Monthly Archives: March 2009

Lynn Freeman Olson Signature Collection

 lf-olson-vol-1_1Lynn Freeman Olson (1938 – 1987) was a piano teacher, author, and composer. His teaching compositions are a major contribution to 20th and 21st century piano pedagogy. Olson introduced new and different contemporary sounds to our teaching repertoire, including interesting meters, rhythmic patterns, harmonies, and quick shifting chordal patterns not commonly found in teaching pieces in the early 1970’s. 

Last year Carl Fischer issued a set of 3 books, Lynn Freeman Olson, Signature Collection, edited by Elizabeth Gutierrez. The 3 volumes complete with CD contain many of the favorite pieces he wrote while associated with Carl Fischer.

 The first volume contains elementary to late elementary pieces such as Silver Bugles, which students love. Electronic Game, written in 1981, is still fun for students today, with its “My turn, your turn, bong, zap” written in the score. Another one my students love is Yankee Doodle Drum, so simple you can teach it by rote, yet very effective. On the Run, with the quick patterns in 5ths that move all over the keyboard is another one that is easy but sounds hard. Few of the pieces in Volume One contain words, making them appropriate for all ages of children. They help students get out of one position and move all over the keyboard and they do it in such a fun way. Students need to have supplemental music they really love to play and show off to others if we expect them to stay in piano. 

  The pieces in Volume Two are late elementary to early intermediate in difficulty. This volume contains one of my all-time favorite pieces, Rhythm Machine.  Some other favorites of my students are are Sunbird, Sonatina Americana, and Wheels, among others.  While they especially appeal to boys, Sunbird was one my daughter’s favorite recital pieces when she was young. And I have never had a student who didn’t love Rhythm Machine, which has become a classic in the piano teaching world. If you are not familiar with L. F. Olson, you might want to start with this volume.

 lf-olson-vol-3_2Volume Three is intermediate to late intermediate and has some wonderfully imaginative pieces with unexpected twists and turns that will intrigue students. Every piece except for the just for fun Yankee Doodle Boy is a National Federation Selection, as are almost all of the pieces in all three volumes. Volume Three contains a varied selection of music in many styles, contemporary, impressionist, and romantic, all of which are fun to play, and are very showy at recitals. There is something for everyone here. Many of the pieces in this volume are only 2 pages in length, which can be helpful with certain intermediate students.

 The CD’s that come with each of these volumes are very well done. I was amazed that Lynn F. Olson himself performs some of the pieces, which were recorded in 1971-1972.  Back when he recorded them I was still a college student and the personal computer was not invented. Now, almost 40 years later I am sitting here at my computer, listening to him perform works my students have played over the years and blogging about them.

The remainder of the pieces on the CD are  thoughtfully and lovingly performed by Elizabeth Gutierrez. Piano pedagogy VIP’s Martha Hilley, Joanne Smith, and Marvin Blickenstaff wrote the forwards at the beginning of the books. This is a testimony to the high regard Olson is held in the piano education field.  In the 2-page biography at the beginning of the volumes, it states Mr. Olson wrote over 1,200 works for piano in addition to writing music for a successful radio show and for the TV show Captain Kangaroo. He studied piano pedagogy with Frances Clark and composed music for The New School for Music Study directed by Frances Clark. She was a great influence to him as a piano teacher and composer. He co-wrote with Marvin Blickenstaff and Louise Bianchi the highly regarded piano method Music Pathways.

For years his piano music has been a favorite of piano students around the world. Whether you are a new teacher and have never heard of Lynn Freeman Olson, a teacher who played this music as a student and wondered if it was still in print, or a teacher with many years experience who would like to use more of his music, check out these volumes. I am so glad Carl Fischer came out with these books, which are leveled better than some of his original collections of pieces. The books are only $8.95 and each includes a CD. You can visit the Carl Fischer web site for more information.


Filed under Music Reviews, Teaching Business

See the Bunny – a composing activity


See the Bunny – a  Composing Activity

One of  my younger students like to write rhymes. He told me they go through his head all the time and he can’t get them to stop, so he has to write them down. I told him I know exactly what he means. The same thing happens to me except mine have melodies that go along with them.  I jot them down on scrap paper, napkins, receipts, anything really. If I don’t write the melody down, I’ll forget it, so in my purse there are little scraps of paper with sol-fa syllables written under these simple rhymes. I have no idea where they come from in my head, but it’s been going on all my life. They’re not suitable for anything but children’s primer music.  Still, I hope my students and maybe some of yours, too, enjoy my efforts.

Several students wanted a composing activity for Easter, and as I was stopped at a red light a few days ago, I wrote this one down. The hardest part, really, is when my students start making up their own melody to go with the words. I have to try very hard not to suggest the tune in my head and let them come up with their own ideas.

A rhyme this long might take too long at a lesson, so maybe it would be a good idea to do one line a week. The average child has a hard time doing this at home, so that’s why I do it at the lesson. Most children like to create melodies, just as they like to draw and do crafts. We just have to help them along a little.

If I have time and get enough requests,  I’ll make another sheet with lines and spaces for older children.


Filed under Composing Activities, Easter

He Is Risen, a pre-reading Easter carol


He Is Risen  is a beautiful Easter carol in a pre-reading version. The words were written by the same woman who wrote the words to All Things Bright And Beautiful, a hymn I have arranged for elementary level and posted on my web site.

The hand position might be a little different since the 3rd finger of the RH is on middle C. There are several skips in this hymn, so see if your student can find and circle them. Practice playing them in the air. This will be good practice for when they are reading notes on the staff.

If you have a beginning student who would like to play sacred Easter hymn, try out this one. Your students might not know it,  but I think they will like it after they learn the melody.  If you would like to play a duet with your student,  look this up in your hymnal and play along.


Filed under Easter, Pre-reading

X and O’s for Tic Tac Toe



When I was playing Cecilly’s floor Tic Tac Toe with my students, they suggested very *vocally* (in a nice way… all my students are super nice)   I make X’s and O’s to go with the game. So I got up early this morning and created these 2 pages to cut out. As long as I have them made, I decided to post them here in case you want some, too. If they aren’t aligned quite right, it is because I was trying  to get 9 on a page, but utilize the margins for maximum size. I really wanted to make the X’s in color with some fun borders or something, but my desire to get them finished this morning outweighed my sometimes *over-the top* instincts. They print out in black and white. The green will not print out. Click this link to print them out. x-o-cards_tic_tac_toe1

My students really had fun with this game, even though it only took a few minutes. I’m going to play it all week. Thanks for all the comments on this game. It seems to be popular with a lot of teachers. And thanks to Cecilly for letting me post it here.

If you come up with some rules that make the game extra fun, post a comment or send me an email. Sometimes these games just get more and more fun and teachers add their suggestions.


Filed under Cecilly's Games, Note Identification