Hey everyone! I’m Kailani, and this is The Kai Report 🙂
For today’s feature, I got to hang out with Dr. Glenda Bates, one of Oclef’s amazing Stage 1 piano professors.
She arrived at Oclef as an Oboe performer and multi-instrumentalist, but has played piano ever since she was little. Outside of teaching, she also freelances in the Bay Area and plays with groups like the California Bach Society. This upcoming April, she will be playing for Mills Performance Group as part of their final concert series since the college was recently bought by Northeastern University. Go Glenda!
We spoke about her background in music, and how the transition to Oclef was helpful to both her and her students.
Check out our interview here:
Kai: Soooooo, what made you want to pursue music?
Glenda: I think it was always a part of my life, and at some point it became the main part. I sang in my church choir’s “Psalm Singers” which was like 5-8 year olds – it was as adorable as it sounds! Growing up, I took piano, then violin and flute lessons as soon as I was old enough. I was interested in music theater, ballet and tap – I was coming at music from all these different sides. It was funny though, because even when I went to college, I wasn’t sure music was what I wanted to do professionally. Last minute, I decided, “Eh, I’ll be a music major! I can always change it later.” But THEN, I ended up really enjoying learning about music theory and history – all these things I was never exposed to before college. I was really fascinated by it, so I stuck with it 🙂
Kai: Wow, that’s a lot of music! (No really, that’s a LOT, and it all sounded like so much fun.)
Glenda: It is a lot, yeah! I can still sing show tunes and tap dance in my living room haha
Kai: That’s sooo cute, aw. So speaking of school, where did you go, and did you have a plan for going into music education?
Glenda: So I went to University of South Carolina for my undergrad, and I was a Bachelor of Music. I still kind of wasn’t sure what I wanted to do… but my senior year I decided, “No, I want to stick it out with performance.” I started applying to grad school for performance, and I went to University of Maryland to get my Masters of Music in Oboe Performance. Then, I went to Stony Brook University for my Doctorate of Musical Arts in Oboe Performance.
Kai: After all that performance, how did you find your way to music education?
Glenda: I’ve always enjoyed teaching, even when I was in elementary school. As a sixth grader, I was teaching a third grader how to play the oboe because she was too young to join band, but she really wanted to play oboe. Her mom was like, “You play oboe, why don’t you teach her!” so she was my first student.
Just follow the Golden Gate Road!
We talked more about Dr. Glenda’s journey to finding music education, and to sum it up, it’s a very extensive one! When she was All-But-Dissertation status with her doctorate degree, she moved to Angwin, California to get training as a “teaching artist,” which I learned was an artist who teaches and trains in their specific art form. She was staying near Pacific Union College and discovered they just so happened to need a jazz ensemble director. They asked if she could take on the role, noticing she had studied and performed jazz in the past – thus began her experience with the world of teaching!
From there, she also started working at a few local elementary schools, such as Napa Valley Language Academy for their Heart Strings Youth Academy. She found her way to the Performing Arts Workshop in San Francisco and worked as a Teaching Artist for about 5 years. She got to collaborate with different schools all around SF for artist residencies of typically 10-15 weeks at a time. With each residency, she would develop music programs for the schools’ younger students, most of which were in preschool. When she finally moved to Oakland, she began teaching piano.
Glenda: I’ve always played piano, especially to learn and write songs as a singer. It’s just such a useful tool for that. I started finding piano students and teaching at a school in my neighborhood. And that’s what eventually led me to Oclef!
Kai: Wow, that’s incredible! So it was really just like fate then?
Glenda: Yeah! I don’t know that I ever thought like, “Oh I’m gonna be a teaching artist,” but I just really enjoyed doing that work.
Kai: So right before Oclef, you were working with a studio, and then you had some of your own students?
Glenda: Counting my own company, I was working for 3 different studios at the same time (one in Oakland, Redwood City, and her own), which was a LOT juggling schedules. But that’s how it goes sometimes as a freelancer!
Kai: My goodness, that’s a lot of balance, and trying to manage your time… I guess ultimately, were you satisfied with how things were?
Glenda: I mean I was happy to be teaching, and I enjoy working with children, but being a contract freelancer is just inherently unstable. There’s a lot of unknowns when you’re teaching contract-based.
Some big problems in music education…
At this point, we began talking about one of the biggest unknowns in music education today: the COVID-19 situation. Like most educators, Dr. Glenda transitioned to the online format, and she actually found that it worked quite well!
“I was one of those people prior to the pandemic that was like, ‘Online lessons can’t be nearly as effective as in-person, this is ridiculous!’ BUT I’m totally sold on it now.”
The flexibility of being remote, along with searching for a maintainable and steady income, were just a few of the reasons why she began looking for jobs exclusively online. We talked about how she found Oclef and her reasons for joining the team.
Glenda: The main thing is the Piano Every Day model, I haven’t seen it anywhere else. It’s something I had been thinking about a lot as a teacher, mainly because of “The Practice Problem.” If you’re seeing a student only once a week, they might only be playing once a week. They might not practice at all in between – maybe not knowing how or what it means to practice. But with Oclef, S1 students have 1-on-1, 15 minute lessons every day, and upper level students have a class, practice session, or lesson to attend every day. It’s a really smart solution to “The Practice Problem.” I felt really lucky to find Oclef, it was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to keep staying involved with and teaching music, but I wanted a more stable, full-time job, which is UNHEARD of in a music studio. I’ve never heard of a piano school offering people full-time salary jobs, so I think it’s pretty revolutionary!
We chatted a little more about how her approach to teaching changed since Oclef. With the Piano Every Day model, she said it was easier and quicker to make and accomplish small goals. From sight-reading music, to learning rhythm, and even intervallic reading – it’s more fluid knowing you’ll see a student every day. Especially with younger children, I mentioned how it’s easier to instruct when you rely on pattern-based learning.
Glenda: Kids are excited about patterns! When a student notices a pattern in a sight-reading exercise, they get really excited about it. They’re like, “Oh man, measure 1 is the same as measure 2 but it starts on a different note!” and you’re like, “Exacttttttllllllyyyy!” It’s nice to see those little moments of clicking, whereas they might not have noticed the bigger picture if they were really zoned in on each note.
Kai: Yeah, I think it’s definitely a lot more efficient, and it saves time overall. Keeps things interesting!
For the last part of our interview, we talked about some of the creative opportunities Glenda has taken on with Oclef.
Glenda: I’m working for the Diaghilev subsidiary where we’re writing music. Actually, this is my first time writing like 100% electronics-based music! When I’ve composed in the past it’s been for acoustic instruments, where I write the score and then people play it. I’m reorganizing my brain to understand how the electronics part is the main part, and I’m learning how to compose in this way. There’s also opportunities to do different kinds of creative projects (like this Kai Report for example! Shameless plug mwahaha)… Because it’s a full-time job, it allows my brain to be more creative. I also really like writing children’s music and educational exercises, maybe what will eventually be a method book of some kind… (exciting!!)
Kai: I think it’s really great Oclef has these opportunities. You know, as a college student, there’s only so much I can dedicate my time to. But here, there’s a lot you can do in one environment, and I think that’s really beneficial for those who happen across Oclef.
Accountability: To accept responsibility for one’s actions, such as PRACTICING
Oclef allows everyone – teachers, students, and families – to hold one another accountable with piano education. To quote Dr. Glenda:
The practice battle is a losing battle unless you’re seeing them every day, and Oclef keeps students in check. It encourages students to want to practice because they have a guide there to help them.
For some of her old students, she says it was a bit difficult conceptually to transition to Oclef. The Piano Every Day model often catches people off-guard, but it’s the guidance and engagement that’s most helpful for learning. AND, it’s only fifteen minutes a day!
That’s a wrap for today’s Kai Report, everyone. It was so fun getting to listen and share Dr. Glenda’s story, stay tuned for the next scoop!