The Piano Teachers Forum (PTF) is an active professional association that has proudly served Central New Jersey area piano teachers since 1981.
The friendly and supportive atmosphere of the PTF allows for an open exchange of ideas and fosters the development of valuable relationships among colleagues.
The PTF is your go-to resource for continuing education and stimulating professional development. Membership gives you access to our monthly programs, Spring Festival, performance group, and media lending library.
Please read this welcome message from our 2020-2021 President, Victoria Chow:
#2020: What a Year
Our world has been shaken since March from the COVID-19 global pandemic. As though this weren’t enough, social injustice outcries are at an all-time peak, massive storms have torn through our state, and our country has never been more divided during pre-election season. With so much going on around us, it is hard to stay grounded for ourselves, our families and our students. I would like to share with you some of my struggles and triumphs during this time. And by doing so, I hope to allow you to feel less isolated and part of a larger community.
When the pandemic first hit, I was very excited to dive into remote teaching. It was so encouraging to see how adaptable students and parents were with technology. How lucky are we to be able to continue our vocation this way? With schools being remote during that time as well, I found that my students had more time on their hands, and were practicing a lot more than they had been before! As summer ensued, and many camps canceled, I discovered that students and parents were eager to continue lessons to keep their students engaged and challenged during an isolated and solitary time.
Some things I’m learning along the way …
Using computer software to share screen and play games with younger students constantly makes our lessons engaging and fun. Some of these games include flashcards that involve rhythmic learning, notational learning and a myriad of musical terms. Music theory has also soared during this time. All of my students have scored 98-100% on their RCM Theory Exams (which have been successfully moved to all digital learning) and both my AP Music Theory students scored 5s this year. Through the digital learning process, students are able to make progress everyday and parents are enthusiastic about completing these exams.
With my more intermediate-advanced students, we make virtual ensembles together similar to the one Jason Gallagher (Vice President) and I shared on the Piano Teachers Forum Facebook Page. Check it out if you haven’t yet! This back and forth of submitting audio files to each other teaches students to listen better, and to “keep going” as they practice along with each other before the final submission for me to stitch together.
It hasn’t been all fun and games, though. I have struggled and learned so much about myself as a teacher and how to improve for my students. Listening took on a whole new level of focus. As professional musicians, our listening skills are pretty excellent, but our students are still learning and developing their ears. As we worked more and more online, I found my students saying, “WHAT?” multiple times in a lesson and as a result, I exhausted myself in repeating directions or demonstrations. Finally, I had to put my foot down, especially with my elementary-middle school students. They were instructed to never respond with “WHAT?” after a prompt or demonstration. Instead, I challenged them to truly listen, take the time to absorb the prompt, think it through, and then answer. And I promised to wait patiently. This made a world of a difference in our lessons. Students are much more focused now and expected to be 100% engaged.
Many auditions will continue to be digital this year. Unfortunately, I found myself spending countless hours cumulatively critiquing recorded videos of my students outside of the lesson time this past spring. But why bother asking students to send videos to me at all? Well, because the sound quality is much better, and it also gives us an authentic and accurate representation of what the judge will be adjudicating. Instead of taking personal time to evaluate these videos, I have now incorporated it into the lesson time where they will watch the video with me as we share screen and I pause/make comments as we watch the performance together. This also gives them a more accurate and detailed synopsis of what to work on. With these videos already uploaded, it has also been a joy to see students peer evaluate anonymously using Google forms and learn from each other as well.
As you can tell, I can go on and on about my online journey, but hope that you will join us this fall via Zoom as many presenters share tips and tricks with you as we continue to navigate the digital world! What a blessing it is to be a part of these children’s lives in such a positive way during such an uncertain and heavy time. To allow them to work through their anxieties and pressures in an artistic and healthy way is invaluable. I hope you know how special and vital YOU are; now more than ever. Even when you feel defeated or exhausted from remote teaching and the tumultuous world around you, please know that seeing your face, hearing you speak, and knowing that someone is truly LISTENING during this isolative and unknown time is critical and absolutely necessary.
There have been many positive moments that you have all experienced these past few months. But, I know that this has also been overwhelming at times for some of you; it certainly has been for me. I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. You are a part of a community. Our Community: The Piano Teachers Forum of Central New Jersey. This community is here to help you figure out some of those digital teaching issues and to tackle teaching positively during a radical era. Let us help each other by staying in touch and checking in digitally this year! I hope to see and chat with many of you!
As we continue to traverse our ever-changing realities, I continue to pray that you, and your families stay safe, healthy and happy.
Victoria Chow, BM, MM, NCTM
President, Festival Chairperson, Central New Jersey Piano Teachers Forum