Archive for the 'Teacher Resources' Category

Learning to Play Piano for the Very Young: The Perfect Pre-Primer for Preschoolers

Debbie Cavalier of Debbie and Friends, a music educator and Sr. Vice President at Berklee College of Music/DEO Berklee Online and one of the top children’s music artists in the nation, published Learning To Play Piano for the Very Young to provide a fun, engaging introduction to the keyboard. Cavalier created the book with her grandfather, noted arranger/composer Marty Gold.

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With this fun, new pre-primer piano method, young children may:

  • learn to read the treble clef and note names using colorful pictures
  • get started playing familiar melodies with their right hand
  • learn to play seven well-loved songs including favorites such as “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “Jingle Bells”
  • enjoy family sing-alongs with the guitar chord chart and lyrics included

Learning to Play Piano is designed for the parent and child to experience making music together. The pre-primer method book is filled with active participatory activities: writing in note names, tracing hands, writing in finger numbers, clapping, singing and playing melodies. The pull-out Keyboard Tent (included) provides a fun visual reference to associate notes on the page to keys on the piano. Children learn to play familiar melodies and gain the readiness skills needed to graduate to any standard piano method. The full-color book is filled with words of encouragement and praise from the familiar Debbie and Friends cartoon character.

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Keyboard Tent from Learning to Play Piano for the Very Young

Cavalier says Learning To Play Piano is a readiness method for the parent and child to experience together. “The songs included are familiar to kids, so there’s immediate satisfaction as they learn to play songs they know. Parents do not have to be trained musicians to enjoy working through the material with their child from start to finish,” explains Cavalier, who has written several other music method books for children.

Parents and kids who have tested the book are raving about the book’s kid-friendly features. “I LOVE the tracing of the hand and the little pictures of cats, dogs and elephants! What a clever way of associating the notes with letters,” says one parent. Dr. Gail Fischler a nationally recognized music teacher known as the “Piano Addict,” recommends the book as “a great way for families to introduce the piano to their young children and to get them excited about further musical study.“

A Few Parent Reviews:

DSC_0100“I placed it on the piano, and without any prompting, my 4-year-old, 7-year-old and wife (none of whom know anything about piano) discovered it and were all able to play a simple song with their right hand. All had smiles on their faces.”
—  Peter Apel, musician and dad

“The piano book arrived and the girls LOVE it. They went to the piano right after it arrived and started playing. It is a wonderful book.”
—  KC Mancebo, Clamourhouse Kids owner, mom

“All of a sudden I hear the piano playing. My 6-year-old son is playing songs and has learned the notes up to the letter G. He did this all on his own thanks to your book.”
—  George Triebenbacher, dad

About the Authors

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Debbie Cavalier

Debbie Cavalier is a Sr. Vice President at Berklee College of Music/CEO Berklee Online, and the lead in the award-winning kids/family band Debbie and Friends.

Marty Gold was an A&R man for RCA in the ‘50s and ‘60s and recorded dozens of records with the Marty Gold Orchestra. He was Debbie’s grandfather and piano teacher.

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.

Bright Star: Gareth Malone Gets the Whole School Singing!

In a January 2019 survey, BPI (British Phonographic Industry) found that British state schools had seen a 21% decrease in music provision over the previous five years, with this decrease disproportionately affecting schools serving less affluent communities.

HL00295016 Bright Star G Malone Cvr.inddTo address this situation, TV star and conductor Gareth Malone of BBC Two’s The Choir has joined forces with teacher Catherine de Sybel to create an exciting new music resource for schools, Bright Star: Inclusive Songs for Whole-Group Singing. Catchy, heartfelt, accessible and fun, the book includes a song co-written with Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy. Equally suitable for small groups, school choirs or the entire school, these engaging songs cover a wide range of themes including life choices, friendship and community, the environment, bereavement and growing up.

The songs are written to get the whole school singing confidently and are appropriate for all ages, with a particular focus on children aged 8–14, bridging the gap between Key Stages 2 and 3, when children are more likely to give up singing.

 

“We believe that singing has enormous benefits to children’s mental and physical well-being and that it should be an integral part of every child’s school day. The simple act of breathing and singing together can be so valuable in fostering a sense of community and shared values. We hope that the subject matter will resonate with pupils and their teachers and we have included some pointers for discussion in the introduction to each song. We want pupils of all faiths and none to experience the joy of singing and most importantly for every school to be a singing school!”

— Gareth & Catherine

 

Designed to be user-friendly for music teachers and particularly non-specialist teachers, the Bright Star pack includes full scores, demo and backing tracks to download, and photocopiable melody and lyric sheets. Introductory notes on the songs provide support in learning and performing, as well as discussion points for use in the classroom.

About Gareth Malone

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Gareth Malone

Gareth Malone OBE, is well-known around the world as a broadcaster, composer and choral animateur. He has won two BAFTAs for his BBC Two series The Choir, and has been making programs for the BBC for over 14 years. Other achievements include working as an artistic director for a Royal Opera House community opera, and working with orchestra and opera education departments, including the LSO, Philharmonia, Glyndebourne and ENO Baylis.

Gareth has had two number-one singles in the UK, the first in 2011 with the Military Wives Choir, followed by the Gareth Malone All Star Choir for Children in Need three years later. He has also had two number one albums: In My Dreams with the Military Wives, and his latest, Music for Healing, which is currently at the top of the specialist classical charts. His 2014 series The Big Performance 3 won the Royal Television Society award for best children’s television, and Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne won an International Emmy in 2011. In 2012 he was honored with an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for services to music.

Gareth continues to compose with young people and to work with emerging artists. He has recorded with some of the leading performers in the UK and has just released his third album, Music for Healing.

About Catherine de Sybel

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Catherine de Sybel

Catherine de Sybel is a composer, pianist and music educator. She read music at the University of Cambridge and continued with postgraduate studies in composition at the École Normale de Musique in Paris, where she won the prestigious Premier Prix for her work for mezzo-soprano and piano, Imagination.

Her teaching career, spanning over twenty years, has encompassed work in mainstream, private and specialist schools, always driving inclusive music education to the forefront of the curriculum. As Head of Music at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, she facilitated outreach projects with the London Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, as well as high profile performances for Her Majesty the Queen and Michelle Obama.

In addition to her work inside the classroom, she has led music composition workshops for trainee teachers at the University of Cambridge, mentored beginner teachers from the Institute of Education and worked as Schools Projects Manager at the London Symphony Orchestra.

Catherine believes passionately in the power of music to inspire and educate and has dedicated her career to enabling the finest musical opportunities for children from all backgrounds whilst encouraging young voices to be heard from every corner of her school.

Sightreading. Solved.

FPALogoNancy and Randall Faber are pleased to announce the release of their newest digital support tool, the Piano Adventure Sightreading Coach. This innovative technology provides immediate feedback and assessment, making it the perfect companion to the Piano Adventures Sightreading books.

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The Sightreading Coach “listens” to the student play along with the score, and instantly grades rhythm and pitch by highlighting incorrect notes and rhythms. Students can practice the exercise as often as they wish, and upload their best performance to the teacher in between lessons. Teachers can monitor student progress without using valuable lesson time, making at-home practice more accurate and efficient.

The app is free to teachers, and contains all the exercise from nine progressive levels in the Piano Adventures Sightreading libraryPrimer, Levels 1, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4, and Accelerated Levels 1 and 2. These carefully composed variations on the Lesson Book pieces help students see the “new” against the background of the “familiar.” Students play one exercise per day, completing one set per week.

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The Sightreading Coach can be used with any piano or keyboard. No cables are required. Access online with the Chrome web browser, or on mobile with iOS and Android apps. Teachers sign up for free, and invite parents and students to the app. Each student is just $2/month after a 30-day free trial. Learn more and download Faber’s Quick Start Guide.

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.”

Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews for 7 Popular Methods

Guest post by Jenny Peters of the Ukulele Sisters

So, you want to learn how to play the ukulele. Great! In this article, I’ll take a close look at 7 popular ways to begin your ukulele journey and explain who each of these methods is best for.

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You, the learner, need a book that fits your learning style and background knowledge. You want a book that teaches you the ukulele skills you would like to know, such as singing and strumming chords, fingerpicking melodies, reading ukulele tablature, and/or learning to read standard music notation. You also want to find an approach you will enjoy.

In some ways learning music is like learning a whole new language. You also need to know what skills you must master in order to progress in music such as how to practice. Finally, you have to learn how to tune your instrument and take care of it.

What to Expect

Each author of a “how to play ukulele” book writes with a certain type of beginner in mind: someone with little or no music background, or someone who already plays several instruments and is adding ukulele to their bag of tricks. They might write for someone who reads standard music notation well or for someone who does not. They might even question if a beginning player needs to read music at all!

We will answer the following questions for each book in our beginning ukulele book reviews:

  • How does it teach chords?
  • How does it teach reading melodies?
  • How quickly does the book progress?
  • Are there online lessons or a video course? Are there audio tracks?
  • Who is this book best suited for?

How Do We Write Down Music in a Beginning Ukulele Book

In order to communicate how a song goes in a book, there needs to be some way of writing down sounds. With fretted instruments such as ukulele and guitar, there are some unique shorthand ways we can write down music:

  • Chord stamps (symbols) show where to put our fingers on the ukulele to create the desired chord.

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  • Standard 5 line music staff to show the rise and fall of the melody. It can take quite a lot of time to master reading the music staff.

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  • Ukulele tablature is sometimes used instead of or in addition to the standard music staff to show the melody. Tab can be helpful for beginners because it shows you where to put your left-hand fingers on your ukulele in order to play the pitches of the song. Tab is a lot simpler to learn to read than standard music notation. Once you get the idea of it you can improve quickly.

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  • Standard rhythmic notation to show how fast or slow notes or strums should be in relation to each other.

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The 7 Beginning Ukulele Book Reviews

We have ordered the book reviews from easiest to hardest.

  1. 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way
  2. Ukulele for All
  3. Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method
  4. Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book 1
  5. Essential Elements for Ukulele
  6. Ukulele Primer by Bert Casey
  7. Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips and Tunes

1.  21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way

21 Songs in 6 Days CoverThis method is encouraging to the learner. There are online videos to teach the songs and all the concepts presented.

It begins with one-chord songs and simple strumming patterns. The authors delay the changing of chords until students can sing and strum a steady beat at the same time. When two-chord songs are introduced, there are thirteen two-chord songs, so students can really get the hang of the change from F to C7.

The reading of melodies using ukulele tablature is taught alongside the singing and strumming of songs for some of the songs. The chords in this method are C, A Minor, F, C7 and G7.

There are both a musical term and a chord glossary with pictures. Strumming patterns remain simple with only four basic strums covered.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument, and who does not read music. Its progression is slow and steady. There are online video lessons for each song and for the concepts (including tuning) in the book.

The authors also have a YouTube channel that teaches a lot of the information in the book.

2.  Ukulele for All

uke-for-all-224x300.pngThis book starts with singing and strumming each song. Ukulele for All teaches chord stamps by presenting the diagram sideways with a picture of a person’s hand.

The teaching of tab reading is also unique because it shows how the horizontal strings of the ukulele relate to the lines of the tab staff. Students can easily visualize where to put their fingers on the strings of the ukulele. Tab notation is taught alongside the singing of melodies and strumming of chords.

The book starts with one-chord songs and has a chapter for each of three beginning chords (C, A Minor, and F.) Songs that change chords are delayed until the fourth chapter. Students are encouraged to sing rounds to create harmonies within a one chord song.

Strumming patterns are kept simple throughout the book. Finger-picking of accompaniments is presented in Chapter 8. There is also a chapter on the 12-bar blues that encourages students to improvise their own solos over a bass line.

The book comes with proprietary software that includes video lessons for each song and for the concepts (including tuning) presented in the book. The software also includes audio for the songs that can be slowed down for practicing. Students can also record themselves and submit recordings to their teacher.

The book is intended for either classroom use or for private instruction. If a student prefers melodies, the student can work on that. If a student likes to sing and strum chords, the student can work on that, since both versions are presented with each song. There is a Teachers’ Edition of the book available with detailed suggestions on how to work with groups of students at different levels.

Chords presented in this method are C, A Minor, F, C7 and G7.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument and doesn’t read music. Its progression is slow and steady. It includes video lessons.

3.  Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method

alfreds-basicThis method book claims to be the most popular standard ukulele method and upon looking through it, I can see why.

Strumming and singing songs is delayed 16 pages until the basic reading of single notes on the tab staff is solid. There is a tab staff underneath the standard musical notation to help you find the melody notes more easily.

The first song with chord changes is “Good Night Ladies.” This song uses two chords F and C7 which is an easy 2 chord pattern. The book progresses slowly and steadily, eventually teaching the student seven chords (C, F, C7, G, D7, and G7.)

Strumming patterns are introduced independently of reading melodies and progress gradually. The strumming patterns remain pretty simple.

This book is best for someone who is new to playing an instrument, and doesn’t read music. Its progression is slow and steady, and it includes both a DVD and online video lessons.

4.  Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book 1

HL book1-450x584This book by Lil’ Rev is a solid beginning method. It starts with reading tab melodies. When chords are introduced, the student learns C, F, and G7 all at once. There is a little bit of time to learn basic strumming patterns before applying chords to a song, but the first song uses all three chords. From there, new chords are introduced fairly quickly.

Chords taught in this book are: C, F, G7, E Minor, D7, G, Bb, A Minor, B7, D Minor, A7 and A.

Lil’ Rev teaches some really cool strumming techniques, such as tremolo, single roll stroke, finger and thumb strum and the index finger strum. He explains these techniques well with pictures, arrows and counting.

The book is nicely laid out and there is a basic chord glossary at the end. There are no audio or video lessons that I could find, but Lil’ Rev has a website and YouTube channel where he teaches a lot of the strumming techniques he uses in this book.

When I was first learning ukulele I worked through this book. I didn’t have trouble with the left-hand chord changes, but I found the many different strumming patterns difficult. This book might be best for someone with fretted instrument background such as the guitar or mandolin.

5.  Essential Elements for Ukulele

essentials-element-450x593.pngMarty Gross does a great job of teaching the ukulele in this book. Students learn to read music well. They learn the following chords: C, G7, F, Am, D7 (Hawaiian style) C7, Bb, Dm, F7, A7, Em, E7 and G#+. There is even a section on movable barre chords!

From my point of view, this book progresses quickly. Students are expected to read standard music notation rather than the tab staff. Also, the first two chord song uses C to G7. G7 is a three finger chord and is hard for a lot of beginning players to master.

The songs in this book are pretty awesome, for example: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, “Octopus’s Garden”, and “La Bamba”. There is an audio CD which is helpful because not all the songs have suggested strumming patterns. There is a strumming chart and a chord glossary at the end of the book.

This book would work well in a private lesson setting or with older students in a small group setting. It would also work well with someone who has played many other instruments before.

6.  Ukulele Primer by Bert Casey

ukulele-primer-CaseyBert Casey does a great job at teaching singing and strumming the ukulele.

He has a unique way of notating the songs by having two staves: one for the melody line and one for the strumming pattern. This is helpful when the strumming patterns get complicated and don’t match up with the rhythm of the melody.

The book comes with a DVD. There is also access to online video lessons.

This book assumes you either know the songs, will watch the videos to learn them or that you can read music. There is no tab for the melodies.

There are many strumming patterns presented and they move sequentially from easier to more complicated. The patterns are easy to read and understand. When the book gets to more complicated patterns, there is a good base upon which to build.

Finally, there is information in the appendix on how the guitar relates to the ukulele, some music theory, a chord library and a strumming pattern library.

This book is probably best for someone who has background on other fretted string instruments such as guitar. The opening material will be difficult if you are a complete ukulele beginner. The strumming patterns will be difficult to coordinate with the songs until you have more experience singing and strumming.

7.  Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips ‘N’ Tunes

jumpin-jim-450x695.pngThis was the book I used to teach myself the ukulele. It’s small, nicely laid out, and has a folksy feel.

It gets right into playing the songs after only a couple of pages of introductory material. Jim covers a lot of music theory in two pages, which a beginner might not understand depending on their background.

The first song uses the C and G7 chords which can be difficult for many beginners. There is no tab for the songs, so the author assumes you can read music to figure out how the melodies sound. The strumming patterns are shown above the notes

The book progresses through many key signatures and teaches you the following chords: C, G7, Cmaj7, C6, C7, Am, F, G#7, D7, Gdim, Gmaj7, Em7, A7, Edim, Em, etc. Jim gives you the option of leaving chords out by putting them in parentheses. This is helpful because it can be hard to keep the flow of the singing and strumming going with so many chord changes. There are no video lessons.

I was able to learn a lot with this book, but I didn’t become a fluent strummer until I worked with simpler material. This book is probably best for someone with a lot of music background.

I needed to work more with the material Bert Casey and Lil’ Rev teach before I became a fluent player. I knew that my students who are new to music would need a slower and more gradual approach which is why I wrote my books the way I did.

Conclusion

All of these books have their strengths. The best course of action is for you to discover what kind of learner you are. Then choose the book that suits you best after reading our reviews.

Of course I am biased, but if you are a complete music beginner I think your best bet would be to buy one of my books, either 21 Songs in 6 Days: Learn Ukulele the Easy Way or Ukulele for All. Alfred’s Basic Ukulele Method would also work well for you.

If you have experience with guitar, you might prefer one of the more difficult books such as Essential Elements, Bert Casey’s Ukulele Primer, or Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Tips ‘N’ Tunes.

In my own musical journey, I have often worked with several books to learn different skills. I hope this article will help find the book or books that work best for you!

 

JennyPetersJenny Peters is one part of the Ukulele Sisters team. She stumbled upon the ukulele after finding 45 of them in one of her elementary school classrooms. Convinced she could turn her finding into more than a whole lot of noise, she designed a program to teach all of her students to play successfully with only 30 minutes of class time a week. No one was more grateful than the teacher in the next classroom.

A former private piano teacher in Chicago with a Masters in Piano Performance from the University of Illinois, Jenny now lives in Highland Park. Married with three kids, she shares her home with three cats and more musical instruments than she would care to name.

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.

MyFunPianoStudioLogo

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

WomenTalkingOverCoffee

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

WomanWorkingOnWebsite

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

MusicStore

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.

 


KristinJensen2

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.

The Inspiration behind ABRSM’s Bowed Strings (2020-2023) Syllabus

Guest post by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)

ABRSMLogoAfter months of practice and anticipation, performing in a music exam can feel like an adrenaline-fuelled sprint to the finish line that passes in a blur of pieces, scales and musical tests. As an exam board, we know that exams can be stressful, and we at ABRSM want to make sure that learners’ exam experiences are as positive as possible. To make sure that learners can really succeed, we carefully select exam syllabus pieces that allow them to demonstrate their talents. We live for inspiring and challenging learners!

If a music exam is a sprint, then our experience of putting together an exam syllabus is more of an endurance event involving a huge amount of music. We take an open approach to our syllabus creations, and for ABRSM’s Bowed Strings syllabus (2020-2023) we: ran multiple surveys with teachers, learners and examiners; engaged a variety of strings consultants; and had several ruthless stages of revisions.

BoysDoubleBassRSMFor this Bowed Strings syllabus (2020-2023), we wanted to focus on the joy of playing with other musicians. Refreshing our syllabus as an instrument family for the first time since 1985 gave us the opportunity to encourage ensemble skills and re-think how our stringed instruments interact. Pieces such as Tchaikovsky’s haunting, melancholy “Chanson triste” appear for all four instruments at Grade 5, so learners can enjoy playing with friends. Our Initial Grade piece “Silent Friends” by Vamoosh series composer Thomas Gregory ensures that your learners can develop ensemble skills from the very beginning of their musical journeys.

GirlViolinEnsemble

We promise that when we put together a syllabus, we don’t just pick our favourite pieces! We are passionate about getting selection right because we know syllabus pieces can have a huge influence on learners and teachers alike. We admit that through the process some of the pieces we select naturally come to have a special place in our hearts. For the first time ever we have included a piece of music we found online! “Sakura,” in a solo arrangement by Japanese-Irish Canadian violinist and composer Maria Kaneko Millar first appeared on YouTube. The piece features on ABRSM’s Grade 8 violin syllabus, and we love that this find connects the syllabus to how many people now interact with music.

If “Sakura” represents a modern way of accessing music, “Echoes” by Marie Dare is a beautiful memento from the past. Marie Dare was a Scottish composer-cellist who, as a teenager, performed as a soloist in a World War I victory concert at the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of Queen Alexandra. “Echoes” was found by one of our consultants in the Scottish Music Centre’s archives as a handwritten manuscript, and we believe its appearance on the Grade 5 cello syllabus will be the first time it has ever been published or recorded.

Inspiration for ABRSM syllabuses can also come from the other instruments we examine. You might notice that some of ABRSM’s Singing for Musical Theatre syllabus songs feature here, too! On the violin syllabus alone, you can find songs from some of the biggest hit musicals: from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Grade 1) and Les Misérables (Grade 2) to The Lion King (Grade 3) and West Side Story (Grade 3).

We wish all your learners the very best for their exams!

StringsSyllabus_20-23_final3.jpg

What’s Changing?

What’s new:

  • Refreshed repertoire lists for all four instruments at all grades
  • More choice than ever before, with the lists extended to ten pieces (30 pieces in total per grade)
  • Duet option included for the first time — up to Grade 3
  • Cello exam pieces (Grades 1-5) published for the first time
  • New Initial Grade exam introduced — a pre-Grade 1 assessment following the same structure, content and assessment criteria as ABRSM’s existing graded music exams (three pieces, scales, sight-reading and aural tests)
  • All four instruments at Initial Grade supported with an Exam Pack publication containing nine pieces (three per list) from the syllabus, the scales requirements and sample sight-reading tests
  • A separate publication containing sample aural tests for the Initial Grade also available
  • Revised list structure
  • A focus on cross-string teaching at the lower levels with some of the same pieces being set for multiple instruments. For a list of these pieces see Compatible Pieces.

Syllabus validity:

The Bowed Strings syllabus 2020-2023 comes into effect on 1 January 2020. This means that:

  • Candidates can begin to present pieces from the new lists;
  • Candidates can continue to present pieces from the 2016-2019 syllabus lists during the overlap period (see below);
  • Scales and arpeggios, sight-reading and aural test requirements remain exactly the same as for the 2016-2019 syllabus.

Syllabus overlap:

From 2020 a one-year overlap period will apply worldwide. This means that all candidates can continue to play pieces from the 2016-2019 syllabus until 31 December 2020 (all pieces must be from the same syllabus).

New Initial Grade

Our new Initial Grade for violin, viola, cello and double bass is designed to help beginners measure their progress and celebrate their achievements.

The new Initial Grade is a pre-Grade 1 assessment following the same structure, content and marking criteria as our other graded music exams.

Initial Grade exam packs will be available for violin, viola, cello and double bass. Each book will contain a selection of 9 pieces from the syllabus, including a new commission for all four instruments to play together and many new arrangements.

Scales and sight-reading examples will also be included in the exam packs, and audio recordings will be available for all pieces from the books. A specimen aural tests book for Initial Grade will be available separately.

 


ABRSMLogoABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) is the UK’s largest music education body, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams, offering assessments to more than 630,000 candidates in 93 countries every year. Its mission is to inspire achievement in music. A music publisher for almost 100 years, ABRSM continues to produce a wide range of high-quality sheet music, practice exam papers, instructional and reference books, and recordings to support music teachers, as well as students, from early learners to Diploma level and beyond.

New School Year, New Warm-Ups

Do your warm-ups need a tune-up? Are you looking for effective warm-ups that still leave you with plenty of rehearsal time? Would you like to strengthen your choir’s ability to sight-read while also warming their voices up in preparation for singing? Two birds with one stone, anyone? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, Russell Robinson’s Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups is for you! This practical resource has been getting a lot of attention from directors nationwide, and we don’t think it will take you long to see why.

 

To see this resource in action, check-out the video below!

 

Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups:

  • Provides an easy and efficient way to begin each rehearsal.
  • Consists of twenty sequences, each consisting of four components (Warming Down, Warming Up, Diction, and Chordal) that prepare the voice and the mind for producing a beautiful choral sound. These sequences can be sung in order, one per day (Day 1, No1; Day 2, No. 2, etc.), or the director can choose to sing them out of order. They are not sequenced in order of difficulty.
  • Includes a Director Edition and Singer Editions. The Director Edition contains all of the vocal parts and piano accompaniments, in addition to a detailed introduction and User’s Guide. The Singer Edition, which includes the vocal parts, is octavo size, designed to fit comfortably in choral folders all year long. An Accompaniment CD is also available.

For more on Quick-Start Choral Warm-Ups or to purchase, click here

 

For additional music and resources from Heritage Music Press, click here

 

 

Dr. Russell L. Robinson, Emeritus Professor of Music Education at the University of Florida, has made over 300 appearances as a conductor, speaker, consultant and presenter at festivals, workshops, honor choirs, all-state choirs and state, regional, national and international conferences in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, South America, Mexico, Canada, the Middle East, and Australia as well as conducting venues, which include: Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Boston’s Symphony Hall, the White House, and Washington’s National Cathedral. Dr. Robinson was the 2016 inductee into the Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA) Hall of Fame, and is a past President of FMEA, Associate Dean of the UF College of the Arts, National Collegiate Chair and Choral Adviser for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Dr. Robinson is a published author, composer and arranger with over 350 publications in print, including choral compositions, arrangements, articles, books, and instructional DVD’s.

 

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