Happy Ground Hog Day!

Happy Ground Hog Day everyone!

It seems we are supposed to get 6 more weeks of winter according to the original  Punxsutawney Phil – if so, can we have some more snow?  So pretty!


Today is the beginning of a new month which means fees are due again.  Most people will have 4 weeks of fees due ($130 for 4 lessons) and I know January was a partial month and some people left it very late to pay their fees but I would appreciate it if February fees could be paid at the beginning of the month.  Thanks so much to the people who are on it and have already paid!   Your fees amount will be under schedule in the emails I send after lessons.  Zelle and Venmo are great and also check in the letter box. The postal service I hope is getting back to its old reliability – maybe!


What a great opportunity to do more music practice with many students still working online and with cold weather on the way!  Everyone should be fitting in some piano practice, even me, at least 5 times a week.  Under 10 years at least 15 minutes good practice not counting fooling around on the piano which is good fun but not focused practice.  Over 10 years should be getting up to 1/2 hour at each session.

Note Reading:

I am currently teaching piano with my 6 year old grandson in the UK and I was out to shame by how well he knows his notes in the staff.  He reads the actual notes not the finger numbers!  So I am having a blitz on piano players learning your notes. Flash cards are great for engaging your parent or sibling to see if you know the notes.  I can send the sheets to make your own flash cards and a sheet with the notes and the rhymes that can help.  Let me know if you want me to send these to you.


I love that some students are writing music of their own.  I know Annabel is composing some great music  and also Venia and Louise and I hope more.  This past month an unknown composition by Mozart was revealed at the Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg in honor of Mozart’s 265th birthday.  Of course it was hand written; there were no computers with notation software 265 years ago!  I thought students might want to see what Mozart’s hands written score looked like (see at the end of this post).  He apparently wrote this piece, Allegro in D, for his sister Nannerl, and it got “lost” in someone’s papers.  Mozart was 17 when he wrote it. You can hand write a composition or make a recording either on voice memo or on video – would love to see and hear more compositions!

Durham Music Teachers Association (DMTA):

The DMTA is holding several Spring semester Zoom recitals in 2021.  The first one is Saturday February 27, at 3 pm, and I have asked 4-5 students if they would like to play and I will be registering them this week with Matt Sampson, the President of the DMTA.  These recitals are mostly for piano and other orchestral instruments.

Other recitals will be March 27 3 pm; April 24 at 3 pm; and May 29 at 3 pm.

There will also be a live playathon on Saturday April 17 from 1-5 pm and and a pre-videoed playathon on Sunday April 18.  Playathons raise money for scholarships.

Guitar and Ukulele recital:

Am organizing this for my own students and more information will be forthcoming, but fyi, memorization will be required!

Thanks everyone and have a great ground hog day!

Facsimile of Mozart’s Allegro in D, DK 626B/16
Facsimile of Mozart’s Allegro in D, DK 626B/16

Welcome back to lessons in Spring 2021!

I will be glad to “see” all my students starting tomorrow even if it still has to be online.  I cannot see in person lessons happening until at least summer.  I can now get the vaccine (being 75) if I can get an appointment!  But my partner cannot probably for months yet.

Please check the schedule on my website if you have forgotten your lesson day and time.

Fees: Most people will owe for 3 lessons ($97.50) except if you are not heaving a lesson on memorial day (1/18).  Just a reminder that fees are due the first lesson in the month, and thank you!  Zelle works well, Venmo if you do not have Zelle, or check in the letter box.  I have lost another mailed check so i am sorry to say the post is a bit unreliable.
If you are not having a lesson on Memorial day, can you let me know this coming week please.
I was glad to have a 3 week vacation after 2020 but it was really all about catching up stuff I had needed to do like the dental appointment  (my is a very nice man, Dr Pilon, and he did a great job on two adjoining crowns but dental work is never fun!).  I have today to do final things like get my poor car cleaned and work on my bird feeder.  Either the birds are ravenous or the squirrels have been getting some of the birdseed.  More axle grease on the pole!
The Spring semester is long and I will be taking a short break over Easter and will work that out closer to the time. I have an idea for student motivation.  I am going to group students in small relevant groups according to interest, age etc, and after I get myself a Zoom account, I will schedule small meetings where students can perform for each other in an informal way.  I loved the big concert with Rose before Christmas but it was a big undertaking and I cannot always have Rose as my Zoom expert. More information will be coming after this first week.  Students: can you be thinking about what you are going to play/sing next week and maybe what special items you might want to learn.
The sun is shining and the ground is drying out and the bulbs are pushing through so the world is looking alive.  Be safe and healthy.

Christmas is coming!


Thank you to everyone who performed and participated in the Virtual Holiday Matinee on Sunday 12/13/2020.  I was so happy with everyone’s performances and loved seeing all the family and friends watching.  I will try to give everyone individual feedback during lessons but really, everyone was fantastic!  I mean that very sincerely!

25 students played and sang in the recital, and 8 were not able to participate for various reasons.  We think upwards of 85 people participated in the recital as performers or viewers which is wonderful.  Flourishing Muse is flourishing!  Thank you again to my amazing daughter Rose and to her equally wonderful assistant event manager Debbie, and to Sarah for the great holiday invitation and program – love her design work. These are up on my blog and I will see if I can put the video up – not sure how big it is yet.  Thank you also to my talented partner Carol, who tries to teach my how to do technology, often having to rescue me from technology mess.  She is the one who built my website and continues to make it work well, and again rescues things when i get it wrong.

This is the last week of music lessons for 2020.  I will be back teaching on Monday January 4, 2021.  If anyone is not continuing please let me know as soon as you can, or if anyone needs a different time.  Currently I have 33 students and I am not planning to take more students unless there are very particular circumstances.  33 lessons a week is a lot of preparation when the lessons are on-line.

Almost everyone has paid the December fees and those who have not I will text today.  There is so much going on at Christmas it’s hard to keep up!

I had some rather nice news this morning.  In 2008 I wrote a bilingual song for Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It used to be performed at my school masses.  The Music Director at Yale’s Catholic Chapel contacted me and asked could I arrange it for choir and small orchestra, which I did and I uploaded the written score to his choral music website.  He performs it every December 12, Guadalupe’s feast day, and it was performed virtually from the Chapel this past Saturday. He told me a group from Madrid loved the service and my piece, and that the full score had been downloaded 7,000 times in the past 2 years! You can see the written score on my website but sadly no recording yet! I love that people are using the piece I wrote.  I wish I had more time to compose!  But I have students composing instead.

It has been a tough year, 2020, but I have enjoyed “seeing” my students and I think I am getting used to virtual lessons and on a day like today maybe everyone appreciates not having to go out in the cold rain!

Have a wonderful warm Christmas and holiday season and stay healthy everyone.


Matinee Sunday 12/13/2020

I am so excited now the Virtual Matinee is getting close.  I think everyone is ready and Rose has been amazing as always, coaching performers about how to do this virtual event.  I am pretty sure she has talked to everyone who did not participate in the July concert, with one exception and I will talk to that family this week.  Thank you so much to all the parents and students who have scrambled time to do the tech check with Rose.  I felt bad because she had to do so many, but she says she loves seeing the students and getting to know them a little.  She also insists that she do them; like mother, like daughter!

I have heard all the students play their pieces and everyone is ready, although one or two need to do some last minute work on their pieces.  But everyone is going to be terrific.  Please don’t let nervousness interrupt your playing.  Focus on the music and where your fingers need to go, and you will be fine.

This brings me to why I do these concerts and have done twice a year for the past 12 years.  It really gives students a goal to work towards, and I see huge improvements when this goal is in sight, as it is this Sunday.  At a deeper level it is about sharing your music with others.  I know I personally just like to play for myself, but I have always been conscious that that is a somewhat selfish attitude and so I make an effort to play for people when I have the opportunity. So be aware that you are sharing and delighting your family, friends and colleagues with your playing. If you make mistakes, or have to start again, do not worry – I have had to do that many times!  Just relax and start again!  

I really want the Virtual Matinee to be a happy and informal occasion so let’s all smile and do our best!  I would like everyone to be in the Zoom meeting from 11 am to the end so you can support your colleagues.  Anyway, you have to stay to hear the final performance, Quinn Barbaza playing Rupert Austin’s arrangement of  Summertime!

Many thanks to three amazing people who have worked to produce this Virtual Matinee:

Rosie Ham (my daughter) email: rosie@rosieham.com – Rose has her own company and teaches event management courses and runs large international events, once live but now online.

Sarah McArdle – sarahmcardledesign@outlook.com – Sarah designed the wonderful program and invitations.

Debbie Lo – debbieloevents@gmail.com – Debbie is an event manager like Rose, and will manage the virtual matinee waiting room.

I also need to thank my partner Carol Thomson (cthomson@firestreammedia.com) in advance because I know full well that I will need Zoom and other technical support on Sunday.  Carol is a web developer and videographer and general technical wizard!

December News

Happy December!  ⛄
I cannot believe we have finally got to December in this strange year.  Please stay safe and healthy everyone.
Important  News:  On Sunday December 13 at 11 am I will be holding a matinee recital, hosted by my daughter Rose from her house in Bedford UK.  It has to be morning because of the time difference.  I hope everyone who has agreed to perform will be able to.  I will put the current list of performers and their selections below.  Please check carefully as Rose needs accurate information as Sarah is going to do a wonderful program again.  If you cannot perform that is OK
(😢 but please let me know.  You can change your preferred piece but must change this week.
Rose will ask all students to do a technical check with her.  Possibly students who performed in July might not need a tech check but everyone else does and it makes a huge difference if you know what to do and are ready on that Sunday.  It does not take long but my Senior Event Manager (Rose) really believes in being thoroughly prepared.  You will get emails from Rose about possible times.  She is very busy teaching her courses right now and I am not sure how she is fitting me in but I am really grateful.  I find Zoom a bit hard to manage.
You will be able to invite friends and relatives to watch the concert.  I will need those names for Debbie to check as people come into the waiting room.
I think the concert will take about an hour and a quarter as long as everyone is prepared and ready to start.
Oscar McCormick (ukulele) Jingle Bells
Hal Sharp (ukulele) Santa Claus is coming to town
Jane Sharp (ukulele) Country Roads – John Denver
Leo Pieraccini (ukulele) Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
Ava Pieraccini (ukulele) Ripple Effect – Scott Helman
Kaitlyn Busch (guitar) Betty – Taylor Swift
Ben Painter (piano) Ode to Joy – Beethoven
Anna Long (piano) Angels we have heard on high
Ida Levy (piano) Boogie on Broadway – Faber
Veni Lekavich (piano) Jingle Bells
Camille Fontaine (piano) Firefly
Cecilia Triche-Rowe (piano) Almost like a dream
Louise Downs (piano) Spanish Caballeros
Logan Fontaine (piano) Scarborough Faire
Andrew Hartman (piano) The Star Spangled Banner
Annabel Hayes (piano) Not Opus 2 – Own Composition
Lucas Bartosik (piano) Gavotte – Telemann
Oscar Mc Cormick (piano) Night of the Tarantella
Mai Dunn (piano) Reflection from Mulan
Lydia Pollak Coy (piano) God rest ye merry gentlemen
Iris Emmerson (piano) Sonata in C Major – Mozart – first movement
Sebastian Guillen (piano) Un Amor sin Final
Khaleel Jackson (piano) Sonatina in A Minor – Benda
Kavisha Saram (piano) Prelude no. 1 – Bach
Jikai Sipkins-Chenn (piano) Avalanche op. 45 no. 2 – Heller
Quinn Barbaza (piano) Summertime from Porgy and Bess – Gershwin
Other News: December will be a short month as I am on vacation from 12/21/2020 to 1/1/21/2021.  Monday students fees will be $65 and all other days fees will be $97.50.  Thank you everyone for continuing to learn online with me.  And I would be very grateful if everyone could pay early in december so i can finalize the year’s accounts.
Technology: I cannot believe how much I have spent this year to improve my online teaching!  Soon I will also have a ring light for better lighting in the studio and I have managed to wire in my laptop with an ethernet cable to improve the stability of picture and sound and transmission.  Rose teaches people how to do online work and actually teaches online so I have had a list of things to work on,  including the ethernet cable and the ring light and more to improve my teaching.  In spite of this, I have to say teaching in person is a lot easier and a lot more satisfactory.  Unfortunately, I cannot see that happening at least until summer! One factor which is really helpful is for people’s devices, phone, ipad, laptop to be relatively up to date.  I know my ipad is too old now and I just learned my 2016 laptop needs a new battery!  So I do understand the struggles with technology and being online all the time.  I am so lucky here to have fibre optic cable; even so much depends on the pressure on the local bandwidth at certain times of the day.
 Be well and safe and I hope December is as fun a month as we can manage in the middle of this awful pandemic.

Virtual Matinee December 13

On December 13 I am holding a virtual recital which I am calling a matinee seeing it has to be in the late morning (thanks for the suggestion!).  The event will be from 11-12 am and I invite my students to participate.  It is again being hosted by my amazing daughter from London and because of the 5 hour time difference it has to be a middle of the day event. I realize that not everyone will be free to participate at that time but I hope a good number can.
I will be talking to students this and next week about what they would like to perform and I need those selections fairly solid by Monday 11/30 so Rose can work on the program and schedule rehearsals.  I suggest students perform pieces they have been working on lately not something they learn the week before – well, sometimes that does work!  Parents can you help to let me know whether your student is able and willing to participate please.
There will be more instructions soon about how this will all work.  Some of my students did participate in a piano recital in July and this one will be like that.
This time singers who can accompany themselves on guitar and ukulele are invited to perform so get your songs ready – or your instrumental.
Stay well and safe.