Welcome to Music Simply Music's Top 10 List for teachers! Our goal is to provide professional music educators information that will enhance their careers as educators as well as their student's experiences of music. The lists are subjective and by no means all inclusive. (After all, they're called "Top 10" not "Top 1,000,000"!). They are simply a compilation and some are just written to add some humor to your day! We hope they are valuable to you and you enjoy reading them! 
 

Would you Like to Contribute a Teacher Tip?

 

If you have compiled a list that you would like to have sent to our subscribers (with all due credit to the compiler, of course!) please email us at top10 director@musicsimplymusic.com. Make sure all Top 10 list submissions have your email link at the bottom, so you can be contacted! 

Current Tip: Top 10 Ways to Get a Student "Unstuck" 

Often, students get stuck in a loop of unsuccessfulness. Regardless of the countless reason for which this may occur, it is to both the student’s benefit as well as our benefit as an educator (the lesson is much easier if the student is in a loop of success!) to assist the student in getting “unstuck”. 

1. Abandon present curriculum! 
Many students simply need a change of pace to get them back on the track of motivation and success. Don’t worry about following the book; get creative, try something different for a few weeks! 

2. Have fun! 
If you are not presently doing this (if the student is stuck, it’s probably an excellent sign that “fun” is not occurring!), do it! Why teach if you and your students are not enjoying the process? 

3. Active listen 
Active listening is the art of recognizing what a student is feeling and bringing it to the forefront of the conversation. It’s not just knowing how the student feels based upon what she tells you; it’s recognizing the emotions behind the behavior. 
(See Top 10 Books for Music Educators for more information.) 

4. Let the student know how much you care about him. 
People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. If this is uncomfortable for you to do in person, try sending a simple card letting the student know you were thinking about him. 

5. Share how you are feeling with the student. 
Let the student know you are not having fun which probably means neither are they. Let the student know that you want the lessons to be enjoyable. Be careful not to blame the student for how you are feeling, simply share your feelings. 

6. Push 
Sometimes, students simply need a firm push to let them know that they simply need to get “down to business”. Letting them know that it is their responsibility to be prepared for your time together is sometimes enough to get them “unstuck”. 

7. Surrender 
Contrary to #6, simply surrender to the lack of an answer. Often we push and push and push only to increase our own frustration. Many times, the key to “unsticking” the stuck student is to simply let the student know that you are not sure what to do. Let the student know that you recognize the lack of motivation, but are not certain as to how to proceed. Amazing things happen in life, when you are willing to surrender! 


8. Find out what is going on in the student’s life. 
Students are trying to find their way in the world, just like the rest of us. Many times, they are not only stuck in their music lessons, but also, in their lives. They could have challenges in school, with relationships, or at home. Assist them in “unsticking” the life and the music will also flow. While most of us are not trained psychologists, we may have some years of simple life experience that might shed some light for our students. 

9. Review old material. 
Often the unmotivated student is simply not ready to proceed to the next level of learning. That creates a wonderful opportunity to go deeper on the level at which they are comfortable. So instead of learning two songs from Schumann’s “Scenes from Childhood”, you might have a chance to learn six! 

10. Practice with them in the lesson 
All of us, at one point or another in our lives need a "jump-start". Someone to get us started on our way, someone to "prime the pump". Try using the lesson as a model practice session, teaching the student the process of working through the challenges, piece by piece. This idea often reveals flaws in the student's practicing regime that lead them down the path 
of frustration. By practicing with them, we get to help them avoid the pit falls and create success with their music! 

Submitted by Nicholas Ambrosino who can be reached at director@musicsimplymusic.com
Copyright © 1999, Music Simply Music, Inc., all rights reserved. 
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Top 10 Tools for a Music Educator

Every profession has certain tools associated with it. Mastery over the tools leads to mastery in the profession. 

As music educators, we have tools we use to create an environment of success in our lessons with our students. Below, are some of the tools that are necessary to succeed as a music educator. 

1. Humor 
Sometimes the only way to reach a student is through lightness and humor. Having techniques in our educational toolbox that allow us to bring humor to our lessons can prove to be invaluable. What was the last joke that you found funny and could share with your students?! 

2. Open mindedness 
Music is a language and all styles have something to contribute, especially if it is a genre with which your student relates. As a full-functioning musician we should be able to assist our students in understanding all music, not just that which we deem “valid.” 

3. Musical mastery 
We obviously need mastery of our subject. Yet inherent to the word mastery is the understanding that there is always more to learn… See number 2! 

4. Technical Proficiency 
Many times, our students need us to demonstrate how to accomplish a technical challenge. I find that the old adage is best here. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Instead of using a verbose explanation to tell our students how to accomplish 
the challenge, just show them. It’s amazing how easily children can emulate what they see and hear! 

5. Techniques for rapport building 
This is probably the most important tool in the educator’s bag. Different students demand different ways of connecting. Some prefer a gentle caring rapport. Others, require a more humorous relationship. And still others need a firm hand. The experienced educator knows how to connect with all types of individuals. (For more information read "Unlimited Power" by Tony Robbins) 

6. Compassion. 
The ability to truly care about our students as people and not just as musicians is both a gift and a skill . The person is always more important than the music. Sometimes our students need to know how much we care before they care how much we know. 

7. Insight 
Insight from both a musical and non-musical standpoint. The more valuable is probably the non-musical. Students are constantly running up against learning style obstacles that have nothing to do with musical challenges. An ineffective 
learning style will prevent a student from accomplishing any musical challenge, regardless of its simplicity. Insight into this process will allow the educator to assist the student past the challenge. 

8. Belief in human potential 
When you think about it, this is really what our field is about, the nurturing of human potential. So what, if our student is not going to win the next Tchaikovsky competition. He still has a right to be the best he can be and it is our job to polish the potential in each of our students until it can be called talent. 

9. Effective communications 
We are, as educators, communicators of ideas. Successful communication demands two sides, an effective communicator and an effective listener. Many times our students don’t actually understand the concept the way we want them too. It is the successful communicator that will recognize this look on a student’s face and explain the concept another way. 

10. Creativity and Flexibility 
One of the greatest assets for a music teacher is the key behind the art of music itself, creativity. Music is a creative art. Why shouldn’t the art of music education be a creative venture as well? Some of my greatest solutions to challenges 
presented by students were those for which I did not have a previous experience-based answer. Allowing my creative mind to find the solution brought a new fresh light to the lesson and to my teaching in general. Sometimes it’s scary to not have the answer immediately. Yet, think of the incredible model you become for your student when you admit to not having the answer, but are willing to create a solution! 

Submitted by Nicholas Ambrosino who can be reached at director@musicsimplymusic.com
Copyright © 1999, Music Simply Music, Inc., all rights reserved. 
No part of this content may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without permission in writing from Nicholas Ambrosino. 

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Top 10 Reasons Adults Start Piano Lessons


1. They hated the lesson they had as a child. 

Yes, you read that correctly! Hope springs eternal, music to adults, is the ever-flowing spring. Of all the activities in which an adult can participate, learning to play the piano is right at the top of the list. They will always believe that they will be able to have fun at the piano, regardless of the previous experiences with ineffective teachers. 

2. Their children are having fun playing. 

Many of my adult students started after their children. They listened to how much fun their son or daughter was having and it sparked a hidden or subdued desire. One of my adult students started lessons only after having written in her journal that she listened to her daughter’s piano lesson with a bitter-sweetness. Sweet for all of the fun her daughter was having, bitter for all of the fun she missed in piano lessons as a child. And then it struck her, why have the bitterness, why not start again and learn to enjoy it! She’s been having fun with music for the past 6 years now! 

3. They want to surprise a spouse. 

Many adults have romantic goals as a result of their piano lessons. They can picture playing a beautiful romantic selection (for many it is Fur Elise) while crooning a spouse who watches endearingly as a fireplace casts an amber glow throughout the room. How fantastic! 

4. They have inherited a piano. 

Often, the inheritance of an instrument is motivation enough to start lessons. The piano calls to the adult each time he passes. He finally decides that this is an awfully large table with white and black keys and learns how to turn it into an instrument that creates beautiful sound! 

5. The children are gone and there is no one left to play it. 

Rather than sell the instrument on which their children have learned, and to make the most use out of what is in their home, many adults will begin to learn to play. Hey, whatever it takes! 

6. Relaxation 

In this hectic world of multitasking and over stimulation, the piano offers an opportunity to do one thing, the opportunity to focus. For most people this is an opportunity to meditate and calm the mind. One of my adult students started lessons because his wife gave him 2 months of lessons as a holiday present. Well, she created a monster! He practices 3-4 hours/day, and best of all, it seems like only minutes to him! 

7. In retirement, financial resources allow them to pursue a life long desire. 

I often hear adults say that as children, their parents were not in a financial position to provide them with lessons. And now, as adults, they have created a financial nest egg to allow them to pursue a deep desire to play. Congratulations! 

8. Many have the desire to simply play holiday songs for their family. 

Adults tell me that it would be a dream come true if they could play one or two songs around the holiday at the family gathering. They envision the family happily singing along, eggnog glasses in hand, smiles on their faces. As a note: this rings so true for me, for my fondest memories about the holidays during my childhood, are centered around the music making that occurred in my parent’s home. 

9. They want to begin to explore their creative side. 

As humans, one of our deepest needs is that to express ourselves. Some people have found ways to express their creativity at work. Others simply use work as a way to earn a living and look for creative outlets in other places. The piano is a perfect outlet, when creativity is permitted in the lesson. At first, adults may be hesitant for fear of making a mistake. But once an atmosphere of support and safety is created, they simply let go and surrender to their childlike inquisitiveness. 

10. To better assist their child in learning the piano. 

Simply put, they want to better know the subject their child is learning. The Suzuki and Yamaha schools even make parental learning mandatory, for exactly this reason. What’s most incredible is the realization by the adult that, while the learning may be fun, it is very challenging and as a result they gain a great respect for the undertaking of their children. 

Submitted by Nicholas Ambrosino who can be reached at director@musicsimplymusic.com
Copyright © 1999, Music Simply Music, Inc., all rights reserved.
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Top 10 Ways to Keep Adults Music Students 

Adult students are a special breed of student in that they don't have their parents pushing them through the inevitable tough moments of being a student. This creates an environment in which failure through quitting can become a common outcome. Below are some ways to create a stronger nurturing environment in which your adult students can grow as musicians. 

1. Stay away from baby songs and children’s method books 
While adults may be technically young, their musical tastes and vocabularies are not. For the most part, they have listened to music for many years. Some may have even taken lessons before. They don’t like books that make them feel like children. Yes, they are beginner learners, but in adults bodies and minds. 

2. Listen to their concerns and frustrations. 
Adults have minds full of past, ineffective learning patterns. For many, these patterns have been indelibly etched in their minds. Some of these patterns include much fear and frustration, emotions that are only obstacles to learning. Listen to their concerns and find ways to work around their frustrations. Usually assisting them in setting reasonable goals helps them incredibly. (For more information regarding reasonable goals, go to “Tips for Students” and “Tips for Parents”) 

3. Allow for flexible scheduling, but demand consistency. 
Unlike children, adults usually work for a living and have many reasons not to practice or attend lessons. These reasons usually become set-ups for failure. (Adults will do amazing things to prove that they are right. “See I told you I wasn’t talented!” is a common phrase. Yet, the actual challenge wasn’t talent, but consistency!) Allow them to have a flexible, yet weekly schedule. Perhaps it will mean charging a higher lesson rate for this flexibility, but in the long run, it will be worth it both for you, as their teacher, as well as for them. 

4. Make music, not explanations. 
All too often, as a teacher and highly knowledgeable musician, we try to explain way too much! A paraphrase of the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” is applicable here. “An experience is worth a thousand explanations.” Show them how to do it and then just have them do it instead of talking about it. Talk about after 2 or 3 months of doing it. 

5. Stop analysis paralysis. 
Beginning adult learners usually believe that if they understand the theory behind something it will be easier to learn. They usually confuse understanding music with making music. Many a music critics understand music, yet cannot make it! Natural learning does not occur this way. Again, it’s experience before explanation. You cannot theorize about that which you have no experience. So request that they put a halt to their questioning so you can make music together! 

6. Make it okay to be a beginner. 
Most adults believe that just because they are adults, they should learn faster. While this may be possible, remind them that while they may be 50 chronological years old, they are infant pianists and to be kind to themselves. Learning is a gentle process, enjoy simply being the student. 

7. Make it more than okay to make lots of mistakes. 
As in number 6, adults believe they shouldn’t make mistakes. I do an activity with my adults to teach them to play through mistakes. I request that while we are playing together (I’ll play one hand while they play the other.), they purposely make mistakes in predetermined measures. Believe it or not, this usually relaxes them and allows them to play without mistakes! But if they make one, it’s okay anyway. 

8. Play with flow, more than correct notes. 
Adults believe that if they get all the correct notes, they are making music. They forget, or do not yet have the concept that music is sound organized over time; the key element being time. The activity describe in number 7 does wonders to teach this; it will need to be done for a long time. So don’t just do it for one or two lessons and then put it aside. Remember, new habits take at least 27 consecutive days to form. Another idea to try, is having them play along with their favorite CD. If the CD is too fast or untuned to the piano, I make accompaniment tapes (simple piano accompaniment with scant pieces of the melody) at a slower tempo for them to practice with during the time between our lessons. 

9. Constantly take stock. 
Adults forget how far they have come. Every couple of months, I take time during our lesson to review where we were several months ago and how much we have achieved. Most of the time, they are very surprise by their accomplishments. It’s time to celebrate! 

10. Encourage them. 
Remember, adults are just as fragile as children, we just tend to hide our fragility better. Treat them with compassion, understanding and large doses of encouragement. Have fun with your adult students! Laugh, listen, learn and make music. Become their friend and advocate for the possibility that they can achieve anything they desire. You will not only gain a lifetime student, you will gain a lifelong friend. 

Copyright © 1999, Music Simply Music, Inc., all rights reserved. 
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Top 10 Favorite, "Never Seem to Die" Pop Songs 
that Piano Students Want to Play


1. The Theme from the Pink Panther 
2. The Theme from Linus and Lucy 
3. The Theme from James Bond 
4. The Theme from Mission Impossible 
5. The Theme from Titanic 
6. The Entertainer 
7. The Lion Sleeps Tonight 
8. Chopsticks 
9. Hear and Soul 
10. The Theme from Star Wars 

Copyright © 1999 Music Simply Music, Inc. All rights reserved 
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Click Here for Top 10 Books for Music Educators 

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Top 10 Reasons Why the Piano is the Greatest Instrument!

1. The sound! 
2. Of the available written music, most is written for the piano. 
3. You can play many notes at the same time. (Try that on a tuba!) 
4. Of the famous musicians, most were pianists. 
5. Of performing musicians, more pianists have performed for U.S. presidents than any other instrumentalists. 
6. Unlike the trombone, you can’t ding it or dent it! (Only plink it or plunk it!) 
7. You never have to take the piano to school for practice. (One is already there!) 
8. Most western composers have used the piano to compose over any other instrument. 
9. Most vocal soloists employ the use of the piano to accompany them. 
10. Every string in the piano places 1000 lbs. of tension on the piano’s structural frame. So, pound for pound, the piano can surely hold its own weight! 

Bonus reason: The piano is the only instrument that has another instrument already inside of it! (the harp) 

Submitted by Jerry Paduano who can be reached at jpaduano@musicsimplymusic.com
Copyright © 1999, Music Simply Music, Inc., all rights reserved. 
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Top 10 Empowering Validations

Have you ever praised a student and had the student refute the compliment? You know the old, “That was good.” And the student replies, “No it wasn't. I made 5 mistakes.” This Top 10 list is dedicated to all the students who find it difficult to accept a compliment! That's why its titled “Top 10 Empowering Validations”. 

The difference between a validation and a compliment is that the validation tells the receiver how the giver feels about the receivers performance. The "formula" for a validation is "When you do _____, I feel ______." If you want more information on feelings and motivation you may want consult the following resources: Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordan or How To Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Try validating your most challenging students (not to say you wouldn't use it with everyone!) and see if you can catch a glimmer of pride in their eyes! 

1. “I like the way you played that song with such speed! I felt like getting up and dancing!” 

2. “When you play your music with all those dynamics, I feel relaxed and calm." (or excited and happy. Choose the appropriate feeling for the piece.) 

3. “I felt so proud of you as you worked through the challenging passages of that section. I like the way you problem solved!” 

4. “I feel so excited to hear you play with both hands together. The music sounds so full to me!” 

5. “Wow, I was so excited to hear how you used tempos changes to express the music!” 

6. “I feel to proud to make music with you! The way you prepared your lesson this week lets me know how much you enjoy making music!” 

7. “I feel very melancholy when I hear you play the second movement of the sonata with such passion.” 

8. “Your use of a active silence at the end of the piece left me on the edge of my seat, I was still hearing the music in my mind!” 

9. “I feel so happy to know that you are proud of you accomplishment!” 

10. “I feel very proud of the effort you gave this week.” 

Submitted by Nicholas Ambrosino who can be reached at director@musicsimplymusic.com
Copyright © 1999, Music Simply Music, Inc., all rights reserved. 
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Top 10 Reasons to Have Students Participate in a Recital

1. It’s an event of recognition. 
Unlike other instrumentalists, piano students do not usually go into school to participate in an ensemble experience (If your public/private school system is an exception, congratulations!). They are left to practice their pieces to a point of excellence and to then begin a new selection. The cycle is never ending and can, at times, be unmotivating. The recital gives the performers and the teacher an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments! 
 
2. It’s fun! 
Presented in a low-key, low-pressure environment, students usually enjoy the opportunity to share their music with others and hear the applause that supports their efforts. 

3. It’s a great reason to really polish a piece! 
Again, as in No. 1, a recital opportunity gives a piano student a reason to go for that fine tuned polish that all teachers love to hear in their students and that students are impressed to hear in their peers. 

4. It instills confidence. 

Performing at a recital in which effort is more important that performance allows a student to learn how to relax in front of a group of strangers. From an early age, we can support the personal growth of our students by allowing them the opportunity to feel “good enough” in front of anybody. What a bonus lesson! 

5. It’s an opportunity to share music with others. 
Music allows for an incredible sharing of emotions. It is a language that speaks beyond the barriers of a person’s native tongue. It allows the performer to transport each member of his/her audience to a place that is private and shared at the same time. What an incredible gift! 

6. Advanced students get to see where they came from, while beginners get to hear where they are going. 
I am an advocate of mixing my recitals with both advanced and beginner students. I believe it provides a more relaxed environment and allows less experienced students to be exposed to new “more advanced” literature, while advanced students get to reminisce about when they were musically younger and played the “easy” pieces. It unites "young and old". 

7. It’s an opportunity for you, the teacher, to sit back and simply enjoy your student’s music. 
It is so easy for us, as music teachers, to get caught up in the weekly routine of assisting our students in identifying and overcoming their challenges, that often, we forget to recall the successes they (and we!) have had. A performance opportunity allows us to sit back, without our “critical mind” and simply enjoy the music. It’s a chance to give ourselves a pat on the back for making an important contribution to the lives of our students. Congratulate yourself! 

8. Recitals can motivate students into a post-recital achievement “frenzy”! 
I see many students, after participating in a recital, become extremely excited about studying their instrument. They may have heard a piece that moved them and that they really want to learn. They may have heard a performance that was so clean that they too, want to sound like that student. They may, on the other side of the scale, have heard a student who may be “nipping at their heals” and thus may want to re-secure their position as the “biggest fish in the pond”. Either way, it’s a win-win for everybody. 

9. Recitals are an opportunity for students and teachers to celebrate. 
Don’t focus on the mistakes, we know and our students know what they were. Instead, celebrate on the incredible amount of courage and self-confidence it takes for a student to get up in front of a room of 50-100 strangers and share his/her music. That, in its own right, is an incredible accomplishment! Celebrate it! It’s good for the heart and soul! 

10. Recitals are a wonderful opportunity to reward effort and not outcome. 
I guess this could sound redundant with No. 9, but I am looking at it a bit differently. Many students measure their success (or for some, they prefer to call it “lack of success") at a recital based upon how well they played their piece in the recital hall compared to how well they played it in the privacy of their own home. To me, these are not equivalent experiences, unless of course, the student has 50-100 strangers watching them practice in the "privacy" of their own home! The mental game that goes on when a student plays for his/her teacher or when a student plays for an amiable, but non-the-less unfamiliar audience is one that cannot be replicated in a private performance condition. The only way a student will learn to handle the clamor of his/her mind during a performance opportunity is to perform… a lot! So, while the student is learning this skill, rewarding the effort will allow a student to, more quickly, gain greater comfort and eventually learn how to control the noise in his/her mind. I always remind myself that I have been entrusted with the well being of my student. This trust requires compassion and gentleness. 

Submitted by Nicholas Ambrosino who can be reached at director@musicsimplymusic.com
Copyright © 1999, Music Simply Music, Inc., all rights reserved. 

No part of this content may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without permission in writing from Nicholas Ambrosino. 

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Top 10 Ways to Motivate a Music Student

1. Learn a song they know. 
I know this sounds obvious, but sometimes the obvious isn't so obvious. The fact is that people like to play songs with which they are familiar. It may not be the "correct" song for the sequence of learning that you have subscribed for the student, and it may not even be a song you like. But in the interest of turning the student onto playing the piano, sometimes we need to abandon our curriculum and our own musical tastes in order to better serve our students! 

2. Play the song for them. 
I can hear the exclamation across the internet wires, "But they won't learn to read!" Maybe not, but if they are not motivated they will quit and then our chances of sharing music with them have just become zero. At least, for a short time, if we play for them they may still continue with their lessons and we will still at least have the opportunity to share with them the gift of music! 

3. Let them hear a professional performance of their instrument. 
Take them to a concert. Bring a video tape to the lesson. Spend a lesson listening to a recording of a professional playing the instrument they are learning. Share with your student your love for the performance! 

4. Create a performance opportunity. 
I prefer to call them "Events of Recognition". The piano student's education can be a lonely one. Unlike other instrumentalists, young pianists usually do not have many ensemble experiences in which to share their music. Eventually, if they become "good enough" they will be able to play with a band, or as the accompanist to a school choir or soloist. But, until then they practice and practice alone, being encouraged to grow each week by their teacher. How straining on their need for recognition! Provide an opportunity for your students to be recognized for their efforts. A yearly recital in which the quality of the performance is not as important as the student's desire to share her music An afternoon performance at a local nursing home (The residents are usually ecstatic about having young people and music "in the house". It's an awesome combination!) Or how about a piano club that meets at a local yogurt shop or cafe once a month? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination! 

5. Listen to them. 
I don't mean musically, I mean as a person, as a young person that is motivated by his emotions. As a person who is trying to figure out what this world is all about. "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." Recognize their feelings. 

6. Give out rewards. 
Not something I prefer to do, but none the less, something that at times does work. My reason for not handing out rewards is two-fold. First, I prefer to motivate intrinsically, to focus on how great it feels to set a goal and then accomplish it. And second, my experience has shown that students then have leverage on me. The "I'll produce when you give me something" syndrome. I want them to focus on themselves as the cause and effect for their experience in their lives, not on the external factors. 

7. Validate them. 
Similar to number 5, let students know how you feel about them and how the music they make allows you to feel. It usually sounds like this, "Wow, Mark, when you play the piece that fast I feel like getting up an dancing. It feels so exciting to me!" (Substitute the appropriate emotions with the piece!). Be cautious to avoid praising. Validation is much more powerful because it shares the emotion; it shares your emotional experience of their performance. Praise simply critiques the performance. ("That was good.") 

8. Have them compose their own song. 
It's o.k. if they can't yet notate it. Do it for them, or better yet, let them create the notation that works for themselves. What a wonderful way to gain insight into how our present notational system was created. Overall, simply allow them the opportunity to express themselves through their instrument. 

9. Participate in a role reversal lesson. 
Let them be you and you become them. It's amazing the insights I have gained by being my student's student. I have learned about their perception of me and my delivery. It's often not how I intended it to be and I then have the opportunity then change it. It's also a fun activity! 

10. Review old songs. 
What a perfect opportunity to brush up on old repertoire! There are times in every student's education that are not times to learn more "new stuff". These are times for digestion and celebration. Times to sit back and simply feel good about our accomplishments. Usually they are times that are not taken often enough. 

Submitted by Nicholas Ambrosino who can be reached at director@musicsimplymusic.com 
Copyright © 1999, Music Simply Music, Inc., all rights reserved. 

 
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