Composition, Music Camps, Printables

So, You Want To Be A Composer? – 2012 Summer Camp Details

Last week, I held my second summer music camp for my piano students!  It was called, “So, You Want To Be A Composer?”  I am so excited to share with you some details about our camp.  We had a really great week!

Here’s where all the magic happened:

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Composition, Conferences, Music Camps

MTNA 2012 Conference | Session on Composition Camps

The last session of the conference I attended was a wonderful one!  It was called:

Get Out of That Musical Box: Teach Students How To Compose!

Dianne Higgins gave a delightful presentation about the summer composition camps she holds each year.  It has been a great success even since the first year she tried it!

The first year, Dianne emailed her students and friends to ask for donations of keyboards, headphones, computers, and other equipment she would need.  She was surprised with the response she received, and only had a few things left to purchase.  Over the years, she has upgraded her equipment and now has 5 computer stations with small MIDI keyboards, and some keyboard/headphone stations too.  She has a separate room in her house for these stations.   Continue reading “MTNA 2012 Conference | Session on Composition Camps”

Composition, Conferences

MTNA 2012 Conference | WSU’s Adopt-A-Composer Program

On Sunday morning of the conference, I attended the Alfred Exhibitor Showcase and the Keynote Presentation given by Norman Horowitz and Melvin Stecher.  My notes are very similar to Natalie’s from Music Matters Blog, so I will let you read her summaries here and here!  (We somehow attended a lot of the same sessions…great minds think alike!)  🙂

After that, I attended a session given by the MTNA Collegiate Chapter at Washington State University (WSU) called:

Composition and Creativity: Collaboration With Living Composers In The Private Studio

This session was about the annual Adopt-A-Composer Program that that WSU uses for their Piano Lab School (where piano majors teach students in a supervised setting).  A year in advance, they choose and approach a composer, explain the components of the program, and negotiate terms.  If the budget allows, some years they commission a work or two.   Continue reading “MTNA 2012 Conference | WSU’s Adopt-A-Composer Program”

Composition, Music Theory, Printables, Teaching Piano

Just Added: Music Staff Paper for Stickers of all Sizes

Guess what!  Tomorrow is Color In My Piano’s THREE YEAR anniversary!  Woohoo!  I’ve got a few fun posts and giveaways planned for later this week in honor of our anniversary.  But today, I thought I’d share this new printable:

Continue reading “Just Added: Music Staff Paper for Stickers of all Sizes”


Pictures from the Studio

Thought I’d share a few photos of random things from the studio…

Here’s a first composition created by one of my young students last week.  It’s called “Hush Little Squirrels.”  I love her inventive notation system!  You can see the black key groups of 2’s and 3’s pictured, and the L’s and H’s mean high or low.  I was so proud of the work she put into creating and notating her piece.

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Composition, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Rhythm

Make Me A Rhythm! game

I was recently browsing some forums online and found a description of this game by a music educator.  It sounds like a great game to use with large groups of students — perhaps for group lessons or summer camps.  I asked the music educator if I could post about the game on my blog, and she kindly agreed.  In her own words: “You certainly have my permission to share the game. I made it up, but someone else probably has, too. We all get ideas from one another and put them together in different ways.”  I love her attitude and generosity!  We teachers have so much we can share and learn from each other.

This composing/rhythm game is appropriate for groups of about 8 or more students.  All you need are 4 pieces of paper with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 written on them.  These sheets serve to mark the beats of the measure, spaced out on the floor.  One student is chosen as the Composer, who must select students and make them into quarter notes/half notes/whatever.  Once the measure is complete, everyone claps the rhythm and the teacher records the rhythm onto a whiteboard to save it.  A new Composer is chosen to compose the next measure.  In the end, everyone claps the entire rhythmic composition to see what it sounds like.

I haven’t tried out this game yet, but it sounds fun!  And it’s not always easy to find games that work for large groups of students.  I just might try out this game at my studio Christmas party coming up.  🙂

Complete game instructions can be printed by downloading the pdf on the Printables > Games page.  I thought the game needed a more specific title, so I came up with “Make Me A Rhythm!”

Composition, Music Theory, Printables

Staff Paper – Large Staff for Simple Compositions

With my Piano Readiness Class, we’ve been learning about staff notation.  Last week, each student composed a mini-composition on the piano and then we together notated the piece.  We used colorful markers to label the notes (A, B, C, etc) and also wrote in finger numbers, so they can continue playing their compositions at home.  They loved the idea of being composers!

This is the sheet paper we used to notate our compositions.  Young students tend to draw rather large notes 🙂 , so I left plenty of room between the lines of the staff.

To download, visit the Printables > Other Resources page and scroll down to “Staff Paper — Large Staff for Simple Compositions.”

Composition, Technology

Hear my New Piano!

I promised over a month ago that I would post a video so you could hear my new piano!  I wanted to wait until after I got it tuned, of course, and recently I finally got around to recording something.

In this YouTube video, I’m playing a short piece I composed during undergrad called “Contemplation.”

This is a piece I composed in 2007 during my senior year at Hope College. It was written for an assignment for a Form & Analysis theory course for which we were supposed to compose a piece using the Schenkarian techniques we were studying in class. The structure of this piece is based on a descending line using scale degrees 3-2-1. This descending line is also used on a more micro level as a motive throughout the piece.

In the next video, I am playing a piece that my six-year-old student back in Central Michigan composed before I moved away.  He composed a melody called “Goodbye,” and wanted me to compose the left hand part for it.  I was so touched by his request!   Continue reading “Hear my New Piano!”

Composition, Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Teaching Piano

Improvisation Activity: Rory’s Story Cubes

Before I begin, allow me to give credit where credit is due for this wonderful idea: I got this idea from Laura on her blog (click here).  I was so thrilled to see her idea of using these “story cubes” for improvisation with piano students!

Meet “Rory’s Story Cubes.”

Rory’s Story Cubes consist of a set of 9 dice with all kinds of pictures on their faces.  I think English teachers use these as a starting point for writing stories.

Piano teachers can use them too.  =)

Let me tell you about how I’ve been using this fun new prop.

During a piano lesson, I gave my student all of the dice and asked her to roll them.  Here’s what they look like:

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Composition, improving as a teacher, Teaching Piano

Improvisation Yields Creativity and Musical Understanding

I haven’t talked about improvisation lately, and in the past I’ve only spoken of the value and benefits of improvisation in the piano lesson in a rather academic-y way — and so today I’d like to discuss some specific benefits I’ve seen develop in a particular student of mine as a direct result of our improvisation activities.

Some background on my student: she (let’s call her K.) is just a beginner, having started lessons in January of this year.  K. is seven years old, and is now nearing the end of the Primer level of the Faber Piano Adventures.

Here’s what I’ve seen in K. so far:

  • The freedom to explore and be creative. She is learning by exploration. She enjoys figuring out how to play tunes by ear, without any assignment or direction from me.  She’ll say, “Look! I figured out how to play Mary Had A Little Lamb!”
  • She is discovering musical concepts on her own. She has already figured out — all on her own — that when she plays tunes in certain keys, she needs to use the black keys for them to sound right.  It’s astonishing when you think about it — she has actually discovered the reason behind key signatures and how transposition works, all by herself!  I expect that when we actually start talking about these concepts together, she will find these ideas easy to absorb because she already “gets it.”
  • Her ear is developing in a way that is far more efficient and practical than me drilling her with intervals (for example) over and over.  She knows what the interval of a 3rd should sound like when she sees it on the page, and her fingers then know what to do.
  • We’re having fun! Improvisation is a great way to end a lesson.  She is always excited to improvise on the black keys.

To sum it up, improvising regularly with my student has helped her realize the freedom that comes with the art of music, rather than placing a limit herself to play only “what’s on the page.”  And this is causing her to understand how music works all the better.

Creativity At Work

K. surprised me last week with a little composition she wrote.  And she created her own kind of shorthand for notating her composition onto a sheet of paper.  It looked something like this:  CDECCDEEFGGEDDDDEDC.  She informed me that the long notes were notated by having two of the same letter in a row.   Continue reading “Improvisation Yields Creativity and Musical Understanding”