Monday, April 14, 2014

Have You Read in Musical Terms Lately?

Meet Rafaele!

He has just started lessons and we've been working on dynamics - f, p, mf.   He's a hands-on learner and I wanted to have a bit of fun with him during a recent lesson, so here's a look at what I pulled out.

One simple book and 3 dynamic flashcards and we were on our way!

I asked Rafaele to read me the story with the understanding that as I held up a flashcard, he had to read using the volume of the dynamic marking.    Of course, I changed them often and we had ourselves a very silly time!

The end result?  Rafaele always remembers to apply those markings when he plays!  A fun exercise with quick results!

How about you?  Have you found a fun activity that has helped your students quickly learn a musical concept?  We would love to have you share!

Friday, April 11, 2014


This sweet girl, Abrianna, besides being very talented musically, has been blessed with loads of creativity!  She is a very talented artist and loves to make gifts for her friends and family.  Recently she made several stuffed animals and by "made" I mean she bought the fabric, sewed them together, stuffed them and embroidered the faces on them.

One week when she came to lessons, she surprised me with one of my own.  What's unique about this one, is that she also embroidered all kinds of musical terms all over the adorable cat.

Here's a quick look!

I decided to make this our studio mascot so I had a contest and asked my students to name the cat!  Abrianna selected the name from the long list of submissions.


I love kids and their creativity!  Thank you, Abrianna!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Life in My Little World

For those of you who have followed my blog for awhile, you may remember that in January of 2012, I slipped on a patch of ice after shoveling my sidewalk and ended up at the hospital.  I had to have shoulder surgery on my right shoulder and reconstructive hand surgery on my left hand.  Two weeks ago, I went back to the hand surgeon and because of additional symptoms I was having in my right hand and elbow, he immediately scheduled surgery on my right hand for 3 days later!  So, in the last 2 years, I lost use of my right hand and arm, then my left hand and then my right hand again!  Not too helpful for lots of things, and blogging certainly took a back seat!  I'm happy to report that I believe I am finally done with all that and while there is still some recovery in both hands right now, I'm glad to finally feel like life can get back to normal again.  Woohoo!!

My typing skills are slow, but every day the pain is a big less and mobility a bit better.  I have all kinds of games and activities I've been planning in my head and hope to get some of them posted soon.  So many of you have sent me emails and posted comments that I haven't been able to respond back to as of yet, but I hope to answer you shortly.  Please be patient.  I also promised to post two camps for sale and I'm hoping to make those available soon.

Thank you for all your support and kind words as you have read through my blog.  I hope to be back to more consistent blogging shortly! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Dynamic Challenge!

Part of our practice adventure, "Catch Me if You Can!" is that each room includes a challenge students must master.  When students enter the DYNAMICS DINING ROOM, their challenge is to apply the dynamics they know to a song they have practiced! 

Here's how it works.  On my trusty little white board, I give them a dynamic marking to start their piece with.  As they begin to play the song, I continually erase one marking and apply another.  Their job?  To adapt as quickly as possible to the new marking and continue playing through the song!

The goal is to do it smoothly without stopping to "figure it out".  Depending upon the length of the song, I may tell the student to repeat the entire song or a portion before they begin to play.

Here's what I noticed they are catching from the challenge:

1. They now pay attention to them!  It may seem obvious, but some students just plow right through dynamic markings without giving them a thought.  This challenge helped them to see dynamic markings have value and definitely change the way the piece comes across.

2. Knowing the piece well helps them pay attention to the dynamics!  Dynamics tend to be the last thing we apply after learning a song.  This challenge helped them to focus on them much better since they already knew the notes and rhythm.

3. Dynamics add more fun to a piece!  Yes, they are catching this!  As I did this challenge with them, I tried to apply dynamic markings that didn't always make sense to the style or message of the piece.  This certainly helped them to analyze what we did and to take a better look at what markings made sense in the song.
4.  My students are proud of their accomplishments and their "Ah...ha!" moments!  For many students, this challenge was a reinforcement of what they knew and helped them to realize the importance of every detail in their pieces.  For others, it was an "ah..ha!" moment of the importance of including them. 

All in all, I'm seeing a lot more value placed on dynamic markings lately which makes me extremely happy as it does them!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Gifts

My studio Christmas recital was this past weekend and it went extremely well!  I was very proud of all my students!
It was a night of beautiful Christmas & Hanukkah music as well as pieces the students and I picked together that were general in nature.

After each recital, I always have a reception.  I provide the punch/coffee and all the paper goods.  Each family in my studio brings a goodie to share.  It's also a night that I give each of my students a Christmas gift so I thought I would share with you what I did this year.

On December 26th last year (yes I bravely went out to check out the sales with the girls in my family and a very dear friend).  While were out, I found these adorable bells for half price!
I purchased 40 of them for a grand total of $20.00!  I wanted to personalize them a bit so I picked up some alphabet beads and some cute tiny ornaments designed for tiny trees. 

With a bit of wire and some beads I had on hand, here's a look at how they came out!

Cute, huh? 

I had also found these adorable boxes for about $.25 apiece which made wrapping a cinch!  All in all, I spent about $1.10 per gift including the wrapping!  I was pretty pleased about that!

And the response?  They loved them!  They loved their name on the ornaments, the fact that they were bells and were very excited to hang them on their trees! 

As a side note, I did give my older teens iTunes gift cards which were a bit more expensive obviously, but even those don't need to be much to make teens happy!

I hope this helps give you ideas if you give out gifts as well.  Oh...and don't forget to check out those sales on the 26th!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mission: Possible!

We have group lesson coming up next Monday so I've been putting together some fun games and activities for us to work on.  Our practice incentive this year has us all thinking about clues and working as spies so I wanted to add elements of that with my group lessons.  One of the activities I put together is based on an idea I saw on Pinterest.

Each of my students will be given a Top Secret envelope - for their eyes only - containing an instruction sheet, and sheet to record information on and a fun pencil.

I wanted to challenge my students to show thankfulness this coming Thanksgiving by doing some acts of giving during the week.  Their mission, if they choose to accept it, is to find ways to secretly show love through kindness and appreciation.

The idea sheet gives them suggestions such as: Play a concert for someone you love, Tell your parents, "thank you" for allowing you to have music lessons, Compose a song for someone you love, etc.

I also threw in a few such as: Clean your room without being asked, Smile at 3 random people and brighten their day, etc.

The Plan?  Each student will receive their packet at the group lesson.  Throughout the week, they will record the acts of giving on this sheet and then bring it back at their first lesson after Thanksgiving.

 I've given out a couple this week for students who will be unable to be at the group lesson next week and there's already lots of excitement to get started! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Knock it Off!

Ok...not you!  But your students!  Here's a fun rhythm game designed to pin student against student!
What do you need?  Simply the game board (found on the my website here. ), a 12-sided die, and sets of two different colored chips (12-20 each).

Here's how the game is played:  The game board is made up of 12 circles with rhythm values totaling from 1 to 12.  Students roll the die and find the circle of rhythm that matches the number on the die and place one of their chips on the circle. 

Game continues with each student taking turns and placing chips.  If a student rolls a number that an opponent has a chip on, they can "knock" the opponent off the number and place their own chip on it.  If a student rolls a number they already have a chip on, they can add another of their own chips which secures their spot and doesn't allow opponent to knock them off.  If a student rolls a number that is secure, their turn is over and play moves to their opponent.

The game ends when one player covers the entire game board or a designated time is up!  To add a bit more challenge, have your students clap the rhythm in order to place a chip on the circle. 

Enjoy this game with students who have lessons back to back, such as sibling group, use it in your classroom or as a station during a group lesson. 

Have fun!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Little Bump in the Road

Wondering where I've been?  Here's a look at the latest happenings in my world!

This is the second surgery I had to have related to the fall I had last year.  I had to have reconstructive surgery on my left hand.  It's been difficult to do much with this hand so after summer camps, this became a priority to get done.  Of course now it's even more difficult to do things but at least there's an end in sight! 

I share this with you so you'll know why I haven't posted much lately and why it will be a few weeks before I can be back at it consistently.   I hope your fall semester is going well!  My studio starts up again this week.  Have fun!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Practice Incentive!

Catch Me...If You Can! is the name of our practice incentive program this year.  It all started a few months ago when I was asking one of my students for ideas.  Connor loved the "Be A Star" program we did last year and soared right through it.  Apparently he had just played the game of CLUE and suggested that we do a program similar to the game.  After batting around a few ideas together, I went to work on it and came up with all the details for the program.

This is the game board that will be a part of each student's notebook.  Each week as they practice they move around from room to room.  The rooms included are - Staff Spa, Notation Nursery, Musicality Conservatory, Technique Theater, Dynamics Dining Room, Performance Parlor, Rhythm Rec Room, Ear Training Gym and the Melodic-Harmonic Hallway. 
There are 33 cards that go with the program - 9 room cards, 9 musical tool cards, 6 composer cards and 9 optional cards (Advance 1-2 spaces, Jump to another room, etc.).  Without looking, I had Connor randomly choose 1 room card, 1 composer card & 1 musical tool card that we placed in a top secret envelope! 
The rest of the cards were placed in the 9 individual room envelopes.

Here's how it works!  Students are trying to discover the missing composer, what room he is in and what tool he is using!  Each week that a student completes his practice minutes, he can advance one square on the board with the goal to enter each of the 9 rooms.  Once they enter a room, they are given a challenge, such as working on a new rhythm, doing some ear training, performing a piece, etc.  Once they complete the challenge in a room, they are able to open the envelope that matches the room they are in.  When they open the envelopes, they are able to gradually eliminate composers, rooms and tools as they try to discover which ones are in the Top Secret envelope. All of this is recorded in their detective notebooks!

As they move around the game board, I decided to use music note stickers so they can keep track of their progress around the board and from room to room.  They have the option to go systematically or they can actually jump from room to room through secret doors as long as they have find a card in an envelope that allows them to do that.  I also made a fun "Wanted" for questioning poster of the 6 composers.  Each student must pick one of these composers as their character for the game.  Throughout the year they will research their character, listen to his music, etc.

Because my students LOVE to keep track of each other, I made a large - poster size game board to display in the studio.  It also has the envelopes on it.

Here's the fun part for you!  All of these documents - Student game board, clue cards, detective note books, large game board (banner & pockets), envelope labels and "Wanted" for questioning poster are all available FREE on my website here.   There are 9 files - all the way at the bottom of my resource page - so you can pick and choose which ones you would like to use.  You can decide what challenges you would like to do based on your students and if you want to have them each study a composer.  The only additional items you will need are 10 small mailing envelopes and music note stickers (Mrs. Grossmans stickers fit well).
If you want to make a large size display game board, here's how I did it.  The large game board is printed out in 4 pieces that fit together.  I attached them to a foam board, added the banner at the top and cut out some 1/4" black cardstock strips to make a border.  Then I put contact paper over the entire foam board.  Once that was done, I added the two pockets and the envelopes.  I plan to also make game pieces that have my students names on them to use on the board with poster putty (this works great when you add the contact paper to the board).  This just allows them to see where their friends are in the game.  I'm also working on decorating the studio with magnifying glasses, question marks, etc. to keep with the detective theme.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Catch Me if You Can!

I'm putting the final touches on my practice incentive program for this year, Catch Me if You Can!  One of my students actually came up with the idea so we worked together to make it happen!  It should be super fun and challenging! 

I should have all the details available for FREE this coming week should you decide you would like to use it as well!