In September, we start off with technique and sight-reading. 

Students often need a review in September –  the perfect time to assess their sight-reading abilities at the lesson.  I assign computer programs and suggest apps they can use from home.  I draw up a set of goals for technique, ear-training, theory, rhythm, improvisation, composition and sight-reading.  I set up a chart for students to watch their (and their peers’) progress throughout the year and offer prizes as incentives.  Each month I focus on a particular musicianship skill.

I give students exercises, five-finger patterns, scales, arpeggio and cadences that they will be working on throughout the year.

Technique piano

 October and November are ear-training months.

Whether it’s identifying high or low pitches, intervals,piano games
diminished or augmented chords,
root position or inverted chords,
students develop their inner ear.

Students hum, sing, whistle and write what they hear.

The Skeleton Game appears (a big hit!)
When students answer an ear-training question correctly they build a skeleton, one bone at a time.


I use December and January to  introduce improvisation and composition.  
 piano composition

I guide students with the parameters they need or want.

I show them the freedom of sitting at the piano and making up your own sounds.

Students compose a finished piece of music which I then publish as a book with an accompanying CD of all these young composers’ pieces.

In February I check on their Theory progress.

I make sure we stay on track to accomplish the goals I set in September for each student and adjust these goals if needed.  Although students use the iPad and Computer Lab, I use traditional theory books as well.  Technology is great, but studies continue to show that the connections between writing and memory are everlasting.piano technology

And we explore modern composers’ music

I make it a point to introduce all students to contemporary music.
Some students love playing pieces for prepared piano.

Prepared Piano

Plucking and strumming create fantastic sounds

Henry Cowell

Student playing Henry Cowell’s The Banshee

modern piano

Prepared Piano Pieces use the inside and outside of the piano

March is for Rhythm and Energy!   We
active teachingMARCH


In April, we take a close look at Musical Terms

Students play card games, matching symbols and terms with descriptions.  In connection with the Bulletin Board I post a picture of each student where they use a speech bubble to describe how they feel—with a musical term of course.interactive curriculum

May is devoted to recital preparation

I record them at lessons so they can see and hear what needs improvement.  I use extensive memorization techniques to make sure they are secure and ready to perform.  Students play for each other.  We rehearse being a performer and an audience member as well.  The students’ favorite rehearsal technique is to be a bad audience member (coughing, loud whispering, sighing and paper rumpling encouraged!)   piano recitalpiano performance