Teaching Proper Damper Pedal Technique

damper-pedal

Breaking bad habits is hard to do, and this is especially true with damper-pedal technique. Students don’t always get direct advice and instruction on how to properly use the damper pedal, and this can become a real problem when they advance to more difficult repertoire.

But, if taught properly, damper-pedal technique can be very clearly executed and with the following method, teachers can correctly instruct their beginning students or even remedy bad habits acquired by more experienced students.

WHEN SHOULD THE DAMPER-PEDAL BE INTRODUCED?

One question that many teachers have is when to introduce the pedal to a beginning student.

It seems each method book has a slightly different approach, but overall it is best to wait until after the student has gotten comfortable with posture and position, is consistently playing correctly with arm weight and sufficient individual finger strength, and is comfortable playing with both hands together.

After these first techniques are successfully incorporated, then the pedal can slowly be added into their playing.

BEGINNING PEDAL TECHNIQUE

The best way to introduce this new technique is to go over how the damper-pedal works. Take the time to look inside the piano and explain the mechanics of the pedal, as this can help students visualize what happens every time they depress and lift their right foot.

Next, you can demonstrate what a difference the timing makes when trying to “catch” a sound with the damper-pedal while trying not to have any of the previous sound blended in. Make sure to work with no-pedal to pedal technique first, not overlapping pedal, which will come later.

After this, have the student play a note or chord while you demonstrate the proper timing of the pedal with your own foot. Also, show examples of incorrect timing and make sure they understand the difference.

Remember to indicate how the pedal goes down directly after the note or chord, and that the foot “reacts” to the hands. The pedal must always be after the hands; otherwise, it blurs with the previous sound.

Next, you can switch around and play a note or chord and have them attempt the correct pedal timing. Make sure they keep the right heel on the ground, play with the ball of their foot and lift all the way up and down.

Listen and discuss the outcomes. This is usually the “Aha!” moment for students with the pedal.

Once they understand the timing, have them try the note or chord and pedal together until they get the timing right. At this point, you can assign them easy songs that use the pedal, but still not overlapping pedal yet.

MOVING ON TO OVERLAPPING PEDAL

Once they master individual pedaling, you can show them overlapping pedal technique.

First, you can demonstrate with a longer passage of music that has overlapping pedal.

Explain that at the start, you pedal as already learned, then you hold the foot through the first harmony change. You play the next note or chord and then change the damper-pedal quickly after the new sound, but hold the new note or chord long enough to “catch” the sound before moving to another note or chord.

Reiterate the concept of the foot always “reacting” to the sound the hands make. The pedal is the “glue” that holds the two different sounds together without fully combining them.

When demonstrating, note the different moments that happen in the sequence:

  1. Just before the new chord the pedal is down and the hands are free to move where they need to go.
  2. During the dropping of the new chord the pedal is still held and there is a brief mixing of the two harmonies.
  3. Immediately after this the pedal lifts and drops while holding the new chord, which “fixes” the blurry, mixed sound.
  4. Then the pedal holds while the hands move to another chord (i.e. another inversion of the harmony).

Each of these actions should be distinct and demonstrated in “slow motion” to have the full effect.

You can use the same method as before, first having them play as you do the pedal (both correctly and incorrectly to show the difference), and then you play as they try the overlapping pedal timing until they get it right.

Have them practice in “slow motion” then gradually get faster with the sequence of motions. Once they are able to do one pedal change properly, then have them try two in a row, and then a series of changes.

After having mastered this, you can assign them a technically easy song that has continuous overlapping pedal. Monitor their pedal in the following lessons to make sure the timing doesn’t get “lazy,” especially if the student is relearning how to properly use the damper-pedal.

——

This method takes some concentrated effort, but it will give your students the skills to naturally execute the pedal in more advanced pieces as well.


About the Author: This article about developing excellent technique is by Carter McMullen from the Baltimore School of Music. You can read more about Carter and his work below.

Carter McMullen is a piano teacher at the Baltimore School of Music. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgia State University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, both in Piano Performance. He continued his music studies at conservatories in Paris, France and London, England.

Carter maintains an active performing schedule including solo and chamber music, instrumental and vocal accompanying, and jazz. He toured South America three times with the Chase Educational Foundation, giving concerts and masterclasses in Argentina and Chile, and has performed in concerts in France, Italy, the UK, and the US. He regularly collaborates with performance students at the Peabody Institute.

In 2017, Carter founded the Union Square Chamber Music Society, and as Artistic Director, he organizes monthly salon concerts in which he regularly takes part as a performer.

Developing Excellent Technique

technique

When we think of what students get the most excited about, probably the last thing that comes to mind is technique.

Students don’t usually jump for joy when given the task to practice scales or arpeggios, and this lack of enthusiasm can make an already difficult job even harder to accomplish.

But, technique is essential to the craft of making music on any instrument, and students must learn how to play their instrument correctly and with the most efficiency to express the music as clearly and effectively as possible.

What can we do as teachers to make sure our students are developing proper technique?

In every stage of learning, teachers can help their students focus on the skills that will help them get to the next technical level while staying engaged and inspired.

Beginning technique

It is essential that proper technique is taught from the very beginning – not only so that the student learns to play correctly from the start, but also so that they get used to the element of technique in their daily practice and lessons.

When beginning to teach a student to play the piano, we must make sure they always play properly with their fingers, wrists and arms, always have correct posture, and that they try to watch the score without looking at the hands as much as possible.

One fun way to begin addressing proper technique is to demonstrate what playing looks and sounds like when done with bad technique and then contrasting it with good technique.

You can have the student try as well, and the silliness of it can help them remember!


Very early on, have the student master the pedal timing so that it is not an issue later with more complicated pieces.

Basic pedaling is frequently overlooked or just casually taught when it comes about in the method book, but if not taught correctly, it can completely throw off rhythms, articulations, and dynamics in more challenging passages.

Be as demonstrative as you can with how to execute the timing of the pedal and make sure the student knows how it works mechanically, so there isn’t any gap in the sound.


One of the most important late-beginner techniques involves putting the thumb under for scales and arpeggios.

If students can learn to use the muscles in their thumb without moving their wrists or arms when playing scales (even just one octave at first), then their technique will have a solid foundation upon which to build.

With these basic skills mastered, the intermediate-level techniques of multi-octave scales and arpeggios will be much more smoothly executed.

Intermediate Technique

Intermediate-level technique is an extension of the beginning technique and should develop naturally out of it.

There are many new things for the student to learn, so it’s best not to focus on too much at once.

Perhaps start with multi-octave scales first, and then move on to arpeggios so as to not overload the student.

When possible, try to engage the student by asking him or her to determine what technique would work best in a situation by using logic.

A good example is scale and arpeggio fingerings: Why don’t we use thumbs on black notes in scales?

Why is it better to use thumbs and fifth-fingers on white notes and the longer fingers on black notes?

Have them figure out scale fingerings on their own and check their work.

This approach will help them feel more connected to the way they play, and not just that they are doing as they are told.

(Click below for an excellent piece especially crafted for the intermediate student.)


The intermediate level is a good time to start implementing metronome practice.

Work on using the metronome with the student in the lesson to make sure they know how to use it properly.

Try using different beats and subdivisions and have them count and subdivide out loud.

It’s worth taking time in lessons to teach this correctly, as it becomes essential in practicing more difficult pieces and rhythms.

The earlier students get used to doing this, the better!


Begin to incorporate etudes into your students’ repertoire.

In addition to the standard etudes, make sure to choose some fun etudes in different styles that develop specific techniques.

One of the best ways to keep all of this interesting is to turn technique practice into games, puzzles or challenges.

Have the student come up with their patterns to practice in addition to the exercises you assign to keep them engaged.

Leading to Advanced Technique

Once students have a firm grasp of the intermediate techniques of multi-octave scales and arpeggios, you can begin teaching them advanced scales (3rds, 6ths, 10ths) and arpeggios of inversions and seventh chords.

Different trill fingerings could also be developed at this point as well.

In a studio with multiple early-advanced students, have technique competitions for prizes.

With scales and arpeggios, you can set metronome markings goals to aim for, and the fastest and most accurate player wins!


Overall, start to make technique a focused part of every lesson, even if you don’t call it that explicitly.

You can practice scales and finger strengthening exercises without calling it technique, and if you can find ways to make it fun, then students will be more enthusiastic about doing what it takes to bring their technique to the next level.


About the Author: This article about developing excellent technique is by Carter McMullen from the Baltimore School of Music. You can read more about Carter and his work below.

Carter McMullen is a piano teacher at the Baltimore School of Music. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgia State University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, both in Piano Performance. He continued his music studies at conservatories in Paris, France and London, England.

Carter maintains an active performing schedule including solo and chamber music, instrumental and vocal accompanying, and jazz. He toured South America three times with the Chase Educational Foundation, giving concerts and masterclasses in Argentina and Chile, and has performed in concerts in France, Italy, the UK, and the US. He regularly collaborates with performance students at the Peabody Institute.

In 2017, Carter founded the Union Square Chamber Music Society, and as Artistic Director, he organizes monthly salon concerts in which he regularly takes part as a performer.

Five Tips for Successful Performance Preparation

performance preparation

One of the most exciting aspects of becoming a musician is to share what we have been working on.

This is the moment when we take what a composer has written, translate it into how it speaks to us and then share our interpretation with an audience.

We, as musicians, connect unrelated people through what we do on stage.

What a powerful moment!

How do you prepare your students for such a monumental event?

Here are some guidelines for your students to prepare for an upcoming performance.

1. Programming appropriately.

As tempting as it is to assign or allow students pieces they want to play or we want to hear for a recital, sometimes they are simply not ready.

Just because a child could play it doesn’t mean they should.

It is far better to assign a piece of music that is easier for them so that they have a positive musical experience.

When students are allowed to over-program, they are robbed of the opportunity to have a genuine musical experience.

If a student feels a technically appropriate piece is too easy for them, they are not working hard enough.

There are always things to improve.

Focus on dynamics and articulation.

Can they play it at a different tempo and with a metronome?

A general rule of thumb two to three months prior to a performance is that if a student cannot make it through the piece the first time they sit to play it, the piece is simply too hard to be done well in a short time frame.

Does that mean they shouldn’t work on it?

Of course not!

We learn from what we don’t know rather than what we do know, so it is still a valuable teaching tool- just maybe not the right choice for an upcoming performance given the constraints of time.

2. Practice slowly.

If they can’t play it slowly, they don’t truly understand it.

We don’t want students only to be able to play everything quickly.

How is their precision of the subdivision when there is a lot more space in between beats for errors?

Quick is fun and exciting, but it is a lot more gratifying when it is precise!

3. Start from the end.

Students love that upper left-hand corner of the page.

That is why the beginning of so many of their pieces are so solid!

I love to start from the end.

“End on a good note.”

Audiences remember the first thing they hear as well as the last thing they hear.

They will forgive the middle- although they may not forget it!

Start from the end and work your way towards the beginning.

This helps with transitions as well.

Speaking of transitions…

4. Practice transitions.

We as musicians tend to “chunk” our music.

We play one section, then another.

The bridge between the two often gets neglected and even more frequently, sounds neglected.

This is necessary not only within the confines of one piece but also from one piece to the next.

It is important to hear the change in style and tonality between pieces of music.

Don’t save the run-through for the performance.

Have them end one piece and then play the beginning of the next so that their ears and fingers are accustomed to that transition.

5. Memorize their music.

Simply stated, if it isn’t memorized, it hasn’t been practiced enough.

When we are glued to the black dots on the page, we miss out on the joy of actually creating music.

They have to be able to allow the music to lead them.

Each note should not just last the prescribed number of beats; it should rise and fall with the emotions they are experiencing on stage.

This can only happen if they aren’t reliant on reading the notes on the page.

They know their music well enough to look away.


Use these tips to help prepare your students for their upcoming performance.

Of course, modify according to ability and temper.

The best performances occur when your student is prepared and can connect with the audience.

Above all, enjoy helping your student make connections!


About April: April O’Keefe is co-founder and current Associate Director of SoliMusica Academy.  She graduated from Georgia State University in 2002 with a Bachelor in Music Performance with a focus on cello performance.  She taught at East Cobb Middle School from 2004 until 2014.

While teaching at East Cobb Middle School, the orchestra program grew from 120 students to over 275 students.  Under her direction, the orchestras consistently received superior ratings at local and regional Large Group Performance Evaluations.  Many of her students participated in select ensembles such as the Cobb County Middle School Honor Orchestra, Georgia All-State Orchestra and the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra.  Mrs. O’Keefe has been actively involved in the Georgia Music Educators Association serving as District Twelve Honor Orchestra Chair and District Twelve All-State Audition Chair.  She also actively serves and clinician and adjudicator throughout the metro-Atlanta area.

Since 2008, April O’Keefe has served as music education assistant for Kennesaw United Methodist Church.  While in this position, she has worked with and organized children’s choir, children’s handbells, and various summer camps.  She also created a barbershop ensemble, taught an adult violin class, and served as interim Music Minister directing adult choirs and adult handbell groups.

Mrs. O’Keefe lives in Kennesaw with her husband, Paul, five-year-old Carson, and two-year-old twins, Logan and Molly.  Paul is a violinist, Carson is just beginning his musical journey on violin, and the twins are enjoying watching-for now.

I’m Thankful For You!

I'm thankful

Thanksgiving is a time to sit back and purposefully reflect on the good things in your life.

It’s a time to enjoy friends and family, catch up with those you don’t get to see regularly, and reflect on good memories.

Thanksgiving is a time to honor those who support you and encourage you. 

I hope that you take time to reflect on the good things in your life and honor your friends, family, and piano families this Thanksgiving season.

And yes, these are important matters ALL of the time, but Thanksgiving allows us a moment to reflect even more on them. So take advantage of it.

Friends, I am thankful for you! 

Your support this past year has meant the world to me as I’ve worked to build a platform that honors you piano teachers and the important work you’re doing.

Thank you, thank you! I am grateful.

Please accept this beginner sheet music AND effective memorization practice guide as a small token of my appreciation. 

And keep up the important work you’re doing, because it really does matter.

Your friend,
Chris

It All Begins with a Song (Madison’s Story)

Girl with a song

Today’s post is about one of my students.

I’ve taught Madison for several years in different settings.

She is a bright ball of glowing energy and so intuitive and discerning for her age.

The following story is one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve encountered with a student.

I sure hope it blesses your soul today!


“It all begins with a song” is a pretty famous saying. It’s an album title, a song lyric, and it’s The Nashville Songwriter’s Association’s famous slogan. To what does it refer? What, exactly, begins with a song?

I know a little girl. Well, she’s not that little anymore. She’s as tall as me, if not taller! Her name is Madison.

Madison is a special girl. She’s radiant. Her smile is genuine, and her heart is pure. Her personality, bright and beautiful! The light of her life shines brilliantly, and it’s infectious.

And so is her gift.

You ought to hear this girl sing and play the piano.

She’s not a flashy musician. But the sincerity of her heart and simple truth of her message captivates you!

She has something important to say. A message for the world. You hear it in every note she plays and sings.

I first met Madison several years ago. She was one of the choristers in my children’s choir at Kennesaw United Methodist Church.

It was evident from the start that this girl loved (and I mean loved) to sing! Her eyes widened at just the introduction of a new song. Music filled her with ecstatic joy, and it was evident.

Long story short, she began studying the piano with me and quickly became interested in composing songs. It was delightful teaching her how to structure her songs and helping her find sources of inspiration to serve as the subject matter for her music.

I’ll never forget it.

One day, Madison came into my studio wide-eyed, grinning ear-to-ear. She excitedly proclaimed,

“Mr. Chris, I’ve composed a song.”

“Sit down,” I said, eagerly. “Show me.”

She sat, she played, and began to cry.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

She paused for a second, took a deep breath, and said, “There are so many hurting people in my school, at my church, and in other places. They need to know that God loves them and that they are perfect in his eyes.”

It all begins with a song.”

Madison got it then, and she gets it now.

She knows that her gift is powerful enough to affect the world in a deep and meaningful way, and she’s using her gift to change the world.

She’s touched many hearts with that particular song – singing it for friends, family members, and strangers.

Her simple, yet profound words moved me deeply that day.

This fourteen-year-old girl spoke truth into the atmosphere with such simplicity and sincerity, rivaling the weighty statements made by the most influential men and women of our time.

Are you wondering what her song says? Well, here’s a copy of the lyrics:

 

 

Balancing Music and All the Other Things

Children are incredibly active. Honestly, too much.

When competing with sports, academics, church, clubs, play dates, and all the other things, how does music fit into a well-balanced life for today’s youth?

Here are eight ways to help you keep music on the schedule.

1. Don’t Compete.

We need to understand that we cannot compete with all of the other things. We must accept them, work with them, and above all, embrace them.

These activities are what makes our students who they are going to be. They may not choose or even like all of the activities they are placed in, but it is part of their life, and it will shape them.

Likewise, our lessons play an important in developing the person that youngster will become. Use that time wisely and positively to help shape that love of music.

2. Use their activities to enhance your teaching.

Your student dances or plays basketball? Talk about the importance of moving their fingers correctly for muscle memory.

Your student is a mathlete? Subdivision, fractions, tempo: built-in math/music-learning!

Science Olympiad? Talk about the process of dissecting the music. Those kids love processes!

Reading bowl? So much of our music has a built-in plot line. You can talk about how a crescendo is similar to foreshadowing in a story.

Whether or not your students love metaphors and similes, most will appreciate the connection between the two seemingly unrelated activities.

3.) Don’t make them choose.

You will lose. There is room in their lives for both.

Your student can be both an athlete and a musician. At least at the beginning levels. Regardless, they can love both.

Sometimes, their coaches really do mean that they cannot play in the championship game if they miss practice.

Their instructors may really mean that they cannot dance in the annual performance of The Nutcracker if they miss the first rehearsal.

Making them feel guilty for missing a recital or other performance is only going to tarnish their love for music.

Tell them you understand that life is full of tough choices and you are just sad they miss the opportunity, but there will be others.

4. Help them manage their time.

I’ve noticed in my years of teaching that the students in all advanced classes with sports or ballet every day after school managed their time better than other students.

Necessity is the key to learning to manage time.

Younger students will need your guidance. Try not to over-program their practice time.

Give them quality exercises that address their immediate needs rather than multiple assignments that barely scratch the surface.

Keep the exercises short: just a few measures for younger students and thirty seconds or less for older students.

5. Suggest a time to practice.

This is not a new concept at all, but it is worth re-stating.

After they brush their teeth, before they eat their snack, immediately following math homework, all are very specific and memorable times to practice.

Remind them that it takes forty days to create a new habit.

Providing some sort of visual chart or sticker can help with the process, but keep it simple.

6. Develop relationships with both students and parents.

By really knowing your parents, you can understand more fully where music lies in the list of priorities.

One parent may have it at the top of the list, while the other could not care less about music.

As you talk to each, you can subtly draw connections between their top priority and your top priority.

7. Support the other endeavors.

Make the time to go to the game. Show up to the dance recital.

You have no idea how these small actions impact your students. You may also be surprised at how seeing your student in different light impacts you.

You’ll be able to see shadows of musical ability in your students’ performances.

8. Remember why you teach.

We teach because we believe it makes us a well-rounded person. It smoothes the rough edges and enhances creativity.

Someone taught you to love music. Someone helped you choose music over all else. Be that for your student.

Then, all the other things are just the other things.

Happy teaching!


About the Author: April O’Keefe is co-founder and current Associate Director of SoliMusica Academy.  She graduated from Georgia State University in 2002 with a Bachelor in Music Performance with a focus on cello performance.  She taught at East Cobb Middle School from 2004 until 2014.

While teaching at East Cobb Middle School, the orchestra program grew from 120 students to over 275 students.  Under her direction, the orchestras consistently received superior ratings at local and regional Large Group Performance Evaluations.  Many of her students participated in select ensembles such as the Cobb County Middle School Honor Orchestra, Georgia All-State Orchestra and the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra.  Mrs. O’Keefe has been actively involved in the Georgia Music Educators Association serving as District Twelve Honor Orchestra Chair and District Twelve All-State Audition Chair.  She also actively serves and clinician and adjudicator throughout the metro-Atlanta area.

Since 2008, April O’Keefe has served as music education assistant for Kennesaw United Methodist Church.  While in this position, she has worked with and organized children’s choir, children’s handbells, and various summer camps.  She also created a barbershop ensemble, taught an adult violin class, and served as interim Music Minister directing adult choirs and adult handbell groups.

Mrs. O’Keefe lives in Kennesaw with her husband, Paul, five-year-old Carson, and two-year-old twins, Logan and Molly.  Paul is a violinist, Carson is just beginning his musical journey on violin, and the twins are enjoying watching – for now.

Six Ways to Stay Motivated When Your Students are Not Practicing

We, as music teachers, believe that what we do is important to the development of young people.

We look for those moments when the music suddenly grabs the student and they show glimmers of that passion we see in ourselves.

Instead, we repeatedly see students whose music seems to get progressively lower on their priority list.

We know they are playing video games, spending time on Snapchat, building massive things on Minecraft, but, “you didn’t have time to practice this week?!?!?”

Maybe we should just cut them loose.

But—This is our chosen profession. Or, it chose us.

So how do you keep the joy in teaching when it seems your students have joy in everything else but learning?

1. Focus on the big picture.

Not every child we teach will choose music as a career. How many of your childhood friends did?

It’s not really about grooming the next concert pianist or headlining soloist. It is really just about teaching them to love music.

Music is awesome. It will still be awesome if they only look at their music in the car on their way to you.

So instead of stressing about their upcoming recital, stress over making it an enjoyable experience.

2. Small victories are important.

Celebrate the little accomplishments they get with you.

Watch them carefully as they tackle a difficult passage in your presence.

Look for the sparkle in their eyes when they accomplish something. Look for those moments when they are searching for your approval.

When you see those eyes: the sparkling or searching eyes, you can leave the lesson knowing you reached that student.

3. Teach your students to practice.

They aren’t putting in the work at home, use their lesson time to teach them to practice.

Teach them your method that you use to get through difficult passages.

Go over a few measures the way you would practice and say, “Do you know what that was called? Practicing. This is what you do at home. Let’s go through these step again. I know how much I struggled in the beginning learning how to practice.”

Then, go through the same steps again to remind them how to do it.

We focus so much on the results of the practice time, we forget to teach our students how to practice.

They don’t have the tools in their belt that we do to overcome difficulties.

Too often, we have forgotten what it is like to be a beginner. They do not realize that playing from the beginning to the end is not practicing.

They do not know how to isolate measures. They do not know how to identify the parts that need work. Instead, they look at the parts they already know.

Most importantly, they do not know how to overcome frustration.

Teach them how. One note at a time.

Well-crafted and FUN sheet music is a great way to inspire students to practice!

4. Remind your students (and yourself) why it’s important to practice.

Do they even know why they are supposed to practice?

What’s your answer when someone asks why they are supposed to practice?

We practice to develop muscle memory so when nerves kick in, the hands know what to do.

We practice reinforcing what we learned in our lesson.

We practice so our teacher can instead focus on making real music-dynamics, phrasing, articulation, making the music speak so that we and our audience become breathless.

5. Give grace to your students.

Sometimes your students need your forgiveness without them actually earning it.

Sometimes music just has to take a backseat in your student’s life. They may not tell you everything that’s happening at home.

Their one respite from the world’s judgment and difficulties may be sitting in your studio.

Make that time count.

Show them that in your studio, there is no judgment. There is simply expression without words.

Give them that.

6. Realize that it is not about you.

Students are not skipping practice because of some issue they have with your teaching.

They are not setting out to offend and insult you.

While you spend much of your time thinking about music, they simply do not. They have not gotten there yet.

It is not about you or me.

Teaching music is about teaching students that some things are worth working for.

There are no shortcuts in music.

If they aren’t going to put in the time to be the best they can be, you just have to let that go and teach what walks into your studio.

One final thought…when was the last time you really practiced?


About the Author: April O’Keefe is co-founder and current Associate Director of SoliMusica Academy.  She graduated from Georgia State University in 2002 with a Bachelor in Music Performance with a focus on cello performance.  She taught at East Cobb Middle School from 2004 until 2014.

While teaching at East Cobb Middle School, the orchestra program grew from 120 students to over 275 students.  Under her direction, the orchestras consistently received superior ratings at local and regional Large Group Performance Evaluations.  Many of her students participated in select ensembles such as the Cobb County Middle School Honor Orchestra, Georgia All-State Orchestra and the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra.  Mrs. O’Keefe has been actively involved in the Georgia Music Educators Association serving as District Twelve Honor Orchestra Chair and District Twelve All-State Audition Chair.  She also actively serves and clinician and adjudicator throughout the metro-Atlanta area.

Since 2008, April O’Keefe has served as music education assistant for Kennesaw United Methodist Church.  While in this position, she has worked with and organized children’s choir, children’s handbells, and various summer camps.  She also created a barbershop ensemble, taught an adult violin class, and served as interim Music Minister directing adult choirs and adult handbell groups.

Mrs. O’Keefe lives in Kennesaw with her husband, Paul, five-year-old Carson, and two-year-old twins, Logan and Molly.  Paul is a violinist, Carson is just beginning his musical journey on violin, and the twins are enjoying watching – for now.

Recharge Your Batteries. It’s Okay, You Know?

This week I’m spending some much needed time away from the work that I love with my family in beautiful Seacrest Beach, FL.

It’s important to take the time to recharge. It’s important to capture moments with friends and family whenever the opportunities present themselves.

I hope you frequently take time to recharge your mental, physical, and emotional batteries. You need it, and you deserve it.

But do you ever feel a little guilty about taking time for yourself?

I sure do!

I immediately begin to think about my students having to miss their weekly piano lesson.

Oh, the horror!

How will they ever survive??

Well, hopefully, you’re taking the time to prepare them in advance for what’s coming so that they (their parents, really) have a good practice plan in place and know how to approach the week without a lesson.

Sidenote: This is an excellent opportunity to teach parents how to actively become engaged in their child’s music education (the number one way to set your students up for success).

But even though we know rest is important, we still get this guilty feeling.

And it’s not healthy!

You need time to recharge so that you can be the BEST version of yourself for your students.

Your students need you to take time for yourself.

I want to encourage you to take that time. You have permission, friend!

You don’t have to feel guilty for taking a break – whether it’s a week or two at the beach with your friends or family, or one day to enjoy waking up late and a nice breakfast with your significant other.

Whatever it is that helps you relax and rejuvenate; you need to do it.

Do it for yourself, first and foremost, and that, in turn, will allow you to be the best you can be for your students.


So, this is a super short post, but I feel like you need to be encouraged in this.

I sure do from time to time.

This idea of self-care is not one that we like to talk about too often. But it’s so important!

Be the best you can to yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself for your family, friends, and your students.

Recharge and continue in the important work you do.

Be encouraged today.

And take some time for yourself. You deserve it!