Playing piano with my fingers, arms, legs, feet, heart, soul, and mind
This post is a bit different from my previous ones. This one is a bit more personal. I started playing piano as a teenager, mainly because I wanted to be a better singer. In the end, I came to love playing as much as singing, and today I do quite a bit of both. As a teacher, I often have to remind my students - while at the same time reminding myself - of exactly how one plays the piano. There are two ways that I reflect on these words. First, I take it in as a technical statement of playing piano with the whole body. Then, I take it in as an emotional statement of playing piano from the heart. If we are technically accurate, but lacking in heart, we are only halfway right.
Piano takes more than fingers. It takes the arms, back, legs, hands, feet, wrists, and elbows. It is a full-body experience just like running. Confession time - I am not much of a runner. If you see me running, you should run, too, because something is chasing me or the sky is falling, or there is free chocolate. I don't run for exercise or for fun, but I will also acknowledge that I probably should. Yet, as someone who has had to run (read here: PE class or running down the hall to let my kids in after lunch), I know that running is more than just moving my feet. It's a full-body experience that leaves me breathless when I'm done. Piano, and all music in general, should give that same breathless feeling when you finish. That's the only way to know that you have truly given your all to your instrument. Not to mention, it is good technique. Thankfully, no real running is required!
Piano takes more than fingers. It takes heart and soul. In a day and age of standardized testing, differentiated instruction, and documented student growth, it can be a challenge to make room for the heart of it all. When someone makes the statement "I love music because..." it is rarely followed up with something addressing a musical skill or technical sequence. It is usually followed by a mood, emotion, visual, image, or other abstract idea. As a music teacher, when I think about why I started teaching music, it has nothing to do with technique and everything to do with the feelings in, around, and throughout the music itself. I focus on technique because I honor the musical craft, but I honor music by playing with more than just my fingers - I play with my heart and soul as well.
Let me encourage us all to teach the techniques, teach the skills, and properly assess, but don't forget to show your students that you play piano with more than just your fingers.
What do you love about the piano? About music? About teaching music? Leave a comment and share your 'why' and how your students find their 'why' as well! Would love to hear it!
Make Room for YouTube
YouTube..the dwelling place of cat videos, epic fails caught on tape, and DIY hairdo tutorials. But, after a few long, hard looks on The 'Tube, I have come across a fair amount of useful videos. I not only use video clips during instruction, I also send students home with video links to further reinforce ideas and concepts that we have covered in class or to let them experience some of the cool stuff we do not have time to cover in class. For example, I can pull up a video of a person singing and have my students write critiques analyzing their posture, vowel formation, resonance and tone. Working on a song from a musical? Pull up a video of another school group performing a section of the same production for them to make comparisons. Piano students looking for extra songs to play? There are TONS of piano song tutorials that show how to play popular songs. One word of caution: YouTube is an open platform that anyone with a computer and internet connection can access. It does take some time to sort through the murky waters of YouTube content to find the really useful stuff.
For today's posting, I want to share an assortment of videos that I have personally found helpful. By the way, if your school system does not allow you to stream YouTube, my suggestions is to use the site WWW.KEEPVID.COM to download internet videos for offline viewing. It's a great option for networks that block YouTube or for working with no/slow internet connectivity. Now, look below and check out a selection of videos for general music, chorus, piano, and a couple that are just for the teachers!
General/All Music Classes
Katy Perry Dark Horse Cover : This video is total awesomeness and one of my student's favorites. Ten Second Songs created a cover of Katy Perry's hit song Dark Horse done in 20 different styles, 10 seconds each (my favorite is MIchael Jackson).
A Fair(y) Use Tale (NOT a Disney Movie) : This is a fun mash-up of various Disney films that illustrates fair use and copyright laws. This would make a fun introduction to the topic for students working on songwriting and composition.
Hayden Killed by Cell Phone : Christian Zacharias was playing a Haydn piano concerto when a cell phone went off in the audience. In response, he stops playing and waits for the phone to stop. He is also interviewed on the way distracted audiences make performers feel. In today's age of constant contact, it is a great concert etiquette reminder.
Mr.Bean - Salvation Army Band Carols : Here is one for fun! I show this sometimes when we talk about following the cues of a director.
Faintingly Funny Choir Concert : This video perfectly illustrates chorus lesson #1 - don't lock your knees.
Proper Choral Performance Etiquette : Tired of telling your kiddos to keep their hands to their sides and to watch the director at all times? Show them this! They will laugh, but you will also prove your point!
Worst National Anthem Ever : Sad to say, this happened right here in my home state of Tennessee. We always talk about how everyone should know the National Anthem - and I agree. But, perhaps, not everyone should sing it...out loud...solo...in front of real people.
Video Stroboscopy of Vocal Cords : This one usually grosses everyone out, but it is a great way to show how real vocal cords work. The day I show this video is one of my favorite days of the school year because watching my student's react to this is PRICELESS! This usually accompanies our discussions on vocal health and the anatomy/physiology of the voice.
The Piano Guys - One Direction : If you are not familiar with The Piano Guys, PLEASE go check out everything on their YouTube page (especially the Cello Wars/Star Wars parody video...don't question me, just go check it out!!!) Their rendition of this popular One Direction song will leave your students in awe at the unconventional ways they use every part of the piano. Even my students who dislike One Direction love this!
Hazel Scott on Two Grand Pianos : This is another personal favorite of mine. Hazel Scott was a phenomenal pianist, and this scene from the movie The Heat's On is sure to impress!
Victor Borge - Page Turner : This. I almost didn't show my students this, but I'm so glad I did. I had one particular class that was filled with very serious - almost too serious - piano students. I wanted them to see another side of the classical pianist, and Victor Borge came to mind. He was very talented, and very much true to himself while on stage. If you want to give students a sense of putting their own personality into their craft, this will do it. I thought they would find it too corny, but they LOVED it, so I sent them home with links to a few others.
For You, the Teacher
Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir Live : The name Eric Whitacre is usually said in the same breath as 'musical genius.' He is an innovator in the world of choral music, and his TED Talk with the Virtual Choir is beyond inspiring. It will remind you that the music your student's make is meant to be shared with their peers, families, community, and ultimately the world! Also, if you are on Twitter or Facebook, follow his accounts HERE and HERE. You will be encouraged, but you will also laugh and laugh some more!
Benjamin Zander - The Transformative Power of Classical Music : Watch this video on the days you feel like what you do doesn't matter. There is power in music. ALWAYS remember that.
This video is not on YouTube - well, technically it is, but I really, really wanted to link to the original on this one. Just a little reminder - don't forget to ENJOY music!
There are SO many good videos out there that deserve a spot on someone's list. I don't have room for them all here, but PLEASE share a link or two in the comments here or on the Well Fed Facebook page.
~Well Fed Music Ed
I am a music educator and lover of all food stuffs! Thank you for spending some of your day with me here on my blog. Read more...