Exciting October News

Holiday Soirée at last

I have some exciting news!  I have finally secured a venue for a Holiday Soirée! The date is Friday December 2, and I am thinking about 5:30 – 6:30 pm for the time (I do have the venue from 4-8 pm).  For new students (since I last had one of my soirees in person December 8, 2019), I had been having in person concerts which I called Soirées twice a year at Croasdaile Retirement Community,  Of course this was all pre-pandemic!  Over the subsequent years, my contact there, the Rev Denise Waters, retired and I felt like I did not want to use Croasdaile without Denise.  During the pandemic I did have an online concert and it was fun but I do not want to do another online concert.

The venue is the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (ERUUF) sanctuary, where they have a nice grand piano and a lovely auditorium.  I have played there a very long time ago.  The Address for ERUUF is 4907 Garrett Rd, Durham, NC 27707.  To find more about ERUUF go to their website: https://www.eruuf.org/.  They are a spiritual community but basically non-denominational. Luckily, they do hire their venues out to people like me for activities such as recitals.  I teach two of Bobby and Michelle Hartman’s children, Andrew and Adam, and they have helped me make contact with ERUUF.

So students, you need to be working out now what you might play.  I really encourage all my students, youngest to the other end of the spectrum, to come and play and share their music with their colleagues.  Playing piano can be a bit lonely and solitary, but when we get together it is so good!  If you decide that you simply cannot play because you get so nervous, please, please come and meet your fellow students and listen to them play!  Often after a Soirée, students will ask can they play something they heard another student play.  We have a very relaxed atmosphere, and I sit with most of the younger students, and starting again is encouraged!

So please mark your calendars now for an early evening Soirée on Friday December 2, 2022.  Let’s celebrate making it through the pandemic.  Of course you can play with a mask if that is right for you!

October is here!

Fees for October will be due next week.  Monday people, can you think about Halloween, 31 October?  Another Monday!!  I definitely teach that day but the students who come after 5 might want to think about costumes and trick or treating.  You can of course come to music in costume.  Of course I will be a witch – every year the same, sorry!

Monday people will have 5 Mondays in October except if you are not coming on Halloween.  All other days of the week there will be 4 weeks in October.

The News

If you would like a different take on News… I read nicenews.com.  Recently they featured an article from the Washington Post on why we like the music we do. I found the article interesting especially for older students and I mean middle school onwards.

Here is an extract:

Our cognitive styles and how we think may also predict what types of music we may like. A 2015 study by Greenberg and his colleagues distinguishes between systemizers and empathizers — people who understand the world through thoughts and emotions vs. people who are interested in rules and systems. “Empathizers tend to prefer sadness in music whereas [systemizers] prefer more intensity in music,” Greenberg said. “A lot of IT [and] data science professionals [are] high on systemizing and also prefer really intense music.”

Not sure I agree but still very interesting.  I would definitely be on the empathizer end of the spectrum.


Stay warm and safe and it is so good to feel cold and wear sweaters (in Australian, jumpers)..


Welcome to Fall Piano Lessons, September 6

They say summer is over after Labor day and the weather outside SEEMS to be changing – Oh please let us have some rain today!  I am happy to welcome Fall, and get out the jeans and sweaters and boots, start cleaning up the garden, and plant bulbs.  Don’t you love my new side path?
This is a short week with only Tuesday and Wednesday students having lessons as I have to have my heart procedure on Thursday.  I will be back to full strength next week, and I look forward to seeing ALL my students.
Fees for September will be due this and next week.  Please look at your feedback emails for the amounts.
This semester I will have 26 students each week which is less than I normally teach because I am no longer teaching ukulele and guitar.  My instruments are sitting in the corner accusingly but I need to take a break to let my hands deal just with piano and to let my vocal folds maybe recover.  Gosh, aging is awful!
I have not settled on the venue for my holiday concert but it is 100% happening at the end of November.  It will not be at Croasdaile where my good friend and supporter, the Rev Denise, has retired. I am in negotiations for a venue and if this one does not work I might be asking for suggestions, but my criteria is my students deserve a really nice, preferably grand piano for their concert.
As I start teaching this Fall, I am going to be emphasizing practice.  One of my parents asked for help with their student and I have written some ideas for students to consider.  Parents of younger ones (and some older!) could you assist by reading through these ideas and perhaps encouraging your student to implement the ideas? I really want to see some great progress this Fall! I will be suggesting specific sections to focus on in each student’s practice.
I am pasting the ideas below.
How to Practice the Piano

Hint: It’s not how much; it’s how.

How Long should I Practice? ⏰

Beginners should try for 10 minutes. Intermediate students can choose but at least 30 minutes.  No-one should sit at the piano more than 40 minutes without taking a break which means getting up, having some water, looking outside (2-5 minutes). 30 minutes could be broken into two lots of 15 if that is what you like.  Advanced students should be doing 60-80 minutes if they really want to progress.

The Key… 🔑

…is daily – it is better to do less if time has run out than to miss a day. Of course life can intervene but progress only comes with daily practice.  Why do coaches want their teams working out every day?

When to practice? 🗓

This depends on your family circumstances, where your piano is situated, or if it is digital, can you use headphones. Mozart practiced either very early or very late.  I always prefer early.  But practicing at the same time every day is really helpful in maintaining regular practice.

Remove distractions!    🐆

Turn off phones and devices, leave social media for later, keep the cat and dog further away unless your playing makes them go to sleep.

Warm up.

At least 5 minutes for intermediate students and 10 for advanced.  Hanon exercises, scales, dozen a day, and at the end maybe you have a piece you always play hopefully from memory. In a half hour lesson I cannot always go over your exercises but once learned, I expect you to play them for warming up.

Plan your practice. 

For intermediate but especially advanced students, after warming up you should work on a 4-6 measure section that presents you with difficulty.  This is how my student Chelsea practiced, 4 measures at a time, memorizing as she went. Quinn was the same.  Once you have mastered that section (and that might be your whole practice depending on difficulty), move on to another 4 -6 measures.  Then try connecting these sections if they are adjacent.


Always starting over from the beginning

It feels natural to start at the beginning, so many of us play from here, try adding a few new notes, make a mistake, then start again from the beginning. You waste a lot of time playing this first section over and over, while you could be learning new sections or correcting mistakes. Instead, focus on a new part and practice it alone. Only combine it with the previous sections when you get it right, then move on.

Right, left, together.

Learn right hand and memorize, learn left hand and memorize, then play both hands and memorize. Three different tasks.  They all need separate attention.

Of course you can play all of your piece at the end of the day/week BUT not at the beginning of your practice when you are least tired and most focussed.

Ask me for more detailed specific plans for your particular pieces.

Fall 2022

It is not quite Fall yet but my Fall Semester begins September 6 in anticipation of Fall, so i do hope we have some cool weather and pretty leaves on the trees.

I have been seeing quite a few students over the summer but some are yet to come back after Spring Semester and I will love to see how tall and grown up they have become!

The Fall Schedule is set now (I think) with a couple of new students, Adam (Andrew’s brother), Emily, and Tyler. Click on the Schedule heading above and please double check your day and time.

Important dates:

I am going to the beach Friday 8/26 to Friday 9/2 – first beach trip for the year of 2022!

I am not teaching Labor Day (Monday 9/5) so Monday students first lessons in Fall will be Monday 9/12. 

I am teaching Tuesday 9/6, and Wednesday 9/7 using the regular Fall schedule below.

I am not teaching Thursday 9/8 because I have to go into Duke Regional Hospital for a procedure.  I will only be in over night and recovery is pretty quick they say.  I will be teaching from Monday 9/12 onwards.  Thursday students’ first Fall lessons will be Thursday 9/15.

I will text reminders.

I am in negotiations for a venue for my Holiday concert and more details will be forthcoming but everyone should be thinking about what they would like to play.

Email or text me if any problems with dates and the schedule.

Statistics: I have 23 students between the ages of 5 and 15 as well as 5 adult students.  Most students fall in the age group 10-12 years.

Thanks always for learning with Flourishing Muse studio, and let’s hope for cool weather and some gentle rain and later please let us have snow!

Summer lessons start Tuesday 7/5/22

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!  I have finished traveling for the moment.  I had a wonderful 3 weeks with my daughter in Bedford UK.  Visited France for 4 days (Le Touquey-Paris-Plage south of Calais – we went through the Chunnel on the car train), saw exhibitions at the British Museum, watched a cricket match at Lord’s, was taken on a wicked women Art Tour at the National Gallery, biked all over Bedford including biking my grandson to and from his school, shopped in Cambridge and more!  Lucky me!

In addition, back here in NC I spent 3 days hiking in the mountains especially in Pisgah National Forest.  It was a rugged hike to Twin Falls and it meant wading in foot deep running water in the river but I loved it, wet boots and all! 

There seemed to be no covid problems that I saw in my area of the UK, but I hear it is still active here, I am sorry to say.  Please wear masks if needed and also I can teach virtually if needed too.

I just wanted to remind everyone that I am not teaching July 4 but have gathered summer Monday and Tuesday students together so this is who I am expecting next Tuesday 7/5 unless you tell me differently:

Mary-Russell 9 am

Kristen 9:30 am

Susan 11 am

Joshie 12:15 pm (virtual)

Marten 3 pm (virtual)

Neil 4 pm

Pascale 5:30 pm

Sebastian 6 pm (virtual)

Jikai 6:30 pm

I will send Wednesday 7/6  reminders next week.

We can sort out fees in lessons next week.

Be safe and well.

May News plus summer lessons 2022

The Durham Music Teachers Association conducted a wonderful playathon on Sunday April 30 at Sutton Place.  Fifteen of my students performed, all very well, and families and friends sat outdoors in nice weather enjoying the music.  Dr Frank Pitman kindly supplied a really nice digital piano and sound system so we could all hear it very well.  It was so great for students to hear each other play.  I am organizing a holiday concert for the end of Fall semester and hopefully covid will not prevent it.

Speaking of covid I have had several families with or in contact with covid and I hope all are not very ill.  I am still set up for remote lessons so if anyone needs to go remote for a week just let me know.  And because I am traveling to the UK in about 3 weeks I am anxious to avoid being positive and having to delay my flight so for the next few weeks I will be wearing my mask.  Students can choose to or not but just so they know why I will be wearing mine.  I did buy travel insurance for the first time in my life, but in light of the first world wide pandemic in my lifetime it is necessary!

There are 3 more weeks of May lessons counting this week before I leave for the UK to spend time with my daughter and family.  I will be away all of June; I am coming back on 6/18 but then I am going to the mountains.  Summer lessons will be from July 4 to August 25, an eight week block.  I want to offer flexible lessons so students do not have such a long break away from their music.  How this works best is if you tell me you want some summer lessons and what weeks, days and times you might want those lessons.  I usually try to offer lessons Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during summer.  So far I have several students signed up and of course that is great for me not just financially, but I too get bored in the long summer break and I miss my students and parents!  I know most students are in camps in summer so I am happy to offer lessons between 4-6:30 or so after camps usually end. I can also offer online lessons but as you know, I think in-person is easier for both teacher and student, but the offer is there.  Some people might want to keep their Spring lesson times; just let me know.

Fall will start the Tuesday after labor day as usual.  If by any chance you already know you will not be taking lessons in Fall that would be sad, but useful information as I plan the rest of the year. I do have some people on my waiting list.

I do apologize for my piano A key which is not behaving well, but thank goodness the tuner from Ruggero is coming May 24.  If you need piano work I can highly recommend Ruggero Piano who have been great at keeping my busy studio piano in good repair.

Stay well and safe everyone.

April/May News

Examination Results:

I would like to congratulate Kavisha Saram on achieving First Class Honors in her level 4 RCM Piano Examination.  She opted to take an online examination early so she could concentrate on her end of semester school work.  Level 4 is challenging as all the RCM exams are but especially so online.  Kavisha has done an amazing job considering the demands of her high school classes. (The Royal Conservatory of Music is based in Toronto in Canada but has a US connection. I have been submitting students for RCM examinations since 2012).

End of Spring Semester:

We have one more month of lessons before I leave for the UK to visit my youngest daughter and her husband, and my grandson.  The last day of Spring lessons will be Thursday May 26. I will be teaching during the summer so please let me know if you are interested in summer lessons during the times I have available.

Summer lessons: 

Summer lessons will be available from 6/27/22 to 8/19/22 which will be 8 weeks in total.  I will be away at the beach the last week in August – lucky me!  I can be flexible about times and days but would still like to keep Fridays free for my own projects.

Fall semester will commence Tuesday 9/6/22 after labor day and will go until 12/17.  Fall is a short semester only 1/2 as long at Spring.

Holiday Recital:

Some very exciting news!  I have a possible venue for an in person Holiday Recital.  I have really missed the soirees I used to have at Croasdaile Auditorium before the pandemic hit us.  I really see the benefit of having these recitals and I can see there is a difference without them.  Learning a musical instrument can be a bit lonely but if you can play for friends and family and see others play it really gives you a good perspective on what makes sharing music so enjoyable and important.  The date will be sometime either just before or after thanksgiving so more news will be forthcoming and when it is, I hope everyone can commit to coming even if you feel you cannot play.

Ukulele Lessons:

I think I have mentioned to everyone that I am not taking new guitar or ukulele students – I do not have time to commit to practicing anything other than piano these days, but I still have my twins whom I have been teaching since they were 4 and wrote their first song “The Chicken Crossed the Road”.  They have made huge advances since then and will be playing and singing at the playathon.


I would like to commend several students for their practicing techniques, and I am not naming people because I really hope that everyone tries to practice and uses good practicing habits.  I love that one student recently asked could she warm up with her Hanon exercises before playing for me!  This tells me that is how she starts her practices.  Another student’s parent asked me could his son practice for a longer time.  Sure, I said and I suggested this routine and I am looking forward to hearing what has been achieved:

  1. Exercises – dozen a day or Hanon for 5 minutes
  2. Your newest piece and try the hardest sections first while you are fresh, maybe 10 -15 minutes.
  3. Your pieces that you want to keep in your repertoire list – not every piece every day but keep a record so you don’t miss one for a long time, 10 minutes 
  4. If you are composing music leave this till last but it is a great way to end your practice.

These times are for a student who has been learning for a year – newer students might work on shorter times.  I would like to commend another student for just loving Dozen a day.  I tell students if you can learn all 5 groups in Dozen a day book 1 (green), you are well on the way to good piano technique.  It is an old series but still terrific! And always have a pencil ready to mark places that might need a bit of extra effort.  I love having a high lighter which I have to use to remind me of things I keep missing in a piece.

May Fees:

Not due till next week but would really appreciate if everyone could pay their May fees first week in May so I can get myself ready for travel.

Thanks always for learning with Flourishing Muse Studio!