Hannukah, wordpress.com

Delightful Piano Arrangements of Jewish Holiday songs

Robert Schultz has done a Mitzvah, (blessing) in compiling a pleasing group of Jewish Holiday songs for Intermediate level students.

Jewish Holiday Songs

For Chanukah, which shares a table setting with Thanksgiving this year, (the menorah sits beside a fully dressed turkey), Schultz has included two particularly engaging selections:

“LICHVOD HACHANUKAH” (about baking potato latkes), and “S’VIVON” (Spinning the Dreydl) They’re both D-minor ear-catchers of contrasting mood/tempo making them a complementary pair:

Nearly all the arrangements have aesthetic appeal, and celebrate a good sampling of Jewish holidays: Passover, Rosh Hashonah/Yom Kippur, and Purim. As icing on the cake, Schultz includes Songs of Israel: “Hava Nagila,” “Hatikva,” “Artza Alinu,” “Jerusalem of Gold,” and much more.

A five-star collection worth its weight in gold, it’s a pleasure-giver, and repository for the development of a singing tone, supple wrist, staccato and legato touch, and wide range of dynamics.

Jewish Holiday songs list of selections

Chanukah candles Thanksgiving table

Mozart Minuet K. 5, piano lessons by Skype, teaching rhythm

Piano Study: Does counting out beats have to be robotic? (Videos)

I’m open to a panoply of ideas about teaching piano, and I’ve often integrated a variety of mentoring approaches based on feedback from colleagues.

The latest discussion that caught my attention, centered on “counting beats” in the early learning stages of a new composition. For some the notion of oral “counting” at all in the baby step advance of a piece, (or beyond) was viewed as “metronomic,” “robotic” and devoid of “musicality.”

One poster introduced the topic as one that made her want to “scream.”

(I can think of worse things to scream about–like students not practicing or COUNTING when they need to)

In my expansive archive of Lesson-in-Progress videos, I dare to COUNT as I clap, tap, syl-la–ble–ize, conduct, and sing all at once in my not so perfect soprano.

Case in point: One of my adult pupils is working on a very challenging Mozart Minuet in F–K.5 where opening treble triplet 8ths precede a second measure of quarters, followed by a third one, with a 16th note thread followed two quarters. (In the first measure, the triplet has a quarter underlying in the bass, while the ensuing two measures divide the melodic quarter into 8ths, then 16ths)

Mozart Minuet in F, K. 5

So how does a teacher go about helping the student unravel this complex rhythmic transition in an early, impressionable learning stage.


In Mozart’s Minuet, the first measure, must be felt as a rolling triplet outflow, so that COUNTING must blend in character with slurred groupings of these figures framed in 3/4 time.

In the spirit of three fluid groupings, I could intone, One-a-lee, Two-da-lee, Three-da-lee, or as the student did, “trip-l-et, trip-l-et, trip-l-et…(syllables are a wonderful adjunct to counting)

For the second measure, where the treble quarters would be subdivided by 8ths, (in my opinion) I enlisted, the verboten COUNTING model. This time, singing, “One and Two and Three and” through the melodic strand.

(The “SINGING PULSE,” as Murray Perahia, poet of the piano, terms it, is WHAT COUNTS, not the NUMERICS)

In the third measure, where 16ths permeate the first “BEAT,” I used DOUBLE-LEED-LE, two and three and….(i.e. four 16ths are followed by two quarter notes) –-Singing, conducting, and phrasing the beats defeated ROBOTIC counting…

Making a transition from triplets to quarters that are subdivided by 8ths (or 16ths) and in reverse, (back to triplets) requires an exposure to BEATS, in a eurhythmic frame right from the start.

(Eurhythmics is a motion, “feel,” body experienced, internal sense of the “BEAT,” its groupings, and PHRASING that’s acquired through repeated exposure) https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/eurhythmics-a-whole-body-listening-experience-video/

So COUNT-LESS times I’ve COUNTED, without a thread of guilt, using syllabic variations, but never in a dry, pedantic manner. It’s always been within a “musical” framing.

Finally, it’s our job as teachers to seed a student’s learning process so that he GROWS and thrives to independence.

Counting, therefore, is not an end all at lessons, it’s the beginning of a music-loving journey that draws on creative infusions of energies in an ever-expanding eurhythmical universe.

Lesson in Progress (UK student by SKYPE) (EARLY stage learning, Mozart Minuet K. 5)

My Play Through

piano blog, piano instruction, why study music, wordpress.com

A message to music students and parents

This says it all:

why i teach music

I thank my dear friend and colleague, Louise Hullinger for posting this gem.

And here’s another treasure from Kurt Vonnegut:

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”


PLEASE READ the COMMENTS to this posting below

classissima.com, E.L. Lancaster, holiday piano arrangements, holiday piano music, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, piano pedagogy, The Nutcracker Suite

A winning collection of Nutcracker selections arranged for piano!

An inquiry at the Facebook Art of Piano Pedagogy forum drew my immediate attention. A supermom pianist/teacher and mentor to her grandson, was eager to feast the youngster on Nutcracker delights and wanted some guidance. She had noted the child’s enthusiasm to notch himself into a challenging musical arena, so why not recommend a colorful potpourri of holiday arrangements produced by Gayle Kowalchyk and E.L. Lancaster, Alfred Publisher. (Designated for “Intermediate to late Intermediate Pianists.”)

The Nutcracker Kowalchyk Lancaster

Three samples from this collection of 8 compositions, I found particularly delightful:

“March” captures Tchaikovsky’s colorful orchestration in its opening choir of voices–just the right range in its showy TRIPLETs display! In addition, the selection has significant pedagogical value in the arena of supple wrist development and staccato technique. (A lovely light interlude is perfectly delightful) Add in an exploration of dynamic contrasts and a teacher can be pleased to top the menu with this holiday serving.

“Dance of the Reed Flutes,” is equally charming, particularly in its mid-section transition to F# minor. The rhythms are captivating, while a forward flexible, wrist motion is well applied here.

“Russian Dance,” in vitality alone, is a show-stopper, wooing most students to practice by increments to completion. It’s popularity is an instant springboard to learning, though it clearly falls into the “LATE INTERMEDIATE” level category.

The balance of pieces, “Miniature Overture,” “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” “Arabian Dance,”(Definitely Intermediate level); “Chinese Dance” (needed inserted trills), and “Waltz of the Flowers” are nicely flavored musical desserts that should arrive just in time for Christmas, so why not indulge your students!

DISCLAIMER: While I’m not usually a partisan of ARRANGEMENTS re: the Classics, I’m a tad more tolerant of orchestral music transcribed to piano, that is, if it’s done artfully.

But were I to consider Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” transposed and reduced to one page, I would not embrace such a journey.

Enough said,
Happy Holidays, and Enjoy the Music!


Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Uncategorized

Piano Lessons for children: A triad of cooperation

Embarking upon a musical journey with a child requires more than one boarding passenger. While a student eases onto the piano bench, front and center, parents are truly in the driver’s seat. They need to provide necessary support for an undertaking that has lifetime value. Otherwise, registered ambivalence about the role of music in the education of a child, will mar the sheer delight of music-making and undermine the baby-step process that makes this possible.

I’ve spoken before about cultural shifts, where Sports is deified, placed at the top of the Millennium’s activity pyramid. The hero worship that’s embodied in this Spartan culture, forbids mom from pulling Ambrose out of soccer. If she does, he’ll be tagged “a quitter,” humiliated by his coach and team members. (The aftershocks will reverberate for decades, culminating in a “sports deprived childhood” and a snug fit on the Analyst’s COUCH)

But if mother shuffles the schedule so A. can keep soccer amidst swimming, tennis and horseback riding lessons, then the remaining vestige of a civilized culture in the Athenian spirit, can be tossed aside with the speed of an Olympiad discus throw. Did I hear “piano” echoing into the wind?

A few days ago, I was surprised to hear from a student whom I taught in the early 1990s. At the time, she was a young teen, whose mother was very musically supportive. In fact, mom sat in on lessons, and enjoyed listening to Jeannie parcel out voices in the Schumann Arabesque. She knew and understood the value of an embryonic growth process that culminated in full blossoming beauty. And so it went for the years we all worked harmoniously together, until college beckoned–too far away to continue a three-way music fest.

Jeannie’s recent telephone call to me, out of the blue, was very touching. She had become a mother, and lived within a few miles of me. Naturally, she was eager to start her little ones on piano.

Her bristling enthusiasm was evident, and while I knew this might be a purrfect match, the tender ages of the children, and my promise to teach only adults precluded my involvement as mentor.

So I advised Jeannie, that perhaps she should delay instruction and bathe the children in great music of varied genres, continuing their Music Together classes, and exposures to Children’s concerts.

Her urgency drowned out my reservations. She insisted that at least the 5-year old was ready, and perhaps the 3 yr. old, would join in soon after.

Given her green light, I decided to help. I dashed off emails to a select list of MTAC members whom I knew to be reputable teachers and fine musicians.

Within 15 minutes of my mouse tap, SENT, two responded with an interest in meeting the young child, and it was based upon what I had said in the introduction about MOM and her LOVE and support of MUSIC, not to mention the cultural exposure she had steadily nourished in the home and beyond.

It was the treasured start most in our profession relish.

Mom was thrilled to know about the positive connections I’d made and was buoyantly happy about the turn of events.

In short, I have no doubt that the new teacher, young child and her mom, will work as a harmonious trio, nurturing a musical journey along to new heights of joy! That’s what I would wish for them.






PIANO DROPOUT RATES: How the initial interview is better than a crystal ball
PULLS and TUGS: Two Sides to the student/teacher piano lesson relationship


THE PARENT/TEACHER RELATIONSHIP: Striking the right balance

piano teaching

Piano Gym and remedial practice

I put myself out there in the piano gym arena not as a paragon of perfection but as a work in progress. The growth process counts most to me, along with the joy of fine tuning it.

That’s how I approached a set of warm-up arpeggios that needed remediation as snags arose.

A few big constellations that assist practicing:

Do Slow, build-up practice in gradated rhythms.

Use physical motions that are musically EXPRESSIVE

Starting quarters, for example, should feel like you’re drawing handfuls from a deep vat of CLAY…

Then transition to dip-rolls for two-note slurred groups of 8ths (shown in video) These follow the quarters.

Play with SHAPE, expression
AND DON’T forget to BREATHE deep, but natural breaths.

Think LONGER lines over the 16ths and 32nds (faster note values)

Have a nice, round, relaxed turnaround on the highest note and back down in the arpeggios (same is applied to scale practice)

Use Rhythm practice where needed to tidy slip-ups (dotted-8th/16th or LONG/short/Long)

Or play deeper into one hand and lighter in the other, if the LH feels weak, for example.

Keep a journal of what WORKS, including mental images that improved performance, fluidity.

Use BIOFEEDBACK: Note how you FELT/BREATHED when the passage Worked!

Bottom line: Playing beautifully through warm-ups or pieces, is more than fingers, wrists, and arms. It’s your whole being that’s invested when you play even one note.

Here’s a more basic tutorial re: the arpeggios previously explored:


classissima.com, Piano Street

My Yamaha Arius digital is singing again!

Harry Mello is the hero of this long-winded tale. Poor Yamaha Arius had lost her voice. She was dried out, and un-sustainable. All of her pedals, if not petals had died on the vine. She was speechless.

To her dear rescue came the Yamaha Corporation, who dispatched Saint Mello from B Street Music to bring the poor maiden back to life.

Harry Mello

Such dedication to repair and rehab (R and R) is rare these days. In fact two others who were called to SERVE, finked out when it counted, earning themselves one star reviews on YELP.

Because words can’t amply express my gratitude for a TEAM effort that resuscitated Arius, I will defer to a video that documents laudatory skills and outstanding customer service.

Arius and Steinway in perfect harmony


B Street Music in San Mateo CA

Store: 245 South Railroad Ave.
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 342-6565