2018 MusicEdConnect.com Highlights Day 2


I am attending the MusicEdConnect.com conference online and wanted to share some highlights of the sessions I will be able to attend live each day. Day 1 can be found here.

Remember, all presentations you may have missed will be available afterward when the replay is available. PLUS there are a bunch of flipped recorded sessions already available to watch. 


Sadly, I had to leave shortly after the first session and missed Teaching Lessons Online: Tools, Challenges and Opportunities by Joao Casarotti and Alejandro Cremashchi and 10 Things I Wish I Had Known BEFORE I Became an Independent Music Teacher, Plus a Few I’m Glad I Knew! by Elizabeth Guiterrez but am looking forward to catching the replays!

Rosemarie Penner is also sharing highlights from MusicEdConnect.com so you can catch her notes over on her blog, The Unfinished Lesson.

Vampires, Witches, and Bats, Oh My! A Practical Guide to Coaching Early Composition by Charlene Jarvis

Charlene begins by sharing what composition teaches. She brought up a couple that isn’t typically mentioned:

  • Time Management- can’t throw something good together at the last minute.
  • Appreciation for Copyright- after they have gone through the process of composing themselves they have a greater appreciation.

Simple Steps:

  • Choose a theme
  • Start early
  • Get parents on board
  • Assing manageable tasks
  • Select final notation options

Composition tasks can be accomplished typically 5-7 minutes during a lesson. Make sure parents understand the process and are on board.

Weekly strategies make tasks more manageable.

  • Lyrics– can write or base it off of a poem, etc. If they choose to do poetry, it’s best to do rhyming poetry as it helps to establish meter and melody. If a student is wary of writing a poem, ask questions to help lead them to ideas. (ie: what do you like about Halloween?) Get ideas from family members. Students don’t HAVE to have lyrics.
  • Rhythm– discover the rhythm of the poem.  Have them speak the rhythm and see what the natural rhythm is. Then have them clap it out.
  • Melody- Add melody to the rhythm. Students can start out by handwriting the letter names. To help them along, ask leading questions (ie: happy sounds, sad sounds), offer some suggestions to get them started. Talk about repetition, sequence, off suggestions and see what they do with it. Ask, would you like a suggestion?
  • Harmony– Students may naturally start the harmony off with the same notes as the melody. Harmony can evolve with teacher encouragement and tips.
  • Notation- handwritten, software, web-based programs, apps
  • Expression– add dynamics, articulations, etc.
  • Practice– students think they can skip this part, nope.
  • Publish– set firm due date, organize book (no particular order), artwork (encourages students to do it, she doesn’t print the pieces in color), table of contents, cover (can do a contest or just find some fun designed paper), printing, cost for final product (part of registration fee)
  • Perform

Do you ever just plain overrule a student’s composition ideas? If they just won’t work?

Charlene shared that she has students who will try to get away with notating their composition online but then can’t play it on the piano. They MUST be able to play it on the piano. So if this happens, she has them start completely over.

At the recital have someone (or each student) read their poem before they play the piece.

Students have a due date so she can compile in book form and have them ready for the Halloween recital. (Usually several weeks before recital)

Dogfooding – An Essential Staple in Your Studio Diet by Charlene Jarvis

The term dogfooding comes from Silicone Valley. It means when a company creates something they need to “eat their own dogfood”. Beta test it before marketing it.

Do we do what we ask our students to do?

Dog Fooding Helps to:

  • Set realistic expectations-

What are the expectations? Consider… Purpose- end result, age (will differ), time commitment (might vary), feasibility

Go through the activity as a student would.

Dogfooding gives teacher cred for teacher expectations.

  • Write better instructions

Test your directions by following them EXACTLY how you wrote them. Or have students read back what they are supposed to do.

  • Troubleshoot complex activities

Help solves problems.Will help you know how long an activity will take. For example, some theory pages might take much longer but you won’t know this unless you do the page first. If it takes you 10 min. it will most likely take them much longer.

  • Get your timing right

When you have activities that require a lot of prep ahead of time (cutting, etc…) sometimes it’s better for the teacher to do a lot of it in advance so the activity doesn’t take as long for the prep.

  • Create prototypes

If you are assigning a finished project in piano you should know all the steps that need to happen for it to work.

Make sure certain pieces will be appropriate to give students.

  • Revisit the mind of a beginner

Sometimes we ask our students to physically do something they cannot do because we forgot we couldn’t do that at one point.

  • Tweak your design

For example, policies can be pretty wordy. Are parents looking at it as overwhelming to read? Step back and tweak.

  • Present with an appeal

Is your presentation nice? Is there thought and care? How does it come across? How is your studio space? Walk through with fresh eyes?


Improving Your Teaching Effectiveness by Sara Ernst

Teachers strongest tool is to give feedback.


  • Students will…
  • Conditions, the student already…
  • Criterion, defining the goal

Sequential pattern of objectives and feedback allows students to know what to do when they go home.

Effective Presentation-

  • What can the student already do?
  • Next step
  • How should it sound or be played?

Effective Feedback

  • Timely (following a performance)
  • Corrective (ie: RH needs to drop with arm)
  • Criterion-referenced (ie: LH loose and staying close to keys)
  • Student Self-Evaluation (ask student questions, “what do you think?”)

3 Step Sequential Pattern-

  • Teacher presentation with a specific objective (knows what they are after)
  • Student response/performance (teacher is watching/listening)
  • Teacher Feedback (assessment, approval, disapproval, guides the next step)

Be sure time is concise and direct but leave time for exploration.

Research shows that feedback delivery doesn’t really matter. What matters most is that the student achieves the desired results. This is what helps them progress and enjoy their learning.

Good negative feedback can bring the best out of students and get them to really try. (ie: I heard about 50% of the staccatos. Can you do 100%?)

Least effective is when the teacher presentation of direction only. Best to come up with objectives to frame the lesson or performance.

Clarify your purpose in the lesson.

What happens when there is no change when they come to their lesson after practicing? Ask…

  • Am I giving objectives?
  • Feedback?
  • Am I honest about what can be better?
  • Are my standards too low?

Skipping feedback leads to the lowest achievement in students. It’s the crucial step in clarifying the goal to the objective.

Common errors-

  • Presentation- using only directions, too lengthy, too many elements.
  • Performance- too little time in student playing and allow them to try it several times or the teacher not focused on listening and watching student. (busy writing or thinking of next step)
  • Feedback- lots of unspecific feedback (good, great…), not reflective of performance, feedback for a different task than was presented (initial task was phrasing, but the feedback was on pedaling), skip the feedback and present new task.


This concludes Day 2 presentations.

Just a side note: My husband is running his first 5K in the morning, so I’m not sure I will be back in time to attend the Saturday sessions live as I will be out supporting him. Just a reminder, Rosemarie Penner is also sharing highlights from MusicEdConnect.com so you can catch her notes over on her blog, The Unfinished Lesson.

If you enjoyed these highlights you may want to consider registering for the replay pass (if not already registered) as these were just a very small sample of what was shared. You can register at MusicEdConnect.com.

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  1. rosemariepenner

    Thanks for the share, Jennifer! It has been interesting reading your perspective on the sessions as well … while we have some of the same takeaways, I like the differences as well.
    Good luck to your husband tomorrow on his 5K run! Hope you both have a great time!


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