Friday, March 26, 2010

2010 MTNA Convention

Last night, Robyn and I returned from the MTNA Convention in Albuquerque, NM, our old stomping grounds.  The convention was fantastic.  Nearly 2,000 teachers, students and other presenters attended this conference of the oldest professional music teachers association in the U.S.A.  The highlights for us were the talks by Frederick Chiu on stage fright, Randall Faber talking of course about piano adventures, and hearing the winners of the MTNA national competitions.

We are back home feeling a bit tired but also reenergized with new things to teach and share with our students.  In addition to tons of stuff given away by publishers, we spent more than $500 on scores and other resources for use in our studio.  We are going to need more shelves!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Achievement Day Coasters

Over the weekend, Robyn and I worked as evaluators for the Fort Collins Music Teachers Association 'Achievement Day'.  Not only is this a great learning opportunity for the students that take part, it is a great opportunity for teachers to learn a bit about the world outside of their own studios.  Unlike competitions, achievement day participants include more than just the cream of the crop which allows evaluators to get a sense of what is really going on in other teacher's studios.

There are of course the precocious elementary school students who are used to excelling at everything, and the occasional dedicated High School student getting ready for college auditions. But most interesting to me are the "coasters" -  the kids who stick with piano for years doing a minimal amount of practice.  Coasters make steady but very slow improvement.  Coasters are the kids who have had lessons for 5-7 years and are still in method books.  They are almost slackers, but because they show up for lessons and even practice a bit during the week, they squeak by.  They have neither a drive for excellence nor a real desire to express themselves through music.  They hide in mediocrity,  that comfortable limbo that avoids the highs of success, or the lows of failure.  As a result, they do almost nothing for exceedingly long periods of time.

So, what keeps kids in this state of blah?  What prevents them from throwing themselves into something, anything, that interests them?  Is it possible to somehow teach a coaster to become a climber, an achiever, or an artist?  Should it bother us to have coasters in our studios or should we simply be glad they come to their lessons each week?  Should we allow these students to continue with lessons?  Can teachers influence a student who coasts in every other aspect of their lives to do something different with piano?

One thing is certain:  Coasters are no fun to teach.  They are predictable and lack the curiosity that enlivens the work done in lessons.  So, should we teachers keep dragging these students along?  I don't know.  I will say that I have had more than one student switch from coaster to climber.  I take no credit for the switch, however.

I know what to do with slackers:  Let them slack elsewhere.  I know what to do with climbers and achievers as well.  It's the coasters that are the challenge.  Thanks to achievement day, I know that ours is not the only studio  dragging a coaster or two along for the ride.