Master Class at Colorado University

One of my high school students recently had the opportunity to play for a master class at Colorado University in Boulder. The master class was being taught by several master’s and doctoral students in the program.

My student played the first four pages of Dohnanyi’s Rhapsody in CM, Opus 11, Number 3, which she has only been playing for a few weeks. She played musically and technically well and was quite poised during both the performance and instruction.

The instructor gave her several good tips, including how to jump accurately between the opening octaves and building in a crescendo on the first line.

I love that we live in a collaborating musical community. It is terrific that CU opens its doors to local students to have the opportunity to be coached by a talented teacher, and as a local teacher I feel strongly about supporting our local music college. It was also a great opportunity for my student to catch a small glimpse into the life of a music major and see firsthand what some of the requirements are. She is considering majoring in music, so I was thrilled for her to be on campus mingling with some music students and faculty.


How to Host a Christmas Piano Party

20171208_194308Last night I hosted my fifth annual Christmas piano party. At the end of the evening one parent remarked “Of all the Christmas parties we attend each year, this one is Noah’s favorite.” Another parent standing nearby heard the remark and nodded her assent. I was very touched! What a sweet comment.

Five years ago I was looking for a way to host a holiday recital without it feeling like a recital. I wanted a casual performance environment for all the students, but especially for those students who had just begun lessons in August or September. I also wanted an evening to socialize with piano families and encourage them to socialize with each other.

The first piano party was held in our own home and it was packed. I only had about ten students performing that year, but our home was filled to the gills with families. It was fun! But the next year we used the lobby of a local church for our event. The past three years the party has been held in our neighborhood clubhouse, which is awesome because it has a cozy fireplace, lots of seating and a kitchen area. We bring our own keyboard to the event. 20171208_174752

I send out a sign up genius a couple weeks prior to the event asking families to bring one of the following: something sweet, something savory or something healthy.

When everyone arrives, I give a little speech explaining that musicians need to be multi-talented. Sometimes we play solo concerts, sometimes we accompany for others, and sometimes we provide background music for receptions or special events. Of course the students like me to emphasize that the evening is about background music, which to them means “Don’t stare at me while I’m playing!” and “Please talk loudly while I’m playing!” 🙂

Instead of providing a program, we play a fun game of “Name That Tune” Bingo. I make bingo cards for free, and those playing the game cross off the song title once it is played. The students announce the name of their piece after they play it so that people can have the fun of trying to name the tune, but can still play along if they don’t know the song title.20171209_111748

Players earn a small prize for their first Bingo of five-in-a-row in any direction, then they keep playing for a second prize when their Bingo sheet is completely blacked out. Of course I rig the order of performers so that the Bingo cards are not completed until the last performer plays. Here are the prizes I handed out this year:

Not expensive at all, but just a little prize feels like a huge win to the kids (and the parents and grandparents too!)

By the way, since there are no programs, I use a Powerpoint from my computer connected to the TV monitor to display the order of student performers. The students can see the screen from anywhere in the room and go to the keyboard when it is their turn to play. It all runs very smoothly.

I also have a little craft ready for all the kids attending the party. This year I ordered unfinished wooden eighth notes (2 inches), and attached a ribbon to make an ornament. Kids colored their music notes with Sharpies. (I never used glitter for crafts!!!)20171209_185736

This is fun because it provides something hands-on for the kids to do.

So the party includes food, a craft, a game of Bingo and making connections. I hang around the keyboard while some of the younger/beginner students are playing so that I can help them if they need it. Otherwise I walk around the room, talking with parents and students. It’s an excellent way to interact with families in a more personal setting. I don’t often get to talk to parents and students about normal everyday life, so I cherish the opportunity to do it at the piano party.

I think my piano families and students love this format for a few reasons. The casual performance environment is so much less-stress for students than the usual quiet recital. The parents love to be able to walk around during the evening, talk to each other and eat. The kids are kept occupied by the craft and food. The Bingo game has been a surprise hit for years. Every year students try to choose Christmas pieces they think no one will be able to guess.

The Christmas Piano Party format has been such a fun and rewarding experience for our studio! Feel free to comment on your fun recital/party ideas!20171208_1859432566225658

Multiple Piano Festival 2017

The Multiple Piano Festival is an annual local concert sponsored by the Boulder Area Music Teachers Association. This year was the 32nd year the concert has been given. I completely love this concert for a number of reasons:

  1. About twenty local teachers work together on this event
  2. Piano students are given the opportunity to play in ensemble with a large group, which is very rare for pianists
  3. Students make music together, not playing solo in competition with each other, but working together
  4. The duet music is so well-chosen – music from all time periods; varied genres; some well-known, some new; some trios or even quartet music at one piano
  5. The concert is a real show – students announce the pieces in a fun and engaging way, sometimes props are used, sometimes the conductors will direct with different types of batons (wands for Harry Potter pieces, light saber for Star Wars pieces)
  6. Students learn to play with a conductor and listen to the group
  7. Students must audition – a good skill for musicians to develop

Here are some happy and excited young musicians ready for the concert to begin:

The stage was so beautiful – the back lights changed colors with each piece:

Each group ended their piece with a bow:


Participating students may submit original artwork for the cover and back cover. My student won runner-up and was featured on the back cover!

The program:


I had fourteen students participate this year:


Me and my daughters!


What a fun and exciting concert to kick off the holiday season! You can read my posts about previous years in the Multiple Piano Festival here:




Achievement Day, 2017

May is busy, busy! Our local chapter of Music Teachers National Association, the Boulder Area Music Teachers Association held their annual Achievement Day festival this past weekend. This year there were sixteen teachers and 108 students participating in the event.

I am a big fan of having some sort of outside evaluation for students at the end of the school year. While there are many festivals and competitions in which to participate, I tend to choose evaluations which are nurturing and instructional in nature. Of my 35 students, I entered eight in the Achievement Day evaluations this year.

Each student played two pieces, one of which was memorized. They all also entered to play scales and arpeggios, and took a Terms and Signs test at their individual level. Six of the students entered art projects:


Aren’t they lovely?

One student played a second instrument, the banjo – which was adorable, by the way. And another student improvised for a minute in the style of a nocturne.

I spent the day in the testing room.


All eight students passed with flying colors and earned the Super Achiever status. They earned medals and certificates for their achievements. It was a fun day to visit with other teachers and “talk shop”.


Spring Piano Recital 2017


Our annual spring recital was a success! This year I divided the students into two recitals, with sixteen students performing in each recital. The recital had that fun, nervous and exciting feel at the beginning, then transitioned to jubilant relief at the end! We celebrated with ice cream for everyone in the lobby. 🙂


I must say, the students played really well! Sometimes you don’t know how the nerves will hit. There was only one student who was visibly sick to her stomach because of nerves, but she mustered the courage to go on stage, and she played perfectly! What a little sweetheart.

We heard works from Bach, Rachmaninoff, Haydn, Imagine Dragons, Grieg, Henry Mancini, Martha Mier, Robert Vandall, Jennifer Eklund, Scott Joplin, Christos Tsitsaros, and Emily Elizabeth Black, to name a few. 🙂


This year we started something new called the Recital Compliment Exchange. I found this idea on the ComposeCreate website (where I also purchased the beautiful recital template!)

The audience was given the compliment page with spaces to compliment nine students. Parent and grandparents did an excellent job of encouraging the students! Each student received from 4-8 compliments each, which I distributed at the next week’s lesson. The students were very happy to read their compliments. I think it really meant a lot to them.20170507_165718

This is the stack of compliments ready to be distributed to students.


A sweet family wrote a compliment to me as well!

Another recital in the books.

And one step closer to summer!!!

Christmas Piano Party 2015

Our annual Christmas Piano Party was a great success this year! I was able to host the event in our neighborhood’s beautiful new clubhouse. The idea behind the piano party is to give the students a chance to play their pieces in a casual environment. Each family brings food to share, I set up a craft table, and the students play while people mingle, eat and make a little craft.

I love this event because it is a very low-stress way to introduce new students to playing in front of people. The audience is listening in a subtle way because they are also doing something else, so all the attention is not directed on the performer. It also is a wonderful opportunity to promote community within the piano studio. Families get to know each other, students get to support each other, and I have the opportunity to interact in a casual, fun way with both students and parents.

The students played beautifully!

Multiple Piano Festival 2015

It was another great evening at the annual Multiple Piano Festival! The event celebrated its 30th year with a concert of unique and beautiful duet, trio and quartet music. This year I had eleven students playing such pieces as Spring, Ship Ahoy, Scottish Dance, Spring Jazz, Jingle Bells and Dance With Me. 

As always, the auditions, rehearsals and concert were well organized and enjoyable. I’m so grateful to be able to offer this event to my students!