Saturday, March 18, 2017

Auditorium Building Chicago (Where I went to School)

The Chicago College of Performing Arts, where I earned my Master's degree, is housed in the Auditorium Building in Chicago.  I took the picture above in the stairwell on one of my visits back after I graduated.  I think this is the seventh floor, though I forget exactly.

It was a joy to get to attend classes in such a building.  Artistic inspiration was all around me.  Getting to perform in Ganz hall (with its unique chandeliers) on a 9 foot Steinway piano was a highlight of my school experience.  Rudolph Ganz (who the hall is named for) is a well known historical figure in the musical history of this country.  He was originally from Switzerland, but became established here at the Chicago College of Performing Arts (the Chicago Musical College back then).  My teacher's studio, which had been his studio, had walls filled with pictures of all the great pianists and musicians of the past.  I can imagine all of the stories those pictures have attached to them.

The building was designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler.  It was completed in 1889, and was designated a Chicago Landmark in September of 1976, about one month before I was born.  A young Frank Lloyd Wright was involved in a bit of the interior design.  I'll spare you a rehashed wikipedia article about it, and send you off to this website... Auditorium Building.  It is a well done article with many more beautiful images of the inside.  Enjoy! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Practicing Tips for Children

It's a fact.  Getting children to practice can be a challenge.  I know.  I've been there.

But sometimes I come up with something that helps my kids to practice, and lessens my burden.  One of those ideas is to use a sand timer.  The one in the picture above lasts for 5 minutes.  I found it at a place called Ken's Educational Joys in a town not too far from me here in Pennsylvania.  I set it on the piano, and say something like, "Please practice such and such a piece for at least 3 turns of this timer."  Then I leave them on their own, trusting them to follow through.  I don't try to correct anything during this time.  They need to learn to regulate their own time, and they need to see that I'm trusting them to do that.

Another idea is to summons them to their instrument.  They have fun with this one.  At a random point, I will ring the bell.  Since I have two children, I use two different sounding bells.   They know which sound is theirs.  I will ring one or the other, and they are supposed to come into the music room to the instrument, and play a piece of my choosing from their "memorized" list.  This provides a good gauge on where they truly stand with the memorization, and can help focus the next true practice effort.

So, just a couple of ideas that help the kids learn to take responsibility for their own practicing, but also to provide a little bit of fun for all involved. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Is my Four Year Old too Young?

I was imagining the other day how I might answer that common question, "Is my 4 year old too young to start piano lessons?"  A different thought came to my mind this time.  In my head, my answer to this hypothetical parent was, "What if you were to take some lessons with me, and while you do that, teach your child yourself?  Then bring them to me for more formal lessons later."
Well, I really do think that it is a viable option.  A parent is who the child looks up to most, feels most comfortable with, and trusts most at that young age.  The parent would gain skills and confidence in a new skill that they could feel good about.  They might even be redeeming a lost love, having regrettably quit piano too soon.  Certainly, it would help to create beautiful memories with your child that nobody could ever take away from them (and you).