Seeking enthusiastic, energetic and adventurous children…do you know one?

Each year, I open up registration for 6 beginner piano students (ages 4-7) and parents looking for piano lessons that are creative, inspiring and fun AND 6 preschoolers (ages 2-4) who want to explore music and rhythm instruments with expression and energy while learning all about the foundations of music.  If you have a child between the ages of 2 and 7, then you will find the perfect fit in one of these programs.  The Sunbeams 1 beginner piano class will take place on Mondays from 4:30-5:30pm and the preschool music class will take place on Thursdays at 12:45pm.  Contact mmmusicstudio@hotmail.com and join the excitement! Space is limited and classes fill quickly.

Achieving Excellence!

A huge congratulations to all my students who did The Royal Conservatory piano exams in June!!! EVERYONE received First Class Honors and their marks ranged from 84-88!  Outstanding dedication and practice effort, Everyone! I am just so proud!

Now go celebrate, you deserve it! 🎉

Ahoy Mateys!!! A Pirate-y Practice Challenge

March is here but I sure do have a few students dragging their poor little feet into piano lessons lately!  Every time I say, “Hey there!  How are you doing today?”  the response is always, “Tired”.  It seems that Spring Break cannot come soon enough.  So, I have a little something to put some pep in their step…well, some pep in their practicing at least!

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Just kidding! That’s not it.  Although, I have to confess that just might be my mantra for the month! 😉  What I DO have for my students is a brand new practice challenge with a fun pirate-y theme that I found from the brilliant Dows of Teach Piano Today.  Now I did tweak it just a tiny bit to match up a bit more with what I know motivates my students (that’s the great thing about sharing ideas with other teachers, it can spark our creativity and inspire us to put our own little twist on it!) and I will be rolling it out in the studio tomorrow, but you can see a little bit of what it is here:

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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!

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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.

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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!

A little SUMMER FUN…and, yes, it does involve a treat!

Can you believe that July is coming to a close already and August will be here at the end of the week? I hope you all have been enjoying a wonderful summer so far, filling it with some good memories and soaking in every last bit of sunshine!

If you read my last blog post, you will see that our family hasn’t gotten a whole lot of piano practice in this summer: https://mmmusicstudio.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/in-summer-what-this-piano-teacher-does-with-her-summer-off/ . But, even so, we’ve managed to “chew” through (pun totally intended here) our little gumball incentive. Now, I do have every intention of refilling that gumball bag but thought that perhaps a little something extra might be kind of fun for August and would add a little something new to it….something to get us really excited about returning to music! And something with the idea of creating beautiful summer memories in mind. So, I am sending out a little AUGUST PRACTICE CHALLENGE. Woohoo! Aren’t you excited?! Well, you should be because these 8 fun-filled activities (inspired by my favorite piano blogger, Andrea Dow) can involve the entire family and will certainly add to your wonderful summer memories! And, actually, it’s not so much a practice challenge as more of a fun musical challenge, many things don’t even involve being at the piano! Just check your email this week for an attachment to print out. Then complete throughout the month of August and bring in your sheet with all it’s initials and blanks filled in, and any other thing you may have to attach to it, 😉 to your first lesson in September to receive a little mystery treat.

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Now, when you print off this incentive, you will notice one of the challenges is to go see a live concert! Guess what! The ESO is putting on a number of FREE events that include live concerts throughout August as well as some other cool opportunities (like a backstage tour and lunch at the Winspear) and, while you are downtown, don’t forget to check out those street pianos! I believe there is one in front of the Art Gallery.
http://www.edmontonsymphony.com/concerts-tickets/all-events

Reminders of these ESO events will pop up on my Facebook page, so if you have Facebook and haven’t “liked” it already, go to http://www.facebook.com/mmmusicstudio and “LIKE” the page, then click on “Get Notifications” and you won’t miss a single update!

And, if you haven’t checked your email already and are just dying to know…This fun-filled piano challenge will include activities like:

Attend a live music concert and write down the names of the instruments that were played (include at least 6!) While you are downtown taking in a concert, play one or more of the street pianos!
Teach at least two friend to play something from your very first piano book.
Teach yourself a piece from your lesson book that you haven’t learned yet.
With help from your parents and the music store staff, purchase a new book or sheet music in a level appropriate to you, that you would be excited to learn.
Put on a mini-concert for family, include a printed program (just like we have at our piano recitals) with a little bio and at least 4 pieces on the program…or take it downtown to the street pianos! 😉
Compose your own simple piece, written down or simply memorized, give it a title and play for me in September OR send me a video link!
As a family, listen to a piece on YouTube by each of the following composers: Liszt, Schumann, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. Decide who was your favorite.
Interview extended family (grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles) and find out how many play or played an instrument and what instrument they play….be sure to write this on the sheet!

Enjoy and make some beautiful summer memories!

“In Summer”…what this piano teacher does with her summer off!

While there are a few piano teachers out there who teach all year long (I like to call those people crazy…er…I mean DEDICATED!), I take the summers off. We (my students and I) work pretty hard all year long with many practice challenges, recitals and exams to prepare for and conquer and taking the summer off seems to save both my sanity and that of my students! 🙂 I’ve often been told I am so lucky to have summers off. Well, luck has nothing to do with it. In fact, I make no money during the summer by taking it off. None. Zip. Nada. And yet, because I have my own music business, I am actually never completely not working. It takes some careful budgeting to be able to have this slightly more relaxed schedule, but it’s worth it. Not only do I approach September feeling refreshed and with new ideas, my students do as well! Actually, to be honest, by the middle of August I am dying to get back at it…and that’s a pretty great way to feel about your job!

So, just what do I do with a summer “off”?

1. I read. I absolutely LOVE reading! I could read endlessly….but my schedule during the year doesn’t often allow this extra time and when I do get the chance to read it is often teaching blogs or pedagogy books or researching new practice incentives. So, when holiday time comes along I devour books like chocolate! So far this summer I have read:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn….a twisted psychological thriller having absolutely NOTHING to do with piano teaching. It was a delicious, albeit somewhat trashy, read! A fantastic start to my summer!

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom…this would be the complete opposite of the above book! Delightful and inspiring. I’ve seen it on bookshelves, known they’d made a movie of it but never, ever got around to reading it until now. Beautiful!

Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz…okay, true confession time: I LOVE Dean Koontz! Seriously, really love him! This book I read aloud to my family in the car while traveling on long stretches of Wyoming highway. Reading Dean Koontz aloud to one’s family might seem odd to you, but my children are a little older and the Odd Series is such a fun series. Not to mention, Koontz is an extremely descriptive writer. I’ve always enjoyed the detailed pictures he paints with words, but appreciated it even more once I started reading his books aloud. They are challenging to read aloud, at times, getting your mouth around words like “jacarandas”, “narcissistic self-righteousness” and “paramecium”. And those are some of the easier ones! Sometimes I felt like I should do vocal warm ups before reading all his descriptive tongue twisters…red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather…

I have now moved on to book number four: The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Ted Carhart. Another book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Just like Tuesdays With Morrie, it’s autobiographical and absolutely delightful! It’ll want to make you dust off your piano and play (or buy a piano) eat fresh baguettes, drink French wine….and possibly even move to France! I am about halfway through!
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2. I vacation with my family! What would summer be without a little bit of a family vacation! Dexter’s field lacrosse team was one of two Canadian U-11 teams privileged to play at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Denver, Colorado. We took this as an opportunity to do a fun, family road trip and make an extended family holiday out of it. On our way to the Championships we made a stop at my parents in BC, then it was on to Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana and Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming before arriving in Denver. After 6 days in Denver watching his U-11 team play, meeting Team Canada and watching an intense game between the men’s Team Canada and Team USA and making many great memories, we left for South Dakota and Mount Rushmore before slowly making our way home. Two Provinces, Five States, Eleven Days and over 5000km. It was so much fun and the memories will last a lifetime!
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3. I answer emails and phone calls and meet and interview new students! During the summer, I receive lots of emails and phone calls about available classes. My more relaxed schedule allows me the chance to not only answer these emails and phone calls but also to have the prospective parents and students come and see the studio and meet with me. Often when a parent comes with a student, I have give them a sticker or tattoo or coloring page, but I took a day this summer to put together a little “Meet and Greet Goodie Bag” and am excited to give them out to the interviewees (is that a word?) that I have scheduled to come for next week. My little goodie bags will include a pencil, a cute little ring puppet I found at Dollarama, some music stickers, my card and a little lollipop treat. Putting a few together ahead of time, so they would be ready to go whenever needed, was yesterday’s task.
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4. I order, purchase and shop for books and supplies for my students. Then I sort them and get them ready. My studio and the spare bedroom downstairs will soon look like I have my own music bookstore! As I was unpacking and checking my lists, I thought I’d do a bit of a photo shoot with the books for my website. That way, rather than just describing what comes with registration, parents will also be able to see it too! I love visual aids and pictures so this was a lot of fun for me!
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5. I chauffeur! I love doing this “typical parent thing”. Running my kids to daycamps, playdates, water parks and any other fun activity we can come up with in the summer.

6. I learn! I have two teacher conferences lined up for the summer. One this week and one at the end of August and am excited to learn and grow as a teacher even more. And, I have a whole pile of podcasts and blog reading to catch up on from some of my favorite pedagogues. I am looking forward to having oodles of new ideas for the new teaching year.

7. I give lessons to my kids. Have you heard that saying that goes something like, “The shoemaker’s kids go barefoot”? Well, I teach my own children. I always have and, until the day they move out of the house, I always will. Many piano teachers think I am crazy for doing this and I will admit that it isn’t always easy, but teaching my own children has made me a better more understanding teacher with my other students and my kids tell me they wouldn’t have any other teacher….really, I am not making that up…believe me I have offered (threatened?) to send them to another teacher but they refuse. Anyway, because of my hectic schedule, their lessons land on the weekend. I tried Saturdays for a while, but it was so hard to get them up and going on that first sleepy day of the weekend. So, I moved their lesson time to Sunday afternoons as my hubby usually takes supper duty on that day so we can enjoy a full Sunday of church, relaxation and fun and then during the hour he is preparing and making supper, I give them their lessons. In theory, it works fairly well. Especially during the cold winter months when we mostly just want to hibernate at home. But in warmer months, when there is so much fun to be had outside or BBQ’s to attend, or lacrosse season, when we take off for weekend tournaments every other weekend, it does not work so well. So at the end of the year when I opened up their homework books and counted all the attendance sticker MISSING from their treble clef and realized there were TEN out of 34 missing (I hang my head in shame that I cancelled 10 of their lessons when some of you didn’t miss a single, solitary lesson with me this year!), well, I decided that I would have to make up most if not all of these lessons over the summer. And so, once (or sometimes twice) a week, these lucky ducks get to have a lesson with moi! I bet you wish you lived with the piano teacher, too, don’t you! 😉

8. And, of course, I blog, make and prepare videos (in fact, I am working on some technique videos for the youtube channel) and write newsletters and keep in touch with all of you every now and then and put together practice challenges (there’s a SUPER-FUN one coming out for August so keep your eyes on your email!!!)….hoping to keep you inspired and excited for when we meet again in the fall….but for now, it’s time to go enjoy that beautiful Edmonton sunshine!

Piano Olympics 2014

Happy New Year, Everyone! I hope the last couple of weeks have held moments of joy and even some of peace and rest for you. It is unbelievable how quickly a couple of weeks can go by and suddenly we have officially entered 2014!

Our lessons will be resuming this Monday, January 6th, and we will be gearing up for our first ever studio-wide Piano Olympics. I’ve been wanting to run a Piano Olympics alongside the Winter Olympics for a very long time now but have just never seemed to actually get around to getting it ready in time–those darn Olympics seem to sneak up on me…every 4 years! 😉 During the 2010 Winter Olympics, I decided I would try and plan ahead a bit better so that it would be possible for 2014 when the Winter Olympics resurfaced again. So, this fall I’ve been searching ideas and planning our own little Olympics. I mentioned this desire to some of my fellow teacher’s at my APTA Pedagogy group and they loved the idea and wanted to spend an entire meeting brainstorming and sharing ideas…which then committed me to it! 😉 Of course, being me, I did still leave it until Christmas break to try and pull it all together. So, I’ve spent the past several days pulling together all my ideas, some ideas from Jennifer Foxx (of Foxx Piano Studio, Goodyear, AZ) and a few from our APTA meetings and sending them off to my fellow teachers and then printing off event sheets and flags for my students and our studio wall….but it’s going to be fun! Here are the “events” and what each student will need to do if they want to “go for the GOLD”! We will begin preparation next week and run our Olympics until February 15th wrapping up with Master Classes the week of February 18-20 in a “Closing Ceremony” theme where each student will receive special recognition for their participation–possibly even a “gold medal”! 😉 Here are our Event Rules:

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PIANO OLYMPICS, EDMONTON, 2014 sponsored by MMMusicStudio
Welcome to our Piano Olympics. This January and February we are going to train like Olympians, participate in events and go for the GOLD! To participate in our studio Piano Olympics, you may choose from and complete any of the events listed below:

Complete ANY 3 events for BRONZE Level
Complete ANY 4 events for SILVER Level
Complete ANY 5 or more events for GOLD Level

Each event can be completed only once, but there is no limit to how many times you can challenge it. Students who complete/pass even just 1 event will be presented with a special certificate of participation. Chosen events must be completed/passed by February 15th, 2014! As each event is completed, students will be given a special sticker to place inside one of the olympic rings on their flag.

EVENTS:
__Best Lesson Challenge: complete 4 “best” lessons: arrive on time having completed 5 days of practice, have all piano materials ready to go and show best effort in attitude, posture, hand position, rhythm, note accuracy and dynamics.
Teacher must initial: ___ ___ ___ ___
__Technique Triathlon: Be able to play 3 scales learned so far this year with fluency and accuracy AND from memory.
__Freestyle Composition: Compose a brand new piece of your very own and perform it at the February closing ceremonies (group lessons). Your composition MUST be a minimum of 4 measure long and you MUST be able to play it yourself! 😉
__Practice Persistence: Practice 7 days in a row WITHOUT missing a single day.
__Memorizing Marathon: memorize TWO elementary level pieces (level 1-3) OR memorize ONE intermediate level piece (level 4-6)
__Patriotic Spirit: Learn to play Oh Canada at an appropriate level
__Lead Sheet Wonder: add LH harmony to an assigned lead sheet
__Video of the Month Master: watch both the January and February Videos of the Month and be able to name both. Then write a brief summary of ONE.
__YOYO Challenger (You’re On Your Own): learn a new piece all on your own and share it with your teacher and at least 1 family member or friend
__Passionate Performer: perform a recital for three or more people. Level 1-3 should play 3 pieces and level 4-6 should play 2 pieces, level 7 and up can play just 1 piece. Be sure to introduce the piece, telling your audience the title, composer and style of each piece and play with utmost expression and dynamics! Have each audience member autograph this sheet. PS Don’t forget to bow!
__Stunning Sight Reader: sight read ONE piece at gold level accuracy (90% or higher)
__Ear training Expert: complete ONE clapback and ONE playback at gold level accuracy
__Note Relay: complete assigned flashcards or a note-naming sheet in under ONE MINUTE

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