Planning the Academic Year for Piano

Here in the south the school supply lists are already putting in an appearance.  Last week I was at a Target store here in Charlotte, NC and they were already putting out school supplies.  (On a side note, I did purchase some new markers and folders.)  This is the time of year that students feel like they get to start over with their goals and you might get an influx of new and transfer students.  Many of these students will want to participate in festivals and competitions during the coming academic year.  How do you make sure they are prepared and stay on schedule? 


If I am getting to see my students during the summer, then I take part of a summer lesson and we evaluate our goals.  If the student is not taking summer lessons then I try to use the second lesson back to evaluate the situation.  What are we evaluating?  I give the student their options for festival and competitions and we talk about how much music they would need to learn and what could overlap for these events.  For example, if a student wants to participate in NFMC and NCMTA the choice piece for the NFMC festival could be drawn from the NCMTA list.  This bring the required pieces down from 5 to 4.  All 4 pieces could be used for Guild Auditions. 


Guild Auditions and the National Achievement Program both have technical requirements.  I use my checklist and have every student go through all of the technical exercises that they should have learned up to this point.  One sheet that I use is found on the Resources page.  This lets me know what we need to review and when compared to the festival levels what we need to accomplish in a set time frame. 


I try to give a theory evaluation if there is time.  Otherwise we do this in the next few weeks.  If a student is participating in the National Achievement Program I use a practice test to see how prepared they are for this level of examination.  These exams are quite difficult and it seems that half the battle is reading and following the instructions. 


With all of this information, we can plan when to choose the literature and what schedule we need to keep to be prepared with the technical skills.  Students sometime practice a little aimlessly when there isn’t a clear deadline.  This can give them a mini-deadline for every week.  For those high school students who are so busy, it is pretty easy to divide their pieces into sections and set a measures goal for each week.  For example, we need to learn and memorize 10 measures of the Prokofiev this week and 5 measures of the Bach.  It’s amazing how well they will practice when not overwhelmed.