Review of Twelve Magical Musical Masters by Yaacov Mishori


When my eye first caught a glimpse of the “Twelve Magical Musical Masters” book I thought it was a really neat idea! As someone who works a great deal with younger children and is also greatly influenced by music, I am always intrigued by toys and/or tools designed to teach children about the world of music.

From my perspective, I thought this book that includes a “button sound” panel does a great job giving fun and informative overviews of famous composers while allowing the reader to listen to a well-known tune from each composer.

Each composer takes up 2 pages of the book with one side containing biographical information and a profile picture, while the other side has a full size picture depicting something that was mentioned about the composer. I thoroughly enjoyed the storybook-like pictures the author incorporated into his fact-based book because it kept it much more exciting and engaging. (Even though the book contains some printed errors such as incorrect capitalization, incorrect descriptions of button placement, and flipped musical symbols, I didn’t feel like they took away from the overall appeal of the product.)

I have to say, in addition to this book being a great resource for younger children’s “music appreciation,” it’s interactive aspect with the button panel would intrigue me to pick it up off a coffee table and read it. Plus, it does have some interesting facts and pictures (and don’t forget those tunes!) that an even larger demographic would enjoy individually or in a group!

Meet the New Music Matters Blog Review Editor

After looking for months at a stack of review items that I was eager to investigate, but never quite made it to the top of the priority list, I decided to enlist the assistance of my wonderful sister, piano student, friend, and fellow teacher, Naomi Wickham. Naomi has graciously agreed to take over as the Review Editor here at Music Matters Blog and is looking forward to discovering and sharing all sorts of music education films, books, sheet music, apps, and more here on the blog.

As a longtime musician and experienced childcare provider, Naomi will contribute a valuable perspective on products designed for music educators, students, and others. If you have a product you’d like us to review here on Music Matters Blog, please send an e-mail to Naomi and she’ll add you to our schedule of upcoming reviews!

Faber’s New Studio Collection

Randall and Nancy Faber recently announced their new Studio Collection, “a spectacular mix of styles with carefully selected pieces from the PreTime® to BigTime® Piano Supplementary Library.”

I love that you can click each book’s image on the site to view videos of Randall Faber performing and sometimes discussing the pieces. What a great resource for students who want to learn these familiar tunes!

Review and Giveaway of Jumpin Jazz Kids

If the vivid colors of the website aren’t enough to draw you in, then surely the energetic music by renowned Jazz musicians will do the trick! This fun, high quality CD could easily be considered the modern day Jazz equivalent of Saint-Saens’ imaginative Carnival of the Animals.

Grammy Nominee for Best Children’s Album of the Year, Jumpin Jazz Kids: A Swinging Jungle Tale is a fun collection of narration and music as seven-year old Claire and her animal friends search for her Grandpa’s “lost” story. Kids of all ages will enjoy listening to the story unfold, and I could even see using it as a basis for a fun music camp curriculum!

Now, for the best part, the producers of Jumpin Jazz Kids: A Swinging Jungle Tale, have offered to giveaway five copies of the CD to Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winners will be chosen at noon (CST) Thursday, July 11, using a random number generator.

Review and Giveaway of Be Still by James Koerts

When James Koerts contacted me about his new collection of hymn arrangements titled, Be Still, I jumped at the chance to play through them! After having such a satisfying experience with his new book of Christmas piano arrangements a couple of years ago, I had high expectations for this latest release. And I was not disappointed. :-)

The book of piano solos was just as advertised, “A reflective collection of 10 piano solos designed to encourage and inspire. Ideal for the late intermediate to early advanced pianist.” Since it’s sold exclusively as digital music, if you’re not into the e-music reader world yet (I confess, I haven’t yet crossed over into the new era of digital sheet music yet…), you’ll have to print the sheet music yourself, but I decided to just “bite the bullet” and print the whole book at once and then put the pages in plastic sheet protectors. This worked out nicely and Be Still was quickly added to my repertoire of prelude music.

In fact, funny story…I was in the process of selecting prelude music for a local homeschool graduation ceremony and decided to use several of these arrangements in the mix. When I was at the rehearsal for the ceremony, all the parents were being lined up outside the entry doors, so I decided to get a feel for the piano with some of the prelude music. I began playing James’ arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Unbeknownst to me, the parents started filing in, and by the time I realized what was happening it was too late to transition over to the piece I had intended to play for the parents’ processional. In the end, the “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” worked out so well that I decided to keep it there and use it for the actual ceremony. The style was perfect for the occasion and many people commented on how much they enjoyed the music.

Now…for the exciting news! James has generously offered to giveaway three copies of Be Still to a Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing to win your copy of this collection of lovely piano solo arrangements of favorite hymns. The winners will be chosen using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Thursday, June 27.

Monday Mailbag – 5 Suggested Resources for a New Teacher

I have been reading your site for the past year and have found it very helpful. I am a new teacher starting out so I have 4 students right now. In the fall I will be partnering with an after school program doing private lessons with possibly 8-10 more students. I saw your post about memorizing where you recommended Thinking as You Play: Teaching Piano in Individual and Group Lessons. I am planning to order a copy of the book but was wondering if you might have any other resources you would suggest to a teacher starting out.

Even though I have been teaching for 15 years now, I still feel like a new teacher in many ways! However, I am grateful for the many excellent resources in the music education community that have helped me develop competency and confidence as a piano teacher. Here are the resources that have been the most helpful to me in the order I would recommend them:

1. Association with music teaching colleagues – This is by far the number one most valuable resource you could ever have! If you have a local association in your area (check the MTNA website for local affiliates), you should definitely join it and become active in the meetings and student events. It would be impossible to measure the extent to which the teachers in our local associates have influenced me and my teaching. I have learned SO much through their input and example, and I honestly doubt that I would still be teaching if not for their encouragement and instruction. I know that not every area is blessed to have an association and not every association is populated with welcoming and generous teachers, so in that case I recommend moving to Kansas. :-) And if that’s not a possibility, then find some way to connect with other colleagues, perhaps through an association you can travel to once a month, a state or national conference, an on-line community, a collection of bloggers you can follow and interact with, etc.

2. Subscribe to industry magazines – in addition to being an avid book reader, I also love magazines! Industry magazines even have an advantage over books in that they can disseminate more current and relevant cultural trends and information about the latest musical research and technology available to music teachers. They also feature articles written by our contemporaries who are dealing with the same issues and student needs as we are. There are three magazines that I read regularly and highly recommend: American Music Teacher, Clavier Companion, and Listen.

3. Read a wide variety of books – there are a handful of specifically piano pedagogy books on the market that all have helpful insights related to both teaching and running a studio. However, I have found that I receive just as much inspiration from reading books on other subjects where I can relate the ideas and philosophies to teaching in a different way. Sometimes that might be a biography of an educator or a pianist; sometimes it might be a philosophy book; sometimes it might be a history of specific educational theories; sometimes it might be a theological book and how our view of God relates to the way we live and interact with others. (If you happen to be interested, here are links to the posts I’ve written for the past six years that compile brief reviews of the books I read during that year: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012) If I had to pick a few personal favorites to recommend, though, here are the three (other than Thinking As You Play) I would choose: The Savvy Musician by David Cutler, Color Outside the Lines by Howard Hendricks, and The Musician’s Way by Gerald Klickstein.

4. Study teacher guides – if you want to get to the nitty-gritty practical side of teaching, one of the most helpful things you can do is study detailed explanations and ideas from other teachers on how to teach or reinforce specific musical concepts. Some piano method series publish a guide for the teacher that is extremely useful for understanding the pedagogy behind certain activities or approaches. Legendary pedagogs Randall and Nancy Faber have an on-line guide with videos for their Primer Level piano method. The relatively new Alfred Premier Piano Course has an online assistant with lots of supplemental resources for teachers and students. And the one I’ve been poring over recently (and will be posting about much more extensively soon!) is the Teacher guide for the fabulous new Piano Safari method!

5. Follow piano teacher blogs – lastly, as a long-time blogger I would be remiss in not extolling the virtues of the myriad blogs now comprising the online music education community! There is nothing quite like peeking into the studio of another teacher and seeing the creative ways they run their studios and teach their students. It’s so much fun to look at pictures, download carefully crafted resources, and implement the imaginative ideas gleaned from other devoted teachers.

Those are my top 5 suggestions for new teachers, but I’d love to hear from other teachers as well! What advice would you give to a new teacher? What resources have been the most helpful to you in your teaching endeavors?

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!

Review and Giveaway of NoteBusters!

It seems fitting to launch the New Year with a wonderful giveaway!

Have you ever had one of those moments working with a supposedly late elementary student when you pointed to a note on the staff and watched them look quizzically at it before taking the next several minutes to try to figure out what it is? I know I can’t be the only one who has students who manage to make it through years of lessons only to discover that they are still sort of sketchy on their note identification. Well, today’s giveaway is for just such students. Or, if you want to be a proactive teacher, for beginning students so that they won’t stand a chance of not learning their notes!


Note Busters by Karen Spurney and Steven Gross is a collection of hundreds of note identification exercises, neatly organized to allow for lots and lots of reinforcement. It reminds me of the math drill sheets I did ad nauseum growing up. However, there was a certain enjoyment in being able to work as quickly as possible through each set of simple equations, and to this day I can calculate mathematical problems very quickly in my head. So I’m excited to have a resource like Note Busters available and plan to order several copies to try them out with some of my students.

The publishers of Note Busters have some fabulous deals for teachers: Get 30% off all workbooks, or get 40% off any order of 3 or more workbooks. Just complete the teacher discount request to receive your discount code. Use the code when purchasing books through the Note Busters CreateSpace Store. Amazingly, the authors have even offered to create custom-designed exercises by request from teachers and make them available as PDFs!

Now, for the best part…the authors are giving away one copy of Note Busters to a Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winner will be selected using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Thursday, January 17, 2013.

[Thanks to the authors of Note Busters for sending me a complimentary copy of their book for this review!]

Giveaway of Reel Ear

**A guest post by Reel Ear**

Reel Ear gives you complete control over your ear training.

Most ear training software doesn’t do exactly what you want it to do. With Reel Ear, however, users control every conceivable musical variable. Reel Ear generates random melodies or chord progressions based on user defined variables. Because the phrases are random, users can not anticipate or memorize them and because they are based on the user’s own variables, the ear training focuses on exactly what  the musician wants.
Give away instructions:

To celebrate the launching of the new version of Reel Ear, we are giving away FREE copies to musicmattersblog.com visitors (a $12.95 value) from right now until December 3rd, 2012at 12:00am.Here’s how you get your free copy:

1. Download the trial version of Reel Ear at http://www.reelear.com/downloads_eng.html. The trial version is fully functional for 10 days. (Sorry Mac and Linux users, for the moment Reel Ear is Windows only)

2. Try out the software for a few days.

3. If you want a free license to unlock the trial version, download the your_computer_license_number.exe mini-program at http://www.reelear.com/your_computer_license_number.exe

3. Run the your_computer_license_number.exe application.

Hint: All this little program does is read the hardware identification information unique to every computer and copies it automatically to your computer’s clipboard. We use this information to generate your personal, permanent license to unlock Reel Ear. We DO NOT have access to any other personal information on your computer!

4. Paste the number from your computer’s clipboard into an email and send it to us in an email. Please write “ musicmattersblog.com” as the subject of your email.

What’s next?

We will generate your personal key to unlock Reel Ear and send it to your email address as quickly as possible. I know it’s hard, but please be patient; it may take up to 48 hours to receive the key.

Want more information?

You can learn more about Reel Ear, find some helpful screen casts and check out our FAQ’s on our web site at http://www.reelear.com

Remember, to receive your free individual license to unlock Reel Ear forever, we need to hear back from you with your computer ID number by December 3, 2012!

Happy ear training!

Watch The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold

One of the first classical music CDs I fell in love with was the album The World’s Favorite Piano Music by Van Cliburn. Ever since then I’ve had a special place in my heart for his music and other musical endeavors. I was excited to learn the other day that there is a documentary of his international piano competition and it’s available to watch for free on-line!

>>Read more about the documentary on the Cliburn.org website.>>

Review and Giveaway of A Piano in Every Room

From the opening chapter of Rosamond van der Linde’s colorful memoir, A Piano in Every Room, readers will be drawn into the life of the young girl whose insatiable curiosity and love for music convinced her from the age of seven that she was destined to become a piano teacher. This was especially remarkable because she had never had a piano lesson in her life, and her family didn’t even own a piano at the time. This did not, however, deter her from launching her first neighborhood music class at the age of twelve, and charging her “students” 25 cents a week to participate in the assortment of musical activities she planned!

I’m not done with the book yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying this glimpse into the life of the woman who later went on to found the Sonatina School in Vermont.

Ms. van der Linde has kindly agreed to offer a free copy of her memoir to one Music Matters Blog reader. Just leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing to win! One winner will be chosen using a random number generator next Thursday, October 18, at noon (CST).