Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Composition Contest WINNERS 2020

Things have been upended in 2020, but one thing that remained consistent was the dedication of Let's Play Music/ Presto music teachers and students.  

Even with some hiccups and some online lessons and some distance learning, these students  embraced the opportunity to cap their class experience by composing a brand-new and very personal composition.  

I will be eager to see how these students continue to overcome circumstances and share their strength through the music they create in years to come.

This year, over 1900 third-year Let's Play Music students in the US and Canada composed music with us. 

2020 also marks the first year of the composition contest for our amazing Presto students. 

We want to show you some of our favorites, as selected by our guest judge, Dr. Karali Hunter.

PRESTO Winner: 
I Write My Own Theme Music by Shae T
From the Studio of: Jenni Trimble
Shae wrote THREE time signature changes and three tempo changes into this piece.

PRESTO Honorable Mention: 
Marigold by Mahina V
From the Studio of: Jamie Peterson

Best Melody and Honorable Mention Best Overall: 
The Flower Blooms by Danicka C
From the Studio of: Darlayne Coughlin
If you listen carefully, you can hear the sun, the rain (the minor section), and the flower blooming.

Best Use of Chords: 
Kirby's Adventure by James M
From the Studio of: Laura Varga
Kirby is fun and has unusual weapons. If you listen carefully, you'll hear a battle between the characters. See if you can hear the hammer and sword sounds, and if you can tell when the battle ends and the celebration begins.

Best Use of ABA Form, and Honorable Mention Best Melody:
Eagle Family by Holland B
From the Studio of: Kaytie Brown
You'll hear the baby hatching in this song!

Most Original and BEST OVERALL:
Nighthawk by Bethany L
From the Studio of: Maura Brewer
You can hear the owl attacking the baby birds in this adventurous piece.

Best Story:
Hoops Basketball Team by Daevon T
From the Studio of: Kathy Wells

This is his basketball team name, and this song makes him feel like a winner! You can hear dribbling, passing, shooting, missing a shot, and cheering.

Honorable Mention, Best Use of Chords:
Ode to Godzilla by Chase Q

From the Studio of: Anna Hinckley

Honorable Mention, Best Use of ABA:
Football by Marlee B
From the Studio of: Rebecca Udy

Honorable Mention, Best Use of ABA:
From the Studio of: Marnie Christensen

Honorable Mention, Most Original:
Feelings for Father by Hazel D
From the Studio of: Celeste Stott

Honorable Mention, Best Story:
Guinea Pig Dance by Elijah G
From the Studio of: Bekah Jennings

Honorable Mention, Best Story:
Robot Goes to War by Alex D
From the Studio of: Ashley Cox

Congratulations to these kids, families, and parents AND all who have successfully composed, published, and performed their very first piano piece!

Guest Judge:

Owner and founder of Hammer & Strings Conservatory, Dr. Karali Hunter is an award-winning performer and pedagogue based in Phoenix, AZ. Hunter's reputation as a dynamic, sensitive, and passionate performer has led to solo and chamber performances across the country and internationally.

Dr. Hunter made her Carnegie Hall debut performance in 2011 after winning first prize in the American Protege Piano and Strings Competition. She has won multiple contests and awards in both performance and pedagogy. An active performer, Dr. Hunter is a founding artist of the chamber music group, Salonnieres, and also performs regularly as featured soloist.

Dr. Hunter received her Bachelor's Degree from Brigham Young University, a Master of Music Degree from Indiana University, and a Doctorate Degree from Arizona State University.

Karali lives in Gilbert, Arizona, with her husband, Matthew, and two young boys, Gavin and Cyrus.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Composition Contest 2019 WINNERS!

One reason I love Let's Play Music is how we encourage students to learn more than just reading/performing music; we teach them to create something new! Now, it's Spring... and that means a huge group of students are bringing BRAND NEW music to the world!

These students (now ages 7-9) write music full of expression, creativity, and skill...and they've only been using a piano for 2 years!

Imagine where they will be in a few more years, now that they have such a strong foundation.

In 2019, over 1700 third-year students in the US and Canada composed music with us.  We want to show you some of our favorites, as selected by our guest judge, Barbara Russel.

Best Melody: 
It's Burton Time by Casten B
From the Studio of: Kim Thomas

"The reason I wrote this is, it reminds me of going to Oregon. You'll hear Ella, the dog, jumping up to greet me." Listeners should be listening for a special coda:

Best Use of Chords: 
Bunny Crossing by Madison C
From the Studio of: Luanne Harms

This is a tale of 3 bunnies. One of the bunnies meets a lion and must run fast to make it home safely!

Best Use of ABA Form:
Sushi Mania by Chauncey R
From the Studio of: Karin Riedel

Be careful not to eat any bad sushi after listening to this.

Most Original:
Golden Rainbow by Elise C
From the Studio of: Stacie Raddatz

Listen closely and you'll hear a double rainbow form!

Best Story:
A Sister Story by Grace S
From the Studio of: Tina Gosney

I wanted to write a song about my baby sister, Elsie, because she's so cute. I'm not the only one singing to her...the animals are singing, too!  Be sure to listen to darling lyrics to this song! 

Best Overall Composition:
Weather by Vinh L
From the Studio of: Amber Barney

This song is exciting, and it's about all kinds of weather. You'll hear Vinh's interpretation of: sunshine, rainbows, clouds, a windy tornado, lighting, thunder, snow, hail and rain!

Honorable Mention, Best Melody:
Running Free by Liv C
From the Studio of: Jennifer Bigley

Honorable Mention, Best Use of ABA:
I Love Jessie by Bryant L
From the Studio of: Marie Guthrie

Honorable Mention, Most Original:
The Skeleton by Jayna B
From the Studio of: Steph Simmons

Honorable Mention, Best Story:
The Easter Egg Hunt and Discovering by Hattie Allred
From the Studio of: Paige Allred

Congratulations to these kids, families, and parents AND all who have successfully composed, published, and performed their very first piano piece!

Our guest judge, Dr. Barbara Russell, holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Eastern Illinois University, and holds Master of Music and Doctorate of Music degrees from Arizona State University in
Piano Pedagogy and Performance. She created original curriculum, taught both group and private lessons in the ASU Piano Prep and Conservatory Program for 19 years under Dr. Janice Meyer Thompson, and served as an adjunct faculty member at Scottsdale Community College, where she taught Music Theory and Rock History.

She was a student of Dr. Catherine Smith, a student of Hungarian composer, conductor, and pianist, Erno Dohnanyi. Dr. Russell owned and directed Spoelman Piano Studio from 2009 to 2015, where she created group lesson curriculum and oversaw the teaching of over 100 private students per week.
She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music through MTNA, maintains Permanent Professional Certification, is a Co Chairman of the Arizona Study Program for the East Valley Music Teachers Association, and serves on the Arizona Study Program State Committee. She currently maintains a private studio in Mesa, Arizona.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bear Paw Creek

We have some exciting news and a GIVEAWAY for our readers!

As you've seen in all of our programs and classes, we love to bring you a superb curriculum and excellently-trained teachers. Of course, we top it all of with the addition of amazingly beautiful visuals and manipulatives.

We don't produce all of the manipulatives ourselves, so we find partners like Bear Paw Creek to bring you the best.

Bear Paw Creek

From their page: Bear Paw Creek is a company that equips teachers, therapists, and parents as they seek to enrich the lives of others through music and motion.   

We understand the importance of music and movement for developing healthy minds and bodies of all ages. Music stimulates both sides of the brain, lifts our spirits and makes tedious activities seem fun. Incorporating motion with music brings along all the excellent physical and emotional benefits of exercise, strengthening our muscles and improving coordination.  We also have a line of bags for organizing those props and instrument cases.

Since 2000 we have made the best selling Stretchy Band in various sizes. One of our most recent innovations is the Connect-a-Stretchy Band which has a buckle system that allows you use them straight, buckled into a circle, and is great for many different group sizes.  We also have a wonderful line of both ribbon and chiffon streamers, 25″ scarves, balloon balls, square, and textured bean bags.
Who's Behind Bear Paw?
With a passion to create an income from home and inspired by my sister, Kathy Schumacher, MT-BC, a traveling music therapist, we (Christopher and Janet Stephens) opened Props & Bags, Etc in January 2000. I  meshed my love of sewing with the creation of a unique line of movement props along with solutions for organizing and transporting them.  With Christopher’s innovative mind and my designing/sewing skills, we emphasized quality testing and making improvements where needed.  In 2001 we picked up our first wholesale customer, and continued to add more through the years.
As we assessed our company and set goals for the future, we changed our brand name to Bear Paw Creek in 2008.  Some things remain the same: commitment to the people who use our products, and enthusiasm for the manner in which our customers improve the lives of others. We also continue to innovate new products to serve the music and movement community.

The Prize Pack
Prize Total: $233.50
Bear Paw Creek:
Connect-a-stretchy band set of 4 $100
Bean Bag Set of 24 $40
A set of our new 24 bean bags with added colors.  
4" square bean bags: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, pink, grey, tan, brown
Let’s Play Music is contributing:
Teddy Bear Cd Set: 37 fun, engaging, age appropriate songs for young ones! 
Used in our Brown Teddy Bears semester of Sound Beginnings Enjoy! $13.50
Mixed Instrument Class Set: A set of 12 instruments for class use. 
Contains 2 of each of the six semesters of Sound Beginnings. 2 ankle jingles, 
2 triangles, 2 tambourines, 2 pair of finger cymbals, 2 pair of rhythm sticks, 
2 pair of maracas. $43.00
Tone Bells: Specially engraved with solfeg syllables just for Let’s Play Music! 
8 colorful removable tone bells with logo carrying case and 2 mallets $27


Winner will be drawn and announced on October 26.  

You get more entries for sharing! 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Happy Birthday! Let's Play Music turns 20

20 Years ago this month, the first Let’s Play Music classes were taught in Mesa,

Shelle Soelberg, creator and founder of Let’s Play Music, wanted a
curriculum for her 3-year-old daughter, Sydney, where she could teach music in fun, age-appropriate ways

Shelle recruited 3 classes of children ages 4-5 and embarked on what is now the company purpose: To Enrich Lives through the Power of Music.
Waltz of the Flowers puppets from THEN and NOW

The now popular “Great Big Red Balloon” song, the “Can’t Bug Me” chant, “Primary Chords Song” the “Waltz of the Flowers” puppet show and many other songs were what drew students and families into her studio and gained a loyal following that now spans the country.

Student Materials
The first student materials set included a Student Binder with weekly home study guides, a set of bug flashcards, a cassette tape (YES! a tape!) of songs to listen to at home. The tone bell set and tote bag were added the next year as fun and important tools to keep the learning happening at home.
Student materials THEN and NOW

Over the last 20 years, we have trained over 500 teachers in the Let’s Play Music method, taught over 20,000 students in over 3,000 classes. We have laughed and played our way to complete musicianship.

The Celebration
We hope you will enjoy the party with us throughout the 2018-19 school year! We will be sharing videos of our classes and all the ways we can celebrate being 20 years old!

Throughout September, our Sound Beginnings classes will be counting to 20! We’ll also be sharing bits of our 20-year history as we’ve grown and changed over the years.

We love being 20 years old and are excited to celebrate with the many people whose lives have been enriched through the power of music.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Piano Bench Magazine Features Let's Play Music

It's always a great day when Let's Play Music teachers get to share the reasons why we love LPM with music educators who haven't heard of us before.  So, we were thrilled when Piano Bench Magazine featured us in the July, 2018 issue!

If you're a piano teacher, Piano Bench Magazine is a great resource for ideas, tips, and up-to-date news to help you succeed in every way.

You can get the July 2018 issue, and other issues, at this link. But if you're wondering what I wanted to tell the world's piano teachers about Let's Play Music, here's the entire message:

Every Piano Dilemma Solved

As a teacher, I’m on the prowl for methods and techniques that will really help my business blossom and increase my income. I’m also constantly looking to glean ideas for improving the quality and outcomes of my program. So, imagine the glorious day over a decade ago when I discovered an elusive gem that solved EVERY piano dilemma: I present to you Let’s Play Music.

Let’s Play Music is a group class taught from a national 3-year curriculum, so let me start with that. Am I the only teacher who wondered how I could pay my mortgage with music lessons?

Teachers Eat, Too

With group classes, the student’s fee is $400- $600/ 30 weeks (depending on regional rates), and I have 6-8 students in each 45 minute class.  My first year teaching Let’s Play Music, I had 2 classes weekly, but in my most booming years of teaching, I swelled to 20 classes/week.  Instead of having 40 total private students in my 20 hours, I had 140 students in the same 20 hours. Dilemma solved. Know what else I recognized? The students love group classes. We have a spirit of fun collaboration. Kids learn better in the group! And everyone wants to join this group!

Balance Your Time

For those of you have 40 (or 140) students, you’re still wishing to give every student a carefully crafted, well-prepared, multi-faceted lesson every week. Oh, and it would be great if everything were taught through a clever game instead of a boring lecture. I know that’s what I dream of, but where can I find the prep time for all of that?

Enter the lesson plans provided by Let’s Play Music: Every lesson has been taught thousands of times, refined to provide both repetition and progress of new concepts all presented through GAMES and active fun. I never spend hours scouring the web looking for ways to make concepts fun. I flip open my manual (with the lessons planned to the minute) and I know my students will get 45 minutes PACKED with fast-paced, non-stop games. I prep my supplies and post a list of the activities and I’m ready for classes with minimal prep. Dilemma solved! A class cannot be this amazing without many people testing and refining it. I’m so relieved I don’t have to go it alone - I have the BEST lessons handed to me every week, and YES there is still room for me to add my personality and my twist when I want to.

Start Them Young

So, what about young students? I understand the sensitivity of young ears and minds; I want four- and five-year-olds to be ear training with chord progressions and relative pitch and melodic patterns and rhythm. I’ve read the studies on the importance of foundational music skills and I don’t want to waste these precious early years when kids intuitively absorb the concepts.  

I know they can be taught to understand how notes on a staff work, but their fingers are not ready for piano and they get bored if I make them sit for more than five minutes. What can I do with these young ones, when a 30-minute lesson on a bench would be a disaster? Let’s Play Music!

This is a 3-year program DESIGNED for students who start at age 4 or 5. Everything is skipping, clapping, puppetry, and games...or so the students would tell you. We have them reading melodic patterns, singing on pitch, using solfege, and playing chord progressions on an autoharp (AHA! No dexterity required!) all in the first few weeks.

We give them a whole YEAR of singing/ ear/ brain training with the autoharp and tone bells before they go on the piano...and then they are SO successful. Recruiting tip: Let’s Play Music  is the ONLY piano/musicianship program I can feel good sending a young one to. Dilemma solved! I’m never giving a 4-year-old a private lesson; it feels like a waste in comparison.

Way More than Piano Alone

But I care so much about REAL musicianship. I don’t want to leave anything out. It seems like no matter which lesson books I follow with piano students, I still need to supplement to cover composition and listening and ear-training. How can I make that work?

VOILA! Let’s Play Music includes classical music study, composition, dictation, ear training (chord progressions, intervals, melodic patterns, etc.), vocal training/ pitch matching/ singing, note reading, solfege, sight-reading, and more. YES, all through active, fun play.

I LOVE the days when my 4-year old classes (with no music playing) belt out the entire Verdi’s Triumphant March because they love it so much.

I LOVE the days when I give my 5-year-old students (who’ve been using pianos for 6 months) a song like “Old MacDonald” and tell them to choose chords for an accompaniment and then write them correctly in the bass clef.  

I LOVE the days when my 6-year-old students play two-handed on piano and can transpose between the keys of C, F, and G in a single song.

I LOVE the final recital when they perform their OWN complete piece (yes, for both hands and with ABA form and usually harmonized with I, IV, V, chords and complex rhythms and melodies.)  

MIND BLOWN and Dilemma Solved! I no longer worry that ANYTHING is missing from the Let’s Play Music curriculum. These students (and vicariously their parents) are getting the best musical training I can ever hope to provide.

By the way, please visit the blog and see videos of the fantastic compositions from students this year, or read dozens of articles explaining everything we do in Let’s Play Music.

Okay, there is one big downside to Let’s Play Music… it ends. After 3 years (and an optional 4th bridge year), students graduate and hate to leave. You can choose to keep those 7-year-olds as private students and move them into your favorite piano lesson series, or you can send them on to other local piano teachers who will ADORE you for giving them prepared, ready-to-work students who can hear, improvise, and create! Students also go on to a multitude of other instruments and excel thanks to the amazing foundation provided by Let’s Play Music.

Please Share the Love

Will you consider joining the circle of piano excellence? Provide a fantastic foundation for many  4-year-olds of your city, then pass them on into the loving arms of excited private teachers. (or keep them! You choose!)

I’ve been teaching Let’s Play Music since 2006 and it has been a tremendous blessing for me, my husband, and our four children. That was my final dilemma...I wanted the VERY BEST for my own children. Dilemma solved! As a pure bonus, I have extreme fun playing in every class. I have never had such fun doing “work”.

Gina Weibel, M.S. is a teacher on Bainbridge Island, WA, and blogger for Let’s Play Music. She also teaches Sound Beginnings for preschoolers and a variety of other classes.

Learn more about Let’s Play Music and how you can become a teacher at our website: