Friday, May 15, 2015

Piano Practice Perks!

One of the many ways I know my family is finally settled is the fact that I'm teaching piano lessons again! In 2010, before we moved to Texas, I taught piano to three students. About a year-and-a-half into our Texas adventure, I was blessed to teach piano to four darling and wonderful students. Despite my family's unending wondering about where we were going to finally land for good, teaching piano in Texas was definitely a highlight for me.

When we moved home in 2013 (Wahoo!), I truly didn't expect to teach piano lessons again. You see, my former students had moved on to new teachers and I knew I wouldn't ever get them back. Plus, I don't advertise that I teach piano. Simply put, I have a hard time putting myself out there—especially when I have to charge people money for my services. Sadly, I'm not that charitable to give away my knowledge and time for free: simply put, my family needs the money! Yet, I always knew that if someone asked me about teaching piano lessons, I wouldn't say no. :)

Thus, I was surprised and thrilled when I unexpectedly received my first inquiry about teaching piano again. I've been teaching three students for a couple of months now and I love it! (I really hope they are happy with me, too.) What's fascinating is the fact that I've gained three more students in just the past several days! Well, one of them won't be starting until the fall, but it still counts. :) I also have another possible student that might be coming into my piano mix, but that won't be settled for a little while.

Because of these wonderful piano lessons I'm blessed to provide, I had our piano tuned (last Friday) for the first time ever! Yes, you read that right, EVER. My darling grandpa gave me his piano in 2003 after my adorable grandma passed away (2001), but we never had the money to tune it. Okay, I'm 100% positive Greg and I could have scrounged up the money from somewhere to tune it, but we chose to spend our money elsewhere, i.e., raising our children well. :) Then we moved all over the country multiple times so I didn't want to tune my piano until we had finally settled somewhere (pianos go out of tune when they are moved). Thankfully, I now feel totally established in our lives—we've been here nearly two years(!), and I truly don't believe we're going anywhere until our children are grown and established in their own lives.

On that's such a good feeling to finally be settled! It's such a happy feeling: hanging pictures on your walls! And when you wake up in the shadow of majestic mountains, you know it's gonna be a snaptastic day! *Imagine the Mister Roger's song when you read those previous sentences! I know my words aren't remotely close to working like Mr. Roger's song does, but you get the gist of my happiness. :)

Long story short, when I began teaching piano again, I knew it was time to tune my piano. I found a wonderful piano tuner: Paul Gates of Gates Piano Service. *By the way, Mr. Gates did not ask me to write a review for him, and I did not receive any sort of discount for writing about him. In fact, I hope he's okay with me writing about him!?! Although I've never seen or heard a piano tuned before, I could instantly tell he totally knows what he's doing. I have a pretty good ear for pitch, so I was beyond delighted to hear Mr. Gates fixing my old piano!

I cleaned up my kitchen while our piano man tuned, so I had a lot of time to listen to his work. I couldn't help but think of the song "Getting In Tune," by The Who. I've always loved "Getting In Tune," as it simply makes me happy! Here it is for your listening pleasure!

As I heard my tired, old, chipped piano being restored to its proper and lovely sound, I was struck by the idea that each of us are like pianos!

Some of us are in perfectly beautiful shape with phenomenal pitch and amazing sound, while others of us are scratched, dented, have sticky keys, and are completely out of tune. It takes a master piano tuner (i.e., our Heavenly Father {God}) to properly tune us into the magnificent beings we are meant to be. He forces us to open our souls. He pounds on our keys. He twists our strings to the point that we wonder if we might snap! When He finds one of our non-performing sticky keys (a.k.a, cranky keys), He uses the correct tool and lubrication with the perfect amount of pressure to make our keys operate smoothly and happily again.

His repetitive note pounding, endlessly patient listening and precise string twisting, ultimately helps us return to our true notes! All of this happens because we allow Him into our lives—trusting that He knows what is best. We simply have to be pliable to His efforts on our behalf.

Even after we've allowed Him to restore our former splendor, that's not the end for us. Just like pianos need continuous tuning throughout their careers, we also need to check-in with our Heavenly Father on a constant basis. The longer we allow ourselves to be closed to the tuning and training that our Father in Heaven can offer, the harder it will be for us to stay in-tune with Him. Of course, this all happens because of our Savior...He is our link to heaven!

I know that was a bit sappy, but it's truly how I feel about pianos and us being spiritually in-tune! :)

After my piano was refreshed and feeling oh-so-chipper, I couldn't wait to start playing it! Don't laugh, but I messed up my songs because I was astonished by the glorious sound coming out of my old piano! My piano daze only lasted a day, or so, and now I've adjusted to the perfect notes I'm hearing!

In case anyone is wondering, I've been using the Alfred Method to teach my students. I feel it's worked well and, so far, I haven't had any complaints! :) That said, I absolutely remember my main piano teacher and all of her wisdom. I bring much of her knowledge to my lessons as well.

By the by, I had three piano teachers during my youth, but my second teacher was the one I spent the longest time with—she made the biggest impact on my piano learning/playing experience. She might wonder if anything she said/did/taught mattered to me because I was kind of a brat-student! I didn't mean to be bratty, I simply detested practicing and didn't like her critiquing my efforts. Hi! I also really didn't like anyone telling me what to do! Surprise, surprise. ;)

Years later, I finally and fully understood just how valuable my piano teacher's words, actions and criticisms were! :) So even though she might think I'm not the best piano teacher (my mom told her I was teaching), I feel I am a good teacher because of her efforts. I also feel I'm a better teacher simply because I know all the tricks students might pull! Ha ha. Yes, I'm very attuned to the student who thinks they can fake-out their piano teacher (I won't let them) because back in my day, I was one of them!

I've also included a little program to entice my students to want to practice the way I've assigned. I call them "Piano Practice Perks!" Basically, if a student practices every day I've assigned for the week, and they get their parent's signature attesting to that fact, they get to write their name on the back of a Piano Practice Perk and save it. After they've received four PPPs, they can exchange them for a treat of their choice! For some students who have treats all the time, my method might not be the best motivator. And for some students who simply love playing the piano, my PPPs probably won't make a difference to them. But for those students who struggle with the desire to practice, and they like treats, my Piano Practice Perks come in mighty handy! :)

I print these off using the wallet-sized category of my printer. That way I save paper and printing costs, and they're small enough that my younger students view them like pretend money!

Here are my cut-up PPPs in my cute little star dish. :)

What I've said multiple times is that anyone can play any song they like, as long as they've learned the fundamentals of piano and practice practice practice! Truly, after learning everything about the piano, practicing is what makes a pianist great, mediocre or terrible. That said, I know some people have a natural talent for music while others truly struggle. For those who struggle, but don't want to quit piano to find their true talent (maybe they want to keep their mind young and active), I say this: as long as you're diligently practicing and giving it your very best effort, you can be proud of your piano performances—whether given in your home, or out in public.

I've been playing the piano off and on since I was in the second or third grade—whoa, I won't tell you how many years it's been! There's no doubt I made the greatest strides in my piano accomplishments when I practiced consistently. There is truly no substitute for dedicated piano practice!

It's super interesting to me that all of my piano practicing years have now paid off for my little family—in more ways than filling our home with beautiful music, for we can definitely use this little bump in our monthly income! Talk about Piano Practice Perks! Ha ha. And, as Greg and I have talked about, as long as my teaching doesn't interfere with our family life (i.e., I gain too many students—which I won't), I can see me teaching piano far into the future. :) Side note: I would be so pleased if my blog were able to provide my family's needed extra income, but it sadly hasn't happened. :( Thus, I've chosen to spend more time teaching than blogging.

The other big plus for me teaching piano again is that I love teaching children! They are so pure, so sweet, and most of them listen well and are so eager to learn and grow. It is truly a privilege to be involved in developing their piano skills and influencing their precious souls. It might sound silly, but I honestly feel like I'm a piano life coach! Ha ha. In all seriousness, there is such joy to be found in playing the piano—it's one of my favorite activities! I'm so blessed I get to bring musical knowledge and joy to children!

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