Last Lessons of the Year Are Here! June 10-12 Master Classes

We made it through another recital and what a wonderful job everyone did!  I heard a lot of people enjoyed our surprises and thought the Surprise Symphony number was pretty neat!   Certificates and little gifts were handed out last week during lessons, special medals were awarded during the recital for MYC graduates and those doing exams and if I were giving out another award this week it would be for Exceptional Effort and Enthusiasm!  I guess we will settle for some ice cream instead! 😉


So this week is our final lesson week until September.  It will be special, un-parented group lessons.  We will be doing solo performances, rhythm drills and inventions, ensemble playing and improvising and a few games to review all that we’ve learned this year…..then we will wrap up with an ice cream treat and celebrate a year of exceptional and outstanding effort!






For those of you who haven’t had a chance to sign up yet for a group, I want to let you know that the Tuesday 6-7pm class is VERY full already with 13 signed up.  There is still some room in Wednesday 6-7pm and Monday 6-7pm is very lonely right now with only 4 signed up!!!!!!  So, if you were wondering which time to pick, know that there is still lots of room for you!



I have peanut free ice cream and some peanut free toppings, but a potluck of toppings would be fun to share with each other so if you have a favorite ice cream topping you would like to share with the group, feel free to bring it along to share!

Also, remember to bring your book bag as you will need to play a solo and might want something to take your blossoms from the practice tree home in.



I hope you all are looking forward to a well-deserved summer break with lots of special plans!  I am hoping to do a few things over the summer to freshen up our studio just a bit and am quite excited to get started!  All the best this week to: Annaliese, Brayden, Delaney, Dexter, Jessica, Kira, Mary, Matthew and Ryan as they do their Conservatory exams!

Thank you again for such a wonderful year.

Peaceful Practicing–now, over the summer and into the next year!

Several times over the course of each year, I am often told by parents that it can be a battle at times to get their child to practice.  I try to help as best as I can from my end: offering fun incentives, giving them as much help and information as possible during lesson–even (for the private piano students) jotting down some notes for them in their notebooks (my teacher never did that for me!) 🙂  I have answered many emails with every tip that I could think of and recently I came across a blog post from teaching from Teach Piano Today that summarizes everything that I have said into 5 simple and beautiful tips!  As we head into recital and exam season, the summer and beyond….check out this wonderful summary by Andrea Dow a fellow piano teacher in BC:

Recently, I had a teacher email me looking for solutions to end the practice wars that were occurring in the home of one of her piano students.  Her studio parent was stressed to the max; feeling as though piano practice was creating a rift between her and her child, testing her parenting patience to the limits, and making her say all sorts of things she regretted later.  It was not her idea of “music in the home”.  

When parents sign their child up for piano lessons they are not looking for a way to encourage epic battles at home.  As piano teachers it is in our best interest to help piano studio parents end these battles…  

So let’s do everyone a favour and bring peace to the home practice world. Share the following 5 practice strategies with your piano studio parents:

1.  Location, location, location

It’s true in the real estate world, and it’s true in the home practice world.  Having your piano in the correct place in your home is of paramount importance for successful home practice.  Find a balance between shoving the piano in the basement vs. putting the piano in the centre of your most-used room.  Your piano should be located in a comfortable room, close to where the family is, but away from major distractions.  Your child does not want to be isolated during practice time – but they also do not want to compete with your range hood and washing machine.

2.  Cramming is Not the Answer

Nothing stresses a parent out more than helping their child practice when they have 10 minutes before leaving for the piano lesson.  Keep the peace at home by beginning home practice immediately after you return home from their piano lesson.  They will still remember what they covered in their lesson, and the piano books will actually make it to the piano… setting you up for a good start to the piano practice week.  Cramming creates feelings of inadequacy in your child as they struggle to perfect what should take 7 days to percolate.  Cramming makes you sweat and wonder why in the world you are paying for these lessons.  Cramming is not the answer.

3.  Mistakes are Okay

We promise!  It’s our job as piano teachers to sort out the mistakes IN LESSON TIME.  Your job at home is to be the support – to remind them to spend time on the piano, congratulate them on their efforts, revel in the joy that is your child creating music, and show that you value music in your home.  Avoid the following statements and watch peace fall over your home immediately:  ”Is that right?  I don’t think that’s right.”… “That’s not how it’s supposed to sound.”… “Are you watching your music?”… “Your sister played that piece and it didn’t sound like that.” … “Wrong note!”… “Try it again.” etc.  Your child will get their back up immediately and the practice wars are sure to ensue along with frustration and confusion.  Suddenly, all the positive things that were discussed in lesson with their teacher has gone out the window.

4.  ”But Mrs. Jones Said!”

How many times has your child shouted a statement similar to this?  ”Mrs. Jones said I only have to play the first page!”… “Mrs. Jones said to play it up here.”… “Mrs. Jones said to play it this fast!”… What your child is actually trying to say is “I want to be in charge of my learning.”  So let them!  Whether or not Mrs. Jones actually said these things is beside the point.  Resist the urge to argue (and resist the urge to email or call up Mrs. Jones to ask what the heck she is teaching or to have her “clarify things” for you–it is really difficult for a piano teacher to have to “teach” through email) and trust that your child will sort it out themselves.  This is often a knee-jerk reaction on your child’s part – they so desperately want to be right and in charge and it’s their way of saying “Stay out of this, I’ve got it.”  If you allow them this right to direct their own learning you will help to create a confident piano student.

5.  Be Present… 

You and your child will enjoy piano practice time so much more if you, the parent, are not multi-tasking.  Your child thrives on one-on-one quality time,  and if this is combined with their piano practice it is an activity that you will both grow to cherish.  Take away the distractions – the cell phone, the baby, the dog, the dinner prep… and focus on just your child.  Soak up the experience of watching your young one learn such a complex skill.  Find a time to practice that isn’t restricted by deadlines.  Just enjoy making music together.  It’s impossible to start a practice war if you are truly “bonding on the bench”.  

Piano practice is a commitment – it’s a daily event that can either be gloriously wonderful… or horribly stressful.  Keep these 5 tips in mind when you start out this new practice week and welcome peaceful piano practice into your home with open arms.

Recital Prep, Exam Prep and some tapping practice!

This week I spent a lot of time encouraging my students to put some extra time into preparing AND memorizing their recital and exam pieces.  And I have been thinking about the many ways I as a student prepared for recitals and exams.  We did a bootcamp at Christmas and I encouraged them to try some of those techniques but I also started thinking about when I was in university and at the mercy of an open practice room to get in my hours of practice each day.  Sometimes it was difficult to get in much extra time, so my teacher talked to me about how I could add some extra efficient and effective practice time in while in the comfort of my own dorm room….by TAPPING my pieces on my desk.   We have tried it occasionally in classes/lessons….Sometimes I play or put on a CD of a piece they are working on and they sit and tap it out on the floor and sometimes we just tap it out without music.   The great thing is it can be done at home as well and, ironically, trying this WITHOUT listening to the music can be even better for ear training and memorization.  If you are looking for some creative ways to get a little extra practice in this week (ie in the car on the way to soccer practice).  Try this:

The student plays their piece – but on a flat surface… not on the piano. They tap their way through their piece, playing exactly as they would on the keys, but with no sound involved (don’t put on a CD recording of their piece).  They still play hands together, with phrasing, with dynamics, in the same hand positions as they would on the keys, but it is all done on a table top. (If it’s tricky at first they can try one hand at a time.)  It will work though and here a few reasons why compiled from my colleague in BC, Andrea Dow, with a little of my own thoughts added in.

1)  While there is no sound involved, the student will still “hear” their piece.  The human brain is a wonderful thing – and the student will be developing their ear in leaps and bounds.  As they are learning to hear their piece without the ability to actually hear it, their memorization of the piece will be much stronger and much faster as they force themselves to commit it to their aural memory.  It’s wonderful to watch my kids Tap Practice and then stop abruptly and say “Ooops.. I made a mistake!”.  

How did they know they made a mistake when there are no keys and no sound?  They know because their ears are connected to their finger movements; and a slight miss-tap with their fingers translates to an off sound in their mind.  Your brain is completely engaged during Tap Practice without the distraction of sound… and so learning happens at a faster rate.

2)  The only thing they hear is tapping… and so their fluidity improves as they learn to create an even tempo and a sense of underlying beat.  Hearing just the rhythm of their piece with no notes attached brings these two aspects to the forefront.  When they return to the piano their muscle memory will preserve the evenness they found away from the piano.  Phrasing and dynamics are still accomplished through the varying degrees of pressure exerted on the flat surface.  Kids who struggle with phrasing find Tap Practice really beneficial as it helps them to “plan out” how hard each of their fingers will push within each phrase, and changes in dynamics become much more well-defined.

3)  Kids think Tap Practice is fun!  This is one more way of making piano practice a bit more fun.  Not only is it completely portable, meaning that your students can Tap Practice literally anywhere (my own kids have tried on the back of a book in the car, on our kitchen island, on the table of a restaurant…be creative) but it’s also enjoyable; my kids love the notion of playing the piano in their mind.

Above all remember:
Practice leads to progress and progress leads to enjoyment!! If students practice, then they will progress. If they progress they will feel a sense of accomplishment and success and this is what will really make them enjoy piano! Ultimately, it all comes back to practice. It’s kind of like Field of Dreams….