Piano Olympics

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We started Piano Olympics in the studio this past week, and the students seem to be really excited about it! Although when I introduced it to them, a few students blankly stared at me and said “What’s the Olympics?” Whaaaatttt? I have loved the Olympics ever since I can remember. So it seemed natural to capitalize on the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics and have a little Olympic fun.

This fall I purchased an iPad for use in the piano studio. Since then the students have been playing musical games on it during lessons – learning note names, sight reading, ear training, identifying music intervals, etc. It has been a big bonus in lessons. So I wanted to extend the use of those apps into our Piano Olympics.

I decided to have nine events. Four of these are apps on the iPad, which we will complete in the lesson. These include:

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1.Blob Chorus – students must play the game twice, correctly identifying at least 9 out of 10 pitches

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2. Flashnote Derby – students must complete two rounds, and correctly identifyat least 18 out of 20 notes on the staff

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3. Music Intervals – students must identify twenty intervals correctly

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4. Sight Reader – students must pass ten sight reading challenges

The remaining five events are as follows:

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5. Cool Composer – students compose a song based on one of the winter Olympic events. (Does not need to be written down).

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6. Finger Power – students play their specific list of pentascales, scales, chords, and/or arpeggios in the lesson

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7. Practice – students must complete ten practice sessions of fifteen minutes each

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8. Rhythm Pro – students must correctly tap five rhythm passages (I might use a rhythm app for this as well, or just have students tap passages from their pieces).

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9. Soundtrack – students learn to play the Olympic Fanfare (I have an easy version I wrote on Finale, and a slightly harder version I purchased on Online Sheet Music, arranged by Dan Coates).

I printed up little cards for each event and attached them to each other using a medal ring. DSC_0278

All the events need to be completed by March 15. If the student completes 7-9 events, they will win a gold medal. Completing 4-6 events will earn the student a silver medal, completed 2-3 events will earn the student a bronze medal.

I fully expect all my students to earn gold medals, since I plan on completing most of the events together in the lesson. By the way – I am only having my students in sixth grade and below participate, although some of the older kids will be learning the Olympic Fanfare for fun.

I am looking forward to giving out the gold medals come March!

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Favorite Christmas Repertoire 2013

Christmas music is always so much fun to teach. Kids are excited to play melodies they recognize and parents love hearing their child play tunes they know and love.

Usually with my beginner students I stick to the Christmas book that supplements the method the student is using. This works beautifully as the music supports the concepts and skills they already understand.

With the older and slightly more advanced students, I found this year that they really enjoyed choosing a Christmas arrangement not from the method book. Here are a few student favorites from this past Christmas:

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Vandall’s Celebrated Christmas Solos Book 2. I loved teaching pieces from this book. The use of patterns just makes sense to the late elementary student. Some favorites from this book were Silent Night; What Child Is This; Ding, Dong, Merrily on High; Carol of the Bells; and Frosty the Snowman.

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Vandall’s Celebrated Christmas Solos Book 3. The third book in the series is also a gem. My students particularly enjoyed God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; The First Noel; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; and Jingle Bell Rock.

There are five levels in this Christmas collection from Vandall. They are all very good.

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Melody Bober’s writing is always creatively accessible to piano students. In book one I especially loved Deck the Halls; Carol of the Bells and We Three Kings. These arrangements are a little longer than the Vandall arrangements, which makes a nice option for recitals and other festive events. Her “Popular Christmas Memories” series is also destined to become a student favorite.

A few duets which are perennial Christmas favorites are Vandall’s “Duet Fantasy on Jingle Bells” (also check out his “Duet Fantasy on Carol of the Bells”) and Leroy Anderson’s iconic piano duet arrangement of “Sleigh Ride”. Both will bring the house down at any recital and will inspire any musician.

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My Christmas music is being filed away today, but I’ll be excited next year when the time comes around to pull out these old friends again!

Christmas Piano Party

IMG_20131213_110412_511Merry Christmas!

We had a super fun Christmas piano party for the students in my home studio. My goal was to bring together our little community of piano students and their families to celebrate Christmas, Christmas music and our piano community.

Thankfully, I think this piano party accomplished all of these goals. DSC_0221The party took place in my home, which included the studio space as well. The students were background music for the party. Everyone was encouraged to talk, eat, and have fun while the students played. In a way, it was the opposite of a recital! It was great for the brand-new students who were performing for the first time.DSC_0222 We played Bingo with the Christmas songs the students played. The prize was a pencil that said “Music Makes Me Smile”. You would have thought they were playing for a million dollars! Those kids really took that Bingo game seriously! DSC_0232DSC_0223 The families brought in the desserts and snacks. I made hot chocolate and the marshmallow/candy cane hot chocolate dippers that were pictured at the top of the post.DSC_0224 My husband, who is very resourceful, ran a cord from the iPad, which was directed at the piano, to the television in the other room. This was very handy as people could watch the student playing but not have to be in the same room. (Please ignore my misshapen wreath. Haha!)DSC_0226 The table with the striped tablecloth had a little Christmas craft for the students to make. They made the Christmas ornament which is described in this post.DSC_0227 DSC_0228 It was a great night for making deeper connections with these great families. DSC_0229 DSC_0230Unfortunately, I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked. I guess that just means I was having too much fun to stop to take pictures!