MAMTG Spring Festival 2017 is fast approaching!

The Mid Atlantic Music Teachers Guild Spring Festival is fast approaching!  Here’s what you need to know if we haven’t already had this discussion!

The deadline to register is February 1, 2017.  That means all registration forms and associated fees need to be handed back to me no later than January 25.  Everything will be mailed out in one big packet by me.

Students are invited to participate in Standard Competitions (on either piano, voice or guitar), which is where all students in a given category perform the same piece and are scored based on their performance.  Students may also participate in Evaluations, which can be a really helpful learning experience for students.  Students perform a piece of their choosing (though I always suggest using the Standard piece appropriate to their level, even if they are not competing in a Standard category) for a judge who then gives them feedback – both praise and critiques.  Top scoring students in competitions have a chance to earn a trophy or medal.  All students who participate in evaluations earn a trophy.

For my more advanced piano students, there is a Sight Reading competition to try out, which is MOST exciting and a true test of musicianship.  For older students who can sing and accompany themselves on an instrument – either guitar or piano, there is the Talent Showcase.  Even if a student is interested but not ready to enter that competition, it is a great and inspiring event to watch on Saturday night.

If a student is very new – if this is their first time participating in the competition – I always suggest doing just an evaluation first.  If they are more adventurous or this is not their first time, I suggest students participate in both competition and evaluation.  Of course, you are free to participate how you see fit.

The competition is the weekend of April 1.  Most events my students would be participating in take place on the Saturday of that weekend, while the awards ceremony, which students are welcome to attend, takes place on Sunday afternoon.  The festival happens at the Hanover Marriot on Route 10 East.  In addition to the categories your child participates in, there are many other competitions to watch, competitions for different instruments, competitions focusing on different styles of music, higher level competitions that take place on Friday and Saturday night, and even an ensemble showcase that was a ton of fun to watch last year (and I expect more of the same this year!).

The festival always hosts a vendor selling cool music gifts for your budding musicians, everything from the cute – like socks and suspenders – to the very nice – like jewelry.  The hotel features a great breakfast, a cool Irish pub (with authentic decor and great food), an indoor pool and an outdoor walking trail.  If you are a family with siblings who will be participating in the competition, and even if you’re not, you may want to check out MAMTG’s packages page – where you can register for a hotel room PLUS get a discount on your festival registration.

Additionally, if you’ve got a teenaged student (or an older sibling to a student) who could log some community service hours working at the competition, we can always use the help!  Specifically, we are looking for students who are 16 or older who can work as room captains or assistant room captains throughout the weekend.  A room captain takes attendance, fields questions, keeps the flow of each competition running smoothly, assists the judge if they need it, and communicates with festival staff (like myself) if a problem arises.  It’s a pretty important, yet actually pretty easy job, and it always seems like we can use an extra pair of hands on deck with something.  I wouldn’t expect a teenager to volunteer all weekend long, but if they did, they’d be able to log almost 20 hours total from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, so if they are looking to pick up volunteer hours and also have an interest in music, this would be an excellent opportunity for them. If you have a student or their sibling who is interested in volunteering, or if you yourself as a parent can give a few hours of your time that weekend, please let me know.

How does one register for the festival?  I’ll have registration forms for parents to fill out starting this week which need to be filled out and returned with payment by January 25.  Payment can be sent in either cash or check to me (make checks out to Miss Anna Lawrence, as I will be sending them one big check instead of sending along 985438723754957366 little checks).

The MAMTG Spring Festival is an amazing event that I really hope you and your child will attend.  It’s fun and exciting to prepare for a competition, a thrill to participate, and a ton of fun afterwards (once the pressure is off) to do some shopping, see some other competitions, or just hang out at the beautiful (if somewhat noisy) hotel.  I hope to see you there!  And of course, if you need more information, please check out the MAMTG website.

Winter Coffeehouse

winter-coffeehouseYou’re invited to a Winter Coffeehouse!  I’m pleased to announce on Saturday January 28, I will be hosting what I hope will become my first annual Winter Coffeehouse.  It will be a chance for the students to come together, hang out, and perform for each other in a relaxed setting.  The only way to become more comfortable performing is to practice it as often as you can, and what better way to do it than with friends?

The Coffeehouse will take place at “the school” where I teach on Saturdays.  Don’t know where that is?  Once you RSVP yes, I will let you know!  Any student who has been playing for more than a year is invited to prepare one song to perform.  Been playing for more than a year but don’t want to perform?  No pressure!  Have only been playing a few months and you want to give it a try?  Be my guest!  The most important thing is to have fun.  If you would rather read or recite a poem, that is fine, too!  I will have books for you to choose a poem from.  Finally, if a student wants to come just to be a supportive audience member that is fine, too (but maybe, parents, bring their music just in case they change their mind!).  While I encourage all students to perform, forcing them before they feel comfortable to do so is a recipe for a bad experience – and who wants that?!

For refreshments, I ask that all families bring 1-2 dozen cookies or another kind of small treat. Home baked or store bought is fine.  I will prepare the space and provide coffee and hot chocolate.  You are free to chat in the room where the refreshments will be set up (not super loud though!), but the performance space will be in a quiet room out of respect for the players – only whispers or no talking at all!

Parents are welcome to stay and observe the performance, chat with other parents, or drop your children off (as long as you are back to pick them up at 8!).  There will be enough parental supervision plus I will have a few of my older students on hand to keep an eye on the kids.

Finally, our snow date is the following Saturday, February 4, 6:30 – 8:00, so keep that date open just in case!

Choir Season is Starting Soon!

Choir season is starting soon and I am so excited!  Auditions at PACS began today and will hopefully wrap up tomorrow.  Auditions at ACS will begin next week.  By the end of the month, I will be in full swing with both of my after school groups.

While I do a lot of singing with the students at both of my schools, I am really excited every year to sing with kids in Chapel Choir (PACS) and Show Choir (ACS).  Both groups are a way for me to connect with students who want to take the next step with singing.  Before we start working on our repertoire (music for Christmas or Spring concerts), we take a few minutes to warm up our voices and talk about and practice technique – pronunciation, listening skills and breathe support.  Yes, we have to practice breathing!  Singing can sometimes be like running a marathon and so every aspect needs to be discussed and practiced.

Before we get to our rehearsals, though, everyone must audition.  Auditioning is an important step in the process and an important thing to practice.  Just like how a student can know a lot about one subject but then freeze when it comes time to take a test, a student can have a great voice but their nerves can work against them in an audition.  This is one of the reasons why even returning students must audition for me each year.  Being comfortable with the audition process will get them far should they choose to participate in music programs in high school and college.

Another reason to audition is it gives me a way to check in with each student, especially the older boys and girls.  Everyone knows that a boy’s voice changes as he grows older, but girls voices change as well.  Checking in with everyone at the beginning of each year helps me to assess their voices to see if they should be singing lower or higher parts when it becomes time to split the group into different voice parts.  Every child has a beautiful voice, even those with uncharacteristic boy or girl voices (some of the most beautiful high solos are sung by boys; some of my favorite female singers have deep and rich voices).  Knowing what kind of voice a student possesses beforehand helps me to bring out the best in each of them.

Finally, after I decide who makes the cut (I unfortunately just cannot accept all the students that audition each year), students will receive a permission slip for their parents to sign.  This lets me know that the parent knows their child will be staying after school (Thursdays for ACS until 3:50, Fridays for PACS until 3:15).  This also informs parents of my requirements for their children – students must be well behaved or they will be asked to leave Choir, students must also maintain a music grade of B or better through the school year.  All students should, of course, be getting all As in music so this should be a pretty easy requirement for all to fill.

Once we audition, and I get back all my signed permission slips (SUPER IMPORTANT STEP!), figure out voice parts, decide on a seating chart, and get into rehearsals (Oct. 14 for PACS, Oct. 20 for ACS), it’s right onto music for Christmas performances!  In addition to each schools’ Christmas Programs in December, I am working on one more performance each for both groups.  These performances will be outside of school hours so parents should please watch out for the permission slips coming home.  Students will not be allowed to perform without a signed permission slip!

After our Christmas performances, it will be on to the Spring Concerts.  At PACS I do not have a theme picked out yet, but the ACS Show Choir theme is “Faith in Musicals” – I will be choosing selections from Godspell, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and other classic musicals that also happen to have a strong religious theme.  I am already excited for this show, and I hope the students will be, too!  We will be doing a little bit of fundraising throughout the year in the hopes of raising enough money to bring back the band from last year’s performance – the kids were great singers but I know the band was a big hit, too!

I’ve also got a very unique opportunity I hope to share with both groups this spring. As a private music instructor, I belong to the Mid-Adlantic Music Teachers Guild. Each year we host a huge competition in Whippany, NJ. There is no choir competition category *yet* but there is an Ensemble Showcase event where students get to perform and will also be critiqued by a panel of music professionals. Every chance to perform is a learning experience, but this one is especially so, and the environment is always so supportive and exciting! I will need 100% participation from the students in each group, and it will require a high level of dedication to make sure we are prepared to perform. The event is held the weekend of April 1, 2017, and information can be found at mamtg.org.

As always, I look forward to any feedback, questions, and comments from my choir parents.   With their support, and their awesome children, I look forward to accomplishing quite a lot of musical awesomeness this year!

Group Classes!

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Yep!  Group classes are here!  Guitar classes begin in just a few short weeks right in beautiful Perth Amboy, NJ.  The day begins with the Beginner class at 11:45 and the Intermediate Teens will be wrapping up at 2:00.  For more details on the schedule, head over to the Group Classes page.  Be sure to sign up with your info at the bottom of that page if you’d like to attend!

Guitar Classes Coming Soon!

Last week I announced that I would be teaching guitar classes in Perth Amboy, NJ (among other programs, check out my Group Programs page here).

Guitar class is the portion of my program that has taken off the fastest.  Within just a few days of the announcement, I already had students signed up for classes.  But don’t worry, because there is still room for your budding musicians to join our ranks!

There will be two classes, both on Saturday afternoons beginning November 7: 1:00 – 1:40 for 8 – 10 year olds, 1:45 – 2:25 for 11 – 12 year olds.  Students must bring their own guitar, but Miss Anna will provide everything else.

These classes are intended for students who have never played guitar before – outright beginners.  They are divided up by age based on my own experience as a music teacher (I know I look young but I’ve been teaching for over a decade!).  You might be looking at the schedule thinking “My child is too young/too old/already a player!  Where do they fit in?”  Depending on their ages, younger students can join the 8 – 10 year old class, and older students can join the 11 – 12 year old class.  As the program grows (tell your friends!) we may split up classes differently in the future to ensure that children receive the same level of attention and same chance to shine.

Ready to sign up?  Please fill out the below info sheet and Miss Anna will be in contact with you with all the details!

Group Class Interest
(yours, not your child's)
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(With my freelancing type schedule, email is the best way to contact me)
(Just in case email doesn't work out)
(If you are interested in enrolling more than one student, list them all here)
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