Highlights from Day 5 of Carnival of the Animals Music Camp


Day 5 of our Carnival of the Animals music camp has arrived! We played the ever-popular Guess-It! game as a way of reviewing all that we’ve learned so far this week.

The Science of Sound today explores two remarkable instruments – the piano and the glass armonica.


Students use their music vocabulary knowledge to attempt to translate the meaning of Cristofori’s original name for his musical instrument invention: the gravicembalo col piano e forte.

Next everyone gets to take a turn trying to produce a tone similar to one on a glass armonica by rubbing their finger around the rim of a wine glass containing water.

Wrapping up a fun week for a crazy bunch!

Reviewing proper performance procedures before the parents arrive. These admittedly cheesy performance signs still seem to do the trick of helping students visualize and remember each aspect of their performance!

Let’s practice bowing!

The parents are here and we are ready to entertain them with our own original Carnival of the Animals! Each student has written a brief narration to introduce their composition (ala Ogden Nash) – love the clever creativity!


Levi plays The Shark


Elise plays Dancing Turtles


Daniel plays Spy Cheetah


Stephanie plays An Elephant’s Life


Claire plays Swan Lake

Highlights from Day 4 of Carnival of the Animals Music Camp


A fun review game of hangman to start off Day 4 of our Carnival of the Animals music camp!

Learning all about the Science of Sound and how the ear works.

For the math whizzes of the bunch – compute these 32nd notes!

Practicing technique concepts on each other!

Interval Intuition – Can they feel the right interval in their fingers even when they’re not looking?

Highlights from Day 3 of Carnival of the Animals Music Camp


Students get comfy as we start Day 3 of our Carnival of the Animals music camp.


Having fun with our string art projects!


Loving using my new iPad mini and iHome bluetooth speaker for listening to each work while we color the corresponding pages.


The students work on one of today’s technique challenges – wrist rotation.


A lovely collection of our completed string art projects!

Highlights from Day 2 of the Carnival of the Animals Music Camp

We began Day 2 of our Carnival of the Animals Music Camp by discussing our theme verse (Revelation 4:11) and reading a psalm of praise (Psalm 100).

Next up was a challenging activity to review yesterday’s vocabulary words. Students had to select the right definitions from a list of 15 possibilities!


Coloring while listening to each movement is still a favorite!


Levi shares his research on sharks and what rhythmic motive he plans to use for his shark composition!


Everyone’s string art projects are coming together very nicely!


A close-up of one of the string art projects – can you tell what it is yet?

Highlights from Day 1 of Carnival of the Animals Music Camp

Today was the first day of our much-anticipated Carnival of the Animals Music Camp, and we had a blast!

Snacks are ready! One bottle of water and a cup of Whales for each student.

Student Workbooks ready for the unleashing of each student’s creative juices!

String art supplies collected!

Laptop, Bible, and Bluetooth speaker ready and waiting!

And the students have arrived!

They enjoy coloring the corresponding picture while listening to each movement of the Carnival of the Animals!

String art projects are in progress…

It’s fun watching all of the personalities come through in each of our various activities. What a great start to the week!

Fun Times in the Studio!

The New Year is off to a great start, and we’re having fun playing a variety of quick 5-minute games in the studio! Here are a couple of recent pictures:

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Ellie has a blast playing this simple note direction game by moving her magnetic “note” up or down depending on what she rolls on the up and down die. As she moves, she says “up a step to D”, “down a step to C”, etc. Once setting a designated “finish line”, she and I take turns rolling and moving our notes to see who can get there first!

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After learning about the difference between Major and minor chords, Kaily draws a scale block to determine the chord root, then rolls the Major-minor die to see what type of chord she is supposed to build and play on the piano keys.

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Shaylah is one of several students who loved playing this musical memory game where each player takes a turn flipping two cards to try to form matches between specified keys in a pictured piano keyboard and notes on a staff. This is a perfect game for siblings or back-to-back students to play together as well!

There are lots more game ideas in our studio favorite 5 For Fun! book! My students love flipping through it and selecting their own game when they’ve earned that privilege in this year’s practice incentive!

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A Picture and a Video and a Quote (or Two)

After our fabulous weekend in Kansas City, my students and I thoroughly enjoyed our first experience participating in the Multi-Piano Concert! We got back late Sunday evening, so I’ve been scrambling to get everything done this week and thus the blog has been a bit quiet. However, I thought I would share with you a picture from the weekend and a couple of quotes I came across in a TED video I watched last night.


Aren’t they a great-looking bunch of students?!

One of the organizations that I follow is Character First.They send out a monthly e-newsletter that always has great articles and insights into how to address character in your own life and in your work with others. One of their leaders, Dr. Nathan Mellor, recently spoke at TEDxOU in a presentation called, Listen Up, Corporate America: Less Rules, More Character.

One of my aims as a piano teacher is to provide an environment where good character is promoted and praised. I’ve mentioned this before, particularly in the post, “Teaching Students to Play Beautifully,” but it’s a constant challenge to determine the best way to teach students with this in mind. Videos like the following one provide lots of thought-provoking insights and illustrations:

Here are a couple of the quotes that I really like:

“Your job should not define you, but the way you do your job reveals who you are.”

“Actions reveal beliefs. If you desire to change actions, you must challenge beliefs.”

In particular, a realization of the first quote was the impetus behind the character evaluation that students are required to complete at the beginning of each lesson as part of our Project 28 studio practice incentive theme this year. This has been a very helpful tool, but I still want to do a better job of encouraging students to view their piano practicing and lessons as an opportunity to develop good character that will transfer into every area of their lives!

Marshmallows and Music Festival!

Last Saturday, one of our local associations held a fall festival dubbed, Marshmallows and Music. I’ve always wanted to put on an outdoor recital, so I was thrilled to be a part of this group effort! We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day for our inaugural effort of what may become a yearly favorite!


One of our members graciously invited us to use her home/tree farm for the festive occasion. Isn’t it gorgeous?!


Each of the students donned their brightly colored festival t-shirt for the occasion! Several rows of chairs provided seating for the students just in front of the deck so that we could quickly work through each of the performances. Family members and friends brought chairs and blankets to place on the lawn where they could listen and enjoy the performances.


Here’s a snapshot of all of my students who participated in the event (except for one who disappeared right before we took the picture!).


Ben, Joey, and Jed did a great job working together to prepare a captivating performance of, Secrets, by OneRepublic for the event.


Noelle, Naomi, and Amanda did a lovely job with their rendition of, Impromptu, by Gurlitt.

I am so proud of each of my students and their musical performances! And I’m so grateful for the dedication of other teachers in the area that enables us to collaborate and put on events like this for the benefit of our students, their families, and the broader community.

Are any of you involved in festivals with your students this fall?

And this Year’s Practice Incentive Theme Is…

An Italian Intrigue: Musical Adventures in Heart, Mind, and Strength

Last month I had the amazing experience of spending three weeks in Italy! I decided to do double duty and use the trip to do reconnaissance work for this year’s theme. It was a ton of fun and now I’m excited to take my students along with me for a journey through the country! Along the way they’ll be racking up Complication Coins, trying to identify the hideout of the Mystery Musician, traveling covertly at times to get double earnings, completing Italian language lessons, and  learning to play the piano beautifully, excellently, and naturally.


I made the official announcement at the September Surprise! last Thursday. To start off the event I gave each student a strip of paper with several measures from a familiar tune. They had to try to find all the other students who had excerpts from the same tune. Once they all found each other they laid out the measures in order and then did something to get my attention. After all the groups were formed each one took a turn humming, whistling, or otherwise vocalizing their tune for the rest of us and then telling us what the name of it was.


After a round of students played their prepared “surprise” selections, I had the groups from the introductory activity re-form and spend time working together to come up with a musical way of playing their pieces. Every member of the group had to be involved in some musical capacity in the performance. I had a box of rhythm instruments and a xylophone available for them to use in addition to the piano. This group did a lovely job with their rendition of “Ode to Joy.”


“Jesus Loves Me” was the perfect selection for this group that included quite a few young and/or beginning students. I was really impressed at how well they all kept the beat together on their instruments!

Whistling, playing piano, and a few rhythm instruments made “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons sound great!


This group ended up being all girls. They had the tune “Greensleeves” and did a beautiful job playing and singing it together – harmony and all!

The evening was a great reunion after our month off and we’re all super excited about the year ahead!

Scale Labels

One of my favorite new tools to use with students are these fabulous keyboard labels that Susan Paradis, of the Piano Teacher Resources blog, created. I’ve started sticking one or more of these labels in the student’s assignment book and having them say the whole-step half-step pattern and place X’s on the corresponding keys. In light of some of our recent discussions on scale fingerings, it occurred to me that you could also use these to have the student write the finger number that plays each key instead of just marking the key with an X. It seems like that could be particularly effective; I’ll have to try it!

Here’s another fun activity that I did last week to reinforce scales. Hayley chose memorizing the Major sharp key signatures for her Cosmic Challenge last week and did a fabulous job, so I decided to reward her with this game:

1. Hayley randomly chose a flashcard with a Major sharp key signature from my hand.
2. When I said go, I started a timer and she could look at the card. Then she had to select and arrange the scale blocks to form the corresponding Major scale. (I encouraged her to line up all the notes diatonically first and then go back through and rotate them to indicate the appropriate sharps.)
3. After she was done, she would say “stop” and I would stop the timer. (I had told her that she would earn 10 points if she arranged the blocks correctly without any input from me. She asked if she could earn bonus points for doing it faster, so that’s when we added the timer element!)

Hayley loved playing this game and was quite pleased with all the points she racked up in the process! I really love all the great discussion and ideas that have been shared in regard to scales lately – it’s re-motivating me to emphasize scale theory and playing with all my students. I’d love to hear any other great ideas for helping students work on scale theory and/or playing!