I can describe it to someone else, I can identify my own habits, values, and musical techniques and also the materials that I’m drawn to that make my music personal. It’s helpful to be self-reflective and know what makes my music me. Then I can build on those things and hopefully further hone my own voice. I think being able to put it into words helps me hone my own voice.

SMP: When you say you’re “process-oriented,” can you define what that means to you?

SM: When I think about process music or process-oriented composers, in general, I think of Arvo Pärt, who goes through a certain number of repetitions, and he has a very clear formula for the way a piece progresses. Maybe the duration of notes is doubled or halved. Steve Reich is another process-oriented composer.

To me the most important thing is setting up rules for the piece and then following through with them in a way that is predictable. Some composers do that in a way that is not necessarily that audible to the listener, but I like to do that in a way that the listener can hopefully hear and follow.

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For example, I have a violin and piano piece called “FastLowHighSlow.” The concept of the piece is that it’s four different modules that are each sixty or ninety seconds long, and they’re extremes of the instruments and the extremes in speed. There’s a module that’s high and fast in the piano and high and slow in the violin, and then there’s one that’s low and slow in the piano and low and fast in the violin. So those four modules can all go together, and the process of the piece is that it cycles through all of the possible combinations of those modules to create the different movements. I hope that by the end the listeners realize that they had heard those parts before but in different movements, and now they’re together. That’s what I’m hoping for: a moment of clarity and discovery when the audience hears my process. And I’m hoping that the process also results in beautiful sounds and gestures that work on the micro level but also have this satisfying formal arc because of the process.

SMP: On one hand, you delve into social justice issues, and then on the other hand, there’s a certain playfulness in your work, whether it’s in your installations or in your different explorations of sound. In one way or another, both of those take on the “establishment,” whether you’re confronting it from a social perspective or you’re devising ways to take on and play with the pillars of creation dictated by the institution. It’s a sort of border or outsider perspective because if you are “the institution,” you can’t play with the dictates of the institution. Can you talk about where that comes from, and how you think of these different power dynamics?

SM: I think that’s a keen observation because it’s totally true.

I feel part of a whole community that does outsider critique of more conservative mainstream classical music and the canon of Western art music. I and most of my friends and colleagues love Western art music and classical music, but it also has a lot of baggage in being a hegemonic canon that excludes so much music and new voices and other people. It just doesn’t include so much of humanity. I think I and a lot of my colleagues, by playing very experimental music and very free, expressive things, are expressing what we want to hear and play.

It’s also subversive because it’s putting into action these rebellious practices and sounds. I see myself in that vein being a little rebellious and a little trickstery. It comes very naturally to me.

In my teaching and in my music, I try to expand the world that I’m part of and get more perspectives and more people involved. For me personally in my voice, it oftentimes comes through as juxtaposing humor and serious topics.

SMP: When you say that it comes naturally to you, why do you think that is?

SM: First of all, I’m a very open person. I’m ok with sharing personal stuff with people I don’t know that well. Part of being a composer, I think, is that you’ve got to be comfortable sharing your hard-created ideas with other people and being open to criticism. To me that’s not just notes and sounds. It extends to more broad information and ideas about myself.

One of the ways that I really engage with art and with the world is through humor. I find it very powerful. The art that I’m attracted to is often humorous in a smart way and weirdly humorous. One of my favorite performers I’ve found over the past few years is the comedian Maria Bamford. She tells extremely uncomfortable personal truths about mental illness, but her humor is also very avant-garde and performative. That’s the sort of media that really speaks to me.

SMP: Are there people in the music sphere that inspire you like that?

SM: My musical inspirations are very diverse. Some of the people who also deal with humor, theatricality and intermedia work come to mind like Rick Burkhardt and Kate Soper. And the storytelling songs. I’ve been really gravitating toward Dolly Parton songs lately. I also just heard an orchestra piece by Jay Schwartz that was amazing and mind-blowing but really different from what I do.

SMP: What are some of the most important lessons that you’ve learned from your students?

SM: When I taught at [The] Walden [School, a summer composition camp in New Hampshire], I had some very young students, like 10, 11, 12 years old. One thing I learned from them is to be true to your natural voice. Of course I always would challenge them and have them do new techniques, but letting them be their unvarnished selves in their music was extremely powerful. At that age they’re so raw and creative and unpolished in a beautiful way. That inspired me to, in a more mature, adult-appropriate way, be a little raw and true to my own inner child.

I remember a student who wrote a piece called “The Voice of a Whale” for voice and cello from the perspective of a whale that was adopted by humans. This whale remembered some of her native whale language but not all of it, so when she was speaking English, she put the words out of order because she was applying whale grammar to English words. That sounds like kind of a funny concept, but the piece was very heart-wrenching. Even though it was ten years ago, I can still sing that piece to you now because this composer, Claire, was following her idea. She had a good idea, and she went with it. She committed to it.

I think that’s the biggest takeaway from working with my students. If you have a good idea, just go with it, and don’t think twice about committing to a concept.

SMP: What’s in store in the future for you? What are some projects that you want to tackle or some areas that you’re interested in exploring?

SM: I’m very much in a good place now. I have lots of upcoming pieces. Right now I’m working on a large ensemble piece for the Green Umbrella Series for the LA Phil Chamber Music Series. I’m also working on my second string quartet. Next year I’ll be doing a big women’s choir piece.

I definitely want to do another harmonic installation in the next few years, but I haven’t found the right venue or timeframe yet. I have a different visual aesthetic in mind this time. I want it to have totally clear plastic and much more clean lines and high columns that expand upward very linearly so you can really see the harmonicas vibrating very clearly.

I also want to do some sort of big theatrical project, but I don’t have a super clear vision of that yet. It’ll come into clear focus soon, I’m sure.

This Giving Tuesday, Give to Music Education

This Giving Tuesday it’s our privilege to feature three of the most dynamic music education organizations in the United States: Give A Note Foundation, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and the Ukulele Kids Club.

Sheet Music Plus has supported the fundraising efforts of each of these organizations in recent years, and today we’d like to once again bring to light the extraordinary work they do to connect children with music and bring these children the multitude of benefits that music can offer them.

We urge you to support them today and every day throughout the year to the extent that you are able, and if you or someone you know would benefit from their services, we encourage you to reach out to them for assistance.

 

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Give A Note Foundation

https://www.giveanote.org/

Give A Note Foundation provides support to nurture, grow and strengthen music education opportunities. Founded in 2011 with an initial investment from 21st Century Fox and the TV show GLEE, Give A Note increases access to quality music education for more students, especially those in urban and rural communities where funding is scarce. Give A Note’s Music Education Innovator Award recognizes teachers who have developed creative, effective in-classroom programs and provides ongoing support to encourage lasting change within a school or district. Music Teacher Notes offers teachers an opportunity to apply for funds that will enable them to serve more students and significantly improve the music education experience in their classrooms.

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Haydee Vazquez & Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona of Ramona High School (Riverside, CA)

Haydee Vazquez, a senior at Ramona High School in Riverside, CA, found a connection to her family’s culture and an environment for her to blossom as a musician, friend and well-rounded person in her school’s mariachi program, Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona. Give A Note invested in Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona during its first round of the Music Education Innovator Award, granting Director Brian Gallagher funds to add instruments to the program to increase student engagement in music. Here is Haydee’s story:

“Mariachi music has always been part of my family’s culture, but I was never a big fan of it until I joined the group. Previous to Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona, I had been a part of various musical groups, including Wind Ensemble and Dynasty Marching Band as a trumpet player, and Madrigals as an alto singer. These groups all gave me amazing experiences, but I wasn’t able to find a balance to do everything. During my junior year of high school, a friend of mine introduced me to the mariachi class…The environment was slightly altered but still familiar, but the experience was completely different. The mariachi group and class has taught me to appreciate music through a different perspective, learn from the experiences I had as a single individual and as part of the ensemble, as well as provide me with a safe haven from the outside world in which I can enjoy playing music with the wonderful people I’ve developed great friendships with.”

 

MHOF_LOGO_NO_BOX_4CP_BWMr. Holland’s Opus Foundation

https://www.mhopus.org/

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was inspired by the acclaimed motion picture Mr. Holland’s Opus, the story of the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students. The Foundation keeps music alive in our schools by

donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs, and providing vital services to school districts nationwide, giving economically disadvantaged youth access to the many benefits of music education, leading them to success in school, and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music. Over 23 years, more than 29,000 instruments have been donated to 1,560 schools across the United States through the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

Felice Mancini, President and CEO of the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, reflects on her organization’s impact:

“We believe that kids thrive when given the chance to learn and play music. We regularly check in with teachers who receive instruments and it is very satisfying to know that they see dramatic improvement and accomplishment when students play great-sounding instruments. Schools are such an integral part of any community, and tools and activities that increase student success and get them through to graduation and college make communities stronger.”

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation gave an instrument grant to Jeremy Diggs, Director of Bands at Fonville Middle School in Houston, TX, who described the effect that the foundation’s grant had on his students:

“The students all expressed that playing on the new instruments made them feel more confident in what they were doing. That boost of confidence came in handy because the 8th-grade band received straight 1st divisions at the district competition. All of the students were playing on donated instruments! We couldn’t have done it without the investment you made in our band program! Thanks again!”

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Fonville Middle School Band (Houston, TX) earned 1st Division Superior ratings

Catherine S., a student at Key Middle School, also in Houston, TX, sent this thank-you note to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation after receiving a new flute through an instrument grant provided by the foundation:

Key-Middle-School-Houston-TX-Catherine-S.jpg

 

UKCLogoUkulele Kids Club

https://theukc.org/

The Ukulele Kids Club (UKC) is an international nonprofit organization based in Plantation, FL. The UKC was founded in 2013 by Corey and Edda Bergman as a tribute to Jared Bergman, their son who died tragically at the age of 20 from a viral infection. In his bereavement, Corey, a lifelong musician, was inspired to begin volunteering his musical talents at local children’s hospitals in the Miami area, playing guitar for patients and their families. He let the children try out his guitar, but after finding it was too large for some of the younger patients, he realized that the instrument’s smaller cousin, the ukulele, might be a more approachable alternative. Corey began teaching these young patients the ukulele, and so was born the UKC.

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Corey Bergman volunteering with his guitar in a Florida children’s hospital

Since its founding, the UKC has directly supported the health care of nearly 10,000 children through music, music therapy and donations of its signature instrument. The UKC works with more than 200 hospital-based music therapy programs in the U.S. and internationally, including Canada, France, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. A leading advocate of music therapy, the UKC also supports training and education through clinical fellowships. The UKC is a gold-level GuideStar participant.

The mother of a patient who received a ukulele through UKC remarks:

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“Thank you, Ukulele Kids Club, for the ukulele (courtesy of Matt at Oakland Children’s Hospital). My 7-year-old daughter is fighting stage 3 Rhabdomyosarcoma, and while in Boston getting radiation therapy, she got a chance to take ukulele lessons. When returning to California, she told her music therapist all about it and how she didn’t have one at home, and he came back to her room with this [ukulele]. She loves to play.”

A patient who received a ukulele herself from UKC also shares the way that her ukulele and her music therapy helped her through her illness:

“I am a patient at the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital receiving treatment for a struggle with anorexia. I was one of the lucky patients to be given a ukulele that was donated to the hospital by your organization, and I must express my profound thanks for this amazingly generous gift you gave. Playing and learning the ukulele with the music therapist was one of the few comforts during my stressful stay at the hospital. Therefore, I am very thankful for your generosity and the gift you have given me.”

Alex Shapiro: Making Her Own Rules

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Alex Shapiro

If a composer just so happens to also be a photographer, an essayist, and an activist both within the musical arena and outside of it, it seems fitting that she would describe her own work as “pan-genre and diverse – sometimes within the same piece!” Alex Shapiro’s extensive catalog encompasses film scores, chamber music and choral works, but it is in concert band music that Alex has been leaving her strongest mark as a composer.

Alex’s first foray into the concert band world came in 2007, when Major Tod A. Addison, Commander and conductor of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Band, contacted her via MySpace to commission a piece. At the time Alex had never composed for, participated in or even attended a performance of a wind band in her life, but was encouraged by Major Addison’s openness to her ideas and decided to jump right in.

HomecomingThe final piece, titled “Homecoming,” folds Alex’s sophisticated take on symphonic and jazz-pop music into traditional wind band sounds, while also taking a nuanced, multi-dimensional approach to the concept of a “military theme.” The result isn’t a collection of recognizable layers of elements, but rather something entirely new.

This impulse toward synthesis is, in fact, a defining characteristic of Alex’s work. She takes various components that excite and inspire her, and she fuses them together into new structures in which the building blocks are inseparable and at times even unrecognizable. Alex is not the puppet master who brings together characters to watch them interact, but rather the pastry chef baking a cake, where the raw materials combine at the molecular level with constructive precision to achieve the baker’s grand vision.

RockMusicWhatever Alex’s vision for a piece may be, her music always seems to follow a distinct narrative arc. Whether her work is advocating for a cause she cares about, like climate change, marine life, or gender equality, or her music is simply music, she is always telling a story and taking us on a journey. This is as true for her new choral work, “O Death Rock Me Asleep,” a setting of a text by Anne Boleyn that follows the queen from imprisonment through beheading, as for wind band pieces like “Rock Music,” which incorporates the sounds of a non-traditional musical material – literally rocks – to tangibly connect the music to the earth and to the climate that is changing before our very eyes.

It is not just “Rock Music” that veers from the tried and true wind band course, though. Much of Alex’s wind band oeuvre is what she has dubbed “electroacoustic,” meaning that it incorporates pre-recorded electronic tracks into performance. In many cases, such as with “Lights Out” and “Paper Cut,” it can be difficult to tell which sounds are coming from the electronic track and which are coming from the live instrumentalists. This is especially true when the pieces are performed in black light, which is part of the recommended presentation of “Lights Out,” and which has seemed to have caught on for about one-third of the performances of “Paper Cut.” With the electronic and the acoustic melding together and becoming indistinguishable, these pieces echo the increasing parity we’re seeing between human and artificial intelligence in other parts of our lives. It’s like the core theme of “Westworld” embodied in music (but, well, a lot less menacing).

LightsOut

PaperCut

Even when not done in black light, “Paper Cut,” perhaps Alex’s most widely known band piece, is a visual and aural spectacle as band members manipulate pieces of paper to make a range of percussive sounds and execute basic choreography with the paper to give the audience a full show. Commissioned by the American Composers Forum, “Paper Cut” was originally composed for middle school band, but it continues to be popular with bands of all ages and levels because it’s just so fun. Here are the Jackson Middle School Symphonic Winds of Grove City, OH performing the piece at Capital University in February 2018:

Whether it’s these sorts of novelty elements, accompanying videos or photograph reels, or basic choreographed moves or staging, Alex doesn’t simply compose music, but exploits an audience’s heavy reliance on visuals to construct entire performance pieces with music at their core. In the band world, she says, “there are no limits” – and she revels in the stream of endless possibilities.

At the same time, however, it’s worth noting that her music is remarkably direct and succinct. It makes sense, then, that she cites Beethoven as her “goalpost” for economy of motivic development and usage and speaks in amazement that he could build an entire symphonic movement from just four notes – three of which are identical. Perhaps it is that economy that has allowed those four notes that open Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to connect with audiences so strongly that they have become one of the most recognizable themes in all of music history. This is precisely the sort of emotional chord that Alex aims to strike in her music, and like Beethoven, she also lets a strong voice shine through to confidently guide the audience on their emotional journey.

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Alex Shapiro

Human connection is central not only to Alex’s work, but also to her career as a composer. She uses Skype to get into rehearsal rooms with groups performing her pieces. In addition to her many works for professional ensembles, she writes music meant for the educational system so that she can make sure that more women are represented in the music that young learners are playing – and so that children of all genders, races and creeds can understand that there is a place for them in the music world. She is a mainstay at conferences and in the leadership of various professional organizations so that she can encourage her peers in developing their own sense of self-worth and help guide them as business operators. And these connections that she builds in turn make her a strong advocate, a happy and fulfilled human being, and a vital part of the music community.

“Everything is interconnected,” she says. And so she writes. And so she lives.

How to Get More Piano Students

Guest post by Kristin Jensen of MyFunPianoStudio.com. View the original on Kristin’s blog HERE.

MyFunPianoStudioLogo

Everything I’d done to try to get more piano students was a waste of time with little or no results.

We’d moved to a new town and I was determined to fill my studio quickly. I worked hard to get the word out — in fact I even strapped my 4 month old into a baby carrier and handed out over 150 fliers at a grocery store on Coupon Tuesday.

Guess how many phone calls I got from those fliers? Zero.

I’ve since learned that there are much more effective ways to advertise a piano studio.

Effective advertising means a full studio so that you reach your full income potential. It will also help you build a waiting list, so that when one student leaves, a new one can fill the vacancy without missing a beat.

Read on to learn the most effective strategies used by expert teachers to get more piano students. Empowered with this info, you can focus on what works and stop wasting money and energy on ineffective marketing strategies.

Incentivize and Encourage Word of Mouth

By far the best way to get new students is by word of mouth. Once you’ve got yourself established, some word of mouth advertising will happen naturally for you if you’re a great teacher, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to offer high quality instruction.

But there are some things you can do to initiate word of mouth while you’re still establishing your studio and your reputation, and to incentivize more word of mouth once you are established.

Here’s how to get people talking about you:

Incentivize your current students to give you referrals

WomenTalkingOverCoffee

Offer a tuition credit for every student that they get to sign up. And the credit should really ought to be more than five bucks. Five dollars really isn’t that motivating.

When determining what your credit will be, keep two things in mind: First, inviting others to sign up for piano lessons may require your clients to get out of their comfort zone. Second, your clients are busy living their own lives and ensuring that your studio is full isn’t anywhere on their list of top priorities.

Your current students can be your very best source of new clients, so be sure to give them an incentive that will get them excited. You could even change up your incentive from semester to semester and offer things like a restaurant gift card, movie tickets, or a fee month of lessons. The cost of these incentives is small when compared with the lifetime value of a new client.

What if you don’t have any students yet?

If you’ve recently moved or are just starting out there are ways to get people talking about you and your lessons.

First of all, open your mouth and let people know that you teach lessons. When you introduce yourself, mention that you are a piano teacher. Often just a simple mention will lead people to ask more.

You can also offer to play at community events and during church services. If there is already a regular church accompanist let them know you’d be happy to fill in whenever you’re needed.

Although these strategies won’t get you new students as quickly as some of the other ideas discussed in the article, they will help the people in your community know that you teach and the effect over time can be enormous. Then when a mother asks around for a piano teacher, people will immediately respond with your name.

Use Social Media

SocialIconsPhoneDo you know how to get more piano students by leveraging the power of social media? This avenue is HUGE. When I advertise my studio, I spend most of my efforts on social media.

Advertise on Facebook

I have been impressed by how effectively Facebook ads have helped me get more students. And running ads sure beats walking around a grocery store parking lot on a hot Coupon Tuesday with my kids! You just set up the ad and then let it run.

Facebook has info about advertising on their platform here. The one thing I would warn you about is that Facebook can burn through your budget quickly if don’t you manage the ads carefully. But once you figure it out, this is a great source of new students.

Share student accomplishments on social media

Girl standing beside a pianoWhenever your piano students accomplish something noteworthy, share it via social media. Did a student just finish a level in their method books? Praise them on your Facebook page. Did a student earn a special certificate? Snap a picture and upload it to Instagram along with your congratulations. Are you hosting a fun contest or practice incentive for your students? Share it — you’ll quickly be known for your fun lessons. Do you have a recital coming up? Share it and invite your community to attend. Did your student love one of the improv activities you found on this site and create an awesome sounding song? Record them playing and then share it — this REALLY impresses people!

If you’d like to post photos or videos of your students, be sure to get written permission from the parents first, and it’s good practice to not include the students’ names for safety reasons. Pictures of smiling students are definitely the best when potential new clients are learning about your studio, but even if you opt not to post student photos, you can post other images or just text descriptions of the fun things you do and your students’ accomplishments.

Anything worth sharing should be shared and will help others become familiar with you and the high quality piano instruction you offer. Giving interested people a real look at what you do is a great way to get more piano students to sign up.

Join online neighborhood communities and city “yard sale” pages

My neighborhood has a Facebook group and it’s wonderful. Through this page, neighbors post things they’re giving away for free, warn each other about an aggressive door-to-door salesman, ask each other questions and share ideas. They also share what’s going on in their lives. You don’t want to be annoyingly self-promoting in these groups, but it’s a good place to at least let people know that you teach lessons and get connected with anyone who’s interested.

I was skeptical about the yard sale page. I didn’t even know there were city yard sale pages until a few months before I was going to be teaching a class for preschoolers at a music store in a neighboring town. I had no connections in the town, so I found the number for a piano teacher from the area to ask her if she had any students with younger siblings who might be interested. She said she’d be happy to help spread the word and also told me that she got several of her students through the town’s yard sale page. I decided to give it a try and post info about my new class. It worked and I got several students just from that simple post. It’s free and quick, so definitely worth a try!

Get More Piano Students through Your Website

WomanWorkingOnWebsite

Nowadays when someone has a question, what is the first thing they do? Google it.

Build a website so that when someone searches “piano teachers in [insert your city]” they will be able to find you. On my new student registration form, I include the question, “How did you find out about my studio?” About 25% say that they did a Google search for piano teachers in our city.

You can hire out a professional website or create a simple website yourself. If you opt to create your own website, sites like WordPress and Weebly are easy to work with and even have free options. Keep in mind that the design of your website should match the type of lessons you offer. So if you’re offering high-end instruction, you would likely want to hire out a professional design. If you offer more casual lessons then you can probably create a free site yourself.

Create a “My Business” Listing with Google

An even easier way to be found through a Google search is to create a Google “My Business” listing. It’s super simple to create your studio listing and you can find instructions on Google’s “My Business” page here. Listing your studio is free and Google claims that you can get it going in just 10 minutes.

You don’t even need a website to create a business listing with Google. This is the easy shortcut to being found through online searches. If you don’t have a My Business listing yet, I encourage you to set one up today!

Get New Piano Student Referrals through Your Local Music Store

MusicStore

Most music stores receive a steady stream of inquiries about music lessons. And for this reason, many stores keep a running list of local teachers.

One of the stores near me just asks for the teacher’s name and number and then adds them to their list. Another store near me asks that I bring in a flier with tear-off strips. I write about my studio in the upper portion of the flier and then print my name and phone number on the tear-off strips.

You can also inquire about becoming an in-house piano teacher. Some music stores have space available where you can teach. In most cases, there will be room rental or referral fees, but they’re often worth it because the music store will promote you and keep your studio full. And in many cases, the rates for piano lessons offered inside a music store are higher. They are higher to compensate for the room rental fees and because clients assume that there’s a high level of quality if the instructor is promoted by the music store. Be sure to deliver on this assumption of high quality, and you’ll be in a great situation.

Offer an Introductory Music Class for Preschoolers

Preschool age children in music class

This approach is golden. When you offer a class for preschoolers, some of these students will, without any effort on your part, want to advance into your private piano instruction. But before they ever become private students, you will be teaching them all the music fundamentals.

Can you just imagine what it would be like if your students had great rhythm and knew some basic note reading BEFORE they ever had their first piano lesson? It’s terrific! Students are more confident from the get-go and advance more rapidly. They are able to focus more on piano playing because they already know quite a bit about music reading.

And preschoolers are very capable of learning basic rhythm and music reading concepts. Plus teaching these little tykes is a ton of fun!

The other reason why this method is golden is because you get some insight into the student (and the parent). You’ll get a feel for the student’s temperament and if the two of you would likely work well together. You’ll also learn if the parent pays tuition on time and can get the student to class on time every week. You’ll know all this about the student before you invite them into your private lessons! If you begin offering a music class for preschoolers, within a few years you will have the best students you could imagine.

Use a Multi-Pronged Approach

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — use as many of these strategies as you can. When you get all these client-getting systems running, you’ll have a steady flow of inquiries about your piano lessons. With time, you’ll find which strategies work best in your area and can then focus most of your attention on those avenues. Be sure to always ask how a new student found out about you and keep a record of their responses.

 


KristinJensen2

Kristin Jensen is a piano teacher, curriculum developer and author of the widely popular Piano Magic system. She loves helping piano teachers enhance their teaching skills and optimize their studios so they can use time efficiently, maximize profit and live a life they love. For more tips from Kristin on running a successful private music studio, as well as teaching resources and tutorials on composition and improvisation, visit MyFunPianoStudio.com.

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