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Archive for the ‘Piano’ Category

I was fortunate three years ago to attend the Kindermusik national convention held in Nashville, Tennessee.  I went, not really knowing many people, but content to sit and learn and absorb as much as possible of the Kindermusik experience.  What I didn’t realize was that it would be something totally new and different there that would shift my musical “paradigm” in ways I never could have anticipated.

I first met Lynn Frank and Karen Gibson, both Kindermusik educators, through our online KM Loop, made up of licensed Kindermusik educators.  When a question was posed on the loop about beginning piano methods, they both brought up Simply Music – a piano method that I had never heard of.  Having taught piano now for over 35 years, I’ve pretty much heard of most of them.  This was something new.

Developed by Australian-born Neil Moore and based in Sacramento, California, it was something that they raved about – as teachers, as musicians, as pianists.  They both mentioned how it freed not only their students from the written page, but also themselves.  Intrigued, I began to look into it and attended their information workshop in Nashville.

I was so impressed with not only what I saw, but also heard there, that I began checking into Simply Music more closely via the internet, spending hours pouring over the website, viewing their videos, and following links to licensed Simply Music instructors.  I also emailed these instructors, asking further questions about their decision to teach this method.  After a week of investigation, emails and conversations, I took the plunge and signed up for training.  I’ve never regretted it.

Simply Music is a revolutionary, Australian-developed piano and keyboard method that presents a breakthrough in music education.  Students of all ages are playing great-sounding blues, contemporary, classical and accompaniment pieces – immediately – from their very first lessons.  And they’re enjoying themselves tremendously in the process!

Simply Music sets a new standard in music education, and explores learning piano, playing piano, and teaching piano from a completely different perspective.  It presents the possibility of a new era in music education, learning, and self-expression. 

It is not the Suzuki method.  It is not rote memorization.  It is not a reading-based, traditional approach.  It is simply – music – taught in such a way that even teachers, long trained in traditional piano methods, find themselves transformed not only in how they teach piano, but also in playing and composing piano pieces for themselves. 

For your enjoyment, I present one of my beginning piano students, Alex, who is eight years old.  He has been studying piano with me since mid-March of 2008, just five (5) months ago, using Simply Music.  He has not had any previous formal piano or music study of any kind.  The piece he is playing is called “Alma Mater Blues” and is the final piece of the Level I Foundation book of Simply Music.  Enjoy! 🙂

There will be a *FREE* Information Session about Simply Music on Tuesday, August 26th, at Zion Baptist Church in Covington, Georgia, beginning at 7PM.  Interested in learning more about Simply Music and playing the piano?  Come join us!  Questions?  Email us at info at masterworks studio dot com or call 404-395-5247.

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In our Village classes, you will hear a lovely rendition of the Shaker song, “Simple Gifts,” found on your home CD, that we use for rocking/bonding time in class.  Listen now as the Five Browns, two brothers and three sisters, play this exhiliarating arrangement of the same song, Simple Gifts, recognized from Copland’s Appalachian Spring, combined with the Largo theme from Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (from the New World).  Enjoy!

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yudATA1XsyE]

Check out the Songspot in the righthand column for yet another enjoyable version!

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He didn’t know any better.  He was a self-taught musician whose creativity and technique was praised both by classically trained virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz and jazz giant Oscar Peterson.  He was remarkable in that he was blind in one eye and could only partially see out of the other one. 

Despite his physical limitations, he refused to give up his dream.  As a boy in the 1920’s, he idolized Fats Waller and wanted to play like him.  So, he listened to every possible source he could – both radio and phonograph. (Think very large, prehistoric CD) He taught himself to play using Braille and piano rolls.  He listened. He imitated. He copied. He practiced.  He improved. 

That’s where he started.  Where he ended up only demonstrates what can happen when you shed your self-imposed limitations and embrace your expectations.  I hope you enjoy Art Tatum.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bur2lO2uvuA]

The really amazing thing is that Art Tatum didn’t realize that sometimes, when he was listening to a recording, he was hearing two separate parts being played by two pianists.  He simply learned both parts and played them simultaneously.  He learned them so well that years later, when jazz artist Oscar Peterson heard Art playing, he thought there actually  were two people playing. 

Art Tatum found that dreams can come true in real life.  One night he visited a club to hear his idol, Fats Waller, perform live.  Upon hearing that Art was there, Fats told the crowd, “I just play the piano.  But God is in the house tonight.”

As parents, there are times that we limit our children in order to protect them from harm.  In some instances, however, limits, especially false ones, can hinder or even defeat us even before we get started.   What if Art Tatum had known that there were two people playing instead of just one?  Would that knowledge, that limitation, have kept him from developing into one of the most highly acclaimed jazz pianists of all time? 

This is why I believe that Kindermusik can be so important in a child’s life.  It is process-based, not performance-oriented.  It fosters and encourages a child’s creativity.  This is why I encourage parents to observe their children in class and follow their lead in instrument play or creative movement and to scaffold (or build) off of it with a slightly different twist to it.  By opening your eyes to the possibilities, you limit the limitations.

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Usually, when I hear an musical artist in concert, I will say afterwards that I enjoyed listening to them play.  Once in a while, I run across someone that I not only enjoy listening to them perform, but I also enjoy watching them create musical magic.  This is one of those rare times.  For your listening and viewing pleasure – Hiromi Uehara performing “The Tom and Jerry Show.”  Enjoy!

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0ERlIvwhAU]

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This week I’ve been a little below the radar due to the fact that I’ve been teaching music in my church’s Vacation Bible School.  Each day I’ve had three rotations of children coming through my choir room, singing, dancing, signing, having an absolute blast!  As near as I can tell, I’ve had somewhere between 150 – 170 children each day.  🙂

1st and 2nd Grades Rotation - VBS - Game Day Central 2007 - ZBC

Tonight, as I sat down and began to cull through my email and check on favorite blogs, I ran across a video that simply took my breath away.  As a mother of a special needs child, I understand the sacrifice and stamina required of a mom to care for that child.  The resolve and dedication of this mother and her daughter is truly inspirational. 

Born with birth defects resulting in only two (2) fingers on each hand and no legs below the knees, Hee-ah Lee’s mother refused to put her up for adoption or place her in an institute.  She cared for her as if she were perfect.  

Today, 20 year old Hee-ah Lee has confounded the so-called “experts”.  She is an inspiration to all come in contact with her, no matter the medium or setting.  Hee Ah began playing the piano at age 7 for therapeutic purposes, but she is now a concert pianist, using adjusted piano pedals to perform in concert on her own.  I hope you enjoy listening to and learning about Hee Ah Lee, the “Four-fingered Pianist” from Korea as much as I have.

“You play with your heart and head not your fingers,” Hee-ah says.

To learn more about Hee-ah Lee, visit her website.

Tip of the hat to Sunny Kira of Musik and Motion!

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WordPress.com is an amazing group of people who constantly seek to give their members the best, the newest, the greatest tools for blogging that you can find anywhere.  Recently, I was able to upload video clips from my piano studio’s Spring Recital to Youtube.com, but I didn’t want to place them in a series of separate posts on this blog.  WordPress.com has made it possible for me to create a separate page on this blog for the sole purpose of my piano students and their Spring Recital.

pianist

If you will look up at the very top of the page here, just above the boy with the red shirt, you will notice a tab that says “Piano for Everyone!” Click on that tab and you will find, for your listening pleasure, video clips of my students’ performances in recital.  The first set consists of their piano solos, and the second set is our “Singspiration” time, consisting of pieces chosen by the students themselves for the purpose of playing music that family and friends could sing along while they played.  I hope you enjoy their performances.  It was an enjoyable evening for everyone there.  We had a blast!

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