Sheet Music Review: Madge’s Notebook by Rebekah Maxner

MadgeCoverPromoThis summer, Canadian composer Rebekah Maxner has released a new book, “Madge’s Notebook: A Piano Tribute to The Hunger Games.”  When Rebekah emailed me to ask if I’d be willing to review her book, I told her I wasn’t sure if she would want me to review it since I have not yet read the popular “Hunger Games” books.  (I know, am I out-of-the-loop or what?)  :)  She replied that she nonetheless would like to me to review the books — after all, the music should be able to stand on its own.  I’m glad Rebekah felt that way, because I enjoyed checking out her music!

“Madge’s Notebook” is intended to be a book of music that will appeal to intermediate students — in particular, tweens, teens, and adults.  Rebekah states that the purpose of the book is to meet today’s piano students where they are and to use their interest in book literature to foster interest in piano literature.

This book is one that Rebekah imagines the characters from “The Hunger Games” would have on their piano.  The passage in “The Hunger Games” series that inspired Madge’s Notebook is found in the second book of the series, “Catching Fire.”

“Madge’s Notebook” is 28 pages long and contains 11 pieces.  The Table of Contents divides the pieces into three sections: (1) Folk Music of District 12, (2) Classics from a Time before Panem, and (3) Piano Music by Madge for Katniss.

Many of the pieces are original compositions, but there are also some interesting pieces inspired by famous piano pieces.  Although at first I thought they might be “simplified arrangements,” I think it is more suitable to think of the pieces as “inspired by” famous piano works.  The pieces seem to evoke the original classical work, rather than exist merely as a simplified version.  Very creative!   Continue reading “Sheet Music Review: Madge’s Notebook by Rebekah Maxner”

repertoire / methods

New Collaborative Project: Repertoire Lists for Piano Teachers

Screen shot 2013-08-27 at 12.47.52 PMThere are a number of really wonderful facebook groups for piano teachers (the Art of Piano Pedagogy and Professional Piano Teachers come to mind).  These groups are a great place to share ideas with other teachers and ask questions.

In particular, I have observed a number of threads asking for repertoire suggestions for a particular student/situation and have been amazed at the collective knowledge and experience shared by the teachers who respond!   It is unfortunate that these threads get lost and forgotten over time among the ever-growing number of threads that take place in these facebook groups.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a more permanent place where teachers can share their favorite pieces of repertoire for various situations?

Well, now there is!  I’ve created a public Google Spreadsheet containing a few different lists:

  • Motivational Repertoire — Please share only your top hits and your best pupil savers.  In the “comments” space, please share why this piece was so great for your student.
  • Piano Ensemble — Please add any of your favorite piano duets, duos, trios, and quartets.
  • Concertos — Share any piano concertos that you think are especially valuable and effective for students.
  • For One Hand — Have you ever had a student injure or break an arm?  Please feel free to browse or add repertoire suggestions composed for right or left hand only.
  • For Small Hands — Do have advancing students with a very small reach?  The repertoire suggestions on this list even list the maximum handspan required in each piece.

CLICK HERE to learn more about this spreadsheet.  Please take the time to add a piece or two to the list, and please feel free to share about this project with your piano teaching colleagues across the world.  The more the merrier!


Review: Halloween Sheet Music from Wendy Stevens

00121883Wendy Stevens from has some published great new Halloween pieces through Willis Music that you may want to consider for your students this Fall, especially if you are holding a Halloween recital this year.

I don’t know about your students, but my students love pieces where they can tap, knock, snap, etc. during pieces.  In this Early Elementary level piece called “The Candy Nabber,” students get to knock on the fallboard during the piece.  It also has an optional teacher accompaniment.

Watch the video here:


Click here to view an excerpt of the score on Hal Leonard’s site.

In another Early Elementary solo by Wendy called “A Scream on Halloween,” students get to play a cluster of high, white keys to represent a scream.

Check out this video of Wendy playing her composition:

Click here to view an excerpt of the score on Hal Leonard’s site.

Both of these pieces are great sounding, well-written piano pieces that students will love to learn.  Bravo, Wendy!

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of these two pieces for review, but my reviews are honest as always! 

Music Camps

Photos from Happy Lapbookers

A blog reader kindly sent me these photos of her students completing Bach & Mozart lapbooks as part of a music camp this summer!

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These students look like they had a blast!

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They also played a “Name That Tune” game that turned into a musical hats game.  I can see that the students loved all the hats.  :)

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Thanks for the photos, Mary!  If anyone else has photos of their students with lapbooks, please email me!  :)


Group Classes, Music Camps, Music History

New in Shop: Eras of Music History Kit

Remember when I gave a sneak peek at these music history booklets last month?  Well, I’m pleased to announce that the Eras of Music History Kit has just been added to the Shop!  The kit contains a variety of printable pdf’s for studying the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern Eras of Western music history.

The four era booklets are the core component of this resource.  Each era booklet discusses the stylistic characteristics of the music, the evolution of the piano, and the popular forms composers used.  The back of the booklet features a list of major composers and a list of important works from the era.  The information has been carefully researched and written in a concise, clear way intended for students age 7+.

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This kit also contains a pdf for creating a composer timeline.


There are a few more pdf’s included in the kit:

  • Four worksheets that correspond to the four era booklets.
  • A handout with a brief overview of all four eras.
  • A historical context timeline.

Most importantly, purchase of the Eras of Music History kit includes a license to be able to print from the pdf’s as much as desired throughout your teaching career, as long as you are using the printed materials with your own students.

The resources within this kit are suitable for all kinds of settings:

  • Monthly group classes for your private students.
  • Music appreciation courses for homeschooling students.
  • Music history camps (see this blog post for more information).
  • At-home assignments for private piano students.

And, as you might have guessed, this kit works great alongside a composer lapbook study.  :)

This resource is designed to make it easier to incorporate more music history into our students’ musical education.  Maybe it will be just right for you and your students over the next school year!  View the Eras of Music History Kit in the Shop here.


App Review: Treble Cat & Bass Cat

imagesTreble512-300x300 (1)Treble Cat & Bass Cat ($2.99 each for the iPhone versions and $3.99 each for the HD iPad versions)

These two apps are excellent for students to practice identifying notes on the staff.  It is a great pair of apps to recommend to parents/students to use at home.   I love how simple the concept of the game is — even young piano students will be able to independently use this app.

In each level, the player is given sixty seconds to find all of a given note(s) as a variety of different notes scroll across the screen.  If the player misses more than 3 notes, they must re-try that level.

treble cat

The graphics and the background music in these apps are fantastic! Continue reading “App Review: Treble Cat & Bass Cat”


Giveaway Winners: SightReadMinor app for iPad

I have two exciting bits of news to share today!

First, I’m proud to announce that the Music of the World camp curriculum is now available for purchase in the Shop!  The cost is $40 — which is a steal, I should add.  ;)  The camp is perfect for current private students, but is also a great offering for students with no or little music background.

As always, purchase of the digital files includes the Terms of Use to print from the files forever, as long as you are using the materials with your own students.  Please read more about the camp curriculum on the Shop description linked to above.

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mzl.kzclobbb.480x480-75Second, I’d like to announce the two randomly-chosen winners of the SightReadMinor app giveaway:

  1. Penny Lazarus
  2. Anita B.

Congrats, ladies!  Please check your email inbox for an email from me with your Promo Code.

I really enjoyed reading all of your comments on the giveaway post about your preparations for the new school year.  Thanks for sharing!  :)

Happy weekend, folks!

Music Camps

2013 Music of the World Camp Details

Good news!  The Music of the World Camp curriculum is ALMOST ready to be listed in the Shop.  :)  I’ll keep you updated.  Update: The Music of the World camp curriculum is now available for purchase in the Shop!  View the description page here.

As I alluded in my previous post, I used lapbooking as the method of study for the countries we visited each day.


I took my students’ photos on the first day of camp for their passports.  I also made sure to “stamp” their passports before and after each flight.

passport collage Continue reading “2013 Music of the World Camp Details”

Studio Business

Studio Business — Printables Updated for 2013-14

I have just finished updating two of the studio business forms from the Printables page.

The first one is the Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment pdf — I have updated the dates for use for the 2013-2014 school year.  I received a number of requests from teachers to make this form available again this year, and I am happy to do so!

Here is how the form works: Write your students’ names in the first column.  Each week, write the lesson date (in a month / date format) in the column for that week.  This is how you can track attendance.  The small circles in each cell are where you can write checkmarks indicating tuition payments.  Whether you charge by-the-week or by-the-month, you can place a checkmark by each paid lesson date.

Continue reading “Studio Business — Printables Updated for 2013-14”

Reading Notation, Reviews, Technology

Aug 2013 Giveaway: SightReadMinor app for iPad

mzl.kzclobbb.480x480-75Remember my review for the SightReadPlus app for iPad?  Well, here is an update:

I’ve been using it here-and-there with students during lessons with great success.  I love being about to choose the key and make the student have to really think about the various key signatures.  As I mentioned in the previous review, I appreciate that the app keeps the student accountable to the beat so the student does not feel it is an option to stop playing if they make a mistake.

I’ve also recommended SightReadPlus to a few of my adult students, who love that fact that the app shows them how well they did — both with the pitches and the rhythm.  It’s like having your teacher at home with you when you practice!  I have really been impressed with the usefulness of SightReadPlus.

Good news — The developers behind SightReadPlus have just released a sequel: the SightReadMinor app.  SightReadMinor works much the same way as SightReadPlus, but it contains 2880 short exercises in all minor keys for $4.99 (SightReadPlus contains 4800 short exercises in all major keys for $7.99).

More good news — The developers have also offered two promo codes of SightReadMinor for a giveaway!  In order to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post about how your Fall studio planning is going.  :)  A winner will be randomly chosen after Midnight EST on Thursday, August 15 and announced the next day.