Piano and Organ Music for the Lenten Season

Here’s a brief list of some favorite selections I’ll be playing in the next week for the Lenten and Easter services. Included is an arrangement of my own. Would be interested in hearing your opinion. :-)

Piano Solo: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

5903415Book: Lift High the Cross: Piano Solos for Holy Week Composer: arr Larry Shackley Publisher: Hope Publishing Company Link to Purchase:  Lift High the Cross Comments: The combination of piercing lyrics and a colorful tune are irresistible. I like to play this at least once a year. Anybody have another favorite arrangement? Continue reading

JoyTunes and MTNA Part Two

If you haven’t noticed, my loyalties are divided between technology and creativity. As much as I desire to teach and promote creativity, IJoytunes-logo---no-background am equally passionate about THE tech device of the century–the iPad. So the second half of my MTNA 2014 report will cover my activities associated with all things iPad.

First, I can honestly say that lugging my laptop along to Chicago was absolutely pointless. Both of my presentations were created with Keynote on my iPad Air. The app works like a charm and in my opinion created first-rate presentation slides. With the hotel Wi-Fi incredibly pricey, the only time I accessed email was via my phone or late at night with my iPad in the lobby where there was free Wi-Fi. Note to self: leave the laptop behind next time. Continue reading

Wendy Stevens Does it Again and Again

The amount of truly remarkable and unique posts, products and pieces Wendy Stevens produces in a year is mind-boggling. If you haven’t done so, make sure to check out ComposeCreate.com for some of her latest masterpieces. I’ve highlighted three of them below.

SMU postcard

First, good friend, colleague, fellow blogger and EXTREMELY creative teacher and composer, Wendy Stevens has developed THE most unusual and downright fun method to practice and master rhythms with her latest Rhythm Cup Explorations. Every teaching studio should own a copy of this revolutionary curriculum to teach rhythm.

Next, Wendy is a standout composer who creates pieces that reflect her innate sense of playfulness which will relate immediately to your budding pianists’ and their need to laugh, sing and play. Check out her witty yet charming pieces–one is called The Booger Song, yes, you read it correctly, The Booger Song.

Last (there’s more I could include here but I’ll limit this list to three items), Wendy is generously sharing news about the exciting events for teachers this summer. One of them is called SMU-IPT: The Creative Piano Teacher. It will be held July 8-11, 2014. I’m a little partial to this event as I’ve been helping Dr. Sam Holland with the conference plans and I’ve been asked to present at a number of sessions. In addition, good friends Bradley Sowash, Forrest Kinney, Kristin Yost and others will be part of the faculty as well. FYI: the registration fee goes up after May 1st and there are only 48 slots available so design your summer calendar around this event soon.

Posing with Jumal who will be leading the drum circle–YES, the drum circle.

 

You really need to read more about this unique conference by clicking here which will direct you to Wendy’s site. While there, don’t forget to order Rhythm Cup Explorations and pick up some of her pieces as well.

 

Need a copy of The iPad Piano Studio for you or your friend? Order it here.

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Online Book Club: Steal Like An Artist

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Dorla and me posing at SMU-IPT 2012

In the summer of 2012, my good friend and colleague Wendy Stevens of ComposeCreate.com suggested that I attend SMU-IPT–Southern Methodist University Institute for Piano Teachers. On the first day of the conference, when looking for a place to sit and eat my boxed lunch, I happened to sit under the shade of the same tree as Dorla Pryce. Ever since, my lifetime friend, Dorla and I find each other at conferences, compare life stories, share opinions and teaching ideas.

I credit Dorla for holding me to the 88Pianokeys.me online book club. She noticed the absence of my book club posts and suggested I continue this unique column. All it takes is one supporter and I’m on board again. Furthermore, if that “someone” is willing to write a post for me, all the better. So, below, you will find Dorla’s bio and then her review of my FAVORITE book that I actually introduced to Dorla at, you guessed it, SMU-IPT 2103. Continue reading

History in the Making at MTNA 2014! Part One

If you want the complete rundown about all of MTNA’s conference sessions this year, you’ll have to rely upon 2014_logosomeone else. (Check out Bradley Sowash’s blog about it here.) I was privileged to be part of some extremely exciting events and found myself too occupied to attend as many sessions as I would have liked. I did manage to capture a few pics AND some priceless videos. Let me fill you in.

Part One: Improvisation Saturday

With a dream team headed by George Litterst and MTNA Jazz/Pop Track Chair Bradley Sowash, Saturday was a day of HUGE, HISTORICAL firsts for conference goers and MTNA.

Three simultaneous streams of sessions within the improvisation track led by world-class improvisation experts made it mighty tricky for attendees to choose. As I obviously could not attend all of them, let’s hope others who attended will share what they learned.

Continue reading

Agree to be Kind

the-four-agreements

After a long week of preparing students for a Federation festival, working with other teachers to make the festival a success behind the scenes, saying good-bye to a son returning back to college, preparing for MTNA events, playing for Sunday services and experiencing some interesting online social interactions, I thought it good for me to revisit some important mental health mantras. All of these experiences listed above involve communicating with others–an essential skill in our business and any business for that matter.

Be kind, you never know the battles a person may be fighting.

If I’m truly going to be kind in every circumstance, it’s important to have standards in place to help me navigate through feelings and successfully communicate with level-headed common sense.  don Miguel Ruiz provides four agreements to practice on a regular basis:

1) Be Impeccable with your Word = Speak with Integrity

2) Don’t Take Anything Personally = What others say and do is a projection of their own reality

3) Don’t Make Assumptions = Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings

4) Always Do your Best = Your best will change from moment to moment due to circumstances but continue to do your best

Since there are plenty of in-depth resources explaining these four agreements including  Ruiz’ book I won’t go into detail about the agreements here. Click on the links below to order the book or read more about it.

Why did I post this? Mostly as a reminder to myself that moving forward each day means that in the face of

  • a disagreement
  • encouraging and coaching others towards performance readiness
  • working with others
  • hurtful words
  • self-doubt
  • disappointment
  • feeling exhausted
  • all things human

be kind.

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Will I See You at MTNA?

The MTNA conference in Chicago is NEXT WEEK!

Wondering if it will feel like spring in Chicago?our-lobby-has-been-transformed Me too, but I have my doubts. With the lack of warm sunshine outside, I’d like to make sure there’s plenty of warm fuzzies going on inside the Marriott on Magnificent Mile.

I have a lofty ambition to meet–in person–as many of you who attend the conference as possible. Since I may not recognize you, please introduce yourself and let’s begin a friendship beyond Facebook, the blog, email, etc.

In case you are interested here’s a couple of places you will find me:

2014-01-30-18-08-32Saturday: Improvisation Track

I’ll be there working behind the scenes the entire day but also presenting at 10:30am in the Kane Room. With assistance from Bradley Sowash, I’ll be offering an interactive session on group improvisation ON and OFF the bench. Be ready to engage, have fun and leave with dynamic ideas to ignite your teaching. By the way, if things go as planned, there should be some movin’ and groovin’ like you’ve NEVER seen before at an MTNA conference–fingers crossed. FYI: this Improvisation track is staffed with a DREAM TEAM! Here’s the schedule.

Monday: JoyTunes Showcase

Eight o’clock AM Monday morning I’ve been invited to present at JoyTune’s showcaseJoyTunes Ltd developed Piano Mania, the top educational app in the United States and it’s the app my students cannot IMG_2639resist. Please don’t make me get up early to find an empty room!

Perhaps you are skeptical about showcases? They can be just one big sales pitch, right? Be assured that your first hour Monday morning will be anything but. The session will be packed full of ideas for you and how to integrate your iPad into each lesson plan. If my words have not persuaded you, perhaps knowing that there will be chocolate will convince you to set that alarm early?

When not presenting, I’ll be attending sessions and spending time at the booths of JoyTunes, Yamaha (with Tom Folenta promoting the MTTCampus.com) and also Clavier Companion.

FYI: after the conference, my handouts will be available at LeilaViss.com

Where will I find you?

Got an iPad? Missing something? Order your copy here

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-Leila

Effective Teaching with your Favorite Apps

Is this you?

  • You teach piano or other musical instruments.logo
  • You are attracted to integrating technology into your teaching.
  • You jumped on the iPad bandwagon and purchased one along with a stunning case.
  • You mastered your Apple ID and password thanks to all the apps you downloaded.

BUT NOW… you are suffering from “approach avoidance” syndrome–in other words

  • You are wandering aimlessly from app to app in search of the perfect ones to suit your needs.
  • You find yourself neglecting your fancy iToy because it just seems overwhelming.

No worries, help is on its way!

Help has been around here at 88pianokeys.me for a while . How?

C’mon Get Happy

Scientific Proof

Winter weather getting you down? A recent study proved that being creative makes you happier. Even if the end product is less than a masterpiece, purely the process of creating breeds happiness. A quote from an article about the research findings:

“Engaging in creative pursuits allows people to explore their identities, form new relationships, cultivate competence, and reflect critically on the world.”

Good news! There is an unprecedented line-up of creative opportunities this summer for you—pianists and educators—to engage in creative pursuits where you will

  • explore your identity at the keysAll-Around-This-World-Smiley-Face-Note-300-dpi-for-USPTO
  • form new relationships on the bench
  • interact with master teachers who will cultivate competence in your playing beyond the page
  •  reflect on your present style of instruction
  • experience a critical shift in the way you teach

Where and when are these unique events?

• 88 Creative Keys Camp in Columbus, Ohio: June 9-11

• 88 Creative Keys Camp in Denver, Colorado: July 21-24

• SMU-IPT: The Creative Piano Teacher in Dallas, Texas: July 8-11 Continue reading

Making Memories for a Positive Performance

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Last spring’s recital had a beach theme–can you tell?

Apparently I’m not the only one scarred by a horrendous memory black out during a recital. Riding home with fellow adjudicators from a nearby Federation of Music Clubs Festival, I discovered that others have endured unforgettable and traumatic experiences where the memory bank crashed during an important performance. As I’m preparing my students to participate in a local Federation festival that requires memorization, it’s critical for me to equip performers for NOTHING but a successful experience. I do not wish to pass along my personal past performance scars to anyone.

Playing for an audience is already risky but playing from memory for others including adjudicators could be equated to walking a tightrope.  If performers are going to tip toe on that high wire, it’s important that a safety net is below ready to catch them when, not if mistakes occur and bounce them right back up on the rope.

Designing a plan that will empower students to play through an error, find an exit, manage a detour, reroute and get back on track all within a feeling of control and not panic is essential–but not easy. I figured if I came up with as many options as possible, students would be equipped to rely on a number of fallback plans to ensure a positive performance experience. Below is my piano-teacher-not-very-scientific list for building a strong memory bank.

First, a small science lesson:

1) There are three parts to our core processor:brain on music 2

  • storage
  • recall
  • encoding

2) There are two types of memory storage:

  • short-term
  • long-term

In general, the goal of learning and memorizing a piece is to move all information from the short-term holding tank into the long-term memory bank. Before I proceed any further, let me make one disclaimer: There is NO scientific proof in the following ideas. What I’ve written here about the brain merely helped me to classify the steps I created to generate memory aids.  I claim no expertise in this area and can offer no money-back guarantee that these suggestions will work but they are worth a try. :-)

Recall: Steps for retrieving memorized data Continue reading