Saturday, December 13, 2014

Learning to Read Music

Before I heard of Let's Play Music, I had already taught my dear little four-year-old son how to read.  Wow! That kid sure did (and still does) love reading books.

I had spent months at the library investigating different methods for teaching reading, searching for the one that would work for my family.  The reading method we eventually fell in love with had a few key facets that made it a huge win for my son (and all subsequent siblings).  

A short time later, a Let's Play Music teacher moved into our neighborhood and my little son began to take classes and learn to read music.  I was so ASTONISHED when I heard the theories behind the Let's Play Music method for teaching musical reading, I nearly fell out of my chair!  They were parallel to important truths I had found while teaching my son to read books.


1. Get Some Exposure

Not surprisingly, I taught my son to read books in his native tongue, not Spanish or any other language.  The work of decoding text is tricky, but the motivating drive is that when the laborious work of sounding out letters is done, the text is going to mean something that makes sense.  Since his infancy, I'd also been reading him story books and pointing out words to him.  By age three he'd had a thousand books read to him; when I proposed having him read the books himself, he had a good understanding of what that would mean.

If we went to music lessons as adults, we might expect to show up, have the logistics of note-reading explained to us, and get down to the business of hammering out tunes.  Before our little children can digest such a blunt approach to reading, they need exposure to melodies and tonalities and patterns that they will soon be reading, so that these melodies can mean something.

In my recent post on ear-training for perfect pitch, I discussed how a student can, with practice, be able to mentally "hear" the music as she reads notes on the staff.  The first step on the path to such excellence is practice hearing, singing in tune, and internalizing a large collection of musical tunes and patterns that represent the language of music.  Much of the work during Year 1 of Let's Play Music is designed to expose children to the language and patterns of music.  These activities in class are an important accompaniment to note-reading, so the students will find meaning as they decode, since they'll be decoding a language they know.

2. Learn How Notes Work

I taught my children the sounds that alphabet letters make and the sounds that the consonant clusters make before focusing on the names of the letters. Eventually it's important to know the letter names (an abstract concept) so we can talk about letters and discuss spelling and do intellectual things like that.  But when one is actually reading, he's not thinking about the names of those things...he is just focused on what they mean and how they work as a tool.  Letters are just tools that represent sounds; you don't need to know a whisk is called a whisk in order to make meringue!

In Let's Play Music class, our students are starting to read on the staff in Year 1 and they don't even know ANY NOTE NAMES on the staff.  Shocking? Not at all.  Your kiddo can become a pretty good note-reader by paying attention to the patterns of notes as they baby step and skip, up and down.  Being able to correctly and easily move from one note to the the next is the essence of reading music.  A student must quickly process the relationships between notes in order to read music; the student focuses on how the notes move and relate and work as tool BEFORE focusing on abstract ideas like names for notes.

Stepping and skipping patterns are the first relationships students recognize and perform.  The next fantastic tool will be the ability to quickly recognize intervals between notes, a huge focus in Year 2 (read more about intervals here and here). 

3. Learn some Common Patterns

In the English language, there are a bundle of common words that don't make phonetic sense to a four-year-old.  The word SAID is one of the first sight words my son learned by rote.  Once he had this word in his memory bank, he could effortlessly read it and flow easily past it, spending more effort on the tricky new words in stories.  Even phonetic words, once they are read many times, begin to meld into single items (instead of individual letters) in our fantastic brains.  We don't see the letters anymore- we see the WORD as a whole chunk.

Similar to the English language, the language of music also has some very common "words".  These musical chunks, or melodic patterns, show up ALL THE TIME in music.  The Let's Play Music program introduces the most common melodic patterns (mi-re-do, sol-fa-mi-re-do, sol-la-ti-do, sol-sol-do, sol-mi-do) as if they are sight words. Experienced students will read three or four notes as a cluster of notes; they quickly internalize the pattern represented and play it as a "word" instead of individual notes.  This ability stems from both mental repetition and muscle memory from playing these patterns and handshapes frequently (blog post on muscle memory).

A skilled pianist can sight-read music (play through something brand new) by quickly finding relationships and by looking at "chunks" of notes at once.  During measures of music with unusual patterns, he'll have to slow down and carefully pick out the notes.  Is it amazing to read music without being fully focused on each individual note? Not more amazing than how your brain interprets this entire sentence of English text, only slowing down when it comes to an unusual word, like abecedarian.

3. Learn some Anchor Notes

So, midway through Year 1, your student can play melodies of steps and skips correctly, but it only comes out as intended if the student begins on the correct note!  Every note on the staff represents exactly one white or black key on the keyboard; it's critical to find THAT ONE KEY.

It's not necessary to painstakingly match note-to-key for every single note of the piece if the student can accurately work through the rest of the song by following patterns of steps and intervals.  It will be necessary, for him to learn to check at the beginning of each "chunk" he reads to be sure he's in the right place.

Before teaching all the notes on the staff, Let's Play Music teachers introduce some anchor notes. In Year 2, students learn Middle B,C,D, Treble C, and Bass C, and quickly match between the staff and keyboard.  As they play piano, they check for accuracy of the first note in a "chunk", then play the remaining notes based on patterning.  This is very evident in the second year song How to Skip; the student identifies the first note of each measure, then plays skips up and down to complete the measure.

Anchor notes are these first notes on the staff that the student unfailingly matches to the correct key on the keyboard.  Any note now can be paired to its key by considering the relationship to the anchor ("Oh, I see the key I need is one skip above Middle C, and I know where Middle C is!").  Thinking in this intervallic way is not only a quick way to find the keys, but an excellent way to mentally internalize the distance between notes while your hand is likewise memorizing the physical distance.

4. Find Any Key

By Year 3 of Let's Play Music, your child will be ready to transpose (move Do somewhere other than C), ready to play complex pieces, and ready to build triads and chord inversions.  It's finally and absolutely necessary that we be able to intellectually talk about the notes. The mnemonic song Treble, Bass, Line and Space helps students remember the note names represented by each line and space on the staff. I call this note-spelling since the names are alphabet letters. Teachers will quiz students to be sure they can quickly identify these note names; students will need to do this in order to understand the theory of Year 3.

I sometimes see a division in Year 3 between students who can sight-read music well and those who cannot, and the fast note-spellers are NOT always the best sight-readers.   Fast note-spellers are sometimes tempted to name every note, then match to every key of the song while playing.  Note-spelling has its place in reading: to identify the first note of each "chunk"The rest of the music should be read by looking for patterns.

5. Start With Success

A huge element that I love about our reading program is the way my children experience immediate success.  Most English words are not perfectly phonetic, but we learned a way to write them so they could be decoded phonetically: put a line above a vowel if it is a long vowel, draw a letter tiny if it doesn't actually make a sound, glue two letters together if they make a cluster sound, etc.  My son felt FANTASTIC when he was able to immediately start reading real content.  He still had a short list of practice words each day, but there was no reason to wait for months before letting him read real stories with meaning.  Intrinsic motivation was high! He could see that he was really reading, and he wanted to keep at it, and he read daily because he loved it.  

After a few months, the helpful hints and modifications to words were taken away- but by then he had internalized the many wacky phonetic rules of English and could still read the words, and correctly infer how to read new ones. Success!

In Let's Play Music, students begin keyboarding by playing chords.  They are still practicing daily at reading and playing melodies, but we want them to have immediate success at the piano, too!  By playing accompanying chords while singing the melodies, the student creates the harmony and the complexity of real music! There is no reason to wait months before playing something that sounds full and rich and big and exciting.  

I remember my own early piano lessons with my primer-level book.  For months I languished with small-sounding tunes, dreaming of one day playing some real songs. Nowadays, my students get the joy of success early on, and it motivates them to strive for music success, even long after they graduate from Let's Play Music.

6. In Loving Arms

I didn't mind teaching my son (and eventually his siblings) to read.  It was a commitment, for sure, but it meant that every day I would hold him snuggled in my lap for 15 minutes.  We made up silly games to get through the practice words and we had curious discussions about the silly stories he read. I shared with him my joy at seeing his progress and told him I would always welcome hearing him read me a story.  We took turns reading passages, and reading was our special time together.

Is it any surprise that reading music can be a similar experience for a child?  If you, Mom and Dad, don't read music yourself, take this opportunity to learn along with your child during your Let's Play Music years.  Sit at the bells or keyboard together and play duets, take turns reading melodies, and make up songs together.  Much of the long-term success of this early music education is wrapped up in your child's emotional experience with learning music.  

If I'm asked why the Let's Play Method of teaching note-reading really works, I can get right down to it and answer, "because the children feel loved." The Let's Play Music program was carefully crafted to help your child learn music AND hopefully help you build a strong, loving family at the same time.

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

EDITOR'S NOTE: I didn't set out to write a commercial for my favorite reading method, but I truly have loved using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and you can buy the book used for $5! Just to be clear, I have no evidence that other LPM teachers endorse this method. If you'd like to discuss it with me, leave comments below.  My favorite method for handwriting is Handwriting Without Tears, and of course my favorite method for music is Let's Play Music!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hoedown with Aaron Copland

Our second year students are getting in the cowboy groove with composer, Aaron Copland.

Aaron Copland
Two features set Copland apart from other composers we learn about in Let's Play Music: he was an American, and he lived very recently (1900-1990).  It was very important to Copland to help define a style of classical music that was truly American.  The U.S.A. is relatively young, so most of the classical music being performed when Copland was a student sounded old and sounded like it came from Europe.  Well, most of the classical music we still listen to in Let's Play Music does come from Europe!

In a television interview (WATCH HERE), Copland was asked, "why can't you write (music) in the (same styles from the)  past?"  He answered, "It wouldn't be natural! Why should we limit ourselves? We have rhythms that Chopin never thought of.  We have a wider range; a more complex, more dissonant language....the language of music has really advanced with the times."

An American Style

Copland, raised in New York, witnessed the rise and popularity of jazz music.   Jazz was genuinely American music.  He knew Americans could learn to learn to love classical music as much as they loved jazz, and he wanted them to have a type of classical music of their own.  So, he incorporated musical elements from jazz and folk music to compose classical music that was all-American. He believed it was possible to interest more Americans in classical music by writing something just for them. The piece we study,  Hoedown, from the ballet, Rodeo, is a perfect example of an exciting and sophisticated classical piece derived from folk tunes (cowboy songs).

Ballet, Radio, Movies, and More
Copland lived during a time when photographs, radio, and movies were invented and became common.  He saw that it was important to write music that people wanted to use in new formats.

 In a 1935 radio interview (listen here), he was asked, "How would you describe your music today?" and Copland answered, "I wouldn't want to describe it, because I might limit it. I think of it as different kinds of music for different reasons and purposes and media, and I hope it sounds like ME despite its variety."

Indeed, he did compose for different media: ballets (ie Billy the Kid, Rodeo, Appalacian Spring) and movies (Of Mice and Men, Our Town, Heiress) as well as classical concerts (like Third Symphony, Clarinet Concerto).  He wrote music to be incorporated into popular venues, and in doing so reached a very wide audience.  You can even see Aaron Copland, himself, conducting in this 1958 television series (watch here).

I like to challenge my Let's Play Music students to begin to notice the divers ways music is used and enjoyed in our modern society; perhaps one day these youngsters will emulate Copland's flexibility and write the music for concert halls, ballets, movies, television, commercials, cartoons, video games, and ipad apps! Next time you play a game on a phone or tablet, take a moment to notice the music; what do you think about it? Does it set the right mood for the game or scene? Would you like to write this kind of music?

Hoedown Ballet
A hoedown is a musical dancing party, featuring square dancing or country dances.  In class, our  cowboy and cowgirl puppets come together for a barn dance.  Copland wrote the music for a the ballet, Rodeo.  Although this clip is a little fuzzy and old, it's my favorite because I love the Baltimore Ballet choreography, and I love that they perform live with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Hoedown Animation
Here's a different type of video: this delightful animation from artist Eleanor Stewart is set to Hoedown. Similar to the cowboy puppets we use in class for each theme, her characters are set for each theme in the music.  You'll see them repeat as the musical sections repeat.  This animation also shows the written musical score: the pages and pages of musical notes musicians read from as they play.  Let's Play Music students will enjoy hearing themes presented in this different type of puppet show.

Hoedown from Rodeo from Eleanor Stewart on Vimeo.

So How Do You Compose A Song?
Aaron Copland wrote music in a style that was new, and he wrote music to be used in new ways.  In the biography, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man,  he shares a bit about his own creative process.

"Somehow, suddenly, a musical idea occurs to you; either a whole phrase, or three notes, or a series of chords, something that seems pregnant with possibilities for development. Once you have the kinds of ideas that fascinate you, you're no longer in a position to decide the nature of the animal. It's going to take its essence from the musical ideas that occur to you.... Some musical ideas are too short, they don't seem long enough to carry you through ten minutes of music, so you have to start searching about for other ideas; contrasting ones that seem to fit with the original ones."

Take it from Copland: there are are many ways to begin a song.  Even if you only have a few notes that make a tune you like, or a few chords that progress in a cool way, it is enough to begin. When your student begins composing in Year 3 of Let's Play Music, encourage him to tinker and find the small bits of sound and melody that become the seeds of a composition.  It doesn't take much!

You Can Go To The Hoedown!
A hoedown is usually not for ballet dancers- it's a party regular folks. At the end of the day, the farmer puts his HOE DOWN and goes in form some music and merrymaking.  Are you sad that wild west cowboy days and barn dancing days are long past?

Well, I have great news for you: you can still attend a hoedown in your area (Click Here to Find One)! The type of dancing will be contra dancing (similar to square dancing), and the music is usually folk and bluegrass played by fiddles and banjos and piano.  The caller will teach you a few dance steps, then call them out as the music is played.  You'll learn quickly because the same few steps will be repeated many times during the song.  The caller will teach you a new pattern for the next song. 

Can young people attend contra dances? You bet! Generally the pace is a bit too quick for the four-year-olds to learn the steps, so they end up clapping on the sidelines, but if you attend a family dance, they'll have a few simpler songs to make sure everyone gets to dance (check with your local group). Tweens and teens will easily master the steps, and I have seen several children as young as seven participating just fine, too.  I hope you'll feel adventurous enough to go on a family outing and to a dance in your area.

Put Your Hoe Down and Dance
Now that you've seen some Hoedown ballet and some contra dancing, why not make up your own moves to Hoedown to dance with your family?

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Becky Johnson: Young Children Learn Through Experience

Meet LPM Teacher, Becky Johnson
I’m located in Shawnee, Kansas—a suburb of Kansas City—and started teaching Let’s Play Music in January of 2010.  I currently teach 10 classes a week.  Looking back, I’ve always loved music.  I took piano lessons for 9 years—thank you Mom!!  And I sang in my high school choir and jazz choir.   I still sing with my church choir and have led children’s choirs for many years.  Funny that my college degree is Business Management with an emphasis in Information Systems!  

One of my other “jobs” is teaching Music & Movement at a preschool (not LPM curriculum).  I find it natural to draw a little person into singing and keep them engaged!  Who knew this was a talent someone could have!?

How did you find out about LPM?

A very persistent friend kept inviting my 2 oldest children to attend a Sample

Class.  After more than a year I finally agreed to go and was impressed most with the “Puppet Shows” as a way of introducing a love and understanding of classical music.  She showed me the 2nd and 3rd Year Songbooks/repertoire, and I LOVED that they started the kiddos playing chords first.  I signed-up and got several other kiddos signed-up as well!

Sadly, after 3 years she informed me that she would only be in the area for another 2 years—she was moving before my youngest daughter would be old enough to start LPM, and she was the only teacher for 500 miles!  I talked to my
children’s private piano teacher and she was already interested after seeing what my kids could do!  Score!  However, several months into teaching Let’s Play Music her husband changed jobs requiring they move 2 hours away.  She asked me if I would take over her classes and I was pretty excited!  I had been asking questions about the application process for several years and now 2 classes were just handed to me.  I’d been watching and participating in Let’s Play Music classes for 5 ½  years straight before I started teaching my own classes starting with the Blue Bug semester! 

What element of the curriculum do you love the most?

My absolute favorite LPM song is “Let’s Find the Root”, in the last semester.  It’s such a jazzy-funky song that always gets me grooving.  It was hysterical that when I was training to teach 3rd year I was asked to perform this song!  No one knew it was my fave.

Because I also teach at a preschool, I am required to take continuing educational classes that will help me be a more effective teacher.  These classes make me smile. They repeatedly validate the way we teach in Let’s Play Music! 

Research has shown that young children learn best through experience—by making their own choices and discoveries.  This means you engage all the senses to help them come to a particular conclusion.   I LOVE asking questions and leading them to hear/feel/see musical connections—that “ah-ha” moment is always very gratifying.  Let’s Play Music takes from the very best methodologies in both HOW we teach and WHAT we teach!  What a privilege to a part of a premium quality program.

What do you hope students get from your class?

I started doing this for my children and I continue because there are so many other children/families whose lives will be enriched.  My hope is for every student to know that I love them and that we had a TON of fun while they gained a love of music.  Of course, it would be a bonus to know that they continued on in music in some fashion—voice or instrument.

Sign up for a class with Becky, here!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lindsey Judd: The First Teacher Has Impact

In the bustling suburbs of Chicago, IL, Let's Play Music is blooming in the studio of veteran teacher, Lindsey Judd.  Lindsey currently teaches Sound Beginnings,  Let's Play Music, private piano, and voice lessons: not a light load for a mom with a newborn (her 5th child) just arrived in 2014!

I Knew I Would Teach Someday

Let's Play Music students begin our program at age five.  That makes perfect sense to Lindsey; that's when she began lessons, too. Even back then, she felt the premonition that she, too, might one day become a music teacher.  "I think teaching was 'in me' from the start because all throughout my years of lessons, I took mental notes of what my teachers did: things I loved and things I didn't love. Now I'm finally incorporating all of what I've gleaned."

The First Teacher Has Impact

Lindsey told me about her first teaching gig.  "When I was fifteen, a family at church asked me to teach piano lessons to their two daughters. In one moment I was both honored and terrified! I remember sitting in the school cafeteria at lunchtime, a few hours before our first lesson together, feeling the weight of being the first one to introduce these girls to piano.  I knew that as a first teacher, I could shape their entire piano experience."  

Fortunately that first experience went very well and that first family (with 7 children) kept Lindsey as a teacher for them all.  She identified, early on, an important truth we hold dear at Let's Play Music: A child's first experience with music must be fun, playful, and loving.  The environment and attitude around the first experience determines much about the many years to follow for a young musician!

Just an example of the fun you might find in Lindsey's class: Baby Natalie made a guest appearance this week, in the role of Bunny as the students played 'Bunny's Birdhouse' on their keyboards.

Give Them Success 

Not all of Lindsey's early lessons were so successful. One very young student, petite and adorable, struggled with finger strength.  "She wanted to learn to play so badly! Her yearning was tangible.  It broke my heart to see her small, weak hands struggle to push the keys, week after week.  She eventually stopped lessons because it was too frustrating.  Years later, when I found the Let's Play Music curriculum, I remembered this student and wished I could have introduced her to LPM! It would have enabled her passion to flourish without the discouragement from having little fingers.  It breaks my heart to think that any child might associate music with disappointment. Let's Play Music was designed for student's to have the maximum positive musical experience, and I'm grateful for it."

We Teach Music...and Life Skills

Balancing a music studio and five young children isn't easy.  Lindsey let me know that Let's Play Music isn't just the job; it's helping her with the mothering! She says, "Teaching the LPM curriculum helped me rediscover the fun, spontaneous side of myself that got a little rundown in motherhood.  We now implement LPM methods in our home; for example, we create songs for routines, like our jazzy original tune 'Socks, shoes, coats and here we go!'. I can hum a few notes from this , my kids echo it back, and know what to do."

Lindsey hopes to share this love of music with her students- not just being able to read and perform music, but to use it in daily living, love it, and play with music at every opportunity. She told me, "Our lives have become a musical!  We burst into song when we are happy, and again when we're so frustrated that singing seems a better outlet than shouting." 

"Making up songs has become our family norm; on one trip home from the store, three children spontaneously starting singing to their crying baby sister to soothe her... in parts! Each separate, spontaneous lullaby was sweet, melodic, and rhythmically interesting, layered on the siblings' sweet voices.  The Let's Play Music curriculum isn't just helping these children with pitch and theory, they're also learning coping skills; they're also armed with music as a source of strength to use when life gets tough."

"These memories are the moments I hold on to and come back to when practicing seems hard or teaching lessons feels inconvenient." 

Lindsey holds a BFA in Music Dance Theater from Brigham Young University.  You can visit her studio website here or her classes in Skokie, IL.  It was a great pleasure to get to know her better!

- Gina Weibel, M.S. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yankee Doodle Comes to LPM Class!

History of Yankee Doodle

"Yankee Doodle" was first sung as a ditty used by the British to mock the rag-tag, disheveled American soldiers.  Yankee began as a negative term to identify Americans.  The word itself might possibly have begun as a Native American mispronunciation of "English," resulting in "Yengeesh."  Doodle is an old word for a fool or simpleton.  Macaroni  was not pasta but a term for a man dressed in a ridiculous style.  So, this is a song about a rag-tag simpleton who thinks he is fancy even when he is ridiculous!

Ironically, this song was adopted and adored by early Americans proud to be identified as Yankees.  It has even become the official state song of Connecticut! Just as Yankees took control of the British during the Revolution, they also took command of this song and sang it proudly as an anthem to tease their foes.  

Lyrics and Tune

Lyrics were written in 1755 by an English doctor, Dr. Shackburg during the French and Indian War to describe those ramshackle colonists fighting alongside the well-dressed British soldiers.  Because the tune was popular and easy to remember (it's a turn on the nursery rhyme tune Lucy Locket), new versions of lyrics were written during the American Revolution and the Civil War. Of course the South sang lyrics mocking the North, and the vice versa. The song has over 190 versions from different dates.

The song was revived in 1904 by George M. Cohan with "Yankee Doodle Boy", providing the verses most of us are familiar with. You can hear them here.  John Philip Sousa was so fond of the tune that he used it in many of his works.

Since the lyrics to this melody have been written and rewritten many times for inumerable uses, let's write some Yankee Doodle verses  just for Let's Play Music! If you and your child come up with additional LPM verses, please add them in the comments!

Yankee Doodle went to class
Singin' a soprano
He played the harp, he played the bells
And then he played piano.

*Chorus* Yankee Doodle Do Mi Re,
Yankee Here We Go Now
Mind the solfeg and the chords
and sing Sol La Ti Do, Oh!

A Red Balloon went up up up
as Yankee Doodle watched it.
When it came down the Major scale
He reached right up and caught it!

Yankee Doodle sang on pitch
He knew that 'Do is  Ho-ome'
He always followed Echo Ed
and never sang alo-ne.

Bill Grogan's goat was eating shirts
All down his throat they'd go-
He coughed one up and stopped a train
With just Sol La Ti Do-o!

Yankee Doodle had two pets
in little turtle she-lls,
seconds, thirds, and fourths and fifths,
he learned them very we-ll!

Yankee Doodle found the root
Of each and every chord
He harmonized I, IV, and V
And rarely needed more!

Why Use Folk Music?

True folk tunes withstand the test of time.  If Yankee Doodle had poor melodic or rhythmic qualities, it would not have been recreated over 190 times and passed down through generations of oral history.  These simple tunes have excellent, simple structure for students to study when developing an understanding of musical composition and theory or experimenting with playing styles as we do in Orange semester. Even the greatest composers began with a foundation in folk music.

And in terms of your musical foundation, hold on to your Orange book because there are many ways to progress as a musician as you play with Yankee Doodle.  Here are some ideas to help you progress, especially if you'd like to keep practicing into summer to complete them all:

Easy: Play block chords as written and sing the melody.

Nice: Play 2-handed marching style chords and sing the meldoy.

Double Nice: Play 2-handed marching style while your friend plays the RH melody an octave above, then switch roles.
 Fantastic: Play the melody with RH and block chords with LH.

Superstar: Play the melody with RH and play marching LH chords. 

Tricky: In some of my lyrics above I refer to Ti Sol La Ti Do Do as the last two measures of the song, which is a very common ending for this tune. In your Orange songbook, another common variation (Ti Ti La Ti Do Do) is written; it's easier for you to play since you won't have to move your RH in a great jump to get down to Sol.  If you would like to play the Sol La Ti Do ending, give it a try!

Brilliant: Now that you know how to examine a song, figure out the chords, and play them in 2-handed marching style, try it with the song Hurry Hurry Drive the Firetruck from your Green songbook. You still have your Green book, right!? First use careful listening to decide which chords are needed for each measure.  Use half notes, just like we did in Yankee Doodle. (Here's a hint: you will only need red and yellow chords.)  Then proceed through all the levels of mastery as listed above. Tip: when playing measure 4 RH, use fingering 1 2 1 'pop'2.  You'll have to really reach that 2 finger over to the G.  If you have a younger sibling in Let's Play Music, s/he is really going to love playing a duet with you on this song.

Have fun and post your additional lyrics to share in the comments!
- Gina Weibel, M.S.

Other Posts of Interest:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Katie Wilson: From Hating Lessons to Loving Music

Katie Wilson, M.S.

This week, I had the pleasure to get to know Let's Play Music and Sound Beginnings teacher, Katie Wilson.  Katie has been teaching in Midlothian, Virginia since 2012 and currently has 6 classes each week as well as several private piano students.

In addition to Let's Play Music teaching, Katie is the founder and co-director of the Young Midlothian Singers (a community children's choir for ages 7-13), founded in 2011.  She has also performed in adult choirs in both Washington DC and Richmond. 

Hated Lessons!?

Although Katie has been involved in music and performing for most of her life,  it wasn't always as joyful for her as it is today.  Katie says, "I took piano lessons as a child and hated almost every minute of it!  I loved when I could play songs that I chose and when I had a teacher who let me improvise and have fun." Too bad that was not the norm.

In retrospect, she wishes there had been Let's Play Music classes to nurture her when she was a child, encourage her composing and improvisation, and focus on learning to love the music she could create.  As an adult, she eventually returned to playing piano and composing and says, "I wish I had taken lessons longer and practiced more as a child."  

Most Important: Learn to Love It

Not surprisingly, Katie's dream for her students it to learn to LOVE music "whether they stick with piano or not."  She says, "My Let's Play Music classes give them the tools for understanding music and the confidence to pursue any musical avenue that appeals to them. I want music to be a part of their lives and their children's lives for generations to come!"  Katie has discovered that by teaching a love and understanding of music, not just the technical performance of it, her students get what she never quite achieved in her early lessons.

How Different Could It Be?

Midlothian is quite isolated from other Let's Play Music studios.  How did it make it's way into that area?  Katie explained that her best friend and mother of 4 Let's Play Music students gushed about how AMAZING the curriculum was and insisted that Katie should start teaching in her area.  "I was like, 'sure, yeah right, how different could it be from everything else out there?'"  As her friends children continued through the program, year-by-year, she continued to remind Katie that she NEEDED to become a teacher.

"I would say, 'yes, it sounds great' and then ignore her.  After years of nagging, I finally watched the demo video (watch here) on the website and was immediately hooked."

Katie has a Master's degree in developmental/ child psychology and learning theory.  She could see from the start how Let's Play Music was theoretically sound, with lessons building on each other and material presented in an age-appropriate way.  "On top of it all, it is SO FUN! I get to be crazy and silly and still teach sound foundational music theory. What could be better?"  She had finally found the program she'd wished for as a child, and applied that very week.

Teaching the Sneaky Way

Now Katie says the thing she loves most about teaching is being SNEAKY.  "I love that the students learn fun songs and don't realize how much theory is jam-packed into them. I also like to see the surprised look on parents' faces, especially very musical parents, when they see how cleverly we introduce tricky concepts."  Her clients were delighted when she used the feather and bulls-eye to demonstrate changing the rhythm of quarter notes to dotted-quarter and eighth notes, in a memorable, fun, and precise way.

When she's not teaching, Katie's four children are her greatest passion.  She homeschooled three of them up until high school, and still has a 5th grader at home.  She has successfully nurtured a love of music, theater, and performing in all of them, and says, "I spend a LOT of time in the car driving to and from rehearsals and shows. Keeping up with schedules is tricky as a single mom, but I love seeing them do things they are passionate about."

I had a great time getting to know Katie and hope you'll check out her classes if you happen to be in Virginia!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.

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