Years ago, I subscribed to the Piano Explorer magazine for my studio, letting students take home a copy if they were interested and archiving the rest in a notebook for future reference. Eventually, I let my subscription expire and its existence faded from my memory. Something recently reminded me of the Piano Explorer and I decided to re-subscribe and give each of my students a copy this year to see if they enjoy it. (If you purchase a group subscription of 5 or more copies, it is only $6/subscription!) I’m also planning to incorporate some of the activities into our practice incentive theme for the year, so that might provide some extra motivation to check them out!
As I’ve been perusing the latest issues that arrived in the mail this month, I am reminded of what a great little gem this magazine is! Written especially for piano students, each 15 page issue has interesting articles, fun facts, engaging activities, and more. And now, there is even a companion Piano Explorer website that students can visit to watch pre-selected video clips of music from the composer of the month or listen to clips of the featured instrument. There’s also an online Teacher’s Guide with additional notes, a schedule of composers to be highlighted for the year, and answers to the kids’ activities.
17th century Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher purportedly wrote the following in a letter,
“I said I knew a very wise man so much of Sir Christopher’s sentiment, that he believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads he need not care who should make the laws of a nation, and we find that most of the ancient legislators thought that they could not well reform the manners of any city without the help of a lyric, and sometimes of a dramatic poet.”
American song-writer and singer, Pete Seeger (1919-2014) would undoubtedly agree with him. I’m going to chock up not knowing of this famous musician to my age, since he was in his prime well before I was born (and because it makes me feel better about my ignorance 😉 ).
This new children’s book, Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing, written by Leda Schubert and beautifully illustrated by Raúl Colón, tells the story of the man who wrote or popularized such familiar American classics as, “This Land is Your Land,” “Shenandoah,” “Skip to My Lou,” and dozens of others.
More than an entertainer, Pete Seeger saw his role as a singer as one who could also effect social change. Throughout his career he used his music to advance numerous causes, even joining the Communist Party USA for several years, eventually being subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He took his first amendment rights seriously, though, and continued sharing his musical message at schools, colleges, and summer camps. He had a way of connecting with common people and getting them singing right along with him. This is a great reminder of the power of music to touch and influence people. What a great privilege and responsibility we have as music teachers who are training the next generation of musicians!
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!
Every year around this time I release our latest studio Practice Incentive Theme, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as I am this year! Vanishing Voices: a musical race against time! is one of the most successful themes we’ve ever done in our studio.
I have seen every student grow so much both in musical skills and in their awareness and appreciation of the rich musical heritage we’ve been given by dedicated composers throughout history. We incorporated several principles of Classical education into the theme and experienced great results; namely, memorization and repetition. Have you ever asked your student what a scale is only to have them fumble for the words to express what you thought was clear to them? Or what about rhythm? Or an interval? In the Vanishing Voices theme, every three weeks students are given (or select) a new set of musical terms to memorize and/or review so that by the end of the year they can clearly articulate the definitions of dozens of musical concepts. It is so vital for them to have a good working vocabulary as a foundation for building a stronger understanding of music and the ability to play well.
At the same time, students are developing rhythm and sight-reading skills while earning Meter Miles, becoming fluent in scales while earning Muscle Miles, learning to put their knowledge in writing while earning Mental Miles, and practicing every day to earn Music Miles. To top it off, students can rack up hundreds of Bonus Miles with a variety of additional options that they can have fun accomplishing on their own. It has been a blast to watch the students excitedly calculate their mileage in order to travel to various countries and collect composers to add to their Composer Portfolio, trying to make it to each one before they…vanish!
I am indebted to cartoonist, Ben Lansing, author of the fabulous book, Bigwigs of Classical Music, for generously allowing me to use his composer caricatures for the Vanishing Voices theme. Aren’t these such fun drawings?!
Now…for the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Everyone who purchases the Vanishing Voices studio practice incentive theme between now and 12:00 noon (CST) Saturday, June 24, will be entered in a drawing to win a free complete set of all the studio display materials (that includes a 54″x36″ world map, 35 composer portraits for the wall gallery, timeline and marker, extra laminated student airplane markers, wall verses, and laminated composer and mileage charts!). If you’re looking for something new and fresh to start this fall that will keep your students excited and motivated throughout year, this may be just what you need!
Check out this snapshot of music history from TakeLessons.com. The original post also has a great overview with embedded videos of performances from each era of music history.
Summer is just around the corner and with it the opportunity to switch gears and host some fun alternatives to traditional lessons. One of my favorite summer activities over the years has been putting on piano camps. We typically do a one-week camp, with students meeting every day of the week for several hours. By far, our most-loved piano camp is Carnival of the Animals.
Jennifer Foxx, of the inspiring website Music Educator Resources, has just posted a review of Carnival of the Animals, so if you’re interested in getting more of the inside scoop from another teacher, just head on over to her blog to check it out. (She’s also got a coupon code for $10 if you’d like to purchase the piano camp package and use it in your studio!)
Here’s a snapshot of my students at the end of our week of the Carnival of the Animals piano camp, displaying their completed art projects and the fun student workbook they used throughout the week!
Our Vanishing Voices studio practice incentive theme has been a huge hit so far this year! The students are enjoying collecting composers for their portfolios, and I’m enjoying learning tidbits of new information from the research that they do for each composer. In fact, I can see how my whole understanding of the timeline of history has been heavily influenced by my own study of music history over the years, so I’m excited to provide an opportunity for the students to increase their knowledge of history as well!
In light of that, I’ve been compiling some of my favorite composer research resources:
Informusic, the regularly updated and wonderfully handy app that has a world of information at your fingertips! Click here to read the full review.
By far, my all-time favorite book on music history, Bigwigs of Classical Music, was written and illustrated by cartoonist Ben Lansing. In fact, he even generously granted me permission to use his composer portraits as part of our theme! Witty and engaging, Ben’s writing style brings these musical masters to life in a way that even students find entertaining and enjoyable.
Classics for Kids houses a large compendium of biographies, activity sheets, podcasts, and musical excerpts to introduce students to notable composers. I love that you can search alphabetically by composers last name, by country, by time period, or by utilizing the interactive timeline!
Do you have any other favorite composer resources? I’d love to know about them!
If you’re looking for music group class game that your students will love, Composer Trading is sure to do the job! Every time we play it, my students beg to play it again. We played it again at our group class this week and they were thrilled! You can download the free image files and instructions for the game from the Music Matters Blog store, then just upload them to Moo.com to print your own cards that are ready to go! And through the end of today you can save 25% off your whole order!
Here’s a screen shot of what it will look like on the Moo website – you’ll have one image for the front and then choose 10 of the 20 composer options for the backs of the cards in order to have a game with enough cards for up to 10 players.
You can see a post here and watch a video clip here of students playing this lively game!
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In most public schools across the country, music education is an important part of the educational experience. The history of music education in the United States began before the American Revolution and progressed to the prevalence of music education today.
Music Education in the Colonies
When the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, they brought a tradition of singing psalms. According to A Concise History of American Music Education by Michael Mark, the first book printed in America that contained music was a 1698 psalm book.
Meanwhile, secular music was allowed and celebrated in the South. Experienced musicians traveled across plantations to teach children and perform for private audiences and churches. Music education was limited to the wealthy.
As the northern colonies grew, so did the importance of music literacy in the church. The Rev. John Tufts founded the first American “singing school” and published An Introduction to The Singing of Psalm-Tunes in 1721 to cure the ills of music illiteracy. Singing masters taught people in the community to sing by note as part of the singing school movement.
>>Read more about the History of Music Education>>
Campbellsville University Online is our newest advertiser here on Music Matters Blog, and we are grateful for their support of the online music education community! Find out more about their Master of Music in Education program. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.
The timing could not be more perfect for the launch of the fabulous new Informusic app! It’s everything I would have come up with myself to provide a handy and useful reference tool for my students as we spend the year learning about composers and music history with our Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme.
You can easily scroll through a list of composers and select the one you’re interested in researching. The click will take you to a biographical sketch with links to a couple of his most notable compositions that you can either view in score format or listen to as professionally recorded audio files. While enjoying the virtual concert, read more about the work – when it was composed, what inspired it, and what musical elements are included.
A quick slide of the finger at the top of the screen will transport you to an extensive timeline of the composer’s life with clickable icons associated with each year that will reveal yet another timeline that places the event in context with other happenings in the world. You can even manually select which kinds of events to include in the timeline from a dropdown list, including: Architecture, Art, Literature, Medicine, Music, Politics, Science, Technology, and War.
This is a fabulous reference guide that every teacher and student can and should have at their fingertips! I am excited to make this available to my students on the studio iPad this year so that they can research various composers and listen to their compositions without having full access to the internet.
Even though the Informusic app is well worth the introductory rate of $.99, the app developers have graciously agreed to offer 3 free copies to 3 Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winners will be drawn using a random number generator on Friday, September 9, at noon (CST).