Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- I will not be teaching during the latter half of December. Here's a rundown of my schedule for the month:

Monday students: I will see you twice, 12/5 and 12/12
Tuesday students: I will see you twice, 12/6 and 12/13
Thursday students: I will see you thrice, 12/1, 12/8 and 12/15
Sunday students: I will see you twice, 12/4 and 12/11

There are a number of students I will be scheduling make-up lessons for due to various conflicts of mine. I will contact you directly. If you do not hear from me, then follow the schedule above.

-- There is a recital fee of $15 for every student participating in the recital. For families who have 2 siblings enrolled with me, the fee is $25. Please include this amount with your payment for December lessons.

-- The next student recital will be held on Saturday, December 10 between noon - 4pm at CSUEB. Click here for all important info about the event. And here is a list of performers and which group they will be in.

Have happy days,
Jesse

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 2011 Teaching Schedule


-- My teaching schedule for November will be mostly uninterrupted. I am not be teaching on Thanksgiving Day holiday, of course. I need to shuffle some Thursday and Sunday students to different times this month due to my ongoing performances in Berkeley. I will communicate schedule changes to everyone on an individual basis.

During the first two weeks of November I'm continuing my work with actress Rita Moreno's one-woman play "Life w/o Makeup" at the Berkeley Rep Theatre. If anyone is still interested in seeing the show, you need to get moving: Sunday, 11/13 is the final performance.

-- Fees for Certificate of Merit students are due with November lesson payments.

As a reminder, here are the CM dates for this spring:


* Performance evaluations will be held on the weekends of March 3-4 and March 10-11
** Theory testing will be conducted on the weekend of March 3-4.

-- The next student recital will be held on Saturday, December 10 between noon - 4pm at CSUEB. Save the date

-- All of my students have now had a full month to explore the Theta Music Trainer website and work on the exercises there. During the month of November and in months to come there will be a more structured Theta Music assignment for students. Here are the exercises I'd like students to train on for this month:

Melody -- Tone Drops
Harmony -- Chord Locks
Rhythm -- Flash Rhythms
Sound -- Speed Pitch

There will be prizes awarded to top student Theta Music achievers this month! (Yes, that is a bribe.)

I'll check in with each student at the beginning of December to see how they have progressed.

Personal note: I have quietly ascended to the 2nd ranking among top Theta Music users. See for yourself. I only need to pass 2 more levels of "Speed Pitch" and then I will have achieved the highest ranking currently possible. Hurray for me.

-- The Song of the Month for October is "Stereo Hearts" by Gym Class Heroes.
Stereo Hearts (feat. Adam Levine) - Single - Gym Class Heroes

Have happy days,
Jesse

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When Practice Isn't Enough


From an article by Corinna Da Fonseca-Wollheim, published in the Wall Street Journal 9/29/11:
Performance psychologists are invited into music departments nation-wide, as educators recognize the need to prepare musicians for the competitive, high-stakes world of classical music. In the past, performance anxiety was rarely discussed; if anything, it was seen as a Darwinian way of separating those fit for a solo career from those doomed to teach. Today, performance psychologists advertise their services as coaches, not shrinks, providing musicians the same concrete tools and drills offered athletes and CEOs.

-----

Fear is not the problem: If you want to do well, you will probably experience fear. [The newer approach] is to build up the mental skills needed in a performance, like courage, trust and a focus on higher-order qualities: artistry and expression for musicians, strategy for athletes. Much of this involves [mental training] ... In addition, [performance psychologists coax] teachers and musicians to incorporate performance-like play time into each practice session and lesson.

Read the full article here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule during the month of October will be complicated. I have been hired to take over the pianist chair for actress Rita Moreno's one-woman play "Life w/o Makeup" at the Berkeley Rep Theatre. My first performance will be the evening of Tuesday, October 11.

The play runs through the entire month of October and then through the first week in November. There are shows Tuesday through Sunday every week. I will be calling and emailing parents and students in the next few days to discuss lessons that will need to be re-scheduled.

-- I have scheduled the next student recital. It will be held on Saturday, December 10 between noon - 4pm at CSUEB. More details are forthcoming.

-- The 2011-12 Certificate of Merit cycle has begun. Fees for participating students will be collected with November lesson payments. Here are the CM dates for this spring:
 
* Performance evaluations will be held on the weekends of March 3 & 4 and March 10 & 11
** Theory testing will be conducted on the weekend of March 3 & 4.

-- I have decided to pay for a yearly subscription to Theta Music Trainer. This allows all of my students full access to the music drills and games at that site, with everyone having their own username and password in order to track progress. I am encouraging every student to complete one session of the site's "Basic Ear Training" course each week. 

Personal note: I have quietly ascended to the 6th ranking among top Theta Music users. See for yourself.

-- The Song of the Month for October is "For No One" by The Beatles.
Revolver - The Beatles

I hope you are well, and not as busy as me this month.

Jesse

Monday, September 26, 2011

Musicians’ Brains Stay Sharp as They Age


From an article on FYI Living, published 6/15/11:
"Engaging in musical activity for most of one’s lifetime significantly helps remember names, and enhances nonverbal memory, the ability to work based on what one sees, and mental agility during old age. The habit of physical exercise, in addition to musical involvement, further adds to mental lucidity in old age. Starting musical training early and continuing it for several years have a favorable effect on metal abilities during old age. Musical training also seems to enhance verbal prowess and the general IQ of a person."
Read the full article here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Important Dates: Next Recital & C.M.



A quick post here to alert students and parents of some important dates for the upcoming year.
The next Student Recital will be held on Saturday, December 10 between noon - 4pm at CSUEB.
The 2011-2012 Certificate of Merit dates for the spring are also in: 
- Performance evaluations will be held on the weekends of March 3 & 4 and March 10 & 11
- Theory testing will be conducted on the weekend of March 3 & 4.
Jesse

MTAC General Meeting in Castro Valley


I watch my 7 month old son on Wednesdays. I'm getting to know his ways. It seems highly unlikely that he would be able sit quietly and not disrupt an hour-long MTAC meeting. So I've been planning all along to not attend this yearly "welcome back" meeting for Southern Alameda branch MTAC teachers.
It's lovely for me that these meetings are held at the Castro Valley Center for the Performing Arts, which is located about 3 blocks from my house. I strapped the boy into his Ergo baby carrier and walked to center. Picked up my teacher packet, signed up for the requisite spring CM job, and then walked right out. I was like a phantom. "Hey, where'd that guy with the baby go?" Straight back home.
Preparations for Certificate of Merit will begin ramping up with my students soon. I'm not looking forward to the added workload. But it's something I'm committed to offering. I won't back down. So let's do this.
Jesse

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tips for Buying a Used Piano


Another informative video from Robert Estrin and Living Pianos. The best advice I would give to someone who is strongly considering purchasing a particular used piano: hire a piano technician to come with you and give the piano a thorough examination. Don't spend thousands of dollars purchasing an instrument that turns out be a lemon! Bring a piano technician (aka piano tuner or piano restorer) to the instrument first. Their cost will be small in relation to the greater cost of the instrument and will deliver you peace of mind about your purchase.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Had my piano tuned today...


My piano is on an every-6-months check-up schedule. To have one's piano tuned twice yearly is common. Due to the heat of the summer, my home instrument had predictably veered sharp in pitch.
New realizations: 

- My regular tuner Linda saw when she entered my studio that I had my piano's keyboard covered by the key lid. She suggested I avoid encasing the keys this way on a regular basis because it will cause them to yellow more quickly as a result of being exposed to less oxygen. This was news to me. Instead, one can shield the keys from collecting dust with a felt piano key cover. Here's an inexpensive option sold by Amazon:

- The humidity levels in my teaching studio are too high and this climate problem will affect my piano's "health" in the the long-term. That is, unless I take action. I was convinced to finally take the plunge and have a Dampp-Chaser device installed on the instrument prior to my next tuning appointment. The Dampp-Chaser is a climate-controlling device for pianos.
Here's the regular PSA ("Piano Service Appeal") that I'll always include at the end of my piano tuning blog posts: 
If you are an active pianist, student, or teacher it is essential that you tune your piano at least once yearly. This may strike some readers as excessive, but it is not! Regular piano tunings will increase the longevity of your instrument. Also, annual service on your piano will keep maintenance costs lower. The longer a piano waits between tunings, the greater the work required to restore the instrument to its best functioning. More work = more cost. Make the sensible decision.
The piano tuner I call upon here in the CA bay area is Linda Kay. She provides excellent service and reasonable rates. You can click on her name for her contact information.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Foo Fighters: Back and Forth

Foo Fighters: Back And Forth

The Foo Fighters were an important band for me. Their first album was released in 1995. I devoured it. I can recall a long drive with my family from the state of Washington back home to California in which I played my cassette copy of the Foo Fighters debut on repeat. My Walkman must have felt exhausted by the end of that trip.
Dave Grohl is the frontman of the Foo Fighters. He is also an amazing drummer. His first taste of fame was as the drummer of Nirvana. I was a couple years late to discovering Nirvana. By the time I had immersed myself in fandom of that band, the frontman Kurt Cobain had committed suicide. What a waste.
But what a joy, then, to discover Dave Grohl's awesome songwriting talents. The documentary "Foo Fighters: Back and Forth" chronicles the first 16(!) years of the band. In his interviews, Mr. Grohl has an unfortunate propensity for the "F word". His inability to speak articulately on camera unfortunately renders many of his remarks void. His multitudinous band mates -- several were fired or quit along the way --  are also interviewed, but their insights are secondary. It is clear that Mr. Grohl is captain of this ship.
My interest in the film waned once the events around the making of the band's 3rd album had been depicted. I'm not a big fan of what the Foo Fighters have become; they are now an arena band and belong to hordes. Still, their first three albums remain on my shelf. We had our moment, but now that moment is gone. My tastes have changed, Grohl's tastes have changed. Watching "Foo Fighters: Back and Forth" felt like visiting a past love interest: soon enough, you run out things to talk about and want to go home.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule during the month of September will be uninterrupted, save the observance of Labor Day on Monday, 9/5.

-- The Summer Film Scoring project is nearing completion. Several individuals have already composed and recorded their contributions. Others need to really buckle down and get to work during the upcoming weeks, because September is the final month for this project. 

-- I am planning to offer a wider variety of music web games to my students in the upcoming year. In particular, I'm eyeing the Theta Music Trainer and Music Learning Community offerings. More details are forthcoming.

-- The Song of the Month for September is "Someone Like You" by Adele. The chorus sounds like it would fit in perfectly with this song medley by Aussie comedy outfit Axis of Awesome (hint, hint).
Someone Like You
Someone Like You - 21

Have a happy day,
Jesse

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Talmage Farlow

Talmage Farlow

Tal Farlow (1921-1998) was a remarkable musician who revolutionized jazz guitar playing and then disappeared. He abandoned the plaudits, the fame, and the limelight for a quiet life in a town called Sea Bright on the Jersey shore, returning to his previous occupation as a sign painter. But he never stopped making music. 
This 1981 documentary reveals the quiet life Farlow led in Sea Bright and features many interludes of his jaw-dropping exploits on the guitar. Farlow proves warm-hearted and winning. His remarkably huge hands reached intervals and chord shapes on the fretboard that are impossible for nearly all guitarists. He was physically gifted to accomplish special things on this instrument. That's not to say it was easy for him. Just like any other musician he had to graft and toil to achieve his skill set. It's a joy to see Farlow contented, flashing grins at his fellow musicians while in the midst of a jam session as they execute musical derring-do.
It's interesting to consider that Farlow's virtuosity inevitably will leave casual music fans behind. They can't countenance his quest. To them his work either sounds like background noise or something curious and unworthy of sustained attention. This is a quirk of jazz: it is the most difficult music to perform and yet it is the easiest for an audience to tune out.
Two quotes from Farlow interview sessions in the documentary compelled me the most. Each is a rumination on the act of performance:
"Jazz musicians, I believe, play for their co-players on the bandstand. They play for each other as much or sometimes more than to the people in the audience. Often there's more educated listening going on on the bandstand than there is out front. It's sort of a musical conversation. The back and forth of that I think is what makes a good jazz performance."
---

"There's an intensity that the good performer feels, and the business of getting it together and presenting it in a way that he's happy with can be almost painful, in a way. Physically painful. And sometimes he neglects his health. Many brilliant jazz musicians didn't live to the age of thirty-five, which is a tragedy. I think in many cases they reach for something to make them less sensitive to that feeling that they have, which is very uncomfortable. It's sort of a feeling that you're not doing what you're capable of. You probably remember back to a time or situation where you performed where you thought you did pretty good. And then that's the level that you must not drop below. And when you do, which you certainly inevitably will, it is painful then. I suppose it's about the possibility of failing, and maybe failing badly. It has never happened to me, I don't think, but it just seems to me there's enough of a possibility there to create a little worrying."

Monday, August 1, 2011

August 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule during the month of August will be uninterrupted.

-- Effective August 1, the lessons fees will be raised for my Fremont students. Please note that I have not been consulted with regard to this fee rise; the store I rent a space in one day a week in Fremont sets the rates for all the teachers who work there. I will continue to work hard at providing the best service I can.

**Lesson rates are unchanged for my Castro Valley students.

-- The Summer Film Scoring project is up and running. I have about 20 students participating and it has been an educational experience for all. I'm learning more of the features of the iMovie program. Students are learning about the joys and challenges of linking music and sound to visuals. This project will continue through this month and then to at least mid-September. Everyone will receive a copy of their work in some form when the projects are complete.

-- There will be no Song of the Month for August. There's already enough going on. We'll resume with a new song to learn in September.

Enjoy the last month of summer,
Jesse

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?

Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?


Watched this documentary knowing full well the turn of events: immense talent descends into self-destructive behavior -- booze, drugs -- and dies young. "Who Is Harry Nilsson?" isn't an amazing film portrait but it does provide an entry point to the musical offerings of said raconteur. 
Nilsson was probably most well-known as The Beatles' favorite artist in the late 1960's. After the Fab Four had issued many public remarks upping Nilsson's work, Nilsson struck up enduring friendships with Ringo Starr and John Lennon. During different periods, each served as Nilsson's "wingman" when Nilsson would set out on his regular, wild binges. One is struck by what an angelic voice Nilsson possessed yet squandered due to misbehavior. His last wife remembers him with a smile and a laugh, which is lovely to see. What a long-suffering woman! 
Another takeaway for me from this film is Nilsson's likeness to a more recent depressive singer-songwriter who flamed out: Elliott Smith. Some of the Nilsson songs presented here reminded me of some of Smith's work. Each man was blessed with a non-traditional rugged handsomeness, so there's a physical comparison to be made as well. 
I've tried before with Nilsson; I still don't particularly care for his music. But others certainly do, and I have no doubt that "Who Is Harry Nilsson?" will add numbers to his fanbase.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just purchased: Pedal Extender

The Piano Pedal Extender I ordered last week arrived in the mail on Monday and I placed it straight into use with a couple of my younger students on Tuesday. The pedal extender attaches easily to the piano, "extending" the piano's two vital pedals upward, thus allowing more height-challenged pianists to begin work on their pedaling technique despite their feet not yet reaching the floor. 
I've been meaning to purchase one of these for awhile and finally made it happen. The extender will be a fixture in my home Castro Valley studio. I purchased the extender for a very reasonable price from CPS Imports. Great service, great product.
Jesse

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Marc-Andre Hamelin: No Limits - The World of the Piano, Vol. 2

Marc-André Hamelin: No Limits - The World of the Piano, Vol. 2

Marc-Andre Hamelin is an outstanding Canadian-American concert pianist. This documentary film presents Hamelin as he prepares for a solo concert, checking in with him several times in the months and weeks leading up to the performance. His insights into the music he's practicing - selections by Haydn and Debussy, among others - are always revealing. We witness him sight-reading the Haydn work for the first time. Many would mistake his playing for a finished performance, but it becomes clear immediately that Hamelin maintains exceedingly high standards for his work. Also included on the DVD are the concert and an hour long sit-down interview in which Hamelin is probed by a staid French journalist. Hard to get through that interview, but the rest of the package is golden.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

MTAC Convention 2011 - Day 3

I am attending the annual Music Teachers Association of CA (MTAC) convention at the Marriott hotel in downtown Oakland this weekend.
Here's a summary of the events I attended today:
"Practicing Performing" lecture by Fred Karpoff:
- Mr. Karpoff's whirlwind presentation this morning focused on wisdom he's gained from two prominent performance coaches: Don Greene, Ph.D. and Robert Caldwell. I say that the presentation was "whirlwind" because Karpoff was allotted a mere 45-minutes to deliver a bushel full of material. He was speaking so fast at times that I thought steam would begin surging from his ears. Unfortunate that he was forced to rush, because he had much vital material to share.
Upon reflection, the most striking thing he said this morning was that we spend too much time practicing the wrong things. We should seek to stimulate performance scenarios more frequently in order to become more comfortable with the tense sensations inherent in that endeavor. It's a fact that too many seasoned (and unseasoned) musicians have developed an unhealthy relationship with the act of performing music for an audience. So how to combat this malady? Read on.
*Don Greene insists (as do many other teachers and coaches I've heard speak) that a performer needs to channel their nervous energy into exciting performances. Nerves are normal. It's up to the performer to decide what to do with them.
*A Greene quote: "Risk is essential to success."
*The greatest threat to a successful performance: muscle tension. We must learn to relax!
Thus, here is Karpoff's/Greene's suggestion for how to prepare for a performance. This is essentially a meditation exercise:
  1. Pick a focal point below eye level (this is proven to reduce left brain activity, which is a great distraction)
  2. Think about a slow, full breath. Inhale through nose, exhale through mouth.
  3. Scan key muscle groups: allow head and neck, shoulder, arms, torso, hips, legs and feet to be very loose.
  4. Define your "center" (somewhere on your person - your body). Direct your energy downward.
  5. On final exhalation, open eyes, find your focal point from step #1 and then begin to focus energy outward.
The Drill: Practicing Performing
  • Leave the practice room and turn on your recording device.
  • Elevate your heart rate to approximately 100 bpm (simulating the nerves inherent in a real performance).
  • Center yourself (see above meditation steps).
  • Finally, re-enter the practice room, play your best.
  • Evaluate your recorded performance afterward with positive feedback. Don't fall into the trap of continually beating yourself up!
Two Vital Skills of Great Performers
  1. How well they begin a piece
  2. How they handle a mistake
*More miscellany:  Two days before a performance: "Carbo load" (i.e. big pasta dinner) and go to bed early. This is your energy base for the upcoming performance.
*Robert Caldwell is the author of the book The Performer Prepares. This book examines the many factors that elevate powerful performers to their lofty heights of achievement.
Caldwell's 4 Stages of Performance
  • Planning
  • Rehearsing
  • Performing
  • Afterwards (this stage is too often overlooked; how will you greet people afterward? will you rest peacefully that night?, etc. Prepare!)

"Silent Film for Composers Workshop" by Donald Sosin:
- After the lunch break (today I ate my bag lunch on a bench I found across the street from  Ogawa Plaza; Ogawa was too depressing for me yesterday and I wasn't ready to go back there) I returned to the Marriott to take in the first of three sessions on accompanying silent films. The presenter Donald Sosin is remarkably talented. Throughout the presentation, he demonstrated ideas at the piano. He is a wellspring of pianistic styles and a brilliant improviser. No wonder he often tours Europe as an accompanist at silent film festivals. I will be unable to attend the second and third sessions of the workshop tomorrow, so I was glad to catch this one.
*When accompanying a silent film, the music has to tell us what sort of a day it is, since there is no audible dialogue. The action onscreen can be completely neutral, but the music tells you what's going on emotionally.
A (brief) silent film timeline:
  • Circa 1895:  Silent films at this time were not always accompanied by music. Often there would be a musician on hand to perform interludes between screenings of unaccompanied silent films. This musical performance would fill the time while the projector changed the reels. The music would also help to draw more customers from the street into the theater.
  • Circa 1905:  Theatres begin to see the immense valued in adding live music to all film screenings. Musical accompaniment becomes standard.
  • From there, things developed quickly and accompaniments became more elaborate. In 1907, for example, Camille Saint-Saens wrote a full silent film score for a 7-piece ensemble.
  • 1927-28:  Massive theatre organs become fixtures in fine cinema establishments, but this development occurred just as the popularity of silent films began to wane.
Considerations for a Silent Film Accompanist
  • First there is silence and a blank screen
  • Once an image appears, the musical parameters begin to emerge
  • Sometime the musical choices are obvious
  • Decisions about music are crucial to one's response to a film (this statement is true for silent films as well as modern motion pictures)
Further considerations for the performer:
- Tempo
- Pulse
- Rhythm
- Melody vs. Accompaniment
- Style
- Library music vs. Original music
- The regular division of the phrase vs. Unpredictable phrase length
- Repetition and Memory
- Quoting other material
- Tone color, orchestration texture
- Improvising and live performance with regard to audience 
- The space of the performance
etc. . . . .
Mr. Sosin had 8 piano students at his disposal. Several of the students volunteered to try live demonstrations, accompanying fragments of scenes from projected films. Each was remarkably talented and not one student floundered - it was cool! Tomorrow evening each student will be present their own live accompaniment to a (very old) Disney short cartoon selected by Mr. Sosin: "The 4 Musicians of Bremen".
The predominant piano styles of silent film accompaniment are styles from the period the films were made: ragtime, stride piano, foxtrot, and early jazz. I don't have a love affair with any of these styles, so I don't know if the road to further silent film music exploration will be long for me. I feel spread so thin in my work and family life already that it's difficult to imagine having the time or energy to dig deeper into this musical realm. Still, the future is unwritten, so who knows?
Not sure whether I'll be attending the final day of the convention tomorrow, but if I do I'll post about it.
Jesse

Saturday, July 2, 2011

MTAC Convention 2011 - Day 2



I am attending the annual Music Teachers Association of CA (MTAC) convention at the Marriott hotel in downtown Oakland this weekend.
The city of Oakland is a great tease. It seduces you with its grand history, cultural diversity, and urban attitude. But just as soon as you let your guard down it buffets you with some harsh reality. For many Oakland residents I'm sure the first blow is a personal encounter with crime. I can attest to this sensation from my years living in Oakland: when my car was stolen, I experienced a loss of innocence coupled with a feeling of violation. I love Oakland, but now that I'm almost two years removed from living there I understand better why it's best for me to reside elsewhere.
On my lunch break today I was saddened at the number of homeless people sleeping on the ground in Ogawa Plaza at midday. Adding to my melancholy was the amount of rubbish on the ground in the plaza. Trash was everywhere and it was not a pretty sight. My Jamba Juice smoothie provided little comfort. Despite my being surrounded by a bevy of modern skyscrapers and impressive architecture, I felt little hope.
Here's a summary of the events I attended today:
"How Can A Wrong Note Be Perfect?" lecture by William Westney:
- I arrived a little late to this 10am presentation, but I don't think I missed anything. I think I got all the meat. Mr. Westney's remarks were largely informal and seemed off-the-cuff. He developed a nice rapport with his audience. Westney is author of the book Perfect Wrong Note - Learning to Trust Your Musical Self. He has developed an interesting philosophy regarding the actual value of "mistakes" in practice and performance.
Soon after I found a seat in the conference room, he presented this quote:
"If you are cursed with perfectionism, you are absolutely sunk... There is no end to the self-nagging, the self-castigating. It hides under the mask of 'self-improvement'. It never works."
- Frederick Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim
Other notes I jotted down:
*Mistakes - or "wrong notes" - have nothing to do with us personally. Don't respond to a wrong note with fear or shame. Mistakes always provide us with good information on how to make corrections.
*We don't start with accuracy; accuracy is the destination, not the starting place.
*Start out playing a piece loudly and forcefully. Then over time, and once greater comprehension has been gained, add more subtlety to the performance.
*When correcting a mistake:  1) Ramp up the energy (play more loudly, forcefully)  2) Pay attention  3) Let your body figure it out (via repetitions)
*Practicing and performing are not the same. Practicing is not performing slowed down... practicing is an entirely different process.
*An observation of my own: Westney's musical demonstrations at the piano were unique. In demonstrating his practice techniques, he rarely played in tempo but instead played in a halting style, with numerous stopping points mid-phrase. He played loudly, often devoid of a steady pulse. He was showing us the process of his fingers becoming comfortable with the stretches, shapes, and patterns required of them. He made this remark toward the end of his speaking: "Practicing things you're just learning at a mezzo forte dynamic helps the fingers become more secure and settled."
*Practice musical elements in small, small pieces - don't be afraid to chop up a portion of a phrase or motif for practice purposes - pausing frequently to sustain, relaxing the wrists and becoming grounded in the required technique. 
*A Zen quote: "Give up control to find control".
*When learning a piece strive for zero tension. Structure practice techniques based upon the pursuit of this goal.
*Our top criteria as performers ought to be: "How can everything I'm playing feel great?" If this criteria is met, the music will follow.
Things to master first, and be consistent about:
  • Arm gestures
  • Fingering
  • Understanding (but not playing) the rhythm
Things to introduce later (and NOT do all the time):
  • Dynamics and Tone Color
  • Playing the Correct Rhythm
"Coaching Teachers" led by Scott Smith & William Wellborn:
- This was an interesting presentation in which two brave teachers taught a "lesson" to one of their students up on stage in front of an audience. "Master" teachers Mr. Smith and Mr. Wellborn would interject their thoughts and comments every few minutes, in the hope of enhancing the student-teacher process and eliciting better results from the students. The session was hit-and-miss in my view, but still, a unique thing to witness and there were insights to be gleaned. 

Mr. Smith was outfitted in a leather jacket and had spiked his hair, while Mr. Wellborn wore a conventional 3-piece suit, his hair combed and parted. They could be a great comedy duo, based on appearance alone.
I did take a few notes:
*Students learn better if they learn with big muscles first (i.e. forearm motion) and then transition the movements to smaller muscles (i.e. fingers).
*According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Education, students are 7 times more likely to learn and retain concepts if they speak/verbalize the concepts during the learning process.
"If you miss a note you either don't know what the note is or you don't know where the note is."
- Theodor Leschetizky
*With longer, more difficult pieces it's best to learn the music in small pieces, with a minimum of 10 repetitions on each section per day between lessons.
*Rather than ask a student to play 3 times accurate, and then move on to the next phrase/section, try for 5 accurate repetitions (hopefully with each repetition becoming more musical).
*This weekend I've witnessed many reminders about scale technique that I need to integrate into my own teaching. When performing scales begin softly, crescendo to the top, and diminuendo on the way back down. Technique exercises can - and should - be performed musically, with nuance and thoughtfulness.
*This last note is difficult to articulate but still I'm going to include it here because it's a good teaching reminder about an essential pianistic skill: When turning the thumb under there's an anticipation required of the thumb. When turning, the thumb should be in line with the note prior to the one the thumb lands on. For example, with an Ab Major scale the R.H. thumb mid-turn should be in line with the Bb prior to its landing on the C.
I'll post again tomorrow.
Jesse