YouTube Performance Evaluations

Last week I was working with a student who will be playing Clementi’s Sonatina in C Major at our Spring Recital.  At this particular lesson we were focusing on the dynamics.  He wasn’t quite getting the full effect of what I was wanting to hear.  So when it came time for him to go to piano lab, I remembered Natalie Wickham’s YouTube Performance Evaluation sheets.  We went online to YouTube and I chose a couple different performances I wanted him to view and evaluate.  One was an adult and the other was a student about his age. 

I just wanted to share what he wrote down on the evaluation sheet when he was evaluating the younger performer of the two performances.  (My student is 11 years old).

What aspects of the performance did you like the most?  “Nothing”

What aspects of the performance did you like the least?  “Where are the dynamics?”

What could be done to make the performance more musical?  “Practice!”

Additional Comments:  “Do better next time I guess”

While I got a kick out of his comments, I really enjoyed this lab assignment for him because it allowed him to listen “outside” of himself and recognize what is needed in the performance.  This week when he played his piece (he is doing all 3 movements), the dynamics were much better.  Now we just have some little sections to polish up.

I plan on doing this a lot more with my students.  I think when we put them in a position where they are evaluating others, it allows them to really think of what they would like to hear in themselves and take a little more accountability.

Roots of Rhythm

Last weekend I attended a 3 day Roots of Rhythm workshop by Dr. Craig Woodson.  If you ever hear of one in your area, I would highly recommend taking advantage!

Roots of Rhythm is a curriculum that was developed through collaboration between the Percussion Marketing Council and the International House of Blues Foundation.   The curriculum combines music with history, social studies, geography and language arts designed to support classroom teachers in integrating music and music making activities in the classroom.   

The benefits are great when participating in the Roots of Rhythm program.  Teacher and students learn about rhythms, drums and percussion instruments from around the world within their respective cultural and historical contexts.  Students learn and increase their understanding about different countries and cultures, gain awareness how music reflects life conditions and experiences, learn to play and create different percussive instruments, developing listening skills and music appreciation and most of all have FUN!

Below you can view a picture slide show of some of the instruments that we made during this workshop.  At the end of the slide show I took a picture of all my instruments.  I made a Buhai friction drum, Bongos, Lakota drum, Dondo, Ranat Ek (xylophone), Sajat, Adufe drum, Djembe, Naqqara, Snare drum, mini gong, cowbell and I’m sure I’m missing something!  It was fantastic!

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At the beginning of each class and often after we made a new instrument we would simply drum.  Also known as a drum circle, improvising with different instruments as a group.  This was one of my favorite things to do.  It really set the tone for the day and created excitement to experiment with my new instrument.  This made me think, as a piano teacher how can I implement this in my studio?  My goal this next year is to begin and end the lesson with some kind of improvisation whether it’s on a percussion instrument or the piano.  To simply make music and enjoy the sounds that are created. 

Here are a couple of links to video’s that I filmed of our “drum circles”. 

This one is a short clip with Dr. Woodson.  You will see how he got a little creative with us when we were drumming.  I didn’t film the entire thing because I wanted to participate!  Click here to view.   

This was with Frank Thompson of AZ Rhythm Connections.  Click here to view.

A friend/piano teacher colleague of mine participated in this workshop with me.  A few things that we realized is how easily drumming can be implemented in the piano lessons.  For example, instead of simply drumming a rhythm in some music, why not add articulation and dynamics in the drumming as well?  Maybe by physically doing these things on the drum will allow the student to understand what we are wanting to hear on the piano.  We both noticed some really big benefits to introduce drumming into the lessons.

I am planning on doing the Roots of Rhythm program for my students as a workshop option this summer!  I am so excited!  I am planning on having the students make the Adufe drum (the square drum you see in the picture) and am still narrowing it down to one more that we will make.  Now the good news for all of you.  Even though you may have not attended a workshop, you can still share this experience with your students.  Just go to: and you can download the curriculum for free!  This includes worksheets for the students!  While you are there, be sure to check out workshop information.  If they come to your area be sure to sign up!

MTNA Studio Festival Program

Are you familiar with MTNA’s Studio Festival program?  Today was Studio Festival in my studio.  I’ve been doing Studio Festival in my studio for close to 10 years now if I remember correctly; pretty close to when MTNA introduced the program.  Studio Festival is MTNA’s “Music for Everyone” program they developed which allows teachers to have a base program to start with and run with it.  Teachers can make this event as simple or as big as they want.

On their website they explain the purpose of the program…

– To provide the teacher and the teacher’s students with an opportunity to participate in a nationally sponsored program that is open to students of all ages and level of advancement, and that is implemented by the teacher’s own studio.

– To provide a performance opportunity that is simple, convenient and at little or no cost to the individual teacher and at reasonable cost to the student.

– To provide an incentive for practice as well as an incentive for selection of appropriately challenging repertory.

– To provide an opportunity for students to receive supportive critique from a musician in addition to the student’s teacher, but from a musician of the teacher’s own choosing.

– To provide national recognition to individual students, teachers and judges for participation in a non-competitive event.

– To provide a performance opportunity for students in geographical areas where performance opportunities are not readily available.

From the same webpage you can download a free starter kit to help you get started on this event in your studio!

In my studio I have my students work towards a medal by memorizing two pieces and receiving a postive evaluation.   This is my basic criteria that I have for my students.  The beauty of this program is you can have your own criteria and recognition.  MTNA now even provides the certificate template to print out for free!  In the past you ordered the dcertificates and medals.

Studio Festival is the perfect program for students that aren’t quite ready for graded adjudicated events, or perhaps the student that would like to get a taste test for what an adjudicated event is like and even for those who just don’t have the desire to participate in graded adjudicated events.   It gives students an opportunity to receive an evaluation and feedback from someone in a little more relaxed (not so scary) environment.   Plus it’s REAL nice for students to get feedback from someone besides their teacher they hear from week after week.  I personally collaborate with a collegue on this event each year and we evaluate eachothers students.  It works really well. 

If you do the Studio Festival program in your studio, I would love to hear how you run your festival!