New Year, New Goals

It’s that time of year again. The time when we all set goals for the coming year, knowing full well we probably won’t keep all of them. Maybe we will and our life will be like a chapter out of The Happiness Project. Probably not.

But it is important to set and make progress towards goals, even if we know we won’t do it perfectly. After all, becoming a better sight-reader, or learning to play our scales more fluidly is better than making no progress, right?

I think it’s imperative that we set goals with our students and then assist them in moving towards these goals. In the last year, I have begun asking my students what their goals are. Even those who are studying mostly because of parental pressure seem to respond when they are given ownership of the style of music or the particular technical skills we focus on. In the process of asking students about their goals, I have discovered that some students are very interested in learning to compose. Others are fascinated by harmonization, chord progressions, and improvisation. And still others have proffered such simple requests as “I would like to learn more shorter pieces rather than fewer longer ones,” or “I want to learn to read music more quickly.” I believe that trusting our students’ own musical curiosities is an imperative in the goal-setting process.

So, what goals are you setting with your students in the new year? This school year, my whole studio has been learning to sight read better. Every lesson concludes with sight reading. The fact we’ve been consistent with this was revealed a few weeks ago, when one of my students, upon seeing the sight-reading book in my hand asked “is the lesson almost over already? I know we always do that last.” Perhaps one of my goals should be to vary lesson structure a bit more…

In addition to our continued focus on sight reading, we will begin to work on harmonization this spring. Even my beginning students can learn to use tonic and dominant pedal notes underneath simple melodies. I know on the front end that this will be a lot of work. And finding time in lessons already crowded with sight reading and theory, technique, and, of course, repertoire, will be difficult. But, as I write this, I feel a sense of excitement about my students learning to add harmony to simple melodies, about their ability to see and recognize chords more accurately through this process.

So, what are you goals? And what are your students’ goals? And how are you going to encourage them towards progress?

Happy New Year!

Sight Reading with Patricia Carter

I had the great honor of meeting Patricia Carter (Zagorski) during the 2010-2011 school year, when I invited myself to observe some of her class piano teaching. Her enthusiastic style and expertise at teaching sight reading had become known to me through a few mutual friends and I was excited to see her in action. During the two days I was with her, Professor Carter exhibited more energy than most teachers half her age, as well as a keen desire to see her students succeed.

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