An Interview with Murray Perahia

Some of my favorite CDs growing up were those of pianist Murray Perahia, so a recent interview with him in Listen magazine published by Steinway & Sons grabbed my attention.

It was so refreshing to read Perahia’s comments relating to contemporary music and his preference for tonality, in particular the ingenious work of J.S. Bach. His explorations into the harpsichord and subsequent decisions about the use of pedaling in Bach’s music are also fascinating! His interview prompted a search for his Goldberg Variations recording and it truly is exquisite:

In an approachable and humble manner, Perahia shares about his editing work, his views on symphonic music, teachers who have influenced him, and more. I especially appreciated his closing remarks on how having a decided “point of view…inform[s] a lot of my musical decisions.” Whether in music or life, it’s good to be reminded that there is value in having a “tonal center” to ground us even when popular opinion presumes that all that is new must be embraced with equal fervor. I’m grateful for artists like Murray Perahia who continue to value and preserve and share the timeless beauty of yesteryear.

New Free Piano and Music Worksheets Every Week!

If you haven’t checked out the Music Matters Blog store in a while, you may be pleased to know that there is now a Free Resources section and every week I’m working on adding new free music theory and piano worksheets to the collection. Many of these have been posted over the years, but have been lost in the archives and are difficult to find. I’m hoping that this will keep them better organized and easier to find (for me, too!).

Those of you who have been here for a while know that I don’t typically use theory books with my students, so it’s essential for me to be able to pull out just the right worksheet to help my students learn or reinforce a musical concept in a given week. All of these worksheets are PDFs, so they can be downloaded and printed for use with your students or downloaded and used on an iPad or other tablet. If you have any suggestions for other worksheets you’d like to have, feel free to send me an email and let me know!

Best Easy and Effective Note Identification App

Alyssa and I have been focusing a lot the last several months on her note identification speed. We’ve been doing a modified version of our NoteStars Challenge and she has made great progress, so when I came across this NoteRush app recently I immediately thought of Alyssa.

The app is simple and intuitive, so in no time at all we set it up with the same “levels” as NoteStars and gave it a try. She loved it! The app calibrates to middle C on your instrument and then listens as you play in response to the notes shown on the staff. If you get it correct a new note quickly appears. If you are incorrect, the note remains and you can opt in the settings to have it offer you a prompt. A student could easily manage NoteRush on their own in a technology lab setting, or it’s a quick, hassle-free game to reinforce and evaluate a student’s note identification skills in a couple of minutes at the beginning of a piano lesson.

Questions to Ask Students

At our local music teachers association meeting this morning we watched a webinar by Dr. Barbara Fast and Dr. Andrea McAlister on Overcoming the Brain’s Negativity Bias: Empowering Students Through Positive Engaging Language. From Dr. Fast’s segment, I especially appreciated the specific questions she suggested using during a piano lesson (some she gleaned from a masterclass with Leon Fleisher):

  • What did you focus on this week?
  • What did you practice the most?
  • Can you tell me how you succeeded in what you were trying to achieve?
  • To what extent did you achieve what you wanted?
  • What questions remain for you?
  • Any places that you wish were easier to play?

I love these open-ended questions and hope to employ some of them with my students this week!

Dr. McAlister shared many helpful definitions as she discussed the importance of language. These are the top three memorable points she made that I hope to keep in mind as I teach:

  • Listen with the intent to praise, not criticize.
  • View those sitting on our piano benches not just as students, but as musicians.
  • Encourage curiosity (“the desire to know”).

I’m so grateful for the inspiration and fellowship of our local association meetings and teachers. If you’re not part of such a group, I encourage you to check out the MTNA website and get plugged in with an association in your area!

Unlimited Repertoire All Year? Yes, Please!

After a quick glance in July, I mentioned Chris Owenby’s new Practice Habits Online Community. However, over the last week I’ve spent more time digging into all that is included in the membership and I’m even more excited about the prospect of utilizing this throughout the coming year! If you sign up for a Gold or Platinum Membership, you will have access to unlimited downloads of sheet music, scale exercises, lead sheets, practice guides, and more.

As you can see, right now there are 65 pieces of sheet music and technical exercises available, and Chris is constantly adding new material to the site. His goal is to inspire students to practice, and so far my students have loved playing his music!

Now, for the best part – from today through January 12, Chris is running a special New Year’s promo. Just use the discount code (natalie) at to receive 30% off any level of membership!


Actually, maybe this is the best part…:-)…if you decide to give the community a try, Chris is running a special contest where whichever blogger refers the most new members receives an Amazon gift card for $100. So, if you leave a comment below letting me know that you signed up with my discount code and I win the contest, I’ll split the gift card! I’ll use a random number generator to select a winner from everyone who comments and then I will send the winner an Amazon gift card for $50. And we all know we can use $50 at Amazon, right?!

Please note: The links to the Practice Habits community are affiliate links that enable us to receive a small commission from purchases made through them. We are so grateful for the support of teachers and musicians who use our affiliate links to help offset the costs of running Music Matters Blog and providing free resources for music teachers!