Music Room Skill Sets 1-5

The first five Music Room Skill Sets are now available! The story line running through the entire series is based on my actual students, past and present. Their questions, situations and gentle humor are very real making it easy for students to relate to the Music Room characters. I have lost track of how many times I’ve heard things like, “That’s EXACTLY what I want to know!” or “I’m glad I’m not the only one who needs help with this.” We met AryAnna in Skill Set 3 and EmmyLou in Skill Set 4. Landon comes for his lesson in Skill Set 5.

Each fun lesson has the storyboard cartoons, writing Fun Pages and games. I hope you will consider sharing this link with the music students, teachers and homeschool families that you know.

The links to the entire series (so far) is: The Music Room

[Related: Wondering about the Grand Organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris? Click here and the printable lesson about the organ, before and after the fire, is here.]

I Did It!

After a lot of talk about doing it, I finally buckled down and got it started. I know, it’s just a baby step. I have a long way to go on this journey. But the point is, I started working towards a goal.

Those of you who are taking music lessons from me know that for a couple of years now, I have been developing a music curriculum using cartoon-style storyboards. Feedback from the kids (well, and adults, too!) has been pretty impressive and I have been encouraged to not only continue, but to expand.

So what did I finally do? I opened up a store in TeachersPayTeachers! All of the characters in Maestro Heights will soon be available for everyone to enjoy.

Remember the old TV show, “Lost In Space?” I loved that show, even though every episode ended with a cliffhanger. Maestro Heights is going to be like that for awhile. Enjoy each episode as it is made available, and stay tuned for our next adventure!

Here are the first two “episodes”.

Welcome to the Music Room!

Keyboard Layout

February 16, 1848: Chopin’s Final Concert

Frederic_Chopin_photo-713x1024Born in the Duchy of Warsaw (present-day Poland) and raised in Warsaw, Frederick Chopin (1810-1849) settled in Paris by the time he was 21 years old.  His musical compositions are primarily for solo piano and remain among the most popular selections for students, artists, and audiences.  While admired for his technical virtuosity at the piano, he was generally in poor health throughout his life.  He was in Paris when died of tuberculosis, just 39 years old.

Chopin preferred intimate salon performances over concert work and only gave about 30 public performances once he moved to Paris.  The last of these performances was in London on February 16, 1848.  The occasion was a fundraising concert presented by Literary Association of the Friends of Poland to aid the several hundred Poles that had fled to London in the wake of the November Uprising of 1830.  The “Annual Grand Dress and Fancy Ball and Concert” was a grand and lavish evening.  Chopin was one of several performers for the concert portion of the evening, and his appearance was scheduled between operatic vocalists.

Chopin performed on a Broadwood grand piano and felt he had done well.  The audience agreed, giving him “much applause.”  Others described his playing as  “like an angel” and “most brilliant.”  Even though he was frail, his artistry was appreciated as “that pure and vigorous style which has already earned him admiration is musical circles.”  After his performance, Chopin left the event early and collapsed when he arrived home. 

Many examples of Chopin’s music are available on YouTube.  Click here to go to one extended playlist.




The Light of the World Is Jesus

Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876) was one of the five children born to John and Lydia Bliss.  Their log home, typical of the early settlers of northern Pennsylvania, was filled with love and Christian teaching, but formal education was scarce.  Early in life, Philip developed a passion for learning and for music, and took advantage of whatever opportunities came his way.  He became a teacher at age 18 and about that same time began his first formal music studies.  His musical gifts, including a strong baritone voice, developed quickly and by 1860 he was teaching music.

In 1864,  Root & Cady, of Chicago, Illinois, published a song by Bliss. The payment he requested and received for the song was a flute.  Bliss soon became friends with George F. Root, composer of many Civil War songs, including “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” and several hymns.   During the next years, Bliss worked for the publisher and with Root, leading singing conventions, teaching and giving concerts.

In 1869, a meeting took place which would change gospel music forever.  Bliss described it as follows: “One Sunday evening, my wife and I went out for a walk, before going to church… we came upon the open air meeting. I was at once attracted by the earnestness of the speaker, who, I was told, was [Dwight L.] Moody, and, waiting until he closed with an earnest appeal for all to follow him to the theater, we decided we would go, and fell in with the crowd, and spent the evening in his meeting there. That night Mr. Moody was without his usual leader for the singing, and the music was rather weak. From the audience, I helped what I could on the hymns, and attracted Moody’s attention. At the close of the meeting, he was at the door shaking hands with all who passed out, and as I came to him he had my name and history in about two minutes, and a promise that when I was in Chicago, Sunday evenings, I would come and help in the singing at the theater meetings. This was the commencement of our acquaintance.”

In July, 1870, Mr. Bliss became leader of the choir of the First Congregational Church of Chicago, and shortly afterwards, the Superintendent of the Sabbath school. He continued to hold both of these positions for about three years, resigning only when his work as a singing evangelist took more of his attention.  In November of 1876, Mr. and Mrs. Bliss went to Peoria, Illinois, for a series of meetings and services with long-time friends and colleagues.  By mid-December, Mr. and Mrs. Bliss returned home to New England to spend Christmas with their sons, Philip playing the part of Santa Claus.  Plans were to return to Chicago for services with Moody, then on to England.  Bliss never made it back to Chicago.  On December 29, 1876, with the children safely at home, Mr. and Mrs. Bliss were in a train accident that took their earthly lives.

Bliss wrote many of the songs that Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey used during the great 1870s revival in England.  “The Light of the World is Jesus” w as written for such a revival meeting and was first sung by Sankey.  Bliss biographer Major D. W. Whittle said, “It came to him together, words and music, one morning while passing through the hall to his room, and was at once written out.”  The text is based on John 8:12.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.  John 8:12 KJV

The Light of the World Is Jesus

The whole world was lost
In the darkness of sin,
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Like sunshine at noonday,
His glory shone in.
The Light of the world is Jesus!

Come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me.
Once I was blind, but now I can see:
The Light of the world is Jesus!

No darkness have we
Who in Jesus abide;
The Light of the world is Jesus!
We walk in the light
When we follow our Guide!
The Light of the world is Jesus!


Ye dwellers in darkness
With sin blinded eyes,
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Go, wash, at His bidding,
And light will arise.
The Light of the world is Jesus!


No need of the sunlight
In Heaven we’re told;
The Light of the world is Jesus!
The Lamb is the Light
In the city of gold,
The Light of the world is Jesus!


Work, for the Night Is Coming

The text for ‘Work, for the Night Is Coming” was written in 1854 by 18 year old Anna Walker Coghill (1836-1907) and published in a Canadian newspaper.   Ten years later, it first appeared in a hymnal paired with a tune by Lowell Mason (1792-1872) and has since appeared in over 1000 hymnals.

The clear and persistent ‘call to action’ of this song is based on John 9:4 which reads, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”

1. Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done.

2. Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest comes sure and soon.
Give every flying minute,
Something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man works no more.

3. Work, for the night is coming,
Under the sunset skies;
While their bright tints are glowing,
Work, for daylight flies.
Work till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is darkening,
When man’s work is o’er.

Be Thou But Near

Johann Sebastian Bach.  Often considered to be the organist among organists and the composer among composers, many of his melodies are instantly recognizable and familiar. And such is the case with the song we are looking at today, Bist Du Bei Mir or Be Thou But Near.  There’s just one little problem.  Bach didn’t write it, even though there is a lot of printed music out there that says he did.

Bach, however, does have a strong connection to this piece.  Bach and his wife, Anna Magdalena, copied this song, along with many others, into Notebooks.  This was music for her to study and enjoy, but not necessarily written by composer Bach.  As hard as it is for me to imagine that a composer as prolific as Bach didn’t use only his own tunes in making a gift for his wife, there is something very humble in the notion that he was not only familiar with the works of others, but willing to include them in this very personal compilation.

So then, who wrote this song? The melody was most likely composed by Gottfried Heinrich Stolzel as an aria for an opera, first performed in 1718.   The original score of the opera no longer exists.  The manuscript for this particular aria had been part of a German music library until it was lost during World War II.  It was reportedly rediscovered in 2000 in the Kiev Conservatory.

The song is often used at weddings because of the text.  We do not know who wrote the original German poem of 31 words, but it essentially tells the beloved that ‘as long as you are with me, I can face death with ease.’



The King of Love My Shepherd Is

With a few decades now behind me as a church musician, I have attended, played and/or sung for many funerals and memorial services.  Time and time again I have seen people turn to Psalm 23 for comfort in time of loss.  Whenever I hear Psalm 23, I am reminded of a very specific time and place.

Have you ever had something happen in a way that there was no doubt in your mind but that it happened exactly the way it was supposed to?  Let me tell you about a time a few years ago when it happened to me.  I wanted to attend a funeral, but there was a problem.  The gentleman who died was Jewish, and the funeral was on a Sunday morning.  I was the Director of Music for a Presbyterian church, and could not find a substitute musician on such short notice.  As much as I felt I needed be at that funeral, there was no way I could make it happen.

Our Sunday school met before the worship service, and I was teaching the youth class.  Just moments before class was dismissed, the electricity went out.  Coffee fellowship time came and went with plenty of fellowship, but no coffee or electricity. When it came time for church to begin, we were still without  lights, air conditioning, and of particular interest to me, organ and (digital) piano.    The leadership decided that the very capable choir director would lead the singing a cappella that morning.  Under these very unique circumstances, I asked the pastor if I could be excused to attend the funeral.  At first he said no, then later reluctantly agreed.  I left before he changed his mind again…but was concerned what his reaction would be if the electricity came back on and I wasn’t there.

The man who had died was well-known and much-loved in the community.  There were many faiths represented by the great number of  people in attendance.  As the rituals unfolded, the officiating rabbi explained them in a way that included everyone, and there was great sense of unity.  What happened near the end of the service, however, made the strongest impression on me.  Each of us stepped out of our differing beliefs and traditions, and recited Psalm 23 as one voice.

All of us.  All of us together….saying the same words, with the same cadence, the same familiarity, the same reverence, each one receiving comfort from God’s word, both individually and as a single body of believers.

Henry Baker, an Anglican minister, wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 23 that has come down to us as The King of Love My Shepherd Is.  Baker was well-known for writing, translating and composing hymns.  He was Editor-in-Chief of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861) which sold over 60 million copies.  He included this hymn in the appendix.  Evidence of the hymn’s enduring and universal truths, one source says it has appeared in 535 different hymnals. It was sung at the 1997 funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in Westminster Abbey.   Although the text has been used with different tunes, it is most often associated with the lovely Irish melody ST. COLUMBA.

Tradition says that as Sir Henry Baker lay dying his final words were those of the 3rd stanza: “Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed, but yet in love he sought me; and on his shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing, brought me.”

When the Sunday morning funeral was over, I drove back to the Presbyterian church, a little nervous to find whether or not the electricity was back on, and expecting to find an empty parking lot.  A couple of cars were still there.   Across the street sat a utility truck.  I parked my car, went in, and saw the lights on.  Oh, no! I found someone and nervously asked if the lights had come back on during the church service.  “No,” he said.  “They just came back on a few minutes ago, after church let out.  But it’s the craziest thing,” he continued, shaking his head.  “No one else in the neighborhood had any outages.  It was just a fluke thing.  Only this building lost electricity! Can you imagine that?”

I smiled, and I think God did, too.

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From Thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.

Continue reading

Home is where…my organ and piano are!

Do you recall the moment when your  house first felt like home? Some people have told me it was when they put pictures on the walls.  Maybe the house-to-home transformation happened for you after you  spent your first night, cooked your first meal, unpacked the last box (unless, of course, you still have boxes to unpack…that’s a whole other topic…).  Perhaps it was when you signed the mortgage, or were handed the key.   While all of those things are important,  for me home is where my piano and organ are located.  And as of this Friday, they will be located in Galesburg.  Big day, big move, big dreams coming true.  Baby, I’m comin’ home!

I will begin teaching private music lessons in Galesburg the first week of June. . If you or someone you know is interested in lessons, give me a call.  Let’s make music happen!