Review of New Piano Music by Lynette Sawatsky

One of my favorite things to do as a pianist is to play through new music. It’s so fun to pick up an unknown book and anticipate the gems that might be hidden within its pages! These delightful books, Waddle & Quack and Shimmer & Strut by Canadian composer Lynette Sawatsky contain many such gems.

They could easily double as coloring books besides with the beautiful sketches that accompany each piece! Many of the pieces are prime rote material, my favorites being “New Lamb” and “Alpha Betta” from the first collection because of their colorful and patterned use of 7th chords. Even though the preface states that they are intended for early elementary readers or for rote teaching, most of my early elementary students would probably have difficulty deciphering the notation for themselves. Many of the pieces employ clef changes, movement to different hand positions or places on the keyboard, playing on all black keys, and more advanced rhythms (triplets, dotted eights and sixteenths, and slight syncopation). That said, for a little more advanced reader or those students who are eager to learn harder-sounding pieces by rote, Waddle & Quack offers musical imagery that captures life in the Animal Kingdom.

The second book, Shimmer & Strut, was written to provide more challenging pieces and it delivers on that intent. Despite the notation choices sometimes being a little difficult to decipher, each animal-themed selection paints a picture in sound of the defining characteristics we would expect that creature to exhibit. It could be a fun group class activity to play some of these and see if the students can guess which one it is from a list of animals! Three of the pieces include a teacher duet accompaniment, but the remaining eight are solos that any late elementary student could feel proud playing. The variety of styles, from the playful staccato 2nds of “Tiny Frog Waltz” to the serene parallel 4ths of “Gentle Panda” to the catchy inviting rhythms of “Shark Tango,” will provide any student with just the piece to fit their personality.

Thanks to Lynette for sending me a couple of sample copies so I could review them. Check out her website if you’re interested in finding out more about her other compositions or listening to recordings of the pieces. Enjoy!

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One thought on “Review of New Piano Music by Lynette Sawatsky

  1. Thanks so much, Natalie, for your review! I love your Music Matters Blog!!

    I find that students everywhere love animals, and my hope is that these musical pictures of animals will spark their imaginations and add a lot of fun to your teaching. The artwork by gifted Pennsylvania illustrator Deborah Alexander Schwab is a definite bonus! I am so fortunate to be able to collaborate with her on these publications!

    All the pieces in my collections have been graded, and this information is on my website at http://www.lynettesawatsky.com. Many of the pieces have words which, along with predictable rhythmic patterns, help students master the tunes quickly. Waddle & Quack is on Music for Young Children’s supplemental list and is suitable for early rote teaching or for traditional teaching to students at RCM Intro (Prep) level. The pieces in Shimmer & Strut are at grade 1 and 2 levels.

    Thanks again to Natalie, and thanks to all teachers for taking a look! I’m happy to answer questions if you contact me on my website.

    Best wishes for a wonderful year with your students!

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