I recently had a chat with multiple students’ parents about making their kids practice every day. This “no time to practice” along with “my dog ate my piano book!” type of excuses seem to be a common theme among piano students. Then, I gave a suggestion of “incremental practicing”, and for them, it is working very well so far.
“Incremental Practicing” – which means to spread practicing into multiple short 5-10 minutes per session throughout the day (and make it as a daily routine)
Here are some examples (but not limited to):
* practice 5-10 minutes during school recess (if any and if allowed) – or – * practice 5-10 minutes during lunch time (if allowed) – or – * practice 5-10 minutes right after the school finished – or – * practice 5-10 minutes before the dinner – or – * practice 5-10 minutes after the dinner
… and so on
The key here is splitting the session into small segments, so that student can focus practicing small tasks (listen to the music, practice one page of the music per session, 4 measures of one music, last line of the music, etc.) within the short period of time. This plan looks very tedious, but it can be effective to focus for 5-10 minutes on a small task rather than one 30+ minutes session handling big chunks. With school being online these days, I discussed with parents that this is not impossible.
If this is too much to manage, no worries. This is just one example of practicing that worked for some people. It’s not a mandatory approach.
Another student of mine started having a regular short Zoom meeting with their grandparents to play their piano pieces to entertain grandpa and grandma weekly. This activity can be one of the segments of “incremental practice” and this approach is motivating them to practice regularly:)
Another student started sharing her piano playing to her friends via FaceTime. This is another activity of “incremental practice” and really motivating her to practice:)
I’ll keep you posted if I come up with other creative ways to get students motivated to practice.
As I read local and global activities daily, we do not seem to have any positive news so far in terms of COVID-19. We cannot have social gatherings, parties, and most importantly, no classical concerts. It is devastating.
Then lightbulb moment came to me! I’ve decided to make my own piano performance pandemic project.
This project has to be:
♪ Short and sweet
♪ Somehow related to current COVID-19 situation
♪ Fun and entertaining
Here is the result: Bizet Soap Bubbles Piano 4 Hands – Pandemic version. Enjoy 🙂
Just imagine… Hustling and bustling of piano students on concert stage performing; parents greeting each other; High Fives, Laughter, Lots of Smiling Faces….
Suddenly, in mid-March, COVID-19 PAUSED all of these excitements temporary on me.
When I had to force myself to cancel my piano students’ Spring Piano Recital in April, I was devastated. We’ve been working so hard for this! I don’t want to give up! Then a light bulb went on in my head.
Virtual Piano Recital!
To tell the truth, I didn’t know where to begin since I’ve never given a Student Piano Recital virtually before. My journey to the Virtual Recital began.
I started some research on virtual conference platforms. FaceTime would have been my favorite personally, however, I quickly had to rule it out because not everyone has the right device for that.
After all, I decided to use Zoom because:
From administrative perspective, Zoom is easy to manage and organize participants
I can easily disable any unwanted sound coming from participants
I can disable all the functionality and privileges which participants have (Voice, Q&A, Chat, Screen Sharing, Video Sharing, even Raising Hands!)
That said, I was fully aware that Zoom is not the best platform for sharing sound / video.
Communication to the Students
I sent numerous distribution emails regarding Virtual Recital to the parents and students. I explained everyone that I cannot generate professional grade sound / video quality with Zoom for this event. A few people raised a concern about Zoom’s security, however, after explaining that I’m disabling all the Participant’s Zoom features and privileges for everyone’s security, students and parents were very happy 😊 I was pleasantly surprised that everyone was on board for this crazy Virtual Recital idea.
I was preparing quite a few duet pieces with my students for the Recital. Since it was not possible to perform together for recital, I recorded all of my duet parts and sent it over to students. Therefore, they performed duets with my recorded accompaniment.
Since I did not know the internet connectivity or bandwidth outcome on the Recital Day (and the particular time which was Sunday early evening), I asked students to finish the piece clearly, and in some cases, play the cadence a bit louder (i.e. forte instead of mf), so audience would know that the music is ending.
I gave options of performances: either Live performance or Pre-recorded mp4 video to be submitted to me a week prior to the Recital. Majority of students have decided to tackle Live performance 😊
I created a checklist of Zoom meeting prep and logged into Zoom meeting 2 hours prior to the Concert. Preparation makes perfect!
We had 2 Sessions, Session 1 and Session 2. 10 minutes break between Sessions.
I asked all the Session 1 Performers to login 5 minutes prior to the Concert, and they did 😊 For the same token, I asked all the Session 2 Performers to login prior to the Session starts. It was great to see that many participants stayed for both sessions!
Students invited their family and friends to login as well. I limited to 2 additional guest logins per household to avoid capacity more than Zoom can handle.
As you see on the videos (see snippet videos), everybody had a great time! Amazingly, friends and family logged in from all over the country AND as far from Japan and Indonesia! Yay! grandparents logged in LIVE from Asia! I LOVE internet😊
Interestingly, Virtual Recital made some shy students to participate by submitting their previously recorded videos to share during the Recital. These are the kids who initially did not want to perform in front of the audience. Therefore, it was a win-win situation for all of us. For most of the students who performed LIVE, I drilled them the stage presence tactics beforehand. For example, when it’s good to look at the camera vs. when it’s not good to look at camera, etc. (“Please don’t look at the camera immediately AFTER you made a mistake!”) In some cases, I had to make sure that students’ pets will not be walking right in front of the camera during their performance! (They were so cute, but…) Very interesting learning experience for all of us.
It was a lot of work setting Zoom, coordinating with parents, and making performers practice. But it was such a wonderful opportunity to see the interests of family members (especially grandparents) and to witness their attendance at our recital. This event somewhat helped students’ family members to connect with each other in this difficult time of COVID-19. Yes, COVID-19 did not stop us from our virtual social gathering! I highly recommend anyone to organize Zoom virtual Piano Recital to create a strong bond and communication with students and parents.