Posts Tagged ‘pre-school piano preschool piano’

Piano Lessons PLUS Wexford PA

Why Choose Piano Lessons PLUS?

I think that’s a good question; especially since I know of many fine piano teachers in the Wexford area.   I’ve been teaching piano since I was in high school.   Even before my formal education in teaching and college degrees. It was just something I found I could do well and enjoy.   In high school I was a member of Future Teachers of America. Then it was off to college to procure my formal musical education. I remember wanting to be a teacher from an early age. I get a charge out of observing a young person learn and exploring the treasures that is hidden within him.  I enjoy teaching children of all abilities, not just the musically gifted.  I feel every student is deserving of my best attention regardless of their ability.

However, I have had students perform as finalists in competitions sponsored by the American Music Scholarship Association and play in Carnegie Hall in New York City.

I’ve had articles published in leading journals dedicated to the piano teaching profession.  Professionally, I’ve been involved in the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the  Music Teachers National Association as well as the National Federation of Music Clubs.  I’ve served in leadership positions in each of these organizations.

From the very beginning of my professional career I’ve taken a strong interest in the very young beginner; ages 4 – 6. So much so that I’ve developed my own piano method to teach these young student.  I’ve written numerous books of various aspects of developing a young student’s piano skills. My teachers brought to me a strong appreciation in the value of folk songs and they feature a prominent role in my instruction.

I’ve also written numerous solo compositions that my students will often feature in local festivals as well as recitals.  When you study at my studio you’re child is going to be under the instruction of someone who wants to teach. You will be studying with an experienced instructor who knows how to patiently advance a student and monitor their progress.  To find out more visit my WebSite at www.pianoteacherpress.com    Feel free to call my studio at (724) 935-2840 for a FREE INTERVIEW.  My studio is governed by three major themes; a love for music, an active interest in the whole educational process, and an approach that promotes the individuality of each student.


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Piano Lessons Are FUN?  THINK AGAIN!!

I say this without apology or equivocation.  I’ve been teaching piano since my teen years and have never considered what I do as “fun”; yet, I absolutely love what I do.  What I want to propose is that making piano lessons “fun” is a recipe for superficial music education.

I also notice that many teachers feel pressured into making piano lessons “fun”.  After all, we must compete with glitzy video games to get a student’s attention.  How can a teacher compete for a student’s attention unless they make lessons “fun”.  I know many good teachers and they all approach their teaching with a great deal of individuality, yet they all have one thing in common.  They to not fall for the superficial solution of making their lessons “fun”.  Rather, they make sure their lessons are INTERESTING.  They capture the imagination of their students.  As teachers dedicated to the educating of their students, their interest is in opening the mind of their students to the vast world of music that they have studied diligently, most often, since their childhood.

I have never heard ANYONE who makes their living in music say the thing they remember most about their teacher is that they made lessons “fun”.  Challenging – yes. Interesting – yes. Demanding – yes.  “Fun” –  NEVER!

For the first teacher it’s very important to make each step of learning move freely to the next step BUT the reason is to facilitate learning NOT make lessons “easy”.  “Easy” is the death of keeping the child’s imagination captured and quickly becomes boring.   The teacher with less aptitude will think -  “My student is bored. I need to make this more fun.”  The teacher with greater aptitude will think – My student is bored.  How can recapture the student’s imagination.

“Easy” and “Fun” are related to each other and both are terrible goals for an educator.  I’m not saying here that education should not be enjoyable.  I have heard multiple dozens of times from parents – My child loves coming to piano lessons but doesn’t like to practice.   This tells me that I have passed the all important “nice test”.  Mr. Severino is nice.

After I pass that threshold point of being “nice” I feel “I’m in” and trying to be more nice, or more fun is superfluous.  Trying to be more nice is about as necessary as trying to become more clean after taking a bath.  In fact, after passing the “nice test” one has built some teacher capital to become strict when necessary.

Yet, if a teacher is overly concerned with making lessons “easy” or “fun” discipline and hard work becomes a fear.  With “fun” as the goal, lessons become a burden to the student and parent. The parent will finally approach the teacher with the problem of lessons not being “fun” anymore.  The teacher then realizes that discipline wasn’t established because so much “fun” was put into the lessons. Discipline, at this point, would drive the student farther away because the false values of “fun” will no longer sustain the student.  This is why “fun” as a goal is so misguided.

Ron Clark, author of “The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck — 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers,   “The truth is, a lot of times it’s the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone.”

Giving good grades is very related to instructors that emphasize “fun” in their teaching.  A real pet peeve of mine is when I enter my students into various student evaluations or music festivals and 100% of them get superior ratings.  I’ve been a judge in these events and we are told before hand that we will be called out if we give low scores.  This really hinders the teacher that would like a little support to push their students to their highest potential.  Why should I work harder, the student reasons; I always get a superior rating.

I remember when I was in grade school in the late 50′s and early 60′s.  Music class was a class that no one took seriously.  If one got a poor grade in music class it was overlooked because it wasn’t really that important of a class.  I think that attitude is still held by many today.  Piano lessons are not really that important.  If my child doesn’t do that well it’s no big deal.

Parents, remembering their musical memories of piano lessons, ask me, almost beg me — I just don’t want my child to hate it.  My solution to this desire is to take a bold and courageous stand — PLEASE!!  Give your child a chance to hate music; because if you do not they almost certainly will.


Having said all this I do not want to give the impression that piano lessons are a dreary and joyless undertaking.   I DO want to make, as forcefully as I can,  the point that making lessons “fun” will diminish optimum learning and produce superficial results as compared to piano lessons in the hands of a gifted teacher that strives to capture the imagination of the student.

One time I went to a pre-school and observed a music class.  The teacher was having the students march to some music.  The students were going around in circles while the music was playing.  The teacher would even say — I don’t see marching.  Let’s lift those legs high.  Then the students lift their legs high.  The class laughs as some of the boys exaggerate the lifting of their legs.  But I noticed there was absolutely no connection  between the students and the music.  It was pure fun but really lacking in any educational value.  A parent may observe this activity and think the children are being educated about music.  Students will tell their parents that they had fun in music class and maybe even tell their parents they learned how to march.  Everyone is happy.  Everyone had fun.  I’m looking at this and thinking what a useless activity.

This activity is based upon “fun” but is terribly anemic on educating the student.  What can be done to bring this activity from one of shallow fun and questionable value to true enjoyment and true educational value?  First, a groundwork of rhythm must be laid.  Students must be able to respond in sync with a rhythmic beat.  My definition of a March for pre-school students is a March is music in 2′s.

So our first activity, therefore, is to count together as a class in 2′s.  We count together ONE-TWO ONE-TWO ONE-TWO.

After we do that we add great rhythmic clarity by counting ONE slight louder than TWO like this –  ONE-TWO ONE-TWO ONE-TWO.

After a rhythmic pulse is established students find a partner and and we play pat-a-cake counting ONE-TWO ONE-TWO ONE-TWO.  The next step is to repeat the activity while singing Pat-a-Cake.

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can
Pat it and roll it and mark it with a ‘B’
And put it in the oven for baby and me

The next step is to listen to a March.  I choose a March with a very regular rhythm in duple meter.  The next step is to play Pat-a-Cake to the March.  Then we count in 2′s to the March.  At this point I simply instruct the students that marching is counting with their feet – ONE-TWO_ONE-TWO.  Then we listen to the March and march in place.  Through all these exercises I’m watching the students to see if the students are responding to the music with rhythmic accuracy.  Once that connection is made with a good number of the students THEN we march in a circle and we practice until we get the greatest number of students to respond accurately to the March rhythm.  This is an educational exercise that is enjoyable in every step. It’s not dreary and joyless; yet, it’s very strong in educational content.  Students enjoy the many activities.  The point is that each activity is directed to the goal of getting students to accurately and rhythmically respond to a March.


Neil deGrasse Tyson, famed astrophysicist, once commented about the blockbuster movie Titanic.  The producers of the movie strove to make the movie authentic in every detail.  Upon watching the movie our famed astrophysicist was quite satisfied with the whole experience except for one seeming insignificant detail.   The night sky of the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912, the night the Titanic sunk,  was not the sky that was filmed for the movie. The wrong stars and constellations were pictured.  This point took away from the authenticity of the film.   The sharp eye of Dr. Tyson caught this immediately.  As an interesting aside; word got to the producers of Titanic of deGrasse Tyson’s observation and they are going to reedit the night sky to made the movie accurate on this point.

Applying this point to piano teaching is that we need to educate our students with an eye to musical authenticity.  I do not think a teacher can teach authenticity without incorporating a great deal of musical vocabulary into their teaching.

I think we can draw a cosmological analogy that Neil deGrasse Tyson, himself would be proud. Cosmologists tells us before the creation of the universe there was no space and no time.  Or, to put this in contemporary parlance there was no “there” there.  But upon the creation of the universe there was a great expansion of space and the primordial particles began filling that space and time began.  Stars and galaxies weren’t yet formed nor would be brought to existence for ages to come.  What existed were four fundamental forces or attractions that exerted their influence to the eventual creation of stars and galaxies.

The piano teacher does no less than create a musical universe within the students mind.  Within this space we have the four fundamental interactions of music; melody, rhythm, harmony and timbre.  Just as man’s understanding of the universe became more clarified through centuries of study; the universe of music, through skilled instruction and the diligent study of the student, will begin to take shape.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. Plato

Using the analogy of the teacher creating the student’s musical universe gives Plato’s quote an accurate insight to the importance of the first teacher.   From the very beginning by the way we present each idea we realize we are fashioning the students mind to understand greater and greater ideas.  It took aeons of time before the first stars were formed from the initial matter created at the beginning; and even more aeons for the formation of galaxies.  In like manner it’s going to take a considerable amount of time before notes, rests and dynamics develop into expressive phrases that develop into a simple AB form and yet more time still before they can understand a more complex Rondo form, and yet more for a multi-movement symphony or concerto.  Yet, in the teacher’s creation of the musical universe being created in their student’s mind, since we have an understanding of the musical universe, it’s only proper that we plan our materials to set up layer after layer to lead to an accurate picture of what the musical universe will look like.   This is why the first teacher and the beginning is the most important part of the work.

Because of this, it is very important to teach accurate musical vocabulary from the very beginning.  It is also important to expand the student’s vocabulary from the very beginning.  After a student understands triple meter we can begin to expand on that with different compositions – the waltz, the landler, the scherzo, the mazurka, the minuet.  Each of these ideas express triple meter differently.  If we form students in this degree of authenticity and accuracy then we are filling in our student’s musical universe. Given enough time a big picture begins to develop and a connection of facts begin to gel and a panorama of musical culture emerges.

Studies have shown that good vocabularies can be directly related to subtlety in musical interpretation.  The word “happy” is certainly a fine word to use as an interpretive clue for a piece of music they’re learning.  But, we could also use words as “mellow” or “elated” or “joyful” or “content” maybe “festive” or “buoyant” or “tickled”.  If we go through each word with our student and discuss the different shades of meaning we can find the exact shade of “happy” we want to express.

Approaching piano lessons in this manner goes far beyond “fun”; it goes into comprehensive learning and understanding.  The whole process goes far beyond “fun” and becomes very very interesting.

Many have learned of the “Mozart Effect”; that music lessons can be a great boom for intellectual development.   But, the desired “Mozart Effect” will not have a chance to take root in the shallow waters of “fun”. True satisfaction comes from the enjoyment in learning something well.  Your child may not know the difference in a piano lessons that is based on the shallow “fun” level or on the level of comprehensive “enjoyment” but after several years of lessons it makes a world … let’s make that a universe of difference.

Look for Part 2 of Piano Lessons Are FUN? THINK AGAIN!! for the benefits your child will experience by having a teacher that values your child’s education over simple amusement and “fun”.

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Greetings!!  Welcome to this installment of Mr. Severino Presents.  I think you’ll have fun going through today’s music lesson.

Look at the picture.

What animal do you see?

The lion is known as “the King of Beasts”.  Kings and lions can be described with the word MAJESTIC.  Majestic describes things that are grand and noble or stately and dignified.







Now what animal do you see?

Of course, we have a picture of a turtle.  Turtles do not move very fast.  In fact, because they are so slow, people may express things as being as slow as a turtle.  If you are on a trip and caught in traffic you may say a turtle is moving faster than this traffic.  We characterize turtles as being slow.  Or, maybe we could say it like this …      S___L___O___W !  !  !



What is our next animal?

How would you describe a monkey?  Did you ever go to a zoo and observe the monkeys?  If you went to the zoo and saw the monkeys how did you react?  Did you ever see monkeys in cartoons?  Did the monkeys make you happy?  We can describe monkeys very well with the single word PLAYFUL!




Finally, what is being described in our fourth animal card?  The butterfly!   Butterflies are a favorite part of summer.  Their beautiful colors make them very fun to watch.  A very good word to describe the butterfly is to say they are FLIGHTY.  They fly from place to place, from flower to flower. They move to each destination with grace and motion.



We described each of our four animal creatures with a characteristic word.

Lions are MAJESTIC.

Turtles are SLOW.

Monkeys are PLAYFUL.

Butterflies are FLIGHTY.

Music also can be described with words because music also has character.

We are now going to listen to 4 examples of music that can also be said to be MAJESTIC, SLOW, PLAYFUL and FLIGHTY.  Your job is to tell me if we are listening to …

LION MUSIC (majestic)


MONKEY MUSIC (playful) or


There will be two short quizzes.

QUIZ ONE will have 4 questions.  QUIZ TWO will have 4 questions.

Before beginning, print out the Character in Music QUIZ SHEET  [Click HERE]  Play each musical example.  Decide what animal creature best fits with the musical example.  Put the example number in the upper right hand corner of each creature you decide upon.  If you wish, color each animal creature on the QUIZ SHEET.

To do the second quiz print out a second copy of the Character in Music QUIZ SHEET [Click HERE]












Would you like to know how you did?  Click HERE for the Character in Music ANSWER SHEET.

Listening for character in music asks us to use our imagination in ways that most of our school work does not.  Yet, this is the daily work of composers and musicians.  YOUR JOB, as a music student, is to use your imagination to best express the character that is found in every composition you perform.

Thanks for participating in Mr. Severino Presents.  ‘TILL NEXT TIMEKEEP PRACTICING!!

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Middle C Repertoire is a piano method for teaching beginning piano students.

It is also a great supplement for using with other methods as the book is simply an anthology of pieces in a progressive order.

The Middle C Repertoire Series of books grows out of my pre-school piano method — Keyboard Kids.  This pre-school method centers on the concept of teaching the student to read music as steps and skips and combines it with more traditional methods of note memorization.

In Middle C Repertoire I’ve purposely introduced musical vocabulary that immediately gives students the tools to learn to think musically about their piano studies.  After introducing several compositions using    2-4     3-4     and    4-4    time signatures we have a simple song called THEME.

With the introduction of the composition THEME a conversation can begin with your student about  themes and how composers use them to build their compositions.  As a note of interest it is at this point that I introduce my students to examples of art compositions for students to grasp on to the various musical concepts that are evoked in the titles of the compositions in the Middle C Repertoire Series.  The example I use for THEME is Peter’s Theme from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.  I thought it to be an excellent way to introduce students to the concept of theme.  Whenever Prokofiev has Peter featured in his musical story we hear Peter’s Theme.

Maybe with a recording of Peter’s Theme you could better grasp the effectiveness of using musical examples to make a teaching point.

Another departure that Middle C repertoiree Book 1 uses is that everything is in the English language.  Tempo’s are marked as Moderate Speed or Fast Speed, not Moderato or Allegro.  Loud is marked with an “L” and soft is marked with an “S”, not “f” or “p”D.C. al Fine is marked F.B. to End (from the beginning to the end).  In Middle C Repertoire Book 2 the traditional Italian language is used.  But, in this first volume students, who are often at the most elementary levels in their reading skills, are first introduced to these common markings in English.

Middle C Repertoire does not create lyrics for every composition.  Occasionally it does.  When the concept of song is introduced, then lyrics are essential.  This is another occasion when a music example is most appropriate.  Keeping with the humorous nature of I Forgot My Brain Today I introduce students to Aaron Copland’s arrangement of I Bought Me A Cat.

Since the concept of theme was introduced early in the book we can explore how these themes can be manipulated by composers.  The Theme and Variation can now be logically introduced, expanding the student’s concept of theme.  Not only does the simple piece study Theme and Variation form it also explores Time Signatures.  Each variation is based on in different key signature.  I point out to the student that the FIRST NOTE of EACH VARIATION plays the THEME TONE.  When students see this they all seem to have a “light bulb moment”.  They begin to see that music is not so mysterious and is something they can truly understand.

To finish the lesson on Theme and Variation I play Mozart’s Theme and Variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  I only play the very beginning of each variation.  I stop the recording at the end of each variation and ask the student if they can hear Mozart’s disguise of the THEME.  Most students do very well; but there are some variations that are difficult for students to follow.  I use this as a lesson that music is something that must be studied and if they put forth their best effort they will be able to understand the music of these great geniuses even better.

The composition MARCH! introduces students to eighth notes.  I have found that it’s best to introduce eighth notes as repeated notes until the rhythmic impulse is neurologically understood.  I also introduce the eighth note as a rhythmic group of THREE notes — the two eighth notes and the succeeding note.  The three note groups are marked in blue in the graphic.  Our ear naturally organizes these sounds into three notes so I think the best way to introduce the eighth note rhythm to students is in three note groups.  After the student has neurologically mastered the rhythm then the student can slowly be introduced into playing this rhythm with more complex step and skip patterns.

Middle C Repertoire also gives the student several opportunities to play the same composition in different keys.  Again, I feel this is very important because composers will often take their themes and reintroduce them in various keys.  It is important to get exposure in transposition early on because if it is delayed it becomes a bit of a struggle to learn the same music in a different key.

While students learn their compositions in Middle C Repertoire they are also learning all of the white key hand positions (five-finger scales) and chords.  They are thoroughly given exposure to various techniques they will encounter as composers manipulate their themes.

I have  been working on Middle C Repertoire for about 20 years and have been very pleased with the results.  I’ve dedicated a major part of my teaching career to the teaching of the very young student so this method is tailor-made for young students.  Most of my students playing Middle C Repertoire are in kindergarten or first grade.  The progression of materials best fit this age of student.  Through the summer of 2011 I will be making the Middle C Repertoire Method Books and accompanying Middle C Repertoire Theory Books  available for sale on at http://www.pianoteacherpress.com/

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This blog will be the third installment of Your Desktop Studio; the items I ALWAYS have within reach while teaching my lessons.

CALENDAR – The calendar is an item that I assume most teachers have at an eyes glance in their teaching environment.  Having a calendar, to me, gives my eyes an immediate perspective for arranging things as make-up lessons.  It is also a good reminder to show students that a recital is only days away and that their next lesson will be the LAST LESSON before the recital.  It’s also good for getting a quick look in finding good times for parents wanting to schedule summer lesson times.  Just looking at a calendar sometimes jogs a parents memory as to summer vacations and camps that help us determine that a Friday is really the best day for lessons because there will be fewer conflicts with other planned events.

HAND SANITIZER – This item is a must.  When students come to lessons with a cold I always give them a squirt of hand sanitizer after they sneeze or clean their nose.  I think this is a normal procedure in the public schools to as they seem to automatically give me their hands at these appropriate moments.  Parents seem to have a sense of comfort in knowing their is at least an attempt going on to limit the spread of germs.

CLEANER FOR GLASSES – Young children just do not take to keeping their glasses clean and free of smudges.  Frankly, I’m amazed that some of them can see at all!  When I notice a student’s glasses are smudged (or worse) I try to instill in them the need to proper care for their glasses.  I clean their glasses for them with a glass cleaner specially designed for glasses and a cloth specially designed to prevent scratches from forming on their lenses.  After putting their glasses back in their heads they always respond with a “WOW!! I CAN SEE!!”.  Hopefully, the example of proper care of glasses will give students the incentive to develop a good habit.

ASPIRIN – Anyone who works with teaching for long hours is apt to get a headache now and again so it’s important to keep your pain killer of choice handy.  I put the aspirin in an inconspicuous place.  I would rather students see my pencils and pens (and glasses cleaner) than a bottle of aspirin.  Power of association, you know.

HIGHLIGHTERS – When I was a student teachers marked everything with a red or blue colored pencil.  I had one piano teacher in particular that LOVED to mark my music.  At my first lesson he told me he required me to memorize all my pieces.  After a couple lessons I understood why; after marking my music to thoroughly I couldn’t see the notes.  This teacher helped me have no qualms to writing in my students books.  However, I find that highlighters often to the job much more effectively than colored pencils.

For example – if a student is just getting used to Key Signatures and has difficulty remembering F# for the Key of G using a highlighter to highlight all the F’s in the score is much more effective than writing a sharp symbol before each F.  Also, the fact that the highlighting is still “symbolic” it jogs the students memory that they are to remember something at all the highlighted places in their score.  The highlighting makes for an intermediate step to the student, where writing out the sharp basically delays the inevitable time when one depends upon the Key Signature alone.

For a thorough explanation on the use of highlighters read my blog article on HIGHLIGHT YOUR TEACHING.  This concludes all the information I have out in the open, but what about what’s kept in all those shelves?  Stay tuned, or better yet, subscribe to Blogging at Piano Teacher Press.

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