Emiko

2020

 

 

2019

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

 

2018

 

2017

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.

 

 

 

Rosie

2021

 

2020

 

2019

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

2018

2017

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.

2015

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.

2014

2013

2012

 

 

Evan

2021

2020

2019

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


2018

2017

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…

Sascha

2021

2020

2019

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

2018

Catie

2021

 

2020

 

2019

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


Ella

2021

2020

2019

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

2018

2017

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.

Maya

2021

 

2020

 

2019

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

 

2018

 

2017

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!

 

Masked Piano Players November 2020

 

Masked Piano Players October 2020

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Masked Piano Players September 2020

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Spring Hill Jack Duet

This is Spring-Heeled Jack, a rather tricky polyrhythmic duet performed by Sarah and me. This was the very last lesson I taught, on March 12, 2020 before the pandemic shut everything down. Little did I know I would not Sarah again in-person for three months after this video!
Spring-Heeled Jack, in case you are wondering, is a ghost or perhaps demon who was sighted in London in the early 1800’s on and off for about a century. He’s actually kind of terrifying and here’s a good wikipedia article about him.

Nikita

2019


 

2018

Desiree

2019

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

 

2015

Much respect to this lady! Desiree is a full time lawyer, wife, mother of two and piano student. She has a strong natural musical talent that I love to see unfold and deepen every week. You just never know what you might be good at until you give it a try.

 

2011

Sarah

2020

This is Spring-Heeled Jack, a rather tricky polyrhythmic duet performed by Sarah and me. This was the very last lesson I taught, on March 12, 2020 before the pandemic shut everything down. Little did I know I would not Sarah again in-person for three months after this video!
Spring-Heeled Jack, in case you are wondering, is a ghost or perhaps demon who was sighted in London in the early 1800’s on and off for about a century. He’s actually kind of terrifying and here’s a good wikipedia article about him.

 

2019

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


 

2018

 

 

2017



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.

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.

2015

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.

 

2014

 

2013

 

2012

 

Aidan C.

2019

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


2018

2017

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.


2016

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.


Shirley

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

 

2018

 

2017

 

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.

2015

 

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.

Danica

2020

2019

Well well well. Here’s Danica, playing her concert duet. She made a lot of great progress this year:)

2018

Sharlene

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

2018

 

2017

2016


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 finishes 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

Leo

2018

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

 

2017

 

 

2016

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.

Mo

2017

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!


 

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 stereotypical 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.

 

 

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.


 

2015

 

2014

 

2013

 

 

Max

2016

 

 

 

2015

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.

 

 

2014

 

 

2013

Emma

2016

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.

 

 

2015

 

 

2014

 

2013

 

2012

 

 

 

Sylvie

 

2016

 

 

 

2015

     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.

 

2014

 

2013

 

2012