Two Big Changes for Me and The Benefits for You

Opportunity knocked two times this spring.


The first opportunity that will make a significant impact in my work week is a position banner-192-20130306132137I recently accepted at the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music. I’m pleased and honored to be heading up their Piano Preparatory program. I’ll be collaborating with Chee-Hwa Tan, colleague, good friend and brilliant pedagogy professor at the university. I’ll also be working with and mentoring graduate students as we provide group and private lesson instruction to youngsters around the ages of 6-11. I’ll be working in this beautiful building on the lovely DU campus.

How does this change for me benefit you?

First, you’ll be directly impacted by my interactions with Chee-Hwa who is well-known in the world of piano pedagogy. For years, she’s shifted her focus to raise and home school her four children. Last year, she embraced her newly-appointed professorship with a passion. I’m thrilled to be influenced by her wisdom which will surely impact my teaching and will rub off in what I share here at the blog.

Chee-Hwa and I managed a pic with Sean Chen at NCKP 2015

Chee-Hwa and I managed a pic with Sean Chen at NCKP 2015.

Perhaps you know of Chee-Hwa from her published compositions from Frederick Harris?

Check out her blog packed with profound and insightful posts about being a mother, a wife and a teacher. Her posts are golden and not to be missed.

“Do you tend to sit or stand on the same side of the student when teaching? Be sure to walk over and change your viewing side while they are playing. It makes a tremendous difference to our ability to notice imbalance of technique or unhealthy posture. This can prevent injuries and give us solutions to many technical issues. I routinely watch my students play from the right, left, and even the back. It is amazing what you will notice. So, don’t stay fixed on one side!” -Chee-Hwa Tan

Second, as I work with the DU graduate students, it will make me more aware of the hurdles 41axfn099hl-_sx336_bo1204203200_of teaching that I may have forgotten over the years. I’m sure that our interactions while teaching group lessons will develop wonderful ideas that I’ll be excited to share with you.

Third, Chee-Hwa has clued me in on the books she’s using in her pedagogy course. As I’m not one to miss out on a book, I’ve either shook off the dust on some of my favorites and have ordered some others. Here are three excellent books on my summer reading list:

Questions and Answers: Practical Advice for Piano Teachers by Frances

Teaching Piano in Groups by Christopher Fisher

Professional Piano Teaching by Jeanine Jacobsen


Friend, colleague and choir director, Mark Cutler, just retired. It's been an honor being his "right hand" for so many years!

Friend, colleague and choir director, Mark Cutler, just retired. It’s been an honor being his “right hand” for so many years!

The second opportunity is coupled with a bitter-sweet occasion. The minister of music and choir director with whom I’ve worked with over the past 15+ years just retired last week. Serving as his “right hand” has been an honor for which I will always be grateful. Thankfully, his “replacement” is someone who earned my respect the minute I met him. Perhaps you’ve met Drew, too? He was our guest in our 88 Creative Keys webinar, Essentials for Worship Team Pianists. Drew comes equipped to lead a rockin’ contemporary worship band as well as conduct a choir with musicality and authority.

The change in leadership comes with a modification in service times at the church. We’ve cut down the number of services from three to two. The new schedule means that I play every Sunday at the 9:00am traditional service and once a month, I now play at the 10:30m with the worship band. Those Sunday mornings are long as I arrive at 6:30am and leave around noon. However, the exhilaration I experience playing for both far outweighs the sting of the 5:30am alarm. Reading the old hymns at the organ and new chord charts at the piano in one morning tests every playing skill. Ten years ago I would have been frightened by this opportunity and now I say “bring it on!”

How will this experience benefit you? I look forward to sharing what I learn collaborating with Drew in both services. He and I are already brainstorming how the two services and styles can crossover and enhance the worship experience.

New boss, Drew Collins is a dynamic worship team leader and choir director.

New boss, Drew Collins, is a dynamic worship team leader and choir director.

Thanks for sharing in my excitement with these new opportunities. I appreciate hearing from you and look forward to the years to come!



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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Congratulations Leila!! What exciting opportunities!
    I look forward to reading your insights and perspective on teaching from these new vantage points!!

  • Good luck with your new endeavors! I look forward to hearing what you learn in both new positions. I’ve served on the worship team at my church as a volunteer keyboard player for the last 4 years and it’s made a huge difference in how I approach teaching theory, improvisation, and arranging to my students. Arranging music to play in a band setting is extremely different from arranging music to play by yourself as a soloist! If my students are still playing the piano in 30 years (and I hope they are!), a worship band will likely be their outlet. I’m glad that I can help them learn to do this now.

    If you ever get experience playing a Hammond organ as part of your new worship team duties, please do blog about that! That’s been the most difficult adjustment for me as a classically trained pianist with no background in organ whatsoever: I have no idea what to do with all of the timbre possibilities. I have a sneaking feeling that I’ll need to teach some of my students how to incorporate the Hammond into their playing in the next 5 – 10 years…which means I need to learn what to do with it first!

    • Good question! I don’t have access to a hammond but I know Bradley Sowash has some good tips. Stay tuned for a blog post–some day soon, hopefully. Thank you, May!

  • Leila, Congratulations on your new position! How exciting! I also play piano on our worship team, which is contemporary Christian, and play for 4 services – 3 in the morning and 1 in the evening. Long day but I love it!

    Very quickly: It’s been a month or more when I purchased the Rhythm Produce and I’m having trouble finding my order so I can download it. Almost forgot about it! Please comment. Thanks!

    • Hi, Laquetta, what a busy day for you! I’m impressed. I’ll have to email the files to you. Look for them at the address you list above. Thank you!

  • Congratulations, Leila, on your new university position and on the positive changes in your church musician responsibilities. God opened two more windows for you! I look forward to anything and everything that you share with me and all other piano teachers. Thank you!