The Eyes Have It

Are you a multi-tasker?  You certainly are when reading music while playing the piano.  Let’s take a look <insert knee slap>  at what your eyes are doing.    Are you supposed to watch the music?  Or your hands?  Or some of each?  Are you getting dizzy from nodding your head back and forth between the keyboard and the printed music?

If that isn’t enough, add the challenge of learning to read a bit ahead of what the hands are actually playing.  My students are probably tired of me using this example, but here it is, one more time:  Let’s say you are going somewhere, oh how about to a piano lesson 🙂 and your lesson is scheduled to begin at 4:00.  What happens if you leave your house at 4:00? You will be late, of course.  You must leave the house before 4:00 to arrive at your destination in time.  In order to play a note in rhythm (in time) you must read that note and get your hand in the correct position before it is time for that note to be played.  Sound complicated?  It is, really.  But I promise, the more you do it, the easier — and more automatic — it gets until the day finally comes when it just happens.   One of the reasons we sight-read every single song we learn here at my studio is to practice the skills of reading and reading ahead.

Check out the link below.  It’s an interesting video focusing (oh, somebody stop me) on the eye movement of a professional pianist compared to that of his student.

What Does a Pianist See?





Join the Ranks!


Combining my interest in history with performing on a magnificent organ seemed like a great idea, so when Mike Hobbs, from the Civil War Round Table, asked me to provide a program for them I quickly agreed.  I had absolutely no idea, however, how this event would grow…and grow…and grow over the next days and weeks.  What started out as a simple program for a local group has become a much larger event with TV, radio, print and social media coverage.

Click here to watch a KWQC TV Channel 6 segment from “Fran Riley Features…” about the concert.  After watching the video, scroll to find a gallery of photos they took while on location.

During the taping of that segment, John was in the church balcony and took a few photos of his own, shown below.  (Thanks to my daughter Lisa for the great title to the program!)

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word:  Fran Riley and Channel 6 KWQC, the Galesburg Register-Mail (click here to see the article),  WGIL and Terry Cavanaugh, and all my friends and family (love those Facebook shares!).

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Making Music with My Friends

2013-14 was the first year for a music program at the school where I teach general music and choir to middle and high school students.  Our spring concert was last night, and I am incredibly proud of the great progress made by these students in just one year.  They performed the music wonderfully, stood tall, sang out, rang handchimes and shared their joy.  After the performance, many people came up to me to share their positive thoughts about the performance, and I truly appreciate all the kind words and support.   I was particularly moved, however, by a mother who expressed profound thankfulness at seeing how her child was not just performing, but enjoying  music.

Earlier in the afternoon, a group of girls spent extra time rehearsing, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.  After they reviewed all the songs they would be performing that night — multiple times! —  they continued to sing all  of the songs we had learned over the entire academic year.  They laughed and giggled, and, in spite of the silliness, got most of the notes correct.  They were musicians making music together, but more importantly, they were having a great time reliving their shared music experiences as friends.  And a mother was there to see the magic happen.

I am thankful I could teach music to these young people this year, and we did, indeed, learn a lot of music.  However, I am most proud of the fact that this year, the students not only learned to make music, but to enjoy making music with friends.  If you have never had the privilege of creating music with friends, it hard to express what a delight it is.  But if you know that joy, then you understand what Willie Nelson was singing about in “On the Road Again.”  I know I do.



A Great Recital

What a wonderful musical afternoon we had!   Twelve students of piano and voice gave outstanding performances of teaching pieces, popular, sacred and classical music.  Everyone performed one or two solos, and some also played duets.  Were there are few performance jitters?   Naturally.  But everyone was so very well prepared that every song sounded marvelous.  I am very proud of everything that these students have accomplished this past year.

Wesley United Methodist Church, Ottumwa, IA

Wesley United Methodist Church, Ottumwa, IA

In my opening remarks to the gathered,  I included my annual request of “please do not take flash pictures during the performances.”  I soon realized how dated that remark sounded. As the recital progressed, I glanced over my shoulder to see a mom using her tablet to make a video of her child performing at the piano.  Another student, another mom, another video…..and a smart phone.    And so it went through out the program, parents, grandparents and friends, all with assorted electronic devices capturing every moment of our time together.   At the end of the program, we gathered for a group photo.  I stood with the students, and saw pairs of outstretched arms holding electronic devices —- mostly phones—  pointed at us.  In the crowd, I only saw three cameras, one belonging to my professional photographer husband.  With all of this digital-ness going on, I was quite surprised to hear the click-then-wind of a lone film camera.

Students of Gail Masinda

We are all smiles because we have finished our songs!

What does all of this have to do with a recital?  Everything.  Sure, recitals are about performing music, but there is more.  Recitals are about extensive preparation, hard work, and excellence.  Recitals are about poise, personal discipline and overcoming fear.  Most importantly, recitals are about the performers sharing the pride of accomplishment with those they love, and the audience showing support, enthusiasm and appreciation for a job well done.  The photos and videos become cherished records of these musical milestones.

So, please don’t take flash pictures during the performances, but take all the photos and videos and audio recordings you want.  Go back and relive  the recital often.  Tell the musician(s) in your family how very proud you are of them and what they have learned.  Enjoy their music.  Ask to hear favorite songs again.  Remind them of your love and support.  That’s what makes a great recital.