Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
By Abraham Levitan
How do you make recitals less stressful? It’s one of the big questions we always think about at Piano Power, and with the advent of our upcoming Holiday Recital (just over a month away), it’s been on my mind more than usual. When I was a young pianist, I remember sitting in my seat on recital day feeling like I was in a roomful of strangers (which, in fairness, I actually was). I was pretty shy and would never have approached a fellow recital participant without a reason. I was more likely just to sit in my seat and nervously wait for my name to be called.
At Piano Power’s recitals, we do our best to keep the mood light and festive, and to get our students interacting as much as possible. One of the most successful ways is to invite our younger students to collaborate on decorating our recital sign. A simple creative release like this can do a lot to get our students out of their nervous frame of mind, and into a state of interaction, creativity, and fun.
Another longstanding Piano Power tradition is the inclusion of “fun facts” for each student in our recital programs. Students (and accompanying family members) receive a program listing participants’ names, the songs to be performed, and a fun fact about each student. Fun facts can be about anything — from a talent for baking pumpkin muffins, to a sports-related achievement, to what a student wants to be when he/she grows up. Reading them always produces lots of smiles. And sometimes, they can inspire conversations between participants that might never have otherwise occurred.
We’re looking forward to lots more good times and great music on December 4th. Can’t wait for the big day.
Piano Power Holiday Recitals
Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
By Abraham Levitan
We are thrilled to announce our Piano Power Holiday Recitals, to be held Sunday, December 4th. If experience is any guide, they’ll be here before we know it! The approach of recitals always makes it worth remembering what we value at Piano Power:
- The joy of music. As always, this comes first. Our recitals are fun and high-spirited, showcasing our students on multiple instruments, playing the work of everyone from J.S. Bach to Katy Perry. The unifying thread is music’s power to fascinate, captivate, entertain, and bring lifelong joy.
- Community. Our Piano Power Family is a community of devoted instructors, proud students, and supportive family and friends. Having everyone in the same room provides a great opportunity to celebrate our shared achievements. As I’m reminded every year, “it takes a village” to prepare a student for the recital. Students, instructors, and family all have cause for celebration on the big day.
- A culture of mutual inspiration. I love watching the looks of awe on the faces of our beginning students, as they watch our advanced students perform works of technical sophistication. I love watching the impact of our student composers on students who might not have considered composing before. Our most recent recital even featured a student performing another student’s original composition (that she heard for the first time at the previous recital)! The way that our students inspire each other is phenomenal.
We look forward to a day of fun and celebration on December 4th. Hope to see you there!
How I learned to write songs
Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
By Abraham Levitan
I want to pay tribute today to one of my own musical heroes… my high-school piano teacher, John Bizianes, back in the great city of Louisville, Kentucky. Here’s John, rocking out on a Kurtzweil digital piano.
John was in his late twenties when we worked together, and I looked up to him enormously as a working musician and overall cool guy. (He had an endless supply of one-liners and jokes about musicians, and I tried to remember all of those too!)
One of the many gifts that John gave me was the ability to recognize patterns and chord progressions in jazz standards. The world of jazz went from being utterly impenetrable to being very accessible. Thanks to our lessons, I began to understand the structure behind what jazz musicians — even the avant-garde ones — were playing.
John showed me the ways in which the great composers (Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, right on down through Motown, the Beatles and contemporary pop composers) all used similar chord progressions. This education helped demystify songwriting for me — while I didn’t turn into Cole Porter overnight, I developed a working knowledge of how a song was put together, and the confidence to try songwriting on my own.
My experience with John is at the heart of what we do at Piano Power — meeting our students on their level, and opening the door to a lifetime of playing and appreciating music. It’s what we strive to do every day.
Teachers teaching teachers
Thursday, September 29th, 2011
By Abraham Levitan
This week’s New Yorker contained a beautiful piece by Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School, called “Personal Best.” In the article, he describes his own fear that, after eight years as a surgeon, he has reached a plateau. He decides to try something he’d never previously considered — enlisting a fellow surgeon to watch him perform surgery and serve as his unofficial “coach.”
He gets amazing feedback from the process, and he is immediately able to improve his craft (which, I’m presuming, was already at a very high level) even further. Gawande goes on to point out the recent success of peer-to-peer coaching among teachers. At Piano Power, we’ve always believed in the value of regular observation, and the importance of constantly improving our teaching. I’ve often observed, in many fields, a direct correlation between how willing one is to receive suggestions for improvement, and the quality of one’s work.
Gawande’s article justifies why my annual “shadowing days” with Piano Power instructors are among my favorite days of the year. They help ensure that the quality of our instruction remains high — and that we can all get the tools we need to surmount our temporary plateaus.
The power of habit
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
By Abraham Levitan
It’s a new school year here at Piano Power, and it’s a great time to reflect on how to get the most out of the year ahead. We music teachers, of course, are always focused on how to get the most from our students, many of whom have limited time to devote to their instrument. I’m a huge believer in the power of habit.
If you do something every day, even for a small amount of time, you’ve created a positive habit that will reward you many times over. Especially with something like practicing an instrument, the duration of each practice is not nearly as important as the regularity. In extreme cases (and/or for beginning students), a mere 10 minutes of practice each day can make a huge difference. It’s far preferable to weekend-only, hours-long “cram sessions” — much in the same way that a little tooth-brushing every night is a lot more effective than an hour’s worth of tooth-brushing on the weekends!
Encourage your student to find a regular time each day — before school, immediately following the after-school snack, before dinner, right after dinner, or whenever works — to practice his or her instrument. A well-prepared student gets much more enjoyment from a weekly lesson, and the lifelong benefits are, to paraphrase the MasterCard commercial, priceless!
Glowing article in Wilmette Life
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
We are so proud of this recent article in the Wilmette Life newspaper. It does a phenomenal job of showing what Piano Power is all about — conveying a lifelong love of music to our students.
It’s incredibly gratifying to see our hard work recognized in a beautiful piece like this. Thanks, Wilmette Life!
Piano Power Spring Recitals: June 6th!
Friday, April 16th, 2010
We are delighted to announce the Piano Power Spring Recitals, which will be held on June 6th, 2010, at Highland Park Presbyterian Church. As always, friends and family are welcome. To help set a festive mood, I’ve put together a gallery of photos (above) from last December’s recital. Enjoy!