Online Music 2020

I hope everyone is doing well and surviving working and learning at home.  This weekend I taught my grandson how to draw a tree in his UK backyard for his online school homework. It was fun to work with him!

On the weekend I also worked with Carol to clean up and reorganize the Student Performance Page.  If you go to the page, it shows thumbnails you can click on to view student’s playing and singing; you can also choose categories like “All”, “Piano” , “Ukulele”, or “Voice”.  Lydia’s piano piece is the latest one I have put up and I am anxiously awaiting more videos.  Please just video the performance, no announcing or talking because I know what piece you are playing or singing.  It should be a video of your best performance without feeling it has to be finally perfect.  I would like to have all students represented by April 30 so I will be asking and reminding!

Some of the previous performances are very nostalgic – Sadie and I playing ukulele – she learns guitar now!  And the Pieraccini twins when they still sang together! Previous students Ashley, Jesse and William playing piano. 

Ukuleles:  I have sent out recordings of the parts for two duets in the red ukulele book, Era Una Vez and Spring.  What I would like you to do is video yourself playing your part in these two duets (separate videos) at the speed at which I played in the recordings.  I am going to try to edit them all together so you can hear everyone and see everyone in their “box” playing their ukuleles.  I would be very cool but depends on you being at the same speed as I played and not stopping to correct a mistake. You can make a mistake but you cannot stop and interrupt the speed.

I know a lot of students are taking this opportunity to do extra practice and it really shows in your lessons – well done!  Be safe and well everyone and go and look at the videos and be inspired to get yours up there.

April 2020 in the new online world!

April Is nearly here

Of all the things I could have imagined this 2020 world being embroiled in, it would be all of us fighting off this virus! I think the word we all need is endurance. Imagine a long arduous journey where we just have to keep going to the end.

We are coming up on the third week of online music lessons. There have been wonderful highlights including my youngest student who dressed up in lollipop mouse ears and colorful clothes which really brightened my day! Annabel has only been learning for a few months and she managed learning online very well. (Photo with Mom’s permission).

Some students have used their home time to do extra practice and it really shows! One of my high school guitar player/singers has recorded that beautiful and strangely prophetic song song “If the world was ending” after her last lesson and her rendition is beautiful. You might remember Kaitlyn from the last Soiree.

Leo has written a new song to encourage everyone “ Spring Allergies”! Chorus: “Even though there’s a virus going around, We’re not going to let it get us down.” I am sure you will be hearing it at the next Soiree. I hope to have more recordings coming in this week because sometimes is it not easy to hear clearly when we are online.

I do think week three might see some of us get frustrated and cranky. I know by last Friday I was a bit snappy – sorry for that! It is a lot of extra work because I have to record material for singers, and prepare more carefully so I have student material in front of me on the piano. However, I am really happy that I can teach my students and see them each week and hear what they are doing, and I hope everyone can continue through April. Let’s just endure this journey and stay distant and well.

Face time and skype are working well but I am also now using google duo if anyone would prefer that. It seems to work well. I have fibre optic cable and fast internet thanks to Carol’s work but I realize not everyone has that facility and sometimes there is a delay but we are all managing. I would love to get some recordings of students especially singers but try using voice memo or some audio only program because it is clearer and easier for me to access. But I can also access video but better to put it in drop box as the files are big.

If you have not seen this video below it is amazing. Boston Conservatory at Berklee student Shelbie Rassler made an arrangement of the Burt Bacharach song “What the world needs now”. She sent out the arrangement to all her musician friends and each recorded their part solo and she edited them all together. Very inspiring. (Must have all had metronomes!)

April: I am not taking a Spring Break. It seems pointless when we are all locked in to our homes so I am happy to keep teaching and will take a break when we are allowed out again. I hope everyone is OK with that.

You can pay fees by using Zelle (I am told by my bank that it is pronounced Zail, like sail), or post a check to my address (2119 Sprunt Ave, Durham NC 27705) or drop a check in my mailbox but text me when you are doing that please. I know these are very tough times for all of us and I hope the government can make good on its promise to help us all financially.

April fees will come due on Wednesday 4/1/2020

Monday, Tuesday and Friday people will owe 4 weeks and Wednesday and Thursday people 5 weeks and this will all be in your email this week. On the subject of my feedback emails, I am trying to put a series of bullet points about what to practice in the subsequent week. If parents of the younger students could cut and paste these points into something that the student can have on the piano or on a bulletin board or in the front of their binders so they are clear about what to practice each week. I am very keen for this to happen; let’s take advantage of all this extra indoor time!

Stay well, be patient and endure this imposition, play lots of music, write new songs and compositions, send to me and be kind to each other.

PS the pollen is requiring a tad more endurance. I guess the trees have to do their thing!


Important News Sunday March 23, 2020

In anticipation of further restrictions on our movements I am transitioning all lessons to on-line. It has been going quite well and almost all students seem to have felt comfortable and those who did not I hope will be more used to our situation in the second week.

Piano students:  All I need to be sure of is that I have duplicates of all your books and music.  I think I have and will be making sure tomorrow.  Sometimes I might need to send a pdf and ask for you to print it out for the student.  In a couple of cases I might need your to make a pdf and send it to me. I will give you plenty of time.
Ukulele and guitar students:  I think we did pretty well last week.  I will be mostly working from the red and purple ukulele books and the new jazz material.  I don’t have spare copies of the jazz book but I can order more from Canada. Songs are a bit harder but I can set songs for students to work on and then hear them online but there is too much delay for me to effectively sing or play effectively with a student.
Singers: I am sad that I cannot have you in my studio because being live is so much better, but I have spent this afternoon with Carol working on one of my high quality recorders.  What I will do is record your accompaniments and put them in drop box for you.  They will be mp3s.  Then in the lesson you can play the accompaniment on one of your devices and sing with it so I can hear you.  If time I will also record some voice exercises.  This means singers need to have drop box working on whatever device you are going to use.  Also be prepared for some a cappella singing which is hard but will help me hear whether you have the notes right and whether your expression and diction are appropriate
The authorities keep mentioning “game changer”.  I think that after we survive this current predicament, the world of work and education might never be the same again.  We might all be dragged into an online world whether we like the idea or not.  It was kind of happening anyway and my partner has spent the last few years building on-line learning platforms so I am aware of the trend.  I so like everyone coming to my nice studio…😢
In the mean time let’s do our best to make online music a happy experience by being positive and well-prepared.  Parents, I do not know how you are doing this with no school but I hope some music lessons will help students to feel a bit more like normal is happening.
On another note, I am considering teaching right through April.  The dentists will all be closed and we can’t go anywhere so we all might as well play and sing music.  The only day i will not be working will be Good Friday 4/10.
My best wishes to all and prayers for good health.

News March 16, 2020

It seems in the current crisis that we need to move to online lessons in most cases. I am going to miss you in my studio!
But the good news is face time works really well for remote lessons.
Thanks to my student Kristen who was the volunteer for my first face time lesson, we had a successful time together in spite of a few technical glitches which I am hoping are now sorted out.
I am ready to teach students online and unless you have a late generation ipad, it seems an iphone works well.  My ipad is working well although it is a bit far away from our router but we are working on that.  I have a microphone stand and a cradle for my ipad, picture below (sorry sideways), and it is positioned so my students can see some of me but mostly the piano keyboard and what I need to see is the student’s hands on their keyboard.  Kristen used her iphone and it worked perfectly for her and me.  Having something to prop up the phone on at the end of the keyboard would be a good idea.  Ukulele and guitar students: I will reposition the ipad so you can see me and I would like to see you and try to position your device so I can see your hands not just your music stand!
If the video cuts out we just call again and the disruption seems to be minimal.  I don’t think streaming videos while your student is doing an on-line lesson with me would work well.
If you have never used face time you need to first go to your contacts (hopefully I am there with my phone number 919-599-9372) and up the top you select the video icon, and you are calling on face time!  Experiment with family members if you can.
If you do not have apple devices:  Please use skype.  I recently downloaded an updated skype app and it is free.  The video quality is not as good as face time but it will be perfectly adequate.  My skype handle is my email ( and that is a good way to have you ID because I have most people’s emails.  If you need to use skype please let me know so I am expecting skype call not face time.  May need to experiment a little!
For those who are still OK about coming here, I am fine with that and have set up my studio so there is 8 feet between me and a student.  I will disinfect door handles etc before and after.  I completely support social distancing but I am not having groups of people here, just one at a time.  Please let me know what you are going to do.  Some parents have already done that thank you.
Stay well, and hopefully sane with what is an enormous disruption to our lives.

Important Studio news in March 2020

These are very difficult times for everyone.  I just want to tell you that my studio will remain open for teaching through April 4.  I am taking all precautions with sanitizing my equipment and studio and waiting room and bathroom.  I have my own hand sanitizer (60% alcohol and 40% water and drops of detergent) and sanitizing wipes.  Also I do think soap and water are terrific hand sanitizers and the bathroom is well equipped and I change the hand towels frequently, and will also provide paper towels there.  Students can use hand sanitizer or wash their hands in the bathroom.   They can also bring their own hand sanitizer.

I am so sorry it has come to this pass in America with this virus outbreak.  In all my long years I have never experienced a pandemic.  However, I am remaining positive.  We can all get through this together. I am not particularly worried for myself although I fall in the at risk category, but I am very healthy, and luckily my partner Carol works remotely most of the time and has little contact with other people. I rarely go out and am canceling any off campus activities.

I am setting up to teach remotely if necessary.  I will be teaching through face time as my colleagues have tested out various methods and face time seems to clearest audio and video.  I don’t really want to do this but if schools are closed kids will need home activities and music is so great for that and I can help through on-line teaching.  Teaching on-line presents certain difficulties not the least being a good internet connection and fast enough up and down load speeds.  Parents and students would need some device that can use face time. My usual fees will apply, and can be mailed to my address.

Please let me know any questions.  After April 4 I will have two weeks break and please God it will all be over by April 20 and we can resume normal lessons. 

WIth very best wishes for your health and the health of your families.


March news 2020

Is March going to be “in like a lamb and out like a lion”?  Seems as if we have barely had winter – I have not even broken out the serious pea-coat! 

There are a few things I need to remind you about:

I am taking a spring break from April 6-18.  I hope to get some down time but sadly the break begins with major dental work and will probably be filled with getting over it.  However, I am grateful I have access to great dental work and my dentist gives me gas for the pain and agony.  Lessons will resume April 21 after the break. The break should not be too disruptive as  most students also have spring breaks around these two weeks.

I have committed to students playing for 1/2 hour in the DMTA Playathon Saturday April 25            from 2:30 – 3 pm.  This time the Playathon will be back at Northgate Mall as Brightleaf has new owners who so far have not agreed to host us there. I really need some students to commit to playing on the lovely grand piano Hopper’s supply for us or singing in the acoustically responsive space, or playing ukulele duets with me. These playathons raise money to pay the fees for students and parents who find difficulty financing music lessons.  The money is raised by each student who plays contributing $5 plus donations. (DMTA – Durham Music Teachers Association)

Adult students:  I am the Chair of the DMTA’s adult student recital Saturday March 28 from 3:00  to 5:00 at Croasdaile Chapel. Previous adult performances have varied from beginners to advanced so please consider playing.  It is fun to see what other adults are attempting.  All instrumentalists and singers are welcome.  I will be taking names in March!

March fees:

Please check your emails for where I have put a payment forward after an excused missed lesson.

Monday  and Tuesday students 5 lessons in March

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday students 4 lessons in March and you can add that day in April that falls before the spring break if you wish.

Thanks always for learning music with Flourishing Muse Studio.