Winter Wonderland

Ottawa’s 35th annual Winterlude opened on February 1 and runs until the 18th. It’s a chance to celebrate winter. Skating on the canal, snowshoeing in Gatineau Park, walking among the ice sculptures. But if your favourite season is any one but winter, take note that there are many great cultural events happening indoors – art, theatre, and music! Check out the calendar of events.

Silly Love Songs

Tonight I’ll be playing some Valentine-themed songs at Gaia Java in Stittsville from 7 to 9 pm. There’s a song for every facet of love – from giddy to jaded to true. They’re serious about the coffee, though, so drop in!

An Evening in Grenada

Ah yes, a trip to sunny Spain was just what I needed at this time of year.

And I was there for a moment. On Sunday afternoon I attended a master class at the University of Ottawa School of Music in collaboration with the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association. La soirée dans Grenade by Claude Debussy was one of the pieces on the program. Debussy’s writing captures the rhythms and exoticism of faraway Spain. Even though Debussy never actually visited Spain, he was able to carry us away through the music.

This master class series runs every season, and it is a real treat for me when my schedule allows me to attend. Senior students of ORMTA teachers perform for a professor from the U of O and an audience of teachers. Yesterday’s class was conducted by Andrew Tunis. After each performance, Mr. Tunis worked with the student to make a fine performance even better. We teachers in the audience were the lucky beneficiaries. Also on the program was a Mozart sonata, a Beethoven sonata, a Bach sinfonia, and another piece by Debussy. It was a great afternoon of music and professional development.

And I’ve never actually been to Spain either, but it sure sounds nice.


Supporting Cast

I enjoy accompanying young instrumentalists and vocalists. Their talent and enthusiasm and my experience make a strong team. Recently I received some delightful news. Two flute students and a violin student I accompanied last spring earned provincial medals for the highest marks in their instrument and grade. I knew we had done well, and I was proud to play a supporting role.

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Yes, those are the lyrics from Deck the Hall. But, if you attended group class this week, you would know that it can also be read as solfege – a quick way of designating pitches based on a scale system. Remember, “When you read you begin with A-B-C; when you sing you begin with do-re-mi.”? (By the way, fa is the fourth note and la is the sixth note.)

In my studio we use solfege for training aural skills, reinforcing memory, auditation of printed melodies, and quickly transcribing melodies. At group class we used solfege for picking out the melody by ear for Deck the Hall. Then we built triads on every degree of the scale, and used them to harmonize our melody. I had Sibelius music notation software up on the screen, and students could watch as we quickly wrote out our own arrangement of a familiar Christmas carol.

“When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything.”


2013 Kiwanis Festival

Starting in 2013, the marking scheme for the Junior Graded Piano classes at the Kiwanis Festival will change. Students in Introductory to Grade 6 will receive certificates for Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Participation. The students will not receive a numerical mark. Students who want a more competitive environment may enter the age category classes.

The deadline for application is December 3, 2012.

Pumpkins on Fence

A pumpkin on a stick

That’s your head on your spine – a pumpkin on a stick – and it’s heavy. If the head is balanced, everything is fine. If it’s unbalanced, the body will compensate in some way which leads to tension.

Pianists play the piano with their whole body. At today’s group class we talked about how we move our bodies to play the piano. Our discussion was taken from the book What Every Pianist Needs to Know About the Body, by Thomas Mark. We looked at the human skeleton and its points of balance. We talked about bench height and how to balance on the bench. And we moved! to become more aware of our how bodies work.

It’s all about moving in a free and easy way to eliminate tension because removing tension yields good tone and avoids injury.


Welcome Neighbour!

There’s a great little coffee shop in Stittsville called Gaia Java and they’ve got a great little vibe going on with their Friday Night Music Nights. I’m delighted to be playing there this Friday, October 12, 7-9 pm. Come on over for a listen…the coffee’s on.

Celebrating Summer Theory Students

The marks have been posted from the Royal Conservatory and Conservatory Canada summer theory sessions. I wanted to brag about my students just a bit…

M.W. – CC Theory 2 – 93.5%

E.W. – CC Theory 2 – 95.5%

K.P. – RCM History 1 – 91%

S.D. – RCM History 2 – 96%

Several of these students completed their theory course in a compressed format, i.e. started the course in July and wrote the exam in August.

Each student worked very hard to earn First Class Honours with Distinction. Congratulations!

Revised ARCT Requirements

RCM has just announced that they have revised the theory requirements for their ARCT Diploma.

All candidates who successfully complete History 3: 19th Century to Present and any two of the three senior-level harmony stream courses (Counterpoint, Advanced Harmony, and Analysis) will have satisfied the theoretical requirements for the ARCT diploma.

ARCT candidates who complete all three senior-level harmony stream courses, as well as History 3, will also receive the special History and Theory: Advanced Certificate, in addition to their ARCT diploma.

This change applies to all students graduating in the 2011-2012 academic year and all future graduates.