Why won’t my kid practice?!!

June 24, 2021

Such a good question. How about we reframe it and ask;

How can I support my child while they are taking piano lessons?

You can support them by being consistent, encouraging and delighted with theirprogress. You all know by now that I play the long game – and it pays off! So any stumbling or hesitancy that is part of your child’s learning process is connected to their learning how to own their progress and time. Please communicate to your beloved learner that their lesson is special time, they are brave, and it is worth setting aside protected time for both lessons and playing daily. Try not to call it practice, call it playing. Less of a sense of obligation to fight against. Aren’t we all rebels against authority. Don’t boss me around, is a small or large voice in all of us. Consent is a practice of loving, relational bonds. We commit to the journey and then you and I can work out how to push them forward gently. Your actions tell them you value this activity. They see you privilege this time and see that you are working with me on their behalf.

My students are so lucky to be supported by you to grow as musicians and people! You parents are amazing and my adult students; bravo for giving yourself the gift of time and musical support. I salute you all!!

Pandemic Teaching; Zoom has it’s own merits

February 17, 2021

Hello dear friends.  We are coming up on an anniversary.  Around this time, we went remote.  It has been almost a year since I’ve actually seen most of you.  Of course, I have done some distance hellos, and with new students I have tried to show up to let them see I am not just a TV show.  And I have taught outside when it was warm and even still, in Winter, I teach two beloved students outside their garage. Truly! We cobbled together a music studio with a keyboard, electric stove and I sit outside, looking through the door, in my snowpants with an electric blanket across my lap!  Oh the things we do for love and music!

When I pivoted my teaching practice because of the global pandemic I was so worried that my teaching and relationships with my students and families would suffer.  I am so very happy to report that this has not happened.  And I have discovered there are advantages to teaching this new way.   I am so fortunate to have had the ability and means to adjust our Piano Lab to this new kind of teaching and presence.  Of course I badly miss seeing everyone.  I miss making you tea and having snacks to share, and enjoying the snacks you share too!  I miss saying hello to parents and grandparents who are pitch hitting, I miss having siblings run around my living room and observe, soaking in the music.  I miss the hum of conversation in the kitchen blending into what ever song is being played.  I miss being able to say to a tired child,  just hop on the couch and I’ll play you Satie.  I miss my perch to the side in my comfy green chair, as I tend to each student, observe their progress, enjoy their playing.  I miss those hugs and the laughs we got to share.  I even miss the occasional melt down in the hall as students tired from day at school, climb that last flight, (four floors!) and find themselves emotionally spent and yet, still a piano lesson to go! Bless you all, please know that I have seen it ALL.  And it is all O.K.

One of the delights of this year is that amidst all the anxiety and stress I have found that Zoom Piano Lessons are not an inferior form of connecting.  Different yes, inferior no.  And I actually see some advantages.   There is an intimacy and playfulness possible to seeing one another on screen.  Lots of face play, close ups of eyeballs! Then there are the kids who know how to apply the apps that turn their heads into crabby cats or suddenly their head is on fire!  I am aware that the closeness of being in lock down as a family unit introduces stresses, but I also see kids thriving with more parent contact.   (How did we all get so busy!?)  I see a relaxation in the children, even in this age of anxiety, I see that in some ways both the children and parents of our Lab are thriving in the slowness and containment of deep relational family life.  Of course, this is a testament to how lucky our community is, how privileged.

And my actual teaching?  I am happy to report that this year has been one of growing and learning and enjoying teaching.   I apply a different kind of  attentional and musical rigor to my teaching through the screen. I augment our connection with parent conversations and phone calls and communicate very intentionally.  As I teach through zoom or facetime or skype, I coach each student differently and listen very closely.  I can see things and hear how the students are working in a new way.  I can still feel the emotional energy in the “room” and respond to each student.  It has been a joy to adjust for the challenge and lean into learning this new teaching modality.  I have developed different ways to musically intervene with different kinds of adjustments, and I see that the physical independence of being in their own space is pushing students to arrive at a greater ownership of their own process, knowledge and playing.  Students are thriving and advancing in their artistry and enjoyment of music.   What more could we ask for?!  I too am advancing in my learning,  just like my students, and I am grateful for every minute of this year.  This year…whew!  I am truly amazed at how everyone has stepped up to this challenge. Tenacity and artistry, humor and generosity.  What a Piano Lab.   I am honored and grateful to be in our community.  And OH will we throw a piano salon when we can.  What a celebration that will be!

Piano in the time of Covid. September 2020

September 5, 2020

Hello dear musical community.  What a time!  It has been since the middle of March that our meetings have gone

virtual.  After an initial adjustment I am happy to see everyone thriving and learning.  This is a time that calls for

great resilience and adaptability.  We can do this.  We are doing this!  I am so proud of each and everyone of my students and

the families who support them.

The Beloved Community of Students

January 24, 2018

Hello to all on this snowy day in January!

Every once in awhile I look at my roster of students and glory in the wonderful community we have.  I am grateful for the presence and progress of each student.  It is my pleasure to be with you all;  parents, friends, and extended family.  And the grandparents, oh the grandparents!

Yes, what a wonderful, intrepid and talented batch of hard working piano students.  Just like the old Romper Room roll call;  I see  Alice, Walter and Franny, I see Jade, Asa and Tobi, I see you Christine and Sarah my wonderful adult students, I see Eleanor, Esther and Raquel, I see the teenagers, Cameron, Iris, and Serwyn.  I see you all!  And a hearty hello to my wonderful Young Voices students at Plymouth Congregational Church and Greenspoon daycare;  Cooper, Phoebe, Eve, Sylvia, Peter, and Iris, Benny, Griffin, Kestral, Veda, Annika, Teddy, Maggie and Frankie.  I see and love you too.

How is it that I have taught at both Plymouth and Greenspoon for over a decade?!  And the first piano lesson I ever gave was in 1997?!  (shout out to Zoe Sommers Haas). Some of you have been learning piano with me since you were very young and I have had the privilege of watching you grow up, others are new to the Piano Lab,  and still others of you are returning to piano as adults.  I always say my first job as a teacher is to be delighted to see you when you walk through the door.  You make this easy.

Time certainly does fly and here we are in this present moment, whew!  Part of my practice of musical mindfulness is to give thanks for every time we have to opportunity to play together.  This winter has already been a cavalcade of duets.  We have enjoyed opening up the conversation around improvisation and some students are including other instruments in our time.  (trumpet, ukelele, drums)  Such fun!  As many of you know, I have a hand disability that I work with, so when I can play the piano alongside you it is a bonus.  Music is a social joy.  Look for another Piano Salon in April where we will no doubt play music together.  And get out to hear music.  Peter Schimke is at the Lexington this Saturday!

As a small and potent tribe of music makers we are in a sweet spot right now folks.  I count you all as blessings and look forward to growing alongside you in our beloved community.

Love,

Kristen

Musical Generosity with Peter Schimke

March 1, 2015

Our first Master Class! Improvisation with Peter Schimke

What an inspiration to have Peter Schimke in The Piano Lab in Seward!  It was a delight to see our young musicians and their families come to a different kind of attention and take note of the intense pleasure a musician can have with their instrument.  Peter held us all spell bound with his playing.  He articulated great tools for increasing options at the piano,  played improvisational duets with each student, and knocked the socks off us as he went at it!  Playing several tunes with the flair, intensity and artistry he is known for.    We all got to experience what is possible when skill and creativity, years of exploration and discovery, hard work, and the love of music come together.  Thank you Peter!  We look forward to hearing more of your music.

Piano Lab, stay tuned for an upcoming opportunity to hear Peter at a special Jazz Central event.

Peter Schimke