Earth Day ukulele workshop and jam

If we celebrate birthdays, why not one for Mother Earth? Every April 22nd, people all over the world celebrate Earth Day in different ways. While I was living on Maui, I started using music to gather community and raise awareness for sustainability through concerts and jam sessions. It’s a combination of entertainment and education. The last one was my piano class joining forces with the ukulele class (video below). This year, Earth Day falls on Sunday 22nd April 2018, and I’m determined to do something special.

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Why studying music gives extra-musical benefits?

Learning to play the piano as an adult brings extra-musical benefits.

This morning, a close childhood friend now a professor of Japanese literature posted an article on Facebook, entitled “Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires.” As I am taking a 3-credit undergraduate course in creative writing, I couldn’t help nodding my head as I read the article.

But I am not an English major.

Far from it! I majored in electrical engineering and later took degrees in anything but English.

So why was I nodding my head?

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Teaching piano, teaching music

Anne Ku’s new group piano class is more than piano playing.

I described what I’m doing in my evening piano class to the husband of a colleague, both music aficionados.

“I teach my students to play the chromatic scale one hand at a time. The right hand goes up using the thumb and third finger. The left hand goes down. At the next lecture, I demonstrate the application with Flight of the Bumble Bee.”

“I tell them about pentatonic scales and exotic scales. I give them the formula for major scales: whole step, whole step, half-step, whole, whole, whole, half-step. I also have them listen to major vs non-major scales as I play them on the piano. I play the last movement of Vivaldi’s Summer from the Four Seasons and I ask them to count the scales.”

“I plan to teach them the Circle of Fifths with respect to Pachelbel’s Canon in D. That’s also useful to demonstrate descending bass line. ”

My colleague’s husband responded with awe. “And you say this is a beginning piano class? Seems to me you are teaching them music!”

I replied, “Yes, I guess you are right. By the end of the semester, they will have not only learned how to play piano but how to look at music differently. I want them to overcome stage fright, build self-confidence, learn to conduct, learn to play and work with each other, appreciate different kinds of music, listen, analyse as in identifying patterns before they start to read the music to play, and so much more.”

Teaching piano class

Anne Ku looks forward to teaching an adult group piano class in January 2012.

Starting 11th January 2012, I will be giving a 3-hour evening piano class once a week. There are three course codes for this college-level class, each corresponding to a different level of playing. I will find out on the first day of class when I get to know the students just what their playing, reading, and hearing abilities are.

The 20 students will have to procure headphones to plug into their electric pianos, and I will teach them individually. This will be very different from the individual private piano lessons I have been giving at home in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

I can’t rule out those that are starting completely from scratch. They simply want to learn how to play the piano without having any previous music education or experience. For them, I found a blog post containing tunes one can play on one hand.

As the students are adults, I will also look for sites with tools and resources for adult piano learners.

My first step is to get them comfortable at the keyboard and recognise the 2-3 cluster patterns of black keys. Next I will get them to look for a note and find similar notes several octaves apart.

Ultimately they will want to play tunes they like. Here is where playing by ear is important.

As it is a group class, I look forward to having my students play together at some point. The more advanced players will play more advanced parts. I will get them to improvise. There are so many possibilities!!


Learning and retention rates

Retention rates increase with the way we are taught from 10% to 95%: read, hear, see, see and hear, discuss, experience, and what we teach someone else. What happens when we collaborate?

In a computer training class recently, I learned the following statistics on retention rates from my teacher.

When you read, you retain 10% of what you read.

Hear: 20%

See: 30%

See and hear: 50%

Discuss with others: 70%

Experience it personally: 80%

What we teach someone else: 95%

This explains why we only confirm what we know when we have to teach what we know to others. The path to become an expert requires one to teach what one practises.

What is the retention rate when we collaborate with others, such as planning a concert or a fundraising event or working on a CD recording together? When performers work with composers, both learn from each other and the process. The commitment that both put into the resulting composition takes it further than a one way process. Would the retention rate be higher?