Piano Olympics 2018 Wrap Up

Well we wrapped up our Piano Olympics this week with some very special all studio masterclasses!

The students worked so hard on all the challenges these last 6 weeks and many completed above and beyond the 5 needed to receive gold!


We began our master classes with a bit of Olympic Trivia as an icebreaker and I was so impressed with their knowledge!

Then it was on to SoloTime as each student prepared a piece to play for the class! I’m always so happy to see how eager they are to get up and play and how attentively they listen to each other!

After solotime we played several “minute to win it” style music theory games. Some were played in teams of two like Rhythm Sort and some were played in two large teams like Composer ABCs (sorting composers by alphabetical order) or rhythm dominoes.

Then then it was time to award medals.


We finished up with Olympics torch popcorn and a short YouTube video of Mr Bean playing Chariots of Fire with the London Symphony Orchestra. 😊



November Piano News! 2017 Edition

November is still a few days away but next week is going to be a busy week, so I wanted to post this newsletter before the weekend as there are a couple things coming up in early November to watch for!  It is chock-full of information and I apologize for the length but November is FULL of some great musical opportunities as well as some very important dates with our studio schedule!



After some feedback from studio families, I have decided to cancel lessons on Halloween. Whether you celebrate it or not, it was decided that no one wants to be out driving that evening unless absolutely necessary.


There has been a poster by the door and calendar and I have mentioned this by email before but it is now less than a week away!!

Christopher Norton – a very famous jazz composer  from England – is coming on November 1 and I have had the privilege of helping to organize his visit! He is leading teacher workshops in the morning and some of my older students are able to participate in workshops as well as a masterclass with him that afternoon.
And….just as exciting: on that same November 1 in the evening he is doing a CONCERT for ANYONE who would like to attend!  The cost is BY DONATION.  So whatever you think you can afford, that is the admission!  I feel this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Many of the students have played his compositions in the Royal Conservatory grades….or will very soon and to hear this caliber of musician at a very minimal cost is unheard of.
The concert will be at 7:30pm, and although I realize it may be late for some of my younger students, being that it is by donation basis, just pay for what you think you will attend.  If you think your child will only last half an hour, it would still be a half an hour of an amazing connection for them, both with pieces they may know, a composer they may have played pieces by, and even a composer that is STILL ALIVE!  And if they haven’t played pieces by him yet, they will eventually and those pieces will make such a connection with them when they can relate it to the concert
The details:
When:  Wednesday, November 1 at 7:30
Where:  St Thomas Anglican Church, 4A Raven Drive Sherwood Park
Cost:  By Donation

This is an exciting opportunity that I hope you can all enjoy!

WEDNESDAY STUDENTS:  Reminder! There will be no lessons for you on this day as I will be co-hosting this event all day!

Over the last few years both Edmonton Public, Elk Island and some Sturgeon school boards have introduced a fall break in November.  I have tried over the last few years to honor this break as I think it’s a nice way for students to have a bit of a break in their routine before we gear up for our annual Christmas recital.  I am working right now to ensure that all students have their Christmas recital piece to be working on over the break, so be checking their lesson assignments over the next couple of weeks.  The breaks do very a bit between the school boards and last year I went with the EIPS schedule as both my children were in the district and we had some “Stay-cation” plans.  This year I will be going with the Edmonton Public dates which are:  Thursday November 9-Wednesday November 15.  So, unless you are told otherwise (Tuesday and Wednesday students!)  there will be no lessons during that break.  A reminder will be sent out to you again in the week coming up to those dates!

Our very own annual CHRISTMAS RECITAL
This is not an November Event….but just had to get another reminder in:  Mark those calendars for our Christmas Recital:
Cookies and Carols, Friday December 15th, 6:30pm  at Bethel Community Church 14204 25 Street, Edmonton…roughly 12 blocks north of our studio!
The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra kicks off their Symphony For Kids series on November 18th!  I will have the privilege once again of being involved in the pre-concert activity planning once again this year and though I am not yet sure if I will be at the November 18th concert, I will most certainly be at the December Candy Cane Family Concerts as well as the SFK concerts in the New Year.  These concerts are a wonderful way and introducing beautiful music to your children!
Also:  Arden Theatre in St Albert will be present Elf The Musical JR on November 28th! Another fun and musical event.
For those of you who cannot make it to these events as well as those of you who would like more beautiful music to share with your children/family.  I will be occasionally sharing a listening calendar with you.  By email today you will receive a listening calendar for November and December that you can print off. It was made by my colleague, Doreen Hall. Each day in November and December I will be posting that youtube video on the studio Facebook page…..but if you do not have Facebook, you can also find the videos at: pianoparents.net
I you would like tickets to Symphony for Kids, Candy Cane Family Christmas or Elf the Musical Jr:


Rhythm and Dynamic Fun! October 2017 Master Classes

This week we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled private lessons and MYC classes (we do this about 5 times a year) and enjoying our first Master Class group sessions of the year!  And what fun we are having!

1. Icebreaker:  each student introduces themselves and say their favorite Thanksgiving treat

2. Piano Charades:  I used the Decide Now App to create our own little Wheel of Fortune of Musical Terms to review/introduce and then we played the game like this:

A) First I called out the words such as: piano, forte, fermata, ritardando, presto, largo, etc. and asked students to act them out physically.  For example: piano could be walking on tip toes while ritardando could be jogging in place and gradually slowing down the pace–like a train approaching a station.

B) After all terms were physically re-enacted I had each student come up to the piano one at a time to play their solo piece OR to play one phrase of a well-prepared piece as the composer intended.

C) Then after that the performer had to spin the wheel featuring all the terms just reviewed without letting the others see where the Wheel-of-Fortune-like spinner stops.

D) The pianist at the bench then played the same phrase but this time changed the performance to “portray” the term.

E) The audience had to guess the word and if they did, everyone got a treat as the performer was successful in communicating the music term through a performance and the audience demonstrated excellent listening skills.

decide now


3. Rhythm Cups and Bucket Drumming:  I chose a rhythm to put to Cups or Buckets.  One they had mastered the rhythm and where to put it on the Cups and Buckets we added in some suspenseful music….In the Hall of the Mountain King!



4. Notespeed Game:  This is a super fun new card game I found by Tara Cunningham that is very reminiscent of Dutch Blitz.  Tara has her students play it as a 2 player games but I divided the students into groups of 4 kids more like Dutch Blitz.  It was a HUGE hit among all the students and if you are looking for a fun and educational Christms gift or stocking stuffer that would help to foster great note reading skills you can find the game here: http://amzn.to/2xR9t6p


I had a bonus activity from Teach Piano Today up my sleeve just in these activities didn’t fill the time but I didn’t need it at all for classes this week but I’ll be saving it for the next class for sure:

Rhythm Telephone:

Instruct piano students to sit in a row, one behind the other, with their eyes closed. The oldest student should be at the back of the line. Your row can have as few as 5 students or as many as 20!

How To Play:

  1. To begin, show a two-measure rhythm to the oldest piano student (who is allowed to open her eyes) at the back of the line. (For example “quarter, quarter, half, half, quarter, quarter”).
  2. Next, instruct the oldest student who was shown the rhythm to tap this rhythm onto the back of the student sitting in front of her. This student then taps the rhythm onto the back of the next student.
  3. The chain of tapping continues until it reaches the final student, who then leaps up and writes the rhythm on a white board or poster paper.
  4. Next, reveal to your students the original rhythm. Did they pass it along correctly or did the rhythm get morphed somewhere down the line?
  5. Each time the group is correct, score one point for the kids. Each time the group is wrong, score one point for yourself (the teacher).
  6. Continue the activity with increasingly difficult rhythms.





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An Apple-icious Practice Incentive!

The days feel just a bit cooler and I’m seeing apples on trees everywhere!  I think this means that our September kickoff is just around the corner and piano lessons are almost back in session!

In preparation for this, I have been working away in the studio and one of the projects I’m super excited about is a practice challenge for my entire student body.  I wanted a challenge that would work for every student, from beginner to advanced.  One that would introduce the beginners to a daily practice routine and one that would help the experienced students return to that daily practice routine.  As it’s the start of the year, I also wanted something simple so as not to be overwhelming.

Several years ago Teach Piano Today put out a fun apple-themed practice challenge, but though all the work was done for me, I wanted something a little less involved for our kickoff…and the chance to have a little fun with Canva  and some simple graphic design was an added bonus.


I’m really excited with how it turned out and if you’re a parent who would like a copy for your child at home or a teacher who would like to try it in your studio you can get it right here.

In keeping with the apple theme, I dug out my old “practice tree” and placed little apple name tags all over the tree with my student’s names.  Each week they complete one of the challenges, they will be able to place a sparkle apple sticker on their name.  This challenge will wrap up just in time for our Thanksgiving master classes and we will celebrate completing the challenges with an apple-y treat!

I can’t wait to show my students!


Roadtrip Themed Lessons and a FREE game for the car!

Last week we had our third and final installment of summer lessons!  Our theme for the week was Roadtrip!  We had Tim Horton’s (because no roadtrip is complete without a stop at Tim’s!) and each student’s assignment was written on a roadtrip themed sheet.  I also sent each student home with a roadtrip themed game intended to be played in the car!  So for those of you still heading out on a summer roadtrip, you will have a way to keep that piano learning going strong even while on holidays…but in a totally fun way.  All you have to do is find the link to the roadtrip printable here,  then print and either laminate or place in a page protector (if you want to be able to use it over and over again and add a fine tip dry erase marker.  Alternatively, you could not laminate and just use pencil and eraser or print off a few copies to have in the car. And if you have no more roadtrips on the horizon, you can still play this game while driving to and from activities right here in the city.

Enjoy the rest of the summer, wherever your adventures may take you.  I will be using the remaining weeks to do a little refresh of the studio including some painting, rearranging and game making!  Looking forward to having it all ready for our September 11th start date!  Happy Trails, Roadtrippers! 😉



Camping Themed Lessons and Free Games!

Wow, what a heat wave we have going on here!!  It’s almost impossible to cool down without air conditioning.  Our kids having been begging for a pool for years, but Ken has been reluctant to commit to the upkeep so they finally took matters into their own hands and saved up their money and bought a pool for our yard…one  that is 18 feet wide and 4 feet deep!!  I have to admit, I’m really enjoying reaping the benefits!

Last week we had our second installment of summer lessons and it was a camping theme!  We had three fun camping-themed games that we used and I thought I’d share them with you, they are a lot of fun whether you are actually headed out camping or doing a little stay-cation.  If you are on the go, two can be used without a piano and one could be used if you had an iPad (or just play some major or minor music from your phone or iPod).)

camping lesson 4

The three games were discovered on the Teach Piano Today website and then slightly adapted to fit our camping theme!  Here they are:

  1. Sly As A Fox:  Print the board and the game cards!

This is the story the students and I adapted into a camping theme! 😉  Along with their instructions!

One sunny morning a chicken accidentally wandered too close to a campground. Quick as a whip a sly fox who had been contemplating what to make for dinner on his crackling campfire cornered her outside his campsite.  “Please!” she begged… “Don’t eat me! I have barnyards to scratch! I have eggs to warm! I have worms to chase!” The fox (whose stomach was larger than his heart) was just about to toss her into his cooking pot when he remembered something. You see, this fox played the piano and he had some theory homework to hand in the next day. Naming bass clef notes had always been his weakness and this week’s assignment had been a bass clef doozy. “Do you read music?” He asked the bewildered chicken. “Of course!” She clucked, “I used to sing in the Barnyard Chorus!” “I’ll make you a deal” said the fox. “If you can correct my theory homework, I’ll let you go.” The chicken stared wide-eyed at the fox, “Okay! I’ll do anything!” The fox licked his lips as he put his paw around the chicken’s quivering back. “But if my theory homework comes back too many mistakes… you’ll be tomorrow’s soup!”

Game Play: Put the cards face down in a stack.  Put the game board in front of both of you. Your child is the chicken. Have her flip over cards one at a time and decide whether the named note on the card is “true” or “false” as fast as she can.  The teacher keeps track of her correct incorrect answers by placing the card on the “correct” or the “uh oh!” game board. Tally her results once the card pack is finished.  Do the correct cards outnumber the “uh oh’s?”…Is she free… or is she soup?

       2.  Serving Up Steps and Skips

Pretend you are camping and it’s breakfast time!! Let’s flip some eggs!

Instructions from Teach Piano Today: “This activity is a simple sorting game that reinforces your child’s ability to identify notes that step, notes that skip, and notes that repeat.To begin, give your child a flipper and have him sit in front of the frying pan. Instruct your piano student to use the flipper to turn over any two eggs. When the notes on the two eggs have been revealed, ask your student to compare the two notes and determine if they represent repeating notes, stepping notes or skipping notes (they can use a keyboard, tinsheet or iPad keyboard to help them if they like. Once identified, have your student place the two eggs onto the corresponding plate.

Your child can continue playing until all 6 eggs are removed from the frying pan and placed onto an appropriate plate (note: some plates may be left empty). When all eggs have been served, mix them up, place them in the frying pan and play again!”

3. Smore’s Chords (another great idea that I am sure I found on Teach Piano Today but for the life of me can’t recall so here is how I used it)

This is an ear training game.  Give you child the ingredient to a smore:  2 graham crackers, a piece of chocolate and a marshmallow.  THen play major or minor chords or melodies or youtube snippets and if they hear major they will build a smore with only the marshmallow, if they hear a minor they will add the chocolate for that dark delicious sound! 😉


We actually did just get back from camping the week before this lesson!  One of my favorite things to do while camping after a long day of hiking is sit by the fire and read.  I like a variety of summer reading…from Dean Koontz mysteries to inspirational books that help me learn and grow as a teacher or parent.  I have a couple of great suggestions for you as piano parents if you’d like to get some refreshing ideas for the fall…or to use this summer.  One is written as a story and is such an easy ready and the other is helpful tips….but again a quick and easy read!!

The first one is called Coffee With Ray by Nick Ambrosino, an inspirational novel about a teacher who inspires his students to be independent learners.

The second one is 101 Piano Practice Tips by Tracy Selle.  It’s a goldmine of upbeat and creative ways to get your student to the piano!!  Use the ideas for the summer or lock them away for the best year of practicing yet starting this fall!!


I hope you enjoy the free games as well as the books!  If you think your student would love a fun and motivating summer lesson (and enjoy some time out of the heat in a nice cool studio), our third and final installment of summer lessons is next week and the theme is “Roadtrip”.  Email for more details!

In the meantime, enjoy the weather!!

camping lesson 2





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Summer Reading for Piano Parents and Teachers!

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is read!  Well, I love to do that all year round, but I usually have a little bit of extra time in the summer so I like to create a summer reading list.

This year I began with a book I read last year, Coffee With Ray, and then followed up with it’s “sequel”, Lessons With Matt.  They were both such a fun and enjoyable read that I thought I’d share, especially as they are both so applicable to both piano teachers and piano parents.

Here are the two books I started with this summer, I highly recommend both!  They will inspire you and leave you feeling a bit refreshed whether you are a teacher or parents.  In fact my husband really enjoyed them as well.

Happy Summer Reading!

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