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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Just practice!

We're halfway through the school year!  Now is the time students seem to get a little tired of practicing.  Time for a little motivation!  Students really don't respond to nagging and lectures, so I try to keep things positive and fun.

I recently surprised students with this 'citation' on their cases.  I put one on every instrument that was left in my room after school.  The next day students received their little reminder..and I gave extra credit for any students who wanted to actually pay up with practicing.

It's fun to show fun videos to gently remind students to's a few of my favorites:

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Need a presenter for your orchestra sessions?

I love presenting!  It is so fun to meet other teachers and share ideas.  Over the last few years I have presented 4 sessions at the NAfME National Convention and traveled to several other states to present at MEA conventions or other string teacher in-service meetings.

One recent attendee wrote:  "I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a workshop that I enjoyed more than yours!!  I have brought back many of your fun ideas and used them this week."   Another spoke to me about always feeling depressed after attending conferences, but my sessions left her feeling empowered and inspired.  

Feel free to contact me if you are looking for sessions which explore new ideas that engage and inspire teachers and students.


No More Beginners Blues:  Tips for making your orchestra class irresistibly fun while still focusing on good pedagogy.

Talent Doesn't Grow on Trees, It Grows in Orchestra:  How to inspire students to practice without using practice cards.

Orchestra Gives you Wings - How to empower students to learn more quickly and effectively.

Top 10 Tips for Beginners:  10 things that will help get your beginners off to a great start.

Rehearsal Strategies for Middle School Orchestra - Tips for lesson planning, procedures, and engaging rehearsals

Winning at Recruiting - how to create a BULGING program.

The Business of a Successful program:  Advertising, Advocacy, Promotion, Retention, and more.

All-Encompassing Concerts:  How to create a concert experience never to be forgotten by involving the audience in music making.

Contact me for availability:

Teaching Key Signatures

My beginners have been just learning about key signatures and how to tell when to play F sharps or F naturals or C sharps and C naturals.  This is a concept that is so important for beginners to understand.  I know it will save me tons of time if my beginners can learn to read key signatures now. 

Before this point we had been practicing 'high 2' and 'low 2' finger-patterns, but had not connected the finger-patterns to key signatures.  I use this very basic diagram to practice a 'D' scale:  Play D scale with 'happy happy' (F#, C#), 'sad sad' (F and C naturals), or 'happy sad' (F sharp, C natural).  This helps students establish the basic finger-patterns on those strings. 

The next step is to make sure students understand when to play the different finger-patterns.  For some reason students sometimes struggle making the connection between key signatures and finger-patterns changes.  After teaching what a key signature means, I change my diagram to help students understand:

Once students understand how to interpret a key signature, we talk about the other strings.  (Why violins have always been playing low 2 on the E string, etc.)

Next it is important to check for understanding to make sure all students can accurately read and interpret a key signature.  I just created these worksheets to use this year...