Showing posts from 2017

2017 Highlights

Since we'll be taking next week off for the winter break, I wanted to use the last post of 2017 to look back at the year, and share a few of my favorite moments. So here they are!

The highlights:
We put on 2 fantastic recitals with over 100 performers in both the spring & fall schedules.We had another successful summer of Young Composers where 20 students participated in composing, notating & recording original pieces of music. Many of those students have received awards from the Reflections Art Competition for their compositions. Click here to see the finished results.We launched a couple practice challenges, and, I might add, several of our students are rocking it in both the 100 day & 40 Piece practice challenges - keep it up everyone! Follow @dawnspiano on Instagram for regular updates. We started a little side-hustle selling sheet some music. Click here to see our store.Dawn gave an interview with Piano Parent Podcast.Mallory published an article in Piano Bench Mag…

FREE Classical Christmas Concerts

Are you already getting a little weary of "Jingle Bells" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" this season? I don't blame you, I can usually listen to KOST 103.5 for about 20 minutes before I start hearing repeat songs and make my own playlist instead. The good news is there's actually a huge wealth of holiday music out there besides the radio favorites. 

Last year, I actually attended my first Sing-along Messiah (pictured). I was nervous, but guys, it was really fun! It was a great way to put my sight singing into practice (a bit rusty, hadn't done that in a while!) and participate in bringing a 275 year old piece of music to life again. Now, you don't have to sing if you don't want to, you can just watch and enjoy, but I'd definitely recommend giving it a shot. Just stand next to someone who looks like they know what they're doing and sing whatever they sing. 

So, if you'd like to enjoy some classical Christmas mu…

Christmas Music - New Playlist!

When is it too early to start thinking about holiday music? Well, if you're a music teacher, the planning for new music begins in early fall at the latest. Before September was over I had already placed 2 large orders for new holiday sheet music collections & downloaded several studio licenses for individual pieces to start preparing for the holiday season!

Part of this is because heading into the holidays is one of my personal favorite seasons. I get excited by how life speeds up in anticipation of slowing down, and I truly enjoy the music that surrounds this time of year, and how people share it with one another. I also recognize that not everyone feels this way about holiday music, so I made sure to include some lovely new wintry piano solos from Musica Ferrum in the planning this year instead of all Christmas & Hannukah classics.

One factor that really makes my piano teacher heart happy this time of year is that students are excited about reviewing music from previou…

What's on Your Playlist? - Free Printable

I think it's pretty safe to say all musicians have had the experience of someone saying "play us a song!" and your mind goes totally BLANK. You can't seem to remember a single piece of music you know, let alone how to play it. So today, we're talking about the importance of maintaining a playlist. 

Sometimes in the effort of learning to sight read, count and perform, we forget why we got into this in the first place. Was it to play music we've heard before? To share music with others? To create new music? Maybe all of the above? If we actively maintain a playlist of pieces we know how to play, we can do all of these things and more. We can confidently perform for family & friends when they ask. 

For some young musicians maintaining more than 1-2 pieces of music at a time can feel like a challenge. It's pretty easy to fall into a pattern of memorizing then forgetting, or mastering a piece and then moving onto the next without wanting to look back. But if…

Note Rush

Sight reading is one of the *big things* we expect piano lessons to teach us. It's also not easy, for many kids it's as difficult, or even trickier, than reading English. It requires a lot of abstract reasoning power, repetition and work to really "get it."

We know that a well-rounded musician pairs the ability to see and hear the notes with their awareness of the relationship between notes as they form intervals and chords to interpret and create music. So being able to SEE those notes is a very important part of that puzzle. 
And being a huge believer in the power of gamification, today I'm going to tell you all about NoteRush! A great game that will help students with sight-reading. The game aspect will motivate them to achieve the repetition and practice necessary to internalize the notes, while the expanding levels will continue to stretch and grow the inventory of notes they can confidently read. Piano Parent Podcast also recently featured the app's dev…

Coffeehouse Holiday Concert

On Friday, December 22nd at 3:00 pm, our students are invited to participate in our first ever Coffeehouse Holiday Concert! This is a wonderful opportunity for a casual public performance - aka one of your first gigs! 

Rosebud Coffee, located at 2302 E Colorado Blvd in Pasadena is hosting this event. This is a non-profit business with a mission to help train & employ transitional aged youth in Pasadena who are at risk of homelessness. I am very excited to be able to partner with them for this concert, and help in their cause by providing some lovely holiday music for their patrons & employees and giving back to the local community.

Performers can stop by and add your name to the list to perform a holiday piece or two, grab a warm drink & stay as long as you like. There is no pressure to show up right when it starts, or stay until the end (although you are definitely welcome to!) Come when you are able, and leave when you like. This is a very casual, low time commitment perfo…

Young Composers 2017

We are excited to present the finished works from the Young Composers 2017 project! And this year, we decided to add some visual art to the project. This means that in addition to composing, notating & recording an original piece of music each of our composers also submitted either a photo or drawing that they felt represented their piece to accompany their sheet music in the book. 

You can see some of the drawings our students did here. The intersection of visual and musical art is always a worthwhile exploration and I found myself intrigued, amused, and moved by the art each student paired with their song. Each year that we've done the project, I've picked a quote to open the book, and this year the Leopold Stokowski quote pictured above immediately came to mind as I scrolled through the finished book file. And so, without further ado, I am thrilled to present the Young Composers 2017 book & album!

To view the completed book, click here.

And you can listen to the record…

Snowfall - Winter Piano Collection

Some new sheet music! Those of you who have followed the blog the last few months will know that I've branched out into selling sheet music. Here is my newest release, just in time for the winter season!

Snowfall, is a collection of 5 wintry piano solos for late beginner or early intermediate pianists. Each solo is in a different style that will bring some variety to winter recitals capturing both the cold, tranquil quality of the winter season and the fun and joy of the holidays.

For an individual student, playing through the entire collection would provide practice in a variety of stylistic techniques. And for more creatively inclined students, two of the pieces (Hot Cocoa Blues & Snow Flurries) have optional improvisational sections. You know how we love to provide those avenues for creativity!

Snowfall is available in both Single User & Studio Licensed formats. Preview the music with the player below or by clicking on a purchasing option. 

Preview & Purchasing O…

What to Do With Little Ones at a Concert - Plus Free Concert!

Looking for something to do on a Friday night in Pasadena? The Pasadena Community Orchestra has another concert coming up and it has a terrific looking program.  You can see the concert description here.

First the basics: 
When: Friday, November 10th at 8:00pm
Where: Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene

This is one of those perfect triple threats: Fun, Free & Educational. The Church of the Nazarene has  a very large auditorium and balcony seating, so even if you have younger kids and would like to show up for as much or as little of the show as they can handle, you can choose balcony seating, and not worry about disrupting the concert! I am planning to attend, so if you do come, please let me know! (I wouldn't recommend this for under 5's, especially as it is later in the evening, but older students would most definitely benefit.)

And -insert drumroll- here is the program! The show will start with a bang with the epic Fanfare for the Common Man by CoplandFollowed by Haydn…

What, Why & How of Playing Lead Sheets

Have you ever wished that you could be more creative with your interpretation of a piece of music? Or that you didn't have to learn every single note perfectly from a score to enjoy playing a favorite song from the radio? For beginning and intermediate students learning how to sight read, these can be fairly common feelings and frustrations. And there is a ready answer: Lead Sheets!

So before we get into how these work, let's talk some lingo. In my mind, paper music is divided into 3 basic types:
Sheet Music - traditional music on the grand staff with full, classical notation. Chord Charts - lyrics & chord symbols only. Lead Sheets - treble staff with melody, lyrics if applicable & chord symbols. This is the one we'll be exploring today. You can see an example of a lead sheet of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" here.

Now that we're on the same page, we can talk about why I love lead sheets as a teaching tool so much.  Sight Reading: Reluctant sight readers …

What's on My Music Stand?

Any other Stephen Universe fans out there? Kevin and I really enjoyed watching the first 3 seasons of this show together once it popped up on Hulu, and by about the third episode my fingers were positively itching to play through the end credit theme. One of the things that I really enjoy about Rebecca Sugar's shows (Adventure Time, Stephen Universe etc.) is how they incorporate music. Music that is spontaneous, simple, heartfelt and catchy. But by their nature, these songs are often better suited to ukulele or guitar accompanying vocals, so this was one of the first times I heard the potential for a real piano solo I would really enjoy playing.

(Quick side note: if your piano kid is a little Cartoon Network fan who watches Stephen Universe, I highly recommend this book that teaches you to play the music from the first season, and gives you tips on creating your own original songs.)

Now, one thing you should know about me, waltzes are kinda my jam. I made my dad learn to waltz for t…

Anticipation & the Most Addicting Sheep Game

Looking for a new app to mix up your practice routine? Want to improve your rhythm and hand-eye coordination? If you said yes, get ready to get hooked, because this article is all about The Most Addicting Sheep Game. 

A constant theme in piano lessons is anticipation. Some days I feel like a broken record because I'm always reminding students to think ahead. One of the very real cognitive hurdles of playing the piano is that you have to be reading several steps ahead so you know where you're going while maintaining the music you are already playing. This is definitely an acquired skill that is not easy, and requires a lot of what neurologists call "regulation."

It can also be a very difficult concept to explain to young students, and sometimes even harder to implement. The good news is there are a lot of tools we can use to build this ability naturally, to train the brain into regulating tempo and wiring hand-eye coordination to match it. And many of these training too…

Piano Parent Podcast

Have you ever wondered what other parents do to motivate their piano kids to practice? Or how they balance the requirements of piano with everything else on their schedules? Well, there's a podcast for piano parents that you should check out! And yours truly was the guest for their latest episode! 

Click here to download the episode,
And here for the shownotes.

Published Sheet Music

The pieces that we already have a connection to are often the ones that we are more motivated to practice. Its just really fun to play music that we've heard before. So one of the things I really enjoy doing as a teacher is creating piano arrangements of student requests. If you want to know more about when and why I began doing this, you can read read that blog post here.

And so after several years of sitting down to arrange student requests on a regular basis, I've accumulated a number of popular pieces arranged for beginner and intermediate piano that have been so successful with my own students that I decided to try publishing several of these arrangements for others to purchase. And in doing so have officially joined the world of music publishing! You can visit my store here.

I set up shop for all of my popular arrangements on SMP Press because they do all the work of getting permission from the original copyright holders and delivering their royalties. All I had to …

Fall 2017 Musical Masquerade

It's almost time for our annual Masquerade Piano Recital, and we can't wait! The show will be on Saturday, November 4th.

Piano Tuning & Why it Matters

So let's talk about piano tuning. A couple years ago I set a personal goal to get a suitable practice instrument in every one of my students' homes. . . and it's been easier said than done. Since then, I have drafted soo many email tuning reminders or instrument upgrade recommendations, and had conversations with several studio parents about how important it is to get your current instrument tuned every year. 

So, why is piano tuning such a big deal? Well, three big reasons:

First, aural and listening training are a huge part of musical education. Every time we play a melody, harmony or series of notes, our brains take stock of how those notes relate to each other and then creates and reinforces the neural pathways that help us recall the notes when we need them. If a musician practices these aural skills enough, they can eventually play entire pieces by ear, and not just the melodies. They can also create music in their head away from their instrument, and write it down. It…


Climb on board the Wunderbus, the updated edition of Wunderkeys is here!

Created by Andrea & Trevor Dow, this method is an early childhood method for music education. The series focuses on early musical concepts with fun and engaging games, rhymes, songs and off-the-bench activities. All along the way, students are building an awareness of crucial musical elements like hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning, rhythm, sequence, pattern recognition, early math & counting skills and so much more. And it is perfectly paced for preschool students ages 3-5.

Not only is the music part great, but it is also just plain fun. Join Thumbelina, Pointer Panda, Middleton Mouse, Ringo and Pinky Pig as they explore the fundamentals of music and keyboard theory together in an original and truly engaging way. 

And we here at Dawn's Piano are proud and excited to be able to offer this method to our youngest students! If you or anyone you know would like to inquire about availability for pr…

Books! - Great for Off-the-Bench practice

Looking for a way to round out your child's music education? Or to squeeze in some practice when you are away from the piano? Just peruse your local library or bookstore's performing arts section. I headed over to Vroman's last week to see what was available and found some great choices! I was also glad to see some of my long-time favorites are still in print. This list is mostly picture booksmeaning that if you read the book, then went on YouTube and listened to the artist or piece you read about, these would be a perfect fit to substitute for a 15-20 minute practice time.

Children's Book of Music by DK Publishing (pictured)
This book is an incredible survey of music history from early ancient to popular & film music of today. It comes with a CD to listen along, and has the photo and information block layouts that we've all come to love and expect from DK nonfiction books. This is an excellent book to take on a trip and study a few pages each day. (We also have …

Practicing without a Piano

In light of the 100 day challenge we are running for the 2017-2018 school year, I'm sure many of you are wondering, "but what about when I'm on vacation, or don't have a piano handy?" Well, you could always try fitting the piano in your car (or getting a portable Roll-Up Piano) but just in case that doesn't work, never fear! We've got lots of "off-the-bench" ideas so you can stay on track for your challenge!

Practice Challenge

We are really excited to introduce two practice challenges for the 2017-2018 school year! Each student will choose between a 100 day surge challenge, or a 40 piece challenge (they can of course do both if they are feeling really ambitious). And there will be incentives! But before I get ahead of myself, let me explain these challenges.

Resolve - New Original Music

One of my favorite time of year is when I get to work on composing with my students. But it has been some time since I exercised my own creative muscle to create an original piece of music. I do play and improvise on a regular basis, but I realized recently that taking an idea from start to finish, and formalizing it by publishing sheet music is not something I've done in some time.

So this year, I have been working to nurture my creativity. I continued my ballet classes, started to draw (very badly), paint & write more often and generally make time and space in my life to let my creative side out.

And it's finally trickling over into my music. I came up with this musical theme during a particularly frustrating month where I felt very tired and overwhelmed. I found myself playing it several times, and it sort of became my little rallying cry for pulling through that time and coming out on the other side having experienced some personal growth.

So here is my original comp…

Music Development Program

One of the additions I'd like to make to our studio offerings is enrollment in the Music Development assessment program.

Personally, I have been very cautious about looking at leveled assessments for students because I don't want anything that will conflict with our studio mission: to nurture a love of music in our students. Thus far, this mission has meant following a student's interest and abilities and curating an approach to music education that is both comprehensive and flexible. To add any exam prep would definitely be adding some rigidity to this approach. However, as I've researched, and spoken to and heard from other teachers, I think I have been introduced to a program that would be a good addition for students who are looking for a bigger commitment to piano practice and progress: