October, Fall, Soiree, and more…

The holiday Soirée is fast approaching!  All students should be considering the piece they would like to perform at the Soirée.  The ukulele and guitar players know their plans so I would like the pianists and singers to talk to me  about their selections. I would love to have any original compositions but I do want these to be on manuscript paper although you can certainly play from memory.

For new students, the Soirée is my name for my twice yearly student recitals.  But I want to emphasize that these are very relaxed occasions and I always sit at the piano with the younger students.  It is more like playing for friends. Some of my adults take the opportunity to work on their repertoire but performing is not mandatory, just encouraged. The Soirées are held at Croasdaile Village community in the Auditorium, Sunday December 2 from 3-5 pm.  Even if you are not performing please come and support the students who are.  Many members of the community enjoy coming to the soirees and it is so good to see the generations together.

I would like to have the Soirée program all set before thanksgiving.

The Playathon:  I have some students willing to come and perform Saturday October 19 at Northgate Mall from 2-2:30 pm.  There is certainly room for more performers and I will be asking students this week if they are willing to come and support the Durham Music Teachers Association, who are raising money to fund scholarships for students who cannot otherwise afford music lessons.

Congratulations to two students who sang with the Durham Children’s Choir at the St Francis day Blessing of the Animals at Duke Chapel.  You can just see Mia Pieraccini in the back row and Lucas Bartosic in the front.  Singing in a choir is one of the best ways to safely exercise a young voice.

In addition to the twice yearly Soirées, I also host adult work-in-progress nights at my house.  I had hoped to have one in October but all kinds of things intervened and now I hope to have one before thankgiving and the suggested date is Friday November 16 (thanksgiving is awfully early this year!).  Can adult students check their diaries please?  These are very relaxed occasions with adult beverages and nibbles.  The emphasis is on the in-progress art.

I have had several people  ask if I take credit card or paypal for the fees. I really prefer checks but I know paying by check is something which is going out of style.  I can accept paypal payments but only if they come from a debit account, otherwise I am charged fees and I try to keep my students fees as low as I can. I am not able to accept credit cards for two reasons: the fees credit card companies charge and the time it takes from lesson time to process the payments.  So I am sorry but I hope everyone can continue to pay me by check!  You can also pay by cash and if you do, please put it in an envelope with your student’s name.  Fees are due at the beginning of the month and most people are really good about that and I thank you.  You can always see what you owe at the bottom of your weekly student email.

Thanks always for learning music with Flourishing Muse Studio.

Congratulations to Quinn Barbaza!

Congratulations! You are the teacher of a 2018 Royal Conservatory Certificate Program Award recipient as follows:

Quinn Barbaza

  • State Certificate of Excellence, Level 5 Piano
  • Center Certificate of Excellence, Level 5 Piano

Every student who participates in Royal Conservatory Certificate Program examinations who receives a minimum of 80% on their practical examination and has completed the theory co-requisite for their respective level and discipline, is eligible to win these awards each academic year:

  • The Center Certificate of Excellence is awarded to students who achieved the highest mark in their examination center in each level and discipline.
  • The State Certificate of Excellence is awarded to students who achieved the highest mark in their state in each level and discipline.
  • The National Gold Medal is awarded to students who achieved the highest mark in the country in each level and discipline.

These awards are an exceptional distinction and are the result of the invaluable support and inspiration that you provide! All student awards will be sent by early January. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you for participating in The Royal Conservatory Certificate Program and congratulations once again for this outstanding achievement!


The Royal Conservatory

Fall news

I am glad all students are back filling my life with extremely varied experiences – one thing I have often said to student teachers is you will never be bored!

Here are some dates for your calendars:

The Soiree

For new people this is what I call my twice yearly student concerts.  This year it will be at Croasdaile auditorium, as always, on Sunday December 2 from 3-5 pm.  I will send parking instructions closer to the day.  Fall is a very short semester (Spring semester is about 22 weeks and Fall semester about 14 – half as long).  This means students should already be planning their performance at the Soiree.  I have many more ukulele students this year so the first half will be for ukulele and guitar players and the second half for pianists and singers.  I will do some combined ukulele items and I will have a practice at my place before hand or at some place with a bit more room (any offers?)!

 I am a member of the Durham Music Teachers Association (DMTA) and each year the association holds several Playathons to raise money for scholarships for families who cannot otherwise afford music lessons.  The next Playathon is October 20, Saturday at Northgate Mall and my section is from 2-2:30 pm.  I have several students who have committed to playing – you only need to play one piece and ukuleles are also invited, singers too. 

Here is the extract from the Handbook:

Playathons are informal performance opportunities in public places where students of any age or level, studying any instrument, and playing any musical style may enjoy sharing their skills. The goals of the Playathons are to increase awareness of our association, to give students an informal performance opportunity, and to raise funds for our scholarship program. There are no restrictions for participation in any of the Playathons. Students do not need to dress up and are welcome to use their music, but please do not bring photocopies. A piano and/or digital keyboard is made available

A $5 donation to the DMTA Scholarship Fund is requested for each participating student. You can bring your $5 in cash on the day or give it to me during lessons.  If you write a check please make it payable to the DMTA.

My adult students are invited to a work-in-progress (the Flourishing Music Salon!) at my house Friday October 19, from 7-9 pm.  Adult beverages and nibbles will be supplied.  Your “work” can be unpolished and even partial and mistakes and false starts to be expected.

Next year I will be hosting two DMTA events for students.  The first will be a Classical Voice Master Class on Sunday February 3 from 3:30 – 5 pm in Croasdaile Chapel and it will be followed by a small reception.  The clinician is to be announced soon.  Teachers can initially submit one student but might be able to submit more depending on other teachers’ submissions. 

The second will be an afternoon for adult students to share their works-in-progress with colleagues who study with DMTA teachers.  It will be held on Saturday March 6 from 3:30 – 5 pm in Croasdaile Chapel.  I will have more information later on but please put the date in your diaries.

October is almost upon us, season of Halloween and all that goes with that festival, scary pieces and songs, pumpkins, and more.  When you are getting ready to pay October fees, please factor in whether your student will be coming to lessons the evening of Wednesday October 31.  I usually stop at 6 that day so i can hand out candy to the neighborhood.  Younger students will probably be too excited to have a music lesson.  What about older ones?  I can also reschedule Halloween lessons as I have some flexibility after 5 on Fridays.

Thanks for learning music with Flourishing Muse and watch this space because I have a new event coming – for composers! Get your creative hats on!

August News

August is rolling through!  It is good to be having some students already coming back to lessons. Even though I have numerous of projects on the go, I love to see my students and enjoy the interactions with them so much.  “They” say extroverts get their energy from being with people and there is definitely a large part of me that is like that. (Introverts apparently get their energy renewed by alone time, and I can appreciate that too at times).

I am working on solidifying the date for the Holiday Soiree – Sunday December 2 from 3-5 pm. Fall semester is quite short so I will be working on the programing from September onwards.

Fall semester officially begins Tuesday September 4, the day after labor day.  For all students who will not have started lessons in August, their lessons will commence on that day. Sorry about Labor Monday students – if a Monday student wants a lesson that week let me know and I might be able to fit them in.

Don’t forget I am having my summer beach week, last vacation of the year, from Monday 8/27/18 to friday 8/31/18.

Over the holidays I was able to meet with Chelsea several times and have just said goodbye to her this week as she heads back to Austin for her third year.  She is studying at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas in Austin.  She will not be back in time for the soiree in December but will be giving several concerts, one possibly at Croasdaile and perhaps another in Raleigh and I will have more details later in the year.  She played a little of her new piece, Mendelssohn’s Variations Serieuses op. 54, so beautiful.  Please go and listen to it if you are interested: 


Parents and students often ask me about the difference between an acoustic and a digital piano, and why do I recommend an acoustic piano where possible.  There was an excellent article in my Piano Price Point blog recently; this is an extract and you can read the whole article and see the diagrams here:



“So why upgrade? Longer keys mean better balance from front to back of the piano keys. The rotational inertia gives dynamic touch changing the feel as you play soft to loud. And finally, the spring loaded joints aid the reset. All of these work collectively to define the touch of a piano. When you compare that to a digital piano where the touch weight is simply raising or lowering a lead weight on a see-saw, the difference is significant. In addition to these touch elements, traditional pianos also have adjustable parts to refine the touch components as well.

Final considerations regarding touch: dexterity and injury. After nearly 30 years of teaching, I could tell as soon as I heard a student who had been practicing on a digital piano. How? They have not developed anywhere near the right amount of finger dexterity. You can “hear” that their technique is weak. Dynamic touch brings about correct dexterity. You can especially hear it on quick staccato passages. But the more important consideration is injury. Extended practice time on digital pianos have the propensity towards injury. I’m not a kinesiologist but I think it has something to do with repetitive loud playing on the digital piano. I believe that the force is somehow not absorbed the same way because digital pianos do not have dynamic key weight. When you come crashing down on the keys, if the static weight doesn’t change, the next absorption point is the hands and arms. The dynamic nature of the acoustic piano changes the resistance when you play and for whatever reason, I find it more forgiving.

When it comes to upgrading from a digital piano to an acoustic piano, there are also 2 sound concepts to be mindful of: The first is the continuous flow of sound which we commonly refer to as analog. The second is dynamic timbre referring to how the sound quality changes with dynamics and volume.

First, let’s look at the comparison between acoustic sound and digital sound. The acoustic piano creates sound by a hammer striking a string. The subsequent vibration is amplified by the soundboard into audible tones. How do digital pianos make sound? Digital pianos don’t actually create sound. They simply play back a digital recording of a real piano. But digital sound and live string resonance are different. Digital sound is made up of many frames per second to give the illusion of continuous sound. Natural vibration of a string is a continuous waveform that we perceive differently. I remember the first time I used Skype to speak with my parents a thousand miles away. My aging father found the technology almost baffling. It was great to see their faces and connect but is it the same as being there in person? No of course not. Both methods communicate effectively but the live version brings about a closer heart connection. A picture of a garden or being in the garden, a filmed version of a Shakespearean play or experiencing live theatre, hearing a recorded version of your favourite artist or seeing them live in concert ~ live is simply more than the digital representation. And yes I’m well aware of the fact that there are incredible creative moments that can only be achieved in the digital realm. It’s not that it lacks expression as its own form. My point is that digital piano will always and only be a facsimile of a real piano. And as it relates to acoustic analog continuous sound waves versus a digital recording of a piano transmitted through speakers, natural sound will always be the better choice.”

I know finance is the problem for so many people and pianos are expensive, but a pianist told me that the Trosa Thrift Store on North Roxboro Street often has numerous pianos in quite reasonable condition.  You would need to have someone look them over for weak points but it could be a good starting place to acquire an acoustic piano.  Pianos do need to be tuned at least once a year and the fees are somewhere around $140 for  basic tuning.

Happy late summer everyone and be safe.

Summer Travel

I hope everyone has a wonderful, safe, fun summer whatever you are doing.  I leave today June 13 and will be back Tuesday July 24 and teaching from Monday July 30.

I am assuming that people who are coming back to lessons on Monday 30th July are coming at their regular lesson time.  I have not made a special August schedule but I know people are not necessarily here all August or might need a time adjustment.  Just let me know. I will have limited access to email depending on where I am but I can check frequently.  

The Fall schedule as it is at the moment is up on my blog.  Please check it.  I know some people have asked for extra lessons but that is all dependent on people being willing to shift days. We can work it out when I get back.  But if you have a request other than those you have already indicated, let me know on email.  I will have different phone numbers overseas.

Remember that Chelsea will be teaching this summer while I am away so please contact her for extra special piano lessons: 

Her phone: 919-667-8214

Email: Chels1207@gmail.com

If anything changes I will post on my blog, as I can do that from Australia or London.  Check my blog latter part of July just in case.

Welcome to two new students, Lydia and Cecilia, but sadly goodbye to Maddy Werner who is off to UNC – best of luck in your new career Maddy!

Spring Soiree 2018 is getting close!

The Spring Soiree is getting close – Sunday June 3 at Croasdaile Village auditorium from 3-5 pm
Below is the tentative program.  Some blanks need to be filled in this week and please check your name is there.  I will use full names and full names of performance items in the real program of course:
Program Spring Soiree 2018


  • You are my Sunshine (all)
  • This little light (all)
  • This land is your land (all)
  • Safari (Hazel, Camille, and Ella)
  • On a Mountain High Top (Leo and Ava, Ian, Lucas)
  • Wild Mountain Thyme (Lucas)
  • ?  (Leo and/or Ava?)
  • March (Sadie and Lorna)
  • Elenke (Sadie and Lorna)


I’m on Fire (Kaitlyn)


  • Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (Mary-Russell and Lorna)
  • Russian Waltz or Water is Wide (Mary-Russell and Lorna)
  • Camptown Races (Madeline and Mai)
  • Eine Leine Nachtmusik (Madeline and Mai)
  • Sun Flowers in Spring (Lillie and Cynthia)


  • Madeline – Classic Dance
  • Mai – Dancing Sea Horses
  • Oscar – 
  • Louisa – 
  • Lillie – Canoe song
  • Stella – Ode to Joy
  • Iris – haiku and Mixed up song
  • Khaleel – Firefly
  • Logan – Ode to joy
  • Andrew – Sea Chanty
  • Liam – Marche Slav 
  • Mia – Energico
  • Jesse – Gypsy and Swing low
  • Quinn – Fantasia and Monk


  • Lucas and Mia – A Million Dreams
  • Oscar? Quinn?
  • Michelle – Never enough
  • Richard – Non piu Andrai
I will need to have a ukulele rehearsal and hope everyone can come Saturday June 2 at my place (I know it is small, but parents maybe you could do some retail therapy or go for a walk?) from say 3:30 – 3:45 pm. (that would be all 8 ukulele students)
I also need to have a rehearsal with Lucas and Mia for A Million Dreams and that would be same day after the ukuleles 3-3:30.
The Soiree is a relaxed concert.  Starting again if you make a bad start in fine. Feeling nervous is normal but you have to remind yourself that everyone there is not there to criticize but to support.  Once you sit down to play, think about your music.  Do not let thoughts like “I’ll be glad when this is over”, “what will I have for dinner?”, “what will everyone think?” take over from thinking about the music you are playing right then.  I have to do the same thing myself so I know it is hard but also possible.  You have to get what we sometimes call “The Monkey Brain” to be quiet (you know how monkeys can chatter on).
I really like affirmations like “I am a really good piano player and I know my piece well”  especially of you write them down and put them some where you can’t help reading them all the time.
Let me know any questions, changes, anything else this week.