Monday, August 25, 2014

Guest Post: The Lost Art of Listening by Evan Roider

I am delighted to introduce our next guest in the 
Collaborative Journey series: Evan Roider, pianist. 

Often times, in passing conversation, people will mention to me how they wish they had continued their piano lessons as children.  My first instinct is to ask, “well, why didn’t you”?  However, to avoid the typical “I didn’t like practicing” response, I simply tell them that I hear that a lot.

However often this occurs, I always end up pondering the subject.  Of course, one could be drawn to the question of what makes a student want to quit taking piano lessons, but I am drawn to the question of what makes a student want to continue piano lessons, or any other sort of lesson.      

I look back on my own childhood and think about my interests.  I was exposed to a lot of music in a lot of different genres – classical, musical theatre, folk, and pop.  I loved (love) hearing music and exploring it.  The piano was the tool that I used to do this.  Through the piano, I could explore myriad genres of music, while developing a sense of style and form in the process.   

As I think about that time of my life, I realize that I was an outlier.  By the time I was born, society had already changed drastically, and was in the process of continuing this change to a work-driven and pop culture-oriented culture. Today, arts organizations struggle with a dying audience, particularly in non-pop music.  The conversation about how to bring young people into the concert hall seems never-ending.  So what is it that makes the surviving concertgoers and music aficionados different?  If we look at the older generations, the style in which society brought them up is drastically different than the society that bred me.  Instead of being plugged in to the console barraged by sights and sounds in the service of a video game, children sat around the television or radio with their parents, listening to real music making.  They were exposed to programs like Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts”, and even to popular television programs like the “Ed Sullivan Show”, which consistently showcased live music across a variety of genres, from classical to the Beatles.  Before TV and radio, people had to rely on themselves, family, friends, and live groups of professional musicians for entertainment.  A fun evening at home meant sitting around the piano making music with those closest to you.  

So, what does all of this have to do with playing the piano? A lot. 

Previous generations listened.  They experienced an aural tradition that just doesn’t exist today.  They were exposed to the finest performers, composers and, dare I say, rock stars, and learned to understand and engage with music for themselves.  Music was their entertainment, not the filler that went with the entertainment.  

So, here is my plea to music teachers.  Along with molding your students into active and adept practitioners, mold them into active listeners.  Use your guidance and influence to develop students’ musical interests, knowledge, and intelligence.  Encourage them to make observations on music, even if that music accompanies their video games.  In reality, one of the most important aspects of musicianship is listening.  For a beginner, learning to experience music is just as important as learning the C Major scale.  Piano playing, even at the most basic levels, is about more than finding middle C.  Allow students the chance to make observations, to relate, and to find themselves in music. The world will thank you and those adults who stuck with their piano lessons will too.

About the Author, Evan Roider: Pianist Evan Roider maintains an active schedule as a soloist and collaborative artist, performing across the United States and abroad, most recently in China,  England, Ireland, and Italy. His performances span a wide array of music, from the classical repertoire to contemporary music, as well as the American Songbook.

Evan has also participated in SongFest at the Colburn School, the Indiana University Summer Music Festival, the Amalfi Coast Music Festival, and the New Orleans International Piano Competition Institute. He has performed in masterclasses for artists such as Aldo Ciccolini, Phillipe Bianconi, Nelita True, Martin Katz, Graham Johnson, John Perry, Margo Garrett, Jake Heggie, and William Bolcom, among others.

Evan recently competed his undergraduate studies at the Hartt School in Connecticut where he studied with Anne Koscielny and David Westfall.  He currently studies with Gregory Sioles.  

For more info, visit

Monday, August 18, 2014

Guest Post: How to Have a Great Teaching Year in 5 Easy Steps by Tracy Selle

I am pleased to introduce the next guest in our new Collaborative Journey series: Tracy Selle, author of 101 Piano Practice Tips. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guest Post: Honesty by Nick Ambrosino

I am pleased to introduce the first guest in our brand new Collaborative Journey series: Nick Ambrosino, speaker, coach, and author of Coffee With Ray. The following is an excerpt from his book. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a new lesson with a nine-year old girl.  We were learning a new piece, and as she got to a challenging section, she exclaimed, “This is too hard!”  Now, initially my response, as a compassionate adult educator, would have been one of the cheerleader, “Oh you can do it!  It’s not too hard.”  

But, I stopped and decided to respond to her words instead of simply reacting to her exclamation.

Instead, I said, “You’re right, this is hard.  Sometimes learning is challenging.  Now would you like to work on it together? Because, I am sure, that with your effort and my teaching, we could make it easier after some practice.”  She looked at me with a surprised look in her eyes and responded, “Okay!”

After some reflection, it occurred to me, that many students are manipulated into thinking that learning is always supposed to be fun and easy.  Yet, in reality, that is not always the case.  By definition, when someone is learning, they are expanding their horizon, or as I prefer to call it, "stretching their comfort zone."  Anytime stretching is required, there is a certain amount of discomfort. And, it is okay. 

When students are told the truth, it is okay with them also.  Young people, just like adults, do not like to be manipulated and certainly, as adults, we may have become very good at being very “persuasive.”  Yet, what I believe all people really want is honesty. 

It’s easy to assist students in overcoming the hurdles and fears to learning.  Just be honest with them.  They want honesty, compassion and someone who is willing to problem-solve with them. Honesty, compassion and problem solving are three tools that are essential for a successful facilitator to have in his or her toolbox.

About the author, Nick Ambrosino, Author/Speaker/Coach: After a long time of being "gently nudged," by fellow educators, students, parents, business people and family members, I decided to succumb to their, "You have to put this stuff in a book." anthem. When I began to put pen to paper, I thought I would create a textbook. Ten pages in, I was bored out of my skull writing it and I had the sneaking suspicion that readers would be bored reading it! "What did I like to read?" "How did I like to teach?" Stories, I liked stories that had lessons. I liked stories because they made the lessons easier to remember. I liked stories because they had people in them, not just facts...

Read more about Nick and the story of writing Coffee With Ray here 

Read a review of Nick's book Coffee With Ray here

Follow Nick Ambrosino on Facebook here

Purchase Coffee With or Amazon!