Ukulele Performers

Jake Shimabukuro is an amazing performer to listen to.

Israel (Iz) Kamakawiwoʻole has been honoured with this Google Doodle video. His version of Over the Rainbow is so uplifting, it’s no surprise that some people call Israel the “Voice of Hawai’i”

I also recommend watching some of Cynthia Lin’s ukulele tutorial videos, as well as her friend Ukulenny (Lendl San Jose). Both Ukulenny and Cynthia Lin are passionate promoters of the ukulele!

Also, I can’t forget to mention Aldrine Guerrero and his Ukulele Underground online community.

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Arts Express Camp at Wilfrid Laurier University -Music Therapy

Here is some information from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Music Therapy program about a fabulous arts camp.  It’s called Arts Express, and runs every summer in Waterloo.

“Since 1993, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Music Therapy program has partnered with KidsAbility, Conestoga College’s Early Childhood Education program, the University of Waterloo and Carousel Dance Centre to provide an inclusive arts camp for children with special needs and their siblings and friends.

The camp is held at KidsAbility’s Waterloo site with a final recital performance taking place in Laurier’s Maureen Forrester Recital Hall.”

Watch at 25:30 for an interview with Linday Kenney, CEO of Kids Ability Centre for Child Development. She tells how the Arts Express camp has impacted parents as well as students in such a powerful way.

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Piano Research Laboratory – University of Ottawa

University of Ottawa School of Music has a Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory run by Gilles Comeau.  They are doing some interesting Piano Pedagogy research studies.  One is called From Music to Medicine, that looks at the transfer of motor skills from music to medicine.  Another one involves playing piano repertoire at their Brain Lab so you can take home pictures of your brain from an MRI scan.  Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory Home website.  Here are some helpful music links such as music magazines, musicians’ health, technology, music associations

Click to access Piano%20lab%20celebrates%2010%20years.pdf




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Summer Music Lessons are here!

Tim Backyard Jun 2019

It’s that time of year to enjoy the summer sun!  What better time to start or continue Saxophone, Piano or Music Theory lessons?  If you’re a child, teen or a child at heart, I teach students of all ages.  All you need is a willing attitude, and we can together work towards making you a better musician!

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Greg Fishman: Proper saxophone hand position; new way to remember scales/ key signatures

If you haven’t heard of Greg Fishman, you definitely need to watch some of his online videos and check out his jazz books.  He’s from Chicago, and has a wealth of material on his website.  As well as a being an accomplished saxophonist and flutist, he knows how to break down jazz concepts in a clear, fun manner.

The Jazz Saxophone Duets series comes in three Volumes.  Playing level is for Intermediate to Advanced jazz saxophone students.

“The ten duets are included in two formats within this book. One format is written for two like saxophones (playable on two altos, two tenors or two baritones), and the other is reworked as needed to employ alto and tenor so that the parts lay easily and musically on the horn at all times.”

Read a more in-depth review of the Duets books here at Jamey Aebersold’s website:

In the following video, Greg Fishman gives some tips for how to keep your fingers close to the keys while playing.


In this video, Greg Fishman explains his new method for memorizing the number of sharps and flats in each major scale.  He calls it the “Magic 7 Scale System”.  This is something that I will try teaching to my own students.

How does music positively impact the brain?

I have found some fascinating slideshows and studies done by researchers at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, Illinois.  The lab is led by Nina Kraus, PhD.  She grew up as a child exposed to her mother’s professional piano playing, and has spent her life studying how humans process sound.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the work that Kraus does.  “In her lab, Kraus and her colleagues study numerous aspects of the auditory system, including its underlying brain mechanisms, the way musical input influences our ability to read and learn language and how conditions such as autism, aging, and HIV affect sound processing.”  Please read the entire article below from Monitor on Psychology:

The following excellent slideshow explains “how multiple brain systems such as thinking, feeling and hearing work together to support listening and language and are strengthened by musical experience.”

Musicians who engaged in musical activity for at least 20 minutes twice a week have enhanced neural encoding of music and speech.

Musicians are better at hearing speech in noise across the lifespan, and have better auditory attention and memory across the lifespan.  And even adults who no longer play music, but took lessons as a child still can have positive neural benefits!

Please have a look at the slideshow link mentioned above for more amazing facts about the relationship between music and the brain systems.


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Saxophone Embouchure tips

The following article, titled “Saxophone Embouchure Made Simple,” is written by a phenomenal saxophone educator named Doron Oronstein.  He recommends watching the following videos by Rick Hirsch on proper saxophone embouchure.

“For those of you who’ve been keeping up with the blog (and shame on you if you’re not one of those people), I’ve recently been putting out articles that have to do with the art of saxophone tone creation, including articles on overtonespracticing on the mouthpiece, and proper positioning of the lower lip.

Since a video is worth a thousand pictures (yes, I just came up with that on the spot), I figured I’d feature some great instructional videos by ace saxophone chief, composer, and educator Rick HirschThese videos make it crystal clear what needs to be done to get the most out of your saxophone’s tone-producing capabilities while instilling in you the proper method of embouchure formation.

It’s an awesome three-part series of brief and non-boring videos – so enjoy!”


Click on the link below to read the original article at Doron Oronstein’s website.

Saxophone embouchure




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Making music can improve kids’ behaviour and cooperation skills

Please visit the following website link where I retrieved this article:

October 15, 2013
Children may benefit from making music

Clap, dance, and sing! A recent study from the University of West London in the United Kingdom supports the idea that getting children involved in making music has the ability to improve their behaviour and problem solving skills.

Carried out by a team of researchers at the University of West London’s school of Psychology, the study randomly assigned 24 girls and 24 boys, all aged four, into two different groups, one featuring the use of music and one without any music. In the music group, children sang and played percussion, while their counter parts in the non-music group listened to a story. After these activities, both groups played two different games that emphasized the use of cooperation and the need to provide help to their group- mates. The results of this experiment showed that the children in the music group were 30 times more likely to help each other, and six times more likely to co-operate than the non-music group.[1] Additionally, researchers found that in the music group alone, girls were much more likely than boys to provide help or be more cooperative after making music.[2]

These findings echo an earlier 2010 German study that featured 96 four-year-old children from 16 different daycares. In this study, children were again divided into two different groups – one which featured a music-making activity and another which did not. After the groups finished their activity, two games were played that required the children to be helpful or cooperative with their peers. As seen in the UK study, children who had been in the music group were far more likely to help each other. Furthermore, children from the music group who did not display help were far more likely to provide an excuse as to why they were unable to help, showing greater empathy than their non-music peers. [3]

Some educators have also been enthusiastic about using music in the classroom. In Atlanta, kindergarten teacher Shelvia Ivey found that both shy, reserved students and active students are able to express themselves through making music and dance. [4] Outside of a school environment, music programs designed for toddlers and young children are available across North America through The Music Class, which advocates for early childhood music involvement.

Although these are only two studies that show the beneficial effects of making music, it demonstrates how influential music may be on human development. From making children more social, to helping adults relax after a long day at work, music may have more effects on us than we fully know.

[1] British Psychological Society (BPS) (2013, September 5). ‘Making music may improve young children’s behavior’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from

[2] ibid

[3] Kirschner, S., & Tomasello, M. (2010). Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children. Volution and Human Behaviour, 31, 354-364. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from

[4] Castro, C. (2012, February 7). Can music improve behavior?. Schools of Thought – blogs. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from

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8 Things Top Practicers Do

In the following article, Noa Kageyama explains the results of a study that looked at the most effective practice behaviours of university level piano major students.  Be sure to check the very end of the article, for the paragraph titled “And one to rule them all.”  The most beneficial practice habit is likely something you have heard before, but since it is shown to be so effective, music students will want to try this!

By Noa Kageyama, PH.D.

As my kids were (begrudgingly) practicing their Tae Kwon Do patterns the other night, I caught myself telling my oldest that he had to do his pattern five times before returning to his video game.

My goal, of course, was not for him to go through the motions of his pattern five times like a pouty zombie, but to do it one time with good form and authority. But the parent in me finds it very reassuring to know that a certain number of repetitions or time has gone into something. Beyond the (erroneous) assumption that this will automagically solidify his skills somehow, it feels like a path to greater discipline, and a way to instill within my kids some sort of work ethic that will serve them well in the future.

Some degree of time and repetition is necessary to develop and hone our skills, of course. But we also know on some intuitive level that to maximize gains, we ought to practice “smarter, not harder.”

But what the heck does that really mean anyway? What exactly do top practicers do differently?

Pianists learning Shostakovich

A group of researchers led by Robert Duke of The University of Texas at Austin conducted a study several years ago to see if they could tease out the specific practice behaviors that distinguish the best players and most effective learners.

Seventeen piano and piano pedagogy majors agreed to learn a 3-measure passage fromShostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The passage had some tricky elements, making it too difficult to sight read well, but not so challenging that it couldn’t be learned in a single practice session.

The setup

The students were given two minutes to warm up, and then provided with the 3-measure excerpt, a metronome, and a pencil.

Participants were allowed to practice as long as they wanted, and were free to leave whenever they felt they were finished. Practice time varied quite a bit, ranging from 8 1/2 minutes to just under 57 minutes.

To ensure that the next day’s test would be fair, they were specifically told that they may NOT practice this passage, even from memory, in the next 24 hours.

24 hours later…

When participants returned the following day for their test, they were given 2 minutes to warm up, and then asked to perform the complete 3-measure passage in its entirety without stopping, 15 times (with pauses between attempts, of course).

Each of the pianists’ performances were then evaluated on two levels. Getting the right notes with the right rhythm was the primary criteria, but the researchers also ranked each of the pianists’ performances from best to worst, based on tone, character, and expressiveness.

That led to a few interesting findings:

  1. Practicing longer didn’t lead to higher rankings.
  2. Getting in more repetitions had no impact on their ranking either.
  3. The number of times they played it correctly in practice also had no bearing on their ranking.

What did matter was:

  1. How many times they played it incorrectly. The more times they played it incorrectly, the worse their ranking tended to be.
  2. The percentage of correct practice trials did seem to matter. The greater the proportion of correct trials in their practice session, the higher their ranking tended to be.

The top 8 strategies

Three pianists’ performances stood out from the rest, and were described as having “more consistently even tone, greater rhythmic precision, greater musical character (purposeful dynamic and rhythmic inflection), and a more fluid execution.”

Upon taking a closer look at the practice session videos, the researchers identified 8 distinct practice strategies that were common to the top pianists, but occurred less frequently in the practice sessions of the others:

  1. Playing was hands-together early in practice.
  2. Practice was with inflection early on; the initial conceptualization of the music was with inflection.
  3. Practice was thoughtful, as evidenced by silent pauses while looking at the music, singing/humming, making notes on the page, or expressing verbal “ah-ha”s.
  4. Errors were preempted by stopping in anticipation of mistakes.
  5. Errors were addressed immediately when they appeared.
  6. The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected.
  7. Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct).
  8. Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and the passage was stabilized, as evidenced by the error’s absence in subsequent trials.

The top 3 strategies

Of the eight strategies above, there were three that were used by all three top pianists, but rarely utilized by the others. In fact, only two other pianists (ranked #4 and #6) used more than one:

6. The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected.

7. Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct; or speeded things up to test themselves, but not too much).

8. Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and the passage was stabilized, as evidenced by the error’s absence in subsequent trials.

What’s the common thread that ties these together?

The researchers note that the most striking difference between the top three pianists and the rest, was how they handled mistakes. It’s not that the top pianists made fewer mistakes in the beginning and simply had an easier time learning the passage.

The top pianists made mistakes too, but they managed to correct their errors in such a way that helped them avoid making the same mistakes over and over, leading to a higher proportion of correct trials overall.

And one to rule them all

The top performers utilized a variety of error-correction methods, such as playing with one hand alone, or playing just part of the excerpt, but there was one strategy that seemed to be the most impactful.

Slowing things down.

After making a mistake, the top performers would play the passage again, but slow down or hesitate – without stopping – right before the place where they made a mistake the previous time.

This seemed to allow them to play the challenging section more accurately, and presumably coordinate the correct motor movements at a tempo they could handle, rather than continuing to make mistakes and failing to identify the precise nature of the mistake, the underlying technical problem, and what they ought to do differently in the next trial.

And if this sounds vaguely familiar, you might recall that a basketball study found something very similar in the practice habits of top free throw shooters…

Take action

What is your number one takeaway? How might you integrate these findings not just in your own practicing, but in the practice habits of your students?

 About Noa Kageyama, Ph.D.

Performance psychologist and Juilliard alumnus & faculty member Noa Kageyama teaches musicians how to beat performance anxiety and play their best under pressure through live classes, coachings, and an online home-study course. Based in NYC, he is married to a terrific pianist, has two hilarious kids, and is a wee bit obsessed with technology and all things Apple.

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Hillary House Christmas performance 2015

On December 6, 2015 Tim Snyder and his great aunt Louise Clarke performed Christmas carols at a singalong at Hillary House in Aurora.

Tim performed on saxophone and piano, and Louise Clarke performed on piano.  It was a fun afternoon shared with visitors at Hillary House!  Now Tim is definitely in the Christmas spirit after performing all these wonderful carols!Tim saxophone Hillary house 2015 Melanie Bell Snapd Aurora

Photo: courtesy of Melanie Bell, Snap’d Aurora

A Family Christmas
When: December 6, 2015 1pm to 4pm
Where: Hillary House National Historic Site, Aurora, Ontario
What: Enjoy live music, children’s activities, light refreshments, the gift shop for Christmas shopping, Art at the Manor 2015, AND a visit with Santa!

Photo below:  courtesy of Aurora Historical Society

Tim Louise Hillary House 3 -AHS Erika Mazanik

Music Can Prevent Age-Related Cognitive Decline

According to researchers at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, Illinois, there is exciting new research that shows how being a lifelong practicing musician can make the brain healthier.  Nina Kraus, an auditory neuroscientist at the Northwestern University School of Communication, is the Principal Investigator for the evidence outlined below.

  • Musicians have stronger auditory cognitive skills across the lifespan. Strengthened auditory cognitive functions may contribute to stronger speech-sound processing. Kraus & Chandrasekaran (2010) Nature Reviews Neuroscience
  • The more you play, the more you profit across the lifespan!  There is a correlation showing that as the total number of years practiced increases, the musicians showed increased scores in the following areas:  attention, working memory,  hearing speech in noise, and neural speech-sound processing. Strait & Kraus (2013) Hearing Research
  • Music training affects sound processing across the lifespan.  (this study measures how reliably is the brain processing the sound) Skoe and Kraus (2013) Frontiers
  • Older adult musicians have superior hearing in noiseauditory cognitive skills -even musicians with hearing loss. This study compared musicians, non-musicans and musicians with hearing loss.                                                Parbery-Clark et al. (2011)  PLoS ONE
  • Musicians across the lifespan are better at hearing speech in noise! Strait et al (2012) Brain & Language
  • A lifetime of playing an instrument protects musicians from age-related neural declines.  In this study, musicians had a faster neural response than non-musicians.  Anderson et al. (2012) Journal of Neuroscience

Yamaha C7X Piano and The Piano Guys Accomplish the Impossible on The Great Wall of China


Yamaha C7X Piano and The Piano Guys Accomplish the Impossible on The Great Wall of China

Group secured unprecedented permission from Chinese government and help from support groups including Yamaha Entertainment Group and Yamaha Artist Services.

Buena Park, Calif. (PRWEB) October 31, 2013

The very idea of moving a grand piano and cello atop the Great Wall of China to shoot a music video sounds like an impossible feat, at best. For starters, the unprecedented special permission required from the Chinese government, along with daunting restrictions and logistics are enough to dissuade even the most determined musician.

And yet, a newly released video by The Piano Guys performing on the wall is a study in how to accomplish the impossible, with the help of a willing government, artistic determination and support organizations such as Yamaha Entertainment Group and Yamaha Artist Services Beijing.

The resulting video, “Kung Fu Piano: Cello Ascends,” ( captures this beautiful and historic performance, and has already garnered more than 3.6 million views since its release on October 9.

The Piano Guys, an immensely popular group that has made their name based on self-made videos of their pop classical music performances on YouTube and subsequent album releases, consists of pianist Jon Schmidt, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, producer/videographer Paul Anderson and music producer Al van der Beek. Together, they have amassed more than 276 million views to date, and more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube.

“Since The Piano Guys began, it has been our impossible dream to put a grand piano on the Great Wall,” said Jon Schmidt. “People laughed at us when we said we were determined to do it. It is done. All of us at The Piano Guys would like to dedicate this music video to the visionary behind it all and the man whose dream this has always been: Paul Anderson.”

The behind-the-scenes action leading up to the video shoot was nearly as improbable and compelling as the finished video. While getting permission from the Chinese government was a great coup, the group soon discovered that they still faced real challenges.

To start, the permission they received only allowed them a limited 12-hour timeframe to shoot the music video. And while they were able to use a crane to get the 913-pound Yamaha C7X grand piano on the Great Wall of China, 20 local men were given the harrowing task of carrying the piano by hand up countless stone steps to where it appears in the video.

Additional hurdles included lighting, uninvited onlookers climbing the wall to get a glimpse of the performance and the limited equipment and crew that were allowed (and that could fit) atop the wall. This video chronicles the arduous preparations for this production (

“It was an amazing feat and a life changing experience. We are very grateful for the opportunity and all the support we received from our support organizations, including Yamaha Entertainment Group and Yamaha Artist Services for providing and transporting the C7X piano to this lofty perch,” adds Paul Anderson.

“The Piano Guys are valued Yamaha Piano Artists and their series of YouTube videos are wildly popular, with hundreds of millions of hits. We jumped at the opportunity to support them in this ambitious project,” said Chris Gero, founder and VP, Yamaha Entertainment Group. “We are very proud to have our world-class pianos featured regularly in their sophisticated music videos. This one, of course, is particularly breathtaking.”

The Piano Guys started making music videos together for fun and their “hobby” turned into a worldwide phenomenon when their self-made YouTube videos resonated with a huge online audience. With the success of The Piano Guys’ first two major label releases, The Piano Guys and The Piano Guys 2, Portrait/Sony Masterworks has just released the classical-pop group’s new holiday album, A Family Christmas.

For more information on The Piano Guys and tour dates, visit For more information on Yamaha’s record label Yamaha Entertainment Group, visit

10 Things You Should Do BEFORE Your Child Begins Piano Lessons

(an Australian piano teacher – I highly recommend reading her other blog articles!) (Tim Snyder)
(One other item that could be added to the list is to work on basic rhythms with a percussion instrument to introduce the concept of keeping a steady beat) by Tim Snyder

This is a quick checklist of things to do, buy, learn and decide before your child has their very first piano lesson.

Working your way through this checklist will speed up your child’s learning curve, possibly by months (maybe more!), and once you’ve covered every item below you will be a superbly equipped parent entering into the role of nurturing the growth of a new little (or not so little) pianist.

1. Buy a piano. This may or may not seem like a no-brainer to you. In case it’s not, let me explain. Your child will not make progress without a piano at home with which they can practice between lessons. So until you have a piano don’t bother organising to take piano lessons. Unless your goal is to pay forreally expensive babysitting.

Ideally you will buy a good quality acoustic piano, but there might be reasons why you would prefer a digital piano (usually issues related to living in an apartment or a very small house). You want an acoustic piano because it does cool stuff that digital pianos can’t do – things like capturing harmonics when you silently depress the keys and then play other keys – and because the ‘touch’ your child will develop when practicing on an acoustic piano will be a better touch than when they practice on a digital piano.

But if a digital piano is the best option for you you’ll discover that a digital piano offers some wonderful extras that acoustic pianos don’t deliver (things like recording your performance and a variety of sound options – how many extras, and how wonderful they are, will depend on the quality of the digital piano you buy). The thing is you need weighted keys, touch sensitivity, a fixed pedal, a music stand that is not flimsy, and a sound that really does match the sound of a piano (as compared to electric keyboard).

2. Put the piano in a part of the house that isn’t a. lonely and/or b. where the only TV is. Two of the biggest reasons children don’t end up practicing is because they’re either lonely in the glummest/most distant room of the house or because everyone else wants to watch the television and the piano is in the same room. Having the piano hidden away communicates that the piano is not something normal or useful; having the piano and tv competing for acoustic space is just asking for conflict in your family.

3. If you have an acoustic piano, keep it tuned! This is more of an adminstrative burden than it is a major expense (you need to find a piano tuner, book them up, and then be at the house while they tune the piano), but if your piano is out of tune your child(ren) will find playing the piano far less pleasant, and you won’t enjoy hearing the piano played all that much either.

4. Have the piano in your house for months – even years – before your child begins lessons.  This is about developing a sense of the everyday about the instrument (the piano is a part of normal life) as well as allowing the child to explore the instrument quite thoroughly prior to lessons beginning. To which end….

5. Encourage your child to play around with the piano prior to beginning lessons. You can’t break a piano by playing it, and your child will develop a sense of familiarity with the layout of the keys (black notes in groups of 2 and 3 placed between white notes) and the way the keys make sounds (high sounds towards the right, low sounds towards the left) as well as different effects the piano can make (softer sounds when you press more gently, sustained sounds when you depress the pedal, etc.). This saves time in the first weeks of lessons and, more importantly, means that your child will have a confidence when being asked to try ‘new’ things on the piano in these first few weeks and months.

6. Purchase a chair/piano stool/piano bench that is height adjustable.  Sitting at the right height is a huge part of what makes playing the piano comfortable and effortless, and sitting at the wrong height can prevent the pianist from creating beautiful sounds. Don’t make do with cushions – organise a permanently available means for your child to sit with maximum ease at the piano.

7. Notice what your child discovers at the piano, and (when the time is right) talk about their discoveries with them. Does your child play the same thing (or variations of the same thing) every time they get near the piano? Or do they experiment with one kind of sound for a few days and then move on? Do they try to pick out tunes, or are they more interested in piano role-playing? Do they play across the full length of the keyboard, or restrict themselves to one area?

Noticing the way your child experiments is an essential foundation to being able to talk about what they are doing. And talking about what your child does is an essential part of validating and consolidating the discoveries they are making.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure of the exact musical term, talk about the kinds of feelings the sounds reflect, what the sounds remind you of, and ask your child to talk about their intentions, ideas and reflections. Some pianist gestures are gentle, others are cheeky, while yet others can be very sad indeed. Starting out your child’s pianistic journey by talking about emotion, attitude and texture (smooth/spiky, for instance) puts your child at an enormous advantage in communicating with others about their playing.

8. Make sure your child knows the difference between their right and left sides. This is a bigger issue than simply knowing the right hand from the left; having your child be aware that they can create an action on one side of their body and then mirror that action on the other  develops physical-spatial awareness that will be immensely beneficial when learning new skills at the keyboard. Which is to say: having a child practice jumping to the left or jumping to the right will help them be better pianists. Anything that asks a child to do things with their body in terms of left and right will lay the foundation for physical fluency at the keyboard.

9. Make sure your child knows their alphabet. From A to G. And maybe back again. This won’t be covered in the first lesson (normally), but if your child understands that the musical alphabet goes A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B, etc., they’ll save at least half a lesson. And if your child can think through those letters backwards you’ve probably saved two more whole lessons over the course of the first year.

10. Show your child a treble and bass clef. And explain that the treble is for high notes, the bass for low notes. If you have no idea what a treble clef is then google it. This is just a symbol, but the more familiar your child is with what these symbols look like these easier it will be for a teacher to introduce new ideas quickly during the first year or so of lessons. The treble clef in particular is an oft-used symbol to represent music – your child may well have already seen this symbol and just never quite understood what it meant (it just means the notes on it in the top half of the piano). Being confident distinguishing these two symbols could save half a lesson or so at least three times in the course of the first 12-18 months of lessons.

I’m sure readers of this post will be able to contribute more great ideas for things parents can do before their child begins piano lessons, but these are mytop 10.  If every new student had these items covered … Well, I can dream, can’t I?!


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Choir Project in San Francisco to study Elder Well-being

By Elizabeth Fernandez on July 15, 2013
Music – as poets have noted – has the power to wash away the dust of everyday life, and medical experts believe it may also imbue physical and social benefits.

Now a UC San Francisco research project is exploring whether singing in a community choir can provide tangible health advantages to older adults.

Over the next four years, a dozen choirs will be created at senior centers around San Francisco. The first group already has launched at the Mission Neighborhood Centers, and recruitment of choir members is underway in the Bayview and Western Addition neighborhoods.

To join Community of Voices, choir members must be 60 years of age or older – no prior choral experience is needed. Altogether, approximately 400 seniors will take part in weekly, 90-minute singing sessions over the course of a year.

The project will assess the impact on participants’ cognition, mobility and overall wellbeing during their choral year. The researchers also will examine whether singing in a community choir is a cost-effective way to promote health among culturally diverse older adults.

Community of Voices is a collaboration among UCSF, the nonprofit San Francisco Community Music Center, and the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services. The Community Music Center is providing choir directors and other professional music leadership.

“We evaluate a variety of health outcomes and try to measure the mechanism of health changes – we’ll look at mood, loneliness and memory,” said principal investigator Julene Johnson, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor at the UCSF School of Nursing’s Institute for Health & Aging. Johnson, who studies mild cognitive impairment in older adults, also is an amateur musician who plays flute and has sung in community choirs.

“We’ll study whether the choir singing helps participants get stronger, fall less, and whether it improves their balance,” Johnson said.

“The goal is to provide scientific-based evidence that community arts programs can be used to promote health,” she added. “Everyone says ‘Yes, of course they must be good for us,’ but we don’t have enough evidence yet.”

Music Can Strengthen Neural Connections

Scientific study on the therapeutic impact of music is still somewhat in its infancy, but scientists have learned that music activates certain regions in the brain and can strengthen neural connections. Research has shown that people who participate in choral singing may have better health and stronger social ties than non-singers.

Johnson’s new study in San Francisco builds upon pioneering research that she conducted in Finland as a Fulbright Mid-Career scholar in 2010. Exploring the effect of musical arts upon aging in a country with a wide abundance of choral groups, she learned that singing in a choir is an important factor in keeping older Finns healthy.

Johnson is the lead author of a paper based on her Nordic research being published in the July 2013 issue ofInternational Psychogeriatrics.

In the San Francisco study, the first choir at the Mission Neighborhood Centers – led by conductor Martha Rodriguez-Salazar, a Community Music Center faculty member – has approximately 20 members who are singing in both English and Spanish. All participants underwent baseline health assessments prior to the start of the choir, and they will complete two other health evaluations midway and at the end of their singing year.

“You can see through the smiles of the singers how they feel about being in the choir,” said Maria Bermudez, operational director of the Mission Neighborhood Centers. “The choir helps people in so many ways. It helps them avoid isolation at home, it helps with mental retention, and it makes people feel like they are part of a team. This is a great project, and a great way for people to learn a new skill.”

Accomplished musician Maestro Curtis, a Grammy-nominated music producer, will lead the choirs at the Western Addition Senior Center and the Bayview Opera House with the Dr. George W. Davis Senior Center.

“Music is a universal language, it brings joy,” said Curtis, whose wife Nola will provide piano accompaniment to the singers. “It allows people to feel productive, to become a part of something. For older people, this is very valuable. Our senior citizens are a treasure, and I want to do what I can to help them enjoy the rest of their lives on this planet.”

The project is funded by the National Institute of Aging (R01AG042526).

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Practicing piano increases brain size

from an article titled “Piano Boosts Brain Power”

Published April 12, 2013 | By Kristin

– See more at:

Brain scans show that the brains of adult musicians are larger than those of non-musicians.

Research now shows that learning to play the piano actually causes parts of the brain to increase in size.

Kudos to all you parents who are helping your children learn to play! You’re making a real difference in your child’s development.

Read a Summary of the Research

Brain scans reveal clear differences: certain parts of the brain are larger in adult musicians as compared with nonmusicians. So are special brainy people genetically predisposed to music or is the process of learning an instrument responsible for the larger size? Researcher Gottfried Schlog and his colleagues developed experiments to investigate.

Schlog’s study demonstrates that learning to play an instrument does in fact cause structural changes in the brains of children, and that the amount of time spent practicing is important. Test children received lessons on piano or a string instrument for two years.

Brain scans performed at the beginning of the study revealed no significant differences between children in the test and control groups. Brain scans performed at the end of two years showed significantly increased size among children who were high practicers.

Parents Can Make a Difference

These results provide great news for parents! While nature helps determine your child’s potential, there are measures you can take to enrich your child’s developing mind, such as providing your child with piano instruction.

The other good news is that obtaining these positive effects is within your reach. High practicers were children who practiced 2-5 hours a week–this is doable!

Read the actual research publication:

Tim’s Music Lessons -time to make your dreams a reality!

PHILOSOPHY ”You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”   ~C.S. Lewis

“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”  ~Jesse Owens

My philosophy is to create an environment in which students are free to express their emotions through their playing. I value each student as an individual, and work patiently to guide each student to fulfill his/her potential. I expect students to work hard, but find that encouragement goes a long way to help students realize their dreams.


I teach in the Aurora and Newmarket area from beginning up to Grade 8 Royal Conservatory level. For young beginning students (ages 4 and up) I use a variety of methods, such as Alfred, Music for Little Mozarts, Piano Adventures and Celebrate Piano. Then I encourage students to learn the Royal Conservatory Method when they are prepared for this next step in their progress. I prepare students for Royal Conservatory examinations when the student and parent are ready to commit to this program.  This is an internationally recognized program of music study, which is quite highly regarded around the world.

I also encourage students of all ages to learn popular songs at an appropriate level of difficulty.

My saxophone program is geared for all ages as well. I recommend students start saxophone at age 10 and higher, but it depends on several physical factors, including whether the student can reach all the keys. I teach jazz, classical and popular saxophone, depending on the student’s interests. I also prepare saxophone students for University auditions and Royal Conservatory examinations. I teach improvisation in jazz and blues as well.


Lesson structure depends greatly on the student’s age and interest, but a sample lesson might start with sight reading (sight rhythm and sight melody), ear training (clapback rhythm and playback melody) and identifying intervals. Then I would review the student’s homework from last week. I will ask the student how their practicing went, and if there are any questions. I will ask which piece they want to begin with, especially if there’s a piece they can’t wait to play! Then I will teach part of another song or songs, depending on the level. Scales and technique would either be at the beginning or end of the lesson, depending on how long we spend on sight and ear at the beginning of the lesson. I enjoy playing duets with students, especially if we can record a student and teacher duet in the lesson!

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Robert Carli -Saxophonist, Film Composer & Arranger

Picture of Rob Carli

from University of Toronto Faculty of Music Website

Robert Carli


email: website: in new window)

Robert Carli leads a diverse career as a performer, composer and producer.  He performs regularly with a variety of ensembles, including the Toronto Symphony, The National Ballet Orchestra and The Art of Time Ensemble.  He is active in the studio, playing on jingles and film scores, and has worked with such artists as the Barenaked Ladies, Meesha Brueggergosman, Mary Lou Fallis, and has served as a music co-ordinator for such artists as Julie Andrews and Bob Newhart. Robert is highly in demand as a film composer and arranger.  He has composed music for over 30 films, movies of the week, and documentaries.  His work has garnered 11 Gemini nominations and 5 Gemini wins.  He is the recipient of the 2009 and 2010 SOCAN Award for domestic television.

Tim Snyder says, “I was privileged to study saxophone with Rob Carli at Wilfrid Laurier University.”

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James Kalyn -World Class Doubler -Saxophone, Clarinet

Article from Mount Allison University Department of Music

Tim Snyder says:  “I was privileged to study saxophone at Wilfrid Laurier University with Dr. James Kalyn.”

James Kalyn


James Kalyn was appointed Assistant Professor of single reeds and conducting at the Mount Allison University Music Department in 2011. Lauded by his colleagues and students as a “world-class doubler,” Dr. Kalyn has built a career over the past twenty-five years as a soloist and orchestral musician of the highest calibre on both saxophone and clarinet.  Grand prize winner of the prestigious Canadian Music Competitions’ International Stepping Stone division, as well as one of the USA’s highest honours, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, James Kalyn has built an international career as a performer, conductor, and pedagogue.

As a concert saxophonist James Kalyn has performed throughout the United States and Canada, as well as in Argentina, China, and Japan.  As a clarinetist Kalyn won his first professional orchestra position while still an undergraduate student, and has played in orchestras continuously since that time, including the orchestras of Greensboro and Winston-Salem North Carolina, London and Windsor Ontario as well as RED in Cleveland and the Carolina Chamber Symphony.  He plays saxophone in the Cleveland Orchestra – one of the “big five” American orchestras and one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world – and has also played bass clarinet with them. Proficient also on flute and bassoon, Kalyn has played for over 30 theatrical productions including the Toronto productions of Phantom of the Opera and Crazy for You, and touring Broadway productions such as CabaretGrand Hotel, and Guys and Dolls. About his musicianship, Napoleón Cabrera of Argentina’s CLARIN wrote: “James Kalyn deserves plenty of recognition for his pure technique, for his intelligence in displaying meaning, and for introducing that inner shade of abandon…without disturbing his execution” and Mark Carrington of THE WASHINGTON POST described his playing as “Carefully cultivated shades of haunting beauty and singing simplicity…”

Graduating with a DMA from the Eastman School of Music, James Kalyn studied classical and jazz saxophone and has played as a professional jazz musician on both clarinet and saxophone throughout his career with such luminaries as Ray Charles and The Manhattan Transfer.  He teaches both classical and jazz styles and many of his students have gone on to careers as jazz musicians.

In addition to his performing career, James Kalyn brings to Mount Allison extensive experience as a conductor. During his tenure as Director of the Wind Ensemble and Professor of Saxophone at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Kalyn conducted hundreds of works from the wind repertoire, and promoted new works as well.  He conducted a summer festival orchestra in North Carolina for many years, has guest conducted professional orchestras in China as well as the Oberlin Wind Ensemble, and is the conductor for the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra.  As a teacher and conductor, he has taught at the University of Western Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ithaca College, Youngstown State University, and two of the most prestigious conservatories in North America, the Eastman School of Music and the Oberlin Conservatory. He has taught everything from applied music and musicianship to theory, jazz improvisation and conducting. Consistent with Mount Allison’s liberal arts philosophy, James Kalyn enjoys working with all ranges of musicians, from elite performers through beginning students. Kalyn was a founding faculty member of the New Horizons music program, a pioneering project to teach music to older adults. He directed his own group for years and helped to found three others.

As a scholar and pedagogue, Dr. Kalyn has published over a dozen articles and reviews, including three peer-reviewed pieces for Saxophone Journal, the saxophone world’s scholarly publication, and MLA Notes.  Recently Kalyn has developed connections with China and has travelled to China over a dozen times to conduct, perform, teach, or, in his capacity as Program Director of the Oberlin Conservatory’s relationships in China, to administer programs and manage orchestra tours. Kalyn studies Mandarin and is working on projects to develop woodwind pedagogy and performance practices in China. He hopes to develop international exchange opportunities in China for Mount Allison students. He has made eight recordings as soloist, orchestral player and conductor and has been heard on CBC’s Disc Drive, Morningside, Gilmour’s albums, Gaberau, and NPR’s Performance Today.

In the winter of 2011 Kalyn was in residence in Miami with the Cleveland Orchestra. He also recorded Clear Sky for soprano saxophone and ensemble by American Joshua Levine, having performed the North American Premiere of the work in 2010 with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble. In the spring of 2011 he recorded one of the greatest works in the repertoire, Alexander Glazounov’s Concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra. Kalyn’s 2011 season also includes debut performances at Mount Allison on both clarinet and saxophone, and another extensive European Tour as a member of the Cleveland Orchestra.

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