27. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Photos, Teaching

I’m back to work this morning. Yep, already. I have three students today, one of whom is new. A week off would have been nice, but with no Nutcracker income I felt the need to take students who wanted lessons during the holidays. At least I hope they want these lessons. I do wonder if it was actually the parents! But in any case, I really do love to teach, and I look forward to seeing “my” kids, beginning in less than an hour. (I also hope the ringing in my ears stops soon: we went to The MeshugaNutcracker last night, and while it was great fun, they were miked a bit too loud and my ears are punishing me this morning. I should have thought to bring earplugs!)

Here … have some flowers! I continue to marvel at the beauty around me. I doubt that will ever change.







16. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Teaching

Sometimes I put an “A.A.” marking on a student’s assignment. If I see no articulation on printed work it’s fun to let them do their own. I have found that some will do a consistent pattern throughout, while others do something different every measure. I tell them they get to choose any articulations they want, as long as it’s not all slurred or all tongued.

One interesting thing that I’ve noticed since I’ve started this practice is a gender difference. I’ve had several girls articulate every measure differently. Not all girls do it that way, but I’ve never had any boys do that. I am fine either way, but I do tell those that go into full crazy different articulation mode that they then have to also play the darn thing! Some can. Some can’t. (As you can see, I also have them give me a metronome marking.) I’m guessing from how I described things you can identify the gender of this student … yes?


Why do I do these things? Several reasons:

  • I want them to get to be creative.
  • I want to see if they are really even opening their lesson books.
  • I want them actively involved in their music making.
  • I want them to learn how to properly put in articulations (we did discuss how the slurs on this could be misread.
  • I want them to get into the habit of using pencil on music!

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I see no marks at all on the music and I do wonder if the book has been opened at all.

I did inform the student today that the work was going to be be featured on my blog. No, I won’t name the student: I don’t feel comfortable naming students without parents’ permission. (Of course if that young oboist and parents read this they can let me know if they are okay with my putting the name here. After all, the student could be listed as this work’s arranger!)

15. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Job Opening, Teaching

Here’s a job for someone out there. Maybe.

The Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University invites applications for a tenure-track nine-month faculty position to begin in August 2015.

POSITION: Outstanding performer and teacher of oboe. The successful candidate will be expected to remain active as a performer and participate fully in the responsibilities of faculty membership, including recruitment, student advisement, curriculum development, and service activities. Additional teaching activities will be assigned by the dean, and will include courses in areas such as music theory, aural skills, chamber music, or music appreciation.

RANK AND SALARY: Lecturer, Instructor, or Assistant Professor. Salary commensurate with experience and educational preparation.

REQUIREMENTS: A distinguished record as a performer and studio teacher of oboe required. Experience in English horn and reed-making instruction, chamber music coaching, and a secondary teaching specialty in music is also required. Evidence of successful teaching and recruiting at the college level preferred. Experience teaching music theory and aural skills preferred. Doctorate preferred and must be completed by September 15, 2015 for appointment to tenure track; other applicants will be considered for appointment at the rank of Instructor or Lecturer.
– See more at: chroniclevitae.com/jobs/0000863375-01#sthash.l8U15tic.dpuf

So you are expected to have enough time to maintain your professional performance career along with everything else they are asking?

I’m glad I’m nearing the end of my career rather than starting out. Maybe I’m crazy, but this sounds absolutely ridiculous to me, so I’m clearly not the right person for the job.

11. June 2014 · 4 comments · Categories: Teaching

I have my students learn scales, or at least I try. (I have one adult who refuses … if you read this you know who you are! One of these days I’m going to be stubborn and insist you learn them. Really.) I have them play major, minor, whole tone, and chromatic. All but the chromatic are played slurred only. The chromatic is done four ways: slurred duplets and triplets and tongued duplets and triplets. (I have reasons for this which I may write about later.)

I learned something interesting a while back.

There are little chromatic exercises in some of the lesson books, and many students who were quite adept at playing their chromatics from low C up to their highest note and back down couldn’t read the printed scale exercises!

I learned two things actually.

First, students are not always able to easily track the notes but try very hard to and manage to make more mistakes because of that attempt. When I say, “Look at the starting and ending notes and don’t worry about the rest and see what you can do,” most can play the scales. But not always. The “not always” is due to the second thing: many students can only play their chromatic starting from low C because that’s how I have them play the scales each week!

Well who knew? Certainly not I.

So now I have them play them from any random note I choose. For many, this is at first a challenge. As I explain to them, it’s like asking a child who has just learned the alphabet to recite it beginning with the letter K (or any other random letter that isn’t A). They have to first either out loud or silently say the start of the alphabet. Our brains are interesting beasts!

I continue to learn as I teach my students. I love that about my job!

02. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Photos, Teaching

Sometimes students give me a going away gift when they graduate, but not very often. They disappear, in fact, without saying goodbye much of the time. I don’t believe it’s about rudeness. Some are just not terribly savvy to etiquette. Most, though, are just too busy! They say they’ll be back, but then they never manage to return. (Sad for them, this means they miss out on a graduation gift from me, though! Ah well … guess they don’t know what they missed, right?) I’m always sorry when they disappear that way, as I’ve mentioned before.

I was so surprised, though, that I received a most lovely gift from one senior a short time ago. I didn’t realize she knew I was so into flowers, but it turned out she did. Maybe she even reads my blog(s). (The majority of my students don’t.)

If you read this, Megan Seo, I would like to publicly thank you for this WONDERFUL gift of an azalea plant. I think of you every time I walk by it. :-)


22. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Ramble, Teaching

I’ve had two students cancel lessons due to illness this week. The first emailed me today, after having a lesson yesterday, canceling next week’s lesson due to a contagious disease… one that should be avoidable with immunizations. Hmm. I’m glad I didn’t touch any reeds!

Update: The student has been immunized. He’s one of the unfortunate 2% who still caught the illness. So very rotten for him and I hope he improves quickly!

My income depends upon healthy students who attend lessons diligently. I charge by the lesson, which is different than many instructors, because I know I have to cancel lessons on occasion and I don’t have the time to schedule make up lessons much. Of course no student means no pay. Believe it or not, my income from teaching is higher than income from opera or symphony. I don’t like to lose the teaching income, but such is life. Kids get sick, and if the illness is communicable I’d prefer they stay home. Some things, though, might be unavoidable if students have been immunized. I’ve never thought to ask if they have done all the recommended (required?) immunizations: I’ve always made the assumption that they are up to date on them all since they are in school. Now I’m wondering, though, if I should be asking this. I’m uncomfortable doing so, but I’m also uncomfortable knowing they might bless me with some illness that shouldn’t even be around these days.

When I started teaching at UCSC I decided to make sure I had the hepatitis vaccinations. It just seemed a wise thing to do. Our children were required to have them to attend college. Surely a teacher should too, then. Or at least it seemed like it to me. My doctor had no problem scheduling me for them. I get my flu vaccine every year. I prefer staying healthy, and I also don’t want to share any illnesses with students or colleagues. I like to share … but illnesses aren’t something for sharing. Right?

Do any teachers read this blog? If so, do you ever think to ask about immunizations? Do you worry about that at all?

In other news: being in the middle of the opera run means my brain gets a little fried. In order to help with that I try to get out on good long walks, or go somewhere with my camera. Today I went to Filoli gardens. What a lovely way to spend the morning! I don’t usually share flower photos here, but they are over on the pattyo. Today, though, I’ll share one. Just because.


15. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Teaching

This is a post about one of my teaching methods. I realized I never post about these, and some might find them interesting … or silly … or crazy … you decide! I’ll try to post these now and then. If I remember. As I tell my students, I suffer from “OldBoeBrain” … I’m old, I play oboe, and my brain is a little off because of that so I don’t always remember things well. Or maybe my brain is more than a little off. You can decide about that, too. Just don’t tell me what you decide, please.

But enough of my silly ramble …

When I run across an exercise that is completely tongued and isn’t terribly difficult for a student I sometimes write the letters AA above it. This means “Add Articulation”. I tell the student that I don’t care what they write in, but something has to be added. Some choose to do the same articulation for each measure or pattern, while others give me the most incredibly complex and changing articulations. The first time one did that I asked, “Why so many changes?” She explained that doing it all the same was too boring. My response to that was, “Well, I’m okay with that, but now you have to DO it!” She had difficulty, and learned that whatever she wrote in I would require her to play. She continues to write her complex patterns and I really get a kick out of them. (The next time she comes in I’ll have to photograph one. What you see below is from another student. He, too, didn’t want to write the same thing for each pattern.)

I think this allows a bit of student creativity, causes them to think a bit about what makes some articulations harder than others, and it also makes sure they look at the assignment at least once. Granted, that “once” might be in the car on the way to the lesson (?!). It also gives me a bit of insight into the student. There are the everything must be alike students and there are those like the one who said that everything the same is boring! It’s fun to predict what a student who gets this assignment for the first time will do. And no, I don’t always guess correctly.


09. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Ramble, Teaching

I ask that question. I ask it a lot. One of the most distressing answers is actually, “Yes.” I sometimes tell a student, “Now I’m quite concerned!” If a student really has practiced, there should be some familiarity with the piece, don’t you think? Some lean in close, squinting, as if they can’t quite see the music and getting closer to the notes will help them play correctly. Some act as if some notes weren’t there when they “practiced.” Hmm. Somehow I’m guessing practice didn’t really happen.

Some reply, “I think so!” Now that is quite a puzzlement. I suggest to students that it’s a yes or no question, and I would think the student would know.

Other responses? “Maybe.” (Yep, really!) “Perhaps.” (The answer I gave to my kids when they wanted something and I really meant “Doubtful, but I’ll at least consider it for a minute or two!”)

And then there’s one I recently heard: “Once.” As I explained, playing something through once is not practice! The student who gave me that answer (and if you are reading this you know who you are!) is a very talented sight reader who could be an incredible player with practice!

Sometimes I get an honest student who admits no practice took place. I much prefer that, even though I’d certainly rather have students practice. Still, when they say they haven’t practiced at least I know what I’m up against!

The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use.
Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

14. June 2011 · Comments Off · Categories: Spam'nScam™, Teaching

No, my students aren’t deficient! But it’s the time of year where the majority of high school seniors drop private lessons (I only had two this past year, so that’s not too tough to take, although I always hate saying goodbye to them, even while knowing they are off on quite the adventure!) and a large number of students go out of the country (they are much more well-traveled than I … gee, is that fair?! [insert pattywhine™ here]). Some, I am guessing, will not return to my studio, but only time will tell, as they usually don’t like to break that news to me before they leave for the summer. Of the 18 I had during the majority of the year I have six on the schedule for this week. Wouldn’t you know this is also the end of symphony and opera seasons, and Dan is paid only for ten months of the year? Welcome to a musician’s life! But I’ve known about this for eons, so I’m not surprised, and not even tremendously worried; we always seem to make it work! Still, if any of you out there know of some oboe students looking for teachers, do feel free to give them my information, as I’d like to add a few more students to the studio. I especially love getting beginners. I think I have a special talent with them … and I love getting students who haven’t yet played their first note. It’s so much fun to get them started!

At the same time, I will not respond to emails that I receive that look like this (Spam’nScam™ alert!):

I am Ann Sandra,I came across your advert that you are a Private Lesson music teacher, i will like my children to join your private class.Kindly let me know more information about you and your past teaching experience.
I have 2 children Mabel & Scott of 12 & 15 years old,just want to know if they can join your private class. I will want you to let me know if you can teach teens beginner,because as a beginner they are also just interested in learning the basics.Also i will want to know your lesson charges per hour, because i want 16 hours for them to study this course with you,consist one hour lesson a day, twice in a week for 8 weeks. Please let me hear from you so that well make an arrangement on when to begin lessons.

Yep, the scams keep on coming! Sigh.

I recently was taken to a video of an adult musician’s performance. The musician was quite pleased and wanted to share with others so the URL to the video was posted in a very public place. Trouble is, the performance was not good at all; it was out of tune, the tone was quite unpleasant, and there really wasn’t any musicality to be heard. I do not mean to sound harsh, but it really was cringe worthy. It made me sad.

It’s possible that some who go to that URL might then post the YouTube video elsewhere to mock the person. I won’t be surprised to see it on Facebook at some point. (Heck, it could go viral for all the wrong reasons). I won’t post it here or anywhere else. I won’t give you the URL if you beg and plead. I won’t tell you how I found out about it. I won’t even tell you what the person’s gender is or what the person’s instrument is. (I will tell you it wasn’t oboe so none of you out there worry about whether I’m talking about you, though.) The person who posted it isn’t a reader of this blog. Of that I am sure.

All I could think was, “What is the teacher of this student doing? Is the teacher honest about the performance? Will the teacher be honest with the student, assuming that teacher will see and hear the video?”

It’s a tricky issue, being a music teacher. We are to encourage while we instruct and point out problems, to be sure, but what does one do if a student believes himself or herself to have a future in music when there really appears — especially when the student is older — to have no potential. Do we continue to encourage (and even lie?) and take the money and run? Do we “owe” the student honesty and gently say, “You don’t appear to have what it takes to do this professionally and you might consider something else,” saving the student from years of expense? Do we not lie, but not tell the truth either, and just hope the student eventually can hear what he or she is doing? (Obviously this student didn’t hear any problems with a performance that was out of tune, rhythmically questionable and all around uncomfortable.)

Thoughts, readers? I really do wonder what our responsibility is to, especially, these older students who think they have a career ahead of them. It’s one thing to do music for enjoyment, and I’m ALL for that, but this person really did think a career was a strong possibility. I just felt bad and a bit embarrassed for the individual. But maybe I’m over reacting. I do that a lot.