The best piano learning project I have ever done in my studio is the Piano Marvel YouTube Competition. This is not so much a competition as it is a platform for teachers to motivate students to perfect musical performance, create beautiful and lasting art, share the joy of music with friends and family, and create easy to access performances on the most universal platform ever created, YouTube.
Students submit their video and receive comments from the adjudicator. This contest is a non-profit event. The cost is $12 per entry which goes towards paying adjudicators, prizes and administration costs. Piano Marvel donates thousands of dollars out of pocket to host this event for you and your students.
Through this video project, students learn more about practicing purposefully, perfecting their work and making it musical than through any other project I have seen, including recitals or performance competitions. We live in an age of YouTube and social media so students understand the value of creating and sharing videos.
I believe the future of piano teaching will revolve around VIDEO and the teachers with the greatest impact will be those who provide their students with video project opportunities.
How do pianists benefit from the video project? Below is a list of benefits that gives a compelling reason to work video projects into your studio:
Start with a simple entry of one of your students in the Piano Marvel YouTube Competition.
Taking it Slow
If you are new to uploading videos to YouTube, I recommend starting slow and learning little by little. If you have never entered a student into the Piano Marvel YouTube Competition, just start with one student. Open a YouTube account and learn how to upload a video. If you have questions, "Google it" or ask a friend. If you have any questions about the competition, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you have experienced entering one video successfully, add a second and a third student until you are comfortable working with your whole studio. Learn how to utilize lesson time to record and give good feedback to help your students look and sound great on video. Sometimes teachers tend to feel guilty spending time recording over and over in the lesson instead of "teaching". I have learned through experience that taking time to record in the lesson can be an excellent use of teaching time. A word of advice...this will take some time and effort, but it is well worth it.
For those teachers who love to improve their teaching skills and welcome a challenge, try the Free Form division of the competition. This is how the professionals make their videos in the real world. Anybody can point a camera, record a student performing a song, then upload the performance, but the Free Form allows students to be creative in producing a high-quality video. Professionals create the audio track separately and line it up with the video, which they edit with special effects and creative approaches to give the video a more powerful effect on the viewer. Today this technology is available to everyone and professional videos can now be made from your own basement. These skills are in high demand in almost every company on the planet.
A word of advice...there is much more involved in this project, but it will give you skills that you will cherish for the rest of your life as a teacher. Consider it an investment of time into your professional development.
Example 1: Spy Song
Teachers can submit their own videos as well. This video was pretty straight forward. I recorded the audio track in one take on my Yamaha Clavinova 635 and did no editing of the audio. My cameraman used a GoPro and a gimble to walk around and get the shots at creative angles. We used a fog machine and three-stage lights to create the haze. Then we took the video clips and edited them with video editing software.
Example 2: Stomp
The first step to creating this video was to create the audio track, which was done on a digital piano with the record feature. Once the audio track was completed, we played the audio track on loudspeakers and the students synchronized their playing to the audio track, basically lip-synching. You might be tempted to cheat and do the audio track for them. Don't, it will be demoralizing for them in the long run. Have them record their own audio even if there are mistakes. We used a drone to capture the final scene at the end and that was a lot of fun. These students had a blast and created wonderful memories.
Example 3: Clair de Lune
This video was pretty simple. Sean first recorded his performance on a digital piano. Then he played along with his audio track three times with different angles. The video was then taken into a video editing software to add the finishing touches. I have found that students really enjoy the editing process of their work and are much more appreciative of the final product.
I hope you enjoy the project in your teaching and that you have a great and professionally satisfying new decade.