VMT017: Group teaching and overlapping lessons case study with Lynnette Barney


There are so many ways to structure your lessons, it doesn’t have to be just 30 minutes one-on-one. Lynnette has tried quite a few of the possibilities and I’m delighted to have her on the show today to talk about innovative and interesting lesson formats.

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VMT017: Group teaching and overlapping lessons case study with Lynnette Barney

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VMT 017 – Group teaching and overlapping lessons case study with Lynnette Barney.mp3

Vibrant music teaching proven and practical tips strategies and ideas for music teachers.

Welcome to the vibrant music teaching podcast. I’m Nicola Cantan and you’re listening to Episode 17 which is a special interview episode with the wonderful Lynnette Barney

Hi there beautiful teachers welcome back to the vibrant music teaching podcast. If this is your first time listening you’re going to want to go back and check out the first few episodes were at episode 17 already and hardly believe it. And so there’s already 16 other episodes waiting for you on all sorts of topics related to music teaching and helping you teach better and run your business better. This is a special interview episode and it’s with the wonderful Lynnette Barney. As I mentioned in the intro Lynnette is a teacher in Arizona and she has some really great insights into how we can structure our studios and engage our students especially students who really are learning for fun. Recreational students as she calls them how can we build our studio to make it more interactive between our students and make for more collaborative opportunities. And she’s done just that in several different ways. You’re going to learn about in this interview. So let’s dive in.

Well welcome everyone to this interview. I have the wonderful Lynnette with me and I’m going to start with the colorful countdown.

So Lynette is going to answer as many questions as she can in two minutes before the live viewers get here. So Lynnette tell me Are you a dog person a cat person or neither.

I don’t do cat because I’m allergic to them. And dogs are fine although although I’m OK if I don’t have one my children have them so they’re around OK but they’re fine they’re fine.

So is Vicki your pet then. Do you have any pet peeves anything that doesn’t shouldn’t bother you like a grammar thing or some nonsense. But it does get on your nerves.

Oh I’m probably a Grammar Nazi. Yes.

Do you have a particular grammar rule that when you see it you like the you’re oh there their they’re your. You know those apostrophes are not. No apostrophe please.

And what was the first CD or album you ever owned. Do you remember?

Oh wow. I don’t really remember I mean I’m back from the age of you know we’d make our cassette by recording stuff on the radio so I had a lot of I want to say the first album I bought was probably the soundtrack to Miss Saigon in High School. I love that musical also.

A question then do you have any surprising hobbies either current or previous thing that might help. I don’t think my hobbies are surprising I just like to read.

Write off of just anything I could get a hold of if there’s not a book in the back of the cereal box you know.

Well let me kick off the interview officially. So welcome to this interview. This is part of a new series that I started a while ago.

For those of you who aren’t familiar where I’m talking with teachers who are doing awesome things inside the vibrant music studio teachers group here on Facebook. So I’m planning on doing one of these a month to share fantastic studios and things that are going on with various teachers. My guest today runs a wonderful studio in Arizona where the focus is on collaboration between students ensemble work and a cutting edge piano lab. I’m so excited to chat to you today. Lynnette Barney, welcome. Thank you. I’m excited to be here. Fantastic. So if you’re watching live with us here feel free to chime in with your questions I’ll try to refer to the chat and put them to Lynnette as we go through if you have any follow up questions for the things we’re chatting about. But Lynnette can you start off by just telling us a little bit about your studio whereabouts your how long you’ve been teaching and how many students you have. Just the basic.

Ok so I live in Tucson Arizona which is a city of about a million in the Southwest United States. I’ve taught for about twenty seven years in Tucson and right now my studio is about 65 students. It’s not everything I was supposed to answer yet.

How long you’ve been teaching. Twenty seven years. Right. Right.

So what made you get into teaching if you could think back 27 years ago. Where did it all start?

Well I definitely didn’t plan on being a piano teacher. I was going to be an accountant. I was going to be a librarian was going to be all kinds of things I was not going to be a piano teacher but I taught on the side for a long time and then just as it became more important for me to support my family I taught more and now that’s what I do.

I teach.

Yeah it has a way of taking over for a lot of people.

It does and I still want to be a librarian when I grow up.

So I first heard of you and I first heard about what you were doing a new studio on an episode of Tim Tompkins podcast which was episode 35 we’re coming up on episode 150 before the end of the year this year that was a while back. It was yeah. So you talked it was called I’m teaching outside the box I think and you talked about this innovative lesson format that you have with overlapping lessons. So can you tell us what you were doing then it may have changed since then. But can you talk us through that format. And what made you start with that.

Well I have always loved collaboration and music that the solitary pianist role has never been my favorite. So I I’ve done ballet accompanying I’ve done choral accompanying instrumental voice music theater. And I just am always happier as a musician. If I’m making music with somebody else so I’d rather sing with somebody else than a solo play a duet and play Othello. And so I wanted to bring that into my studio because I think that piano is a pretty solitary pretty solitary sport as far as music goes. And so initially what I did was I created a structure where I had four students come overlapping so they had time together. So the first two students would come and one would have their private lesson while the other one had their lab. The lab was mostly a filler because you had that space that needed something in it. And then they would switch. So the other would have their private lesson and lab and then the second pair of students would come. So we would have four in the studio at the same time and we would do ensemble work and games and different activities then the first two would leave in the second two would do their last lab. And I actually really love teaching that way. I did it for a couple of years and the kids were grouped by age and level.

And then it all fell apart because it was too hard to prove my asian level for a couple of years I didn’t teach that way. I taught private lessons and then like a monthly group class. Which is more typical. But my students whined and moaned and complained because they missed what we’d done or so I decided. The other issue with the way I’d done it was I teach a lot of sibling groups and parents. Most of my families drive 20 25 30 minutes to get to my studio and kind of centrally located but I’m not really close to any body that takes lessons from me. And so when you have four or five kids taking lessons then you don’t want to drive four, five times to do a different class for each student’s level. And so when I did the second time around with groups that kids as much as I could by age and level that that wasn’t my top priority keeping siblings together was a bigger priority when that’s what the parents wanted. So that gave us some really interesting experiences with the little ones learning from big ones and big ones being teachers. And I really enjoyed that. So I did that I think another three years and then I changed everything this year.

Yeah we’ll get to the changes you made this year and a second but how did you work the different levels. Because this is something like working with different levels together because this is something that I do as well. Partially inspired by here. You did. So they wrote I called Buddy lessons which is just two students overlapping generally sometimes three. If they’re siblings involved in all of that but mostly two students overlapping for a portion of their lesson and having some time one on one with me. But I made the decision for the same reason as you that I would allow whatever mixture of ages and levels like ideally aiming for the same age on the same level and if not the same level by the same age that you prioritize. If they’re siblings or if there’s some situation like that I’m just going to go with the flow. So how did you find it balancing the different levels and what kind of activities did you do to make that situation work.

Let’s see. Well when we would do ensemble work we did a lot of improvisation a lot of forest Kinney’s materials. I use those a lot. The cars those can be so nicely leveled. You know you can have a more advanced student doing a more difficult pattern and the more beginning student just doing the more beginning thing. So I did a lot with that. I also did a lot with games where we could tweak them to be kind of multi level or activities like that. I know I wrote a blog post for Tim about some of those games like bingo is great if you have one set of cards can be keyboard geography letters. And then one set of cards can be key signatures and once that a card can be naming on the staff. So everybody can be doing their own thing you just have to get creative and plan ahead. Yeah. Another resource I love is the chopsticks Infinity by Philip Johnston.

Although it’s driving some of my family’s crazy. But let’s pick it up. So I might be doing that tomorrow.

Hopefully that’s what I really have to emphasize to the kids. Quit playing chopsticks at home OK your parents hate me. You just play the variation. Get up slowly.

But things like that work really well because the little tiny ones can play really. I mean they’re incredibly simple variations in that book and there’s incredibly difficult variations so I just always have my eye out for stuff like that. At least a has in the back of her little Peppers book. There’s something called peas in a pod. OK. And those can. There are multiple levels. There’s five different levels and they can be played simultaneously.

So those worked really well. We did a lot. We do a lot with the lead sheet. Because again you can have a single note bass the chord inversion patterns everybody learns the 12 bar blues because everybody can so I just always look for things like that to do with with the kids.

Fantastic. OK so that was an awesome system. I feel like it worked really well for you. What you’re, I hear you’re switching things up again now or you are this year. What’s the transition you’re making and why the change?

Not teach late in the evening I was teaching until 7 seven thirty eight and I have a 14 year old and teaching and the afternoons actually worked great for a long time because we homeschooled our kids. But this particular daughter is in public school right now. And so I never see my daughter because she’s at school all day and then I’m teaching all night. And by the time I get home at eight thirty we’re both tired. So I felt like it was a priority to squish my teaching schedule my after hours schedule so that I would see my family more. I also have some adult kids living at home and even though they are adult and their needs are a little different. They they say there’s still a need to connect to the family in the evening but I didn’t want to lose any of my students. And I do support our family. I am the sole provider in our family. So I I couldn’t just reduce my teaching time because that would reduce our income. So what I did. I’m still in I don’t know if I like it or not.

They’ve us a lot of stress and I’m trying to decide if these are growing pains or what I’m going to do long term.

But what I did was I moved all my student into groups. So every one of my students except for one five year old and two adults are in groups. And the groups are more roughly age level. Oh I meant to say I never group teenagers with kids in any set regardless. They simply grew up. So I put middle school and high school kids together. But I won’t put like a 16 year old with 7-year-old that’s just too far away. But this year everybody has an hour long musicianship class and they’re grouped roughly by age and level although there are some interesting groupings. I have one set of siblings where I have two 11 year old boys that I’ve studied with me for about three years and then their two younger siblings that are just starting this year. I actually like to dyads in the same group. But it works because the dyads are at the same level. So I squish them all into about 21 hours of groups. I think I teach four groups most days two in the morning and three one afternoon. Anyway it’s about 21 hours and then I just really didn’t want to lose my existing student and I wasn’t confident that they were going to be okay. Going from a 90 minute lesson that includes live ensemble and live it to an hour like that one is all group instruction and that what I did was I included in my tuition video feedback during the week. So we use an app called the saw which isn’t a piano app. There are piano apps that kind of do the same thing but either they don’t fit in my budget or they don’t do what I want them to do and seesaws OK it works okay.

And the kids can send me photos videos notes files and so we kind of have an ongoing communication stream throughout the week. And I don’t think I budgeted enough. I didn’t think people I didn’t think people would take as much advantage of it as they have. But that’s partly my own fault because I also discovered that the way I’m teaching now really exposes kids that don’t practice in a way that didn’t happen when it was private lessons. They could hide in a private lesson that they were unprepared more than they can now. So I’ve been really pushing better practice habit which wasn’t the direction I intended to go. So it’s been kind of stressful. Like it took an unexpected turn. But so that’s what I’m doing now. They have their hour musicianship class and then in that musicianship class we do ensemble work. We do chopsticks. That’s really fun because it’s our transition activity or group to group. So if one group is leaving and another group is coming and they chop stick together and there’s like seven or eight. Yeah. And we do whatever we’re studying right now we’re studying blues. We’re actually using your spooky sounds or composition and improvisation. What else are we doing each of the classes has a duet or trio or quartet. My favorite one is I have a group doing the Bumble Boogie quartet that is super fun whereas a friend is a he gets Jack F I N A. OK.

It’s the Bumble Boogie is an orchestral piece that Disney used in an old movie years ago. It’s not this B and all these piano keys and flowers and and that way you can find it on YouTube.

So everybody has an ensemble they’re doing. And then I also take some time to check in with each student but there’s not enough time. They’ve got to check in with me during the week from home right now for the video feedback comes in.

But it I felt really good about making the change but it has been way more stressful than I anticipated. I think I’m working more than I was before.

So not sure I meant to do.

I hate to be objective yet. Maybe I’ll get there. So tell me. In the in the group class you called the musicianship crosses right. Yeah. So in the musicianship class they are doing some duets and trios and stuff together. What are they doing when they’re not working all together. Like if you’re talking to one of them. What are the others.

Usually what I have is like a mini lab kind of thing going on. So for example I might we’ve been revealing key signatures so the younger kids are working on their guide notes and the older kids are working on key signatures. So I might send them off to do no quest or note Rasche or music class class to do the key signature review or to draw the key signatures on the white board. And we also have all warm up stations so kind of when we go into the individual time I’ll have one on the I had one on the white board one on the clap. No but with headphones and one at the ground with me sometimes I’ll go and I’m in my lab where I have four identical keyboards and I’ll have them all there with headphones and I’ll just check in with them. One at a time. So it just depends. Sometimes it’s guide practice. You know they want you to do tests five times and then have the cones I found at the Dollar Store that are red and green. So they put their friggin cone out when they’re ready. Yeah I kind of drew some ideas from what a couple of colleagues are doing. Like Daniel Patterson I know does group stop and he does it very differently than I do but I hold some ideas from what he does. Mostly though we’re playing together which I think is why the at home practicing has become such an issue because they’re not practicing at the lesson. He can’t get away with that because mostly we’re playing and the ensembles don’t go very well. If they don’t know their part.

Yeah. So if they’re in a solo lesson and they haven’t practiced a year you might talk to them about it but it’s not going to be as as crushingly apparent. So they’re not making good progress as they could be you know if somebody else who’s actually.

Right. Right. Right. So yeah.

So that’s what we do when they’re working individually. And then we’ll just rotate really quickly. You know it’s like 5 minute yet at little station.

Yeah. So it might be like 20 minutes out of the hours. Is that kind of work and then most of it is all together. Yeah. So you mentioned one group where those two 11 year olds and two younger siblings who are just beginners or most of them though more evenly leveled.

Yes for the most part more or less more. That’s right. I mean when I when I did my registration I asked parents specifically is a more important to you to have your kid with siblings or with kids at their home. And I had a handful of families where carpooling or siblings together was the request. Yeah most of my families were willing to make two trips or have a brother going out. Yeah yeah. Because they realize that it would be a better experience or the kids or that it wasn’t. I mean I have one girl who’s I think 10 and her sister is 16. So putting them together wasn’t even an option. And I told her mom she said I want them together and I said I’m sorry but I can’t make that work. That wouldn’t be fair to the girls or the crew. Yes. But I but it really just depends on the family. I have one family that high school. So he’s 11th grade and then a ninth grader and then a sixth grader. But the sixth graders super mature for her age and they overlap it’s like they’re their own class. And then there’s another class that I didn’t want to have fights so it’s 3 and 2 and I keep hoping for someone to come along join us and the other two are a seventh grader and a 10th grader and level wise they are all close the not ok that it works for that group were actually using, I don’t know if I have them around. It’s five by five songs for five right hands. One piano. Have you ever seen those.

That sounds familiar but I definitely I haven’t seen it in person. Yeah.

And then there’s like 5, 4 songs for 5 lefthander that one piano. Anyway they’re out there like it’s early intermediate. I don’t know how that relates to exam levels but yeah if you relate it to like the Alford the publisher levels it’s an early intermediate intermediate level. And we’re doing those with that group and they like sight reading or most of the kids but they’re rhythmically tricky and hard grappling work. Yeah. So it’s fun. So each group kind of has a vibe and it’s o make up most of them are pretty close in level and age pretty close enough.

And do you still have them in as well as ensemble and stuff. Do you still have them in like standard method books or have you just put them to a side.

No I do. I have them in method books I use method books primarily for sight reading. OK. So I tend to teach other stuff until they’re ready to read. And then when they’re ready when they’re reading I want them to be going through the material quickly. I don’t want their method books to be they challenging material right. So we start with piano safari that my go to for my beginners and then once they’re reading pretty comfortably like they know their guide notes they can read intervocalically then we do music tree and the video feedback some of the students will send me a piece a day because they’re that easy. I mean they are. And so then they kind of fly through the music trade books. And we keep going with piano safari and sometimes I’ll throw over the piano in or the I keep reading. Those are the primary methods that I use primarily for the reading experience. And then I use Samantha Coat’s let Rapid Fire. Oh my goodness I love but. I do a lot with that. I’m that and that this year and the kids love it.

So they’re doing. And of course the Piano Safari

Yeah but it sends like the way you approach reading and stuff really feeds into this really well because I can do most of that independently right. Because you’re so far ahead of it with their theory knowledge.

Right. Like I don’t want them reading until they’re reading. Yeah because if they’re going home and struggling over what note to play right then then there’s not a point to the point to me of them reading at home. Once they’re comfortable reading at home. Yeah.

So it’s not fun when you do it in the lesson either. So you know you could. End Oh half hour of reading one tiny piece if you if you’re going if you’re pushing that hard with all of their repertoire you know.

Right. Right. And I also I have this herd of 6 year olds this year

Which I haven’t had a lot of six year olds recently.

This year I have seven of them OK but they’re in two classes. They’re divided into a group of four and a group of three. But it’s my herd of six year olds. And I think we’re going to do the music tree primer I haven’t used that for a while because for most of the kids it’s kind of more than they need right. But this year I’m I’m looking at this group of six year olds thinking they need more readiness like their parents want them to have something to read. Right. But I feel like technique wise if we move too fast in the piano bar reading material. I’m going to lose their technique because they’re focusing on the reading. So we’re going to do the music tree time to begin you know where they’re just doing two fingers

Lots of two fingers but the parents will feel like they’re reading yes the feels like an accomplishment. Yeah right.

They want their kids reading and passing off pages and I found the rote material doesn’t feel like that to the parent. I have to do a lot of parent education Yeah.

So it’s so strange isn’t it because the rote material actually if they just you know put put aside their strange expectations or whatever they have in their head and just put that out of their head and just sat there with their eyes closed and listened to their kid read a piece and then listened to them play a rope piece at a six year old beginner level. You go, Oh my God, that kid can play and they listen to a reading piece they be like okay okay yeah it doesn’t sound exciting. I had a comment there from Adriana who says talk more about the younger students some follow up for you there. So you have all these six year olds they just started. Is that right.

There’s a herd of beginners.

Some of them did my summer camp and some of them didn’t.

But I’m finding that hasn’t made that big of a difference or necessarily advertise that back.

But I mean with the kids it’s it’s just like with the kids that were ready they’re just flying. Yeah. And the kids that they’re ready but they’re ready in a different way. Right. Does that make sense yes or no.

Do you find the biggest disparity is the understanding or the like motor control or what is it the most different between the ones who feel very right and the ones who are not flying so much.

I think a large part of it has to do with of course at home involvement. When I’m able to get the parents on board and the kids are actually practicing it goes a lot better. The one little girl that’s just flying I have to get this grow readings. I couldn’t move her to a different group because everything I get she does and then she does it. OK it’s right now I’ve done it right hand left hand, hands together. What do you want me to do now.

Should I transpose it like she’s that kind of a kid. So she’s playing circles around all the other kids in the group right.

That’s one of the challenges of groups though is because you know I don’t want to be holding her back. You don’t want the others to feel bad.

Right exactly. But I can’t move her yet because if I moved her and she’s not reading yet then she’ll struggle and the other groups where the kids are reading.

So we just she’s really cute, she has an adorable personality and she’s just incredibly self-motivated. So I just give her more stuff to do at home. I try to find parallel material that I can, I’m going to actually have her do coming out of spring break I’m going to give her the little gems Paula Dryers gems because I’m not using that yet for the other kid. OK. And it’ll give her something she can do and her mom plays and her older siblings play which I actually think makes a big difference.

There’s actually battles at their house for piano time which is fun.

The battle isn’t about getting her to practice and getting her off the piano as somebody else could practice.

When that happens though we’re going to do little gems for her because she can learn those more on her own and and but there are you know solid technique. She’s got great technique to worry about that. And then the ones that are struggling most are the ones that aren’t just aren’t practicing. And again it’s that issue of they’re not practicing. So we all sit down to play our Charlie Chipmunk and everybody can play Charlie chipmunk except so-and-so you know Jose over there. Can’t remember Charlie chipmunk cause he didn’t watch the reminder video and you didn’t play during the week and he can’t remember it from last week. So that’s a source of stress for me. How to do in those cases how do I want to handle that. Because I said in the past in the private lesson we just worked on Charlie’s checkbook.

You just went with this movie. So you’re getting videos through see saw during the week and then some of them like Jose I don’t know if that’s a real student or not. But no it’s not. So they will take Jose as a pretend example. He’s just not sending his parents or not sending a video of him playing Charlie Chipmunk and the others all have. Right. Yeah. So you know before he even gets there that’s not happening right.

That it’s probably. So there’s lots of parent education going on and I’m finding that with the six year old crew a lot of the parents are getting on board because they’re here. Jose’s parents I need to get to class because then Jose’s parent would see that Jose is struggling.

Yeah. And you don’t have to have that conversation. So mostly the parents of your younger students are in the room or just.

Yes right. Yeah actually I think I have one group where of three where no parents stay and one group and the group of four all the parents day which actually got had some interesting side effects too because I got a text from a parent telling me I didn’t spend enough time with her child that I was favoring other children and this child was always going laughed and got not getting enough.

Turns out I was like oh well till the next class I tried really hard at the end of the class I thought if were the other kids’ parents I’d be saying my kid didn’t get enough turn because this particular student actually is struggling.

It’s the student of the 4 that struggling the most in class to pick things up. Now the student is working hard at home but in class the other kids are picking it up quite a bit faster than the student we were doing. I like bananas. Yeah. And they had been listening to it and singing it and watching it all week for two weeks and two three three of the kids had figured it out on their own. They just picked it out. And this young man had done all his assignments he could sing it. He had watched it. We went to go play it and getting it between the two hands. He couldn’t do it. He was trying to do it with one finger and all the other kids were doing it with two and I was glad the parent was there. I hope that they saw that he’s struggling. Like yeah it’s OK you’ll get it. Yeah but don’t tell me he’s not getting it because I’m not spending time with him because.

Yeah. Yeah.

So that’s been an interesting dynamic. I want the parents here so they can help the kids at home but I’m feeling a little more like a bug under a microscope will I ever have.


Do you encourage your parents to get involved or are they very much in there in the corner watching they are there in the corner watching and I have thought about maybe pulling them out of the corner. Right. Because I have one group where I there’s a couple parents I need to just get into the studio. And this particular group it’s not it’s not my 6 year old beginners it’s my thing. The kids are 9ish 9 and 10ish and. Their a range of level but they’re all in piano safari. Level 1 so they’re all roughly in that they’re in that book. Yeah and there’s one parent who comes and in fact she’s like the cutest little assistant teacher she’s over there.

Like turning pages for kids that are like lost. I don’t think I like it. It’s nice.

How can I get the parent because her student is doing really well this year. Right. I think she’s really benefiting from the social element. And his mom I don’t know. There are some things clicked through this year and he’s just flying. And it’s really fun having her around. And there’s two kids in that class that are struggling and I’m thinking well if I can just get their mom sticker I think they do better.

It’s so interesting. Yeah I suppose.

Do you think any of it is them being in the lesson and the kids behaving differently because of it. Or do you think it’s just they’re helping at home more because they see what’s going on.

I think when they’re here they know better what’s going on they’re better able to help. And for the most part I don’t have a problem.

Parent like I mean there’s that one where I’m thinking you’re making me nervous because you’re telling me I’m not working with your child. But for the most part I think my parents are

Are really great parents and so having them in the studio some of them they have to train them for what I expect a bit. But I I haven’t had a whole lot of issues with kids acting differently with their parents were here versus when they weren’t. I hear teachers talk about that and it isn’t something I’ve dealt with a whole lot. Yeah. And my parents are here a lot and for the most part my parent my parents are here more than they’re not. Especially when the kids are younger.

That’s always been through despite like before we did the groups and everything. It’s interesting.

I always encouraged them to be in the lesson.

Yeah yeah. I’ve only found a difference one on one. Like if it’s a group of kids pretty much act how they’re going to act like they just are themselves. But if it’s one on one with some kids I do find it makes an enormous difference. If their parent is in the room either positively or negatively like both ways where they behaved so much better and they concentrate better when their moms there and they want to show them you know.

And I’ve had where they just completely act the maggot like completely active when Mom is there. And then they leave the room and they’re just an angel again you know showing off of it.

So it’s good for the occasional parent that teachers from the side or yeah you know that kind of thing. I haven’t dealt with that a lot. But I know it now. I’ve seen it.

I’ve had very very short experiences with that. But I think they shut it down pretty pretty quickly. Glare you know just make it very clear that no that’s not your job stay over

Like it’s good for them to be involved. But you know there’s a boundary there.

And I really love it when the parents are willing to play so they’re willing to do the teacher parts with the child or to do improvisation or they’re willing to try you know maybe they don’t play but you can teach them a really simple improvisation and they can do it with their child. I find when I can get the parents doing that the kids are all over that.

Yeah it’s fantastic. Yeah. And I love it as well. Couple of situations where I’ve had an adult beginner like a mom come on as a beginner and then the student and they get to experience the things together and go through all the struggles together. It can be really wonderful.

I thought it would be neat to offer like a mom and child’s class. Yeah. Like you know like the 6 year old beginner and a mom beginner. Yeah I think that could be kind of fun. You have to have the right dynamics in grouping and a lot of my families have a lot of kids. Right. So there’s very many of my families are juggling. I come into a little less than but then I have my three year old and they are horribly terrors so maybe not. Yeah but it’s not something I thought would be a really neat experience.

Yeah yeah.

Something to try. I just have one piano mum and her kid and their lessons. But the kid stays for her mum’s lesson and does all this very work. She’s she loves theory workbook. I absolutely adore them.

Like I offer her piano maestro and she’s like no I’ll just be more work and they just keep going up way beyond my playing level and my theory anyway.

But it’s lovely the dynamic between them and I’ve got them playing youth and stuff. Yes it’s great. But this has been absolutely fascinating. I just want to make sure to get to this seesaw area because it seems to be the area that has maybe more of a challenge.

And you’ve been expecting and I’d love to know more about how it would actually work. What expectations have you set. Have you told them to record all their practice. Oh no please no boundaries have

You set there and what are they told to do? What I’ve asked them to do or is it kind of evolved because the learning curve was a challenge especially communicating assignment going from in the private lessons. I would type up their individual assignments. Well there’s no time for that class and the other thing is because my hope is that they’re passing off material during the week especially reading material or maybe moving up a metronome level in their technique or whatever that the assignments need to be more plastic. They can’t just be sat for a week and then changed the lesson. And I think I lost quite a bit of hair trying to figure out how to communicate that and how to use the resource in a way that would affect it. So what they do now is they actually have a folder in seesaw called all my assignment and there’s a note a little it looks like a notepad note that has typed instructions for each thing they’re supposed to do. So it’s a music tree. Page 7 keep your eyes on the music than we ever hear when it’s ready. Be sure to count out loud or whatever the instruction is. And each student has between five and 10 notes depending on what kind of practice they are and learner they are and they can comment on a note. So they’re supposed to comment each time they practice that note their supposed to put the date in the box okay. Some of them do it. Some of them will do it. They just don’t do it yet. And that works really well because I can see unless they’re lying to me which so do I can see what they practice and they can see what they practice. You know they can see oh I didn’t do my Zacharias zebra yesterday so I better be sure to do it today.

And as soon as they pass something off by video I can update the notes and retire the old note and make a new note. And their parent can see so that’s evolved into something that’s working. OK except for the Samsung phones can’t get to that folder. So every couple of days I have to move all their notes up and see saws working on their heads. It’s actually an engineering problem. So for their assignments they’re supposed to log in and just go down their assignment notes one at a time and do each one yeah. And then they’re supposed to send me one or maybe two videos a day because I don’t have time to listen to more than that. So it might be something they’re ready to pass off or something or they want me to check fingering or a question or if it’s one of their performance pieces. Maybe the new line that they’ve learned together now. Yeah and they’re playing it for me so most of the videos are just about 30 seconds long 30 seconds to a minute. They might show me that they can go through their flashcards. They might play a technical exercise. So I was getting a little out of hand. So I had to tell them one or two videos a day instead of some kids would wait until the day before that lesson and then send me a video of everything. And was to be intense and then I would never know how many videos I would have a day . And some days it was a lot so they also sent photos of their theory pages and I just checked them real quick.


So you mentioned at the start that you hadn’t anticipated how many people would take advantage of this system and how much it would be used. So how long do you think they’re spending each day watching these videos. And are you commenting back. Are you ever recording videos back.

Yes I do. All of them. So I might update an assignment. No I might send an instructional video back. I always comments on their videos and I try to do it. You know the savage way where I say something good that they can improve something else. I’m very mindful actually of what I’m saying.

Because why don’t you hit the record button or something. Right. It just goes like oh it’s more serious.

Yeah yeah.

Because I it’s going to be read by the student by their parent by me again. I mean it’s not that I’m mean or anything with my students.

I am finding I am more mindful about always being sure to point out what they’re doing. Wow.

Even if it’s very little. Even if it’s a disaster they probably key signatures that they’re reading the trouble cleft in the bass club I’ll just tell they had good hand position.

And I it’s been cool to be more mindful of that I think than when I speak maybe I’m not it’s mindful. So I always comment back and I expect them to comment back to me too. Okay so that I know they saw it. Because it’s not a conversation. If they never look at what I said and that links them training some of the kids nine year old girls are the best. They just think it’s way fun. I make notes about what they’re going to be for Halloween and they ask lots of questions and they love it when I can tag multiple students for example or their duets or ensemble and these 3 9 year old girls and their assignment. No they’re all tagged dead so they can see each other practices it and they’ll get on each other. Like you didn’t practice that for three days Heidi. And

I was like you know we were at the beach you know break.

So there’s even a little bit of camaraderie through seesaw. And I want to build on that more.

But right now we just need to get it down get the system going before you get a sense of it.

Yes but I do track the time I spend because because that’s how I operate. And it tends to be about an hour and a half a day OK. And that’s left that’s lesson planning responding. It’s not just watching the videos we also make notes have all I need to make sure we cover this in class or so it’s about an hour and a half a day. And I do it usually six days. I used to work on Sunday though. But I will often watch videos on Saturday before my kids get up. Just so that I don’t have as much to do on Monday just to get ahead.

Yeah but I like it the kids like the forum they like the format they like.

I have to kind of be a meanie and tell them not to send me long videos of them levitating objects and putting on play.

Yeah like does have died. I’m sorry but they all they can also drive.

Oh that’s cool. They enjoy that.

So I can upload a .jpeg and they can actually draw on the .jpeg so they can do theory assignments that way too.

Oh yeah yeah. So are most of your students then like apart from your cohort of six year olds. I mean assuming most of them interacting with the app themselves or their parents sitting there when they do that for the most part they’re doing it themselves right. But for the most they are on the older side like 9 and above. Kind of thing.

Yeah I think they yeah they’re 7 8 and up. I have a lot in all the 6 year olds and then I’m trying to think how many 7 7 and 8 I have. Are some yeah but they’re they’re getting it. They tend to be less tidy. They can make a voice comment and that’s what they tend to do because easier than typing. Yeah. But I think most of them are pretty independent lot of times. Like the teenagers will just take their own and profit at the end of the piano so that they don’t even need help making the videos because they’re not performance quality.

That’s not what we’re looking at. But sometimes I will say somebody hold the camera because I want to watch for this and I can’t see it from looking sideways across the keyboard. But they are pretty independent and I’m encouraging them to be I. I have a couple of parents where I’m trying to train the kids and the parents to let the kids do more of it because parents are doing more of it.

Yeah. Yeah. Did you find any of the tech set up was a problem or was it all OK.

So it’s available on various different platforms so it was sort of OK for anyone to use any device and all that stuff that part’s gone pretty well except for the Samsung phone problem. Other than that it’s been pretty painless. Once we figured out how we were doing that kids do have to log in with an e-mail and one mistake I made was I didn’t realize that if I want my parent to have a family account they can’t use their parent email as the child’s log in. So we have a number where we’re having to take those emails off and you know use a different e-mail for the child and you know not all 6 year olds have an e-mail.

Yes. You know dad’s e-mail and Mom’s for the family account. Right. So that that piece of it was a little tricky. Also I found that when you do that e-mail log in the kids can log in through e-mail or they can log in specific through Google. And we discovered don’t use the Google log in that OK.

I have a lot of blocks on my iPad just to keep them safe.

Right. So that I can add them to the student and trust that everything’s OK and logging in through Google created problems YouTube and things.

Yeah yeah.

And so we had to make sure that they logged in through e-mail. So now it’s a lot smoother when a new students start because I know what to tell them to do.

There’s a big learning curve that’s going to be things like that. So it sounds more like growing pains them like actual pains then as you get these things up and running. You know it sounds like you’re finding your groove and finding your system. I’m very conscious of how long I’ve kept you but you’re so fascinating this system and all this. These transitions. I have one final question for you. And that’s because you’ve made several changes in your studio. You know you move to the overlapping lessons back away from the overlapping lessons then back to the overlap of lessons and native groups. Can you tell us for anyone who’s looking to make a change like this. Mean they’re teaching standard 30 minute lessons or something like that and they want to change something maybe they want to go to partners maybe groups maybe body lessons something like that. Do you have any words of wisdom for how you handled this with parents and the transition period and how it went in your studio.

I just am a big believer in having a positive mind that. Though when I decided this summer. This is what I needed to do. I had had the idea and I felt really positive about it. I talked to my sister about it. I wrote down all the benefits on a piece of paper and then I spent two weeks talking myself out of it. Like they’re not going to want it. Everybody is going to quit. It’s not going to work. I need to I need to keep doing what I’m doing and introduce this new idea but not make it mandatory for everyone. Right. Well that doesn’t work. But when you’re trying to transition 50 students or 60 students and so one day I came across that piece of paper I had written I love scratch paper and I write and I write and then I throw it away and that’s how I think and I came across this paper and I started reading it and I remembered how I felt when I came up with the idea and I was like OK I’ll just do it. I felt good about it. I don’t feel good about anything out.

And so all the time that I was prepping when I was writing the email when I was doing my tuition structure when I was communicating with the parent I kept to this vision in my mind. I’ve always had these students who were enjoying their lessons who were having a good time playing with their friends who were developing awesome ensemble skills. And as long as I can and and the reason I was doing it going home and having dinner with my family doing the video feed back during the day when my kids were at school so that I was more available when they were home. I notice the irony is I think I’ll probably be home schooling my 14 year old again soon. But never mind that. Hey there. But as long as I kept that in my mind then I wasn’t afraid. But when I started to let doubt creep in like a parent would say well I don’t know if this is going to work for us if I let those doubts creep and then I lost I left I would just have to bring back that positive intent.

And and I’ve had to keep doing that all semester as I’ve been frustrated with the way some things have gone.

I have to go back to that that really I had an idea and I believed in my idea and I saw the benefits in it and just holding on to that. That’s what made the difference for me which had nothing to do with teaching at all. But no way if I could believe that I can sell it to my family. I don’t believe in it. They’re not going to buy it.

Yes. And if you believe in it not just as a way for you to see your daughter but as an actual vision of how it looks free you know free studio and your students would you did that come right cross and the way you communicate it for sure.

And interestingly enough I I didn’t lose anybody I did already and that still doesn’t sound like you did with six ticks and I gained a lot of new students had a lot of siblings. So I heard of six year old new families to my studio the ones I’ve lost. I wasn’t surprised because I’d already seen it coming right now where I’m out with it is is this really how I want to teach right now that I’m in the middle of it and doing it.

There’s some challenges like how do I integrate a new student. And how do I get them started. Because they don’t know what a hamburger is that those Charline Scheldt flashy fingers. Right. Yeah.

I’m sure I know what hamburgers right. They don’t know what a hamburger is they don’t what their guy notes are they don’t know how to improvise.

They don’t know what our technique towers are the way that I introduce different technique skills. And it’s not fair to the existing class to stop all the cool things they’re doing to go back and review what a hamburger is. So I’m realizing I need to have like a transition class yet. Or for us to accomplish things yeah. Something. So there’s some some hurdle I haven’t quite figured out how to space. And I think ideally honestly if I but if I didn’t have to support my family I probably would go back and teach. The way I taught before the private with the group where they have all three elements I think I prefer that. But financially the reality is unless I charge more than people would even fathom paid I that doesn’t work right. I need to do the group tuition structure or those financial reason. And I’m a perfectionist in my teaching so I have to make it. I have to make it just as effective. And yet the other way be that super important to me. I don’t want to shortchange my students. Yeah does that make sense.

No it makes perfect sense but it sounds like you are striving for that and you’re not for it. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Like how long ago did you start this process.

It was in August. We started in late August. Give yourself a chance. I think that sounds like your. I taught groups for years this will be easy. It’s not easy.

It’s a different story when you’ve no so time and you’ve all these different challenges but keeps it interesting right. It does. It keeps me on my toes Ed. sure it’s good.

I’m glad I’m doing it. I’m glad around with.

So awesome.

Well thank you so much for sharing all of your journey and being so honest about the challenges along the way and everything and how you’re handling everything. If people have follow up questions is the best thing just if they tag you here in the group or is there somewhere you want people to reach out to something like that really just in the group was perfect so people can just tell you in the comments here. And yes just thank you so much for spending some time with us today. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I hope it inspires some people to give some interesting new lesson four months ago.

Well thank you. It’s always fun to about what we do as teachers.

Yes fantastic to talk shop. And I hope you’ll see it in the K.P.. I hope you will. I will be there. All right fantastic. Thanks so much. Thank you thank you. Great day.

Wasn’t that interview just fantastic. I’m so grateful to Lynette for sharing her time with us on that Facebook Live interview and for allowing me to reshare it here on the podcast because I think it’s so valuable and full of such great interesting ideas and honesty. She was so forthright with us with what was going well and what she wasn’t quite so sure about yet but she was still experimenting on. So thank you so much again to Lynette for sharing that with us and thanks to all of you for listening.

I really hope you enjoyed this interview if you’re thinking about trying group lessons or overlapping lessons and you’re going to need some extra activities that work in that situation and the vibrant music teaching library is full of them. So if you’re not already a member become a member today and create engaging learning opportunities for your students. Go to VMT dot ninja to learn more. Today.

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