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.
My lesson times for July and August are filling up fast, but I have some availability on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Weekly lessons are not mandatory during the summer (but they are benficial. 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 between now and September.

For more information, please check out my website. You can contact me through the website, via facebook, twitter, 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 Wednesdayday 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 have a time slot on Thursday evening 6:30-7:15pm. 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,

Featured Student, Ella

Ella started piano lessons about 5 months ago, at the tender age of only 5 years old. It’s been a few years since I taught a 5 year old and my policy of 7 years old minimum for new students came about for good reasons. Many good reasons, which involved yelling or fleeing the piano (them) and intense frustration masked as polite detachment (me). Not much can make me pound my steering wheel and yell curse words with the windows up as I drive to my next lesson, but a batch of lessons with a young child who was neither interested or ready or even capable of piano study did the trick every time.
The only exception I make to this rule is if someone under the age of 7 actively begs their parents for piano lessons and spends a lot of time messing around on the piano independently, with no pressure or prompting. Enter Miss Ella. Every lesson she vibrates with enthusiasm as she proudly shows me every item in her assignment, practiced meticulously – with the help and support of her parents, who I love, because they follow my practice instructions and help Ella work through her piano assignments. She has an enviable combination of natural talent, intelligence, good listening skills, and a willingness to try new things. And she really seems to love the piano. Our lessons fly by – I never have to cajole or insist – and that is a first for me in 12 years of teaching. I have never before taught a 5 year old a 45 minute lesson that seems to go by fast. This kid is going to be a beautiful pianist by the time she is 9 or 10 if she wants to be.

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: Solo & Duet, June 2016

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


and a nice duet of Sleeping Beauty Waltz

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.

Thank You For A Great Recital!

I had a small group of dedicated students turn out yesterday for a nice little piano concert. Everyone played two pieces, and there were lots of good solos and duets. I played solo jazz piano in public for the first time in about 5 years and although mildly terrifying – and I did not perfectly execute the solo break I had been working so hard on – in the words of my four year old and Daniel Tiger “You gotta try a new thing ’cause it might be good”.

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:)

Featured Student, Rebecca

I started teaching Rebecca when she was about 6 years old. For the last 5 years she (with her mom’s help) has been wonderfully consistent with her attendance to piano lessons. She continues her lessons throughout the summer and very rarely cancels during the school year. I know if Rebecca has another event that conflicts with piano lessons she and her mom will schedule a make-up lesson rather than miss a week of piano. This is pretty remarkable because Rebecca is a hockey kid. She gets up at an ungodly early hour at least twice a week for practices and games. She is the only girl on a boy’s team. She travels for games and tournaments. She does summer hockey camps. I have had very few hockey kids as piano students in my 12 year teaching career. It’s one of those activities that tends to crowd out everything else if you’re serious about it. Rebecca is a rare bird who is gifted athletically, academically, and creatively. She is also polite, friendly, and easy to teach. I often try and say something funny to her because I enjoy her snort and giggle combination, and I marvel that in addition to all her talents she has a sense of humor.
Rebecca is the only student I have ever taught that continued piano lessons with a broken arm. She was quite little, maybe 6 or 7 when it happened. Despite a large cast that extended past her elbow she managed to keep playing. She figured out how to position herself at the piano so that she could still play with both hands. I decided then, even though I hadn’t known her for very long that I would take her seriously and that this was a child to watch out for in 20 years. (Maybe less if she makes Team Canada for Women’s Olympic Hockey) I have a lot of respect for Rebecca because she knows how to combine hard work with her talents to take her where she wants to go, and because doing a really good job is important to her. She practices piano with dedication and her playing is expressive with good time and accuracy. She is also the only student I have taught who has performed a memorized 12 page long Coldplay song at a recital with no mistakes. Her fearlessness amazed me that day.
Every Wednesday Rebecca greets me at the door while holding on to her enormous dog Baden as he attempts to shake her off so he can knock me over while he kisses me to death. I always laugh to see this medium sized girl gamely attempt to subdue a much stronger more powerful creature than herself. She never gets cross with him and she never gives up. I love that about her. She reminds me that determination and a good attitude are an unbeatable combination in this life.

Featured Student, Shirley

Shirley has been taking piano lessons with me for about the last 9 years or so. She was not a complete beginner. She had taken piano lessons on and off with several teachers as an adult. I love this about her. She was a very busy person with a full time nursing career and a single mother to two daughters but she still never gave up on learning how to play the piano. I met her when she was retired and I was teaching her grandson, another very wonderful individual who deserves a separate blog post. For several years I taught Shirley, her grandson and her grandaughter. I got to know her daughter and son in law, her grandchildren, and Shirley herself through my weekly visits. I am still grateful for the time I shared with this family.
Shirley is my idea of a model student. She is retired, so she has time to practice. She diligently applies a strong effort to all of my assignments. She keeps an open mind and is willing to try new things. She persists when the material is complicated and unfamiliar, and we are both so pleased when once again she comes out the other side of it and can play something that seemed impossible a few weeks ago. She is kind, and wise. A few times I have stayed an extra half hour (when I don’t have another lesson right away, I am not a complete unprofessional moron) talking her ear off about my life and its problems at her back door with my shoes and jacket on while she listens and advises. When I was young I never thought about anyone over 40. Now in the last gasps of my fading youth I have a deepening appreciation for everyone over 70. I never expected as a piano teacher I would teach older adults in their retirement years, and I certainly never expected to love it. Many times I have said to my older adult students that I am learning as much from them as they are from me, and I definitely feel this way about Shirley. I tease her that she is the busiest retired person I know, with her travelling and going to the gym, helping out with her grandchildren, home renovations projects and busy social life. I’m glad she makes time for piano practice and lessons. My week would be far less bright without her.

Beginning Of Term Piano Lessons Newsletter Sept. 2015

The Mobile Piano Geek

Piano Lessons Newsletter
Beginning Of Term
September 2015

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
Here we are, at the beginning of another year of music study. For some of you, the first year of piano lessons. (How exciting!) I for one am refreshed and full of energy, ready to teach and learn with you all year long. Well, at least until December and winter break. Here is some information from the wonderful world of piano lessons I would like to share with you.

Piano lessons without consistent, effective practice results in a painful experience for student, teacher, and parents. A painful lesson experience leads to associating music study with frustration, boredom and resentment. This is the opposite of our intentions as teacher and parents, as music provides so many amazing benefits to a person’s physical, mental, and social health. I recommend building piano practice time into your family or personal calendar. This will address the problems of procrastination, ‘not enough time’ and negotiating every practice session with your child. Try building in at least 4 practice sessions every week. Some general guidelines I use are:
6 – 7 year olds 15 minute sessions
8 – 9 year olds 20 minute sessions
10 – 12 year olds 30 minute sessions
Teens and adults – 45 minute sessions with at least one longer session of 60 min + every week.
It’s also important to consider your practice set-up at home. A room at a reasonable temperature, a footstool for young children whose feet don’t yet reach the floor, a chair or bench at the right height, and a quiet environment free of distractions all go a long way in making a practice session feel comfortable and not something to be endured.
For more information, please see “Practice Tips For Beginners” at

Piano Maintenance:
Acoustic pianos should be tuned and inspected once a year. If it’s been longer than one year since your piano has been serviced, now is a good time to get it done. Electric keyboards do not need yearly maintenance but sometimes need to be cleaned by a technician when dust and dirt builds up inside them.

Each student receives two free cancellations per school year. Subsequent cancellations will not be credited or refunded. All cancellations can be rescheduled for a make-up lesson if the student desires. Contact me for availability.

This year I am adding ear training exercises and flashcard drills on a rotating basis throughout the month. Ear training is the skill of identifying specific pitches aurally, and flashcards reinforce music vocabulary.

Accepting New Students:
I have a time slot available for one new student. If you know of anyone who is interested in piano lessons please feel free to pass along my contact info.

Music Enrichment Activities:
Practicing a piano assignment for a weekly lesson is one part of a musical education. Here are some suggestions for additional activities:
– play for fun, just mess around at the piano.
– try to figure out familiar songs
– buy some sheet music and learn songs you like.
– go to concerts. Seeing music performed live can be so inspiring.
– listen to recordings
– watch videos of live performances on you tube
– research composers or songs you are studying. Youtube is a good option here as well.

I have posted more student performance videos on my website. You can find them by going to Current Students, and searching by student name. I started a Featured Student series this summer and will be posting another Duet Series soon.

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Thanks for reading!

Here We Go Again

It’s the first day of school. After a lovely, relatively lazy summer of teaching some casual lessons here and there it’s time to get back in the saddle. I’ll see all my students this week and many of them will not have touched their piano since June. Which I am okay with, by the way. If it works for your kid to have summers off and go outside and generally go crazy I support you 100%. I will have those little whippersnappers set up with a new practice routine and review assignments before they can say “Why you gotta be so strict and yet hilarious at the same time?!” I had a busy day yesterday – a busy week, actually, getting ready.

work table

My work space. All the essentials, netflix controller included.


New stickers. Got some new littles starting this year and I want them to enjoy collecting shiny things for a job well done.

new student binders

New student introductory packages. Everything you need to get started in the wonderful world of piano lessons, provided by your guide The Mobile Piano Geek.

new binders

Oh I am not messing around this year. The dollar store sells binders now and I have a deep need to organize. Technique worksheets, Duets, and Ear Training exercises are in the house. BAM. We’re gonna work on this stuff on a rotating basis every week and you’re gonna love it.

And there you have it. Happy New Year. I have two more duets binders and a transcription binder to make, I’m out. *drops mic*

Featured Student, Sylvie

Oh Sylvie. She is such a special person. I love the name Sylvie now – hadn’t heard it before I met her – only because this particular Sylvie is such a gem.
We’ve had hundreds of piano lessons together over the past 7 years or so. She was a sweet, smart, funny little girl and now she is a funny, smart young woman with a dry wit and a very well placed eye roll (never at me). Sylvie is one of the few students I have who listen fully to me without interruption and then tries exactly what I have asked her to do. Consequently, she has made real and impressive progress as a piano player over the years.
She always greets me with a smile and is ready to learn. She never complains about any of the repertoire I choose for her and I have always enjoyed teaching her the repertoire that she chooses for herself. She went through a year long Beatles phase when she was 9 or 10. Of all the students I have taught over the past 12 years, no one has learned more Beatles songs than Sylvie. And she is the youngest person to have done so in my teaching practice. In many ways, all you need are The Beatles to learn about music. What a fantastic world their body of work is. Sylvie reminded me of this and it was amazing to teach those songs to someone who was discovering them for the first time.
Now we have moved on to Taylor Swift and Ed Sheerhan. I knew their names of course, but sneeringly dismissed them as idiot music for idiots. (Why yes, I do have a teeny judgmental streak about music) I have Sylvie to thank for opening my ears to Taylor Swift. At first I hid my blossoming love for her like an illicit lover. But when Shake It Off came out and I got to teach it I was like, I love her. I do. I will eat my words about her being lame. I will go home and transcribe her songs and sing & play them with the zeal of the newly converted. Sylvie helped me realize that sharing a love for a certain artist is one of the most positive things that can happen between a teacher and student. It’s a rare opportunity to create a special bond that helps the teacher teach more passionately and the student learn more passionately. And that is a thin slice of heaven my friends, to teach and learn with passion. I am grateful I got to share those moments with Sylvie.

New! Saturday Flex Lesson Packages

Car Sign!

Are you (or your child) interested in beginning or continuing piano study but can’t commit to weekly lessons? Fear not, good people! Here is your solution. I am offering flexible lesson packages on Saturday afternoons.
I have three lesson times available on Saturdays. 3:30-4:15pm, 4:30-5:15pm, and 5:30-6:15pm. They are offered on a first come first served basis. Students can book one lesson at a time or as many as they like. No refunds for cancellations, but you can use your prepaid lesson as a credit for a future Saturday lesson. Lesson times might need to be adjusted depending on where you live, travel time, traffic, etc.
I teach in-home lessons in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, north Burnaby and Vancouver. For more details or to book your flex lessons please contact me at or 778 318 3916.


Thanks for the love!“I have had a great year and I have to confess, I am super pleased at how far I have come. I had a chance to sit down yesterday and I could play so many pieces I have learned this past year. what a grand experience and you are a superb teacher / facilitator / mentor / encourager and your knowledge is expansive.” -adult student June 2015

“I love all of this Alison! Thanks for being so thoughtful in this. Thank you again for putting so much time into our son on this! It’s way above and beyond the call, and we really appreciate it.” January 2015, regarding customized lesson plan.

“I love our sessions and it is with heavy heart that I must tell you that I have decided not to continue with piano lessons in the summer or in September. I am really hoping I will be able to pick it up again in a year and will see you if you can squeeze me in or put me on a wait list at that time. You are an amazing piano teacher and I’m very grateful for the lessons I’ve had to date and that I have been able to enjoy playing again as an adult.”
-adult student, June 2015

“Thanks, Alison.This is great feedback. Max is really enjoying the lessons, too. He wasn’t 100% sure if he wanted to continue with lessons when we spoke to him about it during the summer break but you have clearly managed to keep the fire burning. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate that. Our only real objective with lessons during all these years has been for him to learn to love music and that’s clearly happening thanks in no small part to you.” -September 2014

Hi Alison, It is me who should be thanking you for being such a talented and patient music teacher who inspires and engages my child each and every week.I have to tell you that when Emma was playing the other day I literally had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. That was definitely the best she has ever played and even her dad (not one who usually appreciates musical efforts) said how good she was. A huge thank you for helping her to accomplish this and always being so supportive and caring. Trust me, you are worth more than a million roses!
-June 2014

“Thanks Alison! Rebecca loves her lessons with you and not once, EVER, has she said that she doesn’t want to play”. -July 2013

Featured Student, Max

Max is one of those students who the thought of makes me smile. And shake my head a little, and then smile again. I first met Max when he was 7 years old. During our first lesson he jumped up and rolled under his piano bench, where apparently he intended to stay for the rest of the lesson. That was a first for me. I convinced him to come out and try playing a song. He was suspicious but agreed. I could see that Max was a very active child who needed to move a little while he learned. That’s ok with me. A lot of kids learn better while they’re moving. I could also see that he was very, very smart. His brain absorbed new information quickly and if he was interested, he was hungry to learn more more more. I made it my mission to make piano interesting for him, because it was so rewarding for both of us (I hoped) to devour new concepts and new material.
Now Max is 13. He has developed into one of the nicest teenagers I have ever spent time with. He’s still smart, and very funny, and one of those gems who spontaneously display polite good manners and respect when his parents are nowhere in sight. His enthusiasm at discovering new elements of music inspires me to fall in love with music and great artists and pieces all over again. I felt the way that Max does when I was his age. The thing I loved WAS THE BEST THING THAT HAD EVER OR WILL EVER EXIST. Sometimes I forget I used to feel that way. Max reminds me. I run with it and feed him whatever I can think of to kindle the fire of his sharp intelligence.
This year Max discovered the 12 bar blues and the basics of improvising. In this video he is playing a 12 bar blues chords in his left hand while improvising with his right hand using the blues scale, with a metronome. He feels the pulse in his body while he plays. He fairly vibrates with excitement. The combined elements of memorization, staying in time and spontaneously crafting a melody that uses only the notes of a specific scale pattern make for a challenging brain workout for a person of any age. He is the youngest person I have taught who can do this and I am looking forward to seeing what he will accomplish in the coming school year.

The Sweet Relief of Discovering Decent Children’s Music

As you may be aware, I’m the Mobile Piano Geek, your friendly neighborhood piano teacher bringing the joy of music and a cheerful sparkle to your very door once a week. That is a bit misleading my friends, as in reality I mostly stay home, parenting like crazy since my daughter was born 3 years ago. In this strange land of parenthood there is a lot of bad music. Very bad music. Bad music written ostensibly for children but with the unpreventable side effect of producing a curious mix of rage and boredom in parents who are incidentally exposed to it. Oh it just makes me so so mad! Probably because of my music training and love (and RESPECT) for music. These…people who just put out the shittiest crap imaginable. Horrible dumb lyrics and the worst ‘accompaniment’ made by casio synthesisers found at garage sales. They think kids are stupid and they think adults are stupid and won’t notice the shocking lack of musicality, effort, attention to detail. I can’t even name names because I snap off the music player with outraged disgust whenever we accidentally come across this dreck. Any parent of a pre-school child can think of a couple of examples right off the top of their heads. And when you think of those examples, they start playing over and over in your head. God damn those tortuous ear worms.
There’s a couple of ways to address this. Some parents who are music fans forgo kids music altogether and just listen to the stuff they like with their kids. I know some parents like this and it is really cute to see a toddler bob and weave to their favorite Bob Marley album or ask their Grammy “Do you have any Daft Punk?” when riding in the car. (No. No she did not.) Another option is to seek out music that is appealing to children (i.e. lyrical stories that kids can relate to, that help them understand their lives and the overwhelming world they struggle to find their place in) while also appealing to adults. Maybe ‘appeal’ is too strong a word. Perhaps not wanting to escape the rage/boredom through copious amounts of drugs and alcohol would suffice. Elmo’s World is bad but Elmo’s World on repeat while drunk would be worse than…I can’t even think of what would be worse than that. Maybe Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap when he goes off on the genius of The Guess Who and plays Takin Care Of Business AGAIN because he can… oh wait, that’s every episode of Vinyl Tap. MAYBE that would be worse.
Music is very important in the lives of young children. It helps them in so many ways. Language development, math comprehension, social development, cultivation of joy, fostering connection with caregivers, encouraging their bodies to be active through dancing – this will have to be a separate blog post, all the wonderful ways that music can enhance the lives infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers.
I have shamelessly used songs, dancing and listening to music as a mood changer for my little girl since she was born. She is far more likely to listen and follow instructions if the message is delivered in a silly song. Throw in a little improvised soft shoe and she’s up for anything. I get sick of the sound of my own voice sometimes though, no really I actually do. Recently I started checking CD’s out of the library to expand our musical horizons. And to my great relief, I have stumbled across some very fine music for kids. Right now we are enjoying The Might Be Giants, Here Come The 123’s. It came out in 2008 so I was completely unaware of it because in 2008 kids were pretty much the last thing on my mind and my imminent rock and roll success was the first.
There are a lot of good things about this record. It’s clever, catchy, the playing is top-notch and the songs are deliberately constructed with an ear to quality. It’s a good mix of textures, tempos, and styles. I also learned the mathematical definition of zero and infinity from it. I love how the songs can be taken on two different levels, one for kids and one for adults. One Everything for example, is delightfully catchy and easy to sing along with. It also describes the nature of the universe

There’s only one everything/ Remember these words/ There’s only one everything/ And if you go out and count up everything/ It all adds up to one

and asks some tough questions

What if you drew a giant circle/ What if it went around all there is/ Then would there still be such a thing as an outside/ And does that question even make any sense?

The bass playing on this song is fantastic too. Great, memorable lines and killer fills throughout.

Another element I appreciate about this record is the palpable warmth and good humor that all the lead vocals contain. Too many kids songs are sung by adults who are not infusing their vocals with love, with care and enthusiasm. I know that sounds silly, but love is a key ingredient in good music and it is a key ingredient when dealing with kids. The Number Two, a song sung from the perspective of a number two who used to be unhappy he was not number 1, contains silly, beautiful lines sung with such warm happiness that tears occasionally spring to my eyes when we listen.

Two hips for shakin’, two lips for kissin’/Too long I’ve been blue, because it’s you that I’m missin’/Two knees for kneelin’, two shoulders for shruggin’/Two cheeks to make a little grin while we’re huggin’

Our favorite song as a family on this album is without a doubt, High Five. My husband and I blasted this one with windows open, driving around doing errands with Elisabeth in the back in her carseat giving herself high fives. We have been known to listen to this one a few times in a row for living room family dance parties too. It’s disco, it’s got good horn lines, more tasty bass playing. It explains how to do a high five, the various kinds of high fives and, my favorite part, a comprehensive list of contexts in which a high five is warranted.

Sing this song! (High five!)/ Learn to swim! (Low five!)/ A superhero! (Slap me five!)/ Home run! (High five!)/ Finger paint! (Low five!)/ Count to ten! (Slap me five!) /Do it again! (Slap me five!)/ Now do it again! (Slap me five!)

The kids who sing the backgrounds on High Five sound SO HAPPY. I fancy that I can hear the ear splitting grins that were plastered on their faces while they were recording. Which brings me to the last element of this record that I enjoy, and that is the children who sing with TMBG. Many kids albums have kids singing on them, like a background chorus. I love the kids singing on Here Come The 123’s. These children often sound like they are on the verge of laughing from the sheer delight of singing such ridiculously funny songs. “Seven” contains a lot of this. When they sing the chorus “We want cake! Where’s our cake?” I burst out laughing almost every time. Delivered with such happy commitment, and something all kids would love to say but are not usually allowed to.
We’ve been listening to this record for a few weeks and it has not gotten old. It is absolutely educational and will teach a young child a lot about numbers, math concepts (adding, even & odd numbers) and grand ideas (the oneness of the universe, infinity).But it won’t make you want to bury your head in a pillow and howl in despair when your little one asks to listen to it for the second, third, fourth time that day. It will make you feel happy and bouncy, and like life is worth living. Highly recommended. Life is too short to listen to terrible children’s music. Seek out the good stuff, your sanity is worth preserving. You can find this record here, at the They Might Be Giants website, iTunes, or Amazon. Or at the library.

Featured Student, Emma

Emma is a person I have taught once a week for 10 years. That adds up to a lot of time alone together, just her and me doggedly solving one musical puzzle after another. I didn’t realize until our time was over that I watched her grow up, sitting beside me on her piano bench. Our routine never varied. I always sat on her right, the piano was always in the same place at the same angle. My chair was always the same. I never saw the rest of her house, only the living room where the piano was. I never saw her outside of piano lessons and recitals, although I hope to now that our teacher-student relationship has ended. I have friends who are 20 years older and I guess I’m old enough now to have friends 20 years younger.
Emma started piano lessons with me as a beginner when she was 6 years old. I gently pressed her teeny fingers one at a time into the keys until she learned how to control her fingers individually. Now she is a delightfully cool, sardonic, cynical, smart, kind, and funny young woman who controls all 10 of her fingers just fine without me, thank you very much. We have a common geek love of science fiction, particularly Star Trek.
“Kirk!” she foolishly insists.
“No way. Picard!” Obviously. Patrick oh swoon, although I’d rather not know he’s 73 now. But still, swoon.
“Kirk!” and so it would go. We agreed that the new Star Trek reboots are the best thing ever though.
This year she discovered Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. I was as pleased about this as if I had introduced them to her myself. I taught Emma classical music, pop, blues, folk, video game music, and most recently some choice 70’s rock. I taught her how to read music, how to transcribe music by ear, harmonic and melodic analysis, chords, arpeggios and scales, how to play good time with and without a metronome, how to play outside of time with tempo changes, rubato and fermata. How to subdivide rhythms evenly, how to play dynamics, and how to improvise her own musical expression. I told her many times that it’s always worth it to try unfamiliar music, that this is how you discover what you like and just as importantly, what you don’t like.
There’s a lot to like about Emma’s playing. A naturally healthy technique and posture, her willingness to follow suggestions and combine these with her own ideas, her calmness and subtlety, her accurate note reading skills and dedication to practicing. Some weeks were better than others, as it goes with all humans, but over the course of our time together she was on a pretty straight upward trajectory. However many hours I put in teaching her, she put in far more than that practicing my assignments.
Emma’s last lesson and last recital performance was a few weeks ago, this past June. Her mom cried when we said goodbye after our last Thursday 5:30-6:15pm session. I did too. How good her family was been to me over the years. How I appreciate their trust in me to guide their lovely daughter. Good luck and godspeed, Emma in whatever glorious things your future holds for you. And yes, I am serious about going to a Star Trek convention with you in costume.

Thinking About Practicing.

Sometimes I wonder what I have spent more hours on, thinking about practicing or actually practicing. As a seasoned list-maker I have made plenty of mental and written lists organizing all the elements a musician needs to address. There’s a lot to consider. There are broad categories such as fully notated music, reading lead sheets, improvisation, scales chords and arpeggios, and transcription. There are temporary, specific projects like pieces to be learned for other people i.e. as an accompanist.  A conscientious musician will also be aware of the specific weaknesses in their playing and practice remedies to smooth out these rough spots. There’s also different feels and genres to master, playing uptempo, transposition, and the weird little bugaboos about your particular instrument that need your attention. Jeez, it’s so hard to not go off on all these things separately. Stay tuned for like a hundred future blog posts on practicing.

I’ve had a lot of great teachers over the past 20 years of studying music and each one has offered something different about how to approach practicing.  Now I am into my second decade of teaching and I spend year after year trying to guide my students into good practice habits. The advice I offer my students is a combination of what my teachers told me to do, things I accidentally discovered, research, careful observation of successes, and experiments that worked. I should add, teaching beginners how to practice is a critical, sometimes maddening task and how a beginner practices is completely different than how a self-directed musician practices.  But if I do my job right, the solid foundation of good practice habits can take a student from beginner to advanced and then to professional musician if they so desire (and may the lord have mercy on them if that is the case). Here are some of the tips I offer my beginners and their parents:

1. Make sure you have a quiet place to practice where no one will interrupt you.

2. Gather your materials ( practice assignment binder, 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. Slow down and try again. 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. Don’t give up! You can do it. You will feel so proud of yourself every time you master a new song. Share the songs you have learned with your family and friends. Sharing music with others can help spread happiness.

7. Build practice time into your family or personal calendar.   Set aside at least four 30 minute sessions every week, and make it part of your weekly routine. This eliminates the problem of ‘not enough time’ and procrastination.

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. It’s just piano.  No one is going to die.  It’s supposed to be fun and fascinating.

10.  Patience, young padawan, 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. And it will be worth it.




Why Adult Students Are The Bomb

I teach little kids, teens and adults. I like it all. But today I want to talk about why adult students are special and inspiring. There is something very brave about a grownup who is willing to be a beginner at something. Adults invest so much of their identity and self worth in being competent or an expert in their chosen field, whatever that is. As adults we get used to being pretty good at most things in life and managing careers, friends and family with casual proficiency. This is completely different than how most children function. They are used to struggling for mastery in all aspects of daily life. Adults leave that struggle far behind at the earliest opportunity and most of us stick to the things we are best at so we don’t have to feel that icky uncertainty of trying and failing, IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.
Beginner adult piano students have my unqualified respect and admiration. They take action to realize a dream that is usually decades in the making. They have wanted to learn piano for years and years and finally they decide, today is the day. I’m going to find a teacher and get started. Enter, me. I bring them a stack of beginner lesson and repertoire books, a metronome, and a binder full of blank assignment sheets which I proceed to fill up every week with detailed instructions. For the first time in many years they have regular homework and a teacher’s expectations to fulfill, in a subject that is basically a foreign language to them. It’s humbling. Add to that the fact that I am younger and less experienced in life than they are. It’s kind of amazing they get past the first lesson really.
I want them to succeed very much. They deserve that exquisite feeling of pride mingled with delight that comes from gaining understanding and competency at something once impenetrable. Nothing is more life affirming than knowing you are becoming more intelligent and continuing to grow, no matter what your age number is.
My adult students have taught me that opening oneself to trying (and failing sometimes) at something new, struggling, and investing hours of practice to get better has benefits that spin off into all areas of life. It makes you more patient, less arrogant, and more compassionate towards yourself which in turn helps you become more compassionate to others. From them I have learned that it is very healthy to always have at least one new thing in my life to be a beginner at.
The picture above is me with one of my students. Agnes started lessons as a beginner at 81. She took lessons for 10 years, and I still go to see her every week to visit. Her relationship with my 3 year old daughter is a priceless thing to behold, another spin off benefit of our professional relationship that deserves its own blog post. It is never too late to start doing something your heart has longed for. The best time to begin is always, now. Find a good teacher who you can understand and makes you feel good about striving to become a more intelligent human being. Block out the haters – they’re always there, jealous that you have taken action to fulfill yourself while they are too scared to. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t look stupid while making mistakes. There is no other way to learn. You just look human.

Featured Student, Rosie

I started teaching Rosie when she was 5 years old. Back then she had a 15 minute lesson before her older brother Evan’s lesson. Normally I don’t teach 5 year olds unless they are very keen to learn piano. Rosie was one of those rare 5 year olds. She asked me every week for what seemed like months whenever I came to teach her brother, when could she start piano lessons. She showed me how she could play parts of her brother’s songs, just by listening to him practice. Rosie was so happy to start her own lessons with me. She practiced diligently and parked herself in her living room window, waiting for me to walk up her driveway every week. She would wave so hard when she spotted me I thought her arm might fall off. An enormous grin would light up her face without fail and she would run to the door and throw it open for me. She still does this every week, 4 years later. When I am an old lady in the nursing home I will remember Rosie’s loving joyful enthusiasm with great fondness. Her solid beat, attention to dynamics, and accurate note reading skills solidify her place in my heart.

Welcome, My New Car Sign

Car Sign!

The Mobile Piano Geek gets off to a productive early Sunday morning start! Carefully applying my new vinyl car sign to my freshly cleaned back window only took an hour of sweating and cursing, but I hope you’ll agree the classy result was totally worth it.

Summer Piano Concert Saturday June 20

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
I’ve had a couple cancellations due to soccer and surprise birthday parties for grandmothers, and of course my dear adult students are determined to never play in public, but I’m planning to go ahead with a small concert anyway this Saturday. It will be the last concert for two of my longtime students and I’d like them to have the satisfaction of one last performance.

Concert Program:

Alison Maira – Mazurka in F Major
Rosie Hancock – solo, The Major & The Minor
duet, Chim Chim Cheree
Sylvie Romanick – solo, On the Prowl
duet, Barber Of Seville
Evan Hancock – solos, Chopin Waltz
Sarah Chernenkoff – solo, Two Four Six Eight
duet, Spring
Emma Hughes – duet, The Metronome
solo, Moonlight Sonata

On the plus side, it will be a short and sweet recital, probably about 30 minutes. I have several people who need to be somewhere else immediately afterward so we will forgo the refreshments afterward this time.

See you on Saturday! 11 am at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy. Friends and family are most welcome to attend.


2015 Year End Piano Concert And Summer Lessons

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

Our summer piano concert will take place on Saturday June 20, at 11 am.  The location is Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy. Please RSVP to me regarding your or your child’s attendance.  I anticipate a short recital, probably about 40 minutes of playing. At this week’s lessons students will be asked to choose one solo piece and one duet to perform at the concert and/or performance videos to be posted online.

Summer Lessons
Now is the time, dear parents and students, when I must ask you to declare your intentions regarding piano lessons. Please advise me if:
– you would like to continue piano lessons during July and August. Please send me the dates you have in mind.
– you or your child intends to stop lessons at the end of June.  Please let me know so I can accept new students.
– you would like to take a break and resume weekly lessons in September. I will send you an invoice  for a deposit (September lessons pre-paid by cheque or email transfer) to reserve your time slot. This deposit is applied to September lessons but is not refunded should you change your mind about continuing.
Thank you for reading.  I look forward to seeing all of you at the concert!

Winter Piano Recital Program 2015

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
It’s going to be a very small concert tomorrow, due to most of my adult students being extremely shy about performing and a bad round of colds and flu that have further thinned the ranks. Here is the program for the recital.

Winter Piano Concert January 17 2015

1. Alison Maira – Why Should I Cry For You?
2. Sharlene Hertz – When The Saints Go Marching In (solo)
Elephant Waltz (duet)
3. Rebecca Knowles – Clocks (solo)
The Flintstones (duet)
4. Evan Hancock – Cartoon Villiain (solo)
A Dog Chasing Its Tail (duet)
5. Sarah Chernenkoff – The Scientist (solo)
Music Box Dancer (duet)
6. Rosie Hancock – Prelude in 18th Century Style (solo)
Yankee Doodle (duet)
7. Sylvie Romanick – Spanish Dance (solo)
Spring (duet)

The details once again –
Saturday Jan. 17 3:00
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy.
Church appropriate attire please
Refreshments in the church sanctuary after the concert

See you tomorrow!

Your Piano Teacher Has Recovered

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
I am happy to report that I have regained my health. My sanity is more questionable; I feel as if I have aged about 10 years taking care of a grumpy man and an unhappy toddler while feeling like death warmed over. But never mind that! It’s a blessing to be be feeling good again. The Winter Piano Concert is happening this Saturday and I hope to see you all there. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone this week and hearing how the concert pieces are sounding.
Here are the details one more time:
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church 1700 Mountain Hwy
Saturday January 17 3:00-4:00pm
please bring a plate of desserts or appetizers to share
friends, grandparents, extended family, all are welcome to attend
church appropriate attire please
each student will perform solo and duet pieces

Please let me know if you cannot attend or if you need to have a particular place in the program. I will send out a program later this week when I know how many will be performing.

In-Home Piano Lessons

Piano Lessons Cancelled January 6, 7, 8.

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,
I’m very sorry to say that I won’t be teaching this coming week. A terrible flu has invaded my house and for the past week my husband, our two year old, and now myself are awfully sick. I will spare you the horrible and disgusting details.
I’m very reluctant to cancel lessons with the Winter Concert fast approaching. My hope is if I take a week off I’ll be ready to resume lessons next week and then have the concert on Sat. 17th as planned. If I’m not able to teach next week as well I’ll cancel the concert and reschedule it for February or March.
Please remind your students (or yourselves) to keep practicing their concert repertoire. I’ll touch base with you all next week and let you know what’s happening.

End Of Term Newsletter December 2014

Hello Lovely Parents and Students,

Just a couple of things I wanted to share with you as 2014 draws to a close.

Winter Piano Concert:

The annual winter concert will take place on Saturday January 17 3:00-4:30 pm at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 1700 Mountain Hwy in North Vancouver. Please RSVP to me by Jan. 10/15. I will provide coffee, tea, and juice. If you are attending, please bring a plate of dessert or appetizers to share. Please remind your student to practice their concert repertoire during the holidays if possible.

Website Performance Video Gallery

I have added a ‘Best Of’ video gallery on my website. There are sweet and wonderful videos of my favorite performances from 2011, 2012, and 2013. You will see many familiar faces of past students when they were smaller (but no less cute). I also have updated all my current students video posts. Feel free to check it out for a nice trip down memory lane.

Christmas Break:

The last week of lessons is Dec. 16, 17, and 18th. Lessons resume on January 6, 7 and 8th.

Rate Increase:

In the Beginning Of Term Newsletter in September I announced a rate increase taking effect in January 2015. My last lesson rate increase was in 2005. I have grown very much as a teacher over the last 10 years and have gained invaluable experience, which benefits my current students during every lesson. As of January 2015, here is how my rates will be changing:

North Vancouver and East Vancouver students – The lesson rate increases by $2.50, to $40.00 for a 45 minute lesson. Travel charge is $3.00 per lesson. Total = $43.00 per week.

West Vancouver and Burnaby students: The lesson rate increases by $2.50. The travel charge increases from $3.00 to $5.00 per lesson to reflect the added travel time needed to reach students in these locations. I need 30 minutes of travel time on either side of these lessons as opposed to 15 minutes of travel time I use between all my other lessons. Total = $45.00 per week.

Please talk to me if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for your continued loyalty. I love all my clients, who allow me to live my passion for music and teaching every day. I’m confident my rates are in line with what many experienced teachers charge for students who come to their studios, and significantly less than what many mobile music schools charge for in-home lessons.

Have a great, relaxing, joyful holiday! Thank you for another great year of music study, and I look forward to seeing you all in 2015(at the concert, I hope!)


In-Home Piano Lessons