Sunday, August 25, 2019

Save the Date: Dream Big Collaborative Piano Conference on February 20-22, 2020 at the University of Manitoba

I'm absolutely thrilled to be a part of the upcoming Dream Big Collaborative Piano Conference at the University of Manitoba on February 20-22! Hosted by Drs. Laura Loewen and Judy Kehler Siebert, this conference will be hosting a variety of master classes, recitals, panel discussions, as well as a curated exhibition at the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg. Here's the official press release:
We are really excited about this upcoming conference, and hope that you can join us!

Dream Big: Music Out of Bounds is a Collaborative Piano Conference at the University of Manitoba, Feb. 20-22, 2020. This three-day conference is dedicated to celebrating the contributions, creativity, and innovation that collaborative pianists bring to music performance and pedagogy.

Led by Dr. Jean Barr (Eastman School of Music) and Margo Garrett (Juilliard School), two of the most influential performer-teachers of Collaborative Piano in North America, the conference will feature keynote addresses, presentations, panel discussions, public masterclasses, and student and professional performances.

The repertoire to be performed and studied at the conference will be music that has been a response to times of war, or personal tragedy. Included in the conference will be a guided tour of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights specifically designed for our participants. We will visit the Museum exhibits which highlight the themes and events that were the impetus for the music we are studying.

Gathering together in Winnipeg, the centre of the country and the home of this museum, gives us an opportunity to examine our place and influence in the musical world and in the larger society.

Eight performing groups will be chosen to participate in the masterclasses, and the conference will culminate in a final performance by these groups. Calls for applications will go out in September 2019.

We also look forward to using this conference to launch a Canadian-based Society of Collaborative Pianists; a community that will support creativity and commissions new works. The conference will provide time to dream about ways we can work together to create this society. Dr. Christopher Foley, the founder of the Collaborative Piano Blog, will facilitate these conversations.

We have worked hard to make sure that the conference is as affordable as it is inspirational.

Conference fees are: 
$300.00/ participant 
$150.00/ student participant
We believe that community building is essential and that time over meals and receptions is a big part of creating community. To support this, the conference fee will include the majority of meals during your time in Winnipeg.

We hope that you will be able to join us! More detailed information will be coming throughout Fall 2019.

Laura and Judy

Laura Loewen, DMA
Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano/Vocal Coach
Desautels Faculty of Music, University of Manitoba

Judy Kehler Siebert, DMA
Professor of Piano, Collaborative Piano, Chamber Music
Desautels Faculty of Music, University of Manitoba

(Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Dissertation on The Art of Accompanying Classical Ballet Technique Classes

A huge resource for those interested in accompanying classical ballet: Yee Sik Wong's University of Iowa 2011 dissertation on the art of accompanying classical ballet technique classes. There's a huge amount of info here on pre-existing literature, schools of ballet, pedagogical structure of classes, how music fits in, and techniques that ballet pianists are going to need.

Dr. Wong is now on staff at the Kansas City Ballet.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Happening This Weekend

Several must-see events across Canada over the next few days...

On September 13-16, Tapestry Opera presents Tapestry Briefs: Tasting Shorts, an evening of 10 world premiere mini-operas paired with food and drink. Featured singers are Teiya Kasahara, Stephanie Tritchew, Keith Klassen, and Peter McGillivray led by musical director Jennifer Tung. Featured composers are August Murphy-King, Ian Cusson, Rene Orth, and Benton Roark with texts by librettists Daniel Solon, Lila Palmer, Kanika Ambrose, and Colleen Murphy.

Facebook event listing


Happening across Canada on Saturday on Saturday, September 15 is Mysterious Barricades, a series of free and live-streamed concerts in recognition of suicide awareness, prevention, and hope. Concerts will be happening in St. John's, Halifax, Sackville, Montreal, Ottawa, Montreal, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Kelowna, and Vancouver. If you can't make it in person, watch the live stream

Here's Beth Turnbull talking about her husband's suicide and the mission of Mysterious Barricades:

Facebook page with all event listings

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Worst Advice

Wise words from emilyplayscello: if you're in a position of power and giving advice to younger musicians, you can tell them about the challenges of a life in music without straight-up discouraging them from entering it. Emily's video:

Another point that Emily makes after 5:39 is that it's the younger people in the profession who will bring genuine change to the field that will make it a more supportive environment. Let's enable them to succeed.

The worst advice anyone gave me? Here are two examples:

Well-known composer:
You pay too much attention to quality of tone at the piano to ever have a career in contemporary music.
Senior administrator:
You don't strike me as the kind of person who would be interested in graduate school.
Of course we get shitty advice along the way. The important thing is to be able to recognize it and move on. But when you've spent lots of time in the profession and know the lay of the land, offer advice that people will admire you for one day.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Your Teaching Website Needs Online Registration

Here are two different scenarios playing out with parents trying to find a new teacher for their child's music lessons.

A parent is looking for a new piano teacher and all they have to go by is a phone number so they'll enter it on a list on their phone and then call once they have time to call because no one has time for phone calls any more. Then when their prospective piano teacher gets the call, they're busy so they'll have to check messages later, write the message down and get back to the prospective parent once they have phone time but prospective parent isn't answering calls so they'll have to leave a message and the next round of phone tag begins. Two days later they connect.

Let's try that again with online registration.

The parent goes to the teacher's website, clicks on the "Register for Lessons" button, enters relevant info on their child and the piano teacher gets back within a few hours and the initial consultation is set up for the next day. Done.

This is why your website needs that very basic feature - it will quite literally put you ahead of other teachers in your area in the queue for getting more students. Being more easily findable and contactable will result your studio getting more students, many of them traveling larger distances.

Both My Music Staff and Music Teacher's Helper have these features on all their packages, and are worth the investment. Best wishes for the new academic year!

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Sparks & Wiry Cries Launch Their 7th Season

Sparks & Wiry Cries is an organization that promotes the advancement and preservation of art song. Led by Martha Guth and Erika Switzer, they are entering their seventh season and this year's events feature songSLAM events in Ann Arbor, Minneapolis, Toronto, New York, Slovenia, Chicago, and Denver. Martha Guth encapsulates their mission perfectly with this quote:
Sparks & Wiry Cries was born out of a passionate desire to keep the genre flourishing, to provide opportunities for those in its community and to support the growth of new art song, because the stories we tell, and the connections we make are critical to our humanity. 
What is songSLAM? Each event is:
a unique competition for emerging composer/performer teams to premiere new art song, in partnership with Source Song Festival. In the poetry-slam tradition, audience members vote on their favorite performances, and $900 in cash prizes are awarded.
Sparks & Wiry Cries also publish an art song magazine and podcast. If you feel moved to support their activities, you can also donate.

Best of luck to Martha and Erika as they embark on Season 7. Here's a video of Martha talking about Sparks & Wiry Cries' many activities:

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

4 Choices for Building Studio Websites

In my last article I looked at why you need a website for your teaching studio. Building a website can be daunting, and in today's article I've chosen four services that make the process relatively simple to learn once you take the initiative to start.

The picture above is a slide from a talk I gave at The Royal Conservatory this summer, and it outlines four top choices you may wish to consider when building teaching websites. The prices below are accurate to early September 2018 and don't reflect future increases, decreases, or promotions.

But in reality the price doesn't matter. Once you've got a viable online presence and attract even one student for half-hour lessons for only one semester, each one of these services would have more than paid for a yearly investment.

1. My Music Staff

I use My Music Staff for my teaching website, and I run my studio using its tools. In addition to the website features, you can create a database of students, schedule them on a calendar, and tie those lessons to invoicing features, all visible on student and parent dashboards. You can also accept credit card payments, keep a repertoire database, manage downloads, expenses, mileage, publish a blog, and generate studio reports.

My Music Staff is web-based, so you're engaging with the site in a browser. However, it's a very fast and responsive site, and renders perfectly on any kind of device you're using. The MMS team have a strong Agile software development philosophy, so they iterate the service weekly with new features (their latest new feature as of late August was video streaming, among others). The price is another huge selling point: $12.95 for unlimited students and storage both in the US and Canada.

2. Music Teacher's Helper

I discovered Music Teacher's Helper in 2007 at the Toronto MTNA conference, and this company was the pioneer in the field of integrated studio websites. MTH has most of the same features as MMS although they are app-based, so the development schedule is not as speedy as that of MMS. Where MTH excel is in the large community of teachers writing for their blog and their extensive setup guides that you can buy in order to get your studio set up to compete online. Pricing depends on the size of your studio - when paid annually, the three tiers are US$11.66/month (up to 20 students), US$24.16/month (40 students), and US$40.83/month (unlimited students).

Both MMS and MTH can provide websites, although of the somewhat rudimentary kind. If you want a website that looks genuinely fabulous and has a much wider array of content and features, you might wish to consider the next two options. Be aware that you can use both MMS and MTH on the back-end of the next two options - with a small widget, students can easily log in from your third-party studio site to see their student dashboard.

3. Squarespace

If you don't know anything about building websites but still want something that looks fabulous, Squarespace is one of the best out-of-the-box solutions, with a more sophisticated depth of content that you can offer, including online stores and marketing tools. Take a look at the template selection - there are some beautiful designs here. Pricing as of writing is US$12/month for a personal site and US$18/month at the business tier.

4. WordPress

31% of the internet runs on WordPress. Although the learning curve might be a bit higher than with other services, you'll have access to themes, plugins, and Google Apps to help you get your site started. If you want to go with, pricing options are free (with ads and limited options), personal ($60/year CDN), premium ($120/year CDN), and business ($396/year CDN). Or you can self-host your website and use WordPress's open-source tools.

A small side-note about WordPress - its lead developer is none other than Helen Hou-Sandì, a graduate of Eastman's collaborative piano program. You might remember that a while back Helen redesigned this site - I've kept the same basic design since then.