A New Favorite Christmas Arrangement for Piano OR Organ!

Merry Christmas pic

Thanks to the wonders of social media, I stumbled across Paul Sweet’s dynamic arrangement of “O Come All Ye Faithful” a couple of months ago. When I heard his captivating performance featured in the video below it struck me that this piece could be a possible hit on the organ as well.

Here’s Paul’s performance of his arrangement on the piano

Here’s my performance of his piece that I arranged for the Allen Renaissance organ

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An Edible Ornament that Lasts for a Lifetime?

Turning a candy cane into the shape of a “J” and attaching an Christmas Candy Caneappropriately shaped pipe cleaner can magically transform into a treble clef. No, I wasn’t clever enough to come up this idea! Credit goes to Mrs Dennis and her article posted at Music with Mrs Dennis. If you have not visited this creative and colorful blog, check it out. Music with Mrs. Dennis has oodles of ideas for the music classroom that can prove useful in the piano studio as well.

Mrs Dennis was kind enough to shoot a video of how she made the candy cane treble clefs. My students watched the video to learn how to make these tasty treble clefs in the studio during Music Tech Time.

Unlike Mrs Dennis, who generously crafted them for her students, I made my students make their own as part of a Christmas gift to their parents. After their treble clef ornament was finished, students wrote a holiday sentiment on a tag, and threaded the tag and a silver or gold bell on a colorful string. The string was then tied in a knot which was glued to the bottom portion of the “J.”

What you will need to create the candy cane ornament:

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Skitterbug: the best thing since sliced bread!

Pulling out a pre-sliced piece of bread from the plastic bag and popping it in the toaster isdigital-pr a breeze. Finding a knife and a cutting board to cut a piece from a loaf not to mention cleaning up all the crumbs left behind is much less convenient and more time-consuming.

Likewise, sending a link of your glossy studio website to a potential customer is easy. Designing the elegant website with a drop down menu, a photo gallery and an option to pay online can be hard!

I live by this mantra: any activity associated with technology that stumps me for more than 15 minutes–30 minutes at the max–requires outside help. Analogy: if I don’t have a serrated knife to slice properly or a cutting board to protect the kitchen counter, then it’s time to find someone who does. Enter Skitterbug!

Skitterbug-Logo-Quando-Final-copySkitterbug specializes in virtual assistance for performing arts professionals and small arts organizations. In a nutshell, Bryn Sowash–founder of Skitterbug– and her team will help you tackle the large OR the small projects for your studio, your camp, your store–for any type of arts-related business you’d like to promote. As an online presence is essential for any endeavor in today’s market, Skitterbug is THE resource for you and will not only assist but carry you through until the project is completed to your satisfaction.

Here’s my recent experience with Skitterbug:

Since I’m involved in a number of endeavors, I determined I needed to “house” all of them under one site called LeilaViss.com. Although I consider myself quite savvy, I do get stumped. I emailed Continue reading

The Perfect Keepsake for Your Students!

QR code postIt will be hard to outdo the Christmas gifts given to my student families last year. The idea came to me when I saw that it was possible to link a video to a QR code and print the codes on stickers.

FYI: A QR code (short for Quick Response) is a specific matrix bar code (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR bar code readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded on a QR code can be text, a URL link or other data like a video.

I bribe my students with Music Money. (Read more about it here.) They are given the chance to shop and spend their hard-earned cash various times throughout the year at my studio store and as a result, they accumulate many trinkets and gifts.  Because of this bribery system, it seemed appropriate to give the parents of my students a gift instead for the holiday season. A handmade item crafted by their adored, budding musician seemed appropriate and definitely more meaningful than any store-bought item. This line of thought triggered the idea of students designing cards with QR code stickers for their parents. Continue reading

Free Christmas Piano Solo and More!

Garden ColorIt seems my creative juices kick in on occasion. In fact, I’ve recently arranged a couple of hymns but need to make time to notate them. Hopefully it won’t take me 11 years for that to happen. Read on…

This setting of “Go Tell it On the Mountain” was originally conceived in 2003, and was finally notated in Finale this year. I still find it appealing after all these years, so I figure you might, too.

Make sure to sign up HERE for my newsletter (if you haven’t done so already) to receive your complimentary score. The score will be delivered in the upcoming newsletter out by this weekend. If you don’t see the 88PianoKeys.me newsletter in your inbox by Monday, November 24th check your spam folder. If you still didn’t find it, then contact me and I’ll email you the link to the score.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and THANK YOU for hanging out with me at 88pianokeys!

Looking for more Christmas arrangements for the upcoming holiday season?

As the season is short, I try not to add too many Christmas books to my already full shelves but each year I can’t resist the temptation.  Here are some I purchased this year that I know you and/or your students will enjoy as well.

From James Koerts, Koerts Music10702096_10152561006137981_3210811240333681638_n

Koerts keeps kicking out great arrangements for church musicians. Here’s a digital edition that will only take space on your iPad in the forScore app but not your book shelves!

Sacred Christmas Volume One

From Wendy Stevens, Compose Create

You can count on Wendy Stevens to provide innovative and imaginative arrangements and she has not let us down this year with her setting of  “Oh Christmas Tree.”

O Christmas Tree

From Larry Shackley, Hope Publishing8622

The title intrigued me so I purchased Shackley’s latest release. Turns out the hymn arrangements are fresh and energetic. Shackley writes in his foreword: “In this collection you’ll find carols from several countries and centuries, all interpreted with the harmonic and rhythmic colors of Celtic folk music.”

Celtic Hymns for Christmas

One more piece of good news! For those of you who have not secured your copy of The iPad Piano Studio or have a friend that would appreciate the book as a gift, below is a promo code for a 20% discount code.

Hurry as the offer ends November 30th!


iPad Revolution-Book-Comp-4 2

Need to Pin Down New Students? Try Thumbtack!

It would be irresponsible of me not to let you in on a site I recently stumbled upon called Thumbtack.thumbtack Irresponsible and selfish as a fellow teacher as I’ve discovered Thumbtack to be THE most promising lead to future piano students.

Thumbtack is like a double-sided bulletin board. On one side are professionals looking to find future clients and on the other side are consumers looking for professional services. Thumbtack is an internet marketplace that locates and pins down the right professional for interested customers. Their services are available for customers and professionals in all 50 states. You can join Thumbtack if your business/studio is located in the United States.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works

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November Webinar Follow-up


Sharing the Joy of JoyTunes

The Pedagogy Behind the Maestro

Thanks for joining us!

HOORAY! Here’s the link to the edited webinar.


A HUGE word of thanks to the following teachers for providing

inspiring and resourceful maestromonials on behalf of Piano Maestro...

Jeannine Zwiebel, Susan Bagot, Debbie Wiser, Susan Paradis, Jennifer Foxx,

Lorie Burningham, Becki Laurent

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Don’t Miss This Webinar!



Want a sneak peek into the studios of other teachers who are finding JoyTune’s Piano Maestro a tool they can’t live without?

Make sure to register for the next JoyTunes’ webinar called Sharing the Joy of JoyTunes: The Pedagogy Behind the Maestro, Wednesday, November 12, 10:00 MDT.

                          Register HERE

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Upcoming East Coast Excursion: Will I See You?


A pedagogy class playing a round of Note Squish

This Midwest gal is going East next week.

Thanks to a lovely invitation extended by the Delaware Music Teachers Association and the support of JoyTunes, Ltd, I’ll be their convention clinician for the entire day (gulp) which means I need to keep things interesting.

First I’ll be chatting about my favorite subject: the iPad and THE top apps. This growing app list is simply too long so I’ll set a timer and talk apps until the alarm sounds or peeps begin to plug their ears because they’ve heard enough. If you are curious to know what is on my list, you can check out all my favorites of 2014, here.

The Delaware teachers are a brave bunch as they are also allowing me to talk about my next favorite subject: group improvisation. If any of you attended this session at MTNA 2014,  you know what’s in store for them. Continue reading

My Online Lessons: An Update

Yes, a classically trained pianist CAN learn new tricks!

Yes, a classically trained pianist CAN learn new tricks!

If you’ve been following 88pianokeys.me for a while you might recall that I began taking online lessons with Bradley Sowash over a year ago.

Although it is extremely hard to find time to practice for these creativity lessons between teaching, blogging, having a life and practicing for my regular church position, I’ve found time to make progress. Perhaps not as much as I would like but progress none the lesson.

Here’s my latest “show and tell.” In case you are wondering, this is NOT EASY! As a classically trained pianist, learning patterns and playing by ear instead of the eye is one of the most challenging and yet satisfying quests I could ever imagine.

I know, you’d rather not read my words. You want to see me in action. Before you watch the video, all dedicated students have an obligation to credit an amazing teacher. A HUGE thank you is in order to the patient and wise Bradley Sowash. Continue reading