Pandemic teaching practice tips Teaching kids music Teaching tips

Music teacher interviews: Stephanie Superle – flutist, teacher, entrepreneur, influencer …

Stephanie Superle (su-PEARL) is someone I met as a client about a decade ago when she needed styling for a photo shoot. We became good friends as a result. She and I are always happy to don makeup and play dress up; she appears throughout my promotional video. What struck me most (at first) about Stephanie is her beauty; she’s photogenic and GORGEOUS in person. I also dug her impish sense of humour, her cackle, and over the years, learning about her resilience, work ethic, and entrepreneurial spirit. The more I learned about her, the more I respected and admired her. She’s always coming up with innovative ways to teach young kids the flute, and ways to expand her career horizons. Then there’s her Instagram, which makes kids’ flutes pretty, fun, and covetable. I wanted to learn more about what makes her tick.

Tell me about FlutePlay and how it came to be. As a private lesson teacher, you can feel a bit lonely sometimes. Sure, you have colleagues you enjoy connecting with (like YOU!) and there are associations you’re a part of…but it’s all very separated.  I found myself meeting to chat with my colleagues on a weekly basis to connect on what we’re doing with our little flutists.  Then I started to wonder why we all weren’t talking with one another!  That’s when I started to develop the idea of creating an online community where we could meet on a regular basis to share our ideas, triumphs, and hardships. I wanted a place free of competition where we could feel safe connecting and collaborating with each other – finding our voice and changing the landscape of flute pedagogy!

I love that. While some folks are resuming in-person lessons, I know many teachers are not …. Where are you with Phase 2 flute lessons and classes? I’ve been teaching private lessons and group classes online since mid-March. I took a break at the end of June but have resumed teaching online. In August, I’m introducing a “backyard basics” class so my students can safely come together to work on fundamentals prior to starting school. These classes will be available either in-person for those who feel comfortable being safely distanced in my backyard OR online for those who are unable to travel or would prefer to stay home.

What do you miss the most about your in-person lessons and classes? I’m a social person and love the in-person interaction. I really miss seeing ALL of my students – as in, their face, body, hand position, posture, etc.! Due to space restrictions/camera angles/etc. it’s hard to get all of them in the frame holding their instrument to the side of their body. I’m concerned bad habits may be forming that I can’t see….

What do you miss the least? Excuses for not practicing (insert excessive eye roll or, in your case, ADG (Asian Death Glare that you learned from your mom) …  Without the million and one extra curricular activities happening, all of my students have had time to actually dive into their music, which has been so incredibly rewarding. They can hear the improvement as well, which has been encouraging for everyone. 

I realize it’s summer and many kids take a break, but have you managed to maintain any semblance of a routine? I definitely took a break and the only routine I kept was my daughter’s sleep schedule! I definitely have enjoyed some freedom but am looking forward to creating a schedule again where I can see my students before school starts… We may not know what this fall will look like, but I’m hoping by starting some smart work now, my students (and me) will be able to manage it with strength, courage, and some balance!

What’s the best thing about teaching online? Wearing sweatpants everyday and not having to commute.

The worst? Wearing sweatpants everyday and not having to commute. 😉 In all seriousness … the best thing has been coming up with new and creative ways to see my students and challenge them even though we can’t be together. I held my first ever virtual recital and not only was it the best attended with students inviting family from across Canada, it was also the most entertaining! Students created arrangements of music, Acapella ensembles, learned new instruments, played homemade instruments, and more! The worst thing has been the eye drain and technology fatigue from being online for hours a day. And when I say sweatpants, I mean Lululemon! After working there for the better part of 5 years, I can’t go anywhere else!

Yeah, I work out in their stuff too. What I love about your Instagram feed is your astonishing photos … always so beautiful and aspire-y. How long does it take to set up a photo? Surely less time than when I’m styling a human being. You are the QUEEN of styling artists – so that’s probably the hugest compliment I’ve ever received!!!  I’m blushing over here!  

I started taking photographs for some “me time” after having my daughter. I enjoy taking photos and thought it would be fun to take flute pictures to share my ideas and take a break from being “mama” all the time. My set-up isn’t anything fancy but setting up a photo takes some time because I do rely on natural light. The best room in the house is my daughter’s bedroom because it’s completely white and my backdrop, her white dresser, is by her window. This also means I have to take photos when she’s not home. That’s been especially tough to coordinate during covid! I keep a list of photo ideas on my phone and when I have a couple of hours alone I take as many photos as I can. If the vision is clear, I can take the photo pretty quickly. Otherwise, it can be a process. If a concept doesn’t work, I reshoot the next time I have a window (of time and with good light!). Then I do my own photo editing so all my photos have a consistent look and feel. It’s a bit of a process, but I enjoy it! I’m happy other people are enjoying my photos as much as I enjoy creating them!  

I think you’re the ultimate entrepreneur – you’ve always got something interesting on the go. Is there anything you’ve got coming down the pike you can tell us about? (you can also refer to past projects like the Farmers’ Market, etc.) I’m pretty tight lipped about upcoming projects because, even though I’m beyond excited, some of them aren’t mine to share. Instead, how about some super proud moments that happened during covid?!

In April, as a fluteplay community, my colleagues and I shared 35 videos over 7 weeks of short practice tips, tricks, games, crafts, and more so students could have fun learning flute at home! As a parent and “littlefluteexpert” I knew attention spans would be low so all videos were under 10-minutes.  Many also include free resources that can apply to learning any musical instrument! That was a lot of fun to put together and to see the innate talent and ability of my colleagues. I learned so much from all of them. I’m very thankful for all their contributions to our growing little flutes community!

In July I was thrilled to share that a collection of duets I commissioned is now available at Long and McQuade across Canada!!!  The Canadian Critters Suite has 9 duets written for little musicians BY little musicians. It’s a completely Canadian collaboration so I’m just elated that little musicians across the country will be able to enjoy it. A little bird recently told me that transpositions for all band instruments, piano, and ukulele will be available soon!  

Stephanie responsibly standing in front of Long & McQuade

I’ve also been taking time to listen and reflect on the most recent current events around the world and hope to help spark conversations and create lasting change. Piano pedagogy has so many resources and method books to facilitate learning from a young age – an upcoming project I’m working on aims to highlight diversity and inclusion in flute pedagogy as we work to develop more resources and methods to support our little aspiring flutists.

There are a lot of parents who are burned out – working from home, parenting, feeling the walls closing in. How have you juggled all this as a mom of a toddler? I have a 2.5 year old energetic toddler who, like all kids her age, just wants to play all day. As an early childhood educator, I felt we started quarantine strong.  I had art supplies, outdoor toys, and tons of flour & butter on hand for baking.  But all too quickly, I lost that energy. For the past 5 months I’ve worked when she naps and after she goes to bed at night.  After teaching, I try my best to catch up on other things I’ve missed during the day: emails, website updates, downtime. I’ve been burning the midnight oil more than usual and spend most nights with my laptop on my lap working while “relaxing” with my husband. We don’t have family nearby so there hasn’t been anyone who could come over to help. As things have opened up this past month, a couple of our neighbours have come over to take our dear girl to their house to play with their kids. The first time this happened, I cried!  It was the first time since February I had been alone in the house at the same time as my husband. We’ve been alternating this whole time.  He takes her on Saturdays so I can have have a couple of hours alone in the house – to work. I don’t know if you’d call that juggling…but we’ve managed.

The thing I’ve reminded myself this whole time: we only have one kid! I don’t know how parents with multiple kids do it!  AND, we still have our jobs, our house, and our health.  Things could be a whole lot worse. Our daycare opens in August and you can bet I’ll be popping the champagne that first morning to celebrate making it through all this with my family safe and healthy.

While this is still a difficult time, is there anything you actually enjoy about this pause the world is experiencing? I know, for me, this pause has allowed me to reflect on what’s most important and valuable to me. I can’t tell you how many newsletters and mailing lists I’ve unsubscribed from because I no longer see value in what these “big box” companies are offering. I’ve tried hard to shop small and Canadian as much as possible. I now know first-hand from running the FlutePlay shop that a person actually does a little happy dance when someone makes a purchase! I am that person!!  

I’ve enjoyed seeing the creativity and ingenuity of my colleagues as we’ve all tried to find ways to pivot our businesses and our offerings. I’ve appreciated the acts of kindness from friends and colleagues who have offered help and/or their services these past months as we all find our way. I’ve always believed we are stronger together – and the past few months have really solidified that!

What advice would you give to other music teachers? For all music teachers: If you compare teaching to coffee – why would people open independent coffee shops when there are so many out there already and especially with bigger corporate coffee shops around? Because every shop and every community is unique and there’s a market out there for everyone. As music teachers, we need to stop being fearful of one another. Yes, we may all offer music lessons, but we all have our own unique way of teaching! Instead of acting out of fear and competition, consider ways that you can work together to create something special and unique in your community. There are enough students out there for all of us! People will appreciate and find value in this! And you’ll be amazed at how much your teaching will grow!

For all flute teachers: I think, as life long learners, it is important to explore what’s out there so we can always be growing, evolving, and inspiring our students with material that suits their individual needs. Like how we pick from various method books, I think we need to pull from various teaching philosophies to create our own! There are a handful of outstanding little flute methods out there – but this world deserves to hear from all of us! That’s how early childhood flute pedagogy will continue to develop and thrive <3

Visit FlutePlay or and follow Stephanie on social: Instagram @flutechickie Facebook @fluteplayfun Twitter @fluteplaytweets

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