Stage Fright - tips from Jenny Leigh Hodgins

Most everybody experiences some level of stage fright when preparing to perform for an audience, audition, or examiner. And it's completely understandable, we are showcasing something that we've put a lot of preparation into, and we want our performance to reflect our hard work, to show what we're capable of, and to bring our audience enjoyment. But what can we do when the nerves start to take over?

Today I'm sharing some tips from fellow music blogger, Jenny Leigh Hodgins' siteall about turning those nerves into a positive performance energy. Hodgins shares 4 big tips for nervous performers (plus a couple bonus ones at the end) and I hope you'll find them as useful as I did. With the KMTA Progressions & our studio Spring Recital just around the corner, I think these will definitely come in handy in the coming months!
1. "get as many performing opportunities as possible and frequently!"This is absolutely the number one way to become a confident per…


This may date me a little bit, but when I was a kid, I think starting around age 5, I had tape player that I put right next to my bed, and I started collecting different tapes, often mix tapes (read: playlists) that my mom, uncle or grandpa had made for me. Whenever I was hanging out in my room and it felt too quiet, I would hit play on whatever my favorite at the time was.

One aspect of music learning that can easily be overlooked between getting through songs in lessons & practice time at home is listening. Listening to music often can go a very long way to help train a young musician's ear for music making. Today's post is all about reminding us to expose piano kids to music on a regular basis.
How does music listening really help? Exposure to new music & genres. If we listen to a broad spectrum of music, we learn the styles, rhythms, and sounds of different types of music in an organic way. This makes it easier to reproduce them later on.Listening to different inte…

Practice Tips & Tricks: Visualization

My final practice trick for you this month is visualization. If you've played sports or done other competitive activities, you may have heard of this before as a training technic. And it does work in practicing your instrument as well. If you follow the blog regularly, you may have caught my book review of This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin last month. In reading it I learned that when we imagine doing something, the same portions of our brains fire up as though we were actually doing it. This is why visualization actually can work. 

When I am using visualization to practice a piece of music, I like to have the sheet music in front of me and I read along at the performance tempo, and mentally 'play' the piece. I know which fingers fall on each note, I hear the piece in my head, I know which parts get louder or softer. I rehearse all the elements minus actually playing it on a piano.

Some variations to make this do-able for beginning students:
Your piano kid could t…

Practice Tips & Tricks: Backing Tracks

Backing tracks are my favorite new practice tool! I'd been using them a little bit for the past couple years, but after moving & transitioning to lots of online lessons where playing in-person duets is not as feasible anymore, backing tracks have taken center stage. And after implementing them so successfully with online students, I've also started using them more with my in-studio students too!

So what is a backing track? 
A backing track is a recorded accompaniment that your piano student plays their piece along with. It can either be a piano duet part or a full band accompaniment. If there are backing tracks for your music, I will bring them to your attention so you can arrange to have access to them at home. 

And how do we use them? 
Start by listening. If your piano kid hasn't heard the backing track yet, listen to it first. When available, listen to the version with the melody included, so your piano kid can hear their part & how it fits with the accompaniment.

Practice Tips & Tricks: Metronome

Before you groan & go back to browsing Facebook or checking your email, hear me out. Metronomes don't have to be drudgery. They don't have to make your piano kid rage-y. They can be do-able, and they are definitely effective for those of us who struggle with pacing (sometimes this is me too, y'all). If you've had metronome related meltdowns, I know you're probably reading along and feeling pretty skeptical that this might actually work with your kid, but metronomes have seen some fun developments in recent years that make them a little more kid-friendly, a maybe even a little more hip. 

So first up, let me tell you about some of my favorite metronome app: 

Super Metronome Groove Box Available on iTunes & Amazon for Android
If you want something that's going to give you fun drum beats to play along with, this is the app you want. It's not free, but it does have a lite version you can download to try out. The full version has LOTS of beat options. You…

Practice Tips & Tricks: Games!

Happy New Year! We know the new year is a great time to get a fresh start & form some new habits. So to kick off 2019, I'll be sharing a series of blog posts all about my favorite practice tools & tricks complete with tips for how to help you use them at home! Teachers & parents alike, we all know that piano practice is necessary, and sometimes the discipline to keep it going can be tricky. But many of the tools that us teachers use in lessons to make things engaging & interesting can be adapted for easy use at home so your piano kid is digging into their music in new & fun ways. This helps piano students to grow into well-rounded musicians because they develop a whole toolkit full of ways to engage with and make music.

To kick off this series, I'm going to talk about games. Gamification is an incredibly effective learning tool. Did you know that on average it takes 400 repetitions for the human brain to create a new neural pathway? BUT if we're having …

2018 Highlights

This will be the last post for 2018! I can't believe we're already here. Since the studio will be on break the next couple weeks, the blog will be going silent until January as well. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful, peaceful break with your families. And like last year, I'm using this final post of 2018 to highlight some of the truly awesome things you all have accomplished this year. 

This year has definitely seen a lot of change for the studio. Here are some of the highlights!

On April 22nd, we had our final Recital in California where with both Aki & Mallory. With over 100 students performing, and trying to say good-bye since I was heading off towards Kansas the following day, we barely finished the show before the library kicked us out, and stayed talking in the parking lot well after the library's closing time. That Recital was very dear to me, and despite it being a crazy, hectic & overwhelming day, I treasured getting to see each student perform. A few w…

What Are Flex Weeks?

If you clicked on the link to this blog post, you're probably wondering what flex weeks are, and how they work in this studio. And here are the answers: 

In choosing to implement the industry standard, flat rate tuition model, I had to think about how I was going to calculate the monthly tuition cost, and build in enough flexibility for the unforeseen cancellations that occasionally happen. So I looked to the studio owners & business coaches wiser than me for some guidance and one tool that I saw being used very effectively in studios all over the world are flex weeks. Flex weeks are un-billed lessons that are built into the term where either parents or the studio can cancel a lesson if necessary without the loss of a paid lesson, or the need for a make-up. It offers us that flexibility when we need it. I chose to have 4 flex weeks built into the school year session, and 2 built into the summer session. 

If you're interested in seeing how this all calculates into the studio …

This is Your Brain on Music - Book Review

I recently finished up reading "This is Your Brain on Music" by Daniel Levitin, and I found some of the information he shares about what goes on in our brains when we listen to or make music to be really fascinating. So in this week's blog post, I'm sharing some of my favorite parts with you, and how they can relate to our work in learning to play the piano. 

In the introduction of the book Levitin writes "What artists & scientists have in common is the ability to live in an open-ended state of interpretation and reinterpretation of the products of our work." (p. 5) and I completely agree - at least with the musician part of it since I can't really speak for scientists, but as artists we never stop learning. Even when we've completely mastered a piece of music, each time we play it, it is a new & original interpretation. We may strike the notes just a little differently, or emphasize a phrase another way, we may try it slower or faster or pu…

Including a Piano Performance in Your Holiday Gathering

Christmas is less than a month away already, and that means this next month will be filled with parties, dinners & gatherings. These can be an excellent time for your piano kid to share some music with friends & family. Today I've got 5 tips to make this an experience that entertains your guests while building the confidence of your piano kid. 

1. Have fun! - Let this be lighthearted and celebratory. Whether you're all sitting quietly to listen to the music, or they are playing background music to your family meal or time together, let the spirit in the room be fun, lighthearted, & filled with encouragement.

2. Make it rewarding - Applaud when they are done, and give them lots of hugs, love and appreciation when they've finished. Want to make it a bit more rewarding? Put out a tip jar and let family members who appreciate the performance drop in pieces of candy, small toys or some cash/coins that your child can enjoy when their performance is finished. Music is …

Let It Snow - Late Intermediate Piano Solo

Today I'm sharing a newly updated version of my arrangement of "Let it Snow!" for late intermediate to early advanced pianists. This is a fun, lighthearted piano solo that will delight guests at holiday gatherings & bring smiles to the audience at your holiday recital. 

The arrangement explores a couple different bass clef accompaniment styles to lend variety & movement to the repetition of the well-known chorus. Students have the chance to work on some dynamic, articulation & voicing changes throughout the piece as well.

Sheet music is available here

You can hear the track using the player below.  

The sheet music is published through SMP Press, if you are interested in publishing your own compositions or arrangements and letting someone else worry about the copyrights or hosting files, use my affiliate link to get started. 

Looking for more sheet music for the winter months? Here are a couple more to try. 

I've also got a  playlist from 2016, including link…

KMTA Progressions

As a member of KMTA, I am proud to be able to offer participation in Kansas Music Teachers Association Progressions evaluations to my McPherson area students. And in case you're wondering what Progressions is, here's the description from the KMTA website:

"Music Progressions is designed to be a suggested curriculum of independent music study. This curriculum is coupled with an annual evaluation sponsored by KMTA local associations and/or groups of KMTA teachers.
This noncompetitive program consists of ten progressive levels. Each level requires proficiency in performance, music terminology, rhythm and pulse development, sight-playing, scales, written theory, and ear-training. Students may enter any level. Participation is not based on year in school or years of music study. The test provides a music event evaluating the progressive growth of ALL students - those studying music as a hobby as well as those aspiring to enter the music world professionally.
Many teach…

Fall Broadcast Recital - Replay

This Saturday, the studio hosted it's first ever Broadcast Recital (learn more about why we chose this recital format here), and if you missed it, that's ok, because here is where you can watch the video replay! 

(the first 3 minutes are just a still shot so people could join the live broadcast before it began, if you want to skip that the show starts at 3:00)
Order of Performers: Sam W ..... Jolly Pumpkin Sloan S ..... Jolly Old St. Nicholas Brooklynn I ..... I Love Coffee, arr. by Bernard & Carolyn Shaak Elsie W ..... Climbing the Music Ladder Enzo S ..... Charlie Chipmunk, Julie Knerr Gentri C ..... Spring Song, Vivaldi, arr. by Eklund Kingston S ..... Outer Space, Julie Knerr Emory W ..... Largo, Dvorak Joshua L ..... Pop Boss, Andrea Dow Ivan M ..... Fort Knight, Andrea Dow Logan H ..... Secret Mission, Melody Bober Elliot S ..... Million Dreams, Benj Pasek, arr. by Dawn Ivers  Luke A ..... Professor King's Celebrated All-Purpose Exceptional Invigorating Effectacious Good Time …