TTTV058: How Passion, Mindset and a Sharpened Saw will Transform Your Teaching - Creative Music Education
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

TTTV058: How Passion, Mindset and a Sharpened Saw will Transform Your Teaching

By Tim Topham | Conferences/Conventions

Sep 18

transform your teaching

Something we see time and time again, is that great teachers are lifelong learners. Great teachers never stop trying to better themselves, participating in various forms of professional development and continuing education.

Today’s podcast is a little different. Paul Myatt and I will shortly be running teacher training events around Australia, so today we’re discussing professional development. We’re talking about why professional development matters for piano teachers, and also generally about our education philosophies.

Paul and I are both big proponents of teaching differently, and we’re bringing you the best discoveries we’ve found from our own continuing education.

Transcript

Please find a full transcript of this episode at the bottom of this page. Alternatively, click below to download a PDF. If you are an Inner Circle Member, you can find the full video and transcript in the Member Resources AreaNot a member? See below for how you can get $50 off your membership today. 

In this episode, you’ll learn

  • How clear goals and mindset can set students up for success
  • How experiencing being a novice can benefit your teaching
  • Why I continually question the traditional teaching methods
  • What’s different about the events Paul and I are running
  • Why every teacher will be working at a digital piano at our events
  • Some of Paul’s favourite teaching tools for piano teachers from the Orff method

Links Mentioned

Podcast Video

piano teaching education

This month’s sponsor

This month’s sponsor is Noviscore, your new online sheet music resource.

unspecified-2

Noviscore‘s comprehensive music library has:

  • Up to 4 different skill levels for each song
  • Wide selection of music genres
  • Piano solo, piano accompaniment, 4 hands, arranger keyboard, solo instrument
  • Reading aids and fingering

You can:

  • View on any device (computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone)
  • Print from any computer or laptop
  • Rest assured that all music is 100% copyright legal

Special OFFER: 30% off all our piano sheet music for Tim Topham members during September!!

Please enter code TTSEPT at payment stage.

Browse Noviscore Now

Get $50 off Inner Circle Membership

As a valued podcast listener, you’re eligible for a $50 discount on an annual Inner Circle Membership. This discount lasts for as long as you’re a member and whatever price you sign up for today is the price you’ll pay as long as you remain a member.

Copy this coupon code to use when you see the  “Coupon Code” box:  TTTVPODCAST.

Become a Member

Thank you for Tuning In!

There are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, and I’m grateful that you’ve chosen mine.

Being a full-time teacher myself, I know how busy teachers are and how much time, effort and passion we put into our students. Sometimes, the last thing we want to do in our time off is listen to more piano teaching stuff! So, well done for using this time for self-improvement.

Whether you’re at the gym, on the bike or in the car, I know that you and your students will get lots out of what you learn in the long run. Just make sure you try out some of the ideas before they get lost in the business of your next lessons.

If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it by using the social media buttons on the left of the page.

Also, kindly consider taking the 60-seconds it takes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on iTunes. Reviews are extremely helpful when it comes to show’s ranking and you can bet that I read every single one of them personally.

Lastly, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live.

Full Transcript

Click here to read a full transcript on screen

Tim: Paul, welcome back on to the podcast. I think you are my second only ever repeat guest so it's great to have you here.

Paul: Thank you, Tim.

Tim: I'm afraid you're not the first repeat guest but the second is just as important.

Paul: Exactly.

Tim: Today, for everyone listening and watching, it's going to be a little bit of a different podcast. I'm not going to be asking all the questions today. It's going to be very much a conversation between Paul and I and we're talking about something that we both think is really, really important and that's mindset, in particular, and how that leads to our take on professional development and leading then on to some of the live events that we're actually running around Australia in September, October, November this year. I think we will see where the discussion actually goes. But I wanted to talk about mindset first now, Paul.

In education circles, we hear a lot about this thing, creativity mindset. We're trying to encourage growth mindsets in our students. What's all of this about and why, as teachers, should we be thinking about this as well?

Paul: Well, Tim, I think that we have...as teachers, it's really important for us to work with our students to guide them into what is it that they actually want. What is it you'd like to achieve with your music? I see many times, myself included, I impose a lot, "We're going to do that Grade Three exam." Sometimes you think, is that really what they want? It's really trying to establish what their mindset is around. Why do they want to learn music and what it's going to give to them? I think it's really about making a discussion or having a discussion with your students and, of course, their parents, about what is it that you'd like to achieve with your music?

One of the things I say to parents, "I would never wish that you would become a professional musician, unless you really, really wanted to." But the scientific evidence about learning music is just astronomical. As you know, from your interview with Anita Collins [SP], that there is so much benefit from learning music and the students can really benefit from just doing that.

Tim: I tend to ask all my students...I don't know if you do the same thing. I tend to ask them all, particularly the teenagers, why are you learning piano? What is it that's brought you here? What would you like to be able to do in 3 years, 5 years, even by the end of this year, particularly, if they're just starting in their 13 or 14, what is it that's brought you here? Because I think it is vital for us to know that to work out actually what our approach to teaching them should be. Do you tend to take that same line?

Paul: I don't teach a lot of teenagers. I teach a lot of primary age students because...I only take students when they're five or six. It's very adult-directed at that stage or parent-directed. But by the time they're 11 or 12, they're really making their own decisions and it's really about having a discussion with them. I find that those kids, to move them through onto higher levels is really about having that discussion about what is it that you'd like to learn and building...I think the way I teach, because I teach in classes, they build a community in music. So it's really about, "I love coming to music because it's fun and my friends are here." So it's a little bit different, I suppose, than one-on-one teaching which is what you specialize in.

Tim: I remember interviewing Laura Caha [SP] about Piano Community. She created a community around...piano studio. There's fantastic outcomes that come from that. So students aren't just there because they know they've got to do their next exam or perform at the end of the year. But they're there because they can chill out with their friends. They can have a laugh. They can have some fun. They can learn some music and it's a different thing.
Paul: Yes, and they can make music together.

Tim: Yes.

Paul: As a pianist, we often never play with anyone and if you were to be a professional pianist, the jobs that you would be as a company. As you have just done, I know a champion accompanist. As a piano teacher, another way to generate income is through accompanying. So doing a lot of that work and in a learning situation where they can actually play together, they learn to listen and they learn to be able to accompany and hear what the other person is doing which is a really important skill as an accompanist.

Tim: If we turn this around now from the student mindset to the teachers, I have a feeling that a lot of the teachers that watch and listen to this podcast have a mindset of wanting to continually improve themselves. That's why they're listening anyway. So in some ways, we might be preaching to the converted a little bit. But let's dive a little bit into the mindset of teaching. What's your thought on that?

Paul: Professional development really is my first thing. I spend a great deal of time. Just this year I have done two big workshops on professional development and I think we have to...its a Stephen Covey cliché, "sharpen the saw." It's about making yourself better so that you can actually impart the knowledge better. I think from a teaching perspective, one of the first things that you can do is actually improve yourself and put yourself in a learning situation because as a teacher, we sometimes forget what it's like to actually be a learner.

In my hobby job, I'm a swimming coach. I always say to the people when I coach swimming, "You know what my real job is? I'm a piano teacher." They go, "Wow." They go, "How does piano and swimming go together?" Well, actually, they're really similar to teach because we don't do either of them naturally. We don't naturally swim. We don't naturally play the piano and they're both technique-based activities. So the process that you're going to use to teach is going to be very similar.

Tim: I wrote recently about my experience of learning guitar and I think in that article I talked about how maybe five years ago, I had to learn how to teach trumpet and trombone because I was asked to teach it in Year Seven band class at one of my schools. I've never taught any of these instruments before. When I was asked to do it, I thought, "Oh, no."

The last thing I want to do is learn how to play trumpet and trombone.

But I got into it and the experience was absolutely fascinating because I was a complete novice. I had to go and get lessons from the teacher who knew how to play it and I had to struggle through the basics of making a sound, finding a note, getting the sound right. It was a great experience and when I think about my own mindset in the way I approached things, I have to say that I've learned so much from being in the learner's shoes and also with my deployment that I did. My performance deployment, maybe four or five years ago, is exactly the same thing. You're sitting there as a pianist. You suddenly realize this is exactly what it's like. You go in there. You've done all the work and everything falls apart and it's just fascinating I think.

Paul: Exactly. Well, I know all about falling apart. I started learning classical singing about three years ago and did my Grad. I got an A from my Grad. "Right, I'll just go straight to AMusA." Then massive fail.

Tim: Right, so we should...actually, we should tell everyone, if they're overseas, what's AMusA.

Paul: It's a diploma in the performance of a particular instrument or, obviously, I was doing classical voice.

Tim: This is run by the AMEB who's the Australian Music Exam Board. So what happened?

Paul: It wasn't great, really. I’m busy and I thought I could get away with the not doing as much practice as I really needed to do. But I suppose the exam was about a month too early and I was singing a Bernstein [SP] piece. It was...my accompanist and I actually got from the start to the end on the Wednesday before the exam for the first time. It was never going to end well.

But it was a great learning experience. It was really about getting back on the horse and going again and going, "Well, I learned something from that. Actually, I do need to do a little bit more work. I'm not really as clever as I thought I was." That's a really a good one for kids as well because I know I've had kids that get A's for Grade One and then they get a C for Grade Two or Grade Three. It's like they had to learn that they actually have to put the work in whereas before they were talented. So it's a really good thing for us to learn as well and it's certainly was great for me to experience that. But I'm back on the horse. I'm going to do it again next year. I mean, I do it again as my hobby. I might sing with the Symphony Choirs in Sydney so I get to sing beautiful music. But it's just about fun. But it's really, again, putting yourself into that learning experience.

Tim: I don't know how you do it all: coaching, swimming. You coach running as well?

Paul: I do.

Tim: So you do that. You run a large music school, a set of music schools. You teach yourself. You do some singing on the side. You sing in the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. Let's talk for a moment about how you actually find the time to put into these professional development activities.

Paul: Well, it's all about working on your own timetable, I suppose, which is what I do with my kids. My kids coming up, "I didn't have time to practice this week. I was so busy." This is from an eight-year old. I'm like, "Really? Let's just talk about that." I think that one of the best things I think as teachers that we can do for our students is actually create a timetable, a weekly timetable. In fact, I've got some notes we can put up on the show notes with that timetable that people can use. As the piano teacher, we're often the recipient of so much knowledge, some of it that we don't necessarily want to know. Kids tell us any number of things. As do parents, sometimes.

But we can help and help managing time is a really important thing because a lot of people aren't good at managing time, especially kids.

Tim: We do expect a lot from them, don't we?

Paul: We do, I think. From my own experience, I have to manage my time really, really well. I think, as I know you are interested in...because you are also a qualified PE teacher, really interested in sport and fitness as I am. I think that allows us to be able to do the things that we do because we have the level of energy and the health to be able to do that and that's an important thing as well.

Tim: I think...health is very important. I was listening to a podcast about that for...an entrepreneur's podcast and the importance of keeping healthy and how that's starting to go virtual now. I don't know if you heard of the latest trending PTs, these virtual PTs where you get texts from people everyday saying, "This is your work out for today," and at the end of the day they say, "Right, what did you eat?" this kind of thing. They train people all around the world. It's very interesting.

Paul: I think I'd be really good at that. I respond very well to texts.

Tim: Now I should clarify. I'm not a fully qualified PE teacher. I have taught it before.

Paul: Really?

Tim: Yeah, but my training is definitely in the music base. But as you've mentioned, I have taught a huge variety of different subjects. So I have taught outdoor education and PE and IT and I have a feeling that that has been part of the reason why I approach things like I do. I haven't had that standard training through a conservatory model that puts you into one path necessarily. I've gone around. I've taught in many different areas overseas, different states of Australia, doing different things, large schools, head of campus I was for a while. I think that now that I've come back to the music, I have this approach that says, "Why do we do things like we do things?" That's what my mindset is all about.

I remember when I first started really getting really into the piano teaching, I reconnecting with my old teacher who I remember her distinctly saying that, "You're likely...because of the way you approach things, you're likely to ruffle some feathers in a fairly traditional industry." I've always been reasonably proud of my approach to doing that because I think by asking questions and finding out whether we are doing things the right way and asking, "Can we do it better? Or should we do it differently? Or why don't we just give it a try anyway?" we have this potential for a huge growth.

Paul: Exactly. Well, as one of the quotes that we were talking about, from Albert Einstein, once you stop learning, you start dying.

Tim: It's a bit morbid but I think it's spot on.

Paul: I agree. My dad's in the hospital at the moment and I'm trying to...he did the test for...how his brain is operating. He got 98% or something and I'm thinking, "Dad, you can learn how to use Internet." I'm trying to get him to use the Internet and stuff like that because I think it's really important. He needs to start learning because it really gets your brain going and stuff.

Tim: Go on.

Paul: I was just going to say, talking about the whole brain stuff, you mentioned that I coach running and swimming. I actually coach running and swimming for a charity which is called Can Too [SP] and they raise money for cancer research. So participants go and do an event and then they have to raise money during the time that they are training. They have raised over $10 million...sorry. Yeah, $10 million in Australia in the last 10 years. It's quite amazing. They fund cancer researches. In Australia, it's something like only 10% of research grants that's actually ever granted, 10% of all the grants.

Tim: Right.

Paul: So they fund these researchers to do research into cancer and they bring these researchers around to make the participants. I would say, "Did you learn music when you were a kid?" They go, "Yes. I don't play the trumpet or whatever or piano or something." Every single one of them that I have spoken to has learned music. My thing is I don't want to teach the next Beethoven or Mozart. I want to teach the next Nobel Laureate, to find a cure for cancer. So that's my big thing about why I do coach in running and swimming because at the end of the day, it's helping these kids who are incredibly talented and often made talented because of us little piano teachers along the way, building creativity with them that has allowed their brain to open up and be creative. And they've done their PhD in Science or whatever. It gives them an opportunity to get work and then find cures and stuff. They've actually had two major cures created in the last 10 years which is just amazing.

Tim: So what would you say to music teachers who might be I mean airing about the events that we're running? We've got a one-day event we're going to talk about in a moment which is all related to the concept we're talking about. What would you say to them, they've got a full studio. Parents seem happy. Kids are playing piano. Why should teachers in that situation still consider an event like the one we're running?

Paul: Can I go back to the Albert Einstein quote? I just think...

Tim: I mean, it's pretty easy though to getting you into a comfortable groove and just keep doing the same things, isn't it?

Paul: It is. It really is. I think that a lot of people, when you get into that groove, things start to decay along the way. You might notice that you have a one or two students have dropped off and then you think, "Maybe I should do something." So I suppose, have a look at your studio. Have a look at what you're doing in your life. Is it matching the mindset that you once set out to achieve? Then go, "Maybe I could learn something."
I was going to workshops with the...thought of, "If I could learn one new thing, it's been worthwhile." Some of the things that we're doing is talking about teaching improvising which a lot of people are absolutely terrified about, and so are kids, often to as well, so some really easy strategies for doing that, some fun things to do with technical work, getting kids to read. Is that a bloody nightmare or what? Especially when you teach using...well, we use music learning theory approach, so listen, sing, play...I knew I had to get to that.

Tim: I was actually just talking about that whole concept with Susan when I recorded her podcast. We were talking about the special needs teaching and the importance...again, the music theory concepts keeps coming up and it works in that area as well, with special needs students in particular. The reading is...sometimes you wouldn't even get to it. But singing, listening, that's what it's about at the start. It's got to be experienced.

Paul: Absolutely, and then that whole thing about all the...for example, in Australia, all of the theory exams have gone online and we're doing so much stuff online. And just even talking about the importance of using a pencil and why it's important and sharing ideas on how to...what have you done, what have you used. I think the ability for teachers to actually sit down at a piano with somebody else and share ideas has to be one that is just so valuable.

Tim: Let's talk a little bit about that because that's one of the key differences in the events that we're running. We're going to be giving everyone a digital piano to work at.

Paul: That's right.

Tim: I think that is so crucial. One of my big things that I think about is habit forming and, unfortunately, what tends to happen at many of these many events that I go to and that others go to is you come back with so many great ideas and you've written them all down and you've got notebooks full of great things. But a week later, a month later, two months later, the problem is that we tend to slip back into the old routines. Unless we actually make a conscious decision to try something and try it a number of times, it doesn't tend to stick. Do you find the same?

Paul: Well, take the sport analogy. It takes 8 to 12 weeks to make something autonomic which means that...

Tim: You mean automatic or do you mean autonomic?

Paul: Autonomic. It's integrated into the body as opposed to we automatically think about it. So it's the same thing. It takes that long to build that habit into your teaching and you've got...I'm sure everyone knows with their own student, when they learn a mistake in something, to unlearn that is a great challenge. So it's the same thing, really. It's building your experience and creating a habit through doing it once, doing it again and then thinking at the end of the week, "I did it three times," and evaluating, "How did it work for me?" So I suppose it's going to be a little bit of a process.

Tim: I think that's going to be one of the great benefits of having a keyboard to actually work at, is that when we try something out, instead of just writing down the idea and going, "Wow, that's a great idea, Paul," we can actually go, "Okay, we're going to try that right now," so that we've got that experiential kind of learning which you don't get in a lecture format. I think that's going to be crucial to starting that process of habit forming.

Paul: Absolutely, especially in improvisation where we're going to start very, very simply and just building on one note, two notes, then add three notes and then take that away, and also strategies to improvising when you've got all the children who are readers. Readers are terrified of improvisation. I've got some really good strategies and actually I'll give you a little video I put up of one of my kids after two weeks. He's a very good improviser and at any chance, he would do...But it's still...I use the same process with him. It's about getting kids to go through that process and then they can start to, "If you do this, I could do this or how about trying this?"

Tim: You've been sharing some of those...some of your improvisation work book ideas in the inner circle, in our forums, that's been great to try these out. I've used them with my students. It's great. Here's a page and basically you've got a really simple left-hand pattern and you've got here, the notes you can improvise with...make your own piece out of it. For readers, I think, this is such an approachable way to approach improvisation.

Paul: Yes, and it's easy. I'm not inventing the wheel. This has all come from my all of my old background and doing workshops with Richard Gill [SP] and the likes and that sort of quality educator. You get so many amazing ideas. They're not my ideas. I'm just using them. In piano, what I suppose is unique, is that it's often used in schools and in big groups and using for a recorder or for xylophones and things. But the same things you can do on piano. Was it Rachty [SP]?

Tim: Vashti [SP].

Paul: Vashti, sorry. Yes. I mean, she was great. Your podcast with Vashti was sensational, about some of the things that you do.

Tim: That's episode 45 which was about using Orff, O-R-F-F, if you haven't heard about it, to teach piano and rhythm. It was a great episode. She took us through the studio. She had students there. They were playing instruments. It was crazy. It was great fun.

Paul: We'll be doing a little bit of that playing instruments. I have sets of chimes, chime bars, so we'll be doing some of that with the people that come to the workshops to actually get the experience. I find that children who do the chimes first, it takes away the pressure of the piano.

Tim: That's what Vachty said. So a quick overview of what we're going to do. The event goes from about 10:00 till 3:30-ish. We're going to start with a bit of a warm up, something pretty practical and setting the scene for the day. We've got...that's about 10:00 o'clock, I think maybe 11:00 o'clock in Perth. I think we're got a slightly different time frame. But about 10:00 o'clock so you don't have to get up too early on the morning of these workshops. We've then got 2 sessions, one before and then one after morning tea when part of the group will go with you and we're going to be doing the improvisation work.

So you've talked about that, I guess, today so far. The other half will be with me and we'll talk about what I'm going to do in the second and then we swap over after morning tea. We've got lunch time as well and then after lunch we're going to talk about some of the music learning theory concepts that you've based a lot of your work and your teaching on. Patterns, rhythms, some of the Orff ideas, the way you're singing as well. Do you want to talk just a little bit more about what teachers might expect in that session? I know we could cover lots here.

Paul: Well, it's really about...probably for a lot of it is actually getting away from the piano. I find that once you get kids away from the piano and doing rhythms and singing and patterns, then when they get to the piano, it's already in their body. So there's a lot of stuff that we'll be doing around that. So lots of singing and using percussion instruments because I can tell you, your kids will love using percussion instruments. I do...you know Royal March of the Lions which is the...

Tim: Saint-Saëns songs? Kind of about the animals.

Paul: I did the arrangement or Gillie [SP] and I did the arrangement of, I think, the one that's in the preliminary book from the Piano for Leisure. But just getting kids to do the drums, "Lion march, lion march," and just that, of getting that and playing along with it, the rhythm is in their body because what you'll get a lot is....or something like that then I'll start playing the rhythms.

Tim: Both hands together.

Paul: Yeah.

Tim: God, I just had a really good question. I can't remember.

Paul: . Well, tell me, what are you doing in yours? Tim's teaching kids?

Tim: I was going to focus on one aspect of teaching and maybe focusing on teaching teen beginners because I know that's something that I know a lot about and it can be quite difficult. But what I actually thought I'd do, this is what my schedule from this year's presenting look like. So I've give, I don't know, a number of speeches and key notes and things around Australia, in particular, this year. So I thought I'm actually just going to take some key things from each of those talks that I've given and the things that I do in my studio and package it into one really practical session. So I'm going to talk about three main areas. One's going to be teaching strategies, secondly, technology and technique, finally enough.

People haven't heard me talk about technique all that much because I guess I focus more on the creative things. What I'm going to be doing is talking about how I use...and I think you might cover this, too. How you can make scales, an actual, practical thing that students can use by incorporating improvisation and backing tracks and things like that with it because...

Paul: Absolutely.

Tim: I would challenge most teachers to ask their students in their next lesson, "Why are you learning scales? Why do I put so much focus on you learning scales as a teacher to the student?" and see what they say. Even my students, until I've gone through this with them a number of times and shown them that melodies all come from scales, scales form the basis, the root notes of code progressions, it is so fundamental. But we often don't make that connection between a technical exercise and its practical use. Sure, it helps get the fingers moving. It learns patterns which come up in music. That's true but there's so much more to it, so talking about things like that to do with technique.
In technology, everyone knows that I'm a big user of technology. But I also know that there is so much out there and it can be overwhelming. So we will just be covering maybe two or three crucial apps that I use all the time and why and really try to help teachers form a habit with those apps if they choose to because that's the other problematic thing. When it comes to technology, there is so many options I find and I know in a circle forums, people come up with a new app that I really love. NinGenius, we talked about a little while ago, and I use that for a while. But I didn't have the habit. I've stopped using it now but there's no reason why. It's still a great app. I just didn't quite form that habit. Did you keep using that in the end?

Paul: My kids remind me all the time.

Tim: Right.

Paul: Is it time for NinGenius? Because I've got little...I put them up the inner circle. I made a little NinGenius scoresheet so you could...so for those people who don't know what NinGenius is, it's a really great app for getting kids to learn to read music and you can use...what I always do, because of how I teach, I want them to read the music and play the notes. They have to actually play the notes on the keyboard or you can choose the A, B, C, D or E or whatever. But there's a music playing and it's like adrenalin to get the game and it's about getting the highest score and because I teach kids in class, the competitions is unbelievable.

Tim: It would be great, wouldn't it?

Paul: They're like...I wish I had multiple iPads then I could actually just hand out eight iPads at a time. Unfortunately, I don't have iPads to do that. But there is so much competition and it's like the prize. So I do a lot of things with, "Johnny was sitting there playing with beautifully cool fingers. Come and have a game with NinGenius." So everyone will come around and then you'll see everyone's got beautifully cool fingers because they want to be next.

Tim: You're right.

Paul: So it's all about reinforcing the teaching technique or the technique that you want to achieve.

Tim: I always try and remind teachers in workshops that technology is simply a tool box or a tool kit and you've got to choose the right tool to take out to solve the problem. So you wouldn't pick out this spanner if you want to bang a nail and you've got to use the right tool. You don't have to use them all at once. You may just want to be working on one thing so you use one thing. But hopefully through a session like this you'll be able to know which tool is a good one for you to use. That's what I'll be talking about in the technology area.

For teaching strategies, we'll be talking about teenagers and a few things to do with pop but it certainly won't be the whole focus because I've talked a lot about that and people have seen my courses and things about it. One thing I do want to talk about is harmonizing and the way I use harmonizing and transposing right from the beginning with students and how even beginners learning very simple "Mary had a little lamb" can learn the basic concepts of harmonizing and how important, in my opinion, that is for pianists.

Paul: Fantastic. Exactly. That keys in so well with doing improvisation when you go, "Okay, so now play that in F major," or then we're playing in C major, that you go change the keys. That's brilliant, Tim.
Tim: Cool.

Paul: I want to go yours.

Tim: Well, I might let you have a sneak peek at some stage. I don't know how that's going to go. But anyway, so that's the overview of what I'm going to talk about. I think one of the other things, too, people would have seen, if you're interested in these workshops, by the way, and you're listening to this, if you're at a computer, you can head to timtopham.com/transform. The workshops are called Transform your Teaching and they're in Australia or in Melbourne and Sydney next week as for when this podcast goes live. Adelaide in October, Perth and Brisbane in November. So we're in all those areas.

Make sure that you get a ticket. We're certainly not doing it to make much money from it. It's pretty reasonably prized, $50 or $60 at full price although you might just get in with an early bird depending on when this podcast go live. I should have checked that. But you're going to be having a practical day, a fun day and you're going to be walking away with lots of ideas but hopefully not overwhelmed as well because we're going to do that.

Paul: There's also the hot seats. Tell us about that.

Tim: So the hot seats, an idea I got from some other live events I've seen. What I want to do is give a teacher the chance to come up the front and workshop some ideas with us that is just particular to those teachers. Picture it like a master class but as a teacher, you're not coming up to perform. You're coming out just to have a chat. You might want to ask us specifically...you've just started teaching groups and you really want to know some activities that you can use. Maybe you've got a teenage boy who's not really talking to you anymore and need some new rapporteur ideas. We'll get stuck into that for you.

Maybe you've got some business questions that you'd like to ask. By being up the front, we'll have a discussion but because it's a master class, in effect, everyone in the room will be able to learn from the discussions we're having and the things that we're doing. So that's the concept of the hot seat and you'll find out once you've registered, you'll get an email from us with information about how you can apply. Put your name down to being in the hot seat if it interests you.

Paul: Wow, that sounds fantastic because a lot of people often have lots of...they don't realize that they have an idea but then they hear somebody go, "I've got this problem." They go, "Actually, I've got that problem, too."

Tim: Yes, that's right.

Paul: That's something I could...I could really help with.

Tim: Look, I'd love for a teacher to come up and go, "You know what guys? I don't reckon that way that you showed us is actually very good. How about have a look at what I do?" I'm very much open to the fact that we can all learn from each other so let’s share all our ideas in these events.

Paul: Absolutely, certainly. As I said, none of the ideas I have are my own. I would just plagiarize from everyone.

Tim: We all do that. It's probably why I haven't chosen to be a Suzuki [SP] teacher or simply music teacher. But I love the theories and ideas in those approaches and I like taking them and using bits and pieces in my own to create my own things. I think that's a great way to do it.

Paul: Absolutely.

Tim: So tell us what professional development have you done in the last 6 to 12 months related to music? Actually...no, I'm going to rephrase that question because I know you almost go every weekend and do something. In fact, you're off straight after this to another lecture. Tell as about a recent, one professional development or a lecture you went to that really made an impact on you.

Paul: Well, two or three weeks ago, I went to New South Wales Orff Associations workshop with Richard Gill and had five hours with my hero, Richard Gill, which was fantastic.

Tim: You better tell the international audience who Richard Gill is if they haven't heard.

Paul: He is an international composer and conductor. He conducts opera and he's very involved in Australia at the moment in a mentor, in getting music education, back into schools because funding is drying up as it is everywhere in the arts. He has created a mentoring program in schools in New South Wales, in Australia, at the moment which is working brilliantly and it's really fantastic. He's in his 70's and he's just such amazing.
I was stupidly...because I know him, he goes...there was a bit where he wanted to do some improvisation on a piano. Most of the people there were school teachers, school music teachers. So often, they don't play piano. Anyway, "Paul you might, you can come play." I'm like, oh no. We were improvising in a 20th century style that went...just go for it.

Tim: Go with it.

Paul: Had an absolute ball but I learned so much. We started singing...they started with singing 13th century chant and we finished with singing a Stravinsky work which was almost the same as a 13th century chant. It was quite amazing and we covered all of the harmony that happened from the 13th century to the 20th centaury. It was just amazing and understanding what was happening with the harmony and then from a school teaching perspective, how to teach that. All of the stuff...you would have loved it because we were talking about harmony and improvising...sorry, and transposing. That's exactly what he was talking about in this workshop. It was truly an amazing experience.

Tim: That's brilliant. To be honest, I haven't heard him speak live and everyone talks so much about him. I missed a recent opportunity when he was in Melbourne but I'm hanging out to hear Richard Gill.

Paul: Tell me what was your latest?

Tim: My very latest was a conference called Education Change Makers. This is a group of people who go around the world trying to get together the people that want to change education. This is predominantly classroom educators. There was 350 people we met in Melbourne. It was a very, very cool conference. It had a really young, hip vibe to it. You could text and the coffee would arrive over here, amazing food. It was a real pumped up event and we had these bakers who were...there was this amazing early 20 year old woman from Africa who has come from poverty and no education in her family to running and building her own school. Incredible stories of change. We had students come in and talk about things that they were doing in their classrooms. It was a really great event. I really did enjoy it.

That was the most recent one. I think, the other ones I've done have been workshops and conferences where I've been presenting at them. One thing I do like to do when I speak at events is actually stay around for the whole event. I know some speakers come in. They fly and then they do their thing and they leave. I think it's such waste because there's so much that I still want to learn from other people.

I was in Brisbane at some workshops up there. There was a music tech conferences and the MTNA in Texas which was great fun, too. So yes that went on this year weren't a heap in the process.

Paul: Great. Tim, I stumbled upon your podcast probably at least a year and a half ago now. I think you were under 10.

Tim: It's about 18 months.

Paul: Sorry?

Tim: It's about 18 months.

Paul: It was like, "Wow, this is fantastic." somebody is actually doing because I had actually thought about doing this myself because I think I love learning stuff and I love meeting people and learning more things. And you do learn so much from doing this thing, especially doing workshops. I learn often as much as the participants from then.

Tim: Totally.

Paul: Why are you doing it? I love it. Tell us why are you actually doing it? What's your end game with it?

Tim: It certainly was never my original intention to become a teacher of teachers and to become someone who can inspire other teachers to change what they do. But it has become an absolute driving passion in the last two to three years, in particular, as things have grown and the podcast has become more recognized and the blog as well. I have this strong drive to change the nature of piano teaching around the world. That's what I want to do because there's still so many students who come through piano teaching in particular, but probably all instrumental teaching, with very little to show for it and very little passion for it at the end. Even students who go through under all these exams up to very high levels and then they quit, it's just an utter shame. I want to make a change in that outcome for students.

The best way to do that for me, while I could do that to my own, how many students I can teach...if I can teach hundreds of teachers to do different things then hopefully I can impact on thousands or tens of thousands of students and that's what drives me.

Paul: That's fantastic. That's absolutely a great reason to be doing it.

Tim: Hopefully it's making an impact. I do get some good feedback so I know that there is change going on and I would just love people who are listening to this podcast and any of these podcasts, if you're enjoying it then please share it with other teachers so that we can get other teachers doing the same thing. That is why I put all the effort in that I do, as crazy as it is.

Paul: Talking about arts education, I went and saw Julie Andrews.

Tim: Wow.

Paul: At the Opera House. She was in an interview with...because she's directing the Australian Opera's My Fair Lady which is the 60th anniversary of the production that she was in 60 years ago.

Tim: Wow. I didn't know that.
Paul: She' in her 80's and she has just done a television show for Neflix on arts education and the importance of arts education. She's done it with her daughter. One of the things that she says is, "Are we lucky or what?" I sometimes think to myself, we're really lucky to be able to have this stuff. I was thinking about and I think it's just really important that we are actually doing and promoting arts education and teaching in the best possible way we can. I see a lot of...often, because I teach a lot of primary age kids, I often get a lot of kids who bring learning at school with headphones on and just doing a 2-minute or the heavier 30-minute lesson. But there's 6 of them having a 30-minute lesson all on headphones. So the teacher goes around to each one so they effectively get a 5-minute lesson. That's not education. That's not what music teaching is about.

Why I'm passionate about music education as well is also about that whole arts education that it improves our community.

Tim: Absolutely.

Paul: The arts is so important. Wouldn't it be great if those people could be involved in the arts in some way? It builds audience for professional musicians as well.

Tim: We don't even need to talk about the research. I think most people would know about the positive effects that music has, all that kind of stuff. We all agree. We're all musicians anyway. But if there's one thing that we can do to show that we're serious is be, one, professional, two, be the best we can be and that means to continue develop ourselves and our teaching ability through professional development.

Paul: Exactly.

Tim: Working in schools, too. I've worked in schools pretty much all my life. I know that education keep changing. It keeps evolving and classroom teachers have to keep current and fresh and keep doing new things because the schools will latch on to a new idea that they think is a way to move forward and they'll go, "Right, all teachers need to now do this." It's like, "Well, okay. Let's go. This is what we're doing." Some would, obviously, get very frustrated by that but the good teachers will go, "Right, let's try this out."

Unfortunately, of course, in independent music education, that doesn't happen and that's when we can end up in our little silo doing our own thing that might be working but could be better.

Paul: Exactly, and this is the opportunity. I mean, this is why we're doing these workshops so that people have the opportunity and they're reasonably low cost. People can come along and be part of it and also make new friends and socialize. I just think that's one of the great things I love going to the workshops, to meet new people.

Tim: Let's face it, that's another half of the whole equation of a live conference or workshop, isn't it? It's meeting people, hanging out with physical people. All the online stuff is great. I'm obviously passionate about it but nothing quite beats hanging out and having a coffee with someone.

Paul: Exactly.

Tim: Cool. Well, look, I think we should probably start wrapping it up. For people who are interested in the events, I'll quickly run through the dates. Melbourne is 21st of September, and Sydney the 25th of September. This is 2016, both in school holiday time. Adelaide is...

Paul: Melbourne is a Wednesday, isn't it?

Tim: Is a Wednesday? Yes. Sydney is a Sunday.

Paul: Yes.

Tim: I think all the others are Sundays. Adelaide is the 2nd of October. Perth is the 6th of November and Brisbane, the 20th of November. All around about 10:00 till 3:00 or thereabouts. You can grab tickets and find out more, read about what's actually happening, timtopham.com/transform. Is there anything else you wanted to cover up quickly before we wrap it up, Paul?

Paul: Not that I can think of, Tim.

Tim: Beautiful. It's been good. I think before we started talking about this, we said, "Look, we could probably chat for about three hours on these topics," but I think we've done pretty well. We're right on 50 minutes.

Paul: Exactly.

Tim: Thanks so much for joining me today and thanks so much for working with me on these live events. It's going to so much be fun. I actually can't wait to do it. It's going to be great.

Paul: I'm really looking forward to it.

Tim: Brilliant. All right, well, I'll see you very soon and if you got any questions, guys, about any of the events or what we're doing, just head to the show notes page for this episode which will be timtompham.com/episode 58. We'll pop some links there to any of the things we've talked about and you mentioned a video that you've got, too, so check that on the page, too.

Paul: No problem.

Tim: Great. Thanks so much, Paul. I'll speak to you again soon.

Paul: Cheers, Tim.

Tim: See you.

How much professional development do you do?

Do you get the opportunity to attend conferences or workshops? What’s your favourite event you’ve been to?

Do our more “hands on” type training events appeal to you?

Follow
Avatar

About the Author

Tim Topham has one mission in life: to stem the tide of children quitting music lessons by helping teachers maximise student engagement through creativity, technology and innovation. Tim hosts the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at timtopham.com and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, Californian Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.