Music Related

A Spoonful of Sugar

When I was a piano student I hated theory homework. [True fact: I usually did my homework in the car on the way to my lesson. The results were quite messy and incomplete.] Now that I’m a teacher, my favourite subject to teach is theory.

Humour is a great teaching tool. This year’s rudiments class has been working really hard. We’ve made it through a tough unit on time signatures and rests, and we’ve just completed a unit on major and minor triads. In today’s class we had a vigorous game of Musical Spoons. Four students, three spoons, and a deck of music cards. The students had to collect (or discard) cards to make a major or minor triad. And then grab a spoon – before anyone else did. And once the grabbing started… Best review class ever with lots of laughs as the students tried to make triads under pressure.

And for those in the know, remember that the dominant triad in a minor key always has an accidental because it contains the raised 7th.


Should You Be Practicing Right Now?

This pretty much sums up my views on when and for how long. Thanks Joshua Wells at


Tunes to study by

From September 8 to September 15, the Ottawa Citizen has been offering free downloads of music, TV episodes, apps, or books on iTunes. Today’s download is a 20-song playlist of the greatest works from classical music. If you are just building your classical music playlist, this is a great start. Play it while you study. You’ll recognize some works that regularly appear on movie soundtracks – surprise! Available only until midnight September 13, 2011.

Studio On The Go

Last night I had the pleasure of playing at the Stittsville Sobey’s again. This time I brought along a few students from my studio. E.H., A.K., A.W., M.W., and R.S. did us all proud. Well done!

And thank you to Sobey’s for having us.

New Arts Season

Today the Ottawa Citizen released its guide to cultural events happening in 2011-2012. Music, visual art, theatre, dance, film, books – there are a lot of great events happening in Ottawa. There are some excellent pianists coming to town to play with the NAC Orchestra. If you get the chance, take in a concert by these world class pianists: Angela Hewitt, Olga Kern, Jon Kimura Parker, Jan Lisiecki, Louie Lortie, and Yundi. Most of these artists are Canadian. Angela Hewitt grew up in Ottawa. Jon Kimura Parker was born and raised in Vancouver. Louie Lortie was born in Montreal. Jan Lisiecki was born in Calgary and is currently studying at the Glenn Gould School of Music in Toronto.

And for a hilarious look at being a pianist, take in the play 2 Pianos, 4 Hands by Canadians Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt at the National Arts Centre January 10-28, 2012.

What Do Musicians Do All Day?

The blog has been awfully quiet lately. It’s my summer break from teaching.

The joke around here is that musicians mostly lay about playing music all day. Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was a court musician for the Esterhazy family – wealthy Hungarian princes who loved music. Haydn composed music for church, opera, orchestra, string quartet, piano, and marionette theatre. He was also responsible for the care, music, and instruments of 15-20 court musicians. There was no time off, except at the discretion of the prince. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was responsible for writing a new cantata for each Sunday’s church service, i.e. compose the work, write out all the parts by hand, conduct rehearsals, and have it ready to perform on Sunday morning. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was good at everything, and basically worked himself to death.

There is music all day long, but I don’t seem to be laying around much. My job description can be summed up as planning for the future and executing for today. Teaching schedules, concert bookings, and student programs are planned a year in advance. Daily lessons and practice session accomplish a step or two that will achieve the long-range goal. Planning, teaching, practising, performing.

In the last week I’ve been to three rehearsals for three different groups, accompanied a violin exam, worked on the plan for a year of piano lessons for 30 students, organized some student performances for the end of the month, and practised for an upcoming performance. I wonder what next week will be like.

Ah, the lazy days of summer.