Professional Development, repertoire / methods, Technology

Watch this Google Hangout Discussion about Piano Methods

Whew!  I feel like I have so much to share, but not enough time to share it!  😉

Last week, I held a summer camp for my piano students called “Practice Tips & Tricks.”  It was a fun week.  For my birthday last month, my husband gave me a projector.  (Yes, I’m a techno-geek!)  It was wonderful to be able to have a large visual to use during camp!  I hope to share more details about all this later.

On Friday, I held another Google Hangout this time talking about piano methods.  You can watch the video here.  We did encounter some technical difficulties unfortunately — I apologize about that!  Thanks for bearing with us during this experiment.  🙂

I have another Google Hangout scheduled for this Friday at 11am Eastern time.  Please visit the event page here to get all the details and feel free to submit questions for us to discuss in advance.

More later!  🙂

Announcements, repertoire / methods

Red Leaf Pianoworks

2014 Red Leaf Pianoworks Ohio flyer copyI love the internet.  Without it, I would have far fewer friends and contacts in the piano teacher world, wouldn’t you?

A few months ago, I connected with Canadian piano teacher and composer, Martha Hill Duncan.  She stated that she would be in my area in February during her husband’s sabbatical and so I asked if she would be willing to give a presentation about the music of Red Leaf Pianoworks at my home.  She said yes!

If you aren’t familiar with Red Leaf Pianoworks — It is a group of Canadian composers who collaborate to promote their self-published piano compositions. They have a website here and you may have seen them in the exhibit hall at conferences such as MTNA or NCKP.

Martha talked about the composers behind Red Leaf Pianoworks and demonstrated samples of their music for us.  It was fun to learn a little about each person and get a taste of each person’s unique musical voice.

  • Janet Gieck
  • Rebekah Maxner — (Remember my review of Rebekah’s book, “Madge’s Notebook“?)
  • Martha Hill Duncan
  • Beverly Porter
  • Susan Griesdale
  • Teresa Richert
  • Joanne Bender
  • John Burge

One of the things I noticed as I was listening to the pieces was how teachable the pieces were, while at the same time requiring students to get out of the typical five-finger positions that many American piano methods promote.  I am always on the lookout for supplemental books that get students moving around the keyboard more.

Martha and my colleague try out a piano duet.


We had a lovely morning.  Afterwards, Martha, her husband, and I went out for lunch.

photo (6)

Be sure to check out the Red Leaf Pianoworks website here.

One of the questions I asked Martha was whether the Red Leaf Pianoworks has considered selling individual pieces as a PDF download from their website (and with the license for unlimited studio use — I love that!).  She said they haven’t talked about it much but may consider it for the future.  If this is something you would be interested in, leave a comment below to give Martha some feedback about this!  I’m sure they would appreciate hearing from teachers.

Announcements, repertoire / methods

Field Trip to the Faber Piano Institute

Did you know that the authors of the Piano Adventures method, Nancy and Randall Faber, live in Ann Arbor, Michigan?  Did you know that the Faber Piano Institute in Ann Arbor is only an hour away from where I live?!

My local MTNA chapter, the Wood-Ottawa Counties OhioMTA, organized a field trip for us to visit the Faber Piano Institute last Friday.  We had a fantastic time.  The Fabers and their staff were most welcoming and hospitable.


The Faber Piano Institute is located in a building that previously was a library.  They created smaller rooms for teaching studios in one half of the building.  There are around seven teachers who give lessons at the Faber Piano Institute.  Continue reading “Field Trip to the Faber Piano Institute”

Giveaways, repertoire / methods

Giveaway: Christmas Music by Jennifer Eklund

Jennifer Eklund of has kindly offered to sponsor a giveaway for us today!  Let me tell you a little bit about Jennifer’s work.


Jennifer is a piano teacher and self-publishing composer with a huge output of materials for piano students.  She publishes her own piano method called Piano Pronto as well as a variety of supplemental books/sheet music.  Jennifer sells both print copies and digital copies (for immediate download) of her materials.    Continue reading “Giveaway: Christmas Music by Jennifer Eklund”

Announcements, repertoire / methods, Technique

The Technique Exercises of the Piano Safari method

On Friday, my local MTNA chapter held a workshop given by Katherine Fisher and Dr. Julie Knerr, co-authors of the Piano Safari method.  Piano Safari has been on my radar for quite some time, although I have not yet used the method books with a student.  I have, however, been experimenting with the technique exercises they have developed.

20131101 Piano Safari 2 Continue reading “The Technique Exercises of the Piano Safari method”

repertoire / methods, Reviews

Review: The Music of Jon George

Having lived in my town for just over 2 years now, my studio is comprised mostly of beginner and elementary level students.  A few months ago, I felt that a handful of my beginners were ready for some early elementary level supplemental books — things that would get them moving around the keyboard more and help prevent them from becoming too “method-ized.”  (You know what I mean, right?  I don’t like my students to become overly Faber-ized, Alfred-ized, Bastien-ized, or whatever).  🙂

Two years ago at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, I attended an Exhibitor Session for Willis Music led by Glenda Austin.  Most of the session was about composer William Gillock (no longer living) and his wonderful compositions for students.  I remember that Glenda introduced the session by stating that many experienced teachers are well aware of Gillock’s extensive output of music for students, but that many younger teachers might not be familiar with his music.  I enjoyed that session so much — it was great to learn more about Gillock and his music that has stood the test of time.

Jon George is another composer who has left behind a huge output of wonderful pieces for students.  While I am relatively new to his music, no doubt many of you have made great use of Jon George’s music over the years!  A few months ago, I decided to order a few of Jon George’s early- and mid- elementary level books to use with my students.  I’m so glad I did, because I am thrilled with what I found!

3507673Kaleidoscope Solos – Book 1, by Jon George

Early Elementary.

I love this book.  It is very difficult to find such good writing for beginner students.  This book contains some of the best writing for the early elementary level that I have ever encountered.

The pieces in this book require students to play with their hands starting at different places on the keyboard, which helps prevent students from getting “locked” into positions such as the Middle C position.

As a teacher, I do my best to encourage students to shape phrases and play musically even when they are beginners and these pieces make it easy to do so!  These melodic pieces are inspiring to students and appealing to the ear.  The student of mine who received this book is thriving with these pieces.  I will be utilizing this series much more in the future.

There are 4 more books available in this series, progressing to an intermediate level.   Continue reading “Review: The Music of Jon George”

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!

repertoire / methods

International Week of The Piano Geek


Have you heard about International Week of the Piano Geek, yet?

Starting next week on Monday, the folks behind are holding a fun week of emails, giveaways, and more. Visit to learn more and to subscribe to the email list to get the updates.

Color In My Piano will be making an appearance, and sponsoring a giveaway, too. You won’t want to miss this, so head on over and sign up!

Forum Q&A's, repertoire / methods

Forum Q&A: What piano book did you first learn from?

Greetings!  I know I’ve been MIA around the blog lately — it’s been a busy couple of weeks.  This time of year always requires lots of planning time, for upcoming festivals and recitals.  I’ve been helping students pick out repertoire and keeping track of forms and registration dates, etc.  🙂

Anyway, I though I would start a new Forum Q&A post today!  Last time, we discussed duet repertoire — I hope you will go check out all of the responses so far by clicking here, and I also hope you’ll continue adding your favorites!

Today, I want to to hear from you:

What piano method books did you learn from as a child?  Did you like the books?  What did you like about them?  What else do you remember about your first piano lessons?

I think it will be fun to hear your stories!  I’ll try to post my own answer sometime this week, too.

repertoire / methods

More Classical Anthologies for Piano Students

This post is a sequel to the post: 9 First Classical Anthologies for Piano Students.  As mentioned before, anthologies are great for exposing students to a variety of composers and styles of literature at a great value.

After the student’s first introduction to classical pieces, there are many, MANY of different options for classical anthologies that are suitable for late elementary / early intermediate level students and beyond.  We piano teachers are fortunate to have such a variety to choose from!  Rather than resorting to using the same 2-3 books, I try to take advantage of the huge variety of books available and enjoy the variety of literature available for our students to play.  I am always on the lookout for new things to use with my students.  🙂

Below are descriptions of a smattering of different anthologies, along with my comments about each one.  Be sure to share about your favorite anthologies in the comments!

Classics Alive!, Book 1, ed. by Jane Magrath (Alfred).

I love this book, and all the selections within it.  It’s a great value, with 72 selections.  The pieces start at a late elementary level.  The editing is great, and the typeset is clean and easy-to-read.

Books 1, 2, and 3 are available.

Melodious Masterpieces, Book 1, ed. by Jane Magrath (Alfred).

Again, I love all the selections in this book!  Book 1 contains 38 selections, starting at an early intermediate level. The pieces are chosen for the purpose of encouraging the student to play expressively, or to suit the student who enjoys melodic, poignant literature.

This book contains mostly Romantic pieces, although all periods are represented.

Continue reading “More Classical Anthologies for Piano Students”

repertoire / methods

Forum Q&A: Duet Repertoire Suggestions

Barefoot Easter SerenadeOur previous Forum Q&A post was about Christmas gifts for piano students.  We received a LOT of responses — thank you!  I will definitely be consulting that post again next year when Christmas rolls around!

Our new Forum Q&A is a topic suggested by a reader.  She says:

“My New Years resolution in my studio is for myself and my students to sight read and prepare more duets.  I would love suggestions on duets at all levels.” 

 So, please share in the comments of this post!  What are some of your favorite solos or books for piano duet to use with students?

repertoire / methods, Reviews

9 First Classical Anthologies for Piano Students

With my piano students, I love to introduce classical music as soon as possible.  It gives them a head-start in getting used to the contrapuntal reading that classical music requires, as well as the kinds of technical and musical challenges that classical music requires.  Early exposure also means that they in most cases they grow to love and appreciate the music!

Anthologies are perfect for students who are just being introduced to classical music.  They allow you to expose students a variety of styles and composers at a great value.  Even if the student does not study all of the pieces in the anthology, they can use the others for sight-reading practice or play them just-for-fun later in their piano study.

In most cases, I give my students their first classical anthology soon after they complete the Primer and Level 1 of their method book.  I have tried out a variety of different anthologies in order to determine which ones work best for students at that early level.  It is nice to have a few options to chose from, so that your students are not all playing the same repertoire.

Below is a list of some excellent anthologies I have evaluated for their suitability as an early elementary level student’s first introduction to classical music.  I’ve also included comments about each book’s value, length, variety of selections, clarity of the score, quality of the editing, etc.  I hope you can find my list and comments useful!

Preparatory Piano Literature, from the Developing Artist Original Keyboard Classics series, ed. by Nancy Faber, Randall Faber, and Jeanne Hansen (Hal Leonard).

Contains 12 selections, and comes with a CD.  The scores are clean and clear, and the editing is good.  This is an excellent book to use as a student’s first classical anthology.  It includes two pieces with teacher duets, which is a nice bonus.  My students have enjoyed learning those duets, and I’ve often had older siblings accompany them instead of me.

After completing this books, students can continue to books 1, 2, 3, and 4 — or jump over into the set of Piano Sonatina books, Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4.  I love the 20th/21st century selections included in the Piano Literature books (there is not much in the Prep level, but there is more in the upper levels) — in particular, I love Hansi Alt’s “On the Ocean Floor” from Level 1.   Continue reading “9 First Classical Anthologies for Piano Students”