NFMC Success

Congratulations to the Brunner Studios students who participated in the NFMC Festival at Queens University on February 25, 2012.

A special round of applause for the following students who received the highest ranking of Superior:


Savannah Horne

Abbey Koenig

Bradey Shirley

Rohan Muthukumar

Max Granger

Support a Music Festival and Volunteer

This year I am chairing 2 different piano festivals.  Honestly, the amount of work doesn’t bother me.  The hours of paperwork, a whole lot of email, phone calls, it really isn’t that big of a deal.  The hardest part is getting volunteers. 


Now for both of these festivals it is mandatory, according to the festival rules, that participating teachers volunteer on the day of the festival.  The option is given to send a student or parent representative from your studio.  Some teachers are really great about being ready to volunteer and even sending students.  Many kids can get community service credit.  Other teachers really drag their feet.  There are very few legitimate excuses for not helping in some fashion, but you know from the paperwork that you submitted that volunteering is required.  So if you just had surgery or have been sick, please find someone to take your place.  If you are out of town, find someone to take your place.


Teachers who are only entering 1 or 2 students do have a little bit of a harder time, but it is right there on the paperwork.  Those one or two students still have to be checked in just like those students from the teacher who entered 25. 


It takes team work to make these festivals work.  Students don’t need to be harried because there aren’t enough grownups to keep things running smoothly. 


So call up your local music festival and see if they need some help.  I promise that they will probably be happy to see you.

Following Up on Adele

Earlier this week, I posted about Adele and her vocal issues.  Last night I watch the clip of her 2012 performance at the Brit Awards.  All things considered, she sounds 100%  improved.  There seems to be some technical improvement as far as how she is approaching the higher notes.  More of a head voice instead of a a belting approach goes a long way to alleviating strain.  There also was a restraint to the overall performance.  It could be that she is just taking it easier and letting the mic do more of the work or she could be really working on learning better technique.  Which ever it is I completely applaud her efforts. 

Can I Sing Like Adele?

Adele was a big hit at the Grammy’s this year.  OK.  That might be an understatement. 

Now I’ll say that I am not a huge Adele fan, but it isn’t because I don’t like her songs.  As a voice teacher with many years of training and quite a few excellent teachers, her voice makes me cringe.  The obvious vocal damage makes my throat hurt just listening to her.  Here’s hoping that the surgery and maybe some good lessons on preserving those vocal chords will help the girl out.  Adele’s signature sound is largely caused by the vocal damage.  It could be from over use, vocal abuse, smoking, drinking, poor breathing technique or any combination there of.  However, when you try and listen beyond the squeaks and glottal fry there is a nice voice under there that has an very good range.

Voice teachers usually see an uptick in calls about lessons after an event with as much exposure as the Grammys.  Not to mention that Adele is all over the news.  So since I was at the music store, I picked up a PVG copy of Adele’s latest album 21.  PVG  stands for Piano, Vocal, Guitar.  Unlike many pop albums the accompaniments in the book are good and make sense with the vocal line.  They aren’t just duplicating it. 

After looking at the arrangements, my conclusion that many people could sing from this book/album and learn a lot.  For example,  the song Someone Like You covers a 2 octave range.  You aren’t going to find many pop songs that do that.  This is a perfect opportunity to learn about crossing the passaggio.  Many of the songs are in a range that beginners would feel comfortable singing in. 

So my answer is yes.  Go out and buy the PVG copy of Adele’s album 21.  Find a voice teacher that is teaching proper singing technique and not just coaching students to create a copycat sound.  With proper training you can sing just about anything. 

Welcome to New Students

I just want to give a big welcome to all my new students.  Brunner Studios is growing at a very steady pace.  I am excited that we added piano and oboe students to the roster this week.  Wednesday lesson times are now down to 1 available slot. 


Keep up the good work parents and students.  Don’t forget that you get a 10% referral discount for any new students that give your name.


And here is a funny picture.  This is so true.  Well, except for that time in college when I was so sleep deprived that I tried to play with my music upside down.  It still looked like the top example in that case. 

Piano Lessons In My Home

I’m a member of several different websites that advertise piano lessons.  Parents can send in requests and the teachers can choose to respond to requests in their area that fit their professional goals.  So many of the requests on these boards and inquires that I receive through my website are parents asking for lessons in their home.

I do not teach lessons anywhere other than my home studio.  There are several reasons for this.

1.  It costs me time and money.  Lessons at Brunner Studios are $26.25 for a 30 minute lesson.  If I have to drive to your house, teach a lesson, and drive home.  That is costing a lesson time on either side of the scheduled lesson.  Also, gas and wear and tear on my vehicle.  Gas is approximately 3.50 a gallon right now.  That can eat into my fees quickly.

2.  There are great resources that I’ve spent time building at my studio.  There are keyboards, computers, bookcases full of music that can be loaned, workbooks, reward charts.  These are all things that can’t travel for a weekly lesson.  If the student needs a new book or supplemental material, I am almost guaranteed to have it on my bookshelf.  You won’t find it dragging around in the trunk of my car.

3.  You forgot.  Way back when I first started teaching (in college) there was a family that I went to their house to give lessons.  It wasn’t close but there were multiple lessons and at the time gas was around $1 a gallon.  The family was always forgetting about lessons and leaving me hanging.  If you forget your lessons and are taking at my studio, I can still get work done if you forget or get sick at the last minute.  There is a lot of time involved in teaching lessons other than the 30 minutes you are here.

4.  Student don’t take the lessons as seriously as in a different environment.  My studio is a dedicated space for lessons.  It is a environment set aside for education.  Your living room with the siblings running through and the door slamming just doesn’t allow the same focus. 

So there are a few reasons that I don’t advocate lessons in the student’s home.  Now this isn’t to say that it would never work, but for me from a professional standpoint, I want a dedicated music space for educational purposes. 

Festival Paperwork from the Other Side

This blog originally was more for piano teachers than for students and parents.  Today I think I’ll hit a topic more for teachers.

This year I’m chairing 2 different festivals and they both require copious amounts of paperwork.  Teachers send in their teacher information, check, registrations forms and certificates.  The state organizations send me forms, forms and more forms to fill out and certificates.  We are starting to talk a paper avalanche here.  Now the good thing is that I don’t mind paperwork.  I like organizing and creating schedules and making processes more efficient.

What I don’t like is illegible handwriting and disorganized lists.  What can you do to help your festival chair and make the job a little easier?  First up is to write legibly.  If that is an issue or if English isn’t your first language, find a computer and go to town with some typing.  I can always transfer the information to an official form if need be.  However, if I can’t read your writing, a number of problems could occur.  Your student’s name could be spelled incorrectly and that could affect any number of thing.  I could misunderstand what piece they are playing.  That would be a serious disaster.  I might not be able to read your phone number or email address to get in touch with you to correct the above listed issues.  So write neatly or type.  It saves a lot of time on my part.

Now, if you are reading this blog, you probably have email  Surprisingly enough, there are quite a few teachers who don’t.  If you know your teacher doesn’t email.  Offer to be an ambassador for them.  There are items that I email to most teachers and thereby save time and money.  You get your playing times sooner and paperwork without creases.   

Keep your paperwork organized.  If you are entering students in a festival with categories, when you starting filling out the paperwork, keep the students grouped together.  Groups A and B shouldn’t be intermingled.  That is just a problem waiting to happen.  As careful as organizers try to be, accidents happen sometimes.  Help keep things working smoothly by keeping your paperwork as organized as possible. 

These are just a few ideas to help your festival organizers out.  These events are a lot of work and it takes volunteers to keep them running.  Be nice to the volunteers!