2018 MTNA Monday


The morning presentations on Monday were filled with 20 min. “fast track” presentations and I have to say that these were among my favorite presentations at MTNA! So much so that I had really wished the presenters had the full hour. There was no wasting time for sure.


Charles Blanchard


I met Charles in the exhibit hall where he was exhibiting his book, Postive Piano: History’s Greatest Pianists On How to Succeed Wildly in Life.   (affiliate link) After I talked to him about his book (of which I ended up purchasing), I was intrigued and looked forward to hearing his presentation.

In his book of which I will review more thoroughly on the blog, later on, Charles shares quotes from past composers on the positives of life. Subjects ranging from the purpose of life, health, social skills, character and so much more. This book is not one to be read from cover to cover (though you certainly could), but to be enjoyed throughout, skipping around as desired. I personally have it sitting on my studio coffee table so others can enjoy it as well.

Charles begins by sharing an inspiring quote by Josef Hofman, “The indispensable in pianistic success? Are they not very much the same in all success?”

I tried to make notes of this presentation and I did, but after looking at them I determined to fully embrace what Charles was going for in his presentation one really had to be there or purchase his book. However, I will leave you with a few quotes and thoughts that followed.


First you got to BELIEVE! “Everything must be possible.” Bach. Set goals high because you probably will achieve it because it’s your goal. WORK! It’s part of the “game”.

No one can do your work for you.” Alberto Jonas  The moral component is what drives the ability.

“Produce great men, the rest follows.” Walt Whitman

“Create Memories” Liszt

If you enjoy uplifting and thought-provoking quotes and are interested in learning from composers in the past, I would recommend checking out his book. What I also found fascinating and encouraging is that Charles also presents on this subject to corporations. It just goes to show you, we all could learn from these composers, regardless of musical ability or lack thereof.



Presenter: Carla David Cash

Video Participants: Spencer Meyer, Arielle Levioff, William Westney


Carla videotaped 3 expert pianists (see names above) for the purpose of seeing how they practiced and what we can learn from each of them. This was a fascinating presentation to watch. Each definitely had their own style of practicing but had many things in common. Here is what we learned…

Expert practicers

  • Approach learning with thoughtful intentionality.
  • Very focused, they are actively participating (writing in the score, singing…).
  • Address consequential errors immediately.
  • Anything that happens that doesn’t match up to intention.
  • They will stop, correct and stabilize the desired outcome.
  • Keep intact most components of music performance when working out problems.
  • Address one small section of music.
  • Testing the work. Interval trials.
  • Enact strategic repetition to stabilize skill.
  • Correct behavior
  • Tenacious, persistent – words to describe participants practice strategies



Danielle Dallas


Off the bench activities:

  • Increase cognition (attention span, deeper learning…)
  • Help music to originate in the body
  • Promote learning and interpretation of repertoire

She begins by explaining that our brains are designed to learn short bursts of information followed by time to process the information. A typical attention span is around 10 min.

In the book, SPARK by John J. Ratey, MD, it shares how one high school had students exercise before class started and found that the students were learning better, scores increased. An excerpt from the book, “The real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping is that it makes the brain function at its best…”

Cognition- mental process or faculty which knowledge is required.

  • Learning engages the whole body.
  • Exercise affects our emotional health

In the book, Brain Rules by John Medina we learn that exercise boosts our brain power.

How do we do this in a music lesson? Brain Boosters!

Brain Boosters get us up and doing some aerobic exercise and stretches. Jumping Jacks, Cross lateral movement, etc. It’s important to just get up and move.When we move our blood moves and flows. When we move consistently- our body is getting the oxygen through our whole body.

Musicians have thicker brains. In order to keep it healthy, we need to move. Use movement to increase heart rate, circulation. Stretching- cerebral spinal fluid, alleviate tension

Introduce movement activities to children as a group first if you can. (more comfortable)

Moving Activity Ideas-

  • Silly conducting (walk on stage, conduct, bow)
  • Staccato- hop, skip around
  • March to the beat
  • Jumping jack or hop to next note on the floor (intervals, chords)
  • Teaching names of the notes, learning guide note- get off the bench and do something that starts with that note (F for fly like an airplane)

Our brains were designed for movement. Our ancestors were moving 12 miles a day.

Danielle’s presentation couldn’t have come at a better time because she had us up and moving! Which brings me to the point of her presentation, we need to move to maximize our learning!



Jennifer John

In the last 8 years, ADHD has increased 42% (used to be 11% of kids).

Jenifer shared Dr. Daniel Amen’s, “7 Types of ADHD”

  1. Classic- ­Inattentive, hyperactive, disorganized, and impulsive.
    Normal brain activity at rest, decreased brain activity during concentrated tasks.
  2. Inattentive– Short attention span, distractible, disorganized, procrastinates, may daydream and be introverted. Not hyperactive or impulsive, impacts both boys and girls, but more girls.
  3. Over­Focused- Core symptoms of Classic, trouble shifting attention, going from thought to thought or task to task, getting stuck in negative thought patterns and behavior.
  4. Temporal Lobe ADD­Classic ADD symptoms, as well as learning, memory, and behavioral issues, such as quick anger, aggression, and mild paranoia.
  5. Limbic– Classic and chronic low­level sadness (not depression): moodiness, low energy, frequent feelings of helplessness or excessive guilt, and chronic low self-esteem.
  6. Ring of Fire- ­Sensitivity to noise, light, touch: periods of mean and nasty behavior, unpredictable behavior, speaking fast, anxiety and fearfulness.
  7. Anxious- Classic, being anxious and tense, having physical stress symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, predicting the worst, freezing in anxiety­provoking situations, especially if being judged.

Never diagnose.  Keep a journal.

The presentation was opened to see if the audience had other suggestions. Below are some helpful tips I thought were worth remembering and sharing…

-Don’t present the harder things first. Put it in the center so there is a bell curve so they can regulate themselves better.

-What has helped her (with ADHD), is for the teacher to be patient and allow the “off time”.

-Allow stemming time. Helps with focus.

-Rotating interval timer (every 2-5 min.) for practice sessions to re-focus.

Question- How do you approach “stuttering”  when playing? Answer- allow some fidget, stemming etc.




Kathy Rabago


Kathy is the creator of the Piano Theory Program that I reviewed here. (A perfect flipped learning theory resource)

Technology is the beginning of the flipped classroom approach (FB, YouTube, digital invoicing, scheduling, etc.)

Kathy’s Personal Case study: Technology and Home Instruction

Julian (her son)- using google classroom since 5th grade. By middle school, there are no textbooks – all flipped classroom. Similar to Khan Academy format- Julian, watches his teacher explain the math problems. Every day he comes home and logs on and watches his math homework. (Kids who don’t have a computer at home stay before or after school and use the school computers). They do the work at school.  The teacher helps if the student needs help, but they watch the video at home.

Kathy’s lightbulb moment- the teacher wasn’t lecturing she was interacting because they already learned what they needed to at home. Kathy no longer had to help him with homework, his teacher did that at school. Piano parents probably feel the same way (not able to help when they had no clue how to) How are your students doing their homework assignments? (Google classroom is free) If other educators are using the flipped approach, why aren’t we using the flipped approach?

Common complaints of overworked piano teachers-

  • Not enough time to get through everything
  • Handwriting assignments every week
  • Re-teach the same thing over and over- burnout
  • Students not practicing well on their own
  • Students forgetting what you taught them

Technology is here to help (not take over)


  • School- lecture at school, homework at home
  • Piano-Instruction during piano time- practice at home
  • MTNA- listen to a lecture, explore at home


  • School- learn at home, guided activity with teacher
  • Piano- Instruction at home (or lab time) implementing what they learned in lesson.
  • MTNA- watch Kathy’s lecture and go in depth and create the resources

What part of your lesson can I flip?

  • Theory
  • Technique
  • Scales/Fingering
  • Introduce a piece
  • Chords
  • Pedal Technique


How has flipped learning helped?

  • Less Stress- don’t have to repeat myself so much
  • Confidence- knowing they are learning what they should be learning
  • Time- gained back time to spend on other things
  • Discussions- Brings an entire new level of understanding.

Performance Videos-

YouTube- performance by great artists, your own videos to demonstrate, student videos- upload a video performance they did at home- once a week track progress, Studio class- video examples to highlight a certain technique; learn about a certain time period.

Ipad apps– lab time or at home.

Google Classroom– Student interaction and discussion at home in an online platform- engage students in question-driven discussions. (This is like what my son does in his college classes, though they use the schools web program they have)

  • Practice Challenge in google classroom
  • Comment on each other performance videos
  • Topic of the month (baroque, classical…) Each student logged in and contributed a slide through google slide.
  • Helps students engaged and challenged throughout the week.
  • At the end of the week, the parent gets a summary from Google (you can set it up) of what was completed.

Tools for creating a flipped classroom

  • Google forms
  • Google Slides
  • Google Doc
  • Videos
  • Pictures
  • Google form from other students
  • Collaboration with other comments
  • Polls
  • Short Answer with class comments
  • Lockout Starters
  • Quizlet- super simple/free- you can imbed into google classroom.
  • Kahoot (I’ve blogged about Kahoot here)
  • GoFormative.com (similar to Kahoot)
  • Ipad apps-
  • Piano Maestro
  • Tenuto
  • Note Rush
  • Notion
  • And more…

Apps you can create your own content…

  • Heads up
  • Quizlet
  • Video camera
  • Book Creator app

Other flipped lesson ideas and resources-

  • Off the bench time
  • Listen and or watch performances
  • Whiteboard music theory
  • Piano Program
  • Video lesson



Susan P. Atkins, NCTM; Elizabeth Schabinger

I have to say that this was probably one of the best presentations on this subject that I have attended. Susan and Elizabeth shared that these tips can help students with autism, ADHD and behavior problems. My son has high-functioning autism. While he is now an adult, I can attest to many of the things they shared in their presentation, rang true with my son as he was growing up.

ABA– Applied behavior analysis- learning behavior theory

Connecting with your student-

  • Reinforcement
  • Find out what really motivates them
    • Ask your student
    • Ask your students parents
  • Be fun

Creating a routine

  • You need to lead the lesson
  • Including structured student choice
  • Accessing rewards

Susan and Elizabeth recommend doing at least a 45 min. lesson. They explain that you will need 15 min. longer than what you normally do with others.

Parent check-in- Even if parents don’t stay for the lesson, they need to come in and let you know how the students day went that day. Are there any factors that may affect his mood?

Structured lesson example-

  • Short, fun activity to do together- before the meat of the lesson. (Starting this way will also depend on the student) Keep activity short- 1-2 min. max. Do it together.
  • Reward check-in- what is the reward going to be at the end of the lesson if its good.
  • Scales/Technique
  • Song Assignments
  • Theory book, Sometimes an activity to reinforce the concept
  • Rewards

Getting the student to focus-

  • Demonstrate what you want them to do- Demonstrate exactly what you want from them (play in correct octave, etc. they are literal.)
  • Break it down- Smaller parts
  • Switch it up- change activity then come back when ready. Be flexible. Try to prevent a meltdown.
  • Student Choice- not too many (2 choices…)
  • Use rewards- praise, iPad Games, Rhythm instruments, floor piano, improv, timer- great to use for open activities that can go on forever and when they go to the bathroom, guided access)
  • Use teaching aids- methods books (clean, not overwhelming with pics), goal posts (flags stuck on the music between phrases), first/then- first we are going to play the C Scale 2 times, give praise,  then we are going play with the iPad for 2 min., token board- for students that are more high functioning, so many tokens Velcro’d on a paper- students would earn tokens and put it on their token board- then they received the reward when they get all their tokens, visual schedule (putting what you want to accomplish at the lesson), behavior contract- longer term goals- good for teens

Motivating students to practice-

  • Give a detailed assignment
  • Practice Log
  • Rewards- short-term and long-term
  • Changing students practice goals

Training parents-

  • New student interview
  • Get to know the student, their motivations, assess level, taking instructions, go over policies, etc…
  • Set up separate parent meeting without the student present
  • Formulate a plan
  • Lesson structure
  • Reward system (do they have something you can piggy back on?).
  • Practicing at home
  • Parent present for lessons?
  • Can take a video of the lesson to review at home (if they want)

What if parents don’t tell you that their child has a diagnosis? This is a common frustration of teachers but Susan and Elizabeth explained, if they don’t tell you, that’s okay… It’s all about the child. Just approach the behavior to the parents. Do not try to diagnose. Try the techniques to see what will help.

Read Pedagogy Saturday Part 1

Read Pedagogy Saturday Part 2

Read MTNA Sunday



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