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Practicing

Getting Back into Routine!

Yes, I first need to start with an apology. I’ve been a bit silent. Between getting my studio filled and “fall” lessons started (It doesn’t feel like fall in Houston) and my wife and daughters starting school last week, time to work on content wasn’t quite there.

 

But I thought that routine would be a great topic for new blog post! It’s always interesting to look at the stereotypes of musicians. Musicians are disorganized, late, chaotic and more. While for some, that may be true, to become a musician of any level, it takes work and discipline. And a big part of that is….routine!

 

I’ve been sharing with my students that started school last week or may be starting this week, that practice needs to be a regular routine in the rhythm of their life. Every night growing up, my mom would always say, “Craig, why don’t you practice the piano while I do dishes?” We didn’t have a dishwasher. So I practiced. And practiced. And practiced. I finally asked her this summer if she decided to slowly take her time, double rinse the dishes and more, and she just laughed. Which I took as a yes. I hated that routine at the time….but now, I’m thankful for it.

 

We’re in routines in many other parts of our life. Exercise, sports, watching our favorite streaming show, checking social media and more. As a musician, practice has to be a part of that routine for growth and excelling to happen. No one likes practicing. It’s work. It’s frustrating at times. Yet it is so beneficial and necessary.

 

One thing that I was reminded of on Saturday is something that I need to be in a better routine of. Writing/arranging music and publicizing it. See, I try to write and arrange music and have it self-published. I don’t talk about it like I should, except for the times like Saturday morning when I get an email saying that I sold copies of an arrangement. Which triggered the thought that I need to be in a better writing routine. And then a better publicizing of my compositions routine. (Which, by the way, you can find them here) So I’ve started to think through my schedule and how I can make that a priority and invest the time to improve that skill.

 

Routines are essential to life. Routines are necessary and beneficial, even if at the time, we don’t think that it is. How are you going to improve or change your routines this week? Comment with what you’re going to do.

Student highlight

Check out Miles!

Miles has been watching his big brother Luke take lessons from me for a few years now. Today was his first lesson! He was super excited and already was very knowledgeable about the piano! I’m guessing Luke taught him well already!

One of the fun games I love to play with students is to guess how many black and white keys are on the piano. I told Luke he couldn’t tell. It took Miles a little bit of guessing, but he got to the right answer! It’s 88 black and white keys on a full sized piano!

Miles learned a bit about the music alphabet, which is different than the regular alphabet (only A-G), but…..the music alphabet goes backward! Ever try saying the full alphabet backward from Z? That’s a fun challenge! He also got to learn about quarter notes, half notes and whole notes. Quarter notes are one count (short) notes, half notes are two count (longer) notes and whole notes are four count (really long) notes. Miles learned where middle C is, and then played a song! I asked him before he played whether or not he thought the song was easy or hard and he said easy. Still thought it was easy after he played it the first time!

I love starting new students on lessons. Their excitement and enthusiasm cannot be topped! I do still have a few times available in the afternoons, and lots of times during the day for homeschool students and their families. You can find more about my schedule, lesson policies and calendar here.

About Craig, Student highlight

I Love My Students!

Story time with Craig today. I taught lessons on the side of my church music jobs for 18 and a half years. Finally in 2020, I decided that I would make the leap out of church music to doing something else. My degree is in music education, so going back to teaching was a thought, but what really intrigued me (and scared me to death) was stepping up my lesson business to full time. The pandemic hit, so I dove in to teaching online, which was a huge learning process, but I enjoyed it. I was building up a good number of students, and ramping up to the fall of 2020, when an opportunity to direct choirs part time came up. It was a good experience, but it only lasted 1 year. So, again, last summer, I started building up a good number of students. The fall came, and all of a sudden, I’m only down to 11 lessons a week. That’s far from full time. I started doing Door Dash to come up with the shortfall. I was frustrated and questioning why I made the decision I did.

 

But then, in December and January, more and more students signed up. I got to 31 students this past semester. And these students are fantastic! They are willing to learn, put in time to practice, are excited about music and learning, and it has reminded me of why I wanted to go this route of full time teaching. My students regularly make me laugh, surprise me with the questions they ask and the things they say. For example, I had a student tell me yesterday that he named his books! What did he name them? “Bruce Willis” and “Dwayne the Rock Johnson”. And he told me that after talking about having a summer pot-luck. I asked him how many pot-lucks he had already had and he’s had none. Hilarious stuff! It’s about music, but so much more. It’s about relationships.

 

One of the things that I’ve learned over the past year is that my background in church music ministry has helped prepare me for this. Music is about relationships and connections, just like church music ministry is. It’s not just the relationships with the students, though. It’s also about the relationships with parents. Because without the parents, the students aren’t getting to their lessons, getting their lessons paid for, So, it’s my responsibility to make sure that I am effectively communicating with parents, something also learned from church music ministry.

 

It’s been amazing to get to the end of this semester and look back at the journey I’ve been on. I know that I still have room to improve as a teacher and in communications, running my business and more. But the biggest thing that I am thankful for more than I can say is my students and their families. They have blessed and encouraged me far more than I could for them. And every day, I wake up excited to teach and excited for what will come for each lesson. This means that my work isn’t work. It’s joy. And it’s because of my students and their families.

Summer

An alternative to summer practicing

Yesterday I wrote about how it is beneficial to continue to practice, even if you’re not taking lessons over the summer. Today, I’m going to give you an alternative…even though you should still practice!

 

The alternative is quite simple. Music camps or unique music exploration activities are definitely helpful. Let’s unpack each idea. A music camp is quite simple. It takes a concept or an instrument and focuses in on them for a period of time.

 

For Harmanny Music Education, 2 camps are being offered, one fully online and one in person with an online option. The online camp is for students who have finished K-3rd grade. We’ll be diving in to Camille Saint-Saens’ work “Carnival of the Animals”. There’s so much to explore in this journey, not only looking at why Saint-Saens wrote the work, but how he masterfully and creatively mimicked the animals through music. This camp is the week of June 20th and will be for 1 hour.

 

The second camp is a ukulele camp. This is in person, but the opportunity to join online is also available. This camp will teach you how to play the ukulele. Not only how to play it, but the history of the instrument, as well as how to care for it. This camp will be for students who have finished 1st through 5th grade, and will be for 2 hours daily the week of June 27th. For more information on both camps, click here.

 

Now what about this music exploration activity thing? What is that? Well, it’s actually quite simple. Whether that’s checking out YouTube videos or reading blog posts about music history, or listening critically to music, these are the things I’m talking about. One of the things I’ll be doing this summer is creating a music listening calendar for June and July for my students, and then I’ll be going through them and highlighting them on the blog daily. There are lots of different YouTube channels that are fantastic. My two personal favorites are Charles Cornell and Adam Neely. They can get a little over the head of younger musicians, but definitely are fun. George Collier notates in music different performances and other musical things which can bring about inspiration. Or, if you just look up music history for kids on YouTube, you get a number of fantastic videos!

 

There are so many possibilities to keep your child engaged with music over the summer, whether that is practicing, creating their own instruments (I recommend having earplugs around for that), or learning a new instrument for fun over the summer (again….earplugs), as well as learning more about music. There are so many resources online that the possibilities are endless!

 

Summer

What to do over the summer?

Back when I took lessons, my parents let me take the summer off of lessons. There is a delicate balance when it comes to summer. A bit more freedom and flexibility in schedule is good, but if you don’t keep up the practice over the summer, those skills can deteriorate. Taking a break can be helpful to have a bit of a breather and help you appreciate what you are doing along with bringing in a renewed set of focus. I offer summer lessons, but completely understand that families will want to take a break.

 

If you are taking a break for summer, here are some tips and tricks that I have learned along the way.

 

Keep in a (relaxed) practice routine. Don’t completely give up practicing altogether, but make time to practice as your schedule allows. 5-10 minutes per day or every other day is better than zero.

 

What should you practice? Review pieces you have already played. Find pieces to try to challenge yourself. Review your music theory to help keep things sharp. The more you can do things like this to keep yourself sharp, keep your skills up and even grow your abilities, the better.

 

Practice makes better. That’s just how things work. I think that even a few lessons here and there over the summer will help to keep your skills sharp, but that’s totally up to you. Continuing to practice will definitely make a difference!

 

If you are looking for those few lessons over the summer, Harmanny Music Education can help! Whether it’s 4 or 6 lessons, or a fun online camp diving into the “Carnival of the Animals” for students who have finished K-3rd grade, or an in person and online ukulele camp for students who have finished 1st-5th grade, you can find out more about it all here.

Performing, Recital, Student highlight

Recital Fun!

Last Saturday, Harmanny Music Education hosted its first ever in person recital. 23 students participated and did an absolutely amazing job! This past week at their lessons, I found a really fun way to process the recital and get their feedback. It was in the form of 5 questions, which then were put into the form of a Mad Lib. I wanted to share their answers, because I think it gives a good amount of insight into performing and learning how to perform well.

 

1. What are three positive words you would use to describe your performance?

Good (x 7), OK, Fine, Enjoyable, Pleasant, Interesting (x 2), Fantastic (x 4), Noisy, Fun (x 5), Exciting, Incredible (x 2), Energetic, Great (x 3), Sunny, Happy (x 2) , Joyful, Amazing (x 5), Motivated, Extremely Awesome, Very Good, Very Great, Confident, Finishing Well, Marvelous, Awesome, Cool, Awesome, Well Done, Quiet, Peaceful, Loud, Well, Terrific, Impressive

 

2. What is one thing you would like to improve upon in future performances?

Not be so nervous (x 2), play more challenging music, play the keys louder, play with more fluency and make sure I get notes and chords right, don’t mess up or anything, sing longer phrases, count better, play a longer song (x 2), be more prepared, bow better, not be afraid, not play the song 4 times, practice more, playing the notes where they should be and holding them out, should have played the whole song, overall consistency, play a faster song

 

3. What is one piece of advice you would give to students performing at their first recital?

It’s OK to be nervous, only you know that you’re making mistakes, play the whole song, don’t be nervous, practice and stick to the beat, do good dynamics, don’t be afraid, you did a great job and keep going, be very serious, be confident, be brave, if you feel nervous, take a deep breath, act like it’s your lesson, if you’re nervous say you’ve got this, try your best and not be nervous, pretend you’re just by yourself and no one’s watching, be brave and courageous, relax, be ready and know everything you’re supposed to play.

 

4. What is one piece you heard someone else play that you would like to play in the future?

Theme from Jurassic Park (x 2), Surface Pressure (x 5), Ode to Joy, Hurricane, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo (x 2), Megalovania, Symphony (x 2), Formula One Theme,  Jailhouse Rock, Pirates of the Caribbean, Aria Math, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

 

5. How would you rate your recital performance on a scale of 1-10?

10, 7, 9.5, 9, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 8, 7, 7, 5, 10, 8, 10, 7, 10, 5

 

My students are rock stars! Almost all of them had never performed in a recital before. We spent a lot of time preparing for nerves, working to continue on if mistakes happened, and they did great! With 22 performers, there are a large number in attendance, so not only was it a bigger space than what they have lessons at, it was also a different instrument…and more people! But everyone got up and confidently played. Getting their feedback this week was just as much fun as Saturday, because the insights here are powerful!

 

For all of us as musicians, there is always room for improvement, and many of these students have only been learning since January. So they will naturally improve as they continue in their musical journey. The takeaways and encouragements to first time performers is something that can be very helpful to anyone presenting anything for the first time! Also, the confidence shown in their ratings says to me that they were well prepared and feel they did their best, which is all you can do!

 

I’m so proud of my students. Not only do they make each lesson fun for me to teach, they’re all ready and willing to learn and try new things. And that is how you grow! I’m looking forward to this last week of lessons for the semester. We’ll do some fun activities and still make it musical, but much more relaxed and enjoyable!

Student highlight

Student Highlight–Emily H

As we wind down our spring semester, Harmanny Music Education is taking the time to highlight students in the studio.

 

Today’s student is one who I know quite well, as she is my daughter! Emily and I have been working on her voice since the fall. She’s working hard to learn and better her voice, and she’s gotten more control and strength in her voice as she continues to work on it!

 

Emily is in 4th grade. Her favorite subject in school is math. Her favorite songs are “Dance Monkey” and “God is On the Move”. Her hobbies are singing and playing with dolls. Emily’s favorite thing about voice lessons is that “I get to do it with my dad.” What Emily enjoys most about music is “If I’m having a hard day, it makes me feel better.”

 

You can join Emily in strengthening and building up your voice, learning the piano, trumpet, beginning on the guitar or playing the ukulele! Or, if you’re looking for summer activities, Harmanny Music Education is offering an online as well as in person camp in June. You can find out about both here.

Student highlight

Student Highlight– Derek M.

Harmanny Music Education has so many amazing students, and as we wind down our semester, it’s time to highlight them.

 

Today’s student highlight is Derek M. Derek has been taking guitar lessons since January and regularly putting in practice to get first place consistently on Tonara, the app used to track practice. All of that practice has led to growth as a musician. Derek is excited about music, and it shows in everything he does.

 

Derek is in 3rd grade. His favorite subject in school is math. Derek’s favorite song is “Legends Never Die”. His hobbies are video games, watching TV and soccer. Derek’s favorite thing about lessons is “learning songs”. What he enjoys most about music is “every time someone is bored, they have something to listen to.”

 

You can join Derek in taking summer lessons on piano, voice, trumpet, beginning guitar and ukulele. You can also join in the ukulele camp the week of June 27th. You can find out more about either here.