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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

2010 GMTA State Conference

I am back from my first-ever Georgia Music Teachers Association State Conference, held this year in Augusta. I saw some wonderful speakers, heard some great music, and got lots of inspiration for my piano teaching. Highlights were Nelita True's workshops on teaching Chopin's Easier Preludes and four Schubert Impromptus, the performance of the commissioned work, Observations, composed and conducted by Lee Johnson and presented by The Chamber Chorus of LaGrange College and the Piano Quintet from the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra New Music Ensemble, and the guest artist recital featuring pianist Jon Klibinoff and his master class with student winners of the 2010 GMTA auditions. It was also a thrill to see colleague Susan Andrews designated a 2011 MTNA Foundation Fellow and my friend and conference roommate Natalie Hardy installed as Vice President of Newsletters.

But I had the most fun reprising my role of the Creative-Can't-Sit-Still-Won't-Stop-Playing-Even-When-The-Teacher-Is-Talking piano student in a skit entitled A Day in the Life of a Piano Teacher, written by colleague Cathy Thacker.

Natalie Hardy as the Model Student

Mary Ann McTier as the Bored Teenage Student

Yours Truly as the Fidgety Student

Robin Engelman as the Whiny Student

Here is Part 1 of our presentation:

And here is Part 2:

I hope you have as much fun watching as we did performing!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I just uploaded a batch of student videos to my YouTube channel. Check them out by clicking HERE. I think you'll agree that I have some of the most talented piano students on the planet!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Employment Benefits

As a self-employed piano instructor, I don't receive health benefits or retirement benefits or paid vacation or sick days or any of those other non-wage compensations that many employees receive in addition to their regular wages or salaries. But benefits such as this?


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Unfinished Story

Meet Christina. She has been working on The Unfinished Story, an original composition by Ip Chui Han Amy (click HERE to purchase sheet music) piece for several weeks in preparation for a public performance next Wednesday evening. Like many young artists, she is an extreme perfectionist and struggles with performance anxiety. To help her mentally prepare, I suggested we record the piece yesterday. I think she played it magnificently, and with her permission I am sharing the video with you. Your comments are welcome!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My First Music Video

I decided that the first piano solo I would add to my repertoire this year would be Castle Hunting by David Nevue. Castle Hunting has long been a favorite of mine; I will never forget the night David played it at a concert in the area and dedicated his performance to me. I almost cried. You can read about my association with David Nevue by clicking HERE; you can learn more about David and his work by clicking HERE.

Since I have played the piece so much, I hoped that it would be relatively easy for me to memorize, and that did turn out to be the case. Here are the results of my efforts. Enjoy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back To School

I have always loved this time of year - shopping for new clothes and shoes, colorful notebooks, and shiny new crayons - and its opportunity for a new beginning. As a piano instructor, my teaching year coincides with that of the local public schools, so in many ways my "new year" really starts not on January first, but on the first day of the local public schools. From the moment my students returned to my studio on August ninth, I have encouraged them to renew their commitment to piano study. Similar to making new years resolutions, we have been setting goals for the coming months.


First, I have reminded my students of the importance of practicing consistently. Generally, I recommend they practice according to the following schedule.

Beginners (5-6 years old): 10-15 minutes/day, 5 days/week

Elementary (7-11 years old): 20-30 minutes/day, 5 days/week

Intermediate (12-15 years old): 45 minutes/day, 5-6 days/week

Advanced (16 years and older): 60+ minutes/day, 6 days/week

I encourage them practice at the same time every day, so it becomes a part of their routine. And I remind them that the longer they go between practice sessions, the more frustrating their practice will be. However, younger students tend to respond better to stickers and candy than platitudes, so I offer these as weekly incentives.


My job is to find music and materials that will make my students WANT to go home and practice. So I have also been asking them if there are particular pieces they want to learn to play. To such a general question, the usual response is, "I don't know..." So I try to get more specific. "Did you hear something performed by another student in the spring recital that they really enjoyed? Do you have a favorite song on the radio right now? Would you like to try getting away from printed sheet music and learn about chording and following a lead sheet?" Usually, these kinds of questions open a dialogue; as a result, I am very excited about some new directions I will be heading in with many students this year.


Most of my students participate in holiday concerts at area assisted living centers, NFMC Federated Festival, the GCMTA ensemble concert, the Asberry School of Music Spring Piano Recital, etc.; consequently, much lesson time is spent in preparation for these events. While these are valuable goals, I am trying to encourage more "big picture" goals, as well. Depending on level of ability, I am challenging my students to be able to identify major and minor key signatures, play their pentascales or major scales/primary triads in twelve major and minor keys, and to have a minimum of three new pieces in their active repertoire by the end of this academic year. In a show of solidarity, I have promised them that I will also be practicing my scales and arpeggios and working to building my repertoire, as well. As a matter of fact, I am almost ready to record my first solo. You will see it here first!

Check here every Friday for updates. And feel free to comment with questions, concerns and suggestions. Teachers, students and parents: we can learn much from each other!