2018 MTNA Sunday



William Westney

One of my favorite movies from the 80’s was Karate Kid. Yes, I confess I had a little crush on “Daniel.” I was really looking forward to this presentation and anxious to see where it would go. If you are not familiar with the movie, it’s definitely worth watching. William Westney showed clips of the movie to give context to what wisdom we can learn from Daniel’s teacher, Mr. Miyagi.

In one of the first scenes between Mr. Miyagi and “Daniel, son” as he liked to call him, Daniel is curious to what Mr. Mayagi is doing with the bonsai trees. He invites Daniel to try creating his own bonsai tree.

“Picture”, it “comes inside you.”

Nothing exists in the whole world except the phrase you are going to play. Picture and think about it. When it’s the right moment, play the phrase.

Characters of Mr. Miyagi..

  • Patient
  • Established a trusting relationship from the beginning.
  • Kind tone of voice
  • Kindliness
  •  Patient
  • Generous

Art is available to us early in the very beginning.

Karate here” points to head. “Karate here” points to heart.

I think this is a very special teaching moment for students to really take the time to “feel” and “listen” to what they are playing. The emotional aspect of music.

Mr. Mayigi made a pact with Daniel, I teach, you learn. No questions.

This lesson was of trust. It was important for Daniel to put his trust in his teacher, that his teacher knew what he was doing even if it didn’t seem like it at the time. Daniel would become very frustrated with what Mr. Miyagi would have him do, so trust was very important.

One of the biggest “a-ha” moments  for me was that Mr. Miyagi uses Daniel’s name a lot. Think of how important it is when we hear our name. We tend to perk up and listen more. I plan on being more aware of this and use my students names during lessons more often.

Paint scene-

Wrist up, down, long strokes (don’t look at me, look at fence)

Every scene breathe in/out

Large motions, body likes to do big, circular things

Natural movements using the whole body, breathe in and out.

Wax on wax off-

Drop finger weight and then let it be free.

Make a commitment to every note (whether its loud or soft).

We are too obsessed saying dynamic contrast without the students really knowing how to play softly.

Practice on the fall board, practice breathing in and out.

Other teaching moments-

Breakthrough-the learning doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and then all of the sudden there is a leap. Set up conditions for that leap.

From the outside world, there doesn’t seem possible or progressing, but from the inside of the body, there is progress. Your body will tell you when it’s ready for the next step/leap.

Trust the process that is not externally legible. This also goes back to trusting the teacher as well.

If practice is like a performance every week then it’s like ripping up a plant before it’s ready to flourish.



The biggest thing I was excited about the Faber Showcase was the technique and artistry resource online. It includes Intro to Technique and Artistry, 30 Technique secret videos, 45 artistry magic videos in each level plus hanon-faber book and scale and chords book Randall Faber. And it’s free to sign-up at Faberpiano.com. Fred Karpoff has joined the Faber’s in collaboration. Coming later is videos including skill library and repertoire library.

Also available if you teach Piano Adventures is teacher guides, which include self-enrichment articles, pedagogy ideas, videos, etc. There will be a guide for every piece in that level.



Jim Brickman

Songwriting is successful when you have a strong idea- a singular focus concept. Who, what, when, where why…?

An example from his popular piece, Angel Eyes

  • Theme, call/response
  • Theme
  • B Section
  • Back to the theme, call/response
  • Theme
  • B Section
  • Theme (slight variation)
  • Coda

Lessons from his teacher- Music is organizational of sounds and silences. The way we speak….

Simplicity is the key. A simple thought- silence is important, thought through and focused.

The purpose of songwriting is to create a connection with others. You are sharing part of yourself with others.

There is a difference between sharing and writing at people. Music is something to share (not to view), something to connect with.

There are rules to help with foundation and technique (head) but there are no rules for sharing your heart.


  • Simplicity
  • Emotional Connection
  • Having a strong idea

In songwriting, if you start at the beginning there is nowhere to go. Instead, it’s important to have a concept first.

From the song, Simple Things-

  • Idea- simple things in life we overlook
  • Start to think of what the simple things are. (Goes through naming simple things)
  • Then start thinking about how to get there.
  • What happens to remember the simple things (this is what leads to the simple things list, the core of the song)

Write the way people talk instead of a poem. ie: Valentine. For kids relate the idea via a story.

Take a song that exists already (pop, Christmas, etc.). Write lyrics or your own idea from that song but in a different rhythm. Try a bunch of different rhythms. (ie: Joy to the World)

It’s not so much the notes and how they are arranged, it’s the rhythm.

If they understand the idea of it, they have a better ability to create.

Imitation helps to learn the kraft. Just don’t cross the line…

It’s not as important to write it down but to continue on with the next step. Don’t hold back a student if the notation is causing them to give up.

Mistake #1- playing with no breaks, silences… (ie: a friend who talks non-stop)

Mistake #2- no chorus (the idea is verse)

Another way to begin is to take two notes and play in different rhythms.

Outline with triads in LH

Take advice but do what feels is right.

Jim Brickman is holding a SongWriting BootCamp this July in Cleveland, OH. If you are interested, visit his website JimBrickman.com.




Most of what I would be sharing in this presentation is available in the very detailed handout via the MTNA website here.

Read Pedagogy Saturday Part 1

Read Pedagogy Saturday Part 2

Continue on to MTNA Monday


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