Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 National Composition Contest Winners

The student confidently steps onto the stage, and announces his original composition.  He performs beautifully for the audience.  The parents, and certainly the teacher, are shocked to discover that three short years have flown past since he began Let's Play Music, and now he's graduating from the program as a viable musician.  Audience members gasp in delight and amazement to hear the creativity, knowledge, and feeling bursting from compositions by unassuming six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds.

This is a familiar scene every Spring at Let's Play Music studios nationwide.  The program helps students read and play piano music, but the more fantastic result of three very short years is a student body who understand the music, enjoy the music, and create their own music!

Today we share the performances from the 2014 National Composition Contest winners: students who made it clear that they understand and will forever be creators of music.  Winners were announced earlier in June at the National Let's Play Music Symposium for teachers.  1,264 young composers completed compositions in 2014.

Best Overall Composition: 
"The Wild Mustangs"Joshua, Age 7.  
Teacher: Heather Prusse, Arizona
"You should hear two horses racing. In the minor section, you should hear some horse bandits trying to get them, but the Mustangs get away." - Joshua

Most Original: "Secretariat" Paige, Age 8. 
Teacher: Laura Leavitt , Utah
 "You will hear horses hooves thumping on the ground." -Paige

Best ABA Form:  
"The Great White Shark" Noah, Age 7
Teacher: Marianne Barrowes, Utah
"The song helps you think about scary stories."- Noah

Best Use of Chords:  
"Ponies in Trouble" Kinsey, Age 6 
Teacher: Alicia Dansie, Utah

Best Melody: 
"Gypsy Air- Dani's Song"Kallyn, Age 9 
 Teacher: Janalee Fish, Arizona
"I wrote this tune for my little sister, Dani."- Kallyn

Honorable Mention: "Miracles"Grace, Age 7 
 Teacher: Cindy Read, Arizona

Honorable Mention: "Scottish Jig" Eli, Age 7.  Teacher: Annah Clark, Kansas

Honorable Mention:  
"I Love To Swim All The Time" Ashyln, Age 6 
Teacher: Lily Hight, Utah
"My B-section is minor, because it's when you have to get out of the pool." -Ashlyn

Honorable Mention:  
"Horse Family On The Range"Aundra, Age 6. Teacher: Celeste Stott, Montana
"My song is about me and my family chasing cows."-Aundra

Honorable Mention:
"The Best Day Ever" Charlie, Age 7.
Teacher: Jera Farnsworth, Arizona

If your student hasn't reached the third year yet, stick with Let's Play Music and you'll see all the foundational skills come together for some joyful musicianship.  If your child isn't in Let's Play Music, FIND A TEACHER near you: most are registering right now for classes that begin this fall!

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

2014 Traveling T-Shirt Contest!

Share the Love!
It's summer again, and we want you to share your love of Let's Play Music with the whole world!  Wear your LPM shirt to the cool places you visit, and submit a photo to be entered.

* Post your photo onto our Facebook wall with a message telling us where you went, and who your LPM teacher is.  Did you tell anyone about Let's Play Music on your trip?

* Entry Deadline is Monday, September 1.

* One entry per STUDENT, please.  Parents can enter multiple times according to the number of students they have enrolled for 2014-15.  Students who just graduated in 2014 may also enter!

No Shirts at Home?
Don't have an LPM shirt? Don't travel much?  You can still enter by sharing the LPM love in your very own town.  Tell us your brief story about how YOU shared LPM with the world.

*Post a message to our Facebook wall or this blog with briefly telling readers how you shared Let's Play Music, and who your LPM teacher is.  It's not hard to let the world know what you love most about LPM!

Here's an example from yours truly:
At summer tennis class, another mom started chatting with me. 

Linda: "Are you signing Clementine up for the next session of tennis?"
Me: "Yes, we're all set.  How about Johnny?"
Linda: "Yep, he just loves tennis."
Me: "What about this fall- will he play sports or take music class or something?"
Linda: "We haven't planned anything yet."
Me: "Clementine's favorite after-school event is her Let's Play Music class. We just LOVE it. She'll be playing piano this year, so I'm totally excited.  Are you planning to have Johnny learn piano?"
Linda: "Well, eventually, probably. We haven't really looked into it yet."
Me: "I was kind of surprised to find out that this age is actually the key time to get started with music.  The class she is in takes advantage of how quickly 4 and 5 year olds learn ear-training, but they also learn to read music.  Our teacher is so fun."
Linda: "I should get the name of your teacher.  I bet he would like something like that."

Our friends at Easy Ear Training understand our passion for balancing all aspects of MUSICALITY in our young students.  Let's Play Music brilliantly incorporates ear training into our classes, along with note reading, sight-reading, singing, composition, music appreciation, piano skills, music theory, dictation, improvisation, and ensemble-playing.

We want to give you even more opportunities to master ear-training with your whole family, so Easy Ear Training has generously donated a GRAND PRIZE 5-book set of ear training books, (valued at $77).

Our SECOND WINNER will receive the  Ear Training Essentials e-book AND audiobook (valued at $30).

* Winners will be chosen in a random drawing from all entries.
* Be sure to enter by September 1, 2014.
* Go share your love of LPM!

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's Summer! Should We Practice?

The glorious days of summer are just around the corner.  It's time for swimming and camping and vacationing! How does piano practice fit into it all? As you decide how to help your student prepare for 3rd year, you have a spectrum of choices for handling summertime practice.  From the structure of daily practice to the ease of taking a serious long-term break, you can make a plan that fits your family's needs.

Option 1: Stick with Daily Practice
If your family has a groove going with practice and you would love to maintain daily practice and progress during the summer, you'll love having more of the structured practice and theory assignments that you've come to love.  Let's Play Music teacher, Jen Ellsworth, in St. Clair, Pennsylvania has put together a six-week summer practice program to help any student get bolstered for Purple Magic this fall.
Practice Packet

If you had a Yellow Arrows student that was less than confident with all of the repertoire learned this year, a summertime of continued (or improved?) practice can make a huge difference!  Three months is a long time for young minds and fingers; often, struggling students can  turn things around and enter Purple class full of confidence.

Option 2: Get Some Help
You love the idea of the first option: daily practice.  BUT, you know that your child (and yourself) are just not going to be motivated to get the practice done five times each week when you know full well that there is no fun lesson waiting for you.  Don't despair!

If you are especially lucky, your Let's Play Music teacher might even have time for a few private lessons in the summer.  Between her travels and yours, that might mean only 4 or 6 lessons, which is often plenty for a summer.

If your LPM teacher isn't teaching privates, summer could be a great time to start looking for the piano teacher you'll graduate to in one short year.  Check out our guide for interviewing piano teachers.  Explain that you'd like someone to help your child over the summer, you have a curriculum you'd like to follow (from above), and if all goes well you'll be back in a year to start up full time.

Many private teachers are looking to fill summer vacancies and will be happy to work with you, and you'll be happy to have a few weeks to test the relationship before signing on long-term next year.  Some teachers have a wait-list for taking permanent students; if you like this teacher, put your name down now for next year.

Option 3: Go To Disneyland!
Go to the family reunion.  Go camping.  Send the kids to a week of camp.  Do you feel like you are in and out all summer?  The summer packet has only SIX weeks of assignments, so it is expected that you'll be busy for a few weeks and just pick up when you get back.

If you decide to add the private lessons, you'll be relieved to know that students who attended as few as FOUR summertime private music lessons showed improvement and retained Yellow Arrow skills.  Practice the weeks you're in town, and don't worry about the rest.

Option 4: Take A Long Break
Perhaps your child is wanting some freedom to choose what she plays, and to wanting to practice as a recreational activity this summer.  Even if there are no formal practice sessions, we hope your child is starting to love making music and will go to the piano on her own (or with gentle suggestion) sometimes for fun and creation.  
As fall starts to approach, check in with your child to be sure she can still play the basic skills learned in Yellow Arrows and use our guide for crafting your own practice plan to refresh skills before class starts.

When your musician attends the first few weeks of Purple Magic, she'll feel happy and confident having mastered her chords, hand positions, and scales.  She'll be ready for the new fun skills and repertoire to come!

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Almost Summer Giveaway!

Facebook Page
We're celebrating the conclusion of a fantastic year of music, and getting excited for next year!  
That's right- it's almost summer, and we have some goodies to give away!  

Visit us on our FACEBOOK PAGE by clicking here, become a fan, and enter your name for the drawing.  

3 winners will be randomly chosen, and each can choose a prize from one of four great musical options!  Enter once per email address, and share on your wall.

Winners will be announced May 28, so don't wait too long.  Let's get ready for summer fun!
Facebook contest

Monday, May 19, 2014

You can Play "Let it Go" from Frozen

Now that the school year is winding down, could you use something inspirational to draw your second- or third-year student to the piano?  Then make your child's day with a simple and fun version of "Let It Go," arranged by Let's Play Music teacher, Nicci Lovell in Mesa, AZ.

Second-Year Students:
Play the chords with your right hand.  Then try your left hand.  Then try hands together!  You sound great when you sing along (I am guessing there's a good chance you already knew the words to this one.)  Now you're having a great time and giving yourself more practice with our favorite chords and one interval (see the third?).

Here's a video of a student playing. He chose to use his left hand and was too shy to sing on camera, so I did the singing:

Third-Year Students and Graduates:
Play through those chords: pretty easy, right?  Now you have the freedom to improvise!  Instead of playing long whole notes, play two quarter-notes and a half note, or two half-notes, or some other combination you like.  Here's a video of some improvisation: after you play the chords with different rhythms with the left hand, you can learn to play the melody with your right hand and put it all together.

The Power of Chords
Delightfully,  many songs can be harmonized using the I, IV and V chords (or as you know them, Red, Blue and Yellow.)  With careful listening, you and your child will learn to pick out chord progressions as you hear them in songs, and be able to play your favorite songs!  Stay tuned for more popular songs for your LPM student.

You can click here for a piano video demonstrating how just a few chords can be used to harmonize over 40 popular songs.  To our 3rd-year students: A common chord pattern you'll hear over and over in that video is I-V-vi-IV.  Hey! it's the same pattern that we saw in "Let it Go".  That 3rd in "Let it Go" (C-E) was not a full triad, was it?  Do you see we could complete it to make an A triad?  Or we could call it the vi chord, since A is the 6th step of the C scale.

Have fun exploring with chords!

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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Your Very First Recital!

If you've just enjoyed most of your first year of the Let's Play Music curriculum, then that means you're preparing for your child's very first Let's Play Music recital!

Practice Counts
This year practice has been very flexible: do the homework assignment, listen to the CD  and sing along, practice the bell songs a few times, and repeat any games and activities from class that you love.  You didn't have to record if practice was daily.  It was easy and fun!

During these last few weeks, practicing becomes a bit more intense (and still fun); now your child will need to practice exactly the bell songs she's be assigned to perform for the recital.  It will be important to practice EVERY day for the week or two leading up to the show.

This gentle spurt of effort is a great way to prepare Blue Bugs for the joys of becoming Green Turtles, since they'll be expected to practice at least 5 times/ week.  Explore strategies for helping your child enjoy this daily practice now, and get her excited to continue daily practices next fall.

10-Day Practice Log
My daughter is very motivated by coloring, so I designed a 10-day practice log, scheduled to end on the day of the recital.  Click on the image to download one for your eager musician.  If she plays her songs 3-4 times every day for 10 days, she definitely will be perfectly prepared for the show.

Download Recital Practice Chart

Click the image to download the practice chart.

A Few Things They Learned
The recital is more than just darling children singing songs; it's an opportunity to delightfully reminisce about the fabulous skills they've learned this year!  I chose my favorite ten characters to feature in the practice log.  Maybe you'll want to revisit their songs as you color in each space. Let's see what they taught us:

Bill Grogan's Goat: We learned how to find a beat, feel the beat internally, and accompany singers on the harp while keeping the beat.  We even listened and identified out the common melody notes Sol-La-Ti-Do.

Frog Went Hoppin': We learned how to read leaps on the staff, and play a song with leaps on our bells.  We identified the bug-bug-slug rhythm of the ostinato.

Oooo Halloween: We expanded our vocal range and practiced singing with a pleasant head voice.  We carried the beat internally and were able to surprise our friends.

Hickety Pickety Bumblebee: We sang a minor 3rd interval (Sol-Mi) on correct pitch and played the song on our bells with 3 different melodic endings that we learned to identify by ear or notation.  We learned to play this song in the key of C (Do is C) and F (Do is F).

Jungle Drums: We were able to keep a steady beat while subdividing.  We noticed the mathematics of subdividing and played our rhythm while others played different rhythms.

Bug Rhythms: We learned to read rhythms and play them correctly with or without using our voice.

The Dinosaur Song: We learned how to read steps and skips and play this song using steps and skips on our bells.  We learned that songs have melody, and we identified and sang the solfeg.   **For the dinosaur enthusiasts: Yes, I have been told that dinosaurs of that diplodocus-like shape did NOT have spikes, but all the dinosaurs that DO have spikes are not really shaped for climbing up and sliding down.  So, this drawing is a dinosaur dressed up as a stegosaurus for Halloween.**

The Red Balloon: We learned to sing a major scale ascending and descending, and identify a major scale by ear or notation.  We learned all the solfeg and accompanying hand signs.

Five Fat Turkeys: We were able to pick out the melody and identify sol-sol-do in this song.  We learned to keep the beat while singing and doing hand actions, and we played this song on the autoharp while reading from a chording sheet.

BINGO: We clapped and audiated rhythms, and even identified the bug rhythms used in this song.  With careful listening, we discovered the melody, too, and notated the sol-la-ti-do at the end!

Have a wonderful time coloring and I wish you the best at your very first Let's Play Music recital!

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