A Fun Way To Introduce Music Notation

Have you heard of the Freddie The Frog series?  In this picture book series,music educator and author Sharon Burch uses the adventures of a frog named Freddie to introduce music notation and rhythm to early elementary kids. The series is perfectly suited for classroom use, but I use it with private piano students and have found it to be quite useful and enjoyable for students. I was pleasantly surprised to meet Sharon Burch during the 2013 Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference.   If you are looking for a fun way to introduce music notation to k-3 students, this is it! There are also supplemental games and coloring sheets at http://www.freddiethefrog.comAuthor of Freddie The Frog Series (center) with Dana Rice and Allison Upshaw

Author of Freddie The Frog Series (center) with Dana Rice and Allison Upshaw

Book Review: Making Music by Susan Bonners

Here is a great book to add to your library of fiction books about piano lessons. Susan Bonners tells an engaging story of a young girl, Annie, who moves to a new neighborhood with her mom and little brother. The trouble is that they are moving far away from her Uncle who was teaching her how to play the piano. In the new neighborhood Annie is surprised to hear piano music coming from a neighbor’s house. As the story progresses we watch Annie and her neighbor  – who happens to be a retired piano teacher –  form an unbreakable bond because of the music.

Young readers who have an interest in playing the piano will easily relate to Annie as they read about how Annie struggles to remember the music her Uncle taught her before she moved away and how she eventually does remember HOW to remember! As a piano teacher, I constantly encourage young students to read fiction books about kids who play the piano or who want to learn to play. I believe that these stories are very valuable in validating children who take lessons by giving them characters who have similar desires and interests as their own. This is especially important because of the fact that piano learning is in so many ways a lonely pursuit.

The piano teacher in me enjoys reading these books because of the “knowing about the process” that is often depicted in them. For example, there is one line that jumped off the page as I was reading Making Music – “Teaching is tiring” the neighbor tells Annie when Annie asks her to teach her to play the piano. Simple relatable comments like that can be very refreshing because they are reminders that other piano teachers sometimes experience the same emotions that I do when it comes to teaching piano.

The story is a quick read that can be helpful for parents as well. Parents who read the book will get a glimpse into the mind of a young child who desires to play the piano and gain an even better understanding of lessons as it relates to their own child.

I found this book at my local library, but after reading it decided that I wanted to have my own copy. It is available through several sellers including Amazon.com.

What books are in your piano fiction library?

Book Review: Note By Note, A Celebration of the Piano Lesson by Tricia Tunstall

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration to start the school year, Tricia Tunstall’s book, Note By Note is a must read! This book is truly a celebration of the piano lesson – with all it’s joys and frustrations, twists, turns, and challenges. As I read the book  – in one day – I was uplifted, renewed, and validated as a piano teacher. Her chapter titles are succinct yet intriguing – “Beginnings”, “The Pull of Pop”, “The Lure of Elise”, “Emerging”, “Mastery”, “Recital”, and finally “My Last Piano Teacher”. In my opinion, this book is a love story that will capture the heart of  anyone who teaches piano, has taken piano lessons and refused to quit, has quit piano lessons and lived to regret it, and even those who always wished to have piano lessons.  My favorite quote about this book is from author Reeve Lindbergh who said,

“Note by Note is simply a joy of a book. Tricia Tunstall combines a lifetime’s love of music with respect and affection for the children who are her students. She writes with clarity, grace, and a delightful sense of humor. This will be every reader’s favorite piano lesson.”