Clinton Pratt, BM, MM, NCTM
Workshops and Presentations
Would you like to book Clinton for a teacher workshop in your area? Scroll down for possible workshops/presentations:
Music Moves Us . . . Literally! — Using Movement to Enhance Musicality
This session is based on Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which is an experiential way of knowing music through the body. It is difficult to describe without actually experiencing it yourself. That is why all Eurhythmics training is entirely based on active involvement—with teachers doing the activities themselves as opposed to a lecture format. This will also be the case for my session.
We will push the chairs out of the way and get moving! More than just clapping the beat or conducting, this approach involves the whole body, integrating it with the intellectual/analytical mind as well as the creative/expressive aspects. Activities include various combinations of rhythmic games, singing songs, gestures, whole body movement, quick reaction, and echo drills. Teachers will see how to customize activities for each student or group class based on their abilities. The beauty of this approach is that it can be as simple or complex as you need. Here is an example of an activity that gets more complex:
- Sing a simple folk song
- Clap the rhythm while singing
- Clap the pulse while singing
- Step the pulse while clapping the rhythm and singing
- Step the rhythm while clapping the pulse and singing
- Sing using solfège while you step the pulse and conduct the meter
- Sing solfège, but clap on every “sol” and stomp on every “do”
As you can see, combinations and variations will engage different aspects of the music, and the difficulty can continue to increase. Balancing and constantly reevaluating the difficulty and capability of students during activities will keep them focused, engaged, and in a state of flow. Eurhythmics actually means “good flow”!
This approach helps students with pulse, rhythm, meter, phrasing, form, dynamics, harmony, ensemble, improvisation, listening skills, and much more! In fact, I have not found a musical problem with a student that cannot be helped by Eurhythmics.
Let’s Make Something Up! — A Universal Approach to Improvisation
Regardless of their experience with improvisation, teachers will find this session beneficial, inspiring, and engaging because of the fresh ideas presented. This is not specifically a “Jazz” or “Classical” improvisation presentation, but is a universal approach that can benefit students with a variety of interests and abilities.
We improvise all the time in our daily lives. One example is conversing. When you have a conversation, you’re not making up totally new sounds that you’ve never uttered. You’re using words and phrases in different combinations, along with emphasis and inflection. It’s the same with music. We don’t just create something brand new, out of the blue, that is completely foreign. We use the musical language that we are already familiar with to create patterns, phrases, and entire pieces! Teachers at this session will learn not only how to do this themselves, but also how to teach it to students.
Not only will attendees see video clips from actual lessons, but volunteers will also participate in live demonstrations on-the-spot. We will improvise in pentatonic, major, minor, multiple modes, whole tone scale, the Japanese scale, and more! Combining all these tonalities with various rhythms, tempi, textures, and ranges result in infinite possibilities of sound! I will also show how to customize everything for varying skill levels: beginners to advanced!
Besides improvising to improvise, this session will also show teachers how to use improvisation as a tool to teach theory, rhythm, pulse, phrasing, articulation, form, sight reading, and even practicing! For example, to help sight reading, read and play the rhythm of a melody, but use different notes instead. Another example: to improve practicing a section with difficult chord positions, improvise rhythmic combinations going back and forth between them.
Teachers will be given handouts with plenty of information, so instead of taking notes, they can freely participate in the activities and discussions.
This session will dissolve the fears of teachers who shy away from improvisation, convincing even the inexperienced teacher that they can and should use it in their private lessons, group classes, or classrooms.
Music Alive! Sounds that Move, Pictures that Sing
Music Alive! has already been a huge success at several conferences because it is exciting and inspirational to all types of teachers. Attendees get a taste of the innovative multimedia recital Music Alive!, seeing both recorded examples and live demonstrations. They also learn how to integrate images, videos, and other media into their studios.
Music Alive! is a multimedia experience in which students work on their projects in the summer, showcasing their presentations in front of a live audience in the fall. Their projects include two components: (1) music they perform, compose or improvise and (2) something visual that depicts the music. Examples include: two actor’s pantomiming to Burgmuller’s Ballade, an original composition depicted by a slideshow of the student’s own drawings, an improvised soundtrack to a Tom & Jerry Cartoon, two dancers showcasing Melody Bober’s “Tango”, a graphics visualizer that responds to each note of a Beethoven Sonata, and a performance of Carolyn Miller’s “Stormy Seas” during a dramatic video of a boat navigating the turbulent ocean.
The experience is extremely engaging for audience members as they SEE the music come alive, and participants have great fun both preparing and performing. Students also grow musically, experimenting with different ways to illustrate music, and imagining how music can represent different moods and scenes. Another benefit for the teacher is higher summer enrollment since students want to be a part of the concert.
Attendees at this presentation will walk away inspired to cultivate more creativity and motivation in their studios.
Don’t Crack Under Pressure — Tips to Boost Memory, Security and Confidence
Whether playing in studio recitals and festivals or preparing for competitions and auditions, students of all ages and abilities often struggle to hold up under pressure. Teachers need ways to boost memory, security, and confidence. With my experience being a student, teacher, audience member, performer, and adjudicator, I’ve seen all sides of the issue. Over the years, I have developed many tactics to help my own students play with confidence and reliability so they don’t crack under pressure.
Here are examples of the activities:
- Keep the Flow — Perform WITH the student all the way through without stopping. Mistakes are okay, just keep going!
- Distract-a-thon — Play all the way through, but this time with distractions created by the teacher or other students (Cough, laugh, make noise). This can be off-putting and increase anxiety, but that’s what we want! Get them used to it so they aren’t thrown off.
- Checkpoints — Decide on checkpoints, marking them in the score. Students should be able to jump ahead to each next one. They start playing, then stop them and say “next one.” Continue through all the checkpoints. Make sure the very end is a checkpoint so if needed, they can jump to the end and finish strong!
- Reverse Checkpoints — Start with the ending, then keep going back to the one before.
- Slow Play — To make sure a piece is secure apart from muscle memory, play it much slower, but still from memory. This bypasses muscle memory!
- Interruptions — Randomly have them stop, then see if they can resume in the same spot or close. Increase difficulty by having them take off their hands and look away before continuing. Keep increasing difficulty by waiting longer, or asking random questions while they’re stopped like “name three animals.”
- Self-assessment — “You be the judge.” Students evaluate their own dynamics, steady flow, etc. If preparing for a contest or evaluation, have a blank sample that they fill out and score themselves. They perform again and reevaluate.
In my session, I will demonstrate all of these and even invite attendees to participate, making it engaging and fun. Teachers will leave with a detailed handout of all the activities.
Migraine-Free Management — Operating an Independent Studio with Less Stress
Many teachers complain about having to deal with attendance, rescheduled lessons, late tuition payments, summer enrollment, forgotten materials, communicating effectively with parents . . . And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! This session will offer solutions to the many stresses of operating an independent studio.
With my experience and persistent desire to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of my policies and procedures over many years, I have come to the point where I rarely deal with these common problems anymore. With 50 students in my studio, everyone pays on time, has great attendance, and they don’t demand rescheduled lessons or refunds. 95 percent continue throughout the summer, and we have an average retention rate of 5 years!
During my presentation, I will go over many of the common policies and offer ways to streamline and make them less stressful—to free up more of your time and energy to focus on teaching! I will show how to calculate flat-rate tuition, how NOT to have to deal with rescheduled lessons, “makeups”, refunds, or credits; how to collect payments on time, how to retain students over the summer, and how to better communicate with parents.
Even though this is a serious and business-oriented topic, my personality combined with anecdotes and humor will create an interesting, engaging, and actually FUN session for audience members!
Having discussed these issues with hundreds of teachers online and in local meetings, I sympathize with them, but can offer real solutions!
Practice Makes Perfect?
Teachers know that practicing is important. That’s how we improve! However, we often neglect to ensure our students are actually practicing effectively and efficiently. We might tell them what to do and write it down, but are they actually doing it at home?
Even though teachers may know some good practice techniques, they don’t always convey it in the right way to students, making sure they actually understand what to do.
I believe the main priority of lessons is to teach students how to practice. If they don’t know how to practice, what’s the point? They will continue to come week after week with not much progress, or worse: they are playing it wrong!
This session will show teachers exactly how to ensure students are practicing efficiently and effectively on their own. In addition, we will discuss what efficient and effective practice is. I will demonstrate step-by-step, several practice techniques, showing exactly how to help students develop excellent practice habits.
Examples include “1 plus 1”, “3 in a row”, practicing in bursts, how to decide on sections to practice, finding hand positions and fingering groupings, and more. I will show how to practice tricky rhythms, steady pulse, balance, voicing, phrasing, and difficult technical issues.
Video clips from actual lessons will help give real world examples of these techniques in action, and volunteers from the audience will come to the piano for live demonstrations!
My approach to the traditional “masterclass” is a bit different. Instead of listening to an entire performance of an already “polished” piece, I like to work with students who have pieces “in progress.” It does NOT have to be an entire piece, and it does NOT have to be “performance ready.” I can help students work out difficult passages and show them how to practice in efficient and fun ways!
I also like to involve the teachers in the audience by asking them questions and letting them help give feedback to the student. This allows the student to know if their intentions are coming across to the audience.
Since I use Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Improvisation in my own teaching, I often find ways to sprinkle these things into a teaching demonstration as well. Sometimes the audience helps do some movement activities while the student is playing! My goal for teaching demonstrations is to create obvious improvement with each student, and show the teaching audience how this can be done in a fun and engaging way!
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I love Clinton’s presentations! They are creative, inspiring and immediately useful!!
There is no chance of snoozing through one of Clinton’s sessions – the audience is hands-on and active…better than a cup of caffeine! His presentation was well organized and covered lots of topics without running over! Excellent presenter with a charming sense of humor!
Clinton did an outstanding presentation. I am so inspired as a teacher to use his fun, innovative ideas in my own studio! Piano study should be exciting and enjoyable — I’ll incorporate many of his suggestions in my group lessons. I wish he could have had more than 45 minutes!