How to put Piano Maestro to work in your studio recital
As a piano teacher, recitals are my favorite time of year. I love watching beginning students gain confidence. I love watching older students excited to show off their new song they can’t get enough of. I love watching parents’ faces, sometimes with smiles, sometimes with tears, thinking, “That’s my child!” But most of all I love the energy in the room as the recital ends and we all visit with each other. I see young students looking up at the older students, saying, “I wish I could play that,” while the older students think, “I remember when I played that…I guess I have learned a lot.” This common bond – sharing this recital together – perpetuates a desire to learn more.
However, there is usually a group who leaves the recital, silently thinking, “I could never do that.” This group, usually adults, may think they are too old to learn new things. Music seems so beautiful and complicated; they think it is outside their realm of abilities. Using Piano Maestro in a recital setting can change that. With the right set up, you can show everyone it’s not as hard as they think.
Before the Recital
To set up Piano Maestro for a recital, you’ll need to consider your equipment options. Projecting the iPad on a TV allows more of the audience to see what is going on. The easiest way to project an iPad onto a TV screen is via an Apple TV box. You may need additional speakers as well, so everyone can hear the background music. Any songs you plan on using during the recital should be played over WiFi once before the recital to ensure that the background music has been downloaded and is accessible when not on WiFi, and also to reduce loading time.
Apple TV works with high-definition TVs with HDMI and may require a wireless network depending on the model. The Apple TV box will also need to be plugged in to a power source. You will need to enable mirroring with AirPlay to get the iPad screen to show on the TV. To do this, swipe up from the middle bottom to pull up the control menu. In the middle it will say AirDrop. If your iPad recognizes an Apple TV box nearby, you will see AirPlay as an option. Click on AirPlay and select the name of the Apple TV you would like to connect to. (Each Apple TV box should have a specific name or number assigned when used for the very first time.) Depending on your Apple TV and iPad models, you may not need WiFi to use AirPlay mirroring but both devices must have WiFi and Bluetooth turned on, even if they are not connected to any networks or devices. Click here for more details.
To add additional speakers, you can choose to connect them to the TV or to the iPad, though through the TV may be preferable to reduce the amount of wires around the piano. (Due to the nature of the listening software, Bluetooth or wireless speakers cannot be used with Piano Maestro at this time. However, line-in speakers via the headphone jack are a workable option as well.)
As with all technology being used in a presentation, it is best to test it out a few times to make sure you are comfortable with setting it up on the day of the recital and can work out any technical difficulties.
During the Recital
When the recital begins, you may wish to start with a demonstration of how Piano Maestro works if you have many parents in attendance who are not familiar with the app. This is the perfect opportunity to ask for a volunteer, especially someone who has no prior music knowledge for even greater effect, to come demonstrate how the app makes simple one-note songs sound engaging. I recommend using songs from Chapter 1 of Journey Mode. (The tutorial requires using more than middle C so that may not be the easiest thing to start a true beginner on.)
You will need to select which profile for this volunteer to play on. If you set up a new profile for him or her during the recital, you will be forced to play the tutorial in order to activate the acoustic piano option. For this reason, I recommend using someone else’s profile or creating a dummy profile before the recital and completing the tutorial beforehand to limit how long this demo takes.
Show the volunteer how the app is set up by choosing Journey Mode, with a quick description of this mode being structured like a leveled game, and then the song you would like him or her to play. Point out that the display shows exactly which key to play, and that the volunteer must play this key when the note hits the blue bar line. Since the audience can see what is happening via the TV screen, they can see stars being earned and the song progress.
In my spring recital where I did this demonstration, the volunteer shouted out half-way through, “Oh! This is just like guitar hero!” When this volunteer finished, the whole room exploded in applause. Everyone was excited about how someone who thought they could not play the piano just played the piano! Other tips for using Piano Maestro in your recitals:
- Because it can take time to switch iPads when using mirroring with AirPlay, it might be best to only use one iPad for the whole recital.
- Try structuring your recital so no two students using the app for their performance are back to back, or you may choose to limit each student to only one Piano Maestro song. This allows time for your recital helper to load the next song while another student performs or while the other song is performed.
- You may wish to show parents a screenshot of what the report looks like that you receive showing the studio’s weekly practice. You may also want to cut and paste part of this screenshot so only certain students who have a positive report are shown.
- Check out JoyTunes.com/resources for helpful handouts you can print for parents who want to learn more.
After the Recital
If your recital venue allows, while everyone is mingling you might consider letting other audience members try using Piano Maestro. Assign a studio helper who knows how to run the app to oversee the area so you are free to talk with students and their families.
With Piano Maestro fresh in everyone’s mind, this is the perfect time to check in with parents who seem hesitant to let their child use the iPad during his or her practice time, and to talk with parents who don’t seem motivated to approve the teacher connection in the app. Last but not least, take the opportunity to turn those volunteers into students by reminding them they receive full access to the app at no extra cost when they sign up for lessons with a registered teacher – and by reminding them they just spent a few minutes doing something amazing. Playing the piano is now in their realm of possibilities!