So happy to finally announce the birth of our daughter!!

Imogen Violet was born October 25th, 6:28am.
She weighed 8lbs and was 20″ long.
T and I are amazed by her and more in love every day!


Isn’t she beautiful?

Natalie at Music Matters Blog is having a giveaway for a copy of the Music Ace software. Click on the link to sign up — the drawing is next Thursday, so hurry! Click here to enter — and good luck!

Is it already August?  No way.  Are there any other summers out there that are flying by?  Please tell me I’m not alone! 🙂

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated…  My planned music camp fell through — students had prior plans/vacations, and it just didn’t work out.  I’ve put the idea out there about maybe doing a few music appreciation classes at the beginning of the school year (yeah, that’s next month!),  so maybe that’ll work out.  I was/am really excited about teaching music history/appreciation simply because I love it so much.  The whole idea for a camp/classes came to me one day as I listened to a Mozart Piano Concerto.  I was overcome with joy as the music filled my car and then this thought struck me:  “I wonder if any of my students would be as thrilled by this as I am?” After pondering this thought for a moment, and coming up with the answer being a resounding “No.”,  my next thought was: “Should I be doing something about this?” And so began the idea of imparting the joy of the Greats — not only through performance, but also through listening  (although it’s ALL about listening, isn’t it?).    So, we’ll see what comes of it — and then I’ll have done my part to help with the next generation of Classical music lovers.  🙂

For myself, I’ve been focusing on memorizing music this summer. Famous classical works that I’ve never gotten around to committing to memory (Gershwin Prelude 1, Haydn and Mozart Sonata movements, Fur Elise, etc.), and also some famous fun ones (Linus and Lucy, Pink Panther, etc).   I always tell my students to keep a few memory pieces current and ready to roll in case the need arises…. and I found myself slipping in that area. It’s been fun and liberating to get off the page!

Other than that I’ve just been teaching away. A lot of my students are taking lessons over the summer. More than usual since I’m planning to take a break for a while after my daughter arrives.   I only have 10 weeks to go!  So excited to finally meet our little addition!

What have you been up to this summer?

Like other teacher-bloggers out there, I’m sort of taking a break from the blogosphere this summer — but I wanted to give an update as to what’s been going on in my little world.  So, here it is:

The last few weeks have been spent creating a comfortable and peaceful room for our daughter. It’s not done, of course, but it’s getting there!  I figured it was best to use the first part of the summer to get the nursery ready since I’m still feeling great and moving around with relative ease.  🙂

Other than that, I’ve been working on the syllabus for my music camp “Music Through the Ages“… it’s getting there, too! I’m really excited about this camp and the opportunity to share some great music with my students!  As soon as I get everything set I’ll post the curriculum.  I’ll also blog throughout the time to keep you updated on how things are going. Camp starts July 12 and goes through July 16.  Stay tuned!

Hope you all are having a fantastic and musical summer!

This morning I was kicked back on the couch with the laptop, catching up on my blog reading.  Through a post from Jenny Bay at The Teaching Studio I found myself listening to Debussy’s Children’s Corner at the amazing website .  (Thanks, Jenny!)  If you haven’t already, you should read the Jenny’s post on teaching music appreciation…find it here!

Anyway, the Debussy began…and my tiny daughter (she’s due in October) begins to wiggle around like crazy.  She had been still before the music began…. so I know there’s now another Debussy fan in the house!!   I guess her current favorite piece is “Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum” (this is the first piece that played and made me noticed her ‘dancing’) – and it’s her favorite for good reason – I’ll link to the recording so you may all share in her joy!  🙂   Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum – Debussy – Performed by Tom Pascale

This was really an exciting time for me. I just had to share!

Hope all summers are going well!

…but my studio recital has to happen first!  Happily, nearly all of my students are ready to go… and this is a good thing, since recital is on Tuesday!

After that I’ll nail down the final plans for my upcoming summer camp “Music Through the Ages” — I’ll post the syllabus once I get everything together.  Looking forward to it!

My thanks to Narciso Solero for sharing his thoughts on “Keeping Teenagers Engaged in Lessons Through High School” for the guest post.  I also wanted to mention that Mr. Solero is available to do music teacher workshops and student masterclasses.  Our local association  has hosted a couple workshops with Narciso, and they are fantastic.  I would encourage any and all local teacher groups to check into his workshop offerings. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.  Contact him here: Narciso Solero, piano teacher – Arlington, Virginia.

Here’s hoping all of your spring recitals were a hit… and that you’re settling into your summer schedule!

First off, thank you, Anya, for inviting me to post a guest blog here on Notes of Joy.  I asked readers of the blog to identify what they would like to see in my post; the question posed was this — how to keep teenagers engaged in piano since they have so many activities competing for their time.

I have been teaching in Northern Virginia since 1997; during this time, I have attended many of NVMTA’s important competitions as a judge or as a teacher presenting students, and over the years, I have consistently noticed that the number of students entering these competitions in the high school divisions always is considerably smaller than the numbers in the divisions for middle school and elementary school.  On a completely different level of teaching as well, that of our typical non-competitive students, I find that teachers are seeing a similar trend. Many years ago, a teacher friend of mine noticed that in her experience, if she could keep a student in piano lessons through eighth grade, then that student would more than likely graduate high school having continued in piano lessons through his or her senior year. This is no surprise; we are talking about the transition from middle school to high school here when discussing this issue. I am proposing several strategies for keeping our students engaged in lessons through this particular critical time; of course, this kind of discussion could really take about a month’s worth of daily postings, and even then we would only perhaps touch the tip of the iceberg! But I will present five ideas that I have put into practice myself and have observed clear success by following these strategies.

  1. Be pro-active in student retention – as in six to eight years pro-active. Teach your VERY YOUNG students to read well, and start teaching them a very proficient piano technique from the moment they walk through the door to your studio. The easier it is to read, the less stressful it is for them to learn and of course they can assimilate what they are learning faster. The better they learn to play, the more likely they are going to be to continue as a teenager because this will be something they are VERY good at doing, and students enjoy doing things they do well.
  2. Again, be pro-active: be 100% energetic and engaged in EVERY single lesson – even if it means you are simply acting the part. How many days have we taught when we have had a lot on our mind and yet we still must be an effective, engaged teacher – even though we may be worrying about a health issue, a financial setback, or some other problem, big or small? Have we come across as distracted or disengaged as a result of being pre-occupied? We must make a supreme effort to pass on our love of music and our enthusiasm for our students at all times; if we are not 100% committed, engaged, and as inspiring as we can be, how can we expect our students’ enthusiasm to catch fire, sustain, and grow? Make every attempt to make your students fall in love with piano with your own energy and excitement! Perhaps then piano will be one of their highest priorities as they enter their teen years rather than something to do that they fit in when they have time (which, if that is their mindset, will most likely be almost never).
  3. TEACH ARTISTRY to every student. This is related to my first response, item number 1, because teaching piano is more than teaching reading and technique- it is teaching your students not just to play the piano but to give them the possibility of becoming pianists. Again, if a student plays well (and this certainly includes teaching your students to strive for the beauty of tone that is the hallmark of great pianists), he or she is much more likely to continue in piano for the long haul. Students enjoy doing things they do well. This is my mission as a teacher, and this has been the most requested topic for when I have given seminars and workshops as a guest speaker.  Teach great sound and teach your students to play with beauty and passion ALL the time (even the students we may consider to be difficult to teach!)
  4. Choose shorter pieces; they take less time to learn, less time to perfect, and less time to maintain (obviously, since they are shorter!) There are literally millions of works for piano; no matter what level of work a student has accomplished, there will be a multitude of pieces that will be a bit more challenging for your time-strapped student for the following school year but that will be SHORTER and therefore less intimidating to him or her. The more advanced level will make you feel as if your student is in fact achieving a higher level of accomplishment, yet the fact that the pieces are shorter will encourage your student who may be worried about having enough time to successfully learn the music.
  5. Start early! I teach summer lessons as well. DO NOT let your students take the entire summer off!  Summer is a great time to get some repertoire learned, memorized, and sounding good before the school year starts and time vanishes into the blur of play practices, soccer games, gymnastics, homework, and lost productivity from lack of sleep. Notice what I said – learned, memorized, and sounding good; basically, get some things performance-ready in the summer before the school year starts, because it ALWAYS takes less time to maintain or, if necessary, to  resurrect old repertoire that has been put in cold storage than it does to learn that same repertoire in the first place.

In conclusion, you may feel that my first three answers are not quite what you expected; they are not bandages or quick fixes once you have a problem. Rather, they are long-term teaching concepts to keep the attrition rate at the absolute minimum! For those who do need a practical, immediate solution, I offer the fourth and fifth ideas because I have found these both to be the most effective ways to encourage students of all levels to continue study if there is any concern or worry about finding time to practice.  But I want to say as well the following: as teachers, you must accept the fact that, regardless of how well you have prepared them, regardless of your enthusiasm, and even if they achieve a high level of accomplishment, some students will quit taking lessons or will slowly become less engaged and produce far less of quality than they did in the past – no matter what.  This is not necessarily the result of failure on your part as a teacher or a shortcoming on their part. And it certainly does not always mean a diminishing love for music in that student. It is simply life; we all have shifting interests and priorities but only a limited number of hours in a day to accomplish everything we want to do. We certainly cannot expect that all of our students will become teachers or performers.  We can, however, hope that as a result of our teaching, our passion, our commitment to them during their time of study, and as a result of the accomplishment they have achieved under our guidance that they will become lifelong lovers of great music, lifelong concert goers, and in the future, pass that love and enthusiasm on to their kids and grandchildren so that this great art never becomes extinct.

©Narciso Solero 2010

I’ve recently been helping a fellow teacher with setting up a free studio website through WordPress.   Since I typed out all the steps, I figured I would share them with my readers… just in case some of you are looking to start a website for your studio.

Keep in mind: I think a WordPress site is perfect for teachers who want a place to send prospective (or current) students where they can learn about studio policies and upcoming events — but not necessarily for teachers who want a lot of bells and whistles.  You can, however, very easily add photos and video to any WordPress site.

My studio website is through WordPress — and it works beautifully for me.  You can visit it here:

Ready to learn? Here goes:

Steps for Creating Your Studio Website Through

1) go to
2) click on the orange ‘sign up now’ button
3) fill out the form (your username will be the name of your blog — so make sure it’s descriptive — I called mine campbellpianostudio)
4) make sure the box is checked at the bottom of the page that says ‘gimme a blog’
5) on the next page name your blog – like I said – I called mine campbellpianostudio
6) check your email — you should receive an activation email from — click on the link provided to activate your account
7) click on ‘login’ and type your login info — this will take you to your dashboard (where you can change settings and see stats and all that good stuff)

Ok – now your site is all ready for you to start typing in the info about your studio — or whatever information you want prospective students to know.  This will take some digging around in the dashboard (trial and error) to get it the way you want it — but don’t be afraid! You can’t hurt anything — and if you change something and don’t like the way it looks you can always change it back.

All down the left side of the dashboard page there are links that allow you to make a new post — or change the sites appearance.  For example, click on ‘settings’ and you can change the tagline and the time settings.   Or, click on ‘header’ and you can change the picture at the top of the page.

Ok, folks, this should get you going.  Please leave me a comment  if you’ve finished these steps and need a little more help. I’m happy to walk through the steps to customize your site.   Good luck! 🙂

I think the main thing is just to get in there and go for it — at first it feels confusing — but you’ll have the hang of it in no time!

A few weeks ago, our local association hosted an all day workshop with the delightful Seymour Bernstein.   It was such a fun day, as Mr. Bernstein is an engaging and entertaining clinician.

The day was divided into 3 segments.  The morning segment was a lecture entitled “Choreography at the Keyboard”.  After lunch, there was a student masterclass.  The late afternoon segment was a discussion called “With Your Own Two Hands”.

The first and third segments were said to be based on Mr. Bernstein’s books (both “20 Lessons in Keyboard Choreography” and “With Your Own Two Hands”).  The first segment Mr. Bernstein used pages from his books (“20 Lessons…” and “Musi-Physi-Cality”) in a slide presentation, but in the final discussion his book (“With Your Own Two Hands”) wasn’t mentioned at all (…and I must add that it was almost refreshing to have no pressure to buy anything… though I am very interested in check out his books!)

The way the Masterclass was conducted really caught my attention.  Of course, the three students that came prepared to play for the master teacher (and a big room full of teachers!) were visibly nervous. But Seymour Bernstein really has a way of putting his audience at ease!  He began the time by asking those of us who had ever participated in a masterclass to raise our hands.  Then he said, “It’s the most grueling experience, wouldn’t you agree?”   He went on to explain that the students are so nervous before playing that they don’t get a thing out of what the master is teaching the students that come before them in the program.  So, he said that instead of having one student play, and then discussing the piece and performance right then before the next student plays… he would have each of the 3 students play, in recital fashion, and then they would all (students and master) meet back up front to discuss the performances together.  Genius!  And it worked like a charm.  It was certainly more fun and less intimidating on the students (a huge plus), but it was very interesting (and less stressful for those of us who get nervous when our student play!) for the teachers as well.

I absolutely loved how he engaged all three students throughout the discussion and learning segment of the masterclass… it wasn’t just ‘play your piece, listen to the teacher, then sit down and it’s over’.  I would say it was one of the best (if not the best) masterclass I’ve ever attended.

Have you ever had any experience with Seymour Bernstein.. either through his books, concerts, or lectures?  Please share with us!

Yes, I’m still alive — and I’m dying to blog about all things music — but my time over the past week has been nearly nonexistent.  Things promise to slow down soon, so I’ll be back in full swing!

Meanwhile… check out the Music Matters Blog for a book giveaway, and enter to win if you haven’t already!

And be looking for a guest post for Narciso Solero soon!


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