10 Things You Should Do Before Your Child Begins Piano Lessons

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If you are interested in piano lessons for your child, please give the Music Academy of WNC a call at 828-693-3726 or click HERE to set up your FREE Consultation.

This is a quick checklist of things to do, buy, learn and decide before your child has their very first piano lesson.

Working your way through this checklist will speed up your child’s learning curve, possibly by months (maybe more!), and once you’ve covered every item below you will be a superbly equipped parent entering into the role of nurturing the growth of a new little (or not so little) pianist.

1. Buy a piano. This may or may not seem like a no-brainer to you. In case it’s not, let me explain. Your child will not make progress without a piano at home with which they can practice between lessons. So until you have a piano don’t bother organising to take piano lessons. Unless your goal is to pay for really expensive babysitting.

Ideally you will buy a good quality acoustic piano, but there might be reasons why you would prefer a digital piano (usually issues related to living in an apartment or a very small house). You want an acoustic piano because it does cool stuff that digital pianos can’t do – things like capturing harmonics when you silently depress the keys and then play other keys – and because the ‘touch’ your child will develop when practicing on an acoustic piano will be a better touch than when they practice on a digital piano.

But if a digital piano is the best option for you you’ll discover that a digital piano offers some wonderful extras that acoustic pianos don’t deliver (things like recording your performance and a variety of sound options – how many extras, and how wonderful they are, will depend on the quality of the digital piano you buy). The thing is you need weighted keys, touch sensitivity, a fixed pedal, a music stand that is not flimsy, and a sound that really does match the sound of a piano (as compared to electric keyboard).

2. Put the piano in a part of the house that isn’t a. lonely and/or b. where the only TV is. Two of the biggest reasons children don’t end up practicing is because they’re either lonely in the glummest/most distant room of the house or because everyone else wants to watch the television and the piano is in the same room. Having the piano hidden away communicates that the piano is not something normal or useful; having the piano and tv competing for acoustic space is just asking for conflict in your family.

3. If you have an acoustic piano, keep it tuned! This is more of an adminstrative burden than it is a major expense (you need to find a piano tuner, book them up, and then be at the house while they tune the piano), but if your piano is out of tune your child(ren) will find playing the piano far less pleasant, and you won’t enjoy hearing the piano played all that much either.

4. Have the piano in your house for months – even years – before your child begins lessons.  This is about developing a sense of the everyday about the instrument (the piano is a part of normal life) as well as allowing the child to explore the instrument quite thoroughly prior to lessons beginning. To which end….

5. Encourage your child to play around with the piano prior to beginning lessons. You can’t break a piano by playing it, and your child will develop a sense of familiarity with the layout of the keys (black notes in groups of 2 and 3 placed between white notes) and the way the keys make sounds (high sounds towards the right, low sounds towards the left) as well as different effects the piano can make (softer sounds when you press more gently, sustained sounds when you depress the pedal, etc.). This saves time in the first weeks of lessons and, more importantly, means that your child will have a confidence when being asked to try ‘new’ things on the piano in these first few weeks and months.

6. Purchase a chair/piano stool/piano bench that is height adjustable.  Sitting at the right height is a huge part of what makes playing the piano comfortable and effortless, and sitting at the wrong height can prevent the pianist from creating beautiful sounds. Don’t make do with cushions – organise a permanently available means for your child to sit with maximum ease at the piano.

7. Notice what your child discovers at the piano, and (when the time is right) talk about their discoveries with them. Does your child play the same thing (or variations of the same thing) every time they get near the piano? Or do they experiment with one kind of sound for a few days and then move on? Do they try to pick out tunes, or are they more interested in piano role-playing? Do they play across the full length of the keyboard, or restrict themselves to one area?

Noticing the way your child experiments is an essential foundation to being able to talk about what they are doing. And talking about what your child does is an essential part of validating and consolidating the discoveries they are making.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure of the exact musical term, talk about the kinds of feelings the sounds reflect, what the sounds remind you of, and ask your child to talk about their intentions, ideas and reflections. Some pianist gestures are gentle, others are cheeky, while yet others can be very sad indeed. Starting out your child’s pianistic journey by talking about emotion, attitude and texture (smooth/spiky, for instance) puts your child at an enormous advantage in communicating with others about their playing.

8. Make sure your child knows the difference between their right and left sides. This is a bigger issue than simply knowing the right hand from the left; having your child be aware that they can create an action on one side of their body and then mirror that action on the other  develops physical-spatial awareness that will be immensely beneficial when learning new skills at the keyboard. Which is to say: having a child practice jumping to the left or jumping to the right will help them be better pianists. Anything that asks a child to do things with their body in terms of left and right will lay the foundation for physical fluency at the keyboard.

9. Make sure your child knows their alphabet. From A to G. And maybe back again. This won’t be covered in the first lesson (normally), but if your child understands that the musical alphabet goes A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B, etc., they’ll save at least half a lesson. And if your child can think through those letters backwards you’ve probably saved two more whole lessons over the course of the first year.

10. Show your child a treble and bass clef. And explain that the treble is for high notes, the bass for low notes. If you have no idea what a treble clef is then google it. This is just a symbol, but the more familiar your child is with what these symbols look like these easier it will be for a teacher to introduce new ideas quickly during the first year or so of lessons. The treble clef in particular is an oft-used symbol to represent music – your child may well have already seen this symbol and just never quite understood what it meant (it just means the notes on it in the top half of the piano). Being confident distinguishing these two symbols could save half a lesson or so at least three times in the course of the first 12-18 months of lessons.

Original article posted HERE by Elissa Milne.

Congratulations To Music Academy Student Daphne Bickley – July 23, 2016

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Congratulations to Music Academy viola student, Daphne Bickley, for winning the “Miriam Cannon Hayes Scholarship” at the 2016 Cannon Music Camp held at Appalachian State University this summer.  The award is given to one outstanding student each year and is chosen by the Cannon Music Camp faculty. Daphne receives a full-scholarship (plus meal plan) to attend Cannon Music Camp in 2017.  Daphne is the viola student of Jan Daugherty.  Congratulations Daphne!!!  We are VERY proud of you!

Kevin Lampson Featured In Hendersonville Times-News

Teacher Creates His Own Innovative Courses

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By Beth De Bona

Kevin Lampson’s passion for music and history is motivating him to create original courses for students at Lake Lure Classical Academy.

Relying on flexibility for curriculum that the public charter school offers, Lampson is innovating courses, like the history of jazz, that are unlike anything else at schools in the state.

“Where arts education fails students is that they don’t tell the why, when or who,” said Lampson, who is in his second year of teaching at Lake Lure Classical Academy. “I try to fill in the gaps that students don’t get in other subjects.”

With original courses like The North Carolina African American Experience, and in a class instantly popular with students on the history of Rock n’ Roll, Lampson is creating many “aha” moments in students with the mostly high school students he teaches.

Lampson, 34, acknowledges that he’s really teaching sociology, but especially to give context for music appreciation, to give young musicians the cultural background to impart the full picture of the styles they’re taught to play.

“First and foremost you have to give relevancy to a student, and if you don’t do that, students aren’t going to care as much,” he said, adding the example that without context as to why Billie Holliday sang the way she did, it’s hard to fully appreciate the music.

That’s important, Lampson believes, if students continue to play music beyond school — to learn cultural context as well as the ability to improvise proficiently, which happens to be another class he’s planning to teach, in the next academic year: music improvisation.

“Students will learn more about any instrument they’re playing if they can improvise,” said Lampson, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Jazz and Studio Music from Morehead State University.

“His enthusiasm and passion translates into everything he does,” said Thomas Keever, executive director of LLCA. “He’s a very bright young man; we’re proud to have him here.”

Curriculum director Jessica Boland agreed, adding that Lampson’s courses provide LLCA’s students with “exposure to unique topics.”

Lampson believes the well-rounded music course offerings he’s providing are a factor in retaining students — parents are liking what they see, and students are taking note, too.

“The reason I really like Mr. Lampson is that he’s gone into actual music theory,” said William Witherspoon, an 11th-grade Hendersonville resident who has taken Lampson’s guitar classes and his Music I class. “Sometime it does get a little complicated, but then he’ll explain it. I’d definitely take another class next semester.”

Lampson started teaching middle and high school band and guitar classes at the public charter school, though he began planning original courses in the summer, just in time for the school’s move to its permanent facility on Island Creek Road.

“It’s something that I haven’t seen anywhere else in education,” said Lampson, who added that he’s had nothing but support from administration and the school board for the courses he’s teaching. “It’s totally different, and it’s really important for me for people from the area to know what is happening here.”

LLCA offers education for students in grades K-12, and many are from Henderson, Buncombe and Rutherford counties, according to Lampson.

He’s pretty sure no other high school in the state offers a course like his North Carolina Music, which covers the historical context as well as the music of the Scots-Irish settlers of the state’s highlands, the history and music of the Cherokee people, North Carolina folk and bluegrass artists, and even the music of the contemporary Asheville music scene.

Tenth-grader Micah Moore, who lives in Flat Rock, decided to take Lampson’s Rock n’ Roll history class after a friend recommended it. Moore, who said he prefers hip-hop music, is appreciating rock music the more he learns from Lampson.

“It’s a lot more than I expected to learn,” said Moore of the class, which is specific enough to zero in on a single day of the 1967 Woodstock Music Festival during one day’s lecture. Whole individual weeks of the 17-week course are dedicated to Woodstock, the Southern rock scene and female icons of the 1970s, to give a few examples.

Informing all Lampson teaches are the tenets of a classical education, with a framework provided for everything students learn; for LLCA’s high school students, the school strives to impart a classical-style education. “The whole point is to get well-rounded thinkers,” Lampson said.

He believes classes like “The North Carolina African American Experience” fill in the gaps in students’ education and provide context for the post-Civil War experience  of African-Americans, which in turn gives students a better understanding of current events like the protests in Ferguson, Mo.

To illustrate, Lampson poses the question: How can you learn about the music of the 1960s without learning about the history and culture of the 1960s?

To learn the roots of jazz music, a foundation of learning about the slave trade into the Caribbean, the cultural influence from France to New Orleans and the history of the Harlem Renaissance are all part and parcel of a full understanding.

“You have to put yourself in the perspective of the person who saw it,” he said. “I’m bringing students back to this stuff and they love it.”

To learn more about LLCA, call 828-625-9292 or visit llca.teamcfa.school.

New Expansion Plans Announced For 2016 – 2017 In Hendersonville Times-News – May 22, 2016

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Michael Ridenour, director of the Music Academy of WNC, teaches Savannah Barnwell, 10, on Friday afternoon. Patrick Sullivan/Times-News

Published: Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 4:30 a.m.

The Music Academy of Western North Carolina has announced significant expansion plans, which includes the rollout of an afterschool program for elementary students.

The academy’s director, Michael Ridenour, said he will begin phasing in a series of new programs at the Hendersonville-based academy over the next year, expecting to add 200 more students to the school.

Starting next school year, the academy will begin offering afterschool string instruments program for fourth- and fifth-graders in Henderson County. Flyers for the afterschool program will be distributed to fourth- and fifth-grade students in Henderson County Public Schools. The afterschool lessons will be taught in a classroom setting at the academy at 235 Duncan Hill Road several times a week.

“This program within itself is a pretty big undertaking,” said Ridenour. “I think it will benefit a lot of kids in Henderson County and prepare them for other programs that already exist.”

Ridenour said there isn’t any kind of string program for elementary kids in Henderson County. Academy leaders want the afterschool program to supplement the strong programs at the middle and high schools along with the Hendersonville Symphony Youth Orchestra.

“We’re trying to accomplish a couple of goals,” Ridenour said. “Number one is just to have a good extracurricular music activity for fourth and fifth graders. Number two is to start to develop, along with the Hendersonville Youth Symphony, an elementary school ensemble. Right now, they start they start at the sixth-grade level but they don’t have anything for the elementary school kids.”

The afterschool program will roll out in September at the elementary schools. The academy also plans to offer onsite classes at new FernLeaf Community Charter School next spring.

In addition to plans for an afterschool program, the academy will begin offering online lessons later this summer using an online program called JamKazam. It is an online meeting site where musicians can play together in real time over the internet. Similar to Skype, instructors will be able to teach their students from anywhere.

“What this does is it kind of takes us outside our brick and mortar building here to where we can offer online lessons,” said Ridenour. “We can offer them here, or since we have a lot of teachers traveling from Asheville and other counties, we can actually offer online lessons and they can do them from their home, but still come through the music academy.”

The academy has about 200 students right now. Ridenour expects the afterschool programs to add 100 to 150 more students and the online lessons to add another 50 for now.

“Just those things were probably looking at a good 400 students total, and that’s kind of being conservative,” Ridenour said. “That will pretty much solidify us as the largest private music school in the county once we get these programs up and going by the end of the year.”

An afterschool program and online courses aren’t the only new additions. The academy teaches many styles of music, including classical, rock, jazz, pop and country. Now they will be adding a folk music program to the mix.

“Western North Carolina is kind of a mecca to folk music,” Ridenour. “We’ve had a lot of calls for folk music like mandolin, banjo and things of that nature, but I’ve never really found someone that was an area expert of that.”

He found that someone in Tyler Cason, who holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from North Greenville University and is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Georgia. Cason will be teaching folk guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, songwriting and voice in the folk music program, which is expected to roll out in full this fall.

Next spring, the academy will also begin publishing method books and publications from instructors. The academy currently has 14 instructors, most of whom hold masters or doctorate degrees in music education.

The Music Academy of Western North Carolina was founded in 1997. In 2009, the academy moved to is current location at 235 Duncan Hill Road and had since expanded three times to accommodate student growth. Ridenour said it’s likely he’ll have to expand again next year after all the expansion plans are phased in.

For more information, visit wncmusicacademy.com or call 828-693-3726.

2016 Annual Spring Student Recitals Are This Coming Weekend

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We will be holding our annual spring recitals this coming Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday evening in the performance room at the Music Academy of WNC. We are very proud of all of our students, their hard work, and dedication and look forward to hearing them perform this weekend.