I attended and presented at the SMU Institute for Piano Teachers last week and learned so much! There have been several sessions in which I thought that if I had attended only that session, the whole institute would have been worth it.  You really must consider attending this in the future (though it’s alternating with NCKP now, so plan to attend NCKP 2013!). It’s small, affordable, forward thinking, and a great way to connect with teachers in a meaningful and beneficial way.

I thought I’d share a few of the small bits of wisdom that have come from various presenters:

From Scott McBride Smith in his American Popular Piano showcase:

What your brain learns the first time it plays, it thinks is the right thing no matter how much you practice it. In a study, the group that practiced something correctly took only 5 repetitions to learn it, the group that learned it wrong the first time took 35 repetitions to get it right.

From Marvin Blickenstaff during a masterclass:

Play a sforzando on the late side of the beat rather than on it.

To communicate calmness in music, the music and rhythm must be very steady and even.

Tips from Matthew Kline on “controlling the crowd” and teaching effectively during a group lesson:

We tend to self-correct in a group. That’s the power of teaching in a group. So, you don’t always have to correct every student when you are doing a group activity (like learning to dance the minuet)

The same neurons that fire when we are doing a motion are occurring when we are simply watching a motion.

Study the group and respond to what is happening. Add layers to activities to continue to challenge the group.  When the layers get too complicated, quickly move to a new activity. You should have many more activities ready than you really need.

Use musical cues to direct students so that they have to focus on listening. For example, when you want the students to stand up, play 5 notes moving up quickly. If you want them to sit down, play 5 descending notes. If you want them to form a circle, play a 5 finger scale in contrary motion/both hands.

Always stay a little bit ahead of the group. Make your activity a little challenging.  Add one more layer to increase the learning but not always one more activity.

Anyone who attended is welcome to send me an email about what they learned so that we can share these tips with all of you!  Comments on any of these tips?