Showing posts from 2018

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

We spend a lot of time in lessons and home practice working on developing skills like sight reading, rhythm, ear training, technic and performance skills. Wouldn't it be great if there was a year-end evaluation to help us determine if these concepts are truly being retained? Well good news, there is!

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. 

So what is Progressions? Well here's the description straight 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. Studen…

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 …

Spooky Week in the Studio!

Wednesday is Halloween, and since the studio will be closed on the big day, we'll just have to celebrate all week! This holiday provides an excellent opportunity for us to explore the nature of minor keys in creating music that is spooky, mysterious, scary or playful. So here are some of the ways we'll be playing with minor keys this week:
Pick a favorite happy-sounding piece you've learned that we'll turn spooky.Improvise your own original minor key music during lesson - this activity will provide rhythmic themes for students to choose from, and using a C minor pentascale, they choose notes to go with the rhythms. Holiday themed music theory games. Monster Mash-up! - Create your own mash-up of a piece by cutting out & re-organizing the musical sections. Listen to (or learn) some of these well-known classical themes in minor keys. Toccata & Fugue in D minor by JS BachIn the Hall of the Mountain King by GriegFuneral March by ChopinNight on Bald Mountain by Mussor…

Musition & Auralia - Piano Lab Apps

One of the things I was very excited about in setting up my new home studio was establishing a Piano Lab area where students can practice self-led study, explore and use technology to increase their sight reading, ear training & reinforce musical concepts.

And it's been a great success thus far. I am seeing beginning students become confident in what they're learning, and growing in their ability to self-correct, try again and their mastery of musical terms & concepts. And one of the ways I keep students on their toes is to choose an "App of the Week" on a little blackboard that hangs above the piano lab. 

So my app reviews today are about the Musition & Auralia apps that I've been rotating through the App of the Week position. These could easily be incorporated into home practice, especially if your piano kid was struggling with a particular concept.

The Musition apps focus on creating stronger music reading and include Note Reading, Rhythm Tapping, Mu…

On Top of the World - late intermediate sheet music

This month's sheet music feature is Imagine Dragon's On Top of the World. This was another one that was a student request from one of my students who was starting high school at the time. (He started lessons with me when he was 8 or 9 and is now in college! Stop growing up, it makes me feel old. XD)

Arranged here as a late intermediate piano solo, this is an upbeat piece that offers practice in syncopated rhythm and octaves in the right hand and is a tried-and-true show stopper at recitals or social gatherings. 

You can listen to the arrangement in the video below and you can purchase the sheets to try it out yourself here.

The sheet music has been published via SMP Press' ArrangeMe program. Learn more about creating your own account to start publishing your arrangements.

Multi-Piano & Guitar Christmas Festival

Each year the McPherson Area Piano Teachers' League puts together a Multi-Piano & Guitar Christmas Festival. Now, I know it's not Halloween yet, but these kinds of events take planning, and it's actually only 8 lessons away!

The way it works is that area music students learn duets in their lessons, and on December 15th, we line up several pianos on-stage at the Wesley Black Fine Arts Auditorium and area piano students will take the stage to perform these duets all together, with guitar performances spread throughout the show as well. All to create a massive Christmas Concert for the community.

Students who are beginning staff readers through advanced are invited to participate, and I've already begun having conversations with eligible students in our studio about which pieces they can start practicing. (So no pre-readers yet, but it would be a great idea to attend and get a preview at what you could be doing next year!). 

 As you can imagine, multiple pianists playin…

Is Your Bench Too Low?

Piano bench height and piano posture can be easily overlooked when starting out lessons, but it can make a huge difference in your piano kid's early technical skills at the instrument. So today's post is asking "Is your piano bench too low?" and giving you some easy tips to fixing it. 

First off, what are we looking for in assessing bench height? Well, keep in mind that most piano benches are made for an adult musician, so typically you sit down at the piano, the base of the keyboard should roughly be across from your belly, and if your arms are relaxed at your sides your elbows are ever so slightly higher than the tops of the keys. Now, have your child sit at the keyboard, and you may notice that the keyboard is more in line with their chest, and their elbows are below the keys - and if this is the case, the bench is too low to encourage good technic. 

Easy fixes: 
The good news is kids will grow into the bench, and until they do there are some easy fixes we can employ…

Meludia - Aural Training App

In the past year, I've reviewed a few different sight reading apps, because as we all know, I think sight reading is important. But today's app is a little different, Meludia is an Ear Training app that works on developing good aural skills in musicians.

Aural skills are what we use to play a song by ear, to take a melody we've heard and translate it into keys, steps, skips, intervals & chords. It's what helps us learn a song by rote - when there isn't any sheet music and we're taught note by note. It's also what helps us catch when we've played a wrong note. And the more notes being played, the harder it can be to catch small mistakes within the chords or passages, so our ears have to be well trained to picking up each tone of a chord, or each note in a phrase or pattern. Ear Training is an essential skill to being a well-rounded musician.

And Meludia is a terrific way to build that skill. It is very easy to play and free to install with 150 exercis…

Video Recording Tips

In light of our upcoming digital recital, I decided to put together some quick tips for taking a good video of your performance at home.

First, where to shoot from. 
Similar to video lessons, when recording a performance, we want to be able to see the performer's face & hands on the keys, so a profile view is simple & effective. You are welcome to get fancy with angles if you like, but it's definitely not required.

Second, setting up your equipment.
Now, if you have a DSLR & a tripod, or a USB mic & a computer with video software, you know how to do this, you can skip to step 3.

But if all you've got is a smart phone or tablet, here are a couple tips:
Set your recording device down on something to avoid shaking in the video. But we don't want to set it on the piano itself. This is because the sound can distort when the microphone is in contact with the instrument. Third, Introduce yourself, play your piece, thank your audience.
Students should introduce the…

Turning - Autumn Piano Collection

Turning is a collection of 5 autumnal piano solos for early intermediate pianists. Each solo is in a different style that will bring variety to a performance, or give an individual student a chance to increase their stylistic range. And for more creatively inclined students, two of the pieces (Acorn Boogie & Twilight) have optional improvisational sections. The solos are leveled as early intermediate and would be appropriate for learners of all ages. 

This collection seeks to capture the cozy joy & serenity that a lot people feel during this season as scarves & boots resurface, and pumpkin spice everything abounds. But a few pieces also have elements of the wistful mysteriousness that can accompany the changing seasons and shorter days as the summer dies, the air grows more chill, and we watch the leaves begin to fall.

You can give them a listen in the music player below, and if you're interested in the sheet music, you can view purchasing options here.

This collecti…

Fall Recital

Hey everyone! This year's Fall recital is going to be a little different from anything I've done in the past, and that is largely because I've recently moved cross country and am now actively teaching students in both California & Kansas. In thinking about all of you, half of whom are adjusting beautifully to the online lesson format & the other half who are doing an amazing job with their first lessons in the new studio, I wanted to create a performance opportunity for this time of transition & growth in the studio that would be both low-stress & high quality where students in both states can see each other's performances, cheer each other on and be motivated to try new music in their own lessons. And I'm very excited to share with what I've come up with. 

Save the date for Saturday, November 3rd at 11:00 am Central Time/9:00 am Pacific Time, because that is when you will want to tune in for our Fall Recital Broadcast where I will welcome you al…

Podcast Interviews

During the month of July, I was invited to participate in two different podcasts. In today's post, I'm sharing a little of my personal professional journey, and my excitement with you about each these opportunities.

Any who've followed the blog recently will know that this has been a very transitional year with my move & re-imagining my studio to incorporate both online & group lessons. The support from the piano teaching community at large has been terrific, and I was so happy to be able to return the favor in giving to these two interviews.

The first conversation I had was with the Piano Parent Podcast, which you've all heard about from me before. I LOVE what Shelly does with this podcast in seeking to equip & encourage parents through the ups and downs of piano study. If you haven't already checked out this podcast, I highly recommend it. And if you'd like to hear the 'Teacher Chat' episode that featured myself, Becki Laurent & our hos…

Arts After School

Today is my first day embarking on a bit of new music teaching endeavor with Arts After School. This program is a non-profit after school program for middle school students here in McPherson, and enrollment is 100% free to students! This year we are offering Modern Band (think Pop/Rock ensemble), Drawing & Culinary Arts. If you hadn't guessed, I will be helping out with the musical end of things in the Modern Band classes & coaching the keyboard players.

Part of the reason I signed on for this when I'm already in the midst of rebuilding my private studio, is that I really like what this program is offering. Arts after School is giving these kids useful skills to build their self-esteem, confidence and self-expression while helping them find a productive way to spend those after school hours before parents get home from work. 

In partnership with the Community Foundation, the program is working on their IMAGINE initiative. This is the process of putting together an endow…

Say Something - Intermediate Piano Solo

This is an arrangement that was requested by a student several years back, and was a studio favorite among my intermediate students for a few years following that. One student would perform it at a recital, and others would ask to learn it after the performance. I even had one young lady who was asked by her priest to perform it in church after he heard her playing it in one of the Sunday School rooms because he liked the sound of it.

The arrangement provides a good introduction to triplets because the tempo of the piece is very slow and the majority of the melody's rhythm is triplets. The solo also features a section of the melody played in octaves, providing good practice in right hand octaves and creating that epic, full sound  that we know our teen students love, before the song winds down.

You can listen to the arrangement below, and if you're interested in trying it out for yourself or a student, the sheet music is available for purchase on Sheet Music Plus.