October 2017 Reflection

Autumn is in full swing here in the UK, and the usually green city of Milton Keynes is now presenting itself in astonishing hues of yellow, orange, red and brown.

I’ve just returned from a walk in the woods (the wonderful Linford Wood, shown in my photo above, is just five minutes from my door on foot) with our puppy, Bella Bardóg. The best word I can think of to describe the vivid beauty here today is … invigorating. I’m not much of a photographer, but hopefully the picture captures it.

We sometimes think about Autumn as a season of decay, of decline, in which the weather turns drab, and the nights draw in. And for those of a melancholic disposition, the words seasonal affective disorder loom, an ominous spectre.

But I prefer to see the Autumn as a time of dynamic change and possibility, the old giving way to the new.

Any gardener will tell you that plants sometimes need a good pruning, and the spectacular feast of colour in Linford Wood today serves as a vivid reminder of nature’s inbuilt commitment to change, vitality and new beginnings.

What better time for us – as pianists, as teachers, and simply as people – to reflect on those changes that may be needed in our own lives?

  • Which “leaves” are turning yellow, and will soon need to drop off?
  • And in which areas of our activity do we enjoy evergreen successes?

Here are some questions which I am asking myself at present – you might want to consider them too, and will no doubt also think of others which are more applicable to your current journey…

Continue reading October 2017 Reflection

Making Music Accessible

… especially to those with dyslexia and other learning difficulties

Guest post by Karen Marshall

I have been teaching students with specific learning difficulties (especially dyslexia) for twenty years now.  It’s been a real journey which has been packed with lots of learning, creativity, patience, joy, challenge but most of all reward.

Reward in being able to share in music making with students who can find music learning has challenges.

It is important to remember that no two students are the same – and especially no two dyslexic or students with special needs. The solutions may need adapting for individual students, or strategies specially selected for them. And also remember that some students with learning difficulties don’t have any problems with music learning at all. One size does not fit all!

The topic is vast. In this post I identify four of the main Guiding Principles for working with students with special needs.

These principles work well across all my teaching – good teaching is, I believe, good teaching! And I am sure many teachers reading this post will do much of what I describe anyway.

Continue reading Making Music Accessible

Musical Afterthoughts

That, Not That, And Other Musical Afterthoughts…

Guest post by Roberta Wolff

Teaching offers ongoing opportunities to reflect and learn. For me this is one of its great attractions.

We learn how to present what we teach in easy-to-recall, bitesize chunks. We learn about our students and ourselves, and we learn about learning. As well as enjoying watching my students develop their skills, teaching has made me a better musician.

The key to maintaining our learning lies in reflection.

In this day and age, with “information overload” and countless media vying for our attention, it is easy to forget that we often learn more by looking inward.

Instead, we are distracted by a near-constant stream of external input, and as a result it is becoming easier to overlook the importance of reflection in the learning processes of ourselves and our students.

This results in the development of reactive tendencies rather than considered responses. It also inhibits progress and self-knowledge.

Continue reading Musical Afterthoughts

Emotions – playing their part.

Guest post by Simon Reich

Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brian Wilson & Johnny Cash all had things in common. Not only were they gifted musicians and composers, but they managed a depressive side to their lives.

Continue reading Emotions – playing their part.