MMTA NOTES -- Winter 2019
Letter from the President
Greetings and Happy Holidays!
I hope this finds you well as 2018 draws to a close. I’m very excited to continue serving on the Executive Committee of MMTA and look forward to working with everyone in this new role.
I am extraordinarily grateful to the many individuals who have shared their time so generously. Thank-you to Peter Miyamoto for serving as President for the last two years! Thank-you to Jason Hausback and Kyu Butler as VP’s of Auditions, Jennifer McAtee as MMTA Pre-Collegiate Chair, Hyunki Yoon as MMTA Collegiate Chair, Minju Choi as MTNA Jr/Sr Chair, Albert Kim as MTNA Young Artist Chair, and all of our district chairs and other volunteers!
I also want to express my gratitude to our Executive Secretary, Erica Manzo, for all of her incredible work with the auditions and everything else she does throughout the year! Thank-you to Chris Vitt for continuing to serve as our Treasurer, to our new VP of Publications and Public Relations, Laura Wiebe, to Sharon Parker as our VP of Local Associations & Student Chapters, and to our other state board members and local officers that make this organization possible. Please express your gratitude to all of our volunteers as you see them throughout the year.
MMTA Auditions and Registration
Thank-you to all of our members who support our programs and send their students to the auditions each year. I realize that issues with the registration system continue to be extremely frustrating, and I appreciate everyone’s patience in working through these issues.
MMTA has struggled to find a reliable registration system that provides convenient features like the ability to edit registrations after they are initially submitted. We have tried designing systems ourselves and even paid thousands of dollars for outside companies to design a system as well. Sadly, and much to our severe frustration, the result has often been problematic. So for next year, we are making another change. The idea guiding this change is that reliability and accuracy are far more important than a complete set of features. So we are resorting to a very simple online form that collects all registration information. There will be no features like editing after submission, but there also won’t be the need to login. Schedules will be shared far simpler as well. It’s our hope that, although some features we have used over the years will be gone, the simplicity of this approach using reliable methods (such as Google forms) will minimize problems and reduce everyone’s frustration so we can focus on our students and their music. Online payments will still be possible, but you’ll simply pay all of your fees separately. We’ll be providing more details in the coming months…
I hope many of you are planning to attend the MTNA National Conference in Spokane, Washington from March 16-20! Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter and other guest artists will be performing, many sessions will keep attendees informed on the latest developments in our profession, and the national competitions will feature some of this country’s top young musicians.
We are still finalizing the dates and location of next year’s state conference, but I’m very excited about a new program we’ll be starting. Last month, the board voted to approve the addition of Collegiate Poster Sessions. This event will showcase the work of Missouri’s brightest and best college students for the professional development of our members and the career advancement of our future educators. Please plan to support these young professionals next November!
As you interact with musical friends and colleagues this spring that aren’t members of MTNA, please share the benefits of MTNA membership. MTNA has several year-round publications/events that promote professional development such as the
American Music Teacher
journal, the MTNA e-Journal, MMTA’s
, and various webinars offered by MTNA. MTNA also provides numerous discounts for hotels, rental cars, and other businesses such as Office Depot. And personally, I can heartily express my appreciation for the wonderful friends and colleagues that make my work even more enjoyable and rewarding! MTNA’s website has a list of benefits here:
Thank-you for all that you do for your students and our profession! As MMTA considers adjustments to existing programs and development of new initiatives, please share what you believe would best serve our members. I would enjoy hearing from you and look forward to seeing you at our events next year!
Robert D. Carney, DMA
President, Missouri Music Teachers Association
Associate Professor of Piano, Chair of the Department of Music, Southwest Baptist University
Using Fingering Patterns in Teaching Major Scales
Beginning with the Turtle: Scale Prep Exercise
by Jennifer Smith
One of the biggest challenges in teaching scales to students is proper fingering. C major scale is particularly “forgiving” in that is seems whatever finger is used, you can still make the scale happen “good enough” according to the thought processes of many students. Where should that pesky fourth finger land? Or not land?
To help establish good fingering habits, my students start with a scale prep exercise. The purpose of this exercise is to 1) establish the turning of the thumb under finger three and to 2) experience what I term “standard scale fingering” in two segments: three notes and five notes.
Some students spend a week or more on each part of the exercise. Others can be introduced to the first and second part in one lesson and come back the next week playing the scale in contrary motion. I believe this exercise is helpful for students learning good fingering. Though not an original exercise, I have “tweaked” it to suit my teaching style.
As it says at the top of the exercise – fingering is critical! For younger students I teach the exercise by rote, calling it “Turtle,” as the hand resembles the tortoise shell, the thumb being the turtle’s head, which it sticks out and tucks in. This first exercise is in turning the thumb under and is shown below:
[Scale Prep exercise 1]
Particularly with young students, I often sing (with the underlined syllables falling on the beat):
Lit tle Tur tle in his house. Now he’s out. Now he’s in. Now he’s out. etc
The next exercise I believe is crucial, especially for young students, in grasping the larger muscle movements of the scale. If the five fingers after the thumb turn are relaxed into their new position, the rest of the scale will naturally follow. I am a strong advocate of preparing the hand for what is to follow, not just the next note.
[scale prep exercise 2]
The third exercise fills in the rest of the notes for the scale. The rhythm given is to allow for “thinking pauses” so the student can have fingers and hand in the correct position before continuing on which aids in developing good fingering.
[scale prep exercise 3]
Finally we are ready to play the scale in parallel motion. Again, “thinking pauses” are written into the exercise. While my students primarily do this exercise in C, it can be done in any key and can be used whenever a student is struggling with a particular scale later on!
C Major is the first scale my students learn. The focus can be on learning scale fingering rather than which black notes are and are not used. Even younger students can begin to use good scale fingering. True, the plane across their hand may not remain totally flat and quiet, but that will come as their hand grows and they become experienced with scales. My primary goals are good fingering and connected notes.
To help the students practice their scales at home, I write out the names of the notes in the scale with the fingering numbers, showing thumb unders and cross overs as indicated below:
RH 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5
C D E F G A B C
LH 5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1
Because my students get used to this symbology for crossing a finger over or turning the thumb under, I can use it with fingering in their literature and at a glance, they see the motion their fingers need to do.
Once C Major is generally mastered, we can move onto other scales and the “Scale Triangle” which will be discussed at another time.
Using Fingering Patterns in Teaching Major Scales
Standard Scale Fingering and the Scale Triangle
by Jennifer Smith
My students are usually playing multiple scales before scales are introduced in their “method” book. Therefore I have devised my own method of introducing the scales to them. I start with a scale prep exercise to help them learn basic scale fingering, which I call “standard scale fingering.” I like to introduce scales through the order of sharps because 1) the same fingering is reinforced multiple time, 2) students can see a pattern and make predictions about subsequent scale elements, 3) students can readily begin to associate the key signature as an abbreviation for the scale used in composition, and 4) students begin to learn the order of sharps and correctly deduce the key of a piece looking at the key signature.
Once a student is becoming comfortable with the C Major scale, we move on to G Major and the student needs to figure out where the black note is. Once warned there IS a black note, many students can determine which black note by ear. Then we talk about how to name that note and I introduce the rules for spelling scales: All letters of the musical alphabet are used, in order, with no skips and no repeats. Since we already have a G and we cannot skip F, the black notes has to be F-something. Since students have been exposed to the concepts of flats and sharps and they are able to determine that black note is an F sharp. I also remind them this scale has the same fingering as C Major.
At a subsequent lessons we utilize the “scale triangle” to help the student discover scales by adding sharps. This tool can also be used to help a student predict the sharps in the next scale after the pattern is established. Because we go up by a fifth from one scale to the next, the student begins to experience what we know as the “Circle of Fifths.” The student can also learn about the order of sharps and how key signatures work. We may work several weeks on developing our scale triangle.
The finished scale triangle looks like:
C Major no sharps or flats
G Major 1 sharp F# 7
D Major 2 sharps F# C# 7
A Major 3 sharps F# C# G# 7
E Major 4 sharps F# C# G# D# 7
B Major 5 sharps F# C# G# D# A# 7
I use a lot of questions and answers with my students as we develop the triangle. What is the fifth note of the C scale? Or what is up a fifth from G? I have them count the notes as they play the scale to determine the new sharp is the 7
th note. They can soon predict how many sharps the next scale will have, play the next scale correctly (these all use “standard” scale fingering) and correctly name the new sharp.
Students can readily learn multiple scales in one week once they have this information. Generally, we figure out B Major for the triangle but it is not assigned to practice until we are ready for Bunnies and Funny Bunnies.
Once the triangle is completed, I draw a line down the last sharp in (the diagonal of the triangle) and show how this information is useful for figuring out key signatures. I tell them this is the “order of sharps” or the order of the sharp signs in the key signature. We look at an old hymnal, such as the 1933 edition of the Broadman hymnal, to see that the sharp key signatures are indeed written using this order of sharps. I explain the key signature is like an abbreviation for what scale has been used to compose the song.
Because the new sharp is always the 7
th note of the scale, we can look at a sharp key signature and name the last sharp marked and go up a half step, from ti to doh, and know the scale used to write the piece – or the “key” of the piece. I teach my students to also check the final cadence to see if they have determined the correct key. Sometimes a piece is in a minor key and so just looking at the sharps is not enough information. To practice reading key signatures we use the hymnal again. I open to a random page looking for key signatures for them to practice determining the key of the hymn.
While from a theoretical perspective, learning the major scales from C to E makes the best sense, from a fingering perspective, practicing them from E to C is helpful. I encourage the students to practice them E Major 5 times up and down, A Major 4 times up and down, D Major 3 times up and down, G Major 2 times up and down and C Major once up and down. By this time they have practiced C Major for several weeks and so they either know it well, or they are getting sloppy with their fingering. Starting with E Major helps encourage proper fingering because of the placement of the black notes. And any time a student is getting sloppy with their fingering on these scales, we go back to the E to C, 5 to 1 practice routine.
Another hint to help students, taken from a former student of a colleague, is to put pinkies on tonic (i.e., low C and high C) and then the 4
th finger is up a whole step for the left hand, and the 4
th finger is down a half step for the right hand. Look what notes are “assigned” to your fourth fingers. These are the only notes fourth fingers are allowed to play. This works when continuing the scale past one octave, too!
The next group of major scales to learn are the Bunnies and Funny Bunnies, which will be the subject for another time.
House Built on the Rock:
Analyzing Components of Music Technology
Rachel D. Hahn, NCTM – University of Missouri, Columbia
Technology holds an increasingly pervasive presence in education. Music teachers are inundated with advertisements for new computer programs, mobile apps, and digital MIDI keyboards, and it’s difficult for even the most technologically savvy educators to feel comfortable with all of these resources. For this reason, the prospect of utilizing technology in authentic and meaningful ways in the classroom or studio can be daunting. However, a more generalized approach to technological materials is both possible and practical. By analyzing components of technology, educators gain valuable insights on the effectiveness of using specific tools to facilitate practice, encourage active engagement, and foster focused discussion.
Instead of exploring individual technologies such as Sight-Reading Factory, Tempo SlowMo, or PianoMaestro, teachers can categorize these resources according to their impact on students. For example, YouTube is essentially an aural and visual modeling tool. Students often refer to the platform’s performance videos and tutorials in guided practice. Metronome apps (including Pro Metronome and Super Metronome Groovebox Pro) assist in tempo control. Keezy Drummer, GarageBand, and other programs constitute a subcategory of tempo control technologies because they facilitate the composition of drum loops and backing tracks. Recognizing these core components and the impact of a wide range of technological tools may yield more selective and successful implementation.
Sight-reading is another popular avenue for technology use in music education. Sight-reading tools provide leveled excerpts that guide the gradual development of student reading skills. Apps such as Read Ahead and PianoMaestro also challenge students to scan their music in advance, play at a steady tempo in response to visual cues, and develop reading routines. However, teachers must be able to distinguish between these sight-reading technologies and theory or note identification tools. Apps such as Flashnote Derby, MusicFlashClass, and Tenuto can assist students with quick note identification and other foundations of reading, but are best described as digital flashcards and not sight-reading programs.
The examples listed above are just a few of the technology categories that teachers can identify, assess, and implement. After analyzing some of the common component parts of technological resources, it is also informative for teachers to recognize those programs that combine numerous materials in one platform. For example, the YouTube app not only plays aural and visual models, but also records and shares practice videos. Similarly, Tempo SlowMo is not just a tempo control/metronome tool, but also has MIDI capabilities to adjust the tempo of any recorded track. Many of the resources described in this article serve multiple purposes, and it is up to teachers to identify the components of technology that are most practical and effective for each student. In addition to utilizing combination tools, teachers may need to sort various technologies according to content relevance, user friendliness, age appropriate graphics, affordability and equipment requirements, and diversity of music repertoire, excerpts, and exercises.
A final consideration for teachers is the static versus interactive debate. A static technology includes passively received material, such as a simple metronome or pre-recorded video. In contrast, interactive technology adjusts to human needs. Examples include the Wolfie app, which “listens” to a student and provide grades or other feedback based on performance achievement. Static and interactive technologies are both powerful teaching assistants when used in appropriate settings.
Teachers cannot keep up with the steady stream of new technologies. However, by investigating overarching themes, such as the components that characterize each tool, the combination of multiple resources in one platform, and the effectiveness of static versus interactive interfaces, teachers may transfer and apply their findings across multiple settings, and can better prepare for the constant technological advance. Instead of investing valuable time to familiarize themselves with every new and popular smart phone app, music teachers may find it beneficial to secure their educational “house built on the rock” by analyzing the component parts that serve as the foundation for each tool and program.
Rachel D. Hahn, NCTM is group piano coordinator, pedagogy instructor, and a doctoral student at the University of Missouri. An active performer, teacher, and researcher, her interests include professional development, community outreach, and music classroom technologies.
Arts, Education, and Accountability
by Mary Kwantes
These three words together spell
challenge, if not
trouble for anyone working to advance the arts through public education. As a private piano and voice teacher retired form public school classroom music, I not only witnessed the struggle to maintain arts in schools, but see today the pool of private teachers empty into on-line-driven tutorials that teach piano by look and see.
Where are the hundred plus students that Rolla Area Music teachers had in the last 2 decades? We as a small area organization went from 17 teachers in the 80’s to 4 so far this fiscal year. I blame the age of screen time for children from 3 to adulthood, also lack of community support for private study of music. Now, more than ever, with schools pushed to “paperless” (chromebook) lessons, our children need to escape the “screen” to tactile exploration, be it messing in art media, playing outdoors or pursuing study of singing and instruments.
Here are the questions we need to address. Is the private lesson becoming “too expensive”? Is practice time always coming second place to the myriad of available activities both structured or not? Do parents choose not to require some private piano from their children because they do not want the hassle? Are new teachers not coming to take the place of retired or deceased past members of MMTA because they find it easier to work outside the network? Is the demise of the state convention a financial decision we regret or is our personal face to face sharing just not necessary?
I know every educational decision being made at state levels is based on accountability. Unfortunately, we cannot test the lovely lilt of read aloud poetry, the personal satisfaction of finger-painting, or the ability to match pitch. So our local schools must see these values for the future. As private teachers we can fill the gaps in emotional and human development by continuing to reach students with music’s amazing multifaceted rewards. I include cross-brain learning, individual and group discipline and responsibility, beauty for beauty’s sake, and a knowledge of the cultural past and present that is not written into a standardized test.