A Fun-filled February Master Class

This year, it seems like January and February are going by much more quickly than they usually do and Family Day weekend was here before we knew it!  To give my students the Monday off to enjoy some extra time with their families, I offered a February Master Class this week in lieu of regular lessons.  Sometimes for my master classes, I will have an all encompassing theme, but this time around I wanted to keep it simple and so had three main components:

1. Performance Opportunity:  Each student had the chance to perform a piece that they’d been working on since the New Year.  Knowing this would be coming gave them a little motivation to keep practicing on those short, dark winter days!  While each student played, I used a sheet that I had found on ComposeCreate.com to keep the rest of the students focused and particpating…an adjudication sheet.  Each student had a sheet to use to help them give some specific and guided positive feedback at the end of each performance.  I was so proud of the feedback they gave and the wonderful ways they encouraged and bolstered in each performer!  What a great bunch of students I am blessed to have!


2. Specific Skill Development:  Then I wanted to focus on one specific skill and it was RHYTHM, of course!  I want my students to be strong in rhythm and to love it, so I pulled out the boomwhackers (because we LOVE them) and did a little Pinterest surfing to come up with some fun Boowhacker ensembles.

feb class 3 feb class feb class 4

3. Composer Biography: February always includes a composing focus in my studio, especially for the MYC group lessons, and learning about the masters of composition is so important as well as the period and style of music they were a part of creating.  This time our focus was Beethoven, his life and music.  We learned that though he had a challenging childhood and went deaf as a young adult, he still found joy in his music and was able to create that beautiful melody we know as “Ode to Joy” in his 9th symphony.  We enjoyed watching the Piano Guys put a fun new spin on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17GLE-16_3g

Before we knew our time was up and it was time to head home!


Welcome, February!

Well! We made it through January and are on to a new month and already into our second half of the year.  In fact this week marks week 19 of our 34 lessons already.

I feel like January, though still kind of a long month, went by at a frenzied pace!  In fact, I planned to have a new practice incentive ready to go for February but just had no time!  So, I think I will plan to start up a new incentive after the Family Day week of Master Classes. One that can perhaps lead us right up and into our May recital once again.

So, what’s happening in these upcoming weeks?  Well, during the week following Family Day, we will have another Master Class session featuring fun with composers!  There will be no regular lessons from February 16-20, instead I will be sending out a sign up email next week for Master Classes.  I am in the middle of choosing the composer that will be featured (how to choose just one???) and some of their music to study and we will, of course, prepare a piece to play from what we’ve been currently working on.

I’ve been teaching piano lessons and music classes in Edmonton since 1998 now and I have always found January to end of March to be the most difficult months to get through with a high burnout for kids.  Maybe it’s all the cold snaps we get that just sap all energy and motivation right out of us.  Holding fun filled master classes during this family day week helps to break up that long stretch from January to Spring Break.  Also, this year, because Easter immediately follows Spring Break again, I have decided to try a TWO WEEK spring break.  I am hoping this will give a chance for some real rest and refreshment for the students before we begin our April focus of preparing for our May Recital.

Also, just a reminder that tax receipts were emailed out a couple of weeks ago.  Happy Tax Filing!

Well, bundle up today and stay warm and keep your eyes posted for the Master Class email next week!

A Little December Newsletter for You!

Welcome to December! Just 10 more days until our Christmas recital is upon us and 17 more days until Christmas Break is here! So here is our news for December:

We are slowly racking up our pennies for practice minutes! A big shout-out to all the students whoa re participating and a reminder that all you can start at any time and all you have to do is write down the weekly practice minutes on the practice log on the wall by the practice tree!

If you are looking for a fun way to motivate a little more practice out of your student, you can revive the little “Elf on the Book” or “Practice Elf idea we used last year from Teach Piano Today. Forgot what we did? Just check out this link: https://mmmusicstudio.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/fun-with-the-practice-elves/
If you have lost your Elf or this is your first year of lessons and would like an Elf, let me know…I have extra’s in studio. Then simply follow the instructions in the link above….I tried to give lots of suggestions! My kids enjoyed this activity last year!

As I said, it is just 10 days to our Christmas Recital! Our 14th annual Christmas Recital will take place on December 12, 2014 in the main auditorium of the First Church of the Nazarene located at 14320 94 street at 6:30pm. Friends and family are ALL invited! We look forward to an exciting program of beautiful Christmas piano solos, ensemble numbers and another traditional grand finale sung by all of our students.
Because it Christmas and we have had a very busy fall filled with a whirlwind of activity, I’d like us to try to have a short social or reception in the foyer after the recital once again to have a chance to reconnect. If you would like to stay and visit, please bring a plate of fingers food to share and we will have a “potluck” reception. Suggestions are cookies and squares, cheese and crackers, fruit or anything that makes a minimal mess and is a “finger food”. NO chips and dip, please, it’s delicious but too messy. Contributions of juice would be greatly appreciated too, we usually have some thirsty students after all the excitement. I will provide napkins and cups. Please label any foods that have nuts or eggs! Thank you!

Our last week of lessons for 2014 will be December 15-18. These will once again be all studio master classes in lieu of our regular lessons. I have a fun filled time of music activities planned for that week, including a Christmas-themed Video of the Month! Please choose from the following times and RSVP by email with your top 2 choices for that week (when you reply, put your student’s name and time in the subject and it will be easier for me to find. Outlook tends to group replies with the same subject and it can be easy to miss a reply this way):

Monday, December 15, 6-7pm
Tuesday, December 16, 6-7pm
Wednesday, December 17, 5-6pm
Thursday, December 18, 4-5pm

Please RSVP with your 1st and 2nd time choices.

Christmas break will run from December 19-January 4 with regular lessons resuming on January 5, 2015

November News

Welcome to November! I hope you all had a safe and fun Halloween. It was a busy week in our studio: some students played some Halloween music and we enjoyed some “spooky” stories in our MYC classes as we anticpated the end of October festivities.

It’s amazing how quickly the last two months have gone by! The next 6 weeks are going to be just as busy and exciting. Here is just a reminder of a few dates you need to remember! So, get out your calendars and mark these down!

NOVEMBER 10-15 NO LESSONS; Studio closed for Fall Break
If you were really organized and printed out the calendar that I emailed out to you last month or marked down those dates on your calendar, you may already know this….but I thought it little reminder couldn’t hurt! 😉 We will have lessons as usual this week, but the following week of November 10-15 there will be NO lessons as we take a little mid-semester break to co-ordinate with Elk Island and Edmonton Public school breaks. Enjoy the break from lessons and be ready to work full steam toward our Christmas Concert! I’ll be using that Fall Break to put the final touches on ensemble choices and repertoire selections. Work with the older students has already begun and I am very excited about the selections we’ve got so far!

CHRISTMAS CONCERT (RECITAL), December 12, 6:30pm
That time of year approaches once again. In less than 6 weeks, we will celebrate the accomplishments of our students with our annual Christmas recital. Actually, I hesitate to call it a recital as it is so much more: piano solos, rhythm ensembles, vocal ensembles, witty MC’s and perhaps just a little bit of audience participation are just a sampling of what you can expect! Our Christmas Concert will take place on Friday, December 12th at 6:30pm in the main auditorium of First Church of the Nazarene, 14320 94 street, directly across from Dickensfield Care Center. This concert will be approximately 75 minutes in length and will be followed by a potluck reception/celebration.

Along with the Christmas Concert, the month of December will see another set of Master Class sessions during the week of December 15-19, followed by a two week Christmas break from December 20-January 4 with regular lessons resuming January 5th.

Have a wonderful first weekend of November! Can you believe the sunshine and NO snow?!

October Master Class and Practice “Craft”

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! What a great week of master classes we had! I was so proud of our students, we had a terrific turnout (only 1 student missed due to being away) and all our students (even the first years) were enthusiastic to get on that grand piano and solo for us! For the little Sunbeams 1 kids, it was their first time on the grand piano! Exciting! We also had fun with rhythm cups again! And I pulled out a video of the month for them. Sadly the video I had planned: Batman Evolution by The Piano Guys, which I had thought perfect for the month of October, is having “technical difficulties” while they work through a copyright issue. So I had to choose another. It was still enjoyed by all with music “spooky” enough for the coming Halloween season, not to mention it involves a mesmerizing, or possibly magical, amount of instruments all played by Steve!

Each student took home a practice aid that we worked on in class. These are not meant to stay in their book bags but to be kept on the piano for daily use. Thanks to the wonders of Pinterest (have I mentioned before how much I love that site?), I found a couple of practice aids by Teach Piano Today and Compose, Create and was able to create something similar for our students. They look a little like this and are explained below:

practice abacus

The elementary level students made the one on the top. It is designed to make repetitive practice a little more interesting. The student should practice each of their pieces 3-5x a day so we brainstormed different ways their piece could be practiced to make it more fun and interesting and wrote that on the clothespins. As the student practices their piece, they take the corresponding clothespin off, flip it over to reveal their sticker and clip it to the opposite side (see picture).

Voila! An environmentally friendly (completely re-usable. Yay!) and, hopefully, fun and motivating way of encouraging effective daily practice. 🙂 (inspired by Andrea Dow of Teach Piano Today)

The late elementary to advanced students made the lower one. As a student myself, I grew up having to fill a certain block of time with practice and often, to be very honest, it was a bit mindless. I’ve talked to many of the students about practicing smarter not harder and being more focused or mindful about it. And here is how I would really like to see them practice a piece:

Play the entire piece and note which sections need more work.
Pick 1 section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 3-5 times.
Pick a 2nd section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 3-5 times.
Pick a 3rd section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 3-5 times.
Play through the entire piece at least 1 more time and then make note of what needs more work the next day.

So the advanced students each made an abacus with 5 beads while the younger ones used 3 beads and so their practice of each piece really should look a little something like this:
•Row 1 – 1 bead for the 1st play through
•Row 2 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 1st section (or 3 for the younger student)
•Row 3 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 2nd section
•Row 4 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 3rd section
•Row 5 – 1 or 2 beads for the final play through(s

With this set up, students can see that they are not really done with each piece until ALL the beads are on the OTHER side of the abacus! And it is easier for them to keep track of and be more mindful of their pieces! (inspired by Wendy Stevens of Compose, Create)

Have a great weekend and Happy Practicing!!

Master Class Mayhem and Wrap Up Fun

This past week we wrapped our another great year of piano with one last set of Master Classes and oh the fun we had. To be fair, our regular weekly lessons are always fun and energetic but our bi-monthly master classes allow every student young and old, tall and small, the opportunity to meet together and perform for one another outside the twice yearly recitals. They have truly helped boost students’ performing confidence and helped them be better prepared for both recitals and exams. In addition to performing for each other, master classes include games and lessons that help students better understand theory, improve technique, and learn about composers, musical genres and history. Here’s a little peak at our most recent master classes:

We had three separate master classes this week with each class having approximately 12 students in each. As each student arrived, I gave them paper and a pencil case and they created their own little poster of what they thought made their year of piano lessons really ROCK. They we had a little “photoshoot” with each of them at the piano. Here’s a sample of some of our pictures (the rest are posted on our Facebook page):

june 1

I even made my own poster…art is not my strong point as you can see. Okay, AND I was in a bit of a hurry! 😉


Next on the agenda was “Solotime”. Each student prepares a piece to share with the class and be given positive and encouraging feedback from both teacher AND peers.


After the solos were performed, we had a bit of a little awards ceremony. I presented students with awards for the most recent practice incentives.

The first was our Rockin’ the Practice Challenge that was sent out to all 45 of our students. This was a fun practice incentive I received and then adapted from my favorite teacher resource site Teach Piano Today. I gave my students 4 big challenge to complete by the end of the year. Those that made it from Dusty Dan’s Coffee Shop all the way to Radio City Music Hall received a little treat. I’ve never seen kids so excited to get Pop Rocks! It was fantastic!


The other challenge had been given to all the older student in private lessons. Their challenge was to learn 30 pieces this year….not an easy feat for students in the early intermediate and higher levels. Congratulations go to Brianna, Vian and Brayden! That was a lot of hard work and dedicated practice!


And what would a master class be with out a treat!? We enjoyed peanut-free (a couple students have severe peanut allergies and wear an epi-pen to each lesson) ice cream sandwiches while watching a The Piano Guys video! 🙂


We finished up the last half of our master class with music games. We had two days of beautiful sunshine and played our games outside in my yard, however one day was rainy and the games had to be adapted for inside.

Our first game was Music Theory Beach Ball. Students threw the ball to each other and then named the note, clapped the rhythm or defined the musical term closest to their RH thumb:


The next game was Sidewalk Chalk Rhythm stories. This is a rhythm dictation game. I sang a two measure rhythm and then they wrote it on the sidewalk with chalk. Excellent ear training! The rainy day students were a little ripped off as they had to write it on paper.


Our final game was Spell-A-Keyboard, a game I adapted from fellow piano teacher, Joy Morin. First, teams created a “lollipop” keyboard with their sidewalk chalk. Then I called out words that each group had to work together to spell with little beanbags. They really enjoyed competing to see which team could find the keys the fastest. Great for drilling that keyboard geography. Here’s a little video of the fun!

And with that we are all wrapped up for the summer! Enjoy the sunshine but don’t forget to keep that practice tank full! I’m looking forward to getting in a little more practice time myself! 😉

Easter Week Master Classes and Year End Glance

It looks like Spring will finally be arriving this week (at least according to the weather forecast)…and so will Easter! Just a quick reminder that there will be NO regular lessons NEXT week, April 21-24. Instead we will be having special ALL STUDIO master classes. This will give us a chance to prepare our large group rhythm ensemble for the recital (which is quickly approaching!) as well as some pre-recital performance opportunities and other rhythm development fun!

For those of you who will be working on Challenge Number 2 (Almost Famous) this week of the Rock Star challenge and having trouble gathering enough of an audience at your home for your challenge, next week’s master classes will provide this opportunity! Just remember to rehearse your pieces (it says three pieces, but for this challenge you can do just two if necessary) three times on the day you perform it at the master class! Be sure the piece you are going to play for recital is part of that gig set (you can keep which piece is the actual recital piece a secret from the other students, but it should be one of them! 😉 ) We have just under 4 weeks left to practice for our Spring Recital on May 9th at 6:30pm! It will be here before we know it!!!

Here are the class times you may sign up for:




With master classes there is a larger volume of traffic coming and going. If you are walking your student in and out of the lesson, please try and park outside the cul de sac on the main part of Clareview road to allow any residents coming home from work the ability to get in to their driveways or parking spaces! We want to keep the neighbors happy. 🙂 THANK YOU!

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to get over to the schedule and calendar page. Here is just a glance at the calendar for the remainder of the year:

Week 28 Apr 14-17 regular lesson schedule
Week 29 Apr 21-25 ALL STUDIO MASTERCLASSES; no regular lessons
Week 30 Apr 28-May 2 regular lesson schedule
Week 31 May 5-8 regular lessons *SPRING RECITAL, MAY 9, 2014 6:30pm*
Week 32 May 12-15 regular lesson schedule
Week 33 May 20-26 regular lesson schedule
Week 34 June 3-9 regular lesson schedule
Rock Stars of Practice Wrap Up Master Classes June 10-12