Lectures & Workshops

Basic Pedagogy

  • Motivation: Get Your Students to Work Harder and Achieve More

    If people take anything from my music, it should be motivation to know that anything is possible as long as you keep working at it and don’t back down.


    Marshall Bruce Mathers III, a fatherless high school dropout who was bullied at school, had the motivation to become Eminem, the top-selling song artist of the 2000s. Are you and your students equally inspired? You can be! Join Scott for a research-based and anecdote-filled overview on the art of motivation, with many practical tips that will get your students achieving more—immediately!

  • Praising Your Students: Are You Actually Making Them Achieve Less?

    Some research has indicated that almost 50% of teachers’ feedback is praise. Intended to build self-esteem, encourage and create an environment of positive energy, praise more often has the effect of decreasing student effort. “The judge told me I’m already doing great,” said one student after receiving Honorable Mention in a local festival. “What’s left to work on?” Scott McBride Smith will show you how to temper praise with realistic feedback that will help your students build achievement in a positive environment.

  • User-Friendly Technical Training for Early Level Students

    Repertoire…ear training…sight reading…theory…technic? Is it really possible to fit all of this into one short lesson? Join Scott McBride Smith for a hands-on session full of practical and time-effective ideas to integrate technical training into your—and your students’—routines, and help them build effective technical skills to play piano successfully.

  • Building Technique in Intermediate Students

    Your students have mastered the basics. Now they need that extra edge and special flourish that comes when a performer has complete technical control. In this highly interactive, problem-solving course, participants learn how to address the needs of the developing pianist. Topics discussed will include:

    • Common technical problems and how to recognize them
    • Developing a personal technical regimen for each student
    • Unique practice techniques for every technical challenge
    • Avoiding technique meltdowns
  • Cures for the Technique Blahs: Practice Techniques for All Levels

    Are your students feeling blah, listless and unmotivated? Do they fall short at recitals? Maybe the roots of the problem are technical. This interactive session will explore the basics of building a technical foundation, hands-on practice techniques, coping strategies and technique-builders for all levels of literature.

  • Fundamentals of Teaching Good Tone

    Every great pianist has his own characteristic sound, from the brilliant precision of Horowitz to the burnished fullness of Kissin. Can good tone be taught? Yes, if you know the fundamentals of physical movement and arm weight—and it can begin from the first lesson. Scott McBride Smith will share all the secrets.

  • Fingering: An Under-Appreciated Art

    Is fingering all that important? does it really matter what finger is used as long as the end result is good? Here’s the answer: YES. It really matters. Bad fingering causes more slips, stumbles, mistakes and downright bad playing than any other single factor in your students’ playing. Join Scott McBride Smith and learn some easy principles that will make a huge difference in your studio.

  • Big Hands for Narrow Keys: Some Basics for Teaching the Oversized

    “It’s one of my funniest memories,” says Scott McBride Smith. “A student came up to me after a recital and asked, ‘how do you even get your fingers into the keys? It must be like parking a 1988 Chevy Suburban into a compact space’.” She was right—pianists with large hands (like Scott) face special challenges negotiating the keyboard. If you are one of these pianists, or if you have a student facing these challenges, this workshop is for you.

  • The Power of Efficient Practice: Cures for the Bored-Practice Blues

    Does practice really make perfect? Not if the time is filled with mindless repetition at top speed, with no attention to detail and no mistake corrected. It doesn’t have to be that way. This informative session will give you many practical techniques to improve your students’ daily practice sessions.

  • Teaching vs. Correcting: Every Teacher’s Dilemma

    Most of us became music teachers because we love music and want to help young people. So why, too often, do we end up feeling like repairmen, endlessly fixing rather than creatively teaching? There is something you can do about it. Student motivation, musicianship and your own presentation all play a role. Scott McBride Smith will share his ideas on these and more in a practical, hands-on workshop.

  • Memorization—Psychological Data and Some Practical Tips

    Does it really matter if you got it right?
    Does it really matter what was wrong or right? (yeah)

    The Backstreet Boys “Memories” (2005)

    Playing from memory. It’s easy for the Backstreet Boys to sing about it, but we piano teachers know that it’s not so easy to do. Join Scott for an enlightening look at the history of memorization, along with some practical tips to make memorization skills a strong point of each of your students.

  • Preparing Students to Handle Stage Fright

    Stage fright doesn’t sound so scary any more in this interactive workshop in which participants learn practical, hands-on methods for coping with nerves. The session will include actual case studies and teaching techniques. Attendees will receive a handout filled with up-to-date information and a list of proven survival strategies.

  • Coping with Parents

    “I can always work with the students,” said one well-known teacher. “It’s the parents who give me fits.” Do you feel a little fit-full yourself? Running a successful independent studio requires expertise in dealing with difficult people. Handled correctly, complainers can turn into your biggest supporters. Join Scott McBride Smith for a hands-on session full of practical techniques and ideas for managing those important, and sometimes annoying, parents.

  • Teaching Young Men: Some Advice from a Recovering Boy

    “Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable”. No, it wasn’t a piano teacher that spoke these words. It was Plato, the famed philosopher of Ancient Greece. He was speaking from experience, since all his students were male. Are the young men in your studio giving you some bad experiences? Learn about the latest research about gender differences and how they apply to learning, plus practical tips for helping the boys (of all ages!) in your own studio reach their full potential.

  • Multifaceted Careers in the 21st Century

    Multi-tasking, multi-dimensional, multi-national…these are the buzzwords of many successful careers in music today. Join Scott McBride Smith for a thought-provoking presentation and question-and-answer session that will help you plot the next multi-layered career steps for yourself and your students.

Piano Literature, Style and Performance

  • Gems from the Piano Teacher’s Vault: Forgotten Pieces Overdue for Rediscovery

    Have you ever heard yourself whisper, in a sad little voice, “I’m tired of teaching Für Elise?” You’re not the only one! There’s a wealth of other, equally beautiful pieces that you will want to share with your students after hearing them in this session. Take the creative plunge and see what happens in your own studio.

  • Musical Punctuation and the Art of Interpretation

    We all know what down and up means, but let’s play as if there were only up, up, up!

    James Levine A televised rehearsal of La Traviata on PBS

    Dynamics, tone quality, pedal…these are essential parts of a convincing interpretation. But are you spending enough time teaching your students about the subtleties of note grouping? do they breathe in the right places? are beats arranged convincingly? what does a slur really mean, anyway? Find out the answers to these questions and more in this informative session focusing on relationship and nuance in student performance.

  • J.S. Bach’s Inventions: The Secrets will Surprise You

    Numerology, secret symbols, hidden form, erasures by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach…all of this, and more, can be found in Bach’s Two-Part Inventions. Scott McBride Smith will give us the keys to unlock these mysteries and provide some practical teaching ideas in a fresh perspective on some old teaching favorites. You may be surprised at what you never know!

  • The Teaching Pieces of Muzio Clementi: It’s Not All about Sonatinas!

    If the only works by Clementi played in your studio are the op.36 Sonatinas, you’re missing some beautiful, playable and extremely effective teaching works. There’s nothing routine about the virtually unknown pieces Scott McBride Smith will share in this enlightening presentation. You’ll come away with some great ideas to vary your teaching repertoire.

  • Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words: A True Classic

    It’s hard to find teaching pieces from the Romantic Era with the charm, freshness and originality of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words. Looking for pieces that build technical and interpretive skills at the same time? This workshop is for you.

  • Hanon and Czerny—There’s Life in the Old Boys Yet!

    100 years ago, in the “Golden Age of Piano”, students routinely spent several hours a day on pure technic: scales, arpeggios, drills…and, yes, exercises and pieces by Hanon and Czerny. Students of today aren’t always so diligent. Perhaps it’s because of the way these works are presented and practiced. Technic doesn’t have to be boring! Join Scott McBride Smith and start having some technical fun.

  • Music of the Romantic Period: Practical Performance Practice

    Piano music of the 19th century is one of the glories of our civilization. But we’re in a new millennium, and some of the gestures and modes of expression that seemed so natural to past generations don’t come easily to students of today. Style—performing a piece with an understanding of how the composer would have expected it to be played—is an important part of successful interpretation. Scott McBride Smith offers an in-depth presentation of practical teaching techniques to achieve this.

  • Musical Curb Appeal: Secrets for Repertoire Selection

    “I firmly believe that, in many cases, the choice of repertoire determines student success,” says Scott McBride Smith. “It’s simple: students will work harder on pieces that suit them, and that provide an appropriate challenge.” Topics covered in this workshop include teaching and learning styles, student motivation, repertoire guidelines and suggestions. Learn about how you can make effective repertoire selection a positive in your studio!

  • Teaching Music Interpretation though Creative Alternatives

    Nothing is ever wasted, a wise man once said. It can always serve as a bad example. Yes, sometimes it’s good to be bad—if it’s done in the right way! Helping students realize a wider range of performance options can enliven your teaching. Take the creative plunge and see what happens in your studio.

  • Preparing for Competitions: What are Judges Really Looking For?

    Judges…results…verdicts…the very words create a feeling of dread in some students. It doesn’t have to be that way! With proper preparation, ample rehearsal and a positive attitude, competition participation can be a rewarding part of every student’s learning.

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