Incentives, Master Classes, Uncategorized

May News and Year End Dates

Hello, Everyone!

It seems like just yesterday we had our lovely April recital and now we are in the second week of May with only 5 weeks of lessons left!

Our recital went so well and I cannot thank everyone enough for the help you gave and the many ways you all contributed!  It was our earliest ever Spring recital this year (one week earlier than last year) and because I was away for all of Spring Break, it felt like a short time to get organized, but with your help I think it came off better than ever AND I think the early time ended up working out really well as it kind of pumped us all up and has given us extra enthusiasm and a renewed energy for the remaining weeks of lessons! Something that will be especially great for those doing Conservatory exams in June…and for those that aren’t doing exams there is a renewed enthusiasm for getting some extra pieces learned before June! Some students have challenged themselves with learning 30 pieces this year! Phew!

A couple of you have shared a picture of the recital, but I would just love to see more–pictures or video.  I was not able to get pictures or videos taken myself as I have in the past and I missed getting a picture of all the MYC grads.  So please feel free to share!!

The kids have all been asking when the next master class is.  Normally I have done a master class as the very last class of the year because I am often away during the May long Weekend week.  However, this year I am not going to be away!  So, I am changing up the schedule just slightly this year.  We will have our last master class of the year during the week of May 24th, immediately following the long weekend.  Then we will have two more regular lessons/classes before finishing up for the year on June 9th.

I will send out the master class times for May 25, 26, 27 in the very next email…expect that in the next day or so.  And you will be able to indicate the time you wish your student to attend, but putting it in the subject line of your reply to that email.

Also starting next week will be our final practice challenge of the year.  It’s going to be a lot of fun and offer some more creative ways to look at your piano practice to keep the energy going right to the end of the year…when I issue this year’s Summer Practice Challenge!  A handout will be coming home with each student next week and the summer practice challenge will go home with them at the last lesson of the year, so be sure to continue checking those music bags regularly over the next few weeks!

In the meantime, have a lovely day!  Looks like we’ve got some sunshine again!

Composing, Incentives, Master Classes, Seasonl/Holiday, Uncategorized

Piano Pajama Day Master Classes

Happy Family Day!! I hope you have some time today to spend with your family!  Just a quick reminder that this week we will be having Piano Pajama Day Master Classes in lieu of regular lessons!  If you haven’t yet signed up, there is still lots of room on Thursday at 4:30pm as well as some room on Wednesday at 5pm!

Pajama’s are absolutely OPTIONAL but we have a lot of fun PJ party themed activities (including performances, improvising lullabies, ear training, sight reading and theory games!) as we kick off a fun morning practice challenge.  With Spring approaching and the days getting longer, I will be challenging students to do more of their piano practicing in the morning.  They will be challenged to collect 7 morning practices (a full week’s worth!) OR MORE over the next few weeks. Once they reach the 7 morning mark (not necessarily in a row!! Each week they come to lesson they can put a sticker on for each MORNING practice they did!), they will receive a LEVEL ONE morning practice super star certificate! 🙂  Let’s see who can get to level 3 by Spring Break!  Of course, they may continue to do after school or evening practices too, we still want those 5 practices a week….this is just a fun challenge that shows them the benefits of morning practice and how it frees up the  rest of the day!  And may develop a great habit for when soccer season arrives or warmer weather and more after school and evening activities begin!  Teaching colleague from BC, Andrea Dow, shares why she believes in morning piano practice!

“I was in Grade 11 (at exactly the same time I met my most massive time-stealer… Trevor) when I realized there was no way I was going to accomplish anything with my piano if I didn’t practice. And with homework, singing lessons, musical theatre, sports and… Trevor… it truly was impossible to get anything done after school or in the evenings.

So I did the one thing I absolutely hated to do; I got up earlier to practice piano. And it did wonders for my progress.

Why does morning practice work?

  • Studies have shown that sleep directly (and positively) affects the learning of a fine motor skill. We actually did an interview with Dr. Karen Debas on this topic.
  • No matter how many activities your students have scheduled after school, morning practice ensures their piano is never forgotten, crammed in or done haphazardly. Frenzied or rushed practice results in negativity towards the piano, practice fights with parents and other things we piano teachers would rather avoid.
  • The excuse of “no time” is completely eliminated. With a simple adjustment to the morning alarm, your piano students can have all the time they need.
  • The discipline of getting up early and practicing every day establishes habits that are pro-active and that will carry over into other areas of your students’ lives as well.
  • The likelihood of parental involvement in practice increases, as your students no longer practice alone while parents are at work, driving siblings to other activities etc.
  • As your students become teenagers, homework, jobs, friends and other extracurricular activities no longer pose a threat to their piano progress (none of those things happen in the morning!)
  •  The parental “guilt” from daily practice being repeatedly forgotten is eliminated, taking one more stressor away from busy families.
  • Starting a day off with music starts your students’ days with all of the wonderful benefits that music has been proven to provide such as mood improvement, stress-reduction, and mental alertness.

All of these factors combined means morning piano practice is one of the most powerful ways you can ensure that your piano students are practicing and progressing.”

Master Classes, Studio, Video of the Month

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 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:

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

Composing, Master Classes, Newsletters

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!

Master Classes, Newsletters, Recital, Seasonl/Holiday, Uncategorized

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:
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

Master Classes, Newsletters, Recital, Seasonl/Holiday

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?!

Incentives, Master Classes, Piano Lesson Success, Seasonl/Holiday, Uncategorized, Video of the Month

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!!

Incentives, Master Classes, Piano Lesson Success

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! 😉

Master Classes, Newsletters, Schedule, Uncategorized

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

Master Classes, Music Camps, Piano Lesson Success, Seasonl/Holiday

Our Epic Olympic Master Class Wrap Up

Every four years it gets pretty loud and rowdy in our house. Okay, it’s like that everyday…but even more so every fourth February. We just LOVE the Winter Olympics!! Well, we love the Summer Olympics, too…but nothing seems to help winter pass by quite so quickly as spending the dark, cold evenings cuddled up on the sofa eating popcorn and watch amazing athletes battle it out in the snow and on the ice!

It’s also been a pretty exciting past few weeks in our music studio as we’ve been having our own version of the Olympics: our first ever Piano Olympics! Over the last few weeks, students have been completing certain piano related events and going for the gold as well. This week we wrapped up our Olympics with a “Closing Ceremony Master Class”. And just what did we do at our master classes this week? Well, allow us to show you!

1. We began our master class with a game. I didn’t really have a name for this game. Some students called it “Headbandz” (sans the headband) and others called it “Who Am I?”. Basically, students partnered up and each one had a music rhythm on their post-it which was stuck to their head and they had to get using yes or no questions. IE “Does my note get 1 beat?” etc. This was a nice way to re-connect and war up to each other since some of the students had seen each other since the Christmas Recital.

2. Then I had students share their favorite event from the Winter Olympics and their favorite event from our Piano Olympics.

3. We listened to Olympic Fanfare by John Williams and answered a few questions. Then we discussed who John Williams is, what the piece was composed for (uh, the Olympics, of course!) and the form of the piece.

4. Then we had “solotime”. Each student played a piece they had prepared over the last couple of weeks. For some it was a composition of their very own, some it was the Chariots of Fire leadsheet they’d worked on and for others it was our national anthem, O Canada. We enjoyed each and every piece together and the students gained more valuable performing experience!

5. We played a rousing game of Wintervals (interval naming) and Rhythmic Hopscotch

6. And finally the moment, everyone had been waiting for: The Medal Presentation (and a treat!)

This created a LOT of excitement:

Others were a little more laid back about it all, like our Bronze medalist, Grace:

And Kiara and Mytchal:

Jack had to check and see if his was real gold! 😉

All in all the last few weeks have been a rousing success! Looking forward to doing it all again in 2018!