Showing posts from 2020

Original Studio Art - Free Digital Print!

One of my projects during our studio break in May of this year was to get the artwork on our studio walls sorted out to be a little more thematic, and 'put together'. One of the things that had been holding me up in this previously was that I didn't have any art to hang right behind the piano that would really help bring the room together.

So, during our downtime, I decided to go ahead and create some studio art that could fill this space! You can see the image below with the 5 original prints hung in a collage form behind the studio piano. We will also be using these as our grand prizes for the studio practice challenges this year! Each student who completes their 40-hour Piano Maestro Challenge will choose a print of their choice to be personalized with their name & achievement, framed and presented at our Spring Recital!

Now for the freebies! The Treble Clef print pictured here is free to you as a digital download if you would like it. All you have to do is enter your…

Early Childhood Music Education - Why It's Important

Did you know that day old infants will breathe differently depending on if they are listening to Mozart vs. Stravinsky? This is because as soon as we are capable of hearing music, we are already responding to and interacting with that music as a vehicle for emotional and cognitive development. Traditional methods of teaching music have often started children around 7 or 8 years old with instrumental & technical learning, but a lot of research is now available to show that early childhood music education and integration is so incredibly valuable for essential development.

In today's post, I'm sharing two different articles highlighting the benefits of early childhood music education. One is from the National Association for Music Education and the other is from Carnegie Hall. 

This first article from NAfME outlines their position on Early Childhood Music Education, and that every child deserves play-based and developmentally appropriate music education. I'm dropping my fa…

Autumn 2020 Video Recital

Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 7th at 11:00 am CST/9:00 AM PST because that's when we'll be hosting our Fall Video Recital! 

As we've done the past couple years, our Fall Recital will be a recorded video recital that I will edit together into a single video file for online viewing.

One thing that will be different this year, we are going to try a Live Watch Party on the studio Facebook page! I'm excited to give this a try because it will enable us to all sit down and watch the recital together with our videos synced up in real time, and to comment, cheer each other on and interact together while watching the performances. You'll also be able to invite friends and family to tune in with us making this something more akin to a live recital experience. For those of you who use Facebook, you can RSVP to the Fall Video Recital here to get updates on how to tune in for the watch party, and you are welcome to invite friends and family as well if they want to be …

Young Composers 2020

It's that time again! We are unveiling our Young Composers Project for 2020. This project is highly anticipated by both teacher & students each year because we get to enjoy a change of pace for the summertime, and turn our attention towards writing original music. Engaging in writing music has several great benefits. It enhances our understanding of music theory, note reading and music fluency, while exercising some creativity.

How Young Composers works: 
Each year in the summertime, all of our piano students explore creativity through writing music. The ways we approach this are adapted to all levels, from preschool up through advanced students. AND continuing students who have a working knowledge of note reading, as well as at least 6 months of playing experience, also have the opportunity to notate their original music using Noteflight notation software, and to record a track of their composition during our recording week in the studio. For online students who are unable to c…

Practice Challenge - 2020

Practice Challenges help keep piano students motivated and progressing throughout the school year session. So in today's blog post, I'm outlining our practice challenges for the 2020-2021 School Year. 
Year-Long ChallengeFirst, our year-long challenge this year is going to be a Piano Maestro 40-Hour challenge. Any student who practices 40 hours or more in Piano Maestro over the course of the school year will receive a special prize (TBD) as well as some serious studio bragging rights. This adds up to a little over an hour a week, so making a 10-15 minutes of Piano Maestro a part of your every day practice might be the best way to reach this one. 

The chart below is tracking our 40 hour challenge (which is 2400 total minutes!)

Month-Long ChallengesWe will have 4 month-long challenges spread throughout the year. These are good motivators because they are short-term and make for easily measurable wins for students who track them. Here's what it will look like for this year:


Piano Senior Spotlight presented by Tamara M.

Today's blog post is a Senior Spotlight featuring the studio's graduating senior of 2020, Tamara Masri. 

Performance Program: 
Night Thoughts by Barbara Arens
Graffiti by Barbara Arens

These pieces are from a collection of Nocturnes called Rendezvous with Midnight, in which each piece has a short poem associated with it. You'll see the text of these poems in Tamara's video.

And without any further ado, I will turn it over to Tamara to introduce herself & perform her selections.  Hi, my name is Tamara Masri. I am a graduating high school senior and I have been playing piano for 14 years. In the fall of 2020, I will be studying Neuroscience at UCLA. 
Learning to play piano has made music a very important part of my life. Playing an instrument is a huge stress-relief, as well as an effective way to express myself.

And if you wanted to hear a little more from Tamara, she's also written two original pieces of the music over the past couple years as part of our Young Compose…

Studio Piano Maintenance

Piano Maintenance is a vitally important part of being able to practice, build healthy technique, and to play well. Our studio piano was due for a tuning this summer, and I also asked Chuck Vetter, our technician here in town, to see what he good do about the tone. Our studio piano is pretty old, and it sees a lot of regular use by lots of young, very eager pianists, so the action needed some TLC. I grabbed some photos while he was working because I thought students would enjoy seeing the inner workings of the piano, and here was the result: 

If your piano kid enjoys seeing the 'how things work' side of the piano, be sure to keep an eye out for our September Piano Party, which will be all about how the piano works. From identifying some of the key components and mechanisms in the instrument, to what happens when we strike a key to make a sound, and what all the pedals do, we'll get an up-close look under the lid!
And if your home practice instrument is due for a tune-up, the…

What's on My Music Stand?

Summer is a time to unwind a bit and have fun exploring music that makes us happy. And since I have been encouraging students to play through favorites, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into some of my soothing favorites that have been on my music stand lately.

As we all know, the past few months have been hard, weird and overwhelming. We also know that the arts and music can be really valuable as a way of emotional relief or shelter, or to work out some of those harder feelings. I've been sharing some music on my personal instagram page to connect with friends and bring peaceful little breaks from the news cycle into their routines. These are just casual, spur of the moment videos, and they are what I've sharing with you today. 

Merry Go Round of Life by Joe Hisaishi
This is the main theme from one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies Howl's Moving Castle, which happens to be based on my favorite book of the same title written by Diana Wynne Jones. It's a happy little…

Go To for Popular Music - FM Sheet Music

Anyone who's followed the studio for a while will know that I love to arrange music for my students on request. However, sitting down to arrange a piece of popular music with a specific level in mind, while retaining enough of the song's elements that it sounds right and is still fun to play can sometimes be time consuming. Some weeks, I simply don't have the time to dedicate to arranging and engraving (typing notation) music. On those weeks, enter Jennifer Eklund over at FM Sheet Music. I'm not affiliated with FM Sheet Music in any way, it's just a resource I've come to really appreciate, so I'm sharing about it. Especially as I know students sometimes like to look up and download new pieces on their own, and if that's you, this may be a good place to start. 

So there are lots of places online to buy digital sheet music you can print at home of popular works. Why is FM Sheet Music becoming my go-to? Here's what I like about it. 

The arrangements are …

Playing Note Rush on Zoom

As you all know, we got to explore a full-time online studio the last 6 weeks of our school year session, and one of my favorite techy things that we managed to do was to use our sight reading apps on the iPads over Zoom in real time. Here's how we managed it: 

First, Open the Note Rush app on the iPad.

Second, Screenshare the iPad in Zoom using Airplay, be sure to 'share computer audio' so the student can hear the little 'dings' when they get the note correct. 

Then, choose your level and start the round! The student begins playing the notes they see in the screenshare. The iPad *should* pick up the computer sound and register the notes correct or not, but here are a couple things to try if it doesn't. 
Make sure your computer volume is all the way up & position the iPad so the mic is closer to the computer if it's not already. Watch what the student plays, and play along with them on your instrument. This way if the audio blips, or the iPad doesn't re…

Musical Summer Reading Recommendations

It has become something of a summertime tradition that I put together a list of some favorite children's books that involve music or art. As a former children's bookseller for 12 years at Vromans bookstore, books and literacy will always be special to me. And in the summertime I like the idea of letting go of some of the structure and looking at the value of what we learn during the year with some fresh eyes. So, without any further ado, here is this year's list.
Picture Books

I See a Song by Eric Carle
This book features a musician and his violin. As he plays the instrument, a world of colors and shapes grows on the page. This is the perfect book for stimulating a young artists' imagination and artistic sensibilities. Recommended ages 3-6.

My First Classical Music Book by Genevieve Helsby
The cool thing about this book is that it is available as a physical book, or as an app. You can grab both to use in tandem, or either one individually, and let your piano kid explore the…

Lord of the Chords - game review!

Sometime last year our studio contributed to a kickstarter for a tabletop card came called 'Lord of the Chords', and several months later received our physical copy of the game. Not too long after that I scheduled a game night with a couple local music teachers so we could get the hang of game play before implementing this game in our teaching. Today I'm writing up a short review of Lord of the Chords, and how I look forward to implementing it in lessons. 

A short sum-up of game play: You try to build chords, and when you've built a chord in the chosen key signature, you get that key signature tile. Whoever gets 3 tiles first wins. It sounds fairly simple, but there's lots of fun strategy opportunities built in like 7th steals, and action cards that create all kinds of surprises as you go along. Also, when you first sit down to play, you look through the instrument cards and decide which one you'd like to be. Each instrument offers different advantages specific …

The Value of Composing in Piano Lessons

One of my favorite things to do each year is revisit our Young Composers program during summertime lessons, and in today's post I'm outlining some of the reasons why I feel giving music students the chance to compose their own music is an incredibly valuable creative exercise. 

Reinforces Music Fluency
We spend a lot of time in lessons learning to hear and see music from a musician's point of view. We learn to read notes, to hear intervals and chords, we identify the quality of our music with terms like 'major' and 'minor'. All of this works together to create music fluency. When we write music we get to reinforce some of these essential skills: 
Note Literacy - when we write or type up the notes for a composition, we're interacting with those notes from a new perspective that will help to remember them better in the future.Dynamics & Expressive Tools - especially for young musicians, expressive markings in the music can easily get overlooked when our …