Why You Should Be at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Convention in 2017

By Tim Topham | Conferences/Conventions

May 18
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Join Us at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Convention

In this live Facebook video, Tim Topham chats with Carly McDonald about why you need to be at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Convention in 2017.

It is running in Adelaide between 10-14 of July. Both Carly and Tim will be presenting at the event.

For more information and to register, you can visit appca.com.au.

Tim Topham: Well happy Friday, everyone. Great that you could join us today. We’re going to be talking all about the APPC, Australasian Piano Pedagogy Convention, I know that’s a big mouthful for a Friday afternoon. So grab a glass of wine or something to calm your nerves after a busy [inaudible [00:00:22]. I would like to welcome a very special guest to this little chat this afternoon, and that is the one and only, the fabulous Carly McDonald. Welcome to our little chat today about the APPC.

Carly McDonald:  Hi everybody. It’s good to chat about it. It’s important to chat about it.

TT: This is a first time for me doing a live interview on Facebook live, so give us a thumbs up, a little heart, something to let us know you can hear this okay, and that we’re coming through loud and clear.

What I wanted to do is have a little chat about how important the APPC has been in my own development, and generally speaking, the importance in my opinion, of professional development for piano teachers. Everything’s gone online now, hasn’t it Carly? We each have blogs, I’ve got a membership site, we do lots of things online. You’ve got the magazine, too. But there’s nothing quite like meeting in person, right?

CM: No. It’s really important to … the community that you’ve built online, it’s really nice to meet face to face. It’s really good to actually make those connections in person.

TT: We were just talking before we started, we actually met in 2011 at the APPC, right?

CM: Yes, yeah we did.

TT: Look at this, we’ve been great mates ever since, and I know that you’ve helped with a lot of my teaching. You’ve been on my podcast, I’ve thrown things your way, and that’s the kind of things that comes out of these events in my opinion. I’ve got Carly on the call because she’s actually part of the organising committee for this great conference which is coming up in Adelaide in July, and that’s July 10-14. In fact, I think I can even put this up on the screen. Look at that, there we go, amazing.

Carly, given that you’ve been on the committee, I wanted to get a little bit of inside information from you. Tell us about the [inaudible [00:02:22], firstly. It’s called “Keys to a Changing World: Unlocking the Past, Present, and Future.” What have you got in store for you?

CM: Well, when we were looking at even setting the thing, there were lots of different things going around. I think I kept coming back to the idea that even as teachers, we use repertoire from the past and the present, and composers are always coming up with new things for the future students. But it’s so much more than that, it’s about teaching pedagogy from the past that’s still valuable today, and what we can do going into the future for our students in a changing educational environment. It’s a really broad topic that we should be able to sink our teeth into, that’s what’s so great about a four-day conference. We really can get so many sessions in.

TT: Absolutely. To be honest, it’s actually one of the longest piano pedagogy conferences in the world that I know of. Even the big biannual one in the states is not this long. It’s a really comprehensive amount of time. I must say, I like the theme. It’s very clever, and it gives great scope of course for people to be talking about as you say, some of the traditional things, and then plenty of the modern things. [inaudible [00:03:43] I’m locking the past, present, and future. When we’re talking future, we’re probably talking about some of the changing nature of piano pedagogy technology, online training, lessons, all those kinds of things. [inaudible [00:03:53]?

CM: Yeah, yeah. All of that stuff. Looking at what will be the trends going forward, what are our ideas, and what do people in universities doing their masters and PhDs, what are they doing at the moment? What are they studying and looking into, and where is it heading? As well as practical stuff like what’s happening in studios? Where is that going? What’s the practical seven-year-old student having their lesson, what are we doing with those kids? We can check out what’s coming with the technology and all of those things.

TT: A question that we both get asked a lot and you probably receive is requesting to the magazine, and that’s “How do we get these kids engaged?” The big one, how do we get them practising when they are so over scheduled? I’m sure that will be coming up in discussions.

CM: Competing for interest is a huge thing. For children nowadays, even as a parent, how do I ensure my child has the skills they need to make the most of the opportunities, but also the tough stuff in life? Changing job markets and things like that. How do I make sure my children still have enough experiences to choose something that’s valuable, but also do something that will lead to a job at the end of the day? The conference has to do with things like that as well, the competing interests that children have. Because it’s real.

TT: Yeah, it’s one of our biggest challenges that we all have. Unfortunately, there are no massively easy solutions either. It’s something that we’re working through, but I know that that will be a focus of discussion. If not in presentations, then certainly around the bar over a drink.

CM: It really is a big one for teachers, I’m sure you get it all the time. Most presentations at some point they’ll have those questions coming as well.

TT: Yeah. Tell us about some of the invited speakers, we’ve actually got international guests that you guys have decided to bring over for us. Can you name a couple of them, perhaps what they’re going to be talking about?

CM: We have some really exciting guests that are coming through to APPC this year. We’ve got one local keynote presenter, and it’s Anna Goldsworthy, who’s a local South Australian, very well known. She is going to actually be performing as well with her trio, so that’s really exciting. She’s talking more about ensemble work for pianists, and also running a master class. So we should get plenty of chances to see her.

TT: She is such a great person to hang out with generally, isn’t she?

CM: She really is, I really enjoy the way she presents. She’s a wordsmith, and it’s wonderful to listen to, so I’m looking forward to that. Then also Professor Robert Juke, he’s bringing more the cognitive psychology-based perspective to the conference so that we can look at the way neuroscience impacts music as well, and children’s development. He should be really, really interesting to see. But they’re all fantastic, I’m really impressed with the calibre of presenters that we’ve got coming.

To bring a bit of jazz flavour, Eric [Baumgartner [00:07:28] is coming as well. He’s also doing a jazz master class, actually, it looks really impressive. They’re doing some stuff-

TT: Very cool.

CM: Yeah, an improvised jazz master class. [inaudible [00:07:47] improvisation and some from the score as well, so that should be very cool. He’s presenting as well. We really, we also have Lisa Bastian and Thomas [Hit [00:08:00] coming, and Nicholas Matthews. Really, extremely fabulous presenters to come and see. Then there are 94 sessions in total, so … there are so many. It’s huge.

TT: In fact, I’ve got up here the program, and just looking through it, seriously, there is stuff that is going to interest everybody, whether you are passionate about baroque music or you love jazz or pop, there’s something for everybody. I see  [Christopher Naughton’s [00:08:37] coming as well.

CM: He is, and that’s really exciting. He’s part of the [crosstalk [00:08:42] solutions strand. There really is something for everybody, and Chris is doing a number of presentations that should be great, too. He’s doing some hands-on workshop type stuff, too. There is so much to do, and I really love that there are six master classes at this conference, so there’s [inaudible [00:09:11] Anna Goldsworthy’s running the ensemble master class, we’ve got Piers Lang doing a master class on Rachmaninoff’s Theme of [inaudible [00:09:23], the variations. It’s so good. Sometimes, people are going to find it really hard to choose what session they’re going to be in.

TT: Yeah, it’s always the way when you get conferences like this, even spread over four days there is just so much that’s packed in. I can see Helen Castillen’s talking, she’s a superstar, literally the go-to person for anyone doing deployment level or higher general knowledge. She helped me with mine, she’s a superstar. Angela Turner, of course, who has just put out books. Sunny [Chua [00:09:56], he’s going to be there too, that’s pretty cool. I haven’t seen him or [inaudible [00:10:00] for ages. Who else …

CM: It’s going to be very cool.

TT: Oh look, there’s too much to look at. Anyway, I think all the information’s on the website in any case, so the website is appca.com.au, and just before we talk about our presentations, because we’re both giving our ideas on a couple of topics as well, I thought I’d mention too that back in 2011, which was when I came to my first piano pedagogy conference, I was really a very green piano teacher. I had just started the blog, and while I had been teaching for many years in classrooms and things like that, I hadn’t  been a piano teacher for all that long. The amount that I learned, and the people that I connected with, a number of whom are now long-term friends, yourself included, has been so instrumental, pardon my pun, to my development as a piano teacher. I think that’s why I’m really passionate about encouraging people to get along to this. It makes a lot of sense.

CM: And it’s right on our doorstep. I do not know another industry that has a four-day PD event with evening events and recitals and all of that kind of stuff, and the catering at lunch time, all taken care of for you, that the price that this is for. There is not a comparable industry that does this. Like you said, it’s making those connections. Such an isolated industry that we work in, and to all be there and talk about the stuff that we do every day, it’s so important. And you get to meet cool people.

TT: I’m sure some people would think “It’s so expensive and I’ve got to pay for accommodations, and maybe I’ve got to fly in,” and things like that. I guess what I would say to people is that it’s important. You’ve got to prioritise it. And it’s the sort of thing that you know is coming up every two years, so just budget for it. You can use part of your admin fee in your studio to set aside money each year for your professional development, which I think everyone should be doing anyway.

CM: Everyone should be doing that.

TT: Carly, you own a large business with multiple piano teachers, so you know the importance of budgeting and putting aside money for this kind of training, right?

CM: We are actually sending all of our piano teachers to APPC, so as a business we are … yep. That’s something that we budgeted for as a business, was to contribute towards all of our teachers being able to go, because it’s that important. It really is. And if we’re self-employed, we need to ensure we are providing ourselves with those opportunities.

TT: Totally right. All right, you better tell us about what you’re going to be talking about quickly, too.

CM: Like I said before, I’ve got a crazy five sessions that I’m doing. I’m going to be doing two sessions on business, studio business. Running an effective and efficient business as a musician, which is sometimes not our forte, but we all do it, so we should grow our skills in that area. And looking at policies and enrollment and all of those. Then [inaudible [00:13:28] of teachers everywhere. I’m looking forward to doing those ones.

Then I’m going to do one which is called “Cool Stuff for Young Kids,” so basically it’s that engaging, making lessons really interesting but in a way that it’s easy for you to make sure you can manage it as a teacher. Good repertoire, good activities, things like that. Another one on teaching adults, but teaching them with enthusiasm, beginner adults, with realistic expectations so that they don’t get discouraged at any point.

Then I’m also going to explore practical growth mindset for studios and teachers, because that’s a really important one. It’s an important one that kids … it’s becoming their language that they use in primary schools anyway, and it’s something that studio teachers need to be taking onboard as well. An introduction to it, as well as some ideas on how to do it in your studio.

So there are my five. What about you, what are you doing?

TT: I’m exhausted just listening to that, and you’ve got to prepare all those. I know how passionate you are about it, and I’ve seen how you are in action, so I can guarantee that anyone that attends your sessions will learn a lot, number one, but also have a great time, too. Hopefully, we’re not on the same time, Carly, or we’re going to be competing for-

CM: We’re not, I checked the timetable, we’re not.

TT: Brilliant, so I can go and see yours too, that’s awesome.

CM: [crosstalk [00:15:05] we can actually see them.

TT: Yeah, that’s right, it often doesn’t happen. I’m going to be giving two presentations while we’re there. My first one is called “Exploring the Modern Teacher’s Toolkit.” What I decided to do that was rather than teach a really specific topic, as I have done quite often before, teaching pop music, or making scales fun, or exam approach, whatever it is, I thought “I’ll actually just grab all of my best ideas and deliver them in one block without being overwhelming,” because I’m really conscious that there are so many great ideas out there, and one of the hardest things is actually choosing what’s important. What I’ve put together is really my top about four or five things that I do in lessons, I’m going to dive into them and actually explore them a bit more deeply. Things like my approach to making scales and technical work interesting using a couple of really simple apps. Also, my approach to harmonisation and how I use that in four chord composing. A few little tricks that I think teachers will find really, really useful, and they can integrate into their studios really easily.

My second talk has got a funny name, it’s called “Tetris versus PacMan: Why Patterns Matter in Reading,” and so without giving away too much about this, I’m going to be making the connection between these classic arcade-style games that most people know about, and unpacking what the best approach to reading music and teaching the reading of music is, and how we can get more effective about it when we consider things from a harmonic perspective.

That’s my summary, did that make sense? I hope it did.

CM: Yeah, yeah, they make excellent sense.

TT: Beautiful, beautiful. Well okay, I want to start wrapping things up because I know it’s Friday evening here, and we’ve got a few viewers who have joined us now, which is great. Those of you who are in Australia, hopefully, this will be really, really relevant, but I think relevant to any teachers, because this is a more general talk about the importance of professional development. If you’re in the states and listening to this, hopefully you can make connections between this and your local [MTNA [00:17:33] and your local teacher association-type conferences. As you can tell, we’re really passionate about how important it is to get along to these things.

CM: Absolutely.

TT: What I thought I would do is just give a quick wrap-up of a couple of the other things that I’ve seen in the program, too. I’ve just got it open in front of me, and there were a couple other things that jumped out. Of course, Piers Lane is … he’s a patron of the APPC, right?

CM: Yes, he is.

TT: Right. He tends to hang around a lot, and he’s a great person to chat to. I’ve always been really impressed by his ability to do that. A lot of people you’ll see at conferences will come and then go, won’t they? And he’s actually hanging around, which is brilliant.

CM: He’s also doing the opening recital at the cocktail party. That should be magnificent.

TT: Yes, yes.

CM:  [crosstalk [00:18:26] Adelaide Town Hall, it’s super. It’s going to be an amazing party.

TT:  I think I’ve got to register for that, actually, that’s not part of the included fee is it?

CM: No, it’s not.

TT: Right okay [crosstalk [00:18:37].

CM: Because it’s on the night before the main conference starts, so some people are there and some are not. It’s an added extra you can put in.

TT: I can see in relation to … we were talking before about the context, or the theme of the conference, sorry, being about past, present, and future, I can see there’s a Forte Piano master class for people who are interested in more of the traditional instruments. That would be quite interested. Markel Griffon is going to be there, he’s been on my podcast and I’ve reviewed his book. He is awesome for motivation stuff, if people are looking for help with that, then he’s a superstar of that. We’ve got Lisa Bastion as you mentioned before, actually, is it [Hreibar [00:19:25], is his last name?

CM: Rebar.

TT: Rebar. Yeah. I’ve seen him perform, too, and he’s really, greatly great. He’s giving a talk on the improvisation for classical pianists. [crosstalk [00:19:41].

CM: He’s also doing a lunchtime recital, so he’s going to have lots there for us.

TT: Oh, brilliant. I’ve just seen Amy Lewis from Surrey, UK has joined us, hello, and Gil Jones as well. Both from the UK, we need some more Aussies. Where are all the Aussies? Come on Aussies, come and say hello when you log in, it would be good to hear that you’re here. Anyway, you might be watching this as a recording in any case, but all the information is going to be on my page. The most important thing to know is that the convention is 10-14 July in Adelaide, South Australia, your hometown, Carly, which I think is very, very cool.

CM: Yes it is. Finally I get one.

TT: That’s right. In fact it started out in Adelaide, 1993, I gather.

CM: It did. This is I think the third time in Adelaide, but this is my first time in Adelaide. I’m looking forward to it.

TT: Cool. I love it, I love Adelaide, too.

CM: It’s been really interesting being on the committee, helping to organise this. The insight into the development of the conference, it’s really excellent.

TT: Yeah, I bet, and a lot of hard work I’m sure, too.

CM: There are some people working really hard.

TT: Congratulations to you and your team, thank you for all that you are doing for us piano teachers. The best way we can thank you for all your work is to actually go along.

CM: Come along, yeah, absolutely. We really want teachers to embrace it as their conference because this is our professional development conference. It’s the Austral-Asian, it’s an international one, so if you can make it it’s absolutely worth it.

TT: I remember meeting some people from Canada at maybe the 2011 one, America certainly, New Zealand obviously.

CM: Even this time around, there are so many international people coming, and it’s surprising, really, the number of international guests that we’ve got. We’ve got one of our presenters is from Singapore, and a couple from America, but we’ve got people coming from Europe, these people are travelling international flights to come to the conference. Because it’s really a good conference. If you’re local, get on board.

TT: Totally great. Well, let’s wrap it up. A reminder, the website address is … I’m going to put it in the comments right now, appc.com-


TT: appca.com.au.

CM: That’s it.

TT: That will provide you all the information that you need, also give you links to the accommodation options too, I think.

CM: Yes.

TT: I think to … do attendees have access to the list of who’s doing things at this stage, can you remember? I can’t remember.

CM: Yes, absolutely. The most recent draft that we have of the conference time schedule is online, so it’s all there for you. From what I know, barring any massive hiccups, that’s probably the final one. Hopefully, fingers crossed.

TT: Fantastic. For those who are watching the members of my Inner Circle, we’ll definitely be having a meet up there, some drinks or a pizza or something to hang out, because it’s a great opportunity to get together, obviously. So the website address that you need to register at is on the screen, appca.com.au. It would be awesome to see you there. Carly, can’t wait to see you, give you a big hug and have a glass of wine with you, it’s going to be good fun.

CM: It will be great fun, Tim.

TT: All right, thanks so much for joining me today on the call and enjoy your weekend. See you, everyone.

CM:  See ya.


About the Author

Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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