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!

7 Ways to Identify Music Majors in the Wild

Although music majors aren’t an entirely rare breed, they can easily be mixed up with others within their own species, the sleep-deprived college student. Noted by their sluggish behavior and small will to carry on, it’s a wonder the species thrives enough to have so many classes within it. Today, we focus on seven key ways to identify the class of music majors in their natural habitat.

Music majors…

1. Always have rehearsal or a practice session to be at.

They avoid social interaction, always with this excuse. “Sorry I have rehearsal…”  Sometimes, it’s like they don’t exist outside of class. Are they speaking the truth?

2. Post pictures of their instrument or music on social media.

That’s how you know they’re telling the truth about all that practice time. Aesthetic photos of “bae” and the most difficult sheet music in their folder grace their instagram, colored by fun filters. #practicing #truelove #100daysofpractice

Except, are they actually practicing? At the very least, you know they’re in the practice room.

3. Can speak in about 10 different languages, but can’t always understand them.

Vocal majors especially have to be able to passably pronounce a ton of foreign languages. Can they say important things like, “Where is the bathroom?”

Absolutely not.

But they can say cryptic things to you with no context whatsoever. And they probably will.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder,
Die Ähren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis die Wälder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

The breeze passed through the fields,
The corn swayed gently to and fro,
The forests murmured softly,
The night was so clear with stars.

Robert Schumann. From Mondnacht, Op. 39, No. 5.

4. Live off of snacks instead of actual food.

All those rehearsals and practice sessions leave very little time to sit down and eat. So, when music majors actually do eat, it’s usually random snacks from their backpack. Nuts, chips, granola bars, cookies, you know, all the stuff you should live off of instead of veggies and meat…

5. Have a mostly black wardrobe.

It’s easier this way. Trust me. With as many performances in a week as music majors have, it’s a good idea to have many concert black outfits to choose from. If they barely have time to eat, what makes you think they’ve got time to wash one outfit multiple times a week?

Plus, if you wear black everyday, you don’t have to worry about forgetting about a performance. You’re all ready to go!

6. Are always singing or humming.

And are always harmonizing. In the car, the grocery store, the bathroom…

7. Always have a pencil on their person.

You are shameful and must commit seppuku if you do not have a pencil in rehearsal. As a result, music majors always have pencils hidden in multiple places on their body and in their bags. It’s better this way.

There ya have it! Seven ways to spot a music major in the wild. There are many more tell tale signs, but that should give you a good head start as you begin your wildlife observations.

Remember to record other behavioral findings in your journal and share with your fellow scientists below. Happy trails!

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!

Time Well-Spent

I don’t remember much of anything I learned in high school. Most of us don’t. But there was one phrase my high school biology teacher said at the beginning of every week that really stuck with me: “Time spent organizing is time well-spent.”

At the time, I could see some benefits of giving us extra time in class to organize all our binders, but I never really appreciated her catch-phrase until after college.

Guys, organize your music. Do it. Right now. It will save you headache, heartache, and mini-panic attacks. Your brain cannot remember where you put that one sheet of music two years ago. Even if you know for certain you didn’t throw it away, it will take you hours to find it, hours you could spend doing something productive like practicing.

Believe me.

The day that inspired this post was when I had just scheduled an audition for a job accompanying a choir on piano. The director of the choir wanted me to play something from memory (easy-peasy) and then read a hymn for her. My go-to hymn, “Lord, Here Am I,” (not “Here I Am, Lord”–there’s a difference) is not in the hymnal at my house. The only hard-copy I possess is a photo-copy from my old music teacher back in high school.

I lost it.

It was somewhere in my room; that I knew. I had recently pulled it from my active binder (the one I carry with me 24/7) and stuck it either in another binder, on a shelf, or in a folder, or in the closet, or it fell behind it…..Many, many, many hours later, I was in tears and on the phone with my boyfriend who convinced me to pick a different hymn (of course I had back-ups, but “Lord, Here Am I” is my favorite).

After practicing another couple hymns for the audition the next day, I started putting the sheets of paper, at that point coating the floor, back on the shelf. Voila! There it was!

The moral of the story is not that it was there somewhere; it’s that I could’ve found it in mere seconds if I kept my music organized.

I do have binders on my shelf that are somewhat organized by type of music and composer, but the problem is my laziness. I rarely put the music back where it belongs.

No more!

Taking the two seconds to put music back where it belongs will save me hours later down the road when it really matters.

So there you have it. Organize your music, fellow musicians. And may you be as lucky as me to have a boyfriend who offers to help with that part. Best of luck to you all!