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Fall into Music Practice Challenge

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Our School Year Session is now under way, and as we head into September, we're going to participate into the "Fall into Music" Practice Challenge hosted by the Piano Parent Podcast. This is a short-term, world-wide practice challenge where each student tries to practice 20 days during the month of September. Any student who completes the challenge will receive a completion certificate, AND a place on the studio social media wall of fame. In addition, we will be running a total of 4 one-month practice challenges throughout this school year, and any student who completes 2 or more of them will win an exclusive Dawn's Piano tote bag. This will be great for carrying their piano books to and from the studio!

So how does the Fall into Music challenge work? 

Well we know that the real work of learning to play an instrument is in the practice time spent between lessons, and we know that parents are the ones who reinforce the practice habit at home. This challenge is designed t…

Digital Piano Recommendations

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Starting piano lessons for a lot of people means that we have to look at acquiring an instrument. Today, I'm sharing my favorite digital models for beginning piano students. These are at a lower price point than comparable instruments, but still provide the hammer action feel, touch sensitivity and good quality sound samples that replicate a grand piano well. 

If you are deciding between an acoustic & a digital, be sure to check out this article, and if you're in the market for a used piano keep the tips in this article in mind.

So if you're still reading, you've decided on a digital, and are wanting to know the best, affordable options that will still provide the quality your budding pianist needs. All pianos listed below feature Graded Hammer Standard or Weighted Keys, meaning the keys are engineered to feel like an acoustic piano. Having this feature shortens the learning curve on transitioning from a keyboard to an acoustic, so that when a student is at less…

Piano Maestro

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Since I am in prep week between the summer and school year sessions, this post is all about how you can prep at home by setting up Piano Maestro, AND how we can use it to encourage practice by enabling the Home Practice challenge. I've had several parents recently ask me about the piano lab set up after watching their kids sit down and be self-motivated to sight read music using the Piano Maestro app. And that's because this app uses the best parts of gaming technology & the psychology of gamification to create an environment where piano students are learning new notes and technic while actively sight reading and practicing on their actual piano (not just interacting with the screen). All the while, they are receiving in-game rewards and milestones that keep them excited to work for excellence and to progress forward.

What you need: A piano (acoustic or digital both work) and an iPad.

First step: let me know that you'd like to try Piano Maestro at home and I will se…

Just the Way You Are - Sheet Music

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Over the years I have had several students of different ages and levels request to learn Just the Way You are by Bruno Mars, because of that have ended up with two differently leveled arrangements, and now for the first time, both are available on SheetMusicPlus. Up until this point, I have had the early intermediate version available, and even though the song is now a few years old, it has consistently been one of the best sellers in my SMP Press store, so I decided to go ahead and make the more advanced version available as well. This piece works well as an audience-pleasing piano recital piece, background music at a wedding reception, anniversary party, or just to play for our own enjoyment.


The cool thing about having a couple arrangements of one piece is we can talk a little bit more about arranging music for different pedagogical levels (for those who are interested in such things). Let me take you through a little analytical listening exercise: 


First, let's listen to the ear…

On Screentime & Reaping Benefits of Technology

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There is a lot of marketing, research and branding out there, some telling us how to let our kids get ahead with technology, and others to stay away from it at all costs because it's rotting our brains! What's the real scoop in all this? How can we incorporate the advantages and benefits of technology into our daily lives while maintaining good brain health? And perhaps even more importantly as parents and teachers, how can we do this for today's kids?

Well, last month, I joined in a teacher chat on the Piano Parent Podcast with fellow teacher Judy Wilkins, and the podcast host, Shelly Davis to talk about this exact topic. In the course of our discussion, I found myself really glad that we were talking together, and enjoyed the down-to-earth and actionable tips that Judy shared that were still flexible enough to fit a range of family & personality dynamics. 

You can listen to the full episode in the player below, or go check out the shownotes on the podcast's website

Studio Piano Parties

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5 times during the year, this studio hosts a Piano Party, previously called a "bonus studio-wide group class," open to all students who would like to attend. Heading into this coming school year session, I've decided to re-name them "Piano Parties" because it's less of a mouthful, and is a better descriptor of the fun I am hoping students will have at these events. 

What do we do at Piano Parties, you ask? Well, each one has a distinct musical focus on a topic that may not always get the spotlight in lessons:
In July, we do a Rhythm party. With so many new students in the studio trying out lessons, and everyone feeling the energy to move around with the warm weather, summer a great time to reinforce rhythm reading & awareness by pulling out some of the more physical movement-based rhythm activities. In September we'll start off the school year with some Improvising. Students will learn how to rely on the chords, scales & timing we practice during …

Summer Reading List

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What better time than Summer to discover some great books?! Today's post is a book list that shares some titles that tell the stories of musical artists or composers, some that have fun with music, and some that explore having positive self-esteem (very important for artists who are in the habit of being vulnerable by putting themselves into performing situations). As a former children's bookseller, and an avid reader, connecting with people about books is one of my most favorite hobbies. 

If you're looking for a way for your summer reading to get your piano kid out of the house, just head to your local library! Here in McPherson, the library's summer reading program gives kids a free book just for signing up, as well as entry into the drawing for the big prize. If they complete a reading log, they can earn more prizes AND more entries into the drawing. If you haven't checked that out already, you can learn all about the Summer Kid's Programming here, there are …

Local Summer Concerts

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We're going to go down memory lane with Ms. Dawn for a minute here: One of my favorite things about summer as a kid was walking up to the local park with a picnic on Wednesday nights to watch the concerts performed by the Temple City community orchestra. This was a fixed point in our week during the summer that we hardly ever missed. Sometimes we would even get McDonald's for our picnic (I'm positive that had absolutely nothing to do with me liking Wednesday nights so much). While we were there, I remember pretending to conduct the orchestra, making friends with the kids the next picnic blanket over & running around together, bringing friends for play dates, and when I got older bringing a book to read while I would lay there listening to the music in the summer evening air. Those Wednesday nights are surrounded with the hazy glow of summertime nostalgia for me, and I'm sure that they played a much larger role in growing my love of music than I realized at the time…

Tightrope - Beginning Piano Sheet Music with Teacher Duet

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We know that beginning pianists are motivated to practice when they play music they love, and this piece from the hit move The Greatest Showman is sure provide that incentive.

Tightrope has been arranged here for beginning piano solo. But that's not all you get with this sheet music! Included with the purchase is also an optional teacher duet that helps add lots of color to this piece.

Played as a solo or duet, this waltz-like song with a charming melody is sure to be a crowd-pleasing performance piece for family & friends or at a recital. 

You can hear the duet played here: 



And you can preview the sheet music & see the purchasing options on SheetMusicPlus.com here:  

look insideTightrope - Easy Piano By Benj Pasek, Justin Paul. Arranged by Dawn Ivers. Set of Parts, Solo Part. 11 pages. Published by Dawn Ivers (H0.433545-SC000017498).  Want more sheet music? Browse all of the selections currently available here.

Are you a composer or arranger who is interest…

Espressivo 2019 - What we did at Piano Camp!

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The McPherson Area Piano Teachers' League hosted it's second annual Espressivo Piano Camp during the first week of June. Our camp consisted of almost 30 area piano students and area teachers Brett Janssen, Shulah Neff, Dan Masterson & Dawn Ivers who worked together on growing in our understanding of Music History, Performance, Music Theory, Improvisation & Composing in a fun summer day camp environment. This type of camp experience is so valuable to piano students because so much of the time piano is a solitary activity with practice at home & lesson time having to focus on individualized learning. This means that for piano students, having the opportunity to dig into some extra musical subjects and have fun with musical peers reinforces the value and the fun of what they are learning.

In addition to the classes, the camp featured a special session by guest teacher, Jean Kennedy all about the guitar, and THREE performances. The first performances on Thursday was a …

Why do we Apologize for 'Wrong' Notes?

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It happens to all of us, we hit a wrong note and out slips an "oops, sorry!" as we play on. I know I'm guilty of this, particularly when playing a duet or accompaniment, and I hear students apologizing *all the time* in lessons for missed or wrong notes. 

So why do we do this? My feeling is that this tendency points to an underlying fear of making mistakes, or of letting our teacher or fellow musicians down. In today's post, I'd like to offer some alternatives to apologizing and try to reshape some of our thinking around those inevitable hiccups. 

You may be familiar with the Bob Ross quote pictured here, or at least have seen it floating around the internet. I know I've seen this 'happy little accidents' thinking applied to all sorts of life situations. And I do think that this can be really beneficial thinking for artists & musicians. 

So what can we do when we make a mistake instead of apologizing?

'Jazz it Up'
This is the musician's ver…

Enrolling for the 2019/2020 School Year

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It's time to start reserving your spots for piano lessons during the 2019-2020 school year! With enrollments already coming in, Fall session is going to fill up quickly. Keep reading for this year's important dates, how to reserve your spot, and an exciting addition to the studio.

Session Calendar:

The school year session will begin on Tuesday, August 13th and will end with our Recital on Saturday, May 2nd, 2020. The studio is open for lessons Tuesday-Friday 1:00-7:00, and will be closed for holidays on these dates:
The week of Thanksgiving - Nov. 25-29Two weeks for Christmas break - Dec. 21-Jan 4 Spring Break - TBD, will align with USD 418When you have questions, remember the studio Calendar is always available here, or at the 'Calendar' tab above. 

 How to Enroll

Current students will be given priority enrollment via the email newsletters until July 15th, at which point enrollment will open up to the waitlist. This is to ensure that those who have been taking lessons h…