Giveaways, Reviews

Review & Giveaway: Wendy Chan’s “Music Escapades Shoppe” Teaching Resources

Years ago, I remember meeting Wendy Chan and her Music Escapades Shoppe. Well, recently I reconnected with her and learned about the relaunch of her online shop! I was pleased to chat with Wendy again and check out her resources.

When we chatted, Wendy asked if I’d be interested in reviewing any of her teaching resources. I replied that I’d definitely be interested in her Grand Staff Magnetic Dry-Erase Board. She, in turn, sent me not only that, but three of her other teaching resources as well. How generous! Pictured below are the four items she sent.

In this blog post, I will share my personal thoughts and photos about each item. Please continue reading, and be sure to learn how to get a discount code and enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

1. Grand Staff Magnetic Dry-Erase Board

Wendy’s Grand Staff Magnetic Dry-Erase Board has been quite useful during my recent teaching, especially while teaching online right now due to Covid-19.

Continue reading “Review & Giveaway: Wendy Chan’s “Music Escapades Shoppe” Teaching Resources”
Reviews

Book Review – Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

You might be wondering why I’m reviewing a non-piano-related book here on my blog. Bear with me – the reasons will become clear in a moment!

I remember hearing about this New York Times Bestseller when it came out in 2014. Although it sounded interesting to me at the time, I’m reading it for the first time recently. After finding out we were pregnant last summer and soon afterwards experiencing the woes of first trimester nausea and occasional midnight insomnia, I was suddenly on the hunt for an ebook I could read in bed on my phone without disturbing my sleeping husband. I liked the idea of reading something related to our new adventure as soon-to-be-parents, but was looking for something less information-driven than classics such as “What To Expect When You’re Expecting“. After seeing a recommendation for “Bringing Up Bébé” and reading its reviews on Amazon, I felt this book was just what I was looking for.

In this book, the author, journalist Pamela Druckerman, recounts her experience as an American raising a baby (and later, two more) in France. Soon after moving to Paris, she began noticing certain stark differences in child-rearing approaches in France compared to those typical in the United States. She started paying attention to this and asking questions — even stashing a notebook in her diaper bag — and investigating to see if she could learn more about how the French parent their children.

Druckerman noticed French children are generally well-behaved in public, waiting calmly for meals to arrive and waiting their turn to speak. French children enjoy a diversity of prepared vegetables, proteins, and salads and are accustomed to eating meals served in courses alongside their parents at designated times (8am, noon, 4pm snacktime, and 8pm), while American parents often expect their children might refuse to eat much else besides “kid food” (such as mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and snack food). French children are encouraged to be autonomous and independent in their play, being allowed more room to become absorbed and find pleasure in an activity for its own sake. In contrast, American parents might follow their children around the playground, delivering praise for mundanities such as going down the slide or tying their shoes. While French babies learn to “do their nights” around three months of age, American parents expect to function (or perhaps, not function) in a sleep-deprived manner for a year or more until baby begins to sleep through the night.

Continue reading “Book Review – Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting”
Reviews

Book Review – Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, by Barry M. Prizant, PhD

I recently finished reading the book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, written by Dr. Barry M. Prizant. It took me only a few days to “read” (I listened to the audiobook version) the whole thing, because I was enjoying it so much.

My motivation for searching out this book arose from a desire to better understand my current piano students who have autism. This was the book I settled on after searching on Amazon.com for a book on the topic that had excellent reviews.

This book did not disappoint.

The author, Dr. Barry Prizant, has decades of experience working with individuals with autism and is a leading expert in the field. He is a scholar, researcher, consultant, and an adjunct faculty at Brown University.

As Dr. Prizant explains in the book, autism therapy typically tends to focus on behavioral therapy — which means, getting rid of behaviors such as difficulties interacting socially, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Dr. Prizant points the way to a different approach instead. His book promotes the seeking of understanding individuals and what might be underlying their behaviors, check out these speech-language pathologist assistant job positions.

Rather than seeking to eliminate so-called “autistic behaviors”, Dr. Prizant advocates asking “why”. WHY is the person behaving this way? How can I better understand what might be causing the individual’s behavior, and how can I change MY behavior to help him or her?

Continue reading “Book Review – Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, by Barry M. Prizant, PhD”
Reviews

Book Review: The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker

Upon reading the title of this book, you might be wondering why this book is being reviewed on a piano teaching blog. That’s a great question! The reason boils down to this: this book applies to piano teachers as much as anyone else, and to me it was SO good that I wanted to share it with you here. 🙂

Gathering is universal — yet taken for granted — and can be so meaningful when done well. I feel confident that upon reading this book, you will, like me, find multiple ways to apply it within both your personal life and professional life.

In her book, author Priya Parker draws upon her expertise as host, event facilitator, conflict resoluter, and consultant to present a number of principles for gathering. The first principle she discusses is the most important: knowing the purpose of your gathering. From there, Parker discusses how your purpose will help you determine who to invite (and exclude) from your gathering, what venue to choose, and how to make the event transformative and memorable for those in attendance.

In this book, you’ll learn how to greet attendees, open gatherings, end them, “prime” attendees for the event before the date, and ensure the gathering is unique, effective, and fun for all in attendance.

The Art of Gathering is chock-full of fascinating stories from Parker’s experience exemplifying her gathering dos and don’ts. I found myself relaying many of the stories from the book to my husband. In turn, he kept asking if I was done reading the book so he could start reading it. 🙂

Parker’s advice was inspiring to me as I considered the variety of gatherings types in my own life — from my recitals, my studio “Piano Parties”, music camps, MTNA chapter general meetings, board meetings, gatherings with my family, dinners with friends, etc. I feel better equipped with things I can do to help gatherings be memorable and enjoyable for all involved. This book arrived in my life at an especially relevant time, as I am serving on the conference planning committee for the OhioMTA‘s 2019 state conference and also midst preparations for my upcoming second annual Piano Teacher Retreat at my home.

I “read” this book by listening to the audiobook using the Audible app (an Amazon company). I love Audible, because it enables me to read many more books in a year than I would without it. However, as much as I love audiobooks, I must tell you The Art of Gathering is so good you might want to consider buying a hardcopy (Amazon link) to mark up and reference again.

I recommend The Art of Gathering to anyone interested in learning how to facilitate gatherings to make them matter.

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Interested in a trial subscription for Audible.com? Here’s a special link for a trial that will give you two free audiobooks.

Special shoutout to Seth Godin for recommending this book on his blog

Music Learning Theory

Recommended Reading From Edwin E. Gordon’s Books on Music Learning Theory (MLT)

Over the past few of years, I’ve been reading my way through a handful of the dozens of books written by Dr. Edwin E. Gordon (1927-2015), thinker extraordinaire in the realm of music learning theory. Although I found his writing style requires some getting-used-to — due partly to the necessity of learning the terminology he uses — I have found it extremely worthwhile to do so as I strive to incorporate aspects of his Music Learning Theory (MLT) into my practice as a piano teacher.

In this article, I’d like to present a list of the Gordon books I’ve read so far, accompanied by brief descriptions what each book addresses. My hope is that this article will provide useful recommendations for those interested in Gordon’s MLT and wondering which of his book(s) to read first. For this reason, the books are listed in order by how highly I would recommend them to someone new to Gordon’s writings. Each review below includes a link to where the book can be purchased from GIA Publications or Amazon. As I read more of Gordon’s books, I plan to add more descriptions to this list.

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Before I begin, I’d like to preface by saying that there is a book about MLT that was not authored by Gordon that I would recommend reading before reading Gordon’s books. That book is Eric Bluestine’s The Ways Children Learn Music (GIA Publications | Amazon). Bluestine’s book offers an excellent, friendly primer of the premises of MLT and the shortcomings of conventional music education. I consider it a must-read for any music teacher. Read my full review of Eric’s book here.

Now, let’s get on to discussing Gordon’s books!


Discovering Music from the Inside Out: An Autobiography – Revised edition, by Edwin E. Gordon

Published in 2006 and revised in 2014, Gordon’s autobiography is a wonderful read. It tells the story of his early life growing up as a boy, his careers as a working musician (including playing bass for the Gene Krupa Band), and his work as a professor and researcher. The book sheds light on the circumstances that prompted Gordon to examine the way music is conventionally taught, the nature of music aptitude, and how we learn music.

This book was fun to read, and I consider it a great starting point for anyone even mildly interested in Gordon’s Music Learning Theory. Bottom line: If you are interested in music education and you enjoy autobiographies, I would recommend this book to you.

Links: GIA Publications | Amazon Continue reading “Recommended Reading From Edwin E. Gordon’s Books on Music Learning Theory (MLT)”

repertoire / methods, Reviews

Review: Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey

Back in the summer of 2015, as a huge fan of Irina Gorin’s YouTube channel, I attended Irina Gorin’s first ever piano teacher workshop held near her hometown in the Indianapolis area. Here is a photo of Irina and I during the workshop.

20150807_201911 Irina Gorin workshop

Over the past two years, I have been using Irina’s self-published method book, “Tales of a Musical Journey”, more and more with my students. As I have become more familiar with the books and am seeing its results in my students, it has become my favorite piano method book.

If you’ve watched any of Irina’s teaching videos on YouTube, you have seen for yourself how Irina successfully develops in her students a healthy physical approach the instrument as well as expressive and sensitive playing — even in her youngest beginner students. Irina’s books are the result of combining what she feels is the best of Russian piano pedagogy and the best of American piano pedagogy. This makes Irina’s method unique and quite different from typical American piano method books.

In this article, I’d like to share an overview of Irina’s method and the reasons why I like it so much. Continue reading “Review: Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey”

Music Theory, Reviews

Review: Celebrate Theory Series from The Royal Conservatory

celebrate-theoryI’m so excited to tell you today about a fantastic series of theory workbooks called Celebrate Theory (Canada | U.S.), just released from Frederick Harris Music publishers. If you happen to already enjoy – as I do – using the wonderful Celebration Series (Canada | U.S. | Amazon.com) with your piano students, you will be especially interested in learning about Celebrate Theory.

Before talking about the specifics of the Celebrate Theory books, allow me to first briefly cover some background information about The Royal Conservatory and the revisions to the RCM Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition.

The Royal Conservatory (RCM) is a music education institution in Toronto that has been in existence since 1886 and is responsible for a curriculum for music study that is considered by many to be the foremost music education system in Canada, the United States, and many other countries around the world. Exam centers for RCM (also known as the Music Development Program [MDP] in the U.S.) are available in many major cities a few times each year. RCM offers quality publications for music study through their non-profit publisher, Frederick Harris Music.

I have entered a few students in the RCM/MDP practical exams over the past few years and I consider the program to be absolutely top notch. (Check out my printable charts for helping students prepare for the technical requirements portion of the assessment.)

Whether or not your students participate in RCM/MDP exams, you will find the Celebrate Theory books worth your attention. Continue reading “Review: Celebrate Theory Series from The Royal Conservatory”

Performances, repertoire / methods, Reviews

My Favorite Sheet Music Solos for Piano Students

For our annual Spring Recital, I maintain a tradition of letting my piano students choose their own special piece to memorize and perform. In December or January, I restock my library of sheet music solos at all the various levels, so that I can demonstrate 3-4 pieces for each student to choose from.

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I’ve started to try to keep track of some of the pieces that I feel were favorites or especially successful in performance over the past few years. I think every teacher should keep track of their favorite teaching pieces! I suggest doing so using a YouTube playlist or a spreadsheet file (Excel or Google Sheets). In fact, I have started a Collaborative Repertoire List project here that you may be interested in viewing.

Today, I’d like to share with you a selection of favorite sheet music solos my students have played over the past few years. In this video, you will hear me talk about and play excerpts from 18 pieces. Below the video, you’ll find written comments for each piece as well as links for purchasing the sheet music. Enjoy!

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EARLY ELEMENTARY

  • 1:20 Dancing Drums, by Joyce Grill —  A lively piece in a minor key that has a catchy and interesting melody. Teacher duet.
  • 2:00 Japanese Garden, by Jennifer Linn — An expressive, pentatonic piece for beginners. Teacher duet.
  • 3:20 In My Dreams, by Jennifer Linn — This piece has an absolutely gorgeous melody. 36 measures in length. Teacher duet.

MID ELEMENTARY Continue reading “My Favorite Sheet Music Solos for Piano Students”

Reviews

App Review: Musiclock

Musiclock appI’m excited to write this app review, because it is one of the most well-designed and useful apps I’ve come across lately!

Musiclock is a $2.99 app for iPad and iPhone that provides a variety of backing tracks intended to be used while practicing scales or improvising.

The first step is to select a scale. The scale choices are: major, major pentatonic, minor pentatonic, natural minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor, blues, and dominant bebop.

IMG_5067 Continue reading “App Review: Musiclock”

Reviews, Videos

Teaching Tool Review: Wright Way Note Finder

wright way note finderWhen I am teaching piano, one of the teaching tools I use frequently is the Wright Way Note Finder (find it on Amazon). I love this tool because it is useful for building a stronger sense of staff-to-keyboard correlation in students in just a few minutes’ time during lessons.

Watch the video below to learn more about how I use the Wright Way Note Finder during lessons. In this video, I also describe what I consider to be the four steps that our minds go through when decoding music on the staff during sight-reading:

  1. Recognizing the note’s location on the staff (e.g., treble clef line #2).
  2. Audiating (hearing in your mind’s ear) the approximate pitch (how high/low is this sound?).
  3. Correlating the note to a specific key location on the keyboard (e.g., the G above Middle C).
  4. Knowing the name of the pitch (e.g., G or sol). This step is not nearly as important as the other three steps; yet, in practice, we and our students tend to overemphasize the importance of the note names. This step is not crucial during sight-reading.

I like to use the Wright Way Note Finder to help the student improve steps 1-3.

Where to find the Wright Way Note Finder and similar tools:

  • The Wright Way Note Finder costs about $12 on Amazon.
  • Alfred Publishing offers a similar tool called the All-In-One Flashcard for about $8. As the video on Alfred’s website shows, the tool is two-sided with letter names printed on one side. And the quarter note can be flipped upside down so that the stem is pointed the proper direction.
  • Slide-A-Note is a similar teaching tool, sold for about $7 at slideanote.com, that shows a sideways printed keyboard for the intent of further building the student’s sense of correlation from staff to keyboard.

Thanks for watching!Wright-Way Note Finger vintage

All past broadcasts are here: ColorInMyPiano.com/live/. To watch future broadcasts live, download the free Periscope app (for iOS or Android), search for @joymorinpiano, and hop online on Mondays at noon Eastern time. Hope to see you next time!

Do you have suggestions about what we could discuss in future Periscopes? Please submit your ideas by clicking here. I appreciate your input!

Reviews

Review: Rhythm Swing app

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.16.24 PMLuke Bartolomeo has done it again! The developer of Flashnote Derby and Dragon Scales has released a brand new app for iPad and iPhone called Rhythm Swing.

The image below provides a look at the levels available within Rhythm Swing: Basic Notes, Basic Rests, and Eighth Notes.

The app tracks progress by marking completed sections with up to three stars. This works great for students who own the app on their own device. Currently, the app does not enable teachers to track students’ progress from the teacher’s device.

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For each basic rhythm concepts, the app first provides video lessons.

screen520x924 (2) Continue reading “Review: Rhythm Swing app”