Category Archives: Teaching Business

The Berry Basket: The Story of a Rescued Piano Book

BerryBasket

One of the perks of having my own blog is that I can sit at my computer and ramble on about anything. Today, I’m going to tell you about a little out-of-print piano book I found on the internet.

I’m not sure what sent me to a site on Etsy that sold vintage ephemera, which is a fancy word for old printed collectables.  Somehow I found myself looking through a selection of used vintage piano books the shop was selling to cut up and use for crafts. How sad, I thought, that these old books, once lovingly handed to young children and toted back and forth to piano lessons with the hope that the children would fall in love with piano, are now reduced to being cut up for who knows what.

As I was looking and reminiscing, I came upon a 1953 piano book that looked so charming I had to take a close up look. It was named The Berry Basket, and it had the cutest vintage art on the cover. The seller had some pictures of the inside art (with no mention of the music), and I knew I had to get it.  The price was only $3.00 so I clicked the buy button. In a few days, there it was in the mail, saved from destruction and in the hands of someone who could appreciate it!

The book is written for beginners, and the first pieces are only 8 measures long, with sweet, vintage drawings on every page. Each little piece has simple, child-like lyrics.

I was happy to discover the music is in different 5-finger positions and keys. There are no C position pieces in the entire book!  The lyrics are very simple and childlike, back when young children were more innocent and didn’t know the questionable lyrics of today’s popular music.

Since this is a previously used book, there are markings from the teacher.

“Work out notes H.S. Don’t Guess.”  

“Count.”  

“Slow.” 

Some things never change in piano!

According to the preface, the music and words were written by the Sisters of the Holy Cross attending a music workshop in Salt Lake City, conducted by Bernice Frost, a well-known composer of piano teaching music last century.

I wonder what Bernice Frost said in her workshop that inspired the Sisters of the Holy Cross to compose this music? The preface says the book offers, “… development in the basic requirements of elementary musical training. Foremost among these are ear-training, singing, keyboard range and feel, essential points of technic, and pianistic style.”  Maybe Bernice Frost gave them ideas of all the many things that can be done at a piano lesson besides just playing the music. I like to think so.

Maybe the child who used this book is now a piano teacher in his or her golden years, with hundreds of former students who love piano music! I like to think that, too!

The Berry Basket Published by J. Fischer Bros

The Berry Basket
Published by J. Fischer Bros

 

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Grand Staff Binder Covers and Using Binders in Music Lessons

Covers for Student Music Binders

 Binder Covers

The front and back covers of binders are valuable real estate for learning. I noticed when I started incorporating theory information on the binder cover, they learned it easier because they see it all the time. Well, that is, if they practice they see it all the time! :)

It is well worth the few extra dollars to buy your students the kind of binder that works the best in your lessons. In my studio, the cost of the binder is deducted from their book and activity fee. However, some teachers include the price in either a registration fee or build it into the tuition fee.

I use one inch binders, and I buy the more expensive  “Clear Cover Heavy Duty” binders made by Avery. (I’m including a link to Amazon for those of you who can’t get to a store.) These are often a lot more expensive, but you can get them at the big box stores in the Back to School section for a few dollars this time of year. The thing I really like about this particular binder is the “one touch” open and close. It easily opens with one hand and I do not need to take the binder off the music rack to open it.

I print my assignment sheets on both sides, and I punch holes in both sides of the page. Then all I have to do is turn the page over to reuse it. All that page hole-punching is a lot easier since I bought an electric hole puncher  on Amazon. I’ve had it now for 3 or 4 years and it’s still going strong. It punches about 15 pages at a time. My advice is to keep it cleaned out and if your paper is thicker, such as card stock or 24 pound, put in less than recommended. My assignment page is a free download. The early childhood one is here.

The binder covers you see today match the design I posted two weeks ago. I have some students who are too young for key signature charts, so I use the grand staff binder cover instead.

Included in today’s PDF printable are:

  • A front cover with the notes of the grand staff labeled for students who are too young for a key signature chart.
  • A black and white version of the same staff.
  • The grand staff in landscape view with the notes labeled.
  • The grand staff in landscape without the note names so students can write them in.
  • The grand staff in landscape in black and white.

The version of the landscape grand staff  is similar to the one I posted last year, but it uses less ink. I laminated it and made a poster out of it but it also makes a nice binder cover. The unlabeled one is great to put inside a clear sheet protector to practice writing note names with a dry or wet erase marker. It also works on an iPad. If you don’t know how to print one page from a multi-page PDF, please see my FAQ.

When I decided to switch over to using binders, I was a little worried it would be too cumbersome and a lot of trouble. Now I have it down to a science and it works great. Teachers have a place to add Picture Scales, (legal) music downloads, and theory sheets. The pocket on the front makes a great place to store sheet music. Many teachers add a small yearly charge for the cost of ink and paper.

[Disclosure: If you buy something from my link to Amazon, I make a few cents to support the expenses of maintaining this website, so thank you for your support.  However, I encourage you to check out prices to find the best buys in your area. I absolutely do not link to something unless I have it myself and I think it is a good price.]

 

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2014-2015 Calendar, Key Signature Chart, and Reminder Cards


2014-2015 Calendar Set

Calendar 2014-2015

It’s time to start planning for fall semester lessons. An organized studio is a happy studio where parents and students know well in advance what is coming up!

There are 3 pages in this document, a calendar, a matching key signature chart and a set of reminder snail-mail postcards.

This 2014-2015 calendar is designed for you to type your studio events in the center. I suggest you put dates for:

  • Festivals, including sign-up deadlines
  • Recitals
  • Holiday breaks
  • Days your studio will be closed
  • Group lesson dates
  • Deadlines to memorize music for events

After you print the calendar, measure where you would like to set your margins in a word processing program like Word or Pages. Here are the margins I used:

  • Left – 2.50
  • Right – 1. 25
  • Top – 1. 25
  • Bottom – .75

Calendar Binder Cover

However, the margins are going to depend on your printer and the font size you choose. I suggest using only one font with a size of around 11. The above photo uses 11 point Arial.

In the first line, I put my studio email address. In the second line, I added my phone number where parents can text me if they are running late. Skip several lines and start your studio schedule on the left margin. When you finish, go back and center the headings. I also increased the font size and changed the color.

After printing the calendars, place them in the see-through cover of the student’s binder. On the back of the binder, you can insert the key signature chart. I always feel like the more they see it, the more familiar it becomes.

Once you get used to using binders with your students, you will never want to use any other kind of assignment book. You can use dividers for music, scales, theory, downloads from the web, etc. Feel free to use my assignment pages, found here, Assignment Page, and the one for young students here, Assignment Page for Young Students.

Now when your forgetful students ask, “When does my sonatina have to be memorized?” or “What day is the theory test?” tell them to look on their binder. They usually say rather sheepishly, “Oh, yeah.”

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Winner of Just Because It’s Halloween!

 

Just Because It's Halloween published by Alfred Music

Just Because It’s Halloween published by Alfred Music

We have a winner of  my newly released piano music, Just Because It’s Halloween!

It’s Patricia, of Tucson. She buys her music at Instrumental Music in Tucson. Patricia, please email me your mailing address as soon as possible so I can mail your music to you.

For those of you who do not have a local music store, this sheet music is now available from Amazon and it is on sale. Just click  here or the link above. [Ed. The sale is over, but there is free shipping on Amazon Prime.]

Both hands in this piece sit in the D minor 5-finger position. If you have a student who is “stuck in middle C,” I have found that one way to help them branch out is to work for a long time in a different position, memorizing the piece. Learning to play in several positions the first year of piano will help students be more successful when they transition to more difficult music the second year.

One of the reasons so many students who start in a C position method drop out the second year is because they are introduced to so many new things. They play more hands together, they have more accidentals, the rhythm is more challenging, and on top of that they have never played with their hands out of C position and they get very frustrated. It’s just too much! I think it is better to introduce different positions when the music is really easy. That is why I mix up the hand positions in the easy original music I write, like Sunny Solos.

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. I enjoyed reading about all the fantastic music stores around the country. It has been lots of fun for me, and I plan to do it again!

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