Halloween Freebie

Although I use a great piano course that’s full of improv games and theory, I still find it useful and fun to use games not in the book.

Much of my inspiration comes from Teach Piano Today; they’ve got lots of freebies on their site, so go check them out! I am a huge fan of their improv games. Most of these games come with printable cards with themed words that are set to rhythms. It’s a very natural and helpful way to help students with rhythm.

I took their Halloween set a step further by using these cards to help my students compose their own Halloween song!

We first go through the entire deck (there’s only 9 cards, so it doesn’t take too long) and make sure they understand the rhythms. Then I show them my version of the final song  and tell them to pay attention to what repeats. They point out the four-measure phrase that repeats twice, and then I have them guess what AABA form means. And so far, 100% of my students have guessed correctly!

Then we  go through and pick out their own set of four cards to use. Since the piece is in A minor, I limit their note choices to A-E, so their pinky stays on A, and 5 stays on E. This works for every level, even the ones who don’t yet read music (they’ve only been playing a couple weeks). Then, for the B section, we jump their thumb to C and have them choose notes from there. As they choose notes, we write them into this handy template.

It takes about 10 minutes to do each section, so the last ten minutes of two lessons in a row is a good way to incorporate some Halloween fun! If you can find some fun Halloween paper to print it on, that’s even better!

Hope you got some good ideas from this game, and let me know if you have any other fun ideas for Holidays!

Some News

Hello, it’s been a little bit since my last post, so I wanted to pop in with an unofficial post. Regular school work, my two jobs, and preparing for grad school have been dominating my time, but I hope to get back to a regular post schedule with short essays on music.

Until then, I wanted to share that I published sheet music for my arrangement of The First Noel on Sheet Music Plus.

I plan on arranging more pieces for piano, and I’m in the editing process for a few pieces for pop acapella to put up. Although I haven’t been with Sheet Music Plus for long, I will say that I am impressed with their service toward composers and arrangers. It doesn’t cost anything to publish music with them, and their commission rates are among the highest of sites like theirs. So if you’re looking for a place to sell music, they are my first recommendation.

Given that their site provides much more exposure for sheet music, it is a good deal.

You’ll notice a new tab on the top menu: Sheet Music. Here I’ll post links to all sheet music I’m sharing on the internet. This is how I’ll avoid spamming you guys every time I come out with a new piece. I will continue to post some freebies as well, and those will also be in the sheet music tab. As the numbers go up, there will be a little more organization to the page, but for now you can enjoy the two that are up there right now.

And of course, I love criticism on my pieces. If there’s anything in particular you like about my arrangements, I’d love to hear it! Conversely, if you can offer suggestions of anything I can do better, please share!

Thanks for all of your support!

And Crown Thy Good With Brotherhood

“O beautiful for spacious skies…” begins a tune that America has beat its drum to for many years. The song, a poem by Katharine Lee Bates set to music by Samuel A. Ward, speaks of the beauty of this land. Purple mountains in their majesty, amber grain waving in the breeze, seas shining in the sunlight. But it also speaks of the strife that came as a result of the “patriot dream” that founded this country.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

As we in America approach the day we celebrate our freedom, it’s tough to ignore the people who have had their freedom stripped from them. While we all may disagree on politics and who’s to blame for injustice, we do agree that something is wrong.

I don’t typically pay attention to the news, especially when it spurs arguments among my friends across social media (I cherish harmony above most everything), but some friends have surprised me. The ones who usually stay silent, like me, regarding politics actually spoke up about the separation of immigrant families.

Instead of it being just a blame game, so many have stood up to take action and urged others to do the same. My quiet friends contacted their representatives, donated to charities, and showed others the way. I am so proud to have friends that not only identify the problems but do something about them.

They’ve shown that anyone can help.

I love celebrating holidays, and the Fourth of July has always been one of my favorites. It’s summertime; it’s reminiscent of cookouts, fireworks, and just having a fun time (read no stress of Christmas shopping). But it breaks my heart that others don’t get to celebrate freedom too.

So I want to do something to help. While I don’t have the means to go to Texas and volunteer, I can donate to help charities gain the resources they need to make a difference in this situation. And I can put my voice out there too.

I arranged America, the Beautiful for piano solo and have it open for free downloads on Soundcloud. The sheet music is also available for free here: America, the Beautiful

In exchange, I urge you to do what you can to make a difference. Act. Do what you can (even if it doesn’t feel like a lot) and spread the word.

I picked this song for a reason. While most people only sing the first verse, the lyrics are still relevant to these events today. If I had to pick only three verses to go along with my arrangement, it would be these.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

The phrase that caught me in the first verse is, “And crown thy good with brotherhood.” Not all families are the same, but all the ones I’ve been around have been hospitable. If a friend brings me home, their parents do everything in their power to make sure I am fed and feel taken care of.

All of the verses end with a benediction. “May God…” do good for you, but these all turn back onto us. God sheds grace on us, so we can be a brotherhood. God mends all our flaws, and we must have self-control. God refines our gold, so our success can be noble and good.

All in all, whatever your beliefs, this song is part of the American tradition and is urging us to be a family. I hope you’ll join me in doing all you can to make that happen.

Here are a few organizations to consider getting involved with. They are all dedicated to providing legal services to immigrants and are all taking action to reunite families. But of course, I encourage you to do your own research and find a program you can truly get behind.

RAICES, The Florence Project, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, ActBlue, Border Angels, and many many more.

I’m not sure how many people this will reach, but it beats staying quiet. Act, if you will, spread the word, and stay aware of what’s going on in the world. And have a Happy Fourth!