Monthly Email from Desert Valley Music Teachers Association
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January 29th - 9:30 a.m.
General Meeting
My First Piano

February 8
Cavalcade Rehearsals Begin

February 26th - 9:30 a.m.
General Meeting
My First Piano
Awards in Excellence Reg Due

February 27
Cavalcade of Rhythm
Mesa High School

April 1st - 9:30 a.m.
March General Meeting
My First Piano
Achievement Day Reg. Due

April 16 - 9 a.m. - 2p.m.
Awards in Excellence Auditions

April 23 1:30 & 3:00 p.m.
Awards in Excellence Recitals

April 29
April Brunch
LDS Church

May 14th
Achievement Day

May 16 - 
Awards Plus 
Click here to Join DVMTA
Click the button above to renew your DVMTA membership.  Not a member? Not a problem! DVMTA's annual membership fee is only $35! Renewing teachers pay a $5 late fee after July 31. 

Do you know someone who would be a fabulous member of the DVMTA community? Invite them to attend our August Brunch! Use the links below to share this newsletter via Facebook, twitter or email.

Teacher Spotlight

Recognizing the power of technology, we want to help YOU build your studio by featuring various DVMTA teachers on our blog! The spotlight would include a short biography and information about your unique studio.  Does your studio have it's own website, blog, Facebook page or YouTube channel?  We would love to include links as well!  This is a fabulous way for your studio to get additional publicity.  Please email a short bio and any links you would like to share to Nicci Lovell.

Music Teacher Blogs:

Local Resources:

Know of any other good resources?  Please email us!  We would love to include their websites in our newsletters!

DVMTA teachers:

Does your studio have a website, blog or Facebook page?  We would love to include a link here!  It is always fun to see what other teachers are doing.  Please email us a link and we will add it right away! 
Official DVMTA Website
Facebook - connect with other DVMTA teachers
Pinterest - a great resource for ideas
Instagram - photos of DVMTA events

January 2016

We invite you to attend the DVMTA General Meeting Friday, January 29th at 9:30 a.m. at My First Piano.  

Dr. Barbara Spoelman will be directing our Master Class this month! 

Wow!  I can hardly believe that it is 2016.  I trust that you all had a nice break for the Holidays and are excited for the new year.  We have a lot of great meetings planned for the coming semester, we also have a nice surprise to let you in on at the January meeting.

January and February is a great time of year to try some new ideas in your studio.  By now, your students have become comfortable and confident in your studio, so why not keep them on their toes and try a few new things?

Keeping students motivated is the trickiest thing about teaching piano.  Motivation is also the most important thing for students to have, for success.

Motivation ideas are so easy to find these days, your only problem is deciding on what you want to do.   I have included a few extra articles in this month's newsletter with some ideas (see Teaching Tips below).  If those ideas don't interest you, type into the google search bar:  "piano studio motivation".  I typed it in, and there were hundreds of links with millions of ideas, and all of the ones that I saw were free!

As a smart teacher once said; "My job is to get you to do what you don’t want to do, so that you’ll be able to do what you’ve always wanted to do!” ~Vince Lombardi, Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers 1959-67

Beth Vanderwerker

Cavalcade of Rhythm

Cavalcade participants come on down!! It is time for Music with the Stars!! 

Cavalcade rehearsals begin on Monday, February 8th at My First Piano. And we are excited to get this game show on the road. Make sure YOU are volunteering where you are assigned and that your students are ready and where they need to be to earn extra points at this event, Music with the stars!  

To get the most points at this game show do the following: 

Students memorizing their music (Groups A-H) should be completely memorized by the first rehearsal but should still bring their music. Remember to check the director’s notes for any additions or changes! (For a chance at triple points!) Please make sure students have their names on their music. We will be rehearsing downstairs in the big room (same as last year) at My First Piano. Students will check in with attendance in the lobby. Parents may wait in the lobby or the recital hall. We appreciate all who have responded to our emails about checking over registration and the volunteer list. You earned double points for our Music with the Stars game show! Win win!! Please contact a member of the Cavalcade committee ASAP if you did not receive these emails. Please be patient as we work out any kinks at rehearsals. 

The Saturday morning rehearsal and the performances will be held at Mesa High School on February 27. The schedule is on the documents section of our website if you need to know times now. Students in Groups A-H will play in only one of the shows; Groups I-N will play in both. Please make sure parents are aware of this. Tickets and DVDs will be sold all 3 weeks of rehearsals and on Saturday. Forms for the business ads/congratulations grams will be on our website if you’d like to give them to your students’ parents now (Email is a great way to send messages. Sometimes papers get lost when sent with the students). We will have copies at our January general meeting and at the first rehearsal. Turning in a business ad or congrats grams does equal quadruple points!! The price is right!

Thanks to all teachers who are helping to pull this together. We know you are all very busy, but we need everyone’s support. Cavalcade requires a lot of volunteers, and we appreciate your help! 

Remember Music with the Stars is the game where everyone wins and the points don’t matter!! We can’t wait to see you all there!

Awards in Excellence

Awards in Excellence piano competition is right around the corner! Auditions will be held on April 16 at AZ Piano Co. Winners Recitals are April 23. Registration forms are due Feb. 26. Fill out your Teacher Qualification Form now to be sure you qualify. Check that the two pieces selected for each student are from the same level. The current Repertoire Lists are on the website. We’re excited to hear the pieces your students have been preparing!

Achievement Day
Happy New Year! Often at this time we review the previous year and see where we might make some changes. It’s always a good idea to be evaluating our studios and looking for ways to improve. Achievement Day can be a great help. Choose one of your students, then take a look through the requirements for his/her level. Could they pass off that technique? Do they know the theory and the ear training? Could they sight-read or tell about composers they know or any of the other options? If you find there’s an area in which they are lacking, make a goal to tackle that area. Is it just that student, or do all of your students need a brush-up on that topic? Especially for newer teachers, understanding what a student should know at any given point can be very helpful.
That said, it can also be very daunting. Our time with students is so short. Trying to do technique and theory, while memorizing Cavalcade pieces and polishing Awards in Excellence pieces and practicing some sight-reading and reviewing composers? There’s just no way to fit it all in! How do we balance it all? Each teacher will handle that differently, but for me, technique is part of every lesson. If they’re playing a piece in D major, then before they play the piece for me, they review the scale and any other required exercises for their level. This helps solidify the key in their ears before they play. I will also pick one scale that is completely unrelated to anything they practice each week just to keep them all fresh.
As for getting the rest in, some teachers have a focus each week for the studio. They’ll work everyone on theory one week, then try a few sight-reading exercises the next week, then do some ear training practice the following week. Having everyone work the same concept, at whatever level they’re on, might be easier for some teachers. The point is to find something that works for you as a teacher.
Past newsletter articles have dealt with resources for theory, composers and technique. Sight-reading practice can be as simple as pulling out books a level or two below where the student currently plays and picking a short segment. There are plenty of sight-reading books out there if you prefer, some to be used by the students at home, doing a line or two each day, and others more for the teacher to use in the studio. You can structure it however you like. I prefer them doing it with me so I can check them J We talk about the process: looking for key signatures, figuring out where their hands go, looking all the way through the exercise for intervals, accidentals, tricky rhythms, articulation, etc. Once they’ve looked it over thoroughly, we work on just plowing through without stopping, keeping that steady tempo. It may take a few times, especially with the younger students, but they can build their sight-reading confidence easily.

It takes some planning ahead, but by using Achievement Day, we can take satisfaction in knowing our students are improving and learning in many ways. We become better teachers and more able to help our students. If you’ve ignored Achievement Day as too much work, I encourage you to take another look. It fits right in with what we’re already doing as teachers. If you have any questions, please contact Lorri McHardy at 480-399-0084 or

If you have students working towards the Devoted Performer or Senior Scholar Award and plan to complete their final qualifying events this Spring,  please send your letter of intent to Tamara Pew 22297 E. Escalante Rd., Queen Creek, AZ 85142 or on or before December 1, 2015.  We realize that some students may not end up qualifying this year, but this gives us a heads up on our numbers and helps us plan accordingly.  If you have any questions, please feel free to call Tamara Pew at 602-809-0597.

Studio Tips from Claire Westlake: 
Over the past few years I have learned some teaching tips that have helped motivate my students to practice and keep them interested in piano.  A few years ago I implemented a year-long incentive theme with a grand prize given at the end for those who complete the program.  So far I have used Piano Karate, Reach for the Stars and Piano Olympics.  I choose 8 areas of focus that I want my students to work on.  That can vary each year depending on the needs of your studio. Areas of focus may include Ear-Training, Scales, Rhythm, Flashcards, Improvising, Practicing, Performance, Theory and so on.   It seems to keep the motivation high and makes sure I include the things that they need to learn in order to be a well-rounded musician. I have used Jennifer Foxx’s Piano Karate as a guide and changed it to meet the needs of my students.  You will find it at:  It’s free!

I also create something that goes along with the theme to help encourage more practicing.  Last year I had my students “Build a Galaxy” with outer space stickers that I purchased on Amazon.  Every week they practiced 5 days, completed their theory and listened to 30 minutes of classical music they earned a space sticker they could place on a special chart.

This year it’s “Go for the Gold” to coincide with Piano Olympics. I also post who has earned what achievement on my “Wall of Fame” in my studio.

 I also make sure I give a great prize at the end of the year. My students like custom designed t-shirts.  

This year with Piano Olympics they will be earning a gold medal! Use a little social media to post special achievements and you have a happy studio! It has been so much fun to create these special themes for my students and to watch them progress.  They learn to love piano while their parents feel like their children are in good hands.

Motivation Building Ideas from Beth Vanderwerker

Make Composer of the week or month something fun!  

This is something that you can do at the beginning of the lesson instead of small talk (after putting in about 20 minutes of prep time).

Choose a composer whose birthday it happens to be that week (or month).  Display a few photos (you can either find some on the internet or use your own) and some facts (if you need ideas on the composer, is amazing).  Young students enjoy photos and facts that took place when the composer was young if you can find some.  

If students arrive early (and they have already completed their theory), have them check it out and be ready to ask YOU a question about that composer.  Then they are learning something without even knowing.  You can also ask them a question in return.   In a couple of weeks, when your students can answer your questions, its time to change the composer display.  If their parents are late picking them up, have them check the composer facts then and ask their parent the question.  

Here is a variation of the composer display:  Have each of your students make a page about the composer and bring it to the next lesson.  They can choose to make a page with a composer fact, or draw / print a picture of the composer.  You can add each student's page to your bulletin board when they arrive.  Make sure to display each one proudly in your studio.  Then begin your lesson as listed on the paragraph above.  You might be surprised how interested students are when they see that their page is on display, and curious to see what the others have done.

Choosing Music by Beth Vanderwerker:
Choosing Music 

The ideas for choosing music are more for a student who is ready for Level three and Higher by the standards in our Awards in Excellence Repertoire List.

The more you involve the students in choosing their music, the more eager they are to learn it.  I was always surprised to see a boy choose a Waltz by Chopin after he listened to a few different styles.  I would have never chosen that for him.  He become really invested in his piece.  I thought that it was a bit hard for him, but he convinced me that he would work hard - and he did!  He actually won "Honorable Mention" in Awards in Excellence that year with his performance!  Below are a few easy ways to help your students choose their music:

The first method is the easiest for you but it's only for students who actually do what you ask each week:

1. For each student list ten songs that you think are the appropriate level (composer, title and any catalog number).  To save time, print out their level of the Awards in Excellence list and circle the ones you think they should hear.  Have them go to YouTube during the week and rank the songs in order of most favorite to least favorite.  

2. Did you know that you can make playlists on YouTube or Spotify for free?  This could be used as a fun way for students to hear some musical choices that they have for our events. It doesn't take long to make your playlists if you use the search bar.  You can title each playlist with the level its listed in our Awards in Excellence Repertoire.  This can be something that students can do in your home if their ride is late picking them up.  You can use an old computer or an old smart phone that works with wifi and an inexpensive set of headphones.   

3. If you already have CD's with some of the classical piano books that contain some of the Awards in Excellence music, then make a sticker for the CD jacket listing the A in E Level and which tracks are in that level.  If there are multiple levels on the same CD than make more stickers.  Have your students arrive 15 minutes early or stay 15 minutes late.  Let them hear the different tracks and rank their favorites (use headphones).  They can do this while you are teaching your other students.   I don't recommend loaning your CD's to students.

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