Archive for the 'Music in Community' Category

Guide to Remote Music Education

A black man sits in the living room of his apartment and plays a synthesizer. He composes music.

So much of what makes music fun for us is sharing it with others: playing in ensembles, performing concerts, worshipping with our congregations, and teaching our craft. Unfortunately, many of us have found the usual ways we gather together to share music abruptly curtailed recently. With the help of technology, though, teachers and students alike can access a plethora of opportunities for distance learning through online lessons and rehearsals, practice aids, self-instruction and advancement, and sheer repertoire exploration.

Here’s our guide to navigating distance music learning and instruction. Let us know if you have any tips or pointers, and we’ll be happy to share them with our community!

Moving Lessons & Rehearsals Online

Online lessons work. Not only will they help all of us maintain a sense of normalcy, they allow teachers and ensemble directors an opportunity to see and hear their students differently, which can help point out new areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement.

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Unless you’re trying to make online instruction a new permanent part of your pedagogy, you don’t need fancy technical equipment. Just use your computer, tablet or smartphone with a good Internet connection and, if you prefer, maybe headphones or earbuds.

You will need to develop a vision for how these lessons will look, but your considerations can be limited to the following:

  • What platform are you going to use?

VideoCallIconOrangeA lot of teachers like Zoom because it’s free and stocked with features, but other options include Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and many more.

If you’re more interested in something like a masterclass, lecture or group rehearsal, it might instead be worth checking out Crowdcast to make the experience more user-friendly. Though this is a paid service, there are longer session limits, an integrated chat for students, Q&A features, and the ability to invite students or guests to join on screen.

To do a virtual choir recording, try GarageBand or SoundTrap EDU (by SoundCloud) to have singers record on top of each other and hear the previously recorded parts as they go.

  • How will your setup look on camera?

Make sure you have enough space and lighting, and make sure that the elements that students need to see are easily visible on screen. Do a practice run with a fellow music teacher to check.

  • What tools do students have, and what will they need?

If students need to install software or access equipment like music stands and metronomes, let them know how and where they can get these in advance of their lessons or rehearsals.

  • What should the student be paying attention to during the lesson?

Some teachers, for instance, advise students to watch the stream of themselves during a one-on-one lesson. The streams acts like a mirror, letting the student see their body alignment and make automatic adjustments.

Expect a couple kinks when you’re getting started, but you’ll be able to iron these out pretty quickly and easily.

Developing a Practice Plan

planner-2428871_640Many students, especially those who are younger or at earlier stages in their musical education, don’t know how to practice effectively. While this is a challenge for any environment, distance learning requires students to be more self-directed.

When helping students develop a practice plan, consider these ideas:

  • Set a specific time and day for practice
  • Set specific goals: For instance, play a difficult passage correctly 5 times, rather than playing it correctly only once and moving on, to reinforce getting it right.
  • Break down the practice session into timed segments between warm-up, literature/technique study and performance.

Bookending a practice session with comfortable, familiar playing helps students feel good about playing and balance challenges with success.

Online Music Education Resources & Support

Whether you teach individual lessons or lead instrumental or choral ensembles, there are a number of music methods and series that have online tools to support instruction and practice.

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  • SmartMusic: This web-based suite of music education tools includes play-along accompaniment tracks, melody examples and masterclass videos, as well as enrichment pages with theory, music history and exercises, and access to a vast library of repertoire. Not only is this a supplement to the Suzuki Method and to the Sound Innovations series for both band and orchestra, this is also a powerful versatile platform to aid one-on-one lessons, remote classrooms and rehearsals, and individual practice.

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  • Essential Elements Music Class: A cloud-based service for elementary music classes, this tool offers recordings and classroom activity videos for hundreds of songs, as well as a comprehensive collection of teaching materials, including interactive activities, games, virtual Orff instruments, listening maps, recorder and ukulele units, custom lesson creation, and more.
  • Carus plus for choir: The carus music app contains recordings with amplified individual voice parts, tempo control and a marker feature for following the score to help choral singers learn new music from Carus quickly.

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  • Noteflight Learn: Free for music educators affected by closures through June 30, this web-based tool lets teachers create sheet music and composition assignments, and also lets students can also listen to, play or record any piece of music in the Noteflight library at any tempo in any key.
  • MusicFirst: A comprehensive Learning Management System for K-12 music education, this cloud-based suite of services offers an expansive library of lessons, assessments, content and complete courses to help teachers monitor students’ progress, make lesson plans and create assignments.
  • The Shed: This site is full of digestible lessons in theory, notation, rhythm, improvisation and more.
  • MetronomeOnline: This mobile app for iOS and Android helps organize and track practice time with time tracking, task lists, goal settings and a metronome.

This Giving Tuesday, Give to Music Education

This Giving Tuesday it’s our privilege to feature three of the most dynamic music education organizations in the United States: Give A Note Foundation, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and the Ukulele Kids Club.

Sheet Music Plus has supported the fundraising efforts of each of these organizations in recent years, and today we’d like to once again bring to light the extraordinary work they do to connect children with music and bring these children the multitude of benefits that music can offer them.

We urge you to support them today and every day throughout the year to the extent that you are able, and if you or someone you know would benefit from their services, we encourage you to reach out to them for assistance.

 

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Give A Note Foundation

https://www.giveanote.org/

Give A Note Foundation provides support to nurture, grow and strengthen music education opportunities. Founded in 2011 with an initial investment from 21st Century Fox and the TV show GLEE, Give A Note increases access to quality music education for more students, especially those in urban and rural communities where funding is scarce. Give A Note’s Music Education Innovator Award recognizes teachers who have developed creative, effective in-classroom programs and provides ongoing support to encourage lasting change within a school or district. Music Teacher Notes offers teachers an opportunity to apply for funds that will enable them to serve more students and significantly improve the music education experience in their classrooms.

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Haydee Vazquez & Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona of Ramona High School (Riverside, CA)

Haydee Vazquez, a senior at Ramona High School in Riverside, CA, found a connection to her family’s culture and an environment for her to blossom as a musician, friend and well-rounded person in her school’s mariachi program, Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona. Give A Note invested in Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona during its first round of the Music Education Innovator Award, granting Director Brian Gallagher funds to add instruments to the program to increase student engagement in music. Here is Haydee’s story:

“Mariachi music has always been part of my family’s culture, but I was never a big fan of it until I joined the group. Previous to Mariachi Dinastía de Ramona, I had been a part of various musical groups, including Wind Ensemble and Dynasty Marching Band as a trumpet player, and Madrigals as an alto singer. These groups all gave me amazing experiences, but I wasn’t able to find a balance to do everything. During my junior year of high school, a friend of mine introduced me to the mariachi class…The environment was slightly altered but still familiar, but the experience was completely different. The mariachi group and class has taught me to appreciate music through a different perspective, learn from the experiences I had as a single individual and as part of the ensemble, as well as provide me with a safe haven from the outside world in which I can enjoy playing music with the wonderful people I’ve developed great friendships with.”

 

MHOF_LOGO_NO_BOX_4CP_BWMr. Holland’s Opus Foundation

https://www.mhopus.org/

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was inspired by the acclaimed motion picture Mr. Holland’s Opus, the story of the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students. The Foundation keeps music alive in our schools by

donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs, and providing vital services to school districts nationwide, giving economically disadvantaged youth access to the many benefits of music education, leading them to success in school, and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music. Over 23 years, more than 29,000 instruments have been donated to 1,560 schools across the United States through the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

Felice Mancini, President and CEO of the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, reflects on her organization’s impact:

“We believe that kids thrive when given the chance to learn and play music. We regularly check in with teachers who receive instruments and it is very satisfying to know that they see dramatic improvement and accomplishment when students play great-sounding instruments. Schools are such an integral part of any community, and tools and activities that increase student success and get them through to graduation and college make communities stronger.”

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation gave an instrument grant to Jeremy Diggs, Director of Bands at Fonville Middle School in Houston, TX, who described the effect that the foundation’s grant had on his students:

“The students all expressed that playing on the new instruments made them feel more confident in what they were doing. That boost of confidence came in handy because the 8th-grade band received straight 1st divisions at the district competition. All of the students were playing on donated instruments! We couldn’t have done it without the investment you made in our band program! Thanks again!”

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Fonville Middle School Band (Houston, TX) earned 1st Division Superior ratings

Catherine S., a student at Key Middle School, also in Houston, TX, sent this thank-you note to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation after receiving a new flute through an instrument grant provided by the foundation:

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UKCLogoUkulele Kids Club

https://theukc.org/

The Ukulele Kids Club (UKC) is an international nonprofit organization based in Plantation, FL. The UKC was founded in 2013 by Corey and Edda Bergman as a tribute to Jared Bergman, their son who died tragically at the age of 20 from a viral infection. In his bereavement, Corey, a lifelong musician, was inspired to begin volunteering his musical talents at local children’s hospitals in the Miami area, playing guitar for patients and their families. He let the children try out his guitar, but after finding it was too large for some of the younger patients, he realized that the instrument’s smaller cousin, the ukulele, might be a more approachable alternative. Corey began teaching these young patients the ukulele, and so was born the UKC.

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Corey Bergman volunteering with his guitar in a Florida children’s hospital

Since its founding, the UKC has directly supported the health care of nearly 10,000 children through music, music therapy and donations of its signature instrument. The UKC works with more than 200 hospital-based music therapy programs in the U.S. and internationally, including Canada, France, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. A leading advocate of music therapy, the UKC also supports training and education through clinical fellowships. The UKC is a gold-level GuideStar participant.

The mother of a patient who received a ukulele through UKC remarks:

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“Thank you, Ukulele Kids Club, for the ukulele (courtesy of Matt at Oakland Children’s Hospital). My 7-year-old daughter is fighting stage 3 Rhabdomyosarcoma, and while in Boston getting radiation therapy, she got a chance to take ukulele lessons. When returning to California, she told her music therapist all about it and how she didn’t have one at home, and he came back to her room with this [ukulele]. She loves to play.”

A patient who received a ukulele herself from UKC also shares the way that her ukulele and her music therapy helped her through her illness:

“I am a patient at the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital receiving treatment for a struggle with anorexia. I was one of the lucky patients to be given a ukulele that was donated to the hospital by your organization, and I must express my profound thanks for this amazingly generous gift you gave. Playing and learning the ukulele with the music therapist was one of the few comforts during my stressful stay at the hospital. Therefore, I am very thankful for your generosity and the gift you have given me.”

5 Handy Tips for New Piano Lesson Enquiries

Guest post by Dr. Sally Cathcart of The Curious Piano Teachers. View the original on The Curious Piano Teachers blog HERE.

CuriousPianoTeachersLogoHave you had many new piano lesson enquiries recently? Do you ever find yourself caught ‘off-guard’ by phone calls? I know I certainly do! When this happens I can end up babbling on and feeling that I am not representing my work and worth to the best of my ability.

The next three months are probably the peak season for receiving phone calls or emails from potential students. Here’s some top tips from some of the highly organised Curious Piano Teachers members.

#1 KNOW WHAT KIND OF TEACHER YOU ARE

Do you know what kind of teacher you are? What is your teaching philosophy and approach? Discussions with potential clients are so much easier if you have made up your own mind about the following:

  • What do you teach?
  • How do you teach?
  • What ages do you teach?
  • What standard do you teach up to?
  • Is an instrument needed at home and if so what sort?
  • What do you charge?
  • Do you ever give discounts?
  • Are your teaching hours fixed or flexible?
  • What support do you expect from parents?
  • What availability slots do you have?

Once you have thought through these questions turn them into a one page cheatsheet and keep it close by for future phone calls.

It’s worth spending an hour or so getting this all pinned down. Check out our video below.

#2 HAVE A PHONE CALL — ON YOUR TERMS

Young entrepreneur at her workplace using laptop and phone.

As a rule of thumb let any unknown callers to your mobile go to the answer phone. Then, if they leave a message, this gives you the opportunity to listen through and consider your response. You’ll want to phone them back as quickly as you can so rehearse what you will say and aim to call them back within 24 hours.

During the phone call work down your cheatsheet (that’s assuming you have spaces and are actively looking for new students). If the answers correspond with your expectations offer a consultation/interview where both parties will have a chance to meet in person.

At this early stage don’t be too prepared to compromise on your core teaching approaches. For example, if you are only willing to take on younger children with the parents attending to lessons then stick to it!

#3 SAVE TIME WITH EMAIL ENQUIRIES

If you have a studio website or Facebook page you might find that some new piano lesson enquiries come in by email.

Responding to each one individually takes time so a useful approach is to create a standard template response. Set aside 30 minutes or so of your time to do this and once again use the one page cheatsheet as your starting point.

When a new enquiry arrives in your inbox simply copy and paste the main body of the template into your reply, adding whatever personal responses you want to.

#4 CREATE A FAQ PAGE

FAQBoardThe fourth tip on how to deal with new piano lesson enquiries is to turn your cheatsheet into a Frequently Asked Questions sheet.

This can be used on your website as well as being a really useful document to send to parents whether you’ve spoken on the phone or corresponded by email.

#5 FIND YOURSELF SOME TIME

Has all this been ringing a bell and you have found yourself caught ‘off-guard’ ? Then you need to find some time to sit down, grab a coffee, watch our video and think through what kind of teacher you are.

I really wish I had done this a long, long time ago as being communicating clearly what you offer prevents misunderstandings and frustration later on.

A big shout-out to all the piano teachers who contributed to this blog post for all their brilliant suggestions.

 

SallyCathcart

Dr. Sally Cathcart, Co-Founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers, has many years of teaching experience both as a piano teacher and as a classroom music teacher. After her travels as a Winston Churchill Fellow, Sally founded the Oxford Piano Group as a place for pianists and teachers to collaborate and share experiences. She was awarded a PhD from the Institute of Education at University College London in 2013 upon completing the first comprehensive study of UK piano teachers, exploring common practices, expertise, values, attitudes and motivation to teaching. She is a Principal Tutor on the Piano Teachers’ Course (UK), a trained Kodály practitioner and a senior musicianship practitioner of The Voices Foundation. Sally is an examiner for ABRSM and is on the ABRSM Music Education Advisory Committee. She is a Fellow Member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM).

How to Get More Piano Students

Guest post by Kristin Jensen of MyFunPianoStudio.com. View the original on Kristin’s blog HERE.

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Everything I’d done to try to get more piano students was a waste of time with little or no results.

We’d moved to a new town and I was determined to fill my studio quickly. I worked hard to get the word out — in fact I even strapped my 4 month old into a baby carrier and handed out over 150 fliers at a grocery store on Coupon Tuesday.

Guess how many phone calls I got from those fliers? Zero.

I’ve since learned that there are much more effective ways to advertise a piano studio.

Effective advertising means a full studio so that you reach your full income potential. It will also help you build a waiting list, so that when one student leaves, a new one can fill the vacancy without missing a beat.

Read on to learn the most effective strategies used by expert teachers to get more piano students. Empowered with this info, you can focus on what works and stop wasting money and energy on ineffective marketing strategies.

Incentivize and Encourage Word of Mouth

By far the best way to get new students is by word of mouth. Once you’ve got yourself established, some word of mouth advertising will happen naturally for you if you’re a great teacher, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to offer high quality instruction.

But there are some things you can do to initiate word of mouth while you’re still establishing your studio and your reputation, and to incentivize more word of mouth once you are established.

Here’s how to get people talking about you:

Incentivize your current students to give you referrals

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Offer a tuition credit for every student that they get to sign up. And the credit should really ought to be more than five bucks. Five dollars really isn’t that motivating.

When determining what your credit will be, keep two things in mind: First, inviting others to sign up for piano lessons may require your clients to get out of their comfort zone. Second, your clients are busy living their own lives and ensuring that your studio is full isn’t anywhere on their list of top priorities.

Your current students can be your very best source of new clients, so be sure to give them an incentive that will get them excited. You could even change up your incentive from semester to semester and offer things like a restaurant gift card, movie tickets, or a fee month of lessons. The cost of these incentives is small when compared with the lifetime value of a new client.

What if you don’t have any students yet?

If you’ve recently moved or are just starting out there are ways to get people talking about you and your lessons.

First of all, open your mouth and let people know that you teach lessons. When you introduce yourself, mention that you are a piano teacher. Often just a simple mention will lead people to ask more.

You can also offer to play at community events and during church services. If there is already a regular church accompanist let them know you’d be happy to fill in whenever you’re needed.

Although these strategies won’t get you new students as quickly as some of the other ideas discussed in the article, they will help the people in your community know that you teach and the effect over time can be enormous. Then when a mother asks around for a piano teacher, people will immediately respond with your name.

Use Social Media

SocialIconsPhoneDo you know how to get more piano students by leveraging the power of social media? This avenue is HUGE. When I advertise my studio, I spend most of my efforts on social media.

Advertise on Facebook

I have been impressed by how effectively Facebook ads have helped me get more students. And running ads sure beats walking around a grocery store parking lot on a hot Coupon Tuesday with my kids! You just set up the ad and then let it run.

Facebook has info about advertising on their platform here. The one thing I would warn you about is that Facebook can burn through your budget quickly if don’t you manage the ads carefully. But once you figure it out, this is a great source of new students.

Share student accomplishments on social media

Girl standing beside a pianoWhenever your piano students accomplish something noteworthy, share it via social media. Did a student just finish a level in their method books? Praise them on your Facebook page. Did a student earn a special certificate? Snap a picture and upload it to Instagram along with your congratulations. Are you hosting a fun contest or practice incentive for your students? Share it — you’ll quickly be known for your fun lessons. Do you have a recital coming up? Share it and invite your community to attend. Did your student love one of the improv activities you found on this site and create an awesome sounding song? Record them playing and then share it — this REALLY impresses people!

If you’d like to post photos or videos of your students, be sure to get written permission from the parents first, and it’s good practice to not include the students’ names for safety reasons. Pictures of smiling students are definitely the best when potential new clients are learning about your studio, but even if you opt not to post student photos, you can post other images or just text descriptions of the fun things you do and your students’ accomplishments.

Anything worth sharing should be shared and will help others become familiar with you and the high quality piano instruction you offer. Giving interested people a real look at what you do is a great way to get more piano students to sign up.

Join online neighborhood communities and city “yard sale” pages

My neighborhood has a Facebook group and it’s wonderful. Through this page, neighbors post things they’re giving away for free, warn each other about an aggressive door-to-door salesman, ask each other questions and share ideas. They also share what’s going on in their lives. You don’t want to be annoyingly self-promoting in these groups, but it’s a good place to at least let people know that you teach lessons and get connected with anyone who’s interested.

I was skeptical about the yard sale page. I didn’t even know there were city yard sale pages until a few months before I was going to be teaching a class for preschoolers at a music store in a neighboring town. I had no connections in the town, so I found the number for a piano teacher from the area to ask her if she had any students with younger siblings who might be interested. She said she’d be happy to help spread the word and also told me that she got several of her students through the town’s yard sale page. I decided to give it a try and post info about my new class. It worked and I got several students just from that simple post. It’s free and quick, so definitely worth a try!

Get More Piano Students through Your Website

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Nowadays when someone has a question, what is the first thing they do? Google it.

Build a website so that when someone searches “piano teachers in [insert your city]” they will be able to find you. On my new student registration form, I include the question, “How did you find out about my studio?” About 25% say that they did a Google search for piano teachers in our city.

You can hire out a professional website or create a simple website yourself. If you opt to create your own website, sites like WordPress and Weebly are easy to work with and even have free options. Keep in mind that the design of your website should match the type of lessons you offer. So if you’re offering high-end instruction, you would likely want to hire out a professional design. If you offer more casual lessons then you can probably create a free site yourself.

Create a “My Business” Listing with Google

An even easier way to be found through a Google search is to create a Google “My Business” listing. It’s super simple to create your studio listing and you can find instructions on Google’s “My Business” page here. Listing your studio is free and Google claims that you can get it going in just 10 minutes.

You don’t even need a website to create a business listing with Google. This is the easy shortcut to being found through online searches. If you don’t have a My Business listing yet, I encourage you to set one up today!

Get New Piano Student Referrals through Your Local Music Store

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Most music stores receive a steady stream of inquiries about music lessons. And for this reason, many stores keep a running list of local teachers.

One of the stores near me just asks for the teacher’s name and number and then adds them to their list. Another store near me asks that I bring in a flier with tear-off strips. I write about my studio in the upper portion of the flier and then print my name and phone number on the tear-off strips.

You can also inquire about becoming an in-house piano teacher. Some music stores have space available where you can teach. In most cases, there will be room rental or referral fees, but they’re often worth it because the music store will promote you and keep your studio full. And in many cases, the rates for piano lessons offered inside a music store are higher. They are higher to compensate for the room rental fees and because clients assume that there’s a high level of quality if the instructor is promoted by the music store. Be sure to deliver on this assumption of high quality, and you’ll be in a great situation.

Offer an Introductory Music Class for Preschoolers

Preschool age children in music class

This approach is golden. When you offer a class for preschoolers, some of these students will, without any effort on your part, want to advance into your private piano instruction. But before they ever become private students, you will be teaching them all the music fundamentals.

Can you just imagine what it would be like if your students had great rhythm and knew some basic note reading BEFORE they ever had their first piano lesson? It’s terrific! Students are more confident from the get-go and advance more rapidly. They are able to focus more on piano playing because they already know quite a bit about music reading.

And preschoolers are very capable of learning basic rhythm and music reading concepts. Plus teaching these little tykes is a ton of fun!

The other reason why this method is golden is because you get some insight into the student (and the parent). You’ll get a feel for the student’s temperament and if the two of you would likely work well together. You’ll also learn if the parent pays tuition on time and can get the student to class on time every week. You’ll know all this about the student before you invite them into your private lessons! If you begin offering a music class for preschoolers, within a few years you will have the best students you could imagine.

Use a Multi-Pronged Approach

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — use as many of these strategies as you can. When you get all these client-getting systems running, you’ll have a steady flow of inquiries about your piano lessons. With time, you’ll find which strategies work best in your area and can then focus most of your attention on those avenues. Be sure to always ask how a new student found out about you and keep a record of their responses.

 


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Kristin Jensen is a piano teacher, curriculum developer and author of the widely popular Piano Magic system. She loves helping piano teachers enhance their teaching skills and optimize their studios so they can use time efficiently, maximize profit and live a life they love. For more tips from Kristin on running a successful private music studio, as well as teaching resources and tutorials on composition and improvisation, visit MyFunPianoStudio.com.

A Chat with Lloyd Larson

Guest post from Jubilate Music Group

Lloyd Larson has become one of today’s most published and performed church music writers. A frequently called-upon clinic and conference resource, Larson has been a singer, keyboard player, and arranger.

Having earned his B.A. from Anderson University, Anderson, IN, Lloyd next completed his M.C.M. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), Louisville, KY, and undertook additional graduate work at SBTS and Ohio State University.

Larson’s extensive background in arranging and composing includes arranging music for an internationally broadcast radio program. Also, in 1989, he completed an editorial assignment for a new hymnal, Worship the Lord, for the Church of God, and co-edited the accompanying Hymnal Companion. In addition, Larson contributed to the Complete Library of Christian Worship, edited by Dr. Robert Webber. He has served as a church music director for decades (a role he continues to this day), which has inevitably informed his artful and well-crafted yet practical original compositions and arrangements.

Recently, Larson sat down with Mark Cabaniss, President and CEO of Jubilate Music Group, to discuss his work and to help us all get to know him a bit better.

Mark Cabaniss, President and CEO of Jubilate Music Group (MC): What and when was your first published piece of music? How did it feel to see your music and name in print for the first time?

Lloyd Larson (LL): My very first publication was a two-part Advent anthem titled Love Will Be Born. It was published by Beckenhorst Press in 1982 and was a collaborative project with lyricist Mary Kay Beall. Mary Kay and her husband, composer John Carter, lived in Columbus, Ohio, where I was living and serving on a church staff at that time. I had the opportunity to meet John and Mary Kay and study with John for a few years. At the time, John was doing adjunct editorial work for Beckenhorst. He introduced me to the legendary composer John Ness Beck, one of the co-founders and president of Beckenhorst. It was an amazing experience to see that first piece come into print! Though I had been involved with choirs using published music from my teen years, I had little knowledge of the sequence of steps involved from “idea to publication.” I’m forever indebted to John and Mary Kay for their influence as they guided me through the process and introduced me to numerous people who have been instrumental in encouraging me on my journey as a composer.

MC: What do you enjoy most about the compositional process?

LL: For me each piece involves its own unique journey. I try to avoid thinking, “I want this piece to sound like….” That’s especially true with sacred choral anthems. Though I’m a composer and love to find a melody, harmonic structure, and rhythmic framework that work, the reason we sing in the context of worship is because of the lyric. As a result, it is essential when I sit down to create music to go with a text that I build a distinctive vehicle (music) that will underscore and create a path by which that lyric is heard in fresh and meaningful ways. I love discovering new ways to express the profound truths of our faith. I love unearthing new treatments to familiar hymn melodies. I love finding a distinctive marriage between a familiar hymn text with a new or different hymn tune than what is typically associated with it. When these moments happen for me in my studio and they impact me in a new way, I’ve come to believe they will have a similar impact on others as well.

MC: Who have been the most influential people in your writing career?

LL: I’ve already mentioned the impact that composer John Carter and his wife, lyricist Mary Kay Beall, had on my early writing career. But there have been many others along the way. I would call them the “giants along my path.” The late John Ness Beck and Fred Bock were also strong encouragers in the early years of my career. George and Bill Shorney, Lew Kirby, Jack Schrader, Larry Pugh, Gilbert Martin, and Jean Anne Shafferman along with numerous others have been profound influences in my writing with their input and encouragement. They have seen potential in my work and often pushed me outside of my own comfort zones to try some things I would never have considered. But I would be remiss if I didn’t go back and recall the early influence of my mother (my first piano teacher) and my high school and college teachers who encouraged me to explore my interests in writing, even providing me platforms to try out some of my earliest writing endeavors. Writing for “real live singers and instrumentalists” in college and church settings helped me to discover quickly what worked and what didn’t work. I’ve continued to be involved in church work over the years (now 40+ years) which has been essential in shaping my approach as a composer of church music.

MC: With the changing tides of church music styles over the last few decades, what encouragement can you give to choir directors of today’s church?

LL: I will always be an advocate for church choirs. I strongly believe in them! (And it is not just because I depend on them for my livelihood.) They provide such a unique opportunity for ministry in the local church. The church choir I’ve directed for the last 25 years is a very tight community. The pastoral staff in our church calls the choir our “largest small group.” And I think they’re right. We are a community for 40+ people who typically gather a couple of times a week to rehearse and sing in worship. In the process of working on music together, we develop our musicianship while at the same time studying together the truths of our faith through the words that we sing. We are a multi-generation ensemble ranging in age from teens to my eldest bass who is 93 (and the most faithful member I have in the choir!). We regularly pray, cry, and laugh together. We celebrate life achievements, and we mourn losses together. We sing every style of music imaginable from the classics to beloved gospel songs with harmonica. (Yes, I have an outstanding harmonica player in my church…so why not?!?!?!) There are few, if any, settings in the life of the church where you can live life and faith in such a community. When the day comes that I’m no longer writing choral music or directing choirs, I anticipate singing in a choir. That’s how much I believe in them!

MC: You have a new cantata out this year (with Mark Hayes) titled Seekers of the Light. What is the thrust of this work?

SeekersOfTheLight

LL: “Light” is a metaphor for goodness and God’s presence throughout scripture. As people of faith, we are always on this journey to experience more of the “light of Christ” as we seek out His will and presence in our daily living. And this was true for the earliest followers of Christ, even those who first saw and recognized Him as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. They were guided by light (bright angelic hosts and celestial stars) to the Promised Child. We are all seekers of light when it comes to understanding our faith or life in general. And it is an ongoing journey. We will never “arrive” until we reach our final destination, our heavenly home. As a result, Seekers of the Light is an appropriate title and thrust, it seems to me, for recalling the pilgrimages of the earliest worshipers of Christ while at the same time uniting us with those worshipers in our own journeys as we seek to understand and know this One who called Himself the “light of the world” (John 8:12). It was a pleasure to collaborate with my longtime friend and colleague, Mark Hayes, on this project. I’ve been a fan of Mark’s music over the years, having used a ton of his music in my own ministry. So to partner with him on a project like this is a special treat for me. It is certainly my prayer that this cantata will impact and encourage directors, choirs, and congregations as they prepare and present it in the coming months!

MC: Is there a writing project you have yet to tackle or hope to accomplish?

LL: I always have an ongoing list of projects which I hope to tackle at some point down the road. The list is longer than I’ll ever get done in this lifetime (kind of like my “to-do” list of home projects that I’m wanting to tackle!). It is a grass-catcher list of ideas that has been spawned by a line in a sermon, or a passage of scripture, or a brief idea that has surfaced from a hymn text. I probably won’t divulge too much of that here. (I mean I don’t want Joe Martin, Mark Hayes, or Mary McDonald stealing my ideas! Ha!) One of the areas I’d love to pursue a bit more is to occasionally do a musical project outside of Christmas or Easter themes. As much as I love doing extended work on those themes, it is nice to have the opportunity to develop an extended work in other thematic directions. The reality, though, is that we who are church composers don’t get that opportunity too often simply because of the nature of our core market. I did recently have an opportunity to do a large commission project based on a group of Psalms which was truly a challenging and gratifying experience.

MC: Do you have a story of something you’ve written?

LL: On December 14, 2012, I happened to be working on a lyric by Susan Boersma. Susan is a fabulous lyricist and had created a lyric based on Revelation 22:5 that I had asked her to consider. That particular day – a Friday – was the day a lone gunman burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut and senselessly took the lives of twenty young children and six adult staff members in a matter of minutes. On that day, the words I was setting became deeply personal and hopeful in what was a very dark moment for many in that community and beyond:

“Into the valley of shadows, under the veil of gray, God calls the good and faithful, then guides us on the way. Through the valley of shadows, lost in the dark of night, our God goes before us to lead us to the light. There will be no more night! No need for lamp or ray of sun, the Lamb will be the light. There will be no more night! No need to fast, to watch, to weep around the throne so bright.”

That anthem, Dwell in the Light Forevermore, holds a special place in my heart because of the circumstances which surrounded its creation.

MC: “Getting to Know…Lloyd Larson” — Our “Lightning Round” of quick questions and answers:

1. What is on your summer reading list?

LL: The Next Person You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom), Unshakable Hope (Max Lucado), The Reckoning (John Grisham), Vanishing Grace (Philip Yancey)

2. What types of music do you listen to most?

LL: I try to listen to a little bit of everything, from the classics to outstanding (and current) choral writers. I love jazz and big band sounds. My wife and I just this week went to an outdoor drum and bugle competition (DCI) in a nearby community, something we enjoy doing when the opportunity affords itself. I’m a big John Williams fan with some of his classic movie themes. As a teenager, I was a big “Chicago” fan, and many of those melodies are rooted deep in my memory. I’m not sure I have a favorite genre, per se. I’m pretty eclectic in my tastes.

3. What is your favorite vacation spot?

LL: As a kid growing up in central Illinois, my family often vacationed on a lake in northern Wisconsin. I fell in love with the northwoods in those years. And I still love them! Most summers will find my wife, Marci, and I carving out a few days between summer travel commitments to spend some time on a northern Minnesota lake somewhere enjoying some quiet time. That’s on our schedule for later this summer. It is often a small “mom & pop” resort of modest cabin somewhere where the biggest agenda of the day may be “Should we grill out, or drive into town and find a restaurant for dinner this evening?” We enjoy the quiet beautiful scenery, some fishing, reading, and a lot of down time. It is a wonderful way to recharge!

4. What is your favorite summertime frozen treat?

LL: One of my biggest disappointments in recent years is that it appears that every DQ [Dairy Queen] in the upper Midwest has discontinued the Snickers Blizzard. This was my favorite for years! But I must have been in the minority. So I’ve been exploring other chocolate-influenced Blizzard options. I haven’t landed on a new favorite as of yet. But I’m working on it. Stay tuned!

MC: Thank you, Lloyd, for spending some time with us so our readers can get to know you a bit better. Your contributions to church music are immeasurable, and your music not only enriches lives, but most importantly, is building God’s Kingdom. Blessings to you in the years ahead, and we look forward to more exciting music creations from you!


Jubilate Music Group is dedicated to publishing a broad range of resources stylistically suited to meet the diverse needs of churches and schools. The Jubilate Music catalog is comprised of choral, piano, organ, handbell, vocal, and instrumental publications ranging from adult choral anthems, extended works and folios to music for children’s choir and praise teams.

Is All Music Equal? (via Laura Lamere and Henry Hoagland)

The music scene at Wesleyan University has been the subject of books and countless news articles, all while capturing the attention of young artists and musicians around the country. And why not? Recent graduates, including Santigold, Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez of Das Racist, Dylan Rau and Ted Feldman of Bear Hands, as well as […]

via Is All Music Equal? — Laura Lamere

Introducing ArrangeMe: Legally Create and Sell Arrangements for over 1000 Copyrighted Songs

Start creating the arrangements you’ve been dreaming of. Arrange over 1000 hot copyrighted songs.

Sheet Music Plus is excited to announce ArrangeMe, a groundbreaking program that allows arrangers to create and sell arrangements of copyrighted music exclusively on Sheet Music Plus through the digital self-publishing platform SMP Press. Sheet Music Plus worked with music publisher Hal Leonard to provide SMP Press users with over 1000 songs, from Broadway showstoppers to award-winning hits. It’s free and easy to participate. Sheet Music Plus, together with Hal Leonard, handles payments to copyright holders so arrangers have more time to create. Continue reading ‘Introducing ArrangeMe: Legally Create and Sell Arrangements for over 1000 Copyrighted Songs’

Spring School Choral Concert Winning Programs!

This spring, Sheet Music Plus held a school choral program contest, in which choir directors at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels were encouraged to submit the repertoire list for their schools’ spring choral concerts. The choral programs were judged based on originality, thematic content and age appropriateness. The winners received a $200 gift certificate to Sheet Music Plus. They shared the inspiration behind their creative programming with us. Congratulations, winners!

Elementary Winner
DeLeigh
Iron Forge Elementary School
Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania
Theme: “The Iron Forge Construction . . . Through Music of Course!”

“I was working down the hall one day last spring when I heard a very loud “bang, bang” Continue reading ‘Spring School Choral Concert Winning Programs!’

Playing in a Pit Orchestra: Anecdotes and Advice from a Percussionist

by Ryan Blauvelt

Places. Lights up. Downbeat. It’s the order of things for playing in a pit orchestra for musical theater productions.  The culmination of many hours of rehearsals, score study, listening sessions, and custom edits in order to bring together cast, crew, and of course musicians for a couple weeks of “showtime!”

It’s spring and that means musical theatre productions.  Playing musicals is something I’m pretty good at, especially when it comes to last minute notice.  I’ve been hooked on playing musicals ever since getting picked to play drum set in my high school’s first musical production, “Guys and Dolls”. It was a lot of pressure being in the driver’s seat for a music ensemble. Also, being depended on by actors and actresses for steady tempos, sharp hits, and joke reinforcement adds another layer of complexity.  But I loved the thrill of learning so much music very quickly and making quick changes to fine-tune my contribution to a well-performed show. Continue reading ‘Playing in a Pit Orchestra: Anecdotes and Advice from a Percussionist’

Publishing Models for the Independent Composer

New Music GatheringOn January 15, 2015 during the New Music Gathering at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Sheet Music Plus CEO Jenny Silva gave a presentation on publishing models for the independent composer.  Her presentation, available as a PDF by clicking on the link below, discusses the various methods through which composers may publish their music and the advantages and disadvantages to each.  It is a must read for any composer, new or seasoned, wishing to gain more exposure for his/her work.

New Music Gathering_v2


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Thought-provoking articles by musicians for musicians, music lovers or those that want to learn more about it!

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