AMT Inspiration – The Magic of William Gillock

After taking a break for a few years, this spring I had the privilege to adjudicate at several student events and thoroughly enjoyed the experience! I love having the opportunity to listen to students, encourage them in their musical studies, and give them positive feedback to help them improve as pianists. The article “The Magic of William Gillock, Part Two: Preparing Students for Adjudication” by Richard Rejino in the April/May 2017 issue of the American Music Teacher was particularly inspiring and helpful! The insights Mr. Rejino shares are helpful both for adjudicating and regular studio teaching. Here are a few excerpts I found particularly inspiring:

“When he [William Gillock] judged me [Toni Ausin-Allen] there was a consistency, a friendliness about him, and I felt he understood my playing. He showed this by the way he spoke to me. He didn’t speak to me like a judge, but rather as musician-to-musician. The words he chose were always very eloquent, and he wasn’t standoffish like many judges. He wanted to engage with students as peers, not as student/teacher.”

What a great reminder to approach and work with students as a fellow learner!

“As an adjudicator, Gillock began assessing the student from the moment she walked into the room. He urged teachers to always treat the student as if she were a guest in their home. He watched to see if she exhibited thoughtful preparation before playing. Was the student concerned about bench placement, posture? Was she poised, alert, the body relaxed? Was there unnecessary tension in the hands, wrists, arms and shoulders? He noted that both rhythm and tone are dependent on a relaxed upper body.”

How important it is that we remain conscientious of the physiological side of playing the piano and help students achieve technical freedom in their playing so that they can also attain musical excellence.

“Because of him, I listen first for musicality: dynamics, phrasing, tone quality, and attention to detail. I think kids these days are too busy and teachers struggle to show students how to find time to work on these things. But every average student has the right to play musically; every busy student has the right to play musically. So, if you have to, you give them less to work on.”

This is so true! I am amazed at the way students, even average students, respond when they hear themselves making beautiful music at the piano. We do our students a great disservice when we focus on the notes and rhythms to the exclusion of the dynamics and artistry of the music. Far better to give them less to work on in order to enable them to truly experience the beauty of the music!

Posture at the piano

One of the things that has been impressed on me over the years as I’ve grown in my understanding of proper piano technique is the importance of correct bench placement and height. This is often overlooked by pianists, but is essential for producing good tone quality, establishing correct hand position, and avoiding injuries. Here is a helpful page with explanations and pictures demonstrating proper bench height and posture at the piano: Proper Seating at the Piano

Also, here’s a post I wrote several years ago on Gravity, Strength, and Conduction – three areas I emphasize from the very first lesson to help students establish good technique habits.

Hopefully my students will never say such things…

…but here’s to a good laugh! 🙂

Apparently these answers were given by high school students in response to music-related questions:

– The principal singer of 19th century opera was called pre-Madonna.

– Gregorian chant has no music, just singers singing the same lines.

– Sherbet composed the Unfinished Symphony.

– All female parts were sung by castrati. We don’t know exactly what they sounded like because there are no known descendants.

– Young scholars have expressed their rapture for the Bronze Lullaby, the Taco Bell Cannon, Tchaikovsky Cracknutter Suite, and Gershwin’s Rap City in Blue.

– Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel; if they sing without music it is called Acapulco.

– A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals.

– Contralto is a low sort of music that only ladies sing.

– Probably the most marvelous fugue was the one between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

– Rock Monanoff was a famous post-romantic composer of piano concerti.

And the winner is…

Sylvia! Congrats, Sylvia, you are the winner of the complete studio theme decor package for the Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme!

As a special thanks to all who participated in the drawing, I’m offering all Music Matters Blog readers a $10 off coupon for any item in the Music Matters Blog store. The code is good through the remainder of June. Just select the item of your choice before July 1 and enter the code: SUMMER17

Last Day to Enter to Win the Studio Display Package for the Vanishing Voices Practice Incentive Theme

If you’re still looking for something fresh and inspirational to use with your students this fall, tomorrow is the last day to enter the drawing to win the complete studio display package for the new Vanishing Voices studio practice incentive theme. Everyone who purchases the theme by tomorrow at 12:00 noon (CST) will be entered in the drawing!

Whack-It!

You should see students’ faces light up when I pull out our mini whackers and tell them that we are going to play Whack-It! at their lesson! This is by far one of the studio favorites! There are a lot of variations (several of which are included in 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson), but Alyssa and I came up with a new version that we’ve been having a blast playing the last couple of weeks.

Instead of me calling out the note name and her whacking the correct flashcard, I let her look over the cards and call out a note name, then I try to whack it before she does. We’ve done this several times now and she gets faster and faster at figuring out the note names. And of course she loves beating me to the flashcard!


Even though I don’t do a lot of summer lessons, this is such a great time to have fun focusing on mastering note names and any other theory concepts without the same pressure we often have during the year of learning and preparing repertoire for performances.

Piano Camp in Pictures, Part Two

As I continue my summer cleaning process here on Music Matters Blog, it’s been fun coming across these old post drafts. I have no idea why this one never got posted, but here are some [nostalgic for me!] pictures of one of our first summer piano camps! We used the simple Piano Camp Lesson Plans, but had a ton of fun learning and making music together!

View part 1 of the pictures from our summer piano camp here.







Piano – The Book

This beautiful, interactive ebook has accomplished what no other iPad game or resource has yet been able to accomplish – it has gotten me excited about using the iPad with my students in their lessons! As much as I love technology, I confess that although I’ve wanted to figure out ways to incorporate it effectively in my teaching, there just hasn’t been anything compelling enough to motivate me to make it happen yet.

Piano – Evolution Design & Performance by David Crombie has changed all that! From the minute I downloaded and opened the ebook on my iPad, I was drawn in by the gorgeous images, accompanied by related audio files. Students always seems astonished when I first inform them that the piano didn’t always exist. 🙂 I love introducing them to the piano’s predecessors, showing them pictures of ornate harpsichords, explaining the contrasting action, and letting them listen to a demo of a harpsichord sound on the studio Clavinova. Now, I’m super excited to be able to open up this ebook on my iPad, show them the full color images and listen to quality audio recordings as we discuss the history of the piano.

You can also explore the evolution of electric pianos, peruse myriad styles of pianos (ever heard of the rocking piano?!), learn how the action works in upright and grand pianos, find out about the history of dozens of piano houses, and even discover some of the science behind how sound is generated. So fun!

Can you tell I love this ebook? I don’t receive a penny for any sales from it, but highly recommend it to every piano teacher, student, and enthusiast as a go-to resource for information about this magnificent instrument. You can view additional screenshots and download it from the iTunes website.

You may also want to check out David Crombie’s World Piano News website for all-things piano:

What incredible resources we piano teachers have at our fingertips!