The Soiree Winter 2014

The date for this year’s Soiree is 12/14/14, 3 pm at Croasdaile Auditorium.  For new people, I hold two friendly recitals each year and I call them Soirees because they are held in the afternoon.  Every student is invited to perform for their family and friends and for the Croasdaile retirement community, who really enjoy seeing everyone from 5 year to 76 share their musical talents.  You do not have to perform if you don’t want to, for whatever reason. However, I do want to encourage everyone to take up the challenge because part of the reason you learn music is to share it with others.  In addition, it is a great goal to aim for—you never quite get a piece to performance standard unless there is some imperative looming!  I love the Croasdaile Auditorium and this date is best for Croasdaile as their main marketing event will be over and the hall will be fully decorated for Christmas.  It will also mark the end of my Fall semester fro most students.

Everyone should be thinking about what they would like to perform at the Soiree.  As usual, the concert will be in two halves, guitars and ukuleles from 3 to 3:30 and pianists and vocalists 3:45 to 5 pm.  Right now I have fewer guitar and ukulele students, but quite a few piano students including (I hope) some former students who are going to return to play for us.  That would be Chelsea and Elijah!  I will be talking to students next week about possible selections.

Practicing your music

The problem with practicing is that we want to do it, we resolve to do it, but then the busy days get away from us.  I know this from my own experience.  I need to practice the pieces I need to play with performers at the Soiree.  The best way is to make sure you sit down to play and/or sing every day even if only for 5 minutes.  Of course it is important that more advanced students find more time than this, and a half hour would be so good each day.  But the half hour has to be organized so you make the best of the precious minutes.  Here are some ideas:


5 minutes on warm up and technical work that you already know.

10 minutes on your newest piece working slowly through the notes and the fingering (study the score like a Rabbi studies the Torah, which means in detail and carefully). This you do while you are fresh and able to concentrate.

10 minutes on pieces you know partially, and the best way to do this according to Lang Lang (famous Chinese concert pianist) is to do each hand separately up to speed and then two hands together at half speed. In addition work on some newer technical exercises.

5 minutes playing pieces you know well. The reasoning here is that if you can afford to play longer than 30 minutes, great, but you have already done the critical work, so you can play your known pieces and work on your compositions.


5 minutes warm up.  I cannot stress enough how critical this is (from my own experience as well).  Start with lip trills and sirens and scales and arpeggios and any exercises for sight singing and pitch security.

10 minutes on your newest song and again study the score preferably at the piano, checking pitch. This also helps your music reading. Work on the words especially if in another language.

10 minutes on singing through your recent songs with any accompaniment you might have recorded.

5 minutes singing through your known repertoire and listening to exemplar recordings.

Guitarists and ukulele players:

Most of my ukulele players are very young so just 5 minutes a day would be terrific working on the songs and pieces in the green book.  Of course you can play longer!

Guitarists who accompany themselves singing need to warm up both voice and guitar playing.  Warm up voice first even just for a minutes or two—it will make a huge difference over time.  The warm up your guitar playing and make sure to stretch your hands and fingers.  If not clear about this ask me in the next lesson.  Barre chords especially need to be warmed up. Spend 5 minutes on warming up and you will be amazed at the difference it makes!

Always work on your newest piece first.  Most of us learn songs from the popular singer.  I sometimes buy the sheet music but I often sit the iPad on my music stand and have the lyrics and chords in front of me, and learn with the singer, stopping and starting and learning one section at a time.  If you do not have a solid music stand, that might be a great Christmas present.  You might have to borrow an iPad from the family, unless you are lucky enough to have your own.  You can also use your iPod but somehow the visuals help me.

A note on lyrics and chords: I get most of the ones I give to students from the ultimate guitar website BUT the problem is they are not always accurate or easy to read, which is why I spend so much time modifying them.  I do encourage the more experienced players to go and get their own but you can always ask me to clarify sections or check the chords.

Halloween and Thanksgiving:

I will be teaching friday 10/31 so hope to see my Friday students as usual before they get dressed and go trick or treating.  You can come in your costume if you like!

Thanksgiving, I will be here in Durham and teaching each day except Thursday when I will be cooking and giving thanks myself.  If you are going out of town just let me know, but if you are here and want a special lesson time also let me know.  Friday after thanksgiving would be a good day to make up lessons. I’d be happy to see Thursday students on the Friday or the Wednesday if you are off school or work.


As I have said before, I really appreciate my students.  Teaching private lessons in my home is a wonderful way to earn my living so thank you all for being part of my working life!  I also really appreciate that almost everyone arrives at lessons on time.  It is hard teaching back to back lessons but it is necessary to fit everyone in, and it works well if people are on time. Mostly everyone is terrific in this area. Of course things happen that are beyond our control, like traffic and weather. Just let me know and texting is great because it is easy to glance at the phone or iPad rather than answering a call while I am teaching.

Everyone is also terrific at paying fees at the beginning of the month and I do appreciate that so much.  Being self-employed is both wonderful and a challenge at times.  Thank you all so much, and also for being so respectful of my home.  I love that people can sit in my lounge and read and relax while waiting.  So thank you!