the piano teacher’s guide to student misbehavior

Most musicians teach young students at some point in their lives, if not throughout their careers, and it’s certainly one of the best ways to make a positive and direct impact on a child’s life. But don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy money! Teaching children requires you to navigate an endless array of emotions and learning styles, and requires the patience to understand where a student (particularly a misbehaving one) is coming from, so that you can guide them to the place where they are ready and able to learn. That’s why I was so happy to stumble across this list of ideas for dealing with misbehaving students, and hopefully they will help some of you too.

Read “The Piano Teacher’s Guide to Student Misbehavior” here.

How do you deal with difficult students?

musical excerpt: mendelssohn string quartet no. 2 in a minor

This quartet was written in 1827 by an 18-year-old Mendelssohn. How incredible it is that such an early work has the ability to take its audience captive from the first chords: wood and strings breathing and moving together, chorale form, through reverent, earnest harmonies that make you want to lean forward, hold your breath.

After this brief hymnal introduction, we are introduced to the motif that runs throughout the work: a dotted-rhythm question that speaks and then waits, perched breathless on the dominant, before repeating itself in hushed tones. The question is “Ist es wahr?”–“Is it true?”–and is taken from “Frage,” a song Mendelssohn had written a few months earlier.

Above: the opening motif from "Ist es wahr?" Below: the motif as quoted in the string quartet Op. 13.

Top: the opening motif from “Frage,” Op. 9 no. 1
Bottom: the motif as quoted in the string quartet Op. 13.

Ist es wahr? Ist es wahr?
Daß du stets dort in dem Laubgang,
An der Weinwand meiner harrst?
Und den Mondschein und die Sternlein
Auch nach mir befragst? Ist es wahr? Sprich!
Was ich fühle, das begreift nur,
Die es mit fühlt,
Und die treu mir ewig,
Treu mir ewig, ewig bleibt.
Is it true? Is it true
that over there in the leafy walkway, you always
wait for me by the vine-draped wall?
And that with the moonlight and the little stars
you consult about me also? Is it true? Speak!
What I feel, only she grasps —
she who feels with me
and stays ever faithful to me,
eternally faithful.

This motif opens and closes the quartet, bringing us back in cyclic form to the same profound, unanswered question.

(Motif is heard at 0:47 of the first movement)

on closed doors

15BRUNI-blog427

Hello again, dear readers! I’m back to posting after taking a month off to focus on auditions, and I know many of you have just finished the same process. Admissions decisions will be rolling in within the next few weeks, determining where we will be for the next 2-4 years–but unfortunately, for many of us, there will inevitably be some rejection letters in the mix. That’s why I wanted to re-share this article, published almost a year ago exactly, in which Frank Bruni raises some excellent points on the benefits of taking second-choice paths.

People bloom at various stages of life, and different individuals flourish in different climates….For every person whose contentment comes from faithfully executing a predetermined script, there are at least 10 if not 100 who had to rearrange the pages and play a part they hadn’t expected to, in a theater they hadn’t envisioned. Besides, life is defined by setbacks, and success is determined by the ability to rebound from them. And there’s no single juncture, no one crossroads, on which everything hinges.

This goes far beyond easing disappointment with “sour grapes” excuses. Personally, I think rejection has been one of the most strengthening elements in my life. Sure, it sucks in the moment–but it teaches you resilience; it gives you the assurance that you are pursuing your passion for the right reasons, and not because of any external validation; it trains you to face reality and accept all its good and bad parts with open arms.

Best of luck to all of us. Read the full article here.

joachim and brahms

Brahms (seated) and Joachim.

Brahms (seated) and Joachim.

Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), one of the most prominent violinists of the Romantic era, was not only one of the Schumanns’ closest musical friends, but also became one of Brahms’s most important collaborators. Brahms dedicated his violin concerto to Joachim, and requested that Joachim write the first movement’s cadenza. In fact, when Brahms had first appeared at the Schumanns’ door in 1853, he had carried with him a letter of introduction and recommendation from Joachim himself.

Because they knew each other for most of their lives, Joachim’s letters prove a rich resource for descriptions of Brahms’s personality. In a letter to Gisela von Arnim (the woman Joachim wanted to marry but was never able to–but that’s another story), dated November 27, 1853, Joachim writes:

Continue reading

happy new year!

Happy 2016, everyone! Hope you’re feeling energized by the fresh start. It’s always good to take some time at the beginning of a new chapter to evaluate your current life and set some goals to work toward! If you’re looking for some ideas for a musical new year’s resolution, here are some ideas:

I haven’t set a concrete new year’s resolution yet, so I’m looking to be inspired! If you’ve made any musical new year’s resolutions, please share! Hope 2016 brings many wonderful things for all of us!

merry christmas

In honor of the season, today we share the song “Geistliches Wiegenlied,” or “Sacred Lullaby” (Op. 91, no. 2), written by Johannes Brahms for alto, viola, and piano. The viola obbligato is the melody from a famous Christmas carol, “Joseph, lieber Joseph mein”–and Brahms even wrote the lyrics underneath the viola line.

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 9.07.43 AM

Here the song is performed by Jessye Norman (voice), Wolfram Christ (viola) and Daniel Barenboim (piano).

Die ihr schwebet
Um diese Palmen
In Nacht und Wind,
Ihr heilgen Engel,
Stillet die Wipfel!
Es schlummert mein Kind.

Ihr Palmen von Bethlehem
Im Windesbrausen,
Wie mögt ihr heute
So zornig sausen!
O rauscht nicht also!
Schweiget, neiget
Euch leis und lind;
Stillet die Wipfel!
Es schlummert mein Kind.

Der Himmelsknabe
Duldet Beschwerde,
Ach, wie so müd er ward
Vom Leid der Erde.
Ach nun im Schlaf ihm
Leise gesänftigt
Die Qual zerrinnt,
Stillet die Wipfel!
Es schlummert mein Kind.

Grimmige Kälte
Sauset hernieder,
Womit nur deck ich
Des Kindleins Glieder!
O all ihr Engel,
Die ihr geflügelt
Wandelt im Wind,
Stillet die Wipfel!
Es schlummert mein kind.

You who hover
Around these palms
In night and wind,
You holy angels,
Silence the treetops,
My child is sleeping.

You palms of Bethlehem
In the roaring wind,
How can you today
Bluster so angrily!
O roar not so!
Be still, bow
Softly and gently;
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.

The child of heaven
Endures the discomfort,
Oh, how tired he has become
Of earthly sorrow.
Oh, now in sleep,
Gently softened,
His pain fades,
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.

Fierce cold
Comes rushing
How shall I cover
The little child’s limbs?
O all you angels,
You winged ones
Wandering in the wind.
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.

Many thanks to you faithful readers and contributors! Hope you have a blessed, safe, refreshing holiday season!