Emails to Colleen and Her Answers (Continued)-Part 2
Subject: Need Help FAST!
I am speaking to a college class this afternoon on the way I teach- ie: group lessons. The professor and I are friends. He teaches piano pedagogy and he wanted me to come in and tell about how I teach. I'm a little nervous because I know that I'm going to be asked WHY I teach that way. College students can "eat you alive" if you aren't careful. I'm really nervous.
I have a lot of answers, but what would you say to convince college students that group teaching is awesome?
Also, can I show your book and method to the class?!
Thanks so much!!!!
1) Read the Muse News ® articles on our website (on the home page, there is a black key on the keyboard to the left that says Muse News®). I think there are 4 or 5 articles in there that would be helpful to you.
2) Mayron has published articles about this very subject.
3) Also, following is a portion of a newspaper article that I wrote for our local school paper. It explains why I teach in a group:
Piano Lessons for Modern Kids ©
Piano Lessons have been considered an essential part of children's education for hundreds of years. In addition to learning the skill of playing music for friends and family, piano students learn problem solving skills, perseverance, patience, eye-hand coordination, and most importantly, self-confidence. Although the art of playing the piano has not changed over the centuries, the method of teaching piano has progressed with technology.
The age-old solo hobby of playing the piano has evolved into a modern education for our twenty-first century kids. The development of electronic pianos has enabled a shift from private lessons to group piano classes which are energetic, fast-paced, and fun. Colleen Cole of Piano Bayou in Canyon Lake asks, "Think about it. Why would piano lessons have ever evolved as a solo activity? Everything else is taught to children in groups: karate, ballet, soccer, even reading and math. What made learning to play the piano so different?" Quite simply, the piano itself. Cole points out that in the past a piano teacher could only afford to own one acoustic piano. "They are big, expensive, and loud," states Cole. With the development of electronic pianos, however, everything changed.
Electronic pianos enable Cole to teach children in a small class environment; and children simply learn to play the piano better when they are taught in small groups. When children are having fun, they pay attention to the activity at hand. "I use board games to teach new piano concepts," states Cole who explains that she asks the children questions pertaining to the music they are learning that day. When the children answer correctly they roll the dice and move on the game board. "We have so much fun that they don't even realize that they are learning difficult piano concepts," Cole says. During the game, Cole reviews everything about the music she is teaching that day: how to count the rhythm for each note, the keys on the piano, the patterns in the pieces. She completely dissects the music for the students. Then when they sit down to play the pieces on the piano Cole puts together everything they have learned about the music during the games. Also while playing the pianos as a group, Cole enables the students to learn to play with other musicians which develops rhythm-counting skills, sight-reading skills, and performance skills. In addition to playing solo music simultaneously a as a group, Cole teaches the students to play in ensemble. Each member of the class learns a different piano part and rehearses playing together in class - like a piano band. Playing an ensemble is a very difficult task since each musician is reading a different piece of music. In the past, pianists only learned how to play solo. However, if piano students are ever going to play with singers or other musicians, they need to learn how to do so from the beginning of their piano education.
4) Furthermore, if these college students that you are lecturing to are considering teaching piano, point out to them that we piano teachers have about 4 hours after school and before dinner during which to teach kids and that's for only 4 afternoons a week (no one wants to take piano on Friday afternoons). That is only 16 possible hours a week to teach. If you teach private 1/2 hour lessons, you can teach a maximum of 32 students. Tuition prices vary greatly around the country, but let's say just as an example that you charge $60 a month for piano - 10 months a year. With 32 students, that's a maximum of $19,200 a year that you can earn teaching piano. On the other hand, if you teach in groups for 45 minutes per class, in 16 hours you can teach 21 classes. If you have an average of 6 students per class, you can teach up to 126 students in 16 hours of work which adds up to $75,600! Not bad for a part-time job. Of course, not all of your classes will be always be full, so let's say you have an average of 4 students in a class. You can teach an average of 84 students in 16 hours. At $600 per year tuition, that is $50,400. Or, let's say the the 32 private students you have represents the number of students that the market will bare for your area. You feel that no matter how much advertising you do and no matter how great of a teacher you are, you still won't be able to break that 32 student barrier. If you teach those 32 students in classes of 6 students each, you can teach those same 32 students in 4 hours - that's 1 afternoon a week for $19,200!
I'd be happy for you to show our method to the class.
I don't have pictures because we started so fast and it was like a whirlwind. There was so much to talk about and I shared your website and showed them your music and how I teach. It was actually quite fun. I wish I had taken pictures but it just didn't get done.
Thanks so much for your help!
RE: THREE Questions from a teacher who has recently started teaching our material
I have been a Suzuki teacher all these years (rest assured that I teach reading music from the first lesson) and although I've enjoyed the benefits of ear training, I have never been pleased with the reading ability of any of my students - no matter what method I use! ... What it boils down to is that I end up teaching mini-private lessons in a group setting AND writing different level parts for all my students to "fit" where they are reading level wise, which is very time consuming. I ordered your training DVD and manual and some books as well and after one group lesson using your stuff - I AM SOLD! I am planning to keep my private students for now and ease them into your program. All new students will go into a group. Here are my questions:
1. Can I change my private students reading material (Faber, Francis Clark, etc.) which is all based on INTERVAL reading and finger numbers (a major crutch in my opinion) to your non-spatial approach without confusing or really messing my students up? In other words, is it best to start from the beginning with your method or have you had success with changing mid-stream?
2. I am planning Blast-Off this summer and have had several 13/ 14 yr. old beginners that have called to start. Do you find that this age is successful with your method in a group setting? And does it move fast enough for those impatient teens?
3. And lastly, if I have already completed your training manual and DVD, would it still be beneficial to attend your convention in July? I will have already "blasted off" in June, by then.
Thanks for taking the time to hear me out and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Thanks for your kind words! We are so glad you are SOLD on our method!
1. Whether you should leave your private lesson students in the method they are in or change them to our method would depend on how advanced they are. Students that read finger numbers are so dependent on that crutch that they cannot move into our advanced music that requires them to read the notes. They would have to go back to the beginning of our method to learn their staff notes by sight or at the least they would have to go back to the beginning of Level 2A which starts teaching the lower bass clef notes. Advanced students usually get mad if you tell them they have to give up their crutch even if its holding them back, so unfortunately advanced students usually have to stay in the methods they are in. But, you could move your fairly new beginners (first or second year students) into our method without any trouble.
2. 13-14 year sold love taking piano in a group since they are so social at that age! They will move through "Blast Off" VERY quickly (in 2-3 lessons) so you would need to also have something else planned for them. You could do one of 2 things depending on how long the course will be:
3. We have developed the 2007 convention to cater to new group piano teachers as well as established studios so there are many different types of seminars to choose from - a total of 25 seminars. The training seminar that is on DVD is just one of them. From what you have told me about yourself, here are some other seminars I think you might enjoy: "Training Seminar for Teaching Mid-Level Students" which is the sequel to the DVD you have; "Converting a Private Lesson Studio to Group Piano;" "Ideas for Summer;" "Sample Advanced Class;" "Thinking Outside the Box Roundtable;" among many others. There is a full description of each seminar in the brochure. Let me know if you don't have a brochure and I can mail one to you.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.
RE: Moving up talented students & Summer Operettas
Dear Colleen & Mayron:
Also, I'm interested in doing an Operetta this summer. How many sessions does it usually take to put together "Jack and the Beanstalk?" Do you have any other suggestions about how I could make money over the summer. I don't want to do Blast Off because I have plenty of students and don't see where I could add them to my full teaching schedule. I'd really just like to give my current students some summer options.
Thanks for your support!
Dear J. H.:
(1) Yes, move the young J---- up into a more advanced piano class. But first, discuss this possibility with his mom. She might like to keep him where he is (good friends in his class/car pools, etc.). But if she is agreeable and Jimmy is agreeable--than move him up. He is young but is functioning at an older level so it should work out fine!
(2) An operetta will be fun for your students. Try Jack and The Beanstalk. My students put on operettas for many summers and their parents were grateful for something for them to do. We did an operetta in nine one-hour rehearsals (Mon-Wed-Fri for three weeks.) We learned to sing/dance/act. If you want a longer program, kids can even make costumes. Get some of your teenagers to help. I gave the teenagers free piano lessons as pay. They taught the kids the dances and were my Junior Directors. They put on costumes and were "village folk" in the play and the smaller kids were happy to have them. Let me know if I can help more.
Re: Simple Problem to You - Complicated to Me
(Editor's Note: Tuition rates vary greatly throughout the country. You should determine what tuition is appropriate for your area and your studio based on what you believe is appropriate. The tuition amounts discussed by this teacher and Colleen may be too high for some areas and too low for other areas of the country.)
I have several people wanting to start the first of November - how do I charge at this state of the game ? On my policy paper I state that lessons are $20 per lesson, but I also state that they are paying for 34 lessons. Also I have a group that will start the first week in January?????''
Thanks for making this simple for me.
For students starting in Jan you will do the same thing. But, keep in mind that they should only receive 1 free lesson since they are only taking for 1 semester. So, when you are counting up how many Fall semester lessons they missed at $20 each, be sure to count 1 of those missed lessons as one of the free ones, otherwise you will be shorting yourself out of a $20 payment.
Hope this helps. Without having your teaching schedule in front of me, it's hard to give specific details. If you want to send me the actual # of lessons that your Nov starters and Jan starters will be missing, then I can give you concrete amounts.
As for now, please let me know if you have any other questions.
Subject: E-mail bouquet from a parent to a teacher.
Dear Mayron and Colleen,
Last night I started a Menehune group. Read what one mom wrote! (Below)
I love teaching group and I love your method. The kids want to be there and they have so much fun. I have noticed a big difference from the years of private lesson teaching I have experienced! The excitement usually wore off right away.
My students that took a break over the summer have been so happy to be back to piano lessons! I'm having fun too and making more money than before. Thank you!
Hello Mrs. H.!
He insisted we listen to the CD in the car on the way home, and he sat down at home and practiced for 20+ minutes, unprompted by Joe or I, until I insisted he go to bed! He asked if he could practice first thing in the morning tomorrow as well.
I look forward to next Wednesday and I thank you for using your talents to educate children in music.
Subject: EZ Keys or Menehune ?
First off, I want to thank you for a GREAT summer! I ran two weeks of Blast Off this summer, and they went great!
Now... I'm two weeks away from opening my piano studio for the Fall. I could not be more excited. I have passed out lots of business cards with suckers at our local Farmer's Market... and advertised a lot through friends' word of mouth. I have 23 students so far, including 4 adults!
My question for you is this... I've got 3 groups (4 kids each) that consist of 6 & 7 yr olds. I'm wondering whether you favor EZ Keys over Menehune or vice versa. After looking at the materials, I think I favor Menehune for the mixed age groups of 6 & 7 yr olds. But, what do you think? Several of these kids did Blast Off and it seems like the first several weeks of EZ Keys is pretty much what they learned in a week of Blast Off.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. I will be placing my order soon... but just wanted to check with you on this first before I do!
Thanks so much! I love the curriculum!
Skyla: Colleen and I both agree with you that you should start the students in Menehune Music. We are thrilled at your success! Try to attend the National Group Piano Teacher's Convention in San Antonio, TX next July.--mc
I didn't even know there was such a thing as a National Group Piano Teacher's Convention! Sounds fun! We'll see how much of the vacation budget is left by then.... we're going to Florida in January and Alaska in June!
Thanks for your input. My order will be coming soon!
Subject: Keyboards and Restrooms
Dear Colleen and Mayron,
Also, my studio is in my daylight basement....how do teachers handle little ones needing to use the restroom....my restroom is upstairs. Do I have moms sit in class in case of this need arising, or do I have them wait outside in their cars and call them if I need them? Strange question, but if anyone has any ideas I am open to suggestions!
Thank you for your help!
Colleen is on vacation this week so I will answer what I can. You do not need 88 keys on your keyboards for your young students. In fact, you can teach fairly high levels with 61 key keyboards. So buy the cheaper keyboards to launch your studio. Most teachers start their keyboards on a budget.
The "bathroom" problem is a new one for me. But I can well imagine that if one kid needs to go upstairs to the bathroom, then everyone in the class will quickly "need" to go to the bathroom. Ask the mothers to have their children tend to their bathroom needs before piano class. I rarely had a child who needed to go to the bathroom during piano class. (I'll ask Colleen her thoughts on this when she returns.)
Subject: EZ Keys - length of lesson
If the EZ Keys doesn't have theory sheets, are the lessons 45 or 30 minutes long? I know your mother might answer this in the DVD, but it is bugging me today.
I am ordering my start up materials today.
Subject: Two EZ Keys questions
Dear Mayron and Colleen,
Thank you much!
1. When we are teaching new concepts, we don't teach songs that kids know how to sing on purpose. If that child knows the tune, she will play the rhythm she is singing in her head instead of READING the rhythm on the music in front of her. By giving her music she has never heard, the child is learning to read what is written on the page. As for her friends, some other methods teach songs the kids know how to sing to gloss over the fact that the students don't know how to count rhythm. Other methods teach children to play by rote - playing what they hear from memory. The problem with both of those types of methods is that the students have NO IDEA what they are doing! They are just copying what the teacher did. They will NEVER be able to sit down in front of a piece of music that they have never heard and play it by reading the music. The goal of our method is to teach these children how to READ music which will enable them to be musically independent so when they get older they will be able to play ANYTHING at their level.
2. The goal in EZ Keys is to teach the students how to count rhythm, the keys on the piano, how to track with their eyes, and develop eye-hand coordination. That is A LOT of information for a 5 year old to grasp. We don't want to throw too much at them at once; they don't know the meaning of "half" or of "quarter." These children have not studied fractions, yet. As they become more advanced (Level 1), we teach them that those notes have names. It is very easy for them to learn that the name of the note that we hold down for the count of "1" is called a "quarter note" - I've never heard of anyone having trouble with that. We also gradually segway into counting eighth notes as "1+" without any trouble.
By the way, in July 2007 we will be hosting The Group Piano Teacher's National Convention in San Antonio that will consist of 25 seminars to choose from! You will get to attend up to 11 events during the 2 day convention. It will be a wonderful opportunity to receive additional training, gain new insights, and network with other teachers! We will start sending out more information towards the end of this summer so keep an eye out for it.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
I appreciate your quick response. You are so supportive and helpful.
Thanks for all that you do!
We are excited about The Convention, too!
Subject: Re: Bingo Games
I just wanted to let you know how much fun we had with the bingo games this week! We had so much fun and laughter today that parents were wondering what we were doing! The kids anxiously asked if they could play them again next lesson. One girl wanted to buy the game for home.
Thanks for your sweet e-mail! I'm so glad your students are enjoying the new bingo games! Learning to play the piano should be fun as well as educational.
Subject: Blast Off With Piano
PIANO BLAST OFF:
Thank you in advance for your help!
1) Since you are teaching the classes in 5 consecutive days, the kids don't have to have a keyboard. They should remember what they learned from the day before, even if they do not practice in the evening. For those that don't have a keyboard, you can give them a paper keyboard to practice on (just draw the keys on a piece of paper and photocopy it) so at least they will have something to reference at home. We sell 49-key mute keyboards at a steep discount, too. You should consider purchasing a few of these keyboards to use as "check-out" practice keyboard for the students to borrow or rent.
2) Your plan for grouping the kids looks great, but I would put the 6 and 7 year olds in Blast Off Junior as well.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Subject: What to do with students that are not moving forward
Subject: Need Ideas for Summer Classes?
Subject: How Do I Place Kindermusick Graduates in Your Method?
Thank you so much!
Subject: How Do I Become a Certified Teacher?
We also have a "Studio Start-Up Kit" for $299.30 that includes the seminar DVD/VHS along with beginner books, teachers manuals, accompaniment CDs, and games. The items in this start-up kit value $400 when purchased individually, saving you $100 when purchased as the kit.
Also, keep in mind that we are not a franchise, we are a music publisher. Most teachers who use our method prefer to be certified, but certification is not a requirement to purchase and teach our material.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Subject: Different Ages in the Same Class
I have a 6 year old who will be 7 in Feb and a 7 year old who will be 8 in Oct. This is 1 yr and 4 month difference. Do you see any problem grouping them for a partner lesson. The 7 year old has been waiting for a while. I can't seem to get the right call. What is your opinion?
Subject: Marking Assignments
I have my students use binders with your music. I tell them what needs to be done, but the parents are always asking what they should do. How do you keep the dialog going between teacher, student and parent? Do you ever have the students write down their assignment for the week? I just don’t know how to go about doing that without spending too much time on it. I thought about having the student individually write down what they were to do, but then that takes so long with beginners- writing and all. Any ideas on that?
When I taught privately I had an assignment sheet with all the scales listed and other stuff we were working on. It helped a lot because I could see what we needed to go over and what they got done. Have you ever done that with your group lessons? Sometimes when I say practice it all twice I’m not sure they understand what is expected of them and some can just run through it in two minutes. Is that ok? What are your feelings on that? I know that I need to work on being more specific on assignments. I’m really trying to do that.
Thanks for your time,
Subject: Confusion about Which Book I Need
How do you know which book in which to start the 8,9,or 10 year old?
If you have kids older than 10 or so you can put them in Older Beginner A which is virtually the same as 1A, it just moves a bit faster and doesn't have as many theory work sheets. That series goes Older Beginner A, Older Beginner B, Older Beginner C, then they go into 3A, 3B, etc.
For kindergarten (and maybe 1st graders), you can start them in Menehune, then go into 1A. I say "maybe 1st graders" because it’s not an exact science which book to put them in. I have some 1st graders that are doing very well in 1A and some 1st graders that are struggling though Menehune. EZ keys is another pre-staff note reading program. It’s for Kindergarden some people use it for 1st grade, too. EZ Keys is easier than Menehune, and it doesn't have any theory sheets.
The ages we list on the website are just a general guide line. As you get used to our method, you will get a feel for what book you like to use for the different age groups. For now, if you feel that students are in a book that is too easy, go ahead and put them in the next book (parents love to hear that their student is SO good that they need a harder book). You can still use the easy book as supplemental material for review throughout the year. If you feel students are in a book that is too hard, put is aside and put them in an easier book. When they finish the easy book, they will be ready to back into the harder book.
Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Have fun this summer teaching Blast Off!
Subject: Question about the 28-week course
They don't have to finish the entire student book within the school year. If you start them late, just go as far as you can with them then at the beginning of the next school year you start back up where they left off.
Subject: Blast Off With Piano
Thank you so much for your quick and great reply. I really appreciate it. I know you're busy and I so much appreciate your time and hope I'm not bothering you too much with all my questions.
If you are teaching Blast Off in the summer, I encourage you to teach the program in one week because:
Subject: Training Seminars/Workshops
Thank you for your interest in our piano method. A few summers ago, we hired a filming crew to film our all-day seminar in Houston. That film has been professionally edited down to a three-hour VHS video or DVD and is for sale at $49.95. (That price includes a follow-along seminar training manual.) Teachers have reported to us that they really like the seminar being on video (or DVD) because it can be played at any time and can be re-viewed many times. Also, they say the training manual allows them to follow along and not have to take notes. Please contact me if I can be of further help.
Subject: Scheduling Blast Off Classes:
Thank you very much for your answer about the seminars. I will be ordering the video shortly.
I would like to ask you a few more questions:
1. Since I don't have a location for conducting group lessons yet, I am going to run classes through the local Parks & Recreation department this summer. Should I just do Blast-Off repeatedly, or do I actually start into the EZ Keys and Menehune classes? If a student completes the Blast-Off week early in the summer, should they wait until September to start up the EZ-Keys, or is there something else that could be taught afterwards until the Fall? What is the best way to handle summer if it is the beginning of my group teaching experience outside of the private school I teach at? Is it appropriate to teach the other levels in the summer or should I wait until school starts?
2. Does a child go from Blast-Off to EZ-Keys, or can they possibly go to Menehune?
3. I'm confused as to the calendar or length of the courses. How many weeks are they designed for? Do they fit a September to May type of schedule--what's the best way to structure them? How many weeks is each level designed for?
I wish I had known about your curriculum before I started teaching this last September in the after-school program. I'm new to the group teaching scene, but love it
Thanks again for your wonderful materials.
1. Just do Blast Off repeatedly. You want all of your students to be at the same place at the same time when fall classes begin. That way, you can more easily group them. Your students should wait for piano classes to begin in the fall after they complete the Blast Off course.
2. A child may either go to Menehune ;1-A; or Older Beginner A upon completion of Blast Off. It depends on their ages. This is the way most teachers break it down: Kindergarden goes into EZ Keys; Kinder/1st grade go to Menehune; 1st grade-4th grade go into 1-A; 5th grade on up go into Older Beginner A.
3. The school year courses are designed for 15 to 30 lessons (half or full school year). You can expand or accelerate the courses any time you want. Most teachers begin in September and end their teaching in May with a 28-30 lesson course. If you have fast learning students, you'll want to go through the material faster than with "normal" students.
We have great teacher manuals that help you structure your lessons and schedule. Let me know if I can help you further.
I am so excited about your method and love your music and lesson plans.
First I had a 6-7-year old class of three girls that went beautifully! Tonight I teach another class of 6-7 and then a class of 8-9.
Yesterday, I had a class of 4 and 5-year olds (2 were girls and 3 were boys). My confidence was shaken as I had a difficult time controlling my classroom. The children didn't stop moving their bodies or their mouths. The only thing that went well was that they started and stopped their pieces on cue.
Game time was something else. They were wiggly, chattering, touching each other, sometimes leaving the circle. The child who won gloated, two of the others pouted. I wasn't convinced they were learning the concepts I was trying so diligently to teach them. It made me wonder what they ate before they came to class. Even the marching activity was uncontrolled. Some of the kids were twirling in circles, running etc. Was it just the excitement of their first class? I don't know.
I see potential in these little ones but I'm desperate for advice on how to keep them focused and on task.
Thanks so much!
…..4-5 year olds have never been to school, so they have not been trained how to behave in a class. Here are a few things I can suggest:
1. Train them how to behave in a class. Tell the kids up front what kind of behavior is acceptable/unacceptable. At their first lesson, the kids are feeling out what they can get away with. If you don't put a stop to the craziness soon, they will always think they can walk all over you. Don't be afraid to be strict - kids like boundaries. Show them that you are all going to have fun, but they WILL follow your rules. You could set up a system for grading their conduct (I use 4 colors) and mark it in their book at the end of class. You can use that grade as a bargaining chip throughout the class. Just yesterday I had to tell a class that the next person to fall out of their seat (3 fell off their stools in a matter of 2 minutes) would get a red mark for the day - they straightened up right then and there. I didn't get upset, they didn't get upset - I told them the rules and they followed them.
I always find the first lesson to be the hardest to teach. I don't know the kids, they don't know me. Each lesson will get easier as you all get to know each other. Also, each year of teaching gets easier as you get more experience with different situations.
Hang in there! You'll do great! Keep me posted on how things are going.