Collection of 12 Free Piano Pieces

Looking for a great collection of intermediate level piano pieces for some of your advancing students? Charles Wu has put together a very nice set of 12 pieces that will introduce students to a variety of composers and styles. The compilation includes:

Georg Frederic Handel – March in G HWV 419/3
Henry Purcell – Air in D Minor ZT 676
Domenico Scarlatti – Sonata in C Major K. 73B
Franz Joseph Haydn – German Dance Hob. IX/22 No. 3
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Minuet in F K.2
Daniel Gottlob Türk – ‘Horn With Echo’ from 49 Pieces for Beginners at the Piano
Robert Schumann – ‘Soldier’s March’ from Album for The Young Op. 68
Theodore Oesten – ‘Echo’ from Mayflowers Op. 61
Robert Fuchs – ‘Sad at Heart’ from Album for the Young Op. 47
Cornelius Gurlitt – ‘The Rope Dancer’ from Little Studies Op. 130
Stephen Heller – ‘Scabieuse’ from Album for the Young Op. 138
Friedrich Burgmüller – ‘L’Arabesque’ from 25 Progressive Studies Op. 100

The entire book can be downloaded as a pdf file for free! At the end of the book are a couple pages with teaching notes for each piece. And as an added bonus, students can visit his YouTube channel to listen to recordings of each piece. What a great resource!

HT: Repertoire Reviews (be sure to check out the weekly podcast of contemporary piano pieces for intermediate to early-advanced level students!)

My Favorite New Christmas Piano Book!

Several weeks ago, I posted about my afternoon of playing through Christmas music trying to find just the right piece for each student for the Christmas recital. As I confessed, I wasn’t that thrilled about spending a sunny Saturday afternoon in the basement at the piano, but when I started to play through these contemporary arrangements by James Koerts in his book, Wondrous Christmas, my whole mood changed! I recognized his name from when I discovered some free Christian piano arrangements on his website, so I decided to pick the book up when I was at the music store and give it a try. Now it’s my new favorite for this season!

You can download a 4-page pdf preview of the book from the Alfred website. I like the fresh, lively style of each arrangement. And instead of assigning it to one of my students, I decided to keep the whole book all to myself. 🙂 I love playing through some of the carols each day as part of my practice routine.

Check out for more information and to listen to some of James’ other music.

Monday Mailbag – Not Giving Credit for Missed Lessons

Do you credit students for missed lessons if they let you know in advance that they’ll be gone? Also, do you charge for holding a space open for a student such as the one you mentioned that was moving or say if they had a long term injury such as a broken wrist?

I had several people ask about whether or not I charged the family in the case where they missed two months of lessons due to a move, so I thought it might be helpful to address it as a separate post. Basically, I’ve tried to structure my policies in a way so that I never credit a student for a missed lesson. The family that moved did pay the full amount for the two months even though they didn’t end up getting any lessons. They never even questioned it or hinted at not having
to pay. On one side I feel SO bad charging them when they aren’t even attending their lessons, but I know that on the business side of things I have to stick to my policies on this. Plus, if I make an exception for one family, then it’s not fair to charge other families for lessons that they miss, whether it’s one here and there, or a month or two of lessons for
some reason.

My policy also allows for me to cancel one additional lesson per student each semester as necessary and I’ve never had to cancel more than this. As long as I am holding the reserved time slot for the student, it must be paid for. Sometimes that seems hard, but business-wise, this is the only way I can make a living and be fair across the board. For broken wrists/arms, etc. we just spend the time on one-handed pieces and focus on other areas that the student can handle – theory games, technique, improv, a super fun listening activity, etc.

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

A Story of Thanksgiving

Since I’m taking the week off of teaching, I won’t be blogging either, but I wanted to share a really cool story with you that happened this past week.

The church where I have been holding my Christmas recital for years disbanded this fall and sold the building. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use it for my Christmas recital, so I’ve been praying that God would provide a location for us to use. My criteria is a place with a nice piano, preferably a grand, and a fairly cozy environment. And affordable, of course! One of my families volunteered to check with their church and I was really hoping that it would work out, but we got word back last Thursday that it would cost $550 for two nights of use (the rehearsal a week earlier and then the recital the following week) – and it wasn’t even available the nights I needed it.

With that door shut, it was time for more brainstorming and praying. With the rehearsal only 4 weeks away, I was beginning to feel the pressure of finding a place. I called a teacher friend of mine whose church we used for a festival several years ago to see if she thought their facility would be a possibility. She gave me a bit of hope and the name and number of the church secretary. First thing the next morning I whispered another prayer and made the call. The secretary said the dates were open, so she would send me the contract. I decided to drive over there instead to pick up the info in person and speed up the process.

As soon as I skimmed the contract, my heart sunk. A quick calculation of the numbers brought the sum for use of the sanctuary and fellowship hall to $300. I double-checked with the secretary on the cost and she said she would confirm the total with the trustee. I went home and resolved to keep trying to come up with alternatives. Maybe I needed to think outside the box. The possibility of checking with some area hospitals to see about using their chapel crossed my mind. It would be kind of cool to use a more public venue and try to reach out to hurting people through our music.

With that in mind, I prayed that if God wanted us to use the aforementioned church that He would put it on the trustee’s heart to offer it to us for $100. But if God wanted us to explore some outside-the-box options, the church would keep the cost above $100. I was excited about some other possibilities, but with such a short time left for planning, it seemed overwhelming. However, I was open to following God’s leading either way.

About five minutes later my phone rang. It was the church secretary. She had just gotten off the line with the trustee and he instructed her to offer to let us use the building for both nights for only $100! I was ecstatic! It was such a quick and obvious answer to prayer, and it gave me the confidence to move forward with this location. I’m still working on details and don’t know if we’ll have the ability to live-stream the event like we did last year, but I am so thankful to the Lord for meeting our needs in such a specific and special way!

May God make Himself real to each of you this week as you face needs and turn to Him to provide for you. He is more than able to do so! Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19

Theory is the Grammar of Music

As many of you know, I rarely use theory books with my students, but we are constantly discussing theory concepts as they relate to the scales and music they are playing. It is so fun to do a chord analysis of a piece with a student and watch the proverbial light bulb come on as they discover that the passage that looked so intimidating is really just a progression of I-IV-V chords with which they are already well acquainted!

In this video clip introducing his new app Music Theory Pro, developer Dr. Joel Clifft makes the poignant observation that you wouldn’t ask a student to memorize a speech in a foreign language, having no idea what it means. Likewise, he calls music theory “the grammar of music” and encourages the use of fun games to teach and reinforce important concepts.

I haven’t downloaded the app yet, but it is next on my list. I’m excited to check it out and give it a try with my students!

HT: Megan’s Piano Lessons

Theta Music Trainer Announces Winter Competition 2012

If you’re looking for a fun activity to give your students to keep their musical minds working during Christmas break, check out the Winter Competition 2012 that Theta Music Trainer just announced! Winners can receive up to $30 in Amazon gift cards. Come to think of it, that’s a good enough draw that maybe I’ll join in on the competition! 🙂

Some recent videos from the studio!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of making music at every lesson. There are so many things that I want to fit into our 45 minutes together each week, but if I had to pick just one thing, I would make sure that in some way or another the student gets to experience making music at their lesson. This might entail improvising, learning something by ear, playing a performance-ready piece, or enjoying an ensemble with another student. Here are some of our recent musical experiences in the studio. Enjoy!

Lucas improvises on Under a Glass Sky:

Graham plays Whirling Leaves:

Joey plays an original composition:

Hayley and Landon play Ode to Joy:

Olive plays Nocturne:

Desiree plays Carol of the Bells by ear:

Luke and Natalie play A Mysterious Adventure:

Noelle, Naomi, and Amanda play Impromptu:

Stop Moving!

Trevor, of the Teach Piano Today blog, posted a fabulous little lesson gleaned from a skating outing with his daughter the other day. It reminded me of the importance of making sure that students know what we expect of them and then praising them appropriately when they achieve the goals we’ve set for them before giving them the next one.

The other day I was reminded, as I often am, that teaching piano is not much different than teaching skating, ballet, or juggling; skill sets and learning environments may change, but kids don’t.

So what led to this piano teaching revelation?…

On Monday, I spent the morning at the arena, teaching my daughter to skate.

My daughter is the “apple of my eye”. She is beautiful, determined, funny, and caring. She is also headstrong; never afraid to tell me how she’s feeling.

So it came as no surprise during our morning skate, that I was being somewhat berated by my little angel. She was clearly getting frustared with my process. You see, I would pick her up, place her at center ice, let her get her balance, and instruct her to skate towards me. And then, as she would skate towards me I would slowly glide backwards so she would be forced to keep skating…

>>Read the rest>>

Monday Mailbag – Lesson Scheduling Nightmares

After 5 years of private teaching, my students are growing older and have many more conflicts in scheduling. Do you expect your students to be present every week (I do) and if they can’t, do you give them vacations or how do you make it work? What are your lesson attendance policies and do you have any thoughts? I’ve just always said that it’s this much per month no matter how many lessons we have…I don’t charge any studio fees, recital fees, anything, but I don’t think parents realize how much goes on outside of their 30 or 45 minute lesson! Help! I’m a little frustrated but I know many others have been down this road!

In general, yes, I expect students to attend their lesson weekly. But I know that piano lessons are just one part of their lives. They have other responsibilities and events and I understand that piano won’t always be the priority. I adhere to a pretty strict no make-up lesson policy because I don’t have the flexibility in my schedule to give lessons outside my regular teaching hours. For this reason, my studio families know that if they can’t make it to a lesson, they will just miss that lesson.

As scheduling conflicts arise, students and families have to make difficult choices about which activities to attend. If basketball tryouts are the same afternoon as the piano lesson, they have to decide whether to make the lesson or try out for the team. If a friend schedules a sleepover for the night of the piano lesson, they have to decide whether to skip the lesson or come anyway and maybe just arrive late at the party. And so on. Most of my studio families see their lessons as a long-term pursuit, not just a short-term stint, so I don’t give them a hard time for missing lessons. That’s life. And we’ll just pick back up the following week and press on.

As an aside, if we recognize and want parents to understand that the students’ music education encompasses so much more than just their weekly lesson, we have to not act like the world will fall apart if they miss one lesson. 🙂 In fact, I have a family who moved this fall and ended up missing two months of lessons while making the adjustment and getting settled into their new place. We are just now getting back into the swing of lessons. They may have forgotten a few things, or be a little rusty technically, but we are picking up where they’re at and moving forward. And in the long run, they’ll be just fine!

[NOTE: If you want to see the exact verbiage of my lesson attendance policies, just visit the Lesson Info page on my studio website.]

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!