Sunday, November 22, 2015

Report on Master Classes, Fall 2015

Background. This fall semester our studio created a curriculum for master classes held on the last week of each month for the purpose of developing the performance and music skills of our students so that they might progress more quickly and have a greater enjoyment of the learning process.

Preparation for class. The preparation time for the master classes took much longer than expected. It took me approximately four hours to be ready for each class. Each student’s need in their piano study was seriously considered; therefore, each class was different even though we had more than one class for every level.

However, when observing the students’ smiles, laughter, interactions, and enthusiasm for learning music, I felt it was totally worth the necessary time and energy to prepare for the master classes. When students told me “I can’t believe the lesson is over, it was so much fun,” I knew we had had another successful piano class.
What we did in the master classes. Generally speaking, each class was divided into five or six periods:
1) Rhythm activities:
This was the time to reinforce rhythm reading. We worked on patterns that students frequently encountered problems with during their practice. Some complex rhythmic patterns that students would learn in the future were introduced in the master class. Counting beats and playing rhythms correctly can be difficult for many students. However, it can easily become a fun activity when students practice in a group. 
2) Theory Time:
During theory time, we reviewed theory concepts learned in the past and also introduced new theory concepts that would appear in the students’ future repertoire.
3) Sight-reading:
The purpose of sight-reading practice was to develop the students’ skills in note identification. Ensemble normally occurred during this period, during which students were required to play a new composition without prior practice. The selected ensemble pieces also included the rhythmic patterns and theory concepts that we practiced and discussed in the earlier parts of class.
“Musicians who sight-read frequently enjoy huge artistic and profession advantages.” –Gerald Klickstein, April 23, 2011
4) Ear Training:
This training enables musicians to connect music theory with the sounds they hear. The more we train our ear to recognize this connection, the better we are at playing music, because we come to understand what we play and are able to anticipate musical structures.
5) Game Time:
This was the students’ favorite period! Each month there was a different game for students to play. We used game time to review all of the materials covered in that particular master class. Game time gave me a chance to see that students comprehended the materials completely.
6) Mini Recital:
Each month students performed their best/favorite piece in class. This setting gave more performance opportunities to play in front of audiences. The more you perform, the better a performance you will bring to the stage.
With the combination of weekly-individualized lessons and a monthly master class, students have enjoyed their learning process more and made better progress. I look forward to see all students in our next master class, which is a week after Thanksgiving and the last master class in this fall semester. We will be playing a very fun game called “Ski Maniac Mountain.” I wish you a happy and beautiful Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

(MDP) Reports on Royal Conservatory Assessments

A national standard for music education, the Royal Conservatory Program, also known as the Music Development Program, is open to participants of all ages who study music privately in the US and Canada. This program offers well-balanced training to cultivate the musical talent of participants. It requires skillful, high-quality performance and develops participants’ musicianship, knowledge of music theory, and auditory skills.

Five Shepherd Piano Studio students participated in the Royal Conservatory Program in December 2014. I am extremely proud to announce that all of them did a fantastic job!

  1. Students awarded a First Class Honor with Distinction (the highest score level):
    • Jeffrey Yan (Level 3)
    • Karis Liao (Level 1)
  2. Students awarded a First Class Honor:
    • Grace Inthathirath (Level 5)
    • Keefer Liao (Level 2)
    • Allen Yan (Level 2)
Well-deserved congratulations to these students, whose hard work led them to be recognized by the Royal Conservatory! There will be nine students participating in the assessment in May this year. Best of luck to those who have been preparing for this demanding event, and thank you very much for working hard!

Spring Recital, 2015

Our studio spring recital was held on May 9, 2015. I am very proud of our performers for doing such a great job. Thank you for working so hard to perform well on the stage. The audience was truly entertained by your playing. Thank you to all the parents also for your support. Without your effort and encouragement, our students could not have made such progress this academic year.

From April 1, 2015, to May 5, 2015, our studio once again held a five-week practice contest. All participants documented their practice online in personal accounts on our website. The purpose of the contest was to encourage students to practice, to cultivate responsibility and punctuality, and to give them the opportunity to inspire others with their work.

Last but not least, well-deserved congratulations goes to our twelve winners, who faithfully documented practice minutes from day one to the very end!

Practice Contest Beginner:
  1. Evan Weng 4530
  2. Averly Chang 2932
  3. Isabelle Wu 2517
Practice Contest Intermediate:
  1. Tanner Furrey 4059
  2. Katie Zhou 3354
  3. Tiffany Jiang 3174
Practice Contest Late Intermediate:
  1. Sophie Yang 5088
  2. Zhijing Wu 4635
  3. Allen Yan 4596
  4. Audrey Furrey 4464
Practice Contest Early Advanced:

  1. Jeffrey Yan 5014
  2. Phoena Lin 2790
Thank you to all students who documented their practice minutes in this contest! Let’s continue to have fun practicing!


Monday, May 4, 2015

Winners! - Dallas Symphonic Festival Sonata Competition

The Dallas Piano Division Sonata Competition took place this year on February 22 at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. This well-known competition was also extremely demanding. I was delighted that ten students from our studio participated in this event. Two of them won awards.

Phoena Lin, competing in Elementary II group C, came in Fifth Place. Sophie Yang, competing in Elementary II group B, came in Sixth Place. Please feel free to congratulate them on the recital this Saturday, May 9, 2015.

Well-deserved congratulations to our winners and all our contestants! I am very proud of all our students who participated in this competition. Thank you for working so hard for several months on all technical and musical details. I am truly impressed by your commitment to excellence and your determination in pursuit of a higher goal.

Please continue to keep up the good work that you have begun. You will reach your goals and be recognized if you maintain your dedication to your music. Finally, thank you to all the parents for your sacrifice and support in this whole process!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Music Fun Games

Everyone loves music. To many students, however, learning to master musical elements such as the grand staff, note identification, rhythm, and key signatures can be intimidating.
As a piano instructor, my primary goal is to make the study of piano a joyous and rewarding experience. Therefore, it has always been very painful to watch whenever my students struggle for accuracy in their rhythm, tempo, notes, and dynamics while pursuing excellence in their playing. I frequently ask myself questions such as: How can I help? How can I shorten their struggle? How do I make this learning process more fun and enjoyable? Instead of seeing that they feel they are not good at music, is there any way or any tool to make my teaching more effective?
I strongly believe that the more I seek solutions to help students learn more effectively, the better the teaching skills I will attain. This summer, after playing with lots of music apps, I found that the following games are fun to play and should accelerate learning process. 
  • Very fun games for beginner and intermediate students to learn rhythm.
  • Interesting designs for holding longer beats.
  • 15 levels, from simple to complicated rhythmic patterns.
  • Great background music when students play the games.
  • Helps eyes, hands, and hearing coordination. 
  • Each exercise contains a short rhythm example (three to five bars).Beginner, intermediate, and early-advanced students can all benefit from playing this app.
  • 50 lessons total.
  • The speed of the metronome can be changed.
  • Good preparation for those who will participate in the Royal Conservatory Program.  

  • Activities in the higher levels are fairly challenging, but this app provides lots of options and settings that may help beginners build good skills and a sense of rhythm.  
  • Players can choose:  
    • One-handed or two-handed exercises. 
    • Different patterns of rhythm such as rests, ties, 2 against 3, 3 against 4, and dotted quarter-eighth note.  
    • Composers: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mozart, Haydn, etc.  
  • The speed and sound of the metronome can be changed to fit a player’s personal and comfortable pace.
  • Fun, simple, but challenging game for rhythm, especially hitting right on the beat.
  • Many students in our studio love this app and cannot stop playing it.
  • Cute background music and graphics.
  • To win points in this game, students must keep an internal beat.  
Note Reading 
  • Great music-reading game.
  • Both beginners and intermediate students will benefit from this app.
  • Various options for:
    • Speed: turtle, rabbit, or car
    • Clefs: treble, bass, and C-clef
    • Note names: ABCDEFG
    • Solf├Ęge: do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti
  • Clear instructions about the game.
  • Activity difficulty is divided/designed for three different levels: beginner, intermediate, and virtuoso.
  • Limited by a set time, students need to complete their note reading against the clock.  
3. Flashnote Derby   
  • Fun horse race games for identifying and naming notes.
  • To make your horse run faster to win the race, you must give a correct answer in naming notes.
  • Students can review their correct and incorrect answers.
  • Settings for different clefs (treble and bass; line and space).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Royal Conservatory Assessment

Introduction. The Royal Conservatory is one of the largest and most respected music education institutions in the world. Students at Shepherd Piano Studio are offered the opportunity to participate in the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. This program not only involves performance, but requires students to develop musicianship and theory skills as well. It is a well-balanced training to cultivate great performers and musicians. At each level, the program sets goals and measures success against students across the United States and Canada based on a national standard. Participation in a Royal Conservatory Program can be a first step on the road to become a professional musician.

Results (May 2014). I am extremely proud to announce that six Shepherd Piano Studio students participated in the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program during the 2013-2014 academic year. Of those six, two were awarded 1st Class Honors with Distinction (the highest score level), two earned 1st Class Honor, and one was Honors.  Well-deserved congratulations to those whose hard work led them to be recognized by the Royal Conservatory!

Shepherd Piano Studio will continue its association with the Royal Conservatory for academic year 2014-2015. Students are highly encouraged to participate in this richly rewarding program.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Results of PMTA Trophy Competitio​n 2014 (A post for every student/pa​rent)

On May 4, 2014, the Plano Music Teachers Association held their annual Trophy Competition at the Collin College in Plano.  It makes me extremely proud to report that ten of the contestants were Shepherd Piano Studio students.

Participation in this type of event is very demanding. In order to be able to perform their pieces perfectly, students had to push themselves hard to bring themselves up to the standards, both technical and artistic, that are required for this type of competition.  All of the Shepherd Piano Studio participants worked strenuously to meet these standards, and watching this competition, I felt very proud to be their teacher.

Four Shepherd Piano Studio students were winners in the competition.  Grace Inthathirath, competing in group 2 of Grade 8, came in Third Place.  Connie Yang, competing in group 2 of Grade 6, came in Third Place.   Sarah Chen, competing in group 1 of grade 8, received an Honorable Mention.  Eileen Zhao, competing in group 3 of Grade 4, received an Honorable Mention. 

Well-deserved congratulations to all of our winners and their families!  Having your talent and the effort you put into your music be recognized and appreciated by other professional musicians is a wonderful experience. Winning a competition is the beginning of a new chapter in your musical journey.  It means that you are now playing at a different level, and you will be expected to continue to commit your time and energy to achieving excellence.  I am honored to share this moment with you, and to be a part of your musical journey.

I would also like to share another story about our competitors.  A lovely family with two very talented daughters experienced mixed feelings after the competition.  Both of their daughters were contestants in the competition, in two different divisions.  One daughter came in Third Place, but the other didn't even place in the top five.  I could totally relate to this mother as she shared with me her thoughts and mixed feelings after the event.

This year, ten Shepherd Piano Studio students went to compete in the event.   Four out of those ten received awards, which means that six students, even after working so hard for several months, didn’t receive any awards at the competition at all.  I just want to emphasize that no one should be discouraged with these results.  Your participation in the competition shows your commitment to excellence, your ability to work hard in pursuit of a goal,  and your dedication to your music.  These attributes alone make you outstanding both as performers and as individuals.  I think it is true both in the music world and in life, that sometimes we work hard, but don't get recognized right away. We need to keep working hard and keep pushing ourselves.  In my experience, those who continue to work hard eventually do reach their goals and get recognized.  I am very proud of all our students.