Thursday, April 2, 2015


Time to revive the blog after a year! There are lots of goodies in the blog from the past. I always appreciate those who Follow my blog. The blog is also linked on my website here:!blogger-feed/cvo7

On Facebook I was responding to the question: "I am looking for an online calendar that can be sent by email to families . I want them to be able to schedule themselves in the calendar and be able to see what is available."

I use Google Docs (spreadsheets) for this. I'm posting a screen shot of Summer 2014's schedule for  Using the doc and sending it in April for all of my families to edit with their preferences really took away all the pain of summer scheduling! All of my families were very cooperative and nice about putting their selections in. I think several scheduled some extra summer lessons, too.

Here was my disclaimer: Please respect the slots already claimed and do not delete anyone from the schedule. Email me or phone me at 763-355-7306 if you have a problem. SUMMER POLICY ON ATTENDANCE: I will reschedule a lesson if you let me know ahead of time; if you miss a scheduled lesson with no notice, the lesson is forfeited.

Screen Shot of my whole summer schedule for 2014.

Here's a link so you can view it at readable size. Anyone with the link can view it.

Happy Scheduling! You may post questions in comments or on Facebook, or

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

LECTURE AND CLINIC: Basic Technical Principles/Troubleshooting The Problems Right Away

Lecture and Clinic: Basic Technical Principles/Troubleshooting The Problems Right Away

Watch bench position – Depends upon the length of their torso

Hand Position – Most natural position at all times
  • Ask: Do you want to walk around in the hallway like that all the time?
  •  Push on knuckle  while in hand position to make sure their knuckle is firm.
  •  Focus on arch
o   Open Fifths
o   Fast motion into a 6/3 or 6/4 chord
o   Where is the high point of the hand? Knuckles must be higher than the wrist.
      Making O’s with thumb and a finger 

Sing This Little Song:
Rocking, Rocking
Fingers Do The Steps
Rocking, Rocking
Fingers Do The Steps                               
Rocking, Rocking
Fingers Do The Steps                               
Now we do a circle all around.

Make sure your body backs up your wrists all the time.        

If you want to change technical problems, you have to gain the trust of the student. Start with bench first, then hand, then wrist.



At MTNA Conferences, it’s sometimes hard to decide which session to attend, but not when Marvin Blickenstaff is speaking! His session today was a teaching demonstration on Introducing Sonatinas, and was well worth the time. I wished my fast fingers were a tiny bit faster, though, it was hard to keep up with typing all the great content he had on the screen!

Through sonatinas, students learn about:
  •  Contrast  in themes and keys
  • Melody/accompaniment style and balance
  • Basic Harmonies  V7 – I      I 6/4 – V7 –  I

In sonatinas we’re forming the basis for appreciation of a wide variety of music.

Students Learn
  • Binary Form
  • Rounded Binary 
  • Sonata-Allegro

Frances Clark said:            Successful teaching involves a chronology of


1.  There is no substitute for having our students totally steeped in a steady beat.
  • “beat your students” head-head; nose-nose; cheek-cheek; hair-hair, game in rhythm with                   call & response
  • “rhythm first”
  • numbers game – 1-1-1-1- then subdivide the beat (2) (3) Call out the number; Students fit                the number of beats evenly into each tap on the lap 

2.  Singing phrases – the last not of a phrase is the quietest
  • shaped phrases
  • last note quietest
  • labeling forms in elem. Piece
  • understanding rounded binary form

3.  Analyzing harmonies
  • Harmonic tension/relaxation in the repertoire
  • Playing cadence patterns with dynamic plan    I   IV   I6/4   V7    I
  • Dynamic balance of melody accompaniment

4.  Training dynamic hand independence
  •  Five finger pattern drills
  • 2  x 1
  • RH scale accompanied with Alberti pattern
  • Comfortable light Alberti bass
  • Rotations
  • 5141312131415      1525354535251
  • alberti patterns in dotted rhythms 

5.   Fluent scale playing
  • Focus on hand shape and finger movement
  • Variety of scale activities
o   Not all scales are C-C
o   Most scales in sonatinas are hs not ht
o   Variety of turn-arounds
o   On hand faster  (3 X 1)
o   Contrary motion

6.   Technical figures
  • Step motion = fingers
  • Zig zag motion = rotation
  • Change of direction “out around” direction of wrist
  • Double notes/chords = arm push
7.   Crisp staccato – starts on the key and pulls up

8.   Observe LH rests

One assignment you may not give = Go home and learn the notes.
  • There is a dilemma about the first week of practice – what should we assign?
  • Alternative plan    Focus on the contrast – He gave the example of the Kabalevsky Sonatina in C
We only have command over information that we can name and label. Teach them the meaning of each part of a sonatina

Believe in the rhythm of form. It is the performer’s responsibility to communicate form, so they have to know what it is.

Believe in the printed fingering. Those printed fingerings are helping you develop a “piano hand.”

Co-habiting friends     reading/fingering/naming
  • Rhythm first
  • Slow/accurate
  • 3xp/r     3 times perfect in a row 

Introduction to sonatinas is done best by focusing on contrast.

Harry Wise, age 14, student of Elena Pashilene, performed Clementi Sonatina Op. 36 No. 3, III Allegro. Mr. Blickenstaff worked with the student to make the last note in the phrase the quietest, in shaping the sound, never playing consecutive notes the same volume, enhancing the legato sound, making instant improvements in the sound. “You have a good ear, and what I want to do is plug your ear into your fingers.”                     

Henry Webb, age 13, a student Christopher Goldston, performed Kuhlaus’ Sonatina, Op. 55 No 1, I Allegro. You know the notes, you’ve got the rhythm, now the next step. You’re not allowed to play repeated notes exactly the same way. Exaggerate the difference between the Left Hand and the Right Hand for the benefit of your sound.

I love the rich information you always take away from presentations by Marvin Blickenstaff, and today was no exception. If you weren’t here, you missed something very special.



I found it fascinating during the masterclasses to watch the hands of the performers that were projected onto two large screens in the front of the meeting rooms. I hope you can make some sense out of these brief masterclass notes. With masterclasses, sometimes I think “you just had to be there.”

Reece Robert Johns, a Junior BM student of Sebastian Huydts at Columbia College in Chicago, performed Prokofiev Sonata No. 7 in Bb Major. First comment: The rhythm’s not tight enough, a little lazy. Stay closer to the key for better control of accents. Play the wandering theme more legato, then when the war-like theme comes back, it’s all the more ominous. Keep the same amount of the exciting intent and articulation at the p dynamic level. Make sure to observe the rests completely, breathe with the rest; wait extra long before going on.  Favorite quote from this session “Draw out the legato line like taffy.” Love that quote. Change your dynamic extremes from “this much” to “THIS MUCH.”

James Dennis, a Senior BM Student of Sylvia Wang at Northwestern University, performed Beethoven Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111. In the opening keep the exact same rhythm in both figures. Play the second note as if you are pulling the note out of the keys, rather than just lateral movement. When you have a gesture that goes up, avoid doing all with fingers. When you rotate to the right, don’t overcompensate with the elbow. Keep it in check.

Tong Liu, a senior BM student of Winston Choi at Roosevelt University, performed Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60. First Comment: You are so musical and it was so expressive. “It’s a boat song, and we can’t rock the boat too much.” Don’t be afraid to make a lot of sound in the beginning and hold the pedal. Avoid moving the tempo and rubato so much that you have to stop to let it catch up. I was sorry this masterclass had to end.

Sunday, March 23, 2014



Paul Juhn, a BM student at Northwestern University was the first to play his selection, Chopin Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52. He is the student of Alan Chow. It was interesting that advanced students sometimes need the same coaching and reminders as younger students: Use less pedal, Listen well to the sounds you’re making, Avoid playing too slow and accelerating too drastically, your top melody voice is not rich enough. Perry cited Rubinstein, who was famous for his gorgeous melodies. It’s good to remember that though there are many things that can be better, each student is already an artist!

EunAe Lee, a DMA Student of James Giles at Northwestern University, was second to play with Chopin Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58, 1st movement. Mr. Perry’s first comment was “It’s very nice,” then "you need to develop a more substantial sound." EunAe rose to the task well and the difference was great with a strengthened bass. He addressed the sound being thin because of nerves, which affects all of us. As she got more into the keys, Perry said she was playing like a tiger! Perry was thrilled working with her the 2nd time through because little alterations here and there made the performance so beautiful. My favorite statement from the session: “You can’t have a beautiful melody if the accompaniment is torture!”

Third, and last to play was Shin-Young Park, a DMA student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, student of Ian Hobson, with Kreisleriana, Op. 16, I and II by Robert Schumann. Pianistically exquisitely beautiful! I was just stunned by the beauty of the ending. Perry commented on using rubato over and over again, like a cookie cutter. Doing it once is special, doing it over and over again makes it less noticeable. I was sad to have to leave this performance a little early. It's always inspiring to me to see and hear both the performer and the master teacher.