Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween! part 2

The residents of Sunrise Assisted Living had a big day last Sunday.  An hour of music, piano and vocal, followed by juice and cookies, made for a fun-filled afternoon.  My piano students entertained with Halloween Carols.  I was proud of each of them -- they introduced themselves and spoke about the music they would play.  They were poised and articulate.  Good job, kids!

After the piano portion of the event,  a seven-person, high school choral group led the residents in a sing-along.  I accompanied them as they shared music dear to the residents' ears.  Most of the residents joined in singing -- they had the words printed out to read, but I think most of them already knew most of the songs.  Unfortunately for me, I had my back to them the whole time, but I could hear their enthusiasm as they all sang together.

I am hoping for a reprise concert in December.  Not the same music, but the same venue and performers.  The pianists are already working on some Christmas music to perform.  Just have to get the high school choristers pumped to come back.  That shouldn't be too tough; they may have had more fun than any of us!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We are gearing up for a Halloween mini-recital at Sunrise Assisted Living.  Creepy, spooky, mysterious and kooky music has been wafting through the studio for weeks now and it's time to let it loose.  In addition to piano, a vocal group will join us to perform their own collection of songs.  I'm looking forward to hearing what they have prepared, and always to hearing my own students perform.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Annual dilemma

We're finally back into the routine of the school year, and weekly piano lessons are part of my routine.  It's a good thing I love what I do: I'm afraid I'm not too busy yet.  I have this annual dilemma come mid-September.  Where did all the students go?  Returning students tend to trickle back.  By October, my fears are usually assuaged, but that doesn't make September any easier.

My reasoning for slow registration is simply this -- kids do too much, and parents have little time.  Of course, I allow the slow return.  The beginning of the school year is always fraught with obligations, paperwork, and deadlines.  It takes about a month to get into the flow of the new year.  Even lessons at the college do not begin until mid-September.  And this year in particular, we experienced an earthquake on the first day of school, followed by Hurricane Irene and an extra week of torrential downpours, plus all the consequential school closings.  So it's no wonder it takes a few weeks to get my school age students back at the piano.

Reading other teachers' blogs, however, I don't see my slow-registration problem to be an issue for others.  Somehow they convince their parents to register in July, and pony up the first month's tuition with the early registration.  I guess I'm just too easy on my parents.  Someday I will get tough and learn how to begin the season full steam.  But until then, mid-September will remain a bit scary for me.

(An aside.  My current students are already working on scary Halloween music for an October mini-recital.  Maybe that's what makes my mid-September so scary.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And so it goes...

We're back.  Back from vacations at the beach, picnics in the park, baseball and hot dogs and all that summer represents.  Back to work, back to school, back to the humdrum of daily practice.  No, stop!  Did I say humdrum?  Never, never!  In fact, I have just purchased a drum, of sorts: an African sanza.  More like a drum with a keyboard.  It's a bowl carved out of wood and topped, seamlessly, with wood.  An etching of a face has been burned into the wood, holes carved as eyes, above which are 8 metal keys of different lengths, thus playing 8 different pitches.  The underside of the bowl shows a woodburning of a drum.  As a piece of primitive art, it is beautiful.  As a tonal percussion instrument, it is intriguing.  I'm not sure how I can weave it into a piano lesson, but I'm going to give it a try.

I also have a bongo drum, which, yes, I use in piano lessons.  Despite the tune "I've got rhythm, I've got music.  Who could ask for anything more?", rhythm can be a difficult concept for some folks.  Counting, clapping, using words instead of notes doesn't always cut it.  I have found, however, that beating a drum tends to break through the rhythm barrier.  Outside of lessons, it's just fun to play.

I wonder what I can do with the 2 kazoos I have by my piano?  Nothing humdrum here!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Spring Recital

It's that time of year again.  Coming to the close of the school year, the weather is clearing, and it's a rare few who want to stay inside practicing the piano.  Hence the early Spring Recital.  Too much competition with spring sports, field trips and finals, not to mention the longer, warmer days, if we put it off any later in the season.

We had our recital this past Sunday, and were blessed to have had a lousy weather day.  Cold and cloudy led to rain, and a full audience for whom to perform.  For the past ten years, I have had the honor of holding my recital in St. Anne's Church in Annapolis.  I tell my kids it's Stop #1 on the Historic Annapolis Tour, so they need to play really well -- you never know who might be walking through the church.  (I remember one Sunday a few years back when Dan Rather wandered in.)  In order to prepare for their performance, I offer one lesson at the church a few weeks before the event.  The acoustics of the church are phenomenal! The music resounds, and can be a bit overwhelming , especially for the younger musicians.  In addition, every piano "plays" a little different.  The feel is different, the action is stiffer or softer, the pedal tighter.  It's always good for the kids to experience all of this, the feel, the sound, the space, before the actual event.

This year our practice day was the Saturday before Palm Sunday.  The Flower Guild was hard at work stripping the palms for the next day services; there was a lot of commotion in the church that day.  And what a good opportunity for the performers.  Instead of playing in my home studio for me and the dog, they actually had an audience!  They were able to work out some of the willies that morning, (and the ladies of the Flower Guild appreciated the entertainment!).

Come recital day, everyone was well prepared.  These young musicians had practiced, and hard!  I had challenged each of them with music a bit beyond their level, and each rose to the occasion.  We began the program with  the most novice; she started lessons just 2 months ago.  At the other end of the spectrum, Stairway to Heaven, performed by 2 sisters, on piano and recorder, was the perfect closing piece.  I think the most poignant performance, however, occurred after the formal recital.  My youngest student, just barely 5 years old, was scheduled early in the program.  His extended family, unfortunately, arrived late and missed hearing him.  After all the commotion at the conclusion of the program, he sat down at the keyboard, his entire family, parents, grandparents,siblings, gathered around the piano and he played his 3 pieces for them.  They were so proud of him and he just glowed in all the attention.  What a heart-warming sight!

It's funny.  I get so worked up, worrying about my introduction.  But the folks in the seats are not there for me; they want to hear their children perform.  I kept my comments to a minimum and all went well.  Now we're into the last month of the piano year.  New this year, I have given each student a piece of music to teach to themselves, as I explained, to practice as if I am sitting next to them every day.  They seem to appreciate the confidence I have in them.  We'll have a soiree at the end of May to show off what they've taught themselves, and to celebrate all their accomplishments this past year.  Should be another fun event.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm back!!

I feel like Rip van Winkle.  I must have just woken up.  It's been 2 months, to the day, since I last updated.  Oops!

We started the new year with a new resolution, and so far we’ve stuck to it.  Congratulations! We have explored Baroque and early Classical music, in preparation for our Spring Recital, and we have made some good selections.  I am hoping each of you has at least two pieces to play; we will continue to play through more selections to make the final decision in the next few weeks.

Our Spring Recital is always a Big Event.  We are fortunate to play again this year at St. Anne’s in Annapolis.  Mark your calendar!  Sunday, May 1, with an on-site practice on Saturday, April 16.

January weather hit us hard, and who knows what February has to offer.  I need to repeat my snow policy:  I do not have one.  Please do not assume that when schools are closed, so are lessons.  Too many times the County has over reacted, and the roads are fine.  When in doubt, call.  Always call.

I know it’s cold, but we need to think about your Spring Break.   I have students from different schools, with different vacation dates.  I have worked into the piano year schedule one floating holiday, to accommodate everyone.  Please let me know in advance of your spring break plans, so I then can plan around them.  And play that piano!