About Rebekah Maxner

Composer, Teacher, B.Mus, RMT

Thank-you for visiting. To tell you a little about myself....

I spend my days as a full-time mom and evenings as a piano teacher. At our house there is always music in the air; either I'm teaching piano, or someone is practicing the piano, or the stereo is playing and everyone is singing and dancing. The house is full of music and kids. So you can see why I compose piano music that appeals to young students.

What's Keeping Me Busy

I've recently slowed down my commitment list so I can focus on family. These days I get most of my composition and creative work done at night, after the kids go to bed.

Home and Family

Our family lives in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. My husband, Paul, has helped me so much by building my website. Paul is an Archivist with the Nova Scotia Archives. We have three children who all love homemade cookies, to hear stories read out loud, and to play with toys. Oh, yes, and to play the piano! Our budgie birds, Gale and Peeta and cat, Zoe, keep things lively.

Piano Studio

My piano studio is rather small these days, but I love each and every one of my students, and we work and play to bring the best out of each other. I help my students discover the music within, and they help me learn how to be a better teacher. It's all win-win. My students enjoy playing in two studio recitals each year, Valley RMT recitals, playing in the Annapolis Valley Music Festival, and entering RMT composition contests.

Professional Development

In the pursuit of skillful teaching, I attend workshops through the Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers' Association, and have attended several international conferences: the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy in Chicago twice (2005, 2007), and the Collaborative Conference held in Toronto (MTNA/CFMTA 2007). I have subscribed to Keyboard/Clavier Companion for years, and find it to be helpful and relevant to my teaching development. In keeping up with the times, I also belong to a Yahoo forum for piano teachers, where questions are asked and answered.

The fun professional things I get to do

Professionally, music has led me in so many directions. My piano pieces have been published by the Canadian National Conservatory of Music. I have held positions in the NSRMTA executive, and have adjudicated composition contests. Throughout the Maritime Provinces I have given workshops to professional teachers at RMT conventions, and have given two lecture series for Acadia University's piano pedagogy students. For several years I coordinated my Notekidds beginner piano method through Acadia's community music outreach, and worked with the university students to teach group and private piano to children. In summer 2007 I contributed to Keyboard Companion's article, “What are your favorite teaching aids for reading?” and at that time launched my Notekidds website, which has put me in touch with teachers worldwide.

Several of my pieces appear in Northern Lights and Making Tracks, piano volumes published by the Canadian National Conservatory of Music

The question Craig Sale asked in Keyboard Companion's Summer 2007 Music Reading column was What are your favorite teaching aids for music reading? My response focused on how to develop better reading skills with Notes that Fly, Notes that Swim, Animal Alphabet cards and Puddles and Sticks. The online article features music samples and video clips of me and my students playing the games.

Workshops

It has been my good fortune to be invited to speak before groups of teachers and students of piano pedagogy. Here are some of the workshops I have developed:

  • Creative Teaching gets Better Results
  • Turn On to Composition – Bright ideas to get you started
  • Responsive Teaching Styles
  • To the Notes and Beyond – Better reading strategies
  • Master your Feedback Style
  • Wired for Sound – Strategies for teaching Auditory Learners
  • Method Marathon, Piano methodology
  • Introducing Notekidds

Notekidds

The Notekidds teaching aids came about because I saw a need in my studio for appealing, high quality materials to help students learn music notation in a more intuitive way. I saw a pattern with the kinds of struggles children were having. Instead of thinking there was something the matter with the children, I suspected there was something missing in the way we were teaching them. I aspired to come up with simple but effective ways to introduce and reinforce concepts so students would understand and never forget. I thought if my students could benefit, so could yours, and feedback from teachers confirms that the ideas work.

The Notekidds beginner piano method is for teachers who are looking for a balanced approach to introducing the piano to children. Each concept is first explored through interactive teaching aids, which simultaneously engage the three musical senses: sight, sound and touch. This is in contrast to some methods, which depend on visual cues as the main approach to introduce concepts. Children are given the chance to learn through their preferred style, and to develop and strengthen their overall approach to music. This ensures a high level of success. Each level of the method is comprised of three books. The music is satisfying and the pedagogy is forward thinking.

Collaborations: Music Educator's Marketplace and Red Leaf Pianoworks Two weeks after my youngest child was born, Martha Hill Duncan visited our house and invited me to join Red Leaf Pianoworks, a wonderful team of composers. Since then I have been excited to put my music into your hands. Currently, the eight composers are Joanne Bender, Christine Donkin, Martha Hill Duncan, Janet Gieck, Susan Griesdale, Rebekah Maxner (me), Beverly Porter and Teresa Richert.

In 2001 I began to work with Karen Koch and Music Educator's Marketplace with my first publication, Eddie Crumb's Pretend Piano. Karen is a dedicated piano teacher who knows her stuff, and she is so helpful with her customers to find just the thing they need.

Growing up with music

In autumn 2007 the NSRMTA chose me as their feature composer for the Canadian Music Teacher magazine. In writing for this audience, I wanted to say things about myself as a composer that would connect with piano students ages 12-18. I hope that some of the ideas and experiences I had as a young composer will inspire today's talented youth and help teachers know how to support musical creativity.

Education

While I was in High School, Barbara Hansen accepted me as her student to prepare for university auditions. She worked with me on technique and gesture, interpretation and subtle nuance. I attended Acadia University's school of music on scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Composition, having studied piano with John Hansen, and composition with Owen Stephens. In my second year I entered and won the Open class in the CFMTA National Music Writing Contest with Fugue for Woodwind Trio.

Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers' Association

Upon graduation, Hetty Jackson invited me to join the NSRMTA, and since then I have grown so much as a teacher and member. Through the Valley Chapter I got to know this region's finest piano teachers, and my students have had the advantages of participating in the recitals and special events we organize. At the provincial and national levels (with the CFMTA), the relationships and rewards keep unfolding. I would enthusiastically encourage every private music teacher to join.

Composing and writing

Throughout my studies I had always questioned the modern composition idioms (I think I was a difficult student). After my degree I took a couple of years off composing, feeling rather discouraged about it. The modern ways just didn't seem to be the right fit for me. At Acadia I had also studied creative writing with Donna Smyth, and through those classes had learned about “finding your writer's voice” and “writing what you know.” If authors could, so could composers, so I began to compose music that felt right to me. It took many years of teaching piano before I summoned up the courage to ask my students to learn my pieces. But when I did the response was so positive that I kept writing.

My pieces begin in different ways. Sometimes I hear a melody in my head (or in a dream). Sometimes I feel a strong emotion from life experience or from reading a book, and I must sit at the piano to work out my feelings through improvisation. At times a piece begins from hearing another piece with a mistake in it, and I think it could become a new piece entirely. Or, someone will email me and tell me what kind of music they are looking for. But however the music begins, I always create my pieces at the piano, where I can work out all the details. I think it is important to compose this way, because my hands and the keys themselves help determine what the piece will become.

I usually have so much fun playing my new music that I have to discipline myself to focus and write it down. These days I sit at the piano and sketch the music in pencil on manuscript paper and then enter the notation into my computer, using the finale program. Lately I have been challenging myself to become more precise about the expression markings. Before you see my music it has gone through many edits, I have taught it to my students, and have already shown it to a special group of teachers whom I trust, for their personal and professional feedback. Only my very best pieces go to print.