Resuming In-Person Piano Lessons

The Mobile Piano Geek

May 29, 2020
Resuming In-Person Piano Lessons

Dear Parents and Students,
I wanted to touch base with you about resuming in-person piano lessons. Certainly, changes will be happening moving forward. Here is some information I would like to share with you.

Teacher and Student Safety:
In-person lessons will look different than before. I will be wearing a cloth mask, and I’ll be changing masks before I go into each house. I will bring hand sanitizer and clean my hands in your house before each lesson and during the lesson too, if necessary. I will ask the student to sanitize their hands as well. I’ve been looking into disinfecting piano keys and a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a damp cloth seems to be the most practical. This will work on ivory and plastic keys and not damage the finish. I will be carrying this with me as well and doing a quick clean of the piano keys before each lesson. It’s probably best if I use the same chair in your house for every lesson. I will not be offended if you clean this chair at the end of every lesson. I think it would be better if I leave my jacket in my car whenever possible and leave my shoes at your front door.

Teacher and Student Illness:
I have gone to work with a moderate to severe cold in the past. I have also sat next to hundreds of sick students. Both of these things cannot happen anymore. I have a child and vulnerable elders in my family to protect, and I know most of you do too. This is where online piano lessons can really come in handy. From now on, I will not be coming to work if I or anyone in my household has cold or flu symptoms. We can have lessons online that day if I’m well enough. You must cancel our in-person piano lessons if your child or anyone in your household has cold or flu symptoms. We can move that lesson to online delivery if the student is feeling well enough. I reserve the right to cancel in-person lessons and reschedule them as online sessions if the student or their family members are presenting with cold and flu symptoms.

In addition, I would like to you to know that I have been interacting only with my husband and daughter since March 14. My husband and I have been working from home since March 16. My daughter will not be returning to school in June. I have had a few encounters with two friends, but outside only and two metres apart. Mike and I have left the house only for a weekly shopping trip (taking turns) and for bike rides and walks.

I feel confident about resuming in-person lessons with the safety policies I have outlined above. I am open to your suggestions and comments. Please let me know if you would like to resume in-person lessons for June. We would return to 45 minute lessons once a week. If you are not ready to resume in-person lessons, we can continue with online lessons but the time slot might change if I need to organize specific online and in-person work days.
Thank you for your resilience and adaptability these past 8 weeks or so. I am very much hoping to see all your shining faces again soon.


Zoom Piano Lessons, Horn Tooting

Hello again lovely parents and students,
My experimenting with online lessons continues, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

– I’m going to use Zoom to do the lessons.

– I will be tooting a horn (yes really) during the lessons to indicate to the student they must stop playing. It’s hard for the student to hear if I just say “ok stop” in order to get them to quickly re-try a section or whole song.

-The mic picks up all ambient noise and it can be difficult to pick out the piano. We’re going to have to strive for a very quiet environment during the lessons.

-Best setup for the student’s device is position it at about their shoulder height and slightly to the left so I can see their sheet music, posture, and left hand. If you have a tripod you could use it. I’m attaching some pictures of a good setup. We managed with books stacked on a chair and a mini-tripod.

-Phones provide a better angle and clearer video than laptops or tablets.

-Parents are going to have to be around for the whole lesson, at least at first. To help with device placement and adjustments, and also to help keep the student focused. I really don’t have much authority through a small screen and it’s pretty easy to ignore the teacher or not listen right away when I’m actually not physically there to intimidate with my fearsome presence😉 I think this will probably change as we all get used to it.

-It would be very helpful if you could take a picture of your child’s last practice assignment that I wrote and send it to me so I know where we left off. Also, please take a picture of all the books they are currently working out of. I will need to order my own copies of these books so I can follow along. For long sheet music songs, a picture of the first page will do.

-If your child likes stickers, please provide them with some so they can put a sticker on songs that have been passed and completed.

That’s all for now. Your comments, ideas, and questions are most welcome:)

Alison Maira

PBD Counselling & Human Development
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
The Mobile Piano Geek:

I acknowledge that I live, work, and play on the unceded, occupied territories of the (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Piano Lessons In The Time Of Pandemic

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
I have been thinking for days of what to write to you. Never in my wildest imaginings did I expect to lose my job and not return to work after Spring Break. But that is the situation in which millions of Canadians now find ourselves.

During the first week of Spring Break, I clung to the hope that private in-home services such as tutoring and various therapies would continue. But it’s clear now, with the recent directive to ‘go home and stay home’ that I won’t be out and about doing lessons.

So, what to do going forward? Kids thrive on structure and routine, and it’s a good idea to keep their brains occupied and stimulated. Piano lessons are great for all those things. Some of you have already asked about online lessons.

Piano lessons in particular are difficult to manage over the internet. Because of lag time between devices, teacher and student cannot play together. That means no duets but it also means I can’t count out loud for students or tap a beat for them to follow, or stop them quickly at a particular passage to re-try. Every exchange between teacher and student will have a slight delay. This is the best case scenario. Usually there are technical difficulties to deal with as well. There is just no way that an in-the-moment flow between student and teacher can happen over the internet…and that is pretty much the sum and total of my teaching approach and lesson plans.

However! Just because my present way of doing things does not translate to online delivery doesn’t mean I won’t be teaching anymore. It just means that I will redesign my lesson plans and create new ways to teach and connect with students. Here are some ideas and plans I’m putting together:

– 30 minute Check In Lessons with current students for the material they’re presently working on. No theory or duets. I won’t be able to leave written practice assignments for the students to follow so part of the lesson will be directions on what and how to practice that week.

– 30 minute Song Project Lessons. This would be something for more intermediate or advanced students. Students choose one song they want to learn, and we spend 30 minutes learning it in small sections. This could last for weeks or months depending on the complexity of the material.

– 30 minute Make A Song Lessons. This could be a fun activity for beginners and intermediate students. Student creates lyrics, I show them how to put their words to a melody and chords, and 30 minutes later we have a completed original song. Extra points for silliness. I could send along a worksheet of the chords and melody we come up with so students could practice their piano parts if they want.

I will drop my rate to $25.00 per 30 minute lesson for online sessions. For booking, I will leave it up to parents to decide how often they would like to have lessons, and what kind of lessons they would like to purchase. These are kind of mix-and-match options. Students could try all three kinds of online sessions, or just stick to one. Lessons would be pre-paid by e-transfer and I can email a receipt afterwards.

My new teaching hours will be 3:00-5:30pm Monday-Friday, and 12:00-3:00pm Saturday. I’m open to booking additional sessions on Saturdays and Sundays too, with sufficient notice to make arrangements to kick my family outside for their daily fresh air so I can hear myself think. This week I am researching delivery platforms, camera angles, and computer setups. I want to get it right and get comfortable with teaching this way before I unleash myself on the unsuspecting public. My plan is to launch online lessons for April 1 Wednesday.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and your kids. It’s a huge loss to me as a teacher and as a human to not see your children every week. All those precious relationships of learning, encouragement, warmth, all the giggling and inside jokes, all the little details about their lives they share with me each week, the good-natured co-operation and shared camaraderie, and most of all, watching them grow and progress. Losing my front row seat of seeing the everyday miracle of learning and development unfold in your children is very painful. I miss them. I’m looking forward to sitting beside everyone again soon.

Thank you for reading. Hopefully we will reconvene in a virtual way in April:)

Alison Maira
PBD Counselling & Human Development
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
The Mobile Piano Geek:

I acknowledge that I live, work, and play on the unceded, occupied territories of the (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Happy New Year From Your Friendly Neighborhood Piano Teacher

I had a really good first lesson with a new student yesterday, and it made me think fondly of the good first lessons I had with all of these wonderful students. Learning how to play piano is a New Year’s Resolution I am eminently qualified to assist with! In fact I have met several long term students this way. Feel free to contact me for more info about the gorgeous, infuriating, irresistable world of piano study and its lifechanging properties.

Tis The Season To Play Christmas Music

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
The time has come for all good little piano students to learn their favorite (or their parent’s favorite) Christmas songs. This is mostly because good little piano students will be, heavily encouraged shall we say, to play Christmas carols for their visiting grandma, or for the neighbors and friends who have popped over, or during a rockin Christmas party.
It’s a really nice time of year to share music with the ones we love. And it’s wonderful to see the happiness that comes from listening to a cherished child or grandchild or young friend play a confident version of Jungle Bells. Please let me know if you need some new Christmas music songbooks for yourself or your child.

Here is a splendid group of students (all siblings) and their mother playing a special arrangement of Jingle Bells that we created for 3 piano players and one violin.

Practice Tips For Piano Students

Practice Tips For Piano Students

1. Make sure you have a quiet place to practice.
2. Gather your materials (piano assignment worksheet, songbooks, lesson books, metronome, pencil) and have them ready at the piano.
3. Open your piano binder and turn to this week’s assignment sheet that I have written for you.
4. Follow your practice instructions carefully. Ask your parents or teacher for help if you need it.
5. Practice slowly. Go slow enough to keep a steady beat, play the correct notes, and use the correct fingers. If you make mistakes, you are playing too fast. The speed of your playing will gradually increase as your fingers become more confident.
6. Be kind to yourself. Learning how to play music takes a lot of effort and there will be many mistakes along the way.You can do it. You will feel so proud of yourself every time you master a new song.
7. Build practice time into your family or personal calendar. Set aside at least five 15 minute sessions every week, and make it part of your weekly routine.
8. It is not a waste of time to practice for only 5 minutes. Small frequent sessions work very well for many people, especially young children. Do not fall into the trap of avoiding practice because you don’t have 3 uninterrupted hours to devote to that piece that really needs work.
9. Take breaks if necessary. If you are becoming filled with rage or frustration, STEP AWAY FROM THE PIANO. Come back later with a clear head and renewed optimism.
10. Patience, patience, patience. There is no way to know how many times it will take before you master it. 99% of the time it will be more than you think it should be. Every repetition takes you closer to your goal. You will get there. It will be worth it.

Piano Lessons Beginning Of Term Newsletter

Hello Lovely Parents and Students!
Woo hoo! It’s great to be back in the saddle of learning, studying, and growing. Education is a beautiful thing. I’m rejuvenated and have a great deal of renewed enthusiasm for teaching and embarking on another year of music study with all my students! I recently finished the first part of my studies at SFU and have completed a Post Baccalureate Diploma in Counselling and Human Development. I know I’m a better teacher and mother for it. I’m looking forward to applying all my new knowledge this year as I teach, guide, listen, and learn with you and your children.
Attached are my Studio Policies, a checklist for achieving effective practice sessions, my updated teacher bio, and some good reasons to study music and the piano. My schedule is not quite finalized yet, and I ask you to please bear with me as last minute adjustments might need to be made to accommodate everyone.
I’m expanding my teaching practice this year and adding lesson times during the morning and early afternoon. If you know of any adults or homeschooled children who might be interested in piano lessons, please feel free to forward them this email.
As always, your questions and comments are welcome.
See you all this week!

Alison Maira

PBD Post Baccalaureate Diploma, Counselling & Human Development
B. Mus, Jazz Studies & Music Education
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
BCMEA – BC Music Educators Assn.
The Mobile Piano Geek:

I acknowledge that I live, love, work and play on the unceded, traditional, occupied territories of the (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.


Here’s Leo! This year he discovered The Final Countdown by Europe, and Pirates Of The Caribbean – another great John Williams score. This is his rendition of Purple People Eater.


This is Emiko with her concert solo piece, Beauty and the Beast. It was a hard one for her, but she practiced a lot and played it beautifully for the audience at the recital.

The Adult Beginner’s Piano Journey

I feel as if I have stumbled onto a great secret of satisfying and rewarding teaching. That secret is, adult students, especially beginners. There is something wonderful about these people. It’s fun to teach music to a child, because children are fantastically curious, full of energy and innocence. The adults though, I really feel like I’m helping in a tangible way. Sure they get better at playing the piano – if they commit to regular practice and following their assignments they can become surprisingly solid and expressive players at any stage of life. But they also get better at knowing themselves, facing challenges, and handling victories. You would be shocked to know how many accomplished, professional adult people have a total blind spot about their own intelligence and ability to grow. They cannot and do not see their own progress, all the ways in which they are improving, the skills they have mastered, the increase in fluency, the steady buildup of knowledge. Helping my adult students handle their victories and acknowledge them is probably the biggest part of my work with adult beginners. I’m not sure why this is so and why I see it so often. There’s probably a great paper or study waiting to be written about it.
I have found that another great secret of good teaching is love and encouragement. People of any age learn more effectively when they are loved and encouraged; when they feel safe enough to take their world-mask off and allow the new information to be absorbed and they do not fear looking stupid or making a mistake. That’s “flow state”, the relaxed concentration that allows endless repetitions and true practicing/improvement from a place of fascination and curiosity (not from a place of boredom/being forced to – that is NOT flow state).
I help my adult students get into that flow state through the most effective tools in my teaching bag of tricks: love and encouragement. Simple. But complicated and delicate too. It’s engrossing work that I will practice and research and try to get better at for the rest of my life. It requires sensitivity and subtlety. Love and encouragement from a teacher has to be gentle and unobtrusive, something you can only see out of the corner of your eye. The small, vulnerable flame of learning has to be nurtured, not blown out with overzealous trampling of false praise.
I would love to meet some new adult piano students this year, especially beginners. If you or someone you know has always wanted to unlock the secrets of the piano and dive deep into the endless world of music; push themselves to achieve (and accept) new victories, and work on an amazing new skill, feel free to get in touch. I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about.

Piano and Music Theory Lessons for Homeschooling Students

I’m expanding my teaching practice this year, into the morning and early afternoon hours, and I would dearly love to make contact with parents who educate their children at home. I teach one-on-one piano and music theory lessons in your home. I have more than a decade of experience teaching in-home lessons and I have recently completed a Post Baccelaureate Diploma in Counselling and Human Development at Simon Fraser University which has greatly enhanced my teaching. I also have a B.Mus in Jazz Studies and Music Education from Capilano University. I am continuing my studies in Education, Special Education, and Developmental Psychology and I find myself more enthusiastic about teaching and piano than ever before. I would love to work with some homeschooling families who want high quality music instruction for their children. I am passionate about piano, music, education, and children. I have experience teaching children on the autism spectrum and those with learning challenges such as dyslexia, fine motor skills delay,seizure disorder, and ADHD. I teach many genres (classical, jazz, pop, blues, folk, country) and I encourage my students to choose some of their own repertoire as soon as they are able. In addition to teaching traditional music notation I also teach students ‘by ear’ (transcription) and the basics of improvisation. References gladly provided! For more info, check out About and In-Home Piano Lessons here on my website.


It’s Rosie! Here she is with a lovely solo piece, Theme From Swan Lake. A wonderfully interesting kid who chooses both pop music and classical repertoire to play.


Here is Nikita with her recent solo and duet:)


This is Sascha, with his most recent concert solo and duet. He’s also a gymnast and a bit of a daredevil.


The lovely and multi-talented Desiree! An accomplished lady who has a great ear for music and enjoys playing piano and taking lessons, lucky me! Adult students are so great.


And here is Ella with her most recent concert solo and duet. When she loves a song, look out. No matter how difficult it is, she will not stop practicing it until it’s beautiful, complete, and correct.


Here is Evan, with his recent concert solo and duet. He discovered the MASH theme – which sounds great on solo piano – and Elton John this year. It’s always fun to teach someone their first Elton song. Elton John’s work is so awesomely catchy and melodic I think piano students will always be learning it. At least I hope so, and do not want to live in a world where there are no Elton John songs.


It’s Maya! She is a sweet, curious child who always notices when I get my hair cut and compliments me on my outfit. She can also play hands together very well and tells good imagination stories about the songs we encounter.


Here’s Colleen with her most duet, Down in the Valley. Colleen has a background in art history and it’s very interesting to talk with her about the historical context and artist bio of various paintings, as I learned to do with pieces of music. Sometimes she’ll tell me what paintings were happening at the same time as a piece she’s studying was created, those are some of my favorite moments with her, and yes I think it’s safe to say we are both art nerds.


This is Catie with her solo and duet! Another lovely student who practices her assignments diligently. Sometimes the progress she makes in a week astounds me. Catie usually has a lot of interesting questions about her pieces and piano and music in general. It’s fun to help her grow and feed that inquisitive spirit:)


Something I really like about Sarah is her happy dance that happens at the piano bench when she discovers a song that moves her. I always know which ones resonate because she practices them like crazy and has them ready for me the following week:)


Here’s Aidan! Mastering the intricate rhythms of the James Bond Theme.


Here’s Shirley! I hope to be as happy and busy and wise as she when I am in my 80’s. Shirley loves Elvis Presley and Michael Buble, and you cannot be in a bad mood when teaching or playing their songs it’s just impossible (I have tried), which means I am always happy when I am teaching Shirley.


Well well well. Here’s Danica, playing her concert solo and duet. She made a lot of great progress this year, transforming into one of my most diligent and accomplished students. When she started reading my practice instructions her playing and practicing really took off! And that is not sarcasm – only gratefulness and pride. I often wish I could show my students the difference in how the songs sound from those who practice the assignment and those who…don’t.

Thanks for a great recital Summer 2019!

Here we all are at our fantastic summer piano concert! Everyone played very well. And by that I do not mean it was a perfect performance for all – I had some nervous moments during my solo, for example. However, students and teacher managed to keep going, recover quickly from small mistakes, and finish with a smile! I like perfect performances, but I like the excitement and unpredictability of live performance as well. You learn a lot about yourself from handling mistakes in public while everyone is watching. Not falling apart when things go askew and being able to laugh a bit after, because it really isn’t THAT serious and no one dies from embarrassment, is a tremendously valuable skill to cultivate.


Here is my favorite lady of Tuesday afternoons, the wonderful Sharlene playing Someday My Prince Will Come. Sharlene is discovering and enjoying early-mid 20th century vocal jazz standards, which is great for me because teaching her this repertoire reminds me how beautiful and complex this music is. I wax eloquently to Sharlene about historical and political context of her pieces and their fascinating harmonic structure, she adds her own anecdotes about actually being alive at that time, and we both learn a lot of new things. I have a great job, I know.


Summer Piano Concert 2019

​Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
Our year end piano recital is happening on Saturday June 15, 2:00-3:00pm at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Highway, North Vancouver. All students are invited to perform. Grandparents, friends, and family are invited to attend too. Please let me know if you (my adult students) or your children (my school age students) will be participating:)

Alison Maira
B. Mus, Jazz Studies & Music Education
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
BCMEA – BC Music Educators Assn.

Beginning Of Term Newsletter 2018

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

Happy New School Year! Welcome back to all of us. Here is some important information I wanted to share with you regarding piano lessons.

No lessons during the first week of school. Regular lessons commence the week of Sept. 10.
Cancellations: each student receives two free cancellations per school year. Please let me know when you would like to use them and I will apply a cancellation credit to your invoice. Any subsequent cancellations will not be refunded or credited, but you can arrange a make-up lesson with me if you wish. I have availability for make-up lessons on Saturday afternoons.

Things to do this week to prepare for a wonderful year of music study:

Establish a practice routine, input into family calendar. Set aside time for 5 piano practice sessions every week. Write or print out a copy of your practice routine and put it into your piano assignments binder.

Get a timer to measure practice sessions. A basic kitchen timer or stopwatch is fine. This timer stays on top of your piano or in your piano box.

Get a container for your piano materials. Something big enough to put metronome, piano books, piano binder, timer, pencil, eraser, current sheet music. Ideally each kid taking lessons in the family would have their own box. Keep this container on top of the piano or on the floor right next to piano bench, somewhere very close by and highly visible.

Start a “Songs I Like” list. Put a copy on your devices and a paper copy in your piano materials box. This list will be helpful when considering what repertoire to study next.

Arrange for piano or keyboard maintenance if it has been longer than a year since last tuning or there are ongoing issues needing repair.

Practice Guidelines: 5 sessions every week between lessons

Ages 5-6, 15 minute sessions

Ages 7-9, 20-25 minutes

Ages 10+, at least 30 minutes every session

Adults – at least 45 minutes

Practice Instructions: At every practice session, open the piano lessons binder. Go to the assignment sheet from your last lesson. Do everything on the list as many times it says (more is better) or for the number of minutes indicated. Set a timer for every session. If you reach the bottom of the list and time has not run out, start again at the top of the list or practice the item that was the most difficult again.

Students ages 5-8 need supervision during their practice sessions. Someone to help them go through the instructions and work through each item, to keep them focused, to know when to take a short break and re-engage.

Students ages 9-11 need someone to check their piano assignment at least once a week. Go through the assignment sheet with your child, and ask them to show you every item. Give lots of encouragement for improving and making their best effort.

Students ages 12+ benefit from a check of their assignment every couple of weeks and some sincere encouragement and specific praise when you hear them practicing well on their own.

Adult students: don’t be shy about showing a trusted friend what you’re working on in piano lessons. Supportive friends and family can provide encouraging feedback, which is so valuable when learning to play an instrument.

Playing For Fun:

Music is an amazing human creation of infinite depth and beauty. Usually your child’s piano assignment will not touch on the great emotional journey that music can be. It will be about sustained effort, delayed gratification, intellectual challenge, discipline, and if everything goes well, slow and steady progress. Sometimes practicing will feel like kind of a drag. It is important to round out your or your child’s musical education by giving them the easy side of music as well. Go see live concerts, have a dance party, sing together as a family, and encourage your children to mess around at the piano with no pressure. All of this goes for adult students as well.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Looking forward to seeing all of your shining faces next week,


Alison Maira
B. Mus, Jazz Studies & Music Education
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
BCMEA – BC Music Educators Assn.

Danica, 2018

Danica’s first year of piano lessons have been very successful. She learned how to read music notation, to play hands together, and fortunately is blessed with a natural internal pulse and sense of rhythm that needs no messing with.

Shirley, 2018

This lovely lady is one of the busiest, happiest, well organized people I know – retired or otherwise. Shirley is also is a big Elvis fan. Here she is playing Blue Suede Shoes, and she is currently learning Love Me Tender. Shirley told me a great story about her memories of listening to Blue Suede Shoes. She was in nursing school when Elvis was blasting on to the scene in the 1950’s. All the young nurses on the night shift stopped what they were doing to watch Elvis Presley perform Blue Suede Shoes on the Ed Sullivan show. The matron in charge (because unmarried young ladies needed a chaperone in those days)that night sneered “He’s nothing but a passing fad” but those nurses did not and could not tear themselves away from the tv, even though their innocence was being corrupted right before the matron’s very eyes and they drank in the spectacle of young Elvis dancing in a very suggestive fashion. 60 years later I guess we can say the matron and all the skeptical parents of the day are on the wrong side of history. Shirley tells this story was a mischievious glint in her eye and always finishes with ” I wonder where THAT matron is now. Probably dead!” in a deeply satisfied way. Shirley is an essential and wonderful part of my Tuesday afternoons.

Sascha, 2018

Here’s Sascha. He tells me about his homemade go kart every week. He tinkers with it and races it with his friends. Sometimes he races out the door after his lesson to his go kart and buddies and I feel quite a pang of envy and happiness. It’s wonderful to meet a kid who has a fun, uncomplicated life not jammed solid with scheduled activities and pressure to be the best and win all the time. A funny thing about Sascha is sometimes he is covered in dirt during his lesson. I love this too. He plays hard and has the freedom to do it. This freedom and happy energy seeps into his piano playing and curiosity about music, which is immense and a pleasure to nurture.

Piano Lessons End Of Term Newsletter 2018

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

It’s that time of year when I must ask you all what your intentions are regarding piano lessons for the summer and upcoming school year in September 2018. There are three options –

finish up lessons at the end of June,

take a break for July and August and resume in September, or

book summer lessons with a somewhat relaxed schedule i.e. just for July, every second week, around our vacation schedules, etc.

If you want to take the summer off, I ask for a non-refundable deposit in the amount one month (4 weeks) of lessons to be paid at the last lesson in June. A postdated cheque for September or e-transfer is fine. I apply the deposit to September lessons , but if you change your mind about continuing lessons this deposit is non-refundable.

If you have a young child taking introductory lessons (less than 45 minutes) who is going into grade two in September, it is time to transition them to a full lesson of 45 minutes. Hopefully I can see these students a few times over the summer to implement this transition.

Also, I must tell you that I am not sure of my teaching availability for this coming September. My studies at SFU have progressed to the point where I can no longer organize my classes around my teaching days. My remaining classes are required core courses for my diploma and I will need to schedule teaching around those courses. At this point I know I will have to be in school 2 days a week, either Mon/Wed or Tues/Thurs. I am hoping to teach at least three days a week on days I’m not in school. Of course I will let all of you know what days those will be as soon as possible.

Thank you all for another great year of music study. I have learned so much from you and your children, really. About teaching, about listening, and about life. And thank you for a great and wonderful Spring Concert! I hope to see you all again in September and during the summer too if possible.



Piano Recital Details!

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
Our Summer Piano Concert takes place this Saturday May 26 at 2:30pm. The location is Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy in North Vancouver (Mtn Hwy @ 17th). I will be there by 2:00 to set up. Students can come early to try out the piano before we start if they want. Dress code is ‘church appropriate’. Please put a bookmark in your music book for your songs, and tape duet pages together. The church is booked for several events that day so unfortunately we won’t be able to linger afterwards for refreshments. I anticipate the concert will last about 45 minutes, maybe less.

I’ve rehearsed the recital procedure with most students this week; here’s the information again to go over with your child if necessary:
– I will call the student’s name and introduce them and their songs to the audience. When you hear your name, start walking down the aisle to the piano. Bring your music books and duet sheet music.

– seat yourself at the piano bench. I will adjust the bench for the smaller students.

– open your book to your solo piece (even if you have it memorized)

– take your time to find your starting notes and set your hand position.

– when you are ready, begin your solo!

– after your solo, everyone will clap. Then I will join you at the piano bench for your duet.

– Find your starting notes and hand position. I will “count us in” softly and then we play our duet!

– everyone will clap again. Gather up your music book and duet sheet music.

– take a brief pause for a smile to your family when you face the audience. A bow or curtsy is also ok, if you want.

– walk back down the aisle and rejoin your family. You did it! Whew! Now you can relax:)

Right after the concert, I would like to take a group photo of all the students. I’d also like to give each student a handwritten card and take an individual picture with them. Please stick around for a few minutes afterward for this if you are able.

About mistakes: if you make a little mistake right at the beginning and would like to restart, go ahead. If you make a mistake in the middle or near the end, just keep going. I will come and sit with you on the piano bench and help you find your place in the music if you get really lost. Mistakes are not a big deal – it’s part of performing. How you handle the mistakes is what’s important. You must be brave, stay calm, and keep going. I find most student performances are about 90% good, that’s just fine by me. Let’s celebrate the 90% good and not worry about the small number of wrong notes that might occur.

Program (let me know if you need a change)

Alison Maira – Ain’t Misbehavin’
Maya Whiteley – Growing Up
Danica Yardley – solo: Rockets, duet: Quiet River
Emiko Whiteley – solo: Summer Evenings, duet: Painted Rocking Horse
Leo Acob – solo: Take Me Out To The Ballgame, duet: Purple People Eater
Sascha Yardley – solo: When The Saints Go Marching In, duet: Morning
Ella Panton- solo: Penguin Heat Wave, duet: This Land Is Your Land
Aidan Chernenkoff – solo: The Scientist, duet: Imperial March
Nikita Yardley – solo: Mad Mad World, duet: Do-Re-Mi
Evan Panton – solo: Star Wars Main Theme, duet: Air
Rebecca Knowles – duet: Rockin Robin, solo: Stay
Sharlene Hertz – solo: Arkansas Traveller, duet: Rock Around The Clock

Thanks for reading. Looking forward to seeing all your shining faces on Saturday afternoon!



What Time Is It? It’s Piano Concert Time!

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
Our annual Piano Concert will take place

Saturday May 26, 2:30-3:15pm
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church
1700 Mountain Highway, North Vancouver
Refreshments to follow in church Sanctuary

Church appropriate dress, please.

Students will prepare a solo piece and duet to perform at the concert and/or performance video, which I will be filming the week before the concert.

Parents, grandparents, friends and family are all invited to attend.

Please let me know if you/your child will perform at the recital. This is a performance opportunity, not an obligation. Students who do not feel comfortable performing are not required to. However, there is a lot to be gained from the experience of pushing slightly past one’s comfort zone. The audience will be supportive and very friendly. It’s a good safe place to challenge yourself/child in this way.

I’ll bring some juice and cookies for us to have afterward if it looks like enough people can attend.

This is a good time to start going through repertoire and choosing some favorite solo pieces to polish and prepare for May 26. It’s best to have a few possibilities to choose from as the concert gets closer. I will help students prepare their duets starting next week.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!
Thanks for reading,

New Performance Videos! Rebecca, solo transcription

Here’s Rebecca with her transcription (learning by ear) of Mercy by Shawn Mendes. It was a lot of work, and she sounds great! Rebecca was a much better piano player after finishing this project, which she saw through to the very end. Nice job, young lady.

Beginning Of Term Newsletter 2017/18

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
Happy New School Year! Welcome back to all of us. It’s been a lovely summer of teaching, learning, and even a little bit of relaxing for me. I hope all of you have had some time together with your loved ones, some adventures, and some relaxation. I’m excited to see you all again, to work and study with you as we immerse ourselves in that amazing, beautiful mystery that is music. Whether you are a beginner just learning how to read notes or an advanced student studying for exams, we will have much to learn from each other – the mechanics of music yes, but more than that too. How to persevere, how to try hard, how to bravely explore new ideas, how to not be afraid of mistakes or let them stop you from learning and succeeding.
This year there will be no lessons during the first week of school, to let everyone get used to their new routines, myself included. My little girl is off to kindergarten and I am continuing my full time studies at SFU in education, child development and psychology. I will be sending out invoices for September lessons this week and regular lessons will commence the week of Mon. Sept. 11.
During this coming week, it would be very helpful if you could design a practice schedule, for your student or yourself. I recommend a minimum of four sessions every week. Young students ages 5-6 can do 15 minutes, ages 7-9 should be doing 20-25 minute practice sessions ages 10 and up should be doing at least 30 minutes every session, adults at least 45 minutes. I find that if piano practice time is built into the family calendar it helps students establish a good, effective practice routine that will result in steady progress, fun comfortable lessons, and better retention of the material. It also can cut down on negotiation, whining and nagging about practice ;) It would be great if all my students could look over their last piano practice assignment and start practicing the items on their list so they are not quite so rusty when we meet next week.
If you have any questions about how to practice or my lesson plans please feel free to contact me.
See you all next week!

Summer Piano Lessons

Hello piano enthusiasts ages 7 – 100!
May I suggest that the lazy days of summer are actually quite a lovely time to fall in love with the piano? There is something pretty great about picking out the notes to a new song (or one that you love already) with the help of an experienced, qualified, tremendously enthusiastic teacher who applauds your efforts, giggles with you at your missed attempts, and guides you gently but firmly along a fascinating path of study, practice, puzzle solving and project completion. While the sun softly shines and a gentle breeze wafts through an open window, and you can look forward to running through the sprinkler later on. Depending on your age I guess, but sprinkler running is for everyone in my opinion.
The teacher in question is me. The student in question could be you! Or your child, or maybe your retired mom or dad who has always wanted to play the piano and only now has the time and opportunity to do it.
Weekly lessons are not mandatory during the summer (but they are beneficial. Not going to lie)You could try a lesson every two weeks, or work around your vacation schedule. With some effort and determination you will be amazed at how much you can progress.

For more information, please check out my website. You can contact me through the website, via facebook, or email

Piano Recital Cancelled

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
It is with considerable regret and after much consideration I have decided to cancel our Summer Piano Concert scheduled for Saturday June 17 2017. As some of you know, my dad had a major setback following his bike accident at the beginning of April. He is now at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, recovering from three emergency neurosurgeries. He is healing, but fragile. The road back to health is long and uncertain. My husband and I, my sisters and their partners will be travelling to Kamloops on the weekends to be with him for the foreseeable future.
Thank you all for your understanding,

Alison Maira
B. Mus, Jazz Studies & Music Education
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
BCMEA – BC Music Educators Assn.
The Mobile Piano Geek:

Piano Lessons End Of Term Newsletter

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

Here we are at the end of another year of teaching and learning! As always, I have learned a lot. About piano, about music, and about life. I hope you and your children have too. Now is the time of year when I must ask you all to declare your piano lesson intentions.

There are three options:

– continue with lessons during the summer,

– stop for the summer but resume in September, or

– give notice that you are terminating your lessons at the end of June.
For summer lessons: scheduling is a somewhat casual affair. Simply ask for the times and dates you would like (my availability is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday  11:30am-7:30pm. You can keep your regular time slot if you like. I will invoice you for all the lessons you have booked for July and August, with payment required up front before July lessons begin. We proceed as normal, except there are no make-up lessons for summer cancellations. Please let me know if you wish to continue with your current time slot when regular weekly lessons resume in September.
For taking a summer break from lessons: I require a non-refundable deposit to reserve your current time slot. This is in the form of a postdated cheque for the amount of September lessons. If you continue in September, the deposit is applied to September lessons. If you change your mind about continuing, the deposit is not refunded.


Thank you all for trusting me to help you or your children learn and grow at the piano.  See you all this week, and happy practicing!



Recital! Recital! Recital!


Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

Our annual Summer Piano Concert will take place on Saturday June 17 at 1:00 pm. The location is Mount Olivet Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy, North Vancouver. I invite all of my students to seize this performance opportunity! And please bring your family and friends. Everyone is welcome. Students should go through their 2017 learned repertoire, choose their best solo and duet, and prepare it for their lesson this week so they will have plenty of time to polish their selections and get really comfortable with them. Performing is exciting and exhilarating if you are prepared. Performing is terrifying and a unique form of dreadful torture if you are not prepared. I’m just sayin. As an experienced teacher and performer. 

     Students can arrive early at the church to warm up on the grand piano. Church appropriate attire please. Please rsvp to me by June 13. 

     Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing all your shining faces on June 17th.


Sharlene, Duet and Solo

Sharlene is one of my Wednesday afternoon ladies. She is a model student, practicing diligently every week and trying her hand at many different genres.

Shirley, Duet and Solo

Another adult student who is a real pleasure to teach. This year Shirley has been studying Nat King Cole, and more recently, The Beatles. Shirley’s choice of repertoire always puts me in a good mood. You just can’t be miserable and play smooth, beautiful pop standards like Mona Lisa, L-O-V-E, and Michelle every week.

Mo, Duet and Solo

This is Mo’s most recent duet and solo. I love the small, satisfied smile at the end of My Heart Will Go On. Adult students are the bomb!

Emiko, Duet and Solo

Here’s Emiko! She recently passed into Level 2, which means playing hands together, using a metronome, and playing duets with me every week. She is a funny little jokester who loves borrowing my highlghters and highlighting everything in sight on all her songs.


Maya is the youngest student I teach right now at just 5 years old. She has a 15 minute lesson after her big sister and learns one little song every week. She loves putting putting stickers on the songs she has mastered!

Rebecca, Duet and Solo


Here’s Rebecca! Currently she is working on a transcription of ‘Mercy’ by Shawn Mendes. She is also a hockey and soccer kid, and I’m always impressed she finds the time to practice. 45 minutes with Rebecca always flies by and we work and learn hard from the time we sit down at the piano until I must dash away to my next lesson.

Ella, Duet and Solo

Here is Ella, progressing beautifully, playing hands together with a steady beat and a ton of confidence and determination. She devours a lot of material every week and often does more, goes beyond, and adds more complexity than I ask for if she masters her assignment with time to spare before her next lesson.

Featured Student, Evan

Evan is a very interesting, funny, and smart person to spend 45 minutes every Wednesday evening with. He likes to memorize his songs, a wonderful skill that is hard to come by for many. As we go along and the material gets more complex, there are more elements to memorize (dynamics, tempo changes, form) and he is always up for the challenge. He is currently working on Raider’s March by John Williams, the theme from Raiders of The Lost Ark, a piece of music that is considerably more complex than all of his other assigned material. I love it when a student chooses to take on something more difficult than what I would have chosen for them. It shows real confidence and a high level of engagement with the material. Once you discover John Williams, it’s hard to step away! That man has composed an enormous catalog of thrilling, fantastic, very famous music. Accordingly, Evan’s next piece of chosen repertoire is likely to be a transcription of Imperial Death March from Star Wars and I for one am looking forward to humming it every week as I drive home after his lesson. Dum dum dum, dum de DUM, dum de DUM…

Leo, Duet and Solo

Here’s Leo! Currently we are working on a transcription of “Can’t Slow Down” by Hedley. He’s got the right hand melody down very well, and he can sing all the words. I have him to thank for adding a Hedley song to my Guilty Pleasures playlist, and hell didn’t even have to freeze over. Live and learn, people. Live and learn.

Aidan, Duet and Solo

Aidan is such a pleasure to teach. Every week it seems like he listens more carefully, exerts a bigger effort, and fearlessly tries new things without complaint.

Sarah, Grade 1 Exam Pieces

Here is Sarah, playing two of her pieces that she prepared for her Royal Conservatory Grade 1 exam. The first one is called Mist, and the next is called Andante In G Minor. Sarah’s piano skills grew and improved a tremendous amount during her exam preparations. She has set her sights high and is currently studying for her Grade 3 exam.

Thanks For A Great Recital & Other Things

Dear Lovely Parents and Students,
Thank you for a great winter recital! We were a small but enthusiastic group. As I mentioned during the concert, this was my last Winter Recital. I’ve recently started school and am studying Developmental Psychology and Counselling at Simon Fraser University here in Vancouver. Life has gotten a lot more busy, and while it is my hope that I can maintain my teaching practice during my studies, I will be cutting back to one recital a year, a summer concert in June.
I am now uploading student performance videos, featuring a solo and duet from each student. You can find your videos in the “Most Recent” section of my website, as well as in “Current Students”, which is organized by student’s name. There are lots of lovely performances to be enjoyed!
Speaking of students, I have one lesson time available for an adult student and one lesson time available for a school age student. If you or someone you love is interested in learning how to play the piano, feel free to pass along my contact information.

Winter Piano Recital 2017!

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful relaxing break. Now we are all back in our various saddles of work and school and it is that special time once again when all my delightful piano students enthusiastically prepare two pieces, one solo and one duet, for our semi-annual performances.This week I will be asking all my students to choose their two songs for a performance video, to be filmed the week of the concert (2 weeks from now) which will be posted on my Mobile Piano Geek twitter and facebook page, website and youtube channel. In addition I encourage all my students to attend or participate in the upcoming live concert!

The Details:
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy, North Vancouver
Saturday January 21

Grandparents, extended family, and friends are invited too.
Please let me know if you or your child will be participating. If you don’t feel comfortable with performing, you are still more than welcome to attend and enjoy.
I will send out a program as soon as I know how many will be performing.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

If Your New Year’s Resolution Is To Try New Things…

As of January 4 2017 I have one lesson time available, Wednesday afternoon 3:30-4:15pm.

If you live in North Vancouver and have always wondered, “What would it be like if a cheerful, skilled, sensitive, intelligent, and extremely modest piano teacher with 10+ years teaching experience came to my house once a week to impart exciting musical knowledge and guide me in a new adventure of learning to play my favorite songs on the piano IN ADDITION to being introduced to hitherto unknown elements of musical style and genre that would vastly expand my horizons as a human being?” then I have good news for you: the answer to your question is,” It’s pretty fun and interesting and you can get started by contacting me to set up a few lessons to try it out”. For yourself or that child you love so much and want to best experiences for.

Perfect Practice

I know, I know. Practice makes perfect, not the other way around. Here are (more) of my thoughts on how to maximize your investment in piano lessons, for you or your child.
The Perfect Practice Session: By Alison Maira

You need a digital keyboard with full size weighted keys, or acoustic piano that has been tuned and maintained within the last year.

You need a comfortable bench at the correct height for your size. When resting your curved fingers and slightly rounded wrists on the white keys in the middle of the piano your arms should come out at slightly less than 90 degree angle. Your shoulders should be relaxed but your back is tall and straight (but not straining to be so) Exaggerated wrist bend or straight arms = too close or too far away from the piano.

You need a footrest if your feet cannot rest comfortably flat on the floor. Additionally, it is very difficult for a child to maintain focus during their piano practice if their feet are dangling in the air. Feet resting flat and still increases focus and creates what I call your “dance space” – a solid unit of good posture, healthy finger, wrist and hand position, feet grounded and comfortable. This consistent and solid foundation allows for a lot of expressive body movement while playing, which many good piano players engage in BUT their dance space remains a solid unit from which the movement flows. The arm, hand, wrist, finger, elbows, shoulders, back, and feet move as one beautiful unit. Motion is typically generated from from the hips while seated on the bench. The dance space can move to the right or left and real power comes straight down from the shoulders and a slight lean forward from the trunk.

You need a good light on or near your piano. It is not fun and too difficult to practice when you can’t really see the keys or your sheet music. Just sayin’.

You need to follow your teacher’s instructions for every practice session. I have yet to meet a student who has memorized my practice instructions perfectly and has no need to refer to their assignment sheet or notes I have written on their sheet music. I have met plenty who take a glance, get it wrong, practice the wrong thing for a week or two, or three – and have to painfully un-learn the wrong thing and re-learn the correct one. Tremendously frustrating and completely preventable. One of those things that makes people think piano lessons are a drag and really stupid.

You need a reasonably quiet environment while practicing. Not church-like reverent silence, but a time and place when it is possible to carefully read the instructions, go though the assignment one item at a time, experiment without feeling self-conscious, and hopefully fall into the flow of relaxed concentration and the deep satisfaction of hearing yourself improve as you apply your best effort.

You need to gather your materials and have them ready when you begin. Metronome, assignment sheet, songbooks, tablet/phone/laptop for online ear training exercises, a sense of curiosity about what musical puzzles you will solve today, and a pleasant attitude. Like really there are worse things than learning how to practice and play a musical instrument, yes teenagers I am talking to you. I love you but sometimes your determination to be cool is not cool with me as it effectively torpedoes your potential to stretch out and truly achieve something better. Learning requires vulnerability and risk taking. I can promise you as your teacher that your sincere efforts will never be mocked or belittled by me. So have your damn metronome ready when you practice so there is no need for weak excuses about why you still can’t come in on the and of 2.

And that’s it. Good instrument, bench, footrest, light, some quiet, posture, hand position, follow the instructions, have all your stuff ready and be uncool enough to sincerely try. Voila, the prefect practice session. Repeat at least 4 times a week between lessons to see encouraging results and grow as a human being.

Teacher Seeks Student

I have one lesson time that has recently become available, if you or your child is interested in piano lessons and you live in North Vancouver. I would dearly love to meet another adult beginner or adult looking to regain lost piano knowledge, but luckily I like all kinds of people of all ages (as long as they are 7 or older. I like young children, but most are not ready for a 45 minute piano lesson) and would be happy to meet anyone who has a generally sunny outlook, enjoys listening to music, has some time to practice, and is even mildly fascinated with the piano. You provide the mild fascination and willingness to practice and I will provide the encouraging, calm instruction and clear directions you will need to become a well rounded, curious, note reading, expressive piano player with beautiful technique and exposure to many genres of music.
I also tell jokes, am a good listener, and enjoy giving enthusiastic praise for a job well done. Those are free services included in the price of a lesson. A fantastic deal!

Happy New Year!


The beginning of fall and back to school feels like a new year to me, much more than the beginning of January. New supplies, new students and a fresh beginning after a long, relaxing summer break. It’s a pretty good life. Every September I’m filled with optimism and energy. I look forward to seeing my students, seeing how they have changed over the summer and meeting new kids and adults trying piano for the very first time. Teachers and students, I wish for all of us that the enthusiasm that infuses us now will last until Christmas Break in December. That’s totally feasible, right?

Beginning Of Term Newsletter 2016

The Mobile Piano Geek: Fresh Piano Lessons Delivered To Your Door

Beginning of Term Newsletter 2016/17

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
Happy New Year! The beginning of fall and back to school always feels like a fresh new year to me. I am filled with optimism, determination, and lots of energy. I have attached my Studio Policies and Practice Tips 2016/17. Please read and go over them with your child if necessary. I have listed some important points from both sheets below:

Cancellations: Each student receives two free cancellations per school year. Please advise me when you would like to use your cancellation credits. No credits or refunds issued for subsequent cancellations. Make-up lessons: almost any cancelled lesson can be made up, but this is not required. I am available Saturday 3:00-3:45pm or 6:00-6:45pm for make-ups.

Practice Instructions: At every practice session, open the piano lessons binder. Go to the assignment sheet from your last lesson. Do everything on the list as many times it says (more is better) or for at least 5 or 10 minutes if you are at a higher level and number of times is not indicated. Set a timer for every session. If you reach the bottom of the list and time has not run out, start again at the top of the list or practice the item the item that was the most difficult again until the timer goes off.

Practice Schedule: I recommend drawing up a practice schedule for all students. It will help to alleviate the problems of procrastination and outraged protest every time the student is asked to practice. Please build it into your family routine so your child will get used to putting in the time necessary to improve and the expectation that piano practice is part of life.

Students ages 5-8 need supervision during their practice sessions. Someone to help them go through the instructions and work through each item, to keep them focussed, to know when to take a short break and re-engage.
Students ages 9-11 need someone to check their piano assignment at least once a week. Have the list ready and ask your child to show you every item and help them evaluate their progress.
Students ages 12+ benefit from a check of their assignment every couple of weeks and some sincere encouragement and specific praise when you hear them practicing well on their own.
Adult students: don’t be shy about showing your best friend or spouse what you’re working on in piano lessons. Consider showing them the same song at various stages while you’re learning it so they can hear your progress. It is often difficult to hear yourself getting better as the pace of improvement can be slow. Supportive friends and family can provide some encouraging feedback, which is so valuable when learning to play an instrument.

Practice Guidelines – all numbers are minimums. More is better if the student is willing.
Students ages 5-6 15 minutes, four times a week between lessons
Students ages 7-8 20 minutes, four times a week
Students ages 9-10 30 minutes four times a week
Students ages 11-12 30 minutes for piano assignment plus 10 minutes listening to music, four days a week
Students ages 13+ 60 minutes divided between repertoire, lesson book, technique, listening to music and experimenting at the piano

Playing For Fun:
Music is a glorious thing and it is an amazing gift to give your children or yourself. Usually your child’s piano assignment will not touch on the great emotional journey that music can be. It will be about sustained effort, delayed gratification, intellectual challenge, discipline, and if everything goes well, slow and steady progress. Sometimes practicing will feel like kind of a drag. It is very important to round out your or your child’s musical education by giving them the fun, easy side of music as well. Go see live concerts, have a dance party at home, try karaoke, play Rock Band (the video game), and encourage your children to mess around at the piano, with no pressure. Try to figure out some notes of a song you like. Write your own songs. At my house my four year old plays absolutely crazy “music” on the piano and I have to do an interpretive dance. This brings her great joy, and that is the point. Although I must admit my dancing skills are not coming along as well as I would like.

Thank you for reading! Please contact me with any questions or comments you may have. Don’t forget to get your pianos tuned!
Here’s to a great upcoming year of music study,

Rosie: Solo & Duet June 2016

Rosie plays a great version of ‘Haunted House’ for her solo and we had lots of fun perfecting this difficult duet, Pink Panther.

Mo: Solo June 2016

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Beatles made some serious music. But generally we don’t think of them in those terms because they were ‘pop’ and ‘rock n roll’ and had number one hits, all sterotypical indicators of ‘not serious’. That was part of their immense genius though. Disguising thoroughly challenging music (melodically, harmonically, structurally, lyrically) with irresistable catchiness and boyish sexiness. Here is Mo and her take on one of their most elegant pieces. A piece that seemed impenetrable a few weeks before I might add, but her usual unstoppable determination to study it and understand it paid off handsomely, as it always does.

Featured Student, Sharlene

Here is a practice version of Old Man River still in progress, having studied it for only one week.

I wish I had 10 Sharlenes to teach every week. She is an adult beginner, retired, always busy with piano practice, travelling, and spending time with her family and friends. Sharlene is a calm, gentle presence whose intelligence is greater than mine in many areas. When I asked her for a reference letter for my application package to the British Columbia Registered Music Teachers Association, I found out she has a Master’s degree in Adult Education and had an illustrous career in education, politics and government. In addition to raising two children and being married for 40 years. She had never mentioned any of this to me (except her children). It’s a wonderful thing to meet a person who is secure enough to not feel the need to remind you about their achievements all the time. This humility made me like her even more. I always look forward to teaching Sharlene, and I’m inspired every time I leave her house. She has said plenty of things in a casual offhanded manner that explode in my brain and reverberate for days.
Sharlene is the only adult student I teach who performs at my twice yearly piano recitals. There’s nothing wrong with not performing, which is what all of my other adult students choose. I understand the fear and anxiety that comes with performing and if you would rather not feel that and play the piano strictly for your own pleasure, I am with you. Sharlene dresses to the nines and often plays first. Her husband and her grown children and their spouses come to watch her. Their love for her is palpable. When she finshes her songs – she always plays perfectly – and sits down with them I think, that is a beautiful and complete group. A happy family who loves to support each other. I hope I have many more years of being with Sharlene every Tuesday afternoon, teaching and learning in equal measure

Rebecca: Solo and Duet June 2016

This is a very tricky duet to play perfectly. You really can’t mess around with The Beatles. Their music demands full awareness and concentration. How nice that it is also melodic, catchy, and emotional.

Colleen June 2016

Here she is playing Paper Moon hands together, progressing beautifully.


End Of Term Newsletter 2016

Dear Lovely Parents and Students,
Another year of music study is winding down. I’ve learned a lot from you and your kids. One of my goals this year was to unashamedly teach with love and find the method of encouragement that worked the best for each individual. I don’t know everything about teaching and learning, but I have observed over the years that students learn better when the lesson is delivered with love, humor, a rock solid foundation of support and a side of don’t mess with me. My standards and expectations are high, and I know students respond positively to that as well. Finding that sweet spot of expectation that is higher than they are used to yet not too high that it seems impossible is a dance I am constantly learning, practicing, and perfecting. Thank you for being part of this fascinating journey with me.
Now is the time of year when I must ask you all to declare your piano lesson intentions. There are three options: continue with lessons during the summer, stop for the summer but resume in September, or give notice that you are terminating your lessons at the end of June.
For summer lessons: scheduling is a somewhat casual affair. Simply ask for the times and dates you would like (my hours are Tu-We-Th 3:30-7:30pm, Sat. 3:30-6:30pm). You can keep your regular time slot if you like. I will invoice you for all the lessons you have booked for July and August. Summer lessons are pre-paid up front for the whole summer. We proceed as normal, except there are no make-up lessons for summer cancellations. Please let me know if you wish to continue with your current time slot when regular weekly lessons resume in September.
For taking a summer break from lessons: I require a non-refundable deposit to reserve your current time slot. This is in the form of a postdated cheque for the amount of September lessons. If you continue in September, the deposit is applied to September lessons. If you change your mind about continuing, the deposit is not refunded.
I hope to see all of you at least a little bit over the summer. Like most teachers, I am in favor of year round learning. Summer lessons are an excellent way to prevent forgetting and losing the skills students have worked so hard to attain during the school year and avoids completely the frustration of weeks and months of review in September, knowing that you used to be able to do this but can’t anymore and there is hours and hours of re-learning ahead of you. On the other hand, I take a certain satisfaction in whipping students back into shape after a long break…so it’s kind of a win either way:)
I will be posting the most recent performance videos soon on my website and social media. Please share with family and friends. They are a reassuring yardstick of your or your child’s growth and progress in their study of music, something to be celebrated in this world where minimum effort and mediocrity is the norm.
Thank you for reading. Looking forward to seeing everyone this week.

Summer Piano Recital June 11 2016

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

Just a reminder that our annual Summer Piano Recital will take place Saturday June 11 at 1:00pm.  The location is Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy in North Vancouver. Please RSVP to me regarding your child’s attendance if you have not already done so. As soon as I have the performers confirmed I will send out a program. Everyone is welcome. Feel free to invite all the siblings, parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors you want. I anticipate a short concert, probably about 30 minutes. My adult students are too shy to perform and so we will enjoy an intimate concert with a small collection of very brave kids of all ages:)

Students can arrive early and try out the grand piano at the church if they like. It can be difficult to perform in front of an audience on a piano that is totally unfamiliar. A short run-through can help alleviate pre-performance jitters.

Please make sure students dress appropriately for a performance in church. And don’t forget your music books, even if your song is memorized!

Looking forward to seeing you all there:)



Alison Maira
B. Mus, Jazz Studies & Music Education
BCRMTA – BC Registered Music Teachers Assn.
BCMEA – BC Music Educators Assn.

All The Clubs That Will Have Me

Well this is very interesting. Very, very slowly over the past 8 months or so I have been researching and joining music education professional associations with the vague notion that this will test my bureaucratic tolerance for jumping through hoops and force my brain to consider a little more than the day to day of being home with a 4 year old, cooking, cleaning, laundry – always the laundry – errands, appointments, and teaching beginner piano. All worthy things to do with my time of course. My homemade muffins, soup, and bread have evolved into tasty and delicious treats instead of punishments and my 4 year old is happy, smart, sweet and funny.
My paper trail started with submitting all of my degrees and diplomas, starting way, way back in the previous century with my first foray into music school. Selkirk College was a fantastic experience and obtaining my diploma only whetted my curiosity about music and made me desperate to learn more, do more, get better, study harder.


so I successfully auditioned for Capilano University, obtained another diploma and kept going for a Bachelor of Music Degree, Education Major


all of these pieces of paper I had not seen in many years and along the way there were several moves and a legal name change. But I kept going, slowly, writing emails to various school records departments, and paying money, lots of money, for my carelessness and lack of organization.

With all my little duck shaped pieces of paper in a row, I applied for membership to the BC Music Educators Association which is a Provincial Specialist Association of the BC Teacher’s Federation. They took me, and that let me into the Canadian Music Educator’s Association as well. Emboldened, I set my sights on the BC Registered Music Teacher’s Association which is a quasi regulatory body for private music teachers. I had to submit reference letters for this one. It’s a hard thing to ask for (at least for me) but I did and had the unexpected side benefit of reconnecting with former students and their parents, leading to several really fun coffeeshop visits to pick up letters that left me thinking, it’s so rewarding to proactively seek connection with fellow human beings. Why don’t I do that more often?
Anyway, after more deadlines to meet and more money to pay I got this in the mail

A heartfelt thank you to Sharlene Hertz, Shannon Halkett, Andrea Finch, Ian McDougall, and Danine Griffin for your kind and effusive letters on my behalf. I could not have done all this without your generous help.

I now have my two diplomas, one degree, and three membership certificates within arm’s reach (well I don’t sleep with them next to me or anything) and now…I told myself after that was all done I would start looking into going back to school…here we are. I sort of didn’t think I’d make it this far but I did. And I’ve told way too many people that school is in my plans to stop now. So although I feel quite reluctant to screw up my pretty comfortable life with deadlines and submissions and hunting down transcripts that is now on the agenda. It’s not that I’m unhappy with what I do, it’s that I want to do more. And I need some good teachers to inspire me and show me how to be a better teacher, helper, and human being. So I’m currently combing through Maclean’s university rankings and trying to envision myself in a classroom, 15 years older than all the other kids. Bleah. I think I will slowly, very slowly keep moving forward on this – I have a year and a half before my little one goes to kindergarten, which I think is a good time for me to going somewhere educational too. Hopefully we will both embrace learning, new places, and new people with the same enthusiasm.

Featured Student, Aidan

Aidan started lessons this past September and every week I am impressed with his progress, his enthusiasm for learning new songs, and his excellent questions. He is the only 7 year old I know who is fascinated with comparing and contrasting composers within the socio-economic-political context of their life and times. He looks ahead in his lesson books, which I encourage all my students to do, and his guesses at how to proceed with new material are easily 75% right and this margin is growing from week to week. One of the things I love most about being a teacher is giving truthful, positive feedback and compliments that are well deserved. Every week I have opportunities to tell Aidan that he is a good listener, a great learner, very intelligent (especially about music), that his pieces are sounding better and better, and that it is a pleasure to teach him. He loves to hear all this stuff – I can tell by the way he listens carefully, head down looking at the keys with a little smile on his face – and I never get tired of saying it. It emboldens him to try harder and set higher expectations for himself. And so we attain a virtuous circle of learning, reinforcement, confidence, and the desire to do more and make it better. Sounds easy and fantastic but it doesn’t happen with everyone and it’s often very hard to achieve this virtuous circle. Aidan helps me appreciate the virtuous circle and renews my efforts to bring that to all my students.

Sarah: Solo & Duet, January 2016

For our most recent recital Sarah put together two short solo pieces to make a larger one. Today the kids call that a mashup. Older people will know it as a medley. Either way it’s fun and fascinating to watch a student create something new by combining old ideas.

Mo: Solo & Duet, January 2016

Quite often when I post current student performance videos I end up comparing them to older ones of the same student and it sure is gratifying to see unmistakable fantastic progress during the elapsed time between videos. Mo always falls into that category.

Shirley: Duet, January 2016

This lady just turned 80. Yes she did. Still going strong with her diligent practice routine, careful adherence to instructions, and great ideas for repertoire to study.

Rosie: Solo & Duet, January 2016

It’s always fun to make some new videos with Rosie. This year we have played many challenging duets in genres from musical theatre to classical to folk to jazz. In her solo work she is gaining tons of proficiency with counting in compound time signatures.

Featured Student, Colleen

Colleen started lessons this past September with me as an adult beginner. When I met her I had an immediate sense of “this is my kind of lady!” and 6 months later I look forward to every Thursday afternoon I spend with her very much. That’s a really cool thing about adult students. When you click with somebody a rapport grows, and it’s almost like making a new friend. In fact I have been very fortunate with my adult students. Almost all of them I wish I could be friends with in real life outside of my professional relationship with them. Colleen falls into that category. It has brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction to witness her breakthroughs with the piano one by one. Memorizing notes, learning how to read rhythms, playing hands together, there are so many milestones (if the student and teacher understand each other) early on in studying an instrument. Colleen has also made me think deeply about the challenges adult beginner students have and how to effectively help people through these as a teacher. Listening is a big part of it I think. Reassurance, encouragement, and reminders that perfection is not what we’re striving for here. All of my adult students are highly accomplished professionals. In my observation the challenges they face in learning how to play the piano stem from struggling to reconcile being a beginner in this one area with their expertise in their professional (and home, and volunteer) lives. When you are accustomed to the feeling of competence and success and the tangible rewards associated with that it can be very disorienting to experience the struggles of being a beginner. Some adults find this intolerable and they quit early on. But not Colleen. I hope I can have the pleasure of teaching her and learning from her for years to come.

What I Do & Why I Do It: Application for BC Registered Music Teachers Assoc.

Warming up for my first recital after my little one was born.

Warming up for my first recital after my little one was born.

Recently I thought, I will join some professional associations this year. It was a decision based on several factors. I wanted to see if my brain had recovered at all from pregnancy, childbirth, baby/toddler care and housewifery. I wanted to expand my teaching practice and get better at proactively promoting my business. And quite frankly, I wanted to see if I could meet the challenge of bureaucracy and hoop jumping. I want to go back to school you see, and this seemed like a good way to test my tolerance for forms, tracking down pieces of paper from various institutions and assembling an application package.
Along the way I had to do some writing. Specifically, for the BCRMTA (BC Registered Music Teachers Association) a maximum 2 page statement describing my teaching practice and activities. This turned out to be a difficult yet satisfying task. For the first time in 10+ years of teaching I set down officially what I do, why I do it, and why I believe in my approach.

BCRMTA Application Written Statement Of Teaching Activities and Methods
Alison Maira, B. Mus.

Teaching Practice 2002-present
I am a piano teacher who does in-home lessons in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Vancouver, and North Burnaby. My music training is in jazz piano and music education. I graduated from Capilano University in 2002 with a B.Mus, Jazz Studies, Education Major. From 2002-2011 I performed and recorded in local bands (pop, indie rock, jazz, classic rock, original music, covers) playing piano, keyboard, organ, and singing while teaching piano full time to a roster of 38-41 students year round.
In 2012 I became a mother and cut back from full time to part time teaching hours. Since 2012 I have taught 12-14 students year round. Lessons are weekly, 45 minutes.
Here is what I consider most important for you to know about me and my teaching practice.

First Things First
Proper technique, note reading skills, ear training, flashcard drills, music theory, understanding music terminology and my personal favorite, playing in time with and without a metronome. These are the essentials for anyone studying an instrument. I design my lesson plans to address all of these elements.

It’s A Beautiful World Of Music Out There
And not just beautiful, of course. Fascinating, disturbing, confusing, exciting, inspiring, comforting, all the adjectives we have are not enough to describe music. For each person it’s a different key that unlocks the door to musical wonder. That is why I expose my students to many genres through their method books, the music I choose for them, and the music they choose for themselves. My goal is to help them discover their taste(s) in music and find sounds that move them. I have seen this happen many times and it is wonderful, to share in someone’s joy of discovering a new song they love and must play over and over again.

The Best Motivation Is Love
I ask my students to choose some of their own repertoire, from any genre. When my students study pieces they have chosen for themselves, their motivation to learn it is much stronger than for pieces I assign to them to address various musical elements. They learn more effectively and are more engaged if they have a say in what’s happening. Often the songs they choose have a higher difficulty level than material selected by me. Yet they eagerly push through the new concepts, master them determinedly, and improve in great leaps and bounds simply because they are playing something they care about.

The Big Picture
I teach beginner, intermediate and advanced piano to children, teenagers, and middle aged adults. I teach piano because it is the conduit through which I can express, explore (and hopefully instill in my students) my fascination with music. I believe in music and its power: to inspire, heal, comfort, inform, and challenge all of us.
Through a great deal of hard work I have made a small career of playing and teaching music. I trained in a very competitive environment and am well aware of what it takes to get to the highest level and then keep improving. My work is not with the small number of elite students who will become professional players. It is with the vast majority of humanity, whose brains are hardwired to respond to music. It is our birthright as a species to be rhythmic and melodic. As more research is published every year detailing the incredible benefits of music making for our physical, mental, and social health as well as music’s ability to heal and alleviate so many painful conditions, teaching everyday people how to play the piano as well as they possibly can is important work I am proud to do. My work not only has a positive impact now on my students, but will continue to throughout their lives as long as they continue to play piano and/or listen to music.

Featured Student, Leo

Leo started piano lessons this past September. It’s a real pleasure to start from the very beginning with a sweet, smart little human. Recently we have completed a big project, learning the melody for Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams and playing it on the piano while singing the words. Leo’s dad wrote out the lyrics some manuscript paper and I helped Leo figure out every single note and write its name below the lyrics. At first it was mostly me transcribing the notes, but Leo caught on quickly and instinctively absorbed the key and tonal centre and was soon dictating 4 bars at a time of melody notes that we worked feverishly to set down in the heat of battle. This is all pretty impressive for a six year old person.
One day during this project we had a great conversation. Leo had been studying the lyrics and listening to the song between lessons. I sat down beside him one Wednesday afternoon and unpacked my bag of tricks while he fired off questions.
” What is a summer of 69?”
” It means the songwriter is telling a story about the summer of 1969, which was a long time ago, like 46 years ago”
” What’s a real six string?”
” He’s talking about a guitar. The very first guitar he ever bought.”
” Why do his fingers bleed?”
” He loved his new guitar and played it so much his fingers started to bleed because they were not used to the sharp feeling of the strings”.
“Wow. And then he played in a band?”
“Yeah, with some guys from school. They tried really hard”.
“What happened with his band?”
“Well, Jimmy quit and Jody got married.”
“Oh. That’s sad. No band for him.”
“Yes it is, but it was the best time of his life.”
“That’s good. What is he doing now?”

What is the guy from Summer of 69 doing these days? He would be in his 60’s now. Is he happily retired with an armful of kids and grandkids? Or is he drinking himself to death slowly in front of a flickering tv of late night infomercials? Does he still pull out the old six string once in a while? I’d like to think he does.
I wish I had taken a picture of Leo’s manuscript paper, which says SUMMER OF 69 at the top and right underneath that “By Bryan Adams and LEO”. Here is he playing the songs he learned for our recent piano recital, at which I played and sang Summer of 69, which introduced him this song in the first place. You just never know what is going to stick in a kid’s brain.

Best Of 2015 Part 1

Best of 2014, Part 1

Winter 2016 Concert Details

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

Here are the details for our upcoming Piano Recital Winter 2016

Saturday January 9, 1:00-1:45pm
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy North Vancouver
Church appropriate attire please.

This is a performance opportunity, not a performance obligation. If you or your child change their mind about performing after arriving at the concert it’s not a problem. Please let me know and I will adjust the program accordingly. I encourage all of my students whether they are performing or not to attend the concert.

Family and friends are invited too. All are welcome.

Please practice your recital pieces over the holidays:)

I will email a program a couple of days before the concert. And hopefully remember how to spell everyone’s last names.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Looking forward to seeing you all there.


Alison Maira

The Mobile Piano Geek

Recital! Winter 2016

Hello Lovely Students and Parents,
Well, it’s the end of the year already! I am once again pleased and very proud of all my students progress since September. People are learning how to read music, exploring new genres, increasing their tempos, mastering the metronome, transcribing songs by ear, and enthusiastically choosing their own repertoire that reflects their tastes and passions. You don’t have to tell me I’ve got a pretty great job here, helping all of this unfold.
To celebrate all of this wonderful-ness there will be a Winter Piano Recital on Saturday January 9 at 1:00pm at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy North Vancouver. I strongly encourage all of my students to perform. I will do the same. We are all in this together.
This week, before your next lesson, please choose (or have your child choose) one solo and one duet piece to prepare for January 9. It should be something you (or your child) know quite well already and enjoy playing. Regardless of whether you (or your child) will participate in the concert I ask that all students prepare two pieces twice a year if only for the satisfaction of meeting a challenge and playing two familiar songs very easily, even if it’s only in the privacy of your own home. I will be filming all of my students playing their performance pieces to post on my website. Please RSVP, by Jan 7. I beg of you.
Looking forward to seeing all of you one more time before Christmas break. Happy Practicing:)

Alison Maira

The Mobile Piano Geek

Featured Student, Sarah

Sarah has been studying piano with me for about the past 5 years. She has an enthusiasm and joy for music that is energizing to be around. When I am teaching Sarah and she is singing along with her right hand part because it’s so beautiful to her, I often wish I could teleport home to my piano and play for hours, to have lots of fun at the piano just like she does.
Sarah doesn’t discriminate with music. She falls in love with classical pieces, pop songs, jazz standards, and lullabies. Many times I have played a new piece for her and her eyes widen in surprised delight. ” Ooh, I LIKE that one!” she says breathlessly as the notes strike her ear for the first time.
This year Sarah is discovering her own practice strategies, which of course fills me with teacherly pride. I have long believed that practicing is much akin to puzzle solving. How do I put this song together? What steps are needed, in what order, to facilitate the magical transformation from disjointed segments to a unified whole? This process is different for every student of music.
As a teacher I can suggest strategies that work for me, others that my teachers have shown me, and create new ones that address the puzzle at hand for the student on the bench beside me. But there comes a time when the student, if they are to continue with their studies, has to devise their own puzzle solving practice devices. Things that work for that individual person. Nobody knows your brain better than you, I say to my students. You have to figure out how to put this information into your individual brain, in a way that makes sense and in a way that you can remember and draw upon. I can guide, suggest and critique, but I can’t put the information in there for you.
If I could, I’m pretty sure I would be the greatest piano teacher the world has ever seen.
But in the meantime I will look to Sarah for inspiration as she tries, struggles, and succeeds on her journey with music.

Piano Teacher’s Federation Feature Interview

Ah yes, here I am waxing sort of eloquently about my teaching philosophies and methods. Thank you to Laura Shorrt for filming this interview, and thank you also to Scott Pacey at Pacey’s Pianos for creating the coolness that is the Piano Teachers Federation. Giving my opinions about music and teaching (solicited, for once) was a lovely way to spend a Monday morning.

Click here to see my page at the Piano Teacher’s Federation.“Where Students and Piano Teachers Meet, a free service for students and teachers designed to promote piano music and playing”. We should all have more piano music and playing in our lives of course! (perhaps I am the teeniest bit biased here).

Now, the playing that you hear at the end is me messing around and warming up. I had a solid, pretty, thoughtful solo piano arrangement of Days Of Wine And Roses all ready to go. But it was my warmup that made it into the video much to my surprise. So you will hear a slightly too casual version of Don’t Panic by Coldplay. I can actually play and sing this song quite well…but that was not this day. Luckily, Coldplay songs sound beautiful on solo piano even in an imperfect rendition:)