Q: Why does a parent or caregiver need to attend all the classes for students under 8 years old?
A: The Harmony Road method relies on parental attendance for a few reasons. First, because parents and caregivers attend the classes, they are in a better position to help students practice at home; they know what the students have been learning and what they should be working on. Second, parents and caregivers are able to provide hands-on help for their students during each class; this entails helping with hand position, fingering, and note reading, as well as assisting with instructions and transitions between activities. Third, students are able to learn more effectively when there are fewer distractions in the classroom; these are minimized when parents are in attendance. And lastly, adult participation encourages student participation: when they see dad singing the dinosaur song, they're more likely to sing along too!
Q: Can the nanny/babysitter/grandma be the one to bring my child to class?
A: Yes, this is fine, although it can be an added challenge when it comes to practicing at home. Whoever helps your child practice needs to be up to speed on the material being covered in class. So if your nanny brings the child to class but you'll be the one doing the practicing, you need to be able to communicate thoroughly with the nanny about things like fingering, solfege syllables, rhythmic patterns, etc.
Q: I'd like to sign up both of my children for the same class. Can one parent or caregiver attend with both of them?
A: If your children are both within the appropriate age range for the class, then you may send just one parent or caregiver to class with them. When you arrive in class, I can get you set up so that your children are seated at adjacent keyboards, and you are seated between them. You will of course have a slightly more challenging experience than if you were assisting just one child, but you knew that!
Q: All this talk of practicing has me worried! How much practicing is expected of my child?
A: As a mother, I know how difficult it can sometimes be to get a child to do anything, let alone practice piano! As a teacher, I have realistic expectations, and I certainly do not want a child's practice time to result in fights or tears! My expectation is that children will do some practicing at home, and that parents will help them with their practice time. If a family does not do the minimum practicing for a week, please do not skip classes! In class, the child is still able to participate in and fully enjoy the classes. And they will probably notice that their friends who practiced are playing something that they would like to play -- and keeping up with a friend is good motivation
Q: What is the "minimum" amount of practicing per week?
A: I do what I can to encourage practicing, using positive feedback and lots of cool stickers and the much coveted practice pesos. ITo earn a practice peso, in book 1 students set a goal of practicing four difrent days a week for 5 minutes a day. In book 2 this increase to 10 minutes; book 3 to 15 minutes and so on. The minimum amount practice will let the student keep up with the class and be an average player. But most studetns are not happy with just being okay at something. They want to be really good -- if not the best -- and want to keep up with their peers. At home, a parent's job is to help keep practicing fun. It takes a lot of years for students to become self-motivated.
Q: What is a typical Harmony Road class like?
A: Classes are usually made up of 4 to 8 students, each accompanied by a parent or caregiver. For group songs and activities, students gather in the middle of the room. For the portions of the class that cover piano skills, each student sits at one of the electric keyboards in the classroom.
A typical class begins with a fun group song to relax and focus the children. Then we work at the keyboards on some of the songs from our book. We begin a new song by singing the lyrics and learning the solfege notes. Once the students have been exposed to the song for a week or two, we learn to play the song one phrase at a time, and then eventually we play the song as a group, often singing the solfege as we play. This simultaneous solfeging and playing is a cornerstone of the Harmony Road method, because it is so effective at helping the children learn.
After some time at the keyboards, we transition to the middle of the room for some group activities. These might include learning important concepts in music theory, practicing reading skills by creating notes and chords on the dry-erase board, or using a variety of instruments to develop rhythm comprehension.
Usually we return to the keyboards to work on another song or two, and sometimes there is an opporunity for solo time or another group activity. In this way, by switching up the activities, the curriculum stays interesting and fun for the children. Once they and their parents are clear on what to practice for the week, the students get an attendance sticker and a peso if they've earned one.
Q: Four to eight kids playing at the same time? Really?
A: Yup, it's a little chaotic sometimes, but it really works! As so many musicians can attest, it's more fun playing with your friends than playing alone! And the kids actually benefit from playing along with each other, not only because they are learning how to stick with a steady rhythm but also because they are practicing ensemble playing, which is a valuable skill in any musical pursuit. Nonetheless, we do play in smaller groups in class, and there is solo time for those students who want it.
Q: What is solfege singing?
A: Short answer: DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI DO! Long answer: solfeging is singing these syllables instead of the words or alphabetic note names for a song. Solfege singing is extremely helpful for learning to play a song on the piano. For example, if a child wants to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," she can learn to sing "DO DO SOL SOL, LA LA SOL" and then translate that directly to her fingers on the piano. And it's much less confusing and more fun than singing "C C G G A A G."
Q: If we have to miss a class, can we take a make-up class?
A: I try to schedule one or two make-up classes during each session. In addition, certain classes are offered at multiple times, and, depending on availability, students can make up a class at another time during the week. Rest assured that, even if you miss a class, I will include you in my weekly follow-up email to let you know what your child can be practicing at home.
Q: Does my child need a keyboard to practice on? And if I want to buy one, what should I buy?
A: For students aged 3-4, it's not crucial to be practicing on a keyboard. But students over age 4 should have something to practice on at home, either a piano, a digital piano, or some kind of portable keyboard. It doesn't need to be anything fancy, and it doesn't need to be a full-size keyboard with 88 keys -- you can go for 61 or 76 keys even though 88 is nicer. It should, however, have standard-size keys, that is, not miniature keys. (A standard white piano key is about 7/8 inch wide.) You'll probably also want built-in speakers. Most important: if you purchase a didgital keybaord, the keys must be touch sensitive. Hammer weighted is better, but for beginners no tmandatory. But touch sensitve is required.