Schools Closed? We have a Plan!

Note:  As of March 16, 2020, All FCPS school buildings are closed until further notice.

What Will Happen If Schools Close In Fairfax County?

Piano lessons will continue because we have a plan!

Please note that I clean the piano and keyboard keys with Clorox wipes between each student.  Students are expected to wash hands before lessons and after using the restroom. Hand sanitizer is available.

I am continuously monitoring press releases from public health officials both locally and nationwide and have developed a plan for continuity in piano lessons should we need to implement it.

If any of the school districts that students in our studio attend close down or the health department provides suggestions to more seriously limit interaction and engage in social distancing, piano lessons will continue for students of ALL ages.

Our contingency plan if Fairfax County Schools close is to:

  • Close the physical studio temporarily
  • Provide online lesson options completely customized towards each student using an app/website called Tonara.  All students have been assigned user names and passwords already.  Your log-in information is in your student’s notebook or I will send it to you.
  • All assignments are due by the beginning of the student’s regularly scheduled lesson time and new ones along with comments about the past week will be given during the regular lesson time. Students will still be expected to continue practicing, completing all assignments and demonstrating progress.
  • We started using Tonara March 11, 2020 for assignments so that students will be accustomed to it is needed for real.
    • There will be assigned theory games using an app called SproutBeat.  You can download this in the app store. All students have been assigned user names and passwords already.  Your log-in information is in your student’s notebook or I will send it to you.

    • There may be assigned theory games using a website called SproutBeat Leap.  You use it in a browser window at https://leap.sproutbeat.com/home . All students have been assigned user names and passwords already.  Your log-in information is in your student’s notebook or I will send it to you.
      • There may be written theory work from your assigned theory book  If so, please take a picture of it in Tonara and upload it along with other assignments.  It could also be scanned and emailed to maryoconnor@gmail.com
      • For students with iPads, please be sure that you have downloaded PianoMaestro.  There will be weekly assignments listed under “Home Challenge”.  Please try to get 3 stars.  It is possible to slow the pieces down but you may lose points/stars doing so.  If it’s really hard, try the Learn Mode.
      • For students without iPads, I will assign at least one or two pieces to be videoed in the Tonara app/website and submitted to me for feedback.  These will be due by the beginning of the student’s regularly scheduled lesson time and new (or review) ones will be given during the regular lesson time. Feedback will also be provided during the scheduled lesson time.
      • Depending on how long school is canceled, we may have online lessons using StreamYard as a virtual piano studio during the regularly scheduled lesson time.  I will create a ‘broadcast’ for the day and send the same link to all my students.  When a student clicks in I see them “backstage” and add them to the lesson, so we can both see/hear each other.  Then when the lesson is over the next one has already arrived.  I click that one through and the 3 of us are there for a minute. they say hello/goodbye just like in a live lesson.
      • Other Apps you might want to try at home:
        1. Theory: Music Theory Pro – a great tool for preparing for auditions: scales, chords, intervals and more
        2. Theory: Jungle Journey
        3. Rhythm: Rhythm Swing – a fun, interactive game that covers basic note values
        4. Rhythm: Rhythm Lab – assign rhythms for students to practice and tap- hands alone or together
        5. Rhythm: Rhythm Cat
        6. Note-Reading: Flashnote Derby – a customizable game where students ‘race’ to select the correct note
        7. Note-Reading: Note Squish: think whac-a-mole with notes. Also customizable by clef (includes alto clef!)
        8. Note-Reading: Noteworks
        9. Note-Reading: Staff Wars
        10. Note-Reading: Note Rush:  great for keyboard geography. Students have to play the note that pops up
        11. Note-Reading: Treble Cat
        12. Note-Reading: Bass Cat
        13. Ear Training: Beat Melody – great intro to ear training
        14. Ear Training: Ear Cat

    Your payment will still be due at the same time. All assignments are due by the beginning of the student’s regularly scheduled lesson time and new ones along with comments about the past week will be given during the regular lesson time. Students will still be expected to continue practicing, completing all assignments and demonstrating progress.

    If you have an underlying health concern or family member who has one that you believe puts you in a high-risk group and you would like to take steps ahead of time to mitigate your exposure, please let me know and I will set up online lessons for you (see #10 above).

    Did I forget anything? Questions or comments? 

Daily Listening Assignments ~ June 5, 2020

 

Happy Birthday is a song that I like to have each of my students learn at various levels appropriate to their level. When a friend or family member has a birthday, it’s great to be able to sit down and play.

 

It’s only been fairly recently that piano students could have this music in their books.

“Happy Birthday to You”, more commonly known as simply “Happy Birthday”, is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person’s birth. According to the 1998 Guinness World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.

The melody, or part you sing, of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which has traditionally been attributed to American sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill in 1893, although the claim that the sisters composed the tune is disputed.

Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal and her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer.  The sisters used “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing.  The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier.

“Happy Birthday” in the style of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Dvorak, and Stravinsky.  Find the melody!

 

Lots of legal stuff below which you can skip…

None of the early appearances of the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics included credits or copyright notices. The Summy Company registered a copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R. R. Forman. In 1988, Warner/Chappell Music purchased the company owning the copyright for US$25 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at US$5 million. Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claimed that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are illegal unless royalties are paid to Warner. In one specific instance in February 2010, these royalties were said to amount to US$700. By one estimate, the song is the highest-earning single song in history, with estimated earnings since its creation of US$50 million.In the European Union, the copyright for the song expired on January 1, 2017.

The American copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion. American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.”

In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis’s research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about “Good Morning to All”, sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song.  In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody.

In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million, and the court declared that “Happy Birthday to You” was in the public domain.

Legal stuff is finished and people can now sing and play “Happy Birthday to You” whenever and wherever they want.

One of my all-time versions of Happy Birthday, in duet form – and I have the music if you want to tackle it.

 

 

Daily Listening Assignments ~ June 4, 2020

 

I’m sure many have you have learned Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by now.  Did you know its’ the same melody as the ABC Song?  You know…

Don’t believe it? Sing them both in your head or out loud.

The French melody first appeared in 1761, and has been used for many children’s songs, such as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” and the “Alphabet Song”.

This is one of the first pieces a student learns in piano methods, since it has them reach just a bit outside their accustomed hand position on the word “little”.

 

Twinkle

 

I try to remember to let students know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed a set of twelve variations on the theme “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” for the piano and it started as the same basic Twinkle tune.

The sheet music is available at the O’Connor Music Studio if you want to borrow it or download it here about 1/3 of the way down the page under “Scores”.

I always enjoy these graphical scores.  Watch the colors as the melody gets more and more complex:

Who knew?  There’s an accordion version.

Have a great day!

Daily Listening Assignments ~ June 3, 2020

 

Today we’re going to listen and learn about the opera Carmen.

I chose this for today since it’s the anniversary of French composer Georges Bizet‘s death.

Georges Bizet was born in Paris, France. Both his parents were musicians, and they actually wanted their son to become a composer when he grew up! Bizet loved music, but he also loved to read books. His parents wound up hiding his books so that he would spend more time on his music.

When Georges was 10 years old, his father enrolled him in the Paris Conservatory. While he was there, he wrote his only symphony, but it wasn’t performed until many years after he died. Bizet graduated from the Conservatory with awards in both composition and piano.

Bizet also composed operas. His most famous opera is Carmen. When Carmen first opened in Paris, the reviews were terrible. Many critics said there were no good tunes in it, so audiences stayed away.

In the middle of the night during the first round of Carmen performances, Bizet died. He was only 36. Four months later, Carmen opened in Vienna, Austria, and was a smash hit. It is now one of the most popular operas ever written. Bizet never knew that audiences would come to consider it his masterpiece.

 

Vladimir Horowitz made Carmen his own by turning it into a fantasy (or the more musical spelling – fantasie).

The fantasia (Italian; also English: fantasy, fancy, fantazy, phantasy, German: Fantasie, Phantasie, French: fantaisie) is a musical composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. Because of this, like the impromptu, it seldom approximates the textbook rules of any strict musical form.

When you play wrong notes for an audience, just tell the audience it’s a “Fantasie”, not the original work!

As you can see, Carmen is a popular work. Here it is for two pianos, played by Anderson and Roe.

The Canadian Brass tell the story of Carmen in their own humorous words.

If you want to learn this, just let me know!

Daily Listening Assignments 2020

 

This summer, I’ve decided to add a new feature to piano lessons.  I know that many families travel during the summer months and it’s sometimes difficult to practice.

These daily assignments, June through August will help you and your students learn a bit more about the pieces they’re learning during the year – or maybe give ideas for something that they’d like to learn.

Each piece has a bit of composer info and several different interpretations, some of which are very humorous.  Some of the assignments appear in Piano Maestro so be sure to have that handy, if your student uses that.

Some days give hints that the assignment of the day may be played (or reviewed) at the next lesson so please be sure that your student takes note of that (no pun intended!)

Find them here, under Daily Listening Assignment starting June 1 at 9:00 am.

Have a safe and musical summer!

It’s National Buy a Musical Instrument Day

Piano 8

 

 

Each year on May 22 we observe National Buy a Musical Instrument Day.  The day is all about playing music.  If you are a musician, it might be time for a new instrument.  Maybe you can learn to play a second or third one.  If you have never played an instrument before, National Buy A Musical Instrument Day might be the motivation you need to start.

Naturally, here at the O’Connor Music Studio, a piano, keyboard with weighted keys (and 88 of them!) or organ is recommended but this day is for all types of instruments and is for people of all ages.  Grandpa can play his ukulele while the grandkids play the drums, trombone, and flute. Together they can all make terrific music!

Adapted from http://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/national-buy-a-musical-instrument-day-may-22/

 

Why Bi-weekly Lessons Don’t Work

 

7 reasons why bi-weekly lessons do not work…

 

Now and then, our studio gets asked if we offer bi-weekly lessons. I mean, doesn’t it make sense that if you take lessons every other week, you have half the number of trips into the studio, you have double the amount of time to practice, and you can save some money, right?

WRONG.

Aside from the fact that it is a scheduling nightmare for the teacher and studio, I want to outline a few reasons why (in most cases) bi-weekly lessons do not work.

Source: Bi-weekly Lessons – Why they won’t work – The Piano Studio

Is Your Tune Piano in Tune?

piano-tuning

 

When it comes to tuning, every piano is different, even two pianos of the same style and make are different, and the humidity of the room makes a big difference, he said.

High humidity causes the sound board to swell, stretching the strings and causing the pitch to go sharp, while low humidity has the opposite effect.

In Minnesota, humidity can easily range from 80 percent in the summertime to 10-15 percent in the winter, if the home doesn’t have a humidifier. Wood-heated homes tend to be especially dry, he said.

“Pianos like it between 40 and 50 percent humidity in the house,” he said.

Even places that are supposedly “climate-controlled,” aren’t always. The heat might get turned down substantially evenings and weekends, for example.

A new piano needs a few weeks to settle into its new home before tuning, Fry said.

“If they get a new piano, generally they call us the day before it gets in the house,” he said. “It should sit in the house a couple weeks just to acclimatize it to its new surroundings … brand new pianos stretch for a while. They go out of tune quicker. The wire stretches and they settle into themselves.”

Some people think they have to let a new, or recently moved older piano, sit six months or a year before it gets tuned. That’s not true, Fry said, but it does need a few weeks.

He recommends that pianos be tuned at least once a year (he tunes his own piano once a year, even though he no longer gives lessons) and the busiest time for him is before the holidays — September through December.

“Piano-tuning is something people can put off,” he said. “We noticed a real drop in tuning when gas got over $3 a gallon. I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference, but it did.”

Fry said he is looking for some kind of work to do in the summertime when his other businesses are slow.

He doesn’t give piano or guitar lessons anymore, but does enjoy tuning all types of pianos.

“It takes me a couple of hours. I have time,” Fry said. “I’m going to do the job that I like to do, and do it right.”

Read the entire article at Keeping pianos, life in tune | Detroit Lakes Online.

All About Music Theory

theory

 

As all my students know, I teach theory with all piano and organ lessons.  Sometimes, it’s from a theory book that matches a lesson book, sometimes on the fly on an “as needed” basis.

This book looks like it would be interesting to use as a review or to look ahead and see what’s coming.  I have just ordered a copy for the studio if you want to check it out at the next lesson.

From amazon.com:

 If you wish there was a fun and engaging way to help you understand the fundamentals of music, then this is it. Whether it’s learning to read music, understanding chords and scales, musical forms, or improvising and composing, this enjoyable guide will help you to finally start understanding the structure and design of music.

This fun-filled, easy-to-use guide includes:
* Music notation
* Scales and modes
* Melody harmonization and counterpoint
* Chord progressions
* Song form and structure

Listen and learn with the CD that has 90 tracks, including over 50 popular songs such as:
* Beauty and the Beast
* Candle in the Wind
* Imagine
* In the Air Tonight
* Killing Me Softly with His Song
* Let It Be
* Message in a Bottle
* Misty
* Satin Doll
* Take the ‘A’ Train
* Unchained Melody
* What’d I Say
* and more!

maryOivoryandroses