Giveaway of Little Gems for Piano Primer Level

Last week I posted about Little Gems for Piano: Recital and Rote Pieces for the Primary Stage. Author Paula Dreyer has kindly offered to giveaway one copy of this fabulous book to a special Music Matters Blog reader!

All you have to do is leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing to win. One winner will be selected using a random number generator on Friday, September 21, at noon CST. I know this will be a fun addition to any studio!

September Surprise – Always a Favorite!

This past week marked our annual September Surprise! – the kickoff to our studio year, named so because the students all surprise me by playing any piece of their choice. It’s always fun to hear what they’ve continued playing through the summer or what new pieces they’ve learned on their own. Here are a few highlights from the evening:

We all gathered in our library outside the studio to kickoff the night!

First up, and then throughout the evening, was a Name That Character from the Carnival of the Animals game/listening activity.

Even the younger siblings enjoyed participating in this game!

Next up were the student surprise performances…

…including the appearance of the caped Phantom for a duet rendition of the theme from The Phantom of the Opera!

The moment that all the students have been anticipating since last spring…the announcement of the new practice incentive theme!

And last (but certainly not least!) a time of refreshments and visiting.

I’m so grateful for a wonderful group of students and looking forward to a productive year ahead!

How Playing a Musical Instrument Benefits Your Brain

I enjoyed this engaging TEDEd animated video about How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain. Info that we music teachers have heard before, but it’s always a great reminder – and always worth sharing with our studio families and prospective students!

A Flower Suite by Alec Rowley

Tucked away in my files I recently discovered an article I had saved from Repertoire section of the January/February 2017 issue of the Clavier Companion magazine. Titled, “A Cheerful and Dependable Flower,” Adrienne Wiley shares about British composer, Alec Rowley’s 1915 piano album, A Little Flower Suite, Op. 10. I’m glad I saved the article because I just searched for and found the entire piano suite for free at and played through it. I agree with the author that the piece, Crocus, is absolutely delightful and is a perfect character piece for an intermediate student (not to mention that I enjoy playing it myself!). It’s always fun to learn about new-to-me composers or pieces of music that offer a change of pace from the old familiar ones.

Here’s a video recording I was able to find of A Flower Suite:

Little Gems for Piano – Recital and Rote Pieces for the Primary Stage

Rote teaching of piano pieces has been part of my methodology for quite a few years now (here’s a blog post where I respond to one reader’s question about the point of teaching by rote), so I’m always excited to find new repertoire or even books devoted to including this approach in a rounded music education for our students. This is one of the reasons I am such a huge fan of the Piano Safari piano method! Well, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it’s been about a year now since Paula Dreyer kindly sent me a copy of her book Little Gems for Piano: Recital and Rote Pieces for the Primary Stage, but better late than never, right?

In preparation for lessons resuming this fall, I’ve spent hours at the piano pouring through myriad books and pieces of sheet music and adding them to the files of various students according to what I think would be beneficial and appealing for them to work on repertoire-wise. Paula has some fabulous rote selections in this book that I think any beginning student would love to play! My favorites are Reflections and her two Spanish Dances. Some pieces include teacher duets, and all of the pieces include a box of musical elements for the student to notice and another with creative suggestions for playing the piece. Purchase of the book includes access to videos with demonstrations of all the pieces. I am greatly anticipating introducing several of these to one of my new beginning students this fall!

Three Top Sites for Online Music Theory Practice

With the overwhelming amount of information available on the internet, it’s easy for great sites to slip through the cracks or as new resources become available. Since I’ve been going back through a bunch of music resource links and updating them (for the Mastering the Mystery of Music practice incentive theme), I recently came back across a few sites that I haven’t visited for years. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that not only do they still exist, but a couple of them have been redesigned, and each of them is incredibly easy to navigate and use! It’s always so nice to have additional resources at your fingertips that you can use with students who need reinforcement with a specific music theory concept.

I’ve never implemented an official technology lab in my studio, but if I did have one, these three sites would be at the top of my list for ease of use and a no-nonsense approach to drilling various theory concepts, especially for older students!

ToneSavvy (formerly


Free Downloadable Resources for Piano Teachers and Students

I’ve been updating the extensive list of Mastery Challenge Resources that are included in the Mastering the Mystery of Music (thanks to Tammy for bringing some of the broken links to my attention!) and rediscovered the Resources section of the Piano Technicians Guild website.

There is both a Piano Teacher Resource section and a Piano Student Resource section that have a wide variety of free worksheets, games, videos, and educational materials about the piano. I am excited to utilize some of these fabulous resources and freebies for my group classes this year!

The Musicality Podcast Reaches 100th Episode!

Do you remember when Musical U announced the launch of their Musicality Podcast less than a year ago? It was fun to be part of their inaugural episode, and I was surprised when they recently contacted me to let me know they were getting ready to air their 100th episode, Unlocking Your Musicality! I guess time flies when you’re having fun, huh? 🙂

Unlocking Your Musicality is a two-part episode that features dozens of guest musicians sharing answers to the question, “What’s one thing you’ve learned that could help musicians to tap into their inner musicality?” (I’m honored to be included in the lineup!) They’ve also put together a Musicality Podcast Power Pack that includes a flash drive with all 100 episodes easily accessible as mp3’s, full transcripts of each episode, free guides, and a collection of other freebies from the show’s guests. I can’t even pretend to have listened to every episode, but when I look through the variety of guests and topics that are covered, I am blown away! This truly is a “power packed” with loads of inspiration and practical advice for all musicians. What an incredible resource!

Sylvia Showcases Beat the Pirates!

Our local music teachers association recently held our annual planning meeting and brunch. (As an aside, becoming a member of Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and our state and local affiliates is one of the best decisions I ever made as a music teacher. There is nothing quite like real life relationships to provide camaraderie and support in this otherwise isolated realm of independent music teaching!) Anyway, at the conclusion of our brunch, my colleague and former teacher, Sylvia Coats, led me to her studio where she proudly displayed her preparation of the Beat the Pirates! practice incentive theme for this next year of teaching in her studio!

I was so excited that I had to snap a picture to share here on Music Matters Blog! It’s so cool to see other teachers using these themes in their studios and hear about the excitement of their students. I also loved that for the “Treasure Tokens” Sylvia creatively decided to use colored Popsicle sticks. So clever! She sent me a kind email after the meeting that just made my day, “I want to especially thank you for providing the incentive programs for me. Your creativity in developing these materials is astounding! They are way underpriced!”

I’m busy this week finalizing preparations for the new practice incentive theme in our studio. Want a sneak peek?

We’ll be beta testing “The Secret of the Keys” in our studio this year and should have it ready to roll out at the beginning of next summer!

There are some other huge (and exciting!) changes coming to Music Matters Blog this fall, so stay tuned. Hope your teaching is off to a great start!

Attend a Free Webinar on Piano Practice

Have you ever launched into a new school year full of enthusiasm and carefully planned goals for your students only to have your expectations dashed to pieces by a sheepish admission that they didn’t practice at all? You wonder if their lack of effort is a harbinger of the year to follow. Will it be weeks and weeks of cajoling and bribing and pulling your hair out trying to persuade them to dust off their home piano and work hard at their assignments? We hope not! Chris Owenby, of the Practice Habits Membership Community (if you use my link, you can join for a 10% discount!), and I are hosting a free LIVE webinar next Thursday, August 9, at 11:00 EST (10:00 CST) to address this issue.

Chris has put together a webinar registration page that you can visit for more information and to sign up to attend. I’m excited to share some of the things I’ve learned over the past 20 years of teaching piano (including a shocking discovery I made 5 years ago!) that have helped immensely in evaluating and establishing practice expectations in my studio and communicating those effectively with students and parents. I’ll also be sharing links to helpful resources and giving away a special freebie to everyone who attends!