We have a great deal to be thankful for not the least electricity and warm homes, although I do acknowledge that for many people I know this has been a very trying and in some cases horrible year. I send all my thoughts to those who have suffered and hope that thanksgiving is a sweet time and that the next year brings relief.
There will not be any lessons on Thursday or Friday this week (will be doing massive cooking each day!). Lessons are regular today (Tuesday) and then tomorrow I think everyone knows their times.
Monday 11/27 regular lessons resume.
You can always look at the schedule – click on Fall Schedule.
There are various events coming up for Flourishing Muse studio:
December 1, friday night is the adult Salon where those over 21 (we drink adult beverages!) play for their peers the pieces they have been working on. I will be sending out a program very soon. I do encourage adults to come to this Salon because everyone needs a goal when you are learning an instrument. You do not have to have your piece perfect – this is a work in progress evening. Any other adults like spouses and parents are very welcome – we all squash into my space!
December 9 – Saturday evening, the Durham Music Teachers Association are holding a playathon at Brightleaf Square and some of my students are playing at this all day event. The Flourishing Muse time is 4:30 pm. Please come and support our students and also the DMTA who are raising money so that less fortunate children can take music lessons. Next Playathon would love to see even more of my students playing at the playathons! People are not sitting watching, just passing by – not scary!
December 10 – Sunday afternoon – the Annual Flourishing Muse Soiree from 3-5 at Croasdaile Auditorium. I will be sending out a tentative program next week. Please make sure this is on your calendar! All students are welcome to play. The concert will start with ukuleles and guitars and then piano students.
One of my adult students sent me this article about memory. Research shows that musicians develop strong er memories in certain categories. It appears that there are many good reasons to learn a musical skill at any time in your life but especially when you are young! BUT – never too late.
Cannot believe it is so close to the various late year holidays already!
Lots to say so will use bullet points:
- Halloween – on Tuesday 10/31 I am expecting to see students up to 5:30 but the students who come after that have either cancelled or I have rescheduled and I will send separate reminders. I have a change of plan for myself – too scared to be alone at Halloween (you are all too scary in nyour comstumes) so I am taking myself to Madeline’s house, corner of Sprunt and Oakland and I will have candy there for any trick or treaters.
- The Holiday Soiree is getting closer and students should be considering what they might play to entertain family and friends and the wonderful residents at Croasdaile. December 10, 3-5 pm. I will be putting a prospective list up next week.
- November fees due next week – complicated by thanksgiving!
Monday students 4 lessons
Tuesday students 4 lessons
Wednesday students 5 lessons if you are coming 11/22/17? If not, 4 lessons
Thursday students – would normally be 5 lessons but no lesson 11/23/17 so 4 lessons
Friday students – would normally be 4 lessons but no lesson 11/24/17 so 3 lessons.
- I am planning to have an adult student Salon at my house December 1, Friday evening.
- Last Sunday both mine and my student Gabrael St Clair’s compositions were performed at the masses at St Thomas Moore, Yale University Catholic Chapel. We are both excited and hope we can hear a recording.
- Durham Music Teachers Association are having a playathon to raise money for the scholarship fund they use to provide tuition for students whose parents cannot afford the fees for music lessons. The details are below. You do not need to be an advanced student to play. Some of my students have played in the past to high acclaim and generous donations. It would be fun! Please give it some consideration. It is the day before the Soiree so you should all be ready with your piece!
DMTA Playathon December 9 at Bright Leaf Square time – Flourishing Muse students will be performing at 4:30 pm
October means Halloween (and Harvest Festival!)
Hello Students and Parents
Cannot believe it is already October with Halloween coming soon, falling leaves in the forest, Farmers Market full of wonderful fruits of the harvest, and enough chill in the air to send me looking for a warm jacket!
As we start this week, can I remind you about a couple of things?
- Fees for October are due this week; Monday and Tuesday people have 5 weeks and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday people have 4 weeks (your turn coming next month). There is a note below for Tuesday people.
- Halloween is on a Tuesday. I know the younger ones get very excited about trick or treating but I understand the older ones not so much? Please let me know if you are NOT coming Tuesday 10/31. I usually have candy for trick or treaters from 6-7:30 pm. Some older students might need to moves times and I can work on that, just let me know. Wednesdays are not busy days so far.
- Everyone should be contemplating the Holiday Soirée 12/10 from 3-5 pm. You play best when your piece has had at least 2 months practice. Performers usually say they have to get their works up to 120% to give 100% on the day. This week I will be working on possible Soiree selections.
- On 10/12 from 7-8 pm I will be playing soothing piano music during the Immaculata Fund Raiser Silent Auction at Bay 7 on the American Tobacco Campus. It is already sold out which is so great for the team at ICS.
I have written before about the Royal Conservatory Examinations. The reasons I am so keen on these assessments are 1) I really like the curriculum which includes ear tests, technical work, and musicianship as well as exciting repertoire, and 2) these assessments are internationally recognized. (In addition they are the exams held in my own country for which I sat through from grade 1 to Associate – will find my certificate!). The Royal Conservatory is based in Toronto but they serve students all through North America. There have been some annoying name changes (Carnegie Hall was going to host the program at one stage) but it was always based at the Royal Conservatory which is home, among other things, to the Glenn Gould School of Music. I have a list of students I think would do well with these exams which range from Preparatory A and B, and grade 1-10. It has to be students who are currently showing that they like to practice. Please ask me if you are interested.
My adult students had a very pleasant evening last friday where they played and sang for their colleagues. Love to have everyone come around and share their music. Some were nervous and I will be deeply working on nervousness myself before 10/12 and the ICS fund raiser! there are several important points to consider and as I said, I am talking to myself as well here!
- First and foremost you have to know your piece(s) well (more about practice below).
- Second, it is about what you are saying in your head. eg “I am going to mess up” (bad). It has to be “I am well-prepared to share my music and I am going to play well” (good). If you really want this to work, try hand writing your affirmation 20 times every day for at least a week before you are going to play. Am I going to do this? You bet!
- Thirdly, I have just started to think about this: give your self more time once you sit at the piano to settle in – play a few notes, adjust the seat, breathe, go over your affirmation, check what key you are playing in (my bêtes noire), and get truly focussed. None of this “what are people thinking, and are they looking at me, and is my hair right”). I tend to launch straight in to playing but I am working on not doing this.
Practice: It is a perennial subject in a studio. How often, how long, in what order? There is no one answer but there are a few ideas I would like to offer:
- Regular works best, at least 5 out of 7 days a week.
- Regular times of day work best – some people can work it into their mornings, some afternoons, some evenings. For kids, a practice plan with places to check when you practiced works well. It probably works well for adults too!
- When you practice do the hard work at the beginning and award your self enjoyable playing at the end
- I cannot practice without warming up. If I try to go straight to the pieces I am always disappointed in how I play. Warm ups I like are either Dozen a Day or Hanon. 2 – 5 minutes will make a huge difference.
- Make a list each week of the pieces you are going to work on. I usually do this in your emails – maybe you can print them out or have them on your phone beside you (working on my set list this morning!)
This Saturday evening I will be going to see Simone Dinnerstein play the Goldberg Variations (One of my favorite works). However, it will be very different – she will have 6 dancers performing around her as she plays, interpreting the music! If you are interested this will be amazing – hope she can keep concentrating but maybe part of the performance will be more interplay between Simone and the dancers! Very exciting!
Happy October to all.
Welcome back to the full Fall semester which starts today and last to mid December. It is very short compared to the Spring semester, only 16 potential weeks compared to 22 in Spring. So we have lots to work on, preparing for the December Soiree which will be 12/10/17 at Croasdaile Auditorium.
Jut a reminder – September fees are due now. I want to say again how grateful I am to be able to work in my own home and have wonderful students come here and allow me share my skills and knowledge, accumulated, as you know, over many years. The students often ask me (the young ones) how long I have played the piano – the answer is 65 years! I started piano when I was 7 (see if they can do the math!). Thank you all my students now and past who enable me to earn my living doing something I love.
I am in the process of revising my blog and adding two more pages (when my tech support – Carol – has time). One will be for creative work, my poetry and writing and also my compositions. Something happened last week and I suddenly felt an imperative to revise my compositions and see if they can be aired somewhere (more to come about this enterprise). The other will be for videos and photos mainly of my students (with your permission of course). I have wonderful videos, most recently of the amazing Lucas aged 9 who is auditioning to sing the national anthem at the Ice Hockey game. He has a wonderful voice – he has to be chosen!
I have been thinking about motivation and really it is about setting goals for yourself. Last week someone set a goal for me and it has really helped me to get going on something I have put aside for years. They did not really intend to galvanize me quite like this but it has happened! We all need reasons to strive to do something that is not easy – learn a musical instrument, sing, compose music, write. In my studio I try to provide suitable goals for everyone according to their disposition and interest.
The Royal Academy of Music, based in Toronto but operating in the USA as the Music Development Program, says:
“The strongest potential for realizing musical potential is provided by following a path of structured learning… On each step of the musical journey, students should be given benchmarks to measure themselves against”.
These benchmarks have to vary according to the student’s age, ability, and personality. These are some of the benchmarks I provide:
- Regular lessons – coming to music each week is a motivator in itself. I am not very demanding of students because I want everyone to enjoy their lessons but I do give a lot of encouragement, letting students know I am looking forward to them playing certain pieces for me the following week.
- The twice yearly Soirees where everyone is invited to entertain family and friends and Croasdaile residents with their music. Over the past 10 years students have made remarkable advances from one soiree to the next. It is so exciting to see this happen.
- There are seasonal benchmarks too – Halloween, thanksgiving, the holiday in Winter, Easter and more. I try to include pieces relevant to the season and encourage especially children to play these for parents and friends.
- Adult students have a Salon every few months and they take that very seriously and prepare well ahead of time.
- For those students who are naturally ambitious, there are the Royal Conservatory examinations. These are conducted in America in May at Cary Music School. Numbers of my students have successfully sat for these exams in the past. The curriculum is very thorough and the assessments are recognized internationally and at high schools and colleges in America. I am very familiar with this type of benchmark because we have the same system in Australia. The curriculum is very varied and students have opportunities to present own choice pieces approved by the teacher, as well as the set pieces. Composers of all types of music from Baroque to Jazz are represented. It takes a year to prepare fully so I am now starting students on this curriculum who have expressed an interest (or parents have done so).
So everyone think about your benchmarks!
I am so very sad to have to tell you that one of my students, William Painter, died in an accident yesterday. He would have been 10 years old on August 22. He was the eldest son of my neighbors, Carrie and Rusty Painter, and the brother of Ben. He was such a funny, smart, kind boy and always thanked me at the end of every piano lesson. He was such a responsible person and often brought things over the road very carefully. His parents are such wonderful people. At the Spring Soiree he played “Firefly”, the first piece in the book; he had advanced way beyond that but he sensibly wanted to play that piece because he said he “knew it so well”. “Firefly” will always be William’s piece.
On other less sad matters:
My back door – you will all be happy to know (or not) that we have a new screen door at the back. it was at least 3 times as expensive as the previous useless one and it springs back into place rather smartly so be cautious first time you come in. If you are bringing a guitar or ukulele, please be careful and ask me or someone to hold the door for you.
The Holiday Soirée will be on December 10 at Croasdaile Auditorium from 3-5 pm. I am so thankful that their renovations are not starting until January 2018 and I can still use the fantastic Ponder Hall! Everyone can start thinking about what holiday songs they might like to perform at the Soirée. All types of numbers are welcome – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and any I have missed and including just fun holiday numbers.
The schedule is almost set now – click on Fall Schedule and please double check your times. It is always hard at the beginning of a semester when lots of changes are happening. I have had to move several people a number of times so thank you for being understanding everyone!
Fall is a short semester so let’a get working right away!