Monday, November 14, 2011

Billie Jean for Piano Duo

This is one of the reasons I love the piano.  As a pianist, one has such a great expanse of sounds truly at the fingertips.

Today I really enjoyed hearing a version of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean done by the Anderson and Roe piano duo.  Below is a link to a duo concert they did.  Billie Jean comes in at about minute 41.  Check it out!!!

Billie Jean done by the Anderson and Roe piano duo.

Awesome, right?  Yeah!  Go practice!  :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Recital - November 2011

Well done!  Here's the proof!

To view the performances of Natalie, Katie, Maeve, Declan F., Pauline and Erica:

To view the performances of Whitney, August, Ioannis, Anne Marie, Cole, Diego and Adrian:

To view the performances of Amber, Fiona, Evan, Kabir, Jimena, Eddie and Declan H:

To view the performances of Mary, Chloe, Jerecho, Graham and Criss:

To view Ms. Aubrey's performance:

Thank you so much everyone - this was a lot of fun!!  Let's meet back here in the spring so we can show off all the hard work we do this winter!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beethoven's Sixth Symphony; Last Movement

I'm glad everyone enjoyed listening to the Third Symphony a couple of weeks ago.   Here is the last movement of the 6th symphony, one of my favorites.

Some of you are working on beautiful melodies and recognizing instrumentation, some are working on creating a picture or a feeling with the music your play at the piano, and some are working on the intricacies of how a composer treats a melody (variations, etc).  Please listen to this recording with these things in mind and come prepared to discuss it in your next lesson!  And enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Evan - took a lesson like a Suzuki Book 2 kid today!

Wow - what a week for congratulations!  Evan also graduated from Suzuki Book 1, playing with impressive sensitivity and spirit for his age.  Make sure to congratulate him when you see him at the November recital!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Declan - Done with Folk, and on to Baroque!

Congratulations go out this evening to Declan, who gave a clean, confident, and musical performance of Suzuki Book 1 at Sherwood Community Music School.  I'm proud of all the work you've put into becoming an accomplished pianist for your age!


Saturday, October 1, 2011

As if playing the piano weren't challenging enough.....

In case any of you out there are feeling especially brilliant this week, Pauline and I propose a challenge.  Can any of you play like this??

Try it, practice it, and let me know!!

Ohhhh..... IT'S ON!  October 20th, a student responded to Pauline's challenge:

Maeve says, "Oh yeah?  Watch THIS!"

Studio Star Scholarship Results!

The Studio Stars of the 2011-2012 school year have been decided and I'm happy to announce that the winners are Natalie Rehkemper and Katie Schneider!

Natalie has proven to be a committed piano student by making strides in developing the ability to practice in a goal-oriented manner and solve problems at the piano on her own.  She took that focus and motivation and worked very hard over the summer break.  To recognize this achievement, Natalie is being awarded one free piano lesson in which she can choose anything she wants to learn at the piano and her choice for where she plays in the order of this year's studio recitals.  Congratulations Natalie!

Katie, this year's second place winner, has continually proven herself to be a committed student with a passion for music.  She has been working on musicality, stage presence, and calmly facing passage-work without too much frustration.  I have seen her make great improvements in these areas and I love listening to her play.  Katie is also being awarded one free piano lesson in which she can choose anything she wants to work on at the piano.  Congratulations Katie!

All of my students are eligible for these awards, which are given yearly.  Both Natalie and Katie take lessons at Sherwood and if you see either of them in the studio or the hall, please congratulate them on the hard work they've put in this year!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Theme from the Eroica Symphony

Enjoy below, a version of the 4th movement of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony; and if you're one of my students in Suzuki Book 3, pay careful attention to the theme as it arrives one minute and fifty seconds into the performance.  What instrument has the theme?  How can you make this as powerful on the piano?

Further questions for the Book 3 student: 
  1. What does Beethoven do to this theme starting at three minutes and 24 seconds into it?  
  2. A counter theme enters at about four minutes.  How does it contrast the original theme that we're so familiar with?  
  3. Would you call what happens around minute six a climax in the piece?  What happens when the theme returns just after that?  
  4. What about the theme at minute 7 and 45 seconds?  What kind of Classical style treatment or form are you familiar with that you can detect Beethoven using in this movement?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What is the best thing about being a pianist?

I asked this question of all of my students recently on an online poll.  At the end of the day 7% of my students said it was looking cool, 14% said learning something new every day, 38% said the best thing was being able to do something other people can't do, and 50% said that making beautiful music was the best thing about being a pianist.

Have you thought about why you are a pianist?  Are the reasons still the same as they were when you first started taking piano lessons?   Is it ever a combination of all of those answers?

Some pianists play to entertain others; some to entertain themselves.  Some like to share the music they produce and some want to be left alone with it.  For some, working through something new at the piano makes them feel really smart and for others, it is all about the finished product. 

I admit that the best thing about playing the piano changes all the time for me.  Whether I'm a teacher or an entertainer or a philosopher or a therapist; whether I have a musically educated audience, an undiscerning and eager audience or whether I'm playing just for myself - I'm always getting these things out of it.  I'm always feeling great about improving every day; I'm always proud of what I've accomplished and I almost always get to make beautiful music.

Happy Practicing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Repertoire-Learning Contest Results!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the repertoire contest this summer.  Wow!  Everyone played wonderfully and it was a close call!

But I'm happy to announce the two winners, who will get their prizes in the next couple of weeks.

In first place, with her poised performance and great use of the technique she learned this year is Pauline, playing Jazzy Joe:

In second place, with her enthusiasm and musicality, is Mary playing Carnival:

Congratulations to ALL the participants.  I'm really pleased with your performances and can't wait to work with you further this year!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Repertoire-Learning Contest!

All current students of mine at Sherwood or FaithSlaker Music:

I hope you're all having a great summer!  Care to show us all what you've accomplished?  I've given you all the skills you need; we've worked hard together during the school year; now you have the opportunity to show everyone what you can do on your own!

This contest is for the performance of a single piece (or portion of a piece) played by you on video with beauty and accuracy submitted by e-mail (mp4, youtube or vimeo).
Winners will be selected based on accomplishment within their playing level, musical expression and daring choice.

Entries must be received by midnight on August 31st and winners will be announced via e-mail by Labor Day.  The first place winner will be awarded a book of wonderful music to learn at the piano as well as a CD of inspiring piano music by great performers.  The second place winner will be awarded a collection of fun sheet music that we can work on together during the year.  

Now, head on over to the piano, warm up with your performance pieces, and see what you can do!  I look forward to watching all entries!

*Suzuki students:  Suzuki repertoire will not qualify.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer CD 2011

The Summer CD is out! Check your child's bag or folder this coming week for the CD and enjoy supplementing your regular listening with this new variety over the next month!

The Playlist:
  1. Brahms:  Hungarian Dance No. 10 - Tal and Groethuysen
  2. Bach:  Fugue in A minor, BWV 895 -  Tureck
  3. Beethoven:  Bagatelle Op. 119, No. 4 -  Brendel
  4. Purcell:  Dido's Lament from Dido and Aeneas, Act 3
  5. Bill Charlap Trio - In the Still of the Night
  6. Bach:  Gigue from Suite in E Major, BWV 1006a - Williams
  7. Schubert:  Impromptu Op. 90, No. 3 - O'Conor
  8. Chopin:  Etude Op. 25 No. 1 - Pollini
  9. Schoenberg:  Five Piano Pieces, Op. 23, No. 1 - Hill
  10. Ravel:  Jeux d'eau - Richter
  11. Mozart:  Piano Concerto No. 21, K.467, movement 3 - Ashkenazy
  12. Milhaud:  Botafogo from Saudades do Brazil - Bolcom
  13. Waltz from Songs without Words, Fred Hersch

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Recital Video

Congratulations to all the performers who played in last week's recital!  Everyone played beautifully, most everyone smiled beautifully, and we all did a pretty good job of polishing off those cupcakes!

To see the performances of Sean, Natalie, Fiamma, Megan, Amber, Max and Diego:

To see the performances of Pauline, Erica, Maeve, Jimena, Adrian and Anne Marie:

To view the performances of Evan, Gabriella, Cole, Sophia and Sarah:

To view the performances of Eddie, Katie, Graham and Declan:

To view Criss's performance, as well as my interpretation of some Schumann:

Thank you everyone for all your hard work. See you in lessons and definitely at the next recital! I'm thinking November.......

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You think you know the Baroque?!

Strong language.  Funny language.  Watch this before you let your children watch this.  It's old, but it's Pachelbel - it couldn't be that bad, right?

Pachelbel (1653 - 1706)'s Canon in D; you know it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ellis and Adrian

Hot Crossed Buns - like you've never heard it before!

Aren't they cute?!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Amber Schneider.... on to bigger and better things!

Congratulations to Amber of a terrific Suzuki Book 1 graduation recital this afternoon!  THAT is how you play Book 1!  (And thanks for including me in your performance - the encore piece ended up being a lot of fun!)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Katie Book 2 Graduation Recital

Congratulations to Katie for giving a sensitive, poised, and mature performance of Suzuki Book 2 this weekend.  When you see her in the hall, congratulate her on all her hard work!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Note Taking - Copied from Suzuki Journal

Taking Notes at Lessons: Practical Tips for Parents

March 8, 2011 / Minijournal 2001 /
Oscar Mora teaching in the Mini-Practicum Continuity is a crucial part of learning an instrument, and the link that provides continuity between lessons and practice is your precious notes! Having been a Suzuki parent, I know that in a busy day sometimes you sink into the chair at the lesson and think, “Ah, 30 minutes of down time.” Then you find yourself daydreaming, and before you know it the lesson is over. You glance down at your notebook, and see “Review Allegro” … hmmm, not much to work with. You hear your teacher compliment your child on the lesson, but you are not exactly sure what went on.
At this point you may ask your teacher, “What shall we practice this week?” This will probably get a somewhat annoyed response as the teacher thinks, “OK, do I have to re-run the entire lesson at fast forward?” although she’s glad you at least asked. Or you don’t ask and figure you’ll just get through practice somehow.

Helpful Hints

While you may need some clarification at the end of the lesson, the teacher expects you to pick out major points for practice during the lesson. Here are some tips:
  1. Look for a theme, especially with very young children. There is what Suzuki teachers call the “one point lesson.” If you hear the same aspect mentioned again and again, circle it at the top of your notes (i.e., thumb position, clear high notes, where is your foot, D’s correct).
  2. In review songs, what is the teacher’s focus? Sometimes it is just a fun warm-up, but more often there is a specific goal. Children do not like mind-numbing repetition. Find the teaching point in the review (i.e., beautiful E’s, breathing, fingering D to C, air use on high notes, etc.).
  3. Write down how to do things. “Last two measures of Minuet I” is not enough. How did the teacher break it up? Did you follow the process so it can be duplicated at home? (i.e., do this small group 5 times with no slurs, then add slurs, then speed up, through the A, be careful of the C#.)
  4. In scales and exercises, try to notice how they are worked on (i.e., fruit salad, slur patterns, speed, position or tone aspects). Just writing “Do F Major scale” is usually not enough.
  5. If you can’t follow where we are in the music, make a copy of the piece as your own study copy. Whether you read music or not, you’ll find this makes a huge difference.
  6. Listen for cues. Your teacher is constantly aware of your presence—and how mentally present you are. Whenever you hear the word “practice,” heads up! Also listen for colorful language: sail your tone out the skylight, staccatos like hammering little nails, BIG beach ball bouncing. Try to use these words again in the practice. Listen for location phrases: “in the last measure of that line, where it starts on B-flat and goes up, where it says crescendo.” These location tips are often for your benefit, as the teacher and student already know where they are working.
  7. Observe and adore your child. Relish the chance to do this. Watch body language, facial expressions, how your child learns, what feelings flicker past. It’s very interesting, and you may find something to talk about later, or you may just cherish the memory 10 years from now. However, keep your reactions, especially negative ones, to yourself during the lesson.
  8. Need time to space out? OK. There are times you can, like when the teacher goes off on a long technical workout and you already have the gist of what is being done. But listen for cue words to bring you back to attention.
  9. Help your teacher: Put all materials recently used on the stand at the beginning of the lesson. Ask for clarification of practice tasks at end of lesson. Ask about review if your teacher did not mention it. Try not to do noisy things like rattle newspapers, tear checks, crinkle cellophane, etc. It’s easy to forget that listening captures all sounds—and we are listening. Bring up general practice or schedule problems at the beginning of the lesson. Starting these important and timely conversations at the end of the lesson can wreak havoc with the teacher’s attempt to stay on time. Keep the teacher informed about events that may affect the child in a significant way (moving, illness, divorce, school troubles, etc.). These things have an impact which the teacher observes, and wants to respond to appropriately. Lengthy explanations are not needed, but a word will enable the teacher to respond in a sensitive, effective way.
Copyright © 2001 Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.
Previously printed in the Minijournal 2001. Reprinted with permission.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Love to Practice!

I Love to Practice!

“I love to practice!” That’s what we all want our children to say. Here are some ideas for how parents can get there without resorting to things they wish they hadn’t! These suggestions can keep you motivated so that you can help your children have the best possible musical experience.

Enjoy the process. If you can figure out how to have pleasant practice sessions, you and your children will succeed. This may be the hardest part of the whole pro¬cess, and perhaps the most crucial. Suzuki said that little children should “practice three minutes, five times a day, with joy.” The main goal for practice should be with joy.

Be consistent. If your child knows that you will practice every day at the same time, it is easier for you and more secure for your child. Find a time that works best for your family. If you can, practice for ten or fifteen minutes before school.

Don’t negotiate. If you practice only when your child feels like it, you will probably never practice. Get in the habit of regular practice and do it. Say, “Practicing is what we do in our family.” I have found that “in our family” is one of the greatest phrases you can use. If children believe that something is done in their family, they will do it!

Be reasonable—don’t expect perfection. One of the parent’s most important jobs is to show children that life is not a matter of being perfect, but one of trying new things and growing. We do not want children to be overly cautious about learning. We want them to be interested in a variety of things, and willing to accept a challenge.

Work for an accomplishment rather than a set amount of time. One of the best ways you can teach your children to be efficient workers is to stop early when they have accomplished the goals for a practice session. If students can learn to reach their goals in less time, they learn efficiency.

Do not ask for too much. If you stop the practice session before the child is ready to stop, the child will want to play again the next day. Suzuki said, “Move slowly and never stop.”

Gradually lengthen practice time. Children need to slowly gain physical stamina. They will also have more repertoire as time progresses, and practicing will automatically get longer as they review. Some of my students review a whole book each day.

Focus on quality rather than quantity. Small manage-able sections can be worked out with a feeling of success. Do one measure thoroughly so the child can really master it. More is not always better. It is better to play fewer pieces and play them well, so move slowly and carefully.

Move at your child’s pace. Compare only so you have a general idea of what others are doing. Allow your child to move at a pace that is natural for her.

Know what you are doing. You are the home teacher. To learn what you should be doing at home with your child, ask the teacher. Take notes or tape the lesson.

Be in charge. The secret to successful practicing is that the parent must be in charge to a greater or lesser degree depending on the child’s age.

Focus on what is right. Tell children what they are doing well. Parents often ask if they can help their children successfully if they are not musicians them-selves. Actually, non-musician parents often have a much easier time than musician parents. Musicians are trained to find mistakes so that they can correct them, while people who are not musicians tend to hear the music and not the mistakes.

Stay positive. Be of good cheer. Avoid statements like, “You’re not even trying,” “That’s terrible,” or, “You’re just trying to irritate me!” If you feel something hurtful coming, put your hand over your mouth. Do not say something that could destroy weeks of positive growth.

Remember the power of praise. Praise always accomplishes more than criticism. Sometimes it is not just praise but acknowledgment. Acknowledge what the child is doing. Keep a running list of all the wonderful things that your child does. If your child is just starting to read, make the list in large print so the child can read for himself all the things that he did well.

Give rewards. From the beginning, try to establish the desire and pattern of practice. You don’t have to always give rewards, but if you do at certain times, you’ll find that you will get good work from your child. Austin, our six-year-old grandson, will work hard for shiny pennies, which we call “gold coins.” I sometimes give him one for everything he does well in a practice session.

Consider listening part of practicing. Listening makes the practicing and learning easy. Put your child to bed every night with a tape of the next piece. He will be able to learn the notes to that piece very rapidly, and all you will have to do is show him the bowings. If you are in a time crunch, and simply can’t practice one day, listen. If you have to choose between practicing and listening, listen. If you go on a camping trip and you can’t take the violin, take the tape player and listen.

Give projects and assignments. Deadlines and performances are very motivational. A performance could be just making a video or audio tape for the grandparents, or playing over the telephone. Get children to play as much as they possibly can.

Review every day. Most of my students have a review chart. When they are more advanced, they may do three pieces from each book or they may do one book a day. The students at the end of Book 2 should play all of the pieces in Book 2 every day. This may mean two practice sessions. If your child is in Book 1, he should be practicing all of the pieces in Book 1 every day.

Play review games. Children love “Lucky Dip.” Write cards with the names of all the pieces that the children play and put them in a box. The children draw the name of a piece of music from the box, and play the piece. Or have your child play along with the CD.

Divide practice sessions in approximate thirds: one-third review, one-third preview, and one-third polishing. Polishing means working on the last three pieces and getting those so that they are performance ready.

Help older children find time to practice. One of the best things you can do is to excuse your teenager from some household tasks in exchange for practicing. Make it easy for them.
This is a very special time that you have with your children. You have your child one-on-one during practice. Sometimes that is the only time that a parent and child have alone together. Treasure your children and their accomplishments. Be understanding, encouraging and loving and I promise you that you will have success beyond anything you could have ever imagined!

Excerpted from a talk given to parents of the Greenville Suzuki Association, November 1999.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Graham Book 2 Graduation Recital

Congratulations to Graham Anderson for completing Suzuki Book 2 and giving an extraordinary recital this evening.  You have lots of proud fans!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You're never fully dressed without a smile!

Students of my Saturday afternoon group class:  One point in class this week if you saw your picture on my blog and can tell me about it.  Two points if you were looking at the audience in the picture.  Three points if you were smiling.  Four points if you can tell me who is glaring, who has hair in her face, who can't sit up straight and who is making funny faces!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Studio Recital, January 2011

Finally!  It is done!  For those of you who couldn't make it, or those of you who want to share your performances with friends and family - here is the online version of the most recent studio recital.  I'm proud of everyone for keeping it together when the piano sounded so funny!  I promise next time it'll be in tune!  Enjoy!

For the video of Declan F., Pauline, Whitney, Fiamma, AnneMarie, Sean, Cole, and Ellis:

For the video of Erica, Natalie, Eddie, Declan H., Amber, Maeve, Sarah, and Fiona:

For the video of Jimena, Evan, Megan, Sophia and Diego:

For the video of Adrian, Katie, Mary and Graham:

For the video of Criss and me:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Waiting for the Video

Parents, Students, and fans of my students:

I know you're currently waiting for me to post the recital video.  I was sick over the weekend and so I expect to have the video up NEXT week.

In the meanwhile, please enjoy this picture of a piano made of legos built by one of my students:

Happy February!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mozart's Alla Turca

Happy Birthday, Mozart!  I found out in one of my group classes today that half of the choices for favorite Mozart pieces came out to be the Rondo Alla Turca from his A Major piano Sonata.  So, for those of you that chose that as your favorite Mozart piece, here is another take on it.  Enjoy!


Mary's Book 2 Graduation Recital

Congratulations to Mary Wilkie for completing Suzuki Book 2 and giving such a poised and musical recital today.  I'm so proud of you!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Grander Grand

For those of you still in the market for a piano, the ante has just been upped!  Now, better than an 88-key grand piano, an innovative, new piano is on the market.  The Stuart and Sons Grand piano has 102 keys and a curious device that makes the strings vibrate differently.  There are, of course, people discussing pros and cons of such a new idea in the piano world, which has remained pretty much static since the end of the 19th century.  I'm happy with my Schimmel, but I wouldn't mind trying one of these out if anyone has the $300,000 and the room to spare!

For the full article:  A Grander Grand Piano


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Free Concert for Kids!

Tomorrow! January 14th Friday @ 5:30pm - admission: FREE

*****A Special Concert for Young Musicians ****
This concert is recommended for children ages 5 and up and was prepared for introducing children to the world of Classical music through "Child-friendly" performances of dance music and famous classical works, featuring Sherwood Faculty members.

Violin: Christie-Keiko Abe
Cello: Martine Benmann
Piano: Ivana Bukvich