Highlights from NCKP 2023

Last week, I attended the 2023 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP) held July 26-29, 2023. I have to say it felt so great to be there face-to-face with fellow piano teacher friends old and new, especially because this was the first in-person I’ve attended since the pandemic!

This morning as I was completing NCKP’s after-conference survey, I realized that I have been attending every NCKP since 2011. That’s a total of seven NCKPs so far!

If you’ve never attended the NCKP, I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list. It’s similar to the MTNA National Conferences in many ways, but it’s a slightly smaller conference and they do certain things a little bit differently. It’s organized and sponsored by the Frances Clark Center — a non-profit association dedicated to honoring and furthering the legacy of piano pedagogy Frances Clark (1905-1998). NCKP meets biennially, always in the same location (Lombard, IL — outside Chicago), which for me is convenient because I can drive there in about four hours.

Anyway, in this lengthy post, I’d like to share a variety of highlights and bits of news from NCKP 2023. Read on!

Continue reading “Highlights from NCKP 2023”

NCKP 2017 (4): Saturday

[Click here to go back to Day 3.]

8am Kjos Publisher Showcase: Bastien New Traditions: Inspiring the Next Generation of Beginning Pianists, by Lori and Jane Bastien.

You probably know the Bastien name from the variety of method series (remember the iconic cover of the Bastien Piano Basics method?) and supplemental materials that were popular across past few decades. You may not know, however, that the Bastiens are back with the brand new method released last year (2016) called the Bastien New Traditions All In One Piano Course.

The Primer A book is off-staff reading, while the Primer B book is on-staff reading. If desired, the teacher can directly start the older beginner in the Primer B book. In this showcase, Lori demonstrated a number of the pieces from the method books, so that in hearing the pieces and the teacher duets we could gain a sense of the quality of the music.

Here's a photo taken of me with Jane Bastien and her daughter Lori!

Continue reading “NCKP 2017 (4): Saturday”


NCKP 2017 (3): Friday

[Click here to go back to Day 2.]

First thing this morning, I joined Tim Topham live on Facebook to rundown of the previous day's events.
Check out our fun video here!

9:00am Effective Communication of Practice Expectations: Send them Home with the Tools for Success, by Scott Donald

Scott completed a survey recently exploring how teachers communicate at-home assignments to their students. After all, how well we communicate expectations and practice strategies determines the likelihood that the student will follow through.

In another project, Scott compared three modalities for communicating the same practice expectations: written, aural, and video. Those teachers who participated were to evaluate the number of errors in the performance. As it turned out, there was no statistically significant difference between the modalities. So, Donald decided he needed instead to take a look at what exactly what was being communicated. The top tips he shared: Be specific in your assignments. And practice together during the lesson.

Continue reading “NCKP 2017 (3): Friday”


NCKP 2017 (2): Thursday

[Click here to go back to Day 1.]

8:00am Hal Leonard Showcase: Recent Classical Piano Publications from Hal Leonard

During this showcase sessions by Hal Leonard publishers, we were informed about a variety of new publications available. Of special interest are the new "At The Piano" books from Henle Verlag. These books contain original pieces by one composer, arranged and labeled by level of difficulty. The book contains information about the technique and interpretation of the piece. According to Henle, the books are most appropriate for Jose who are returning to the piano after a longer break. It's interesting to see Henle branch out into pedagogical publications!

9:00am Lost In Translation: Helping Students Connect with their Repertoie through the Subtleties of Musical Languages, by Ryan Greene and Thomas White.

In Ryan and Thomas's presentation, they shared some terms they have discovered and developed as a way of categorizing and talk about recognizable styles of music. Along the way, they shared plenty of musical example illustrating each style.

The styles include the Brilliant Style (as seen in scale passages in pieces by Clementi and Mozart), the Learned (Strict) Style (hearkening back to Baroque contrapuntal styles), the Singing Style (Chopin Nocturnes are exemplary), the Pastorale Style (based and nature and folk tunes and dances), the Turkish Style (an influence originating from the 1600s when the Ottomans were sieging Vienna), and Exoticism (when composers mimic a musical culture without complete integrity, such as "cowboys and Indians" subject matter or oriental music).

I found these categories fascinating. These are styles we commonly see in both pedagogical and standard classical repertoire and no doubt will prove useful for helpful students transfer experiences to new pieces.

Continue reading “NCKP 2017 (2): Thursday”


NCKP 2017 (1): Wednesday Pre-Conference Seminars

Weeeeee! I'm blogging from here at the NCKP — the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy occurring in Lombard, Illinois. Amy Chaplin and I drove a five-ish hour trip to to get here and have been enjoying some wonderfully informative and inspiring sessions so far.

The first day of NCKP was the optional day of pre-conference seminars. This day consisted of a variety of tracks to choose from: technology, teaching students with special needs, musician wellness, collaborative pianists, young professionals, and independent piano teachers. Here's some notes from the sessions I attended.

1:30pm Keynote Address by Barbara Kreader

Barbara is the author of a new book, The Music of Teaching: Learning to Trust Students' Natural Development. This book focuses on the development of perception in our students and on what we as teachers can learn from our students.

Barbara gave a wonderful keynote address. She described a student of hers who found developing basic skills difficult. Barbara felt nearly out of ideas with this student, but found herself amazed at the ongoing tenacity and good naturedness of her student. She realized that this student likely struggled with other subject areas in school. She started asking the student for his ideas about what to do next. The student offered things like that he liked to stand when he felt frustrated and shake out the tension in his muscles. And he said he wanted to sing. They tried those things, and while it didn't make things magically easy, it did help. The student often will reveal what they need, if we just take the time to ask and listen.

Every child develops and matures at their own rate. Before a standardized school system, children graduated to the next skill, not to the next grade. And they did so when they were ready. It is not necessary for every student to graduate from one level to the next at the same time. As independent teachers, we are fortunate to have freedom to allow and nurture development appropriate for individual students.

Amy and I ran into Jennifer Foxx and Lynette Barney at this session. Conferences are wonderful for reconnecting with old friends and making new friends.

Continue reading “NCKP 2017 (1): Wednesday Pre-Conference Seminars”

Conferences, Professional Development

2017 NCKP and Other Upcoming Events

Hello, friends!

Any of you heading to the 2017 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy in Lombard, IL? I’m heading out tomorrow and am looking forward to long weekend full of fun and learning.

I will be participating during a session as one of the panelists on a session called “Carving Out Your Career Path” at 2:30pm during the Young Professionals Track tomorrow (Wednesday). Maybe I’ll see you there!

After NCKP is over, my conference buddy Amy Chaplin and I are staying in the Chicago area to attend the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML) conference a few days later. This is the first time either of us have attended this conference, so we are looking forward to seeing what it’s like.

In other news, I thought I’d also list some upcoming presentations I’ve been adding to my calendar recently. If you happen to live in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, or Kentucky, I’d like to invite you to join me. I’d be happy to send you more details about these events upon request.

  • F, September 8, 2017: “Teaching the Way We Learn: Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory for Piano Teachers.” Wood-Ottawa Counties MTA (Bowling Green, OH).
  • F, September 29, 2017: “Teaching the Way We Learn: First Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory” with co-presenter Amy Chaplin. IndianaMTA state conference (Marion, IN).
  • Th, October 12, 2017: “Grounded in the Beat: Cultivating the Seeds of Rhythmic Fluency.” OhioMTA State Conference (Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert, OH).
  • M, November 6, 2017: “Teaching the Way We Learn: First Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory” with co-presenter Amy Chaplin. KentuckyMTA state conference (Lexington, KY).
  • F, November 10, 2017: “Alexander Technique for Piano Teachers & Students.” Northeast Indiana MTA (Fort Wayne, IN).
  • F, December 8, 2017: “App-Laudable Uses of Apps in Music Lessons.” Grand Rapids Piano Teachers Forum (Grand Rapids, MI).
  • F, April 6, 2018: “Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom in Method Books.” Western Reserve MTA (Cleveland, OH).

You can find my full calendar here, and my list of workshop topics here.


NCKP 2015 (4): Saturday, August 1

In continuation of my summaries of the happenings at the 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, below are my notes from Friday, July 31.

[In case you missed them, here are links to previous three days:]

8:00 Publisher Showcase: Willis Music

The Willis Music publisher showcase, called Recital Repertoire for Rave Reviews, was led by Carolyn Miller. She played a huge variety of music, including many recent publications, that would be particularly effective performed at recitals.

We also ducked into the Faber Piano Adventures showcase and took a picture with Randall Faber afterwards!

Continue reading “NCKP 2015 (4): Saturday, August 1”


NCKP 2015 (3): Friday, July 31

[In case you missed them, here are links to previous two days:]

In continuation of my summaries of the happenings at the 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, below are my notes from Friday, July 31.

On Friday morning at 5:45am, we were awakened from our sleep by the fire alarm going off in our hotel room! Apparently, someone’s hair dryer malfunctioned and set off the fire alarms in certain floors of the hotel. We went down eleven flights of stairs and stood outside until they cleared us to return to our rooms. It was an interesting way to start the morning! 🙂

8:00 Publisher Showcase: Piano Safari by Katherine Fisher and Julie Knerr

For the first morning session, I attended the publisher showcase for the Piano Safari piano method, which is authored by Katherine Fisher and Julie Knerr. Piano Safari is a piano method for ages 5-11, but it has been used successfully with 4-year-olds. It uses an intervalic reading approach and uses both “reading pieces” and “rote pieces” to create strong readers in students. In their session, Julie and Katie walked us through Level 1 of Piano Safari, demonstrating the pieces and discussing the logic and pedagogy behind their piano method. It was a fun and informative session.

I’ve blogged about Piano Safari before, but in case you haven’t heard of it, you can learn more about it and order it through their website: There are a variety of pedagogical essays available for free download there, as well as new pieces of solo sheet music available for order.

Continue reading “NCKP 2015 (3): Friday, July 31”


NCKP 2015 (2): Thursday, July 30

Yesterday’s pre-conference sessions at 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy were outstanding, and the sessions on the official first day of the conference were just as great! Here is a summary of some of the events.

8:00 Publisher Showcase by Sekwang Music Publishing Company – Smart 8: An Integrated Art Program that Develops Multiple Intelligence and Musicianship

First thing in the morning, I attended a publisher showcase by Korean publisher Sekwang Music Publishing Company. Lea Kang led us through a wonderful demonstration of the arts and movement activities of her new books called “Smart 8.” The book is completely unique from anything I’ve seen before. To be clear, it is not a piano method; rather, it is an integrated arts book that I think would be very fun and wonderful to use for offering group pre-piano or arts appreciation courses to young children. The beautiful book is filled with artwork to admire, think critically about, and experience through movement and music activities. The author enthusiastically led us through a series of the movement activities, some of them involving props such as scarves, ribbon wands, and hand-held music instruments.

[Note: So far, I haven’t been able to find where this book is available for order online. I’ll update this post with a link if I am successful in finding out that information.] The Smart 8 books can be ordered at In addition, you can watch a video of the entire NCKP session on YouTube hereContinue reading “NCKP 2015 (2): Thursday, July 30”


NCKP 2015 (1): Wednesday PreConference Seminars

Today, I traveled with my good friend Susan West to Lombard, Illinois to attend the 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. When we arrived, we met up with our other roommate, Amy Chaplin.

We attended the Independent Music Teachers track of the Pre Conference Seminars.

1:30: Marvin Blickenstaff – Keynote Address: The Many Faces of Music

In his wonderful and inspiring keynote for the day, Marvin discussed the many faces of music. Continue reading “NCKP 2015 (1): Wednesday PreConference Seminars”


NCKP 2013 Haul

I almost forgot to post a photo of all the freebies I took home from the NCKP.  (I love freebies!)

Each day, there is an Exhibiter Showcase in the morning and late afternoon.  These sessions often offer freebies of some the latest releases from major publishers, usually in a free tote bag.  Here is a photo of the free music I took home with me:


The value of these books is nearly $200!  That certainly helps defray the costs of attending a national-level conference, and it is fun to hear about the latest books and resources available.


NCKP 2013 – Wrap-Up Post

NCKP-2013_logo_v2croppedThe National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy is awesome.  I learned so much and it was wonderful to connect or re-connect with other teachers.  The schedule is intense — there are sessions, master classes, recitals, teaching demonstrations, etc., scheduled throughout the day.  At certain points in the schedule, you must choose between a handful of sessions to attend — and it is very difficult to make just one choice!

As you know, I blogged quite a few of my conference notes.  I used my new iPad Mini to take notes.  I really should have invested in one of those little keyboard case things, because typing with the on-screen keyboard was a bit tricky.  I apologize about any typos you find in my notes — editing with the touch screen was not easy and auto-correct was also working against me.  I have fixed some of the typos, but still have more editing to do.

Typos or no, I hope some of you enjoyed reading about some of the sessions I attended.  You should know that reading my notes is nothing like being there in person, though.  Start saving for NCKP 2015!  😉

In case you are interested, you can check out some of the handouts from the sessions here on the Francis Clark Center website.  Some of the sessions were recorded and live-streamed — you can view those here.

This year at the conference, I made a point of taking more photos.  At past conferences, I’ve returned home to realize I had only taken one or two.  I did better this time!

Below is a photo of me with some colleagues: my cousin, Sarah; my friend from grad school, Loretta; my friend Yen-Lin from my local MTNA chapter; and my new friend Drema from Vancouver. This was taken in the hotel lobby.  Continue reading “NCKP 2013 – Wrap-Up Post”