My 2015 Music Goals: Mid-Year Update

Lacie Bowman Music // 2015 Goals

Happy July, everyone!

I can’t believe half the year is already gone. Wow. Back in January I wrote out my music-related goals for this year, and here’s the mid-year update on how they are going so far!

Personal Goals

// Maintain all pieces from my 2014 Repertoire Challenge.
Last Summer I challenged myself to learn 24 pieces on the piano in 24 weeks. I learned 112 pages of music in that time, and it was a quite a challenge indeed. But even harder was maintaining them all at the same time. This year my goal is to get them all back to performance level and then keep them for all of forever. Currently, I can sit down at anytime and play 12 of the 24:

Bach Fugue No. 2 in c minor
Bach Prelude No. 6 in d minor
Brahms Waltz in A-flat, Op. 59, No. 15
Chopin Waltz Op. 69, No. 2
Clementi Sonata in D Major, Op. 4, No. 1, Mvt. 1
Debussy Arabesque 1
Debussy Clair de Lune
Dvorak Humoresque, Op. 102, No. 7
Granados May Song, Op. 1, No. 3
Greig Arietta, Op. 12, No. 1
Mozart Sonata K. 331, Mvt. 3, “Alla Turca”
Pieczonka Tarantella in a minor

// Learn or re-learn 1 new piece / month on violin & piano – 24 total.
One might say I spent the first half of the year focusing on violin repertoire. I’ve already learned 2 more than the original 12 I challenged myself to do on violin this year, but only 3 of 12 on the piano. That means I’ve got 9 piano pieces to learn between now and the new year. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Lacie Bowman MusicVIOLIN: 14 of 12
Bach Concerto for Two Violins, Mvt. 1
Vivaldi Concerto in a minor, Mvt. 1
Vivaldi Concerto in a minor, Mvt. 2
Vivaldi Concerto in a minor, Mvt. 3
Pachelbel Canon in D
Massenet Meditation from Thais
Monti Czardas
Williams Theme from Schindler’s List
Saint-Saens The Swan
Bach Air on G String
Purcell Hornpipe
Lovland Hymn to Hope
Vangelis Hymne
Handel Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

PIANO: 3 of 12
Bach Italian Concerto, Mvt. 3
Chopin Prelude in c minor
Smith The Giving

// Relearn all Major and minor (natural, harmonic, & melodic) scales, arpeggios, inversions  (I, IV, V, MmVII), and cadences on piano. 
One might also say I have NOT focused on scales. As in, not at all. So these next six months should prove to be fun… 48 scales and 24 arpeggios, inversions, and cadences, here we come!

// Memorize lyrics from 12 hymns.
I’ve memorized 6 of 12: The Church’s One Foundation, God of the Ages, Be Still My Soul, Before the Throne of God Above, Not What My Hands Have Done, & Praise My Soul the King of Heaven

Lacie Bowman Music | www.LacieBowmanMusic.com

// Have a Solo Violin & Piano Recital.
DONE! We had our recital – An Evening of Classics & Hymns – on March 10th, and boy, we had a blast. (See the photos here.). We have a second one – A Classical Christmas – planned for December 1st, so mark your calendars!

Remembering WWII // Lacie Bowman Music// Coordinate Music for Remembering WWII.
Currently doing prep-work for the event, working with the event coordinators and performers, and starting a preliminary schedule! We’ll be having a fabulous USO-style show on Friday night (25th), plus a bunch of lovely music sprinkled throughout the whole day on Saturday (26th). It’s less than 3 months away… Hope you’ll join us!
[More info here: www.RememberingWWII.com]

// Perform (vocal) for Remembering WWII.
Picking and arranging some of my favorite wartime songs… This year I’ve got Vera Lynn, Bing Crosby, and Irving Berlin in the mix!


// Write 8 new arrangements for violin, piano, and/or string ensembles.

COMPLETED
The Church’s One Foundation (Violin & Piano)
Day by Day (String Ensemble – 3 Violins, Cello, Piano)

CURRENT
Agnus Dei (String Ensemble)

NEXT UP
Sleigh Ride (String Ensemble)
Still, Still, Still (String Ensemble)

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// Read 5 books on music.

COMPLETED:
Raising Musical Kids (Kavanaugh)
CURRENTLY READING:
A History of Western Music (Grout)


// Complete an exciting secret project I’ve been working on this last year.
DONE!!! In March I published my first book of hymn arrangements for violin and piano, God of the Ages! I am SO excited about it.

SEE A PREVIEW of the book here and ORDER YOUR COPY here!

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Studio Goals

// Expand my music studio.
Enjoying summer lessons, choosing new student repertoire, and making plans for new students in the fall.

// Expand my repertoire library and teaching materials – purchase at least 12 new music books for myself and/or my students.

PURCHASED 3 of 12:
Bach Notebook for Anna Magdalena (Henle edition)
Chopin Complete Preludes (Paderewski Edition)
Bastien Piano Literature, Volume 4

// Organize & systematize my music area.
Organizing, check. Systematizing, next up.

// Have my 1890s piano reconditioned.
We’re gettin there.

Blog & Social Media Goals

// Expand The Music Blog & add some exciting new features & pages.
In March I launched my new website, www.LacieBowmanMusic.com {how’s that for expanding? lol!}, which came with several new pages and features including a STUDIO page, a PHOTO gallery, and a STORE! Go check it out!

{P.S. Soon The Music Blog will be moved to that new address as well, so be looking out for that!}

// Hit 100 blog posts.
Up to 56… 44 to go. mm

// Do 4 giveaways this year!
January’s giveaway had 239 entries & 3 winners. It was loads of fun. MY NEXT GIVEAWAY IS THIS MONTH. I can’t tell you what it is yet… so stay tuned!

// Create 12 new FREE downloads for my free downloads page.
None yet… But I’ll be giving away a ton of new ones (theory sheets, activity sheets, and even a piece or two) next month in honor of summer ending!

// Become active on Google+.
Check! ADD ME HERE.

// Create a Youtube channel and post 12 videos by the end of year.
I started a channel, but I wouldn’t call it active… yet. One video posted so far with a few more in the works. I will be getting a few teaching tutorials up in the next couple months, so check my channel again soon! (or SUBSCRIBE HERE)

 

Dream Goal:

// Learn Cello.
Sigh. Not yet, my friends… not yet. But IT WILL HAPPEN.

 

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What music-related activities have you been enjoying this year?

 

 

A Sneak-Peek Inside My New Book of Hymn Arrangements for Violin & Piano!

God of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman MusicORDER HERE

I am SO excited about my new book of hymn & psalm arrangements for violin and piano! I’ve worked on this book a long time, and it feels so fabulous to hold it in my hands.

f i n a l l y.

Here’s a little sneak-peek into the book!

God of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman MusicGod of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman Music

Choosing which hymns and psalms to arrange for this book was one of the funnest and hardest parts of the project. Fun because I love so many hymns and psalms, and hard because I love too many. Way too many.

But I had to narrow it down, so for this volume I chose the following melodies:

Be Thou My Vision
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Day by Day
Faith of Our Fathers
God of the Ages
Holy, Holy, Holy
Not What My Hands Have Done
Psalm 1
Psalm 71
Psalm 121
Take My Life and Let it Be
The Church’s One Foundation
There is a Fountain Filled With Blood
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

These arrangements are designed to cultivate the young violinist’s technique and skill and are ordered in a progressive level of difficulty, starting with simple melodies and gradually introducing more complex rhythms, longer arrangements, and harmony in the violin part with the pianist carrying the melody.

I wrote these arrangements for the young violinist’s level, but they are also ideal for more advanced students who love to improvise.

The piano accompaniment parts are written at an intermediate level and are simple enough for the average pianist to learn without a fuss, but full enough to carry the violinist with the flow of a more advanced work.

God of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman MusicGod of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman MusicGod of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman MusicGod of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman Music

The Music Glossary at the back of the book provides simple definitions of the concepts found in the arrangements and can be used by students to learn and review new musical terms, symbols, and concepts while they are working on their pieces.

God of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman Music

The Teacher’s Guide contains a piece-by-piece outline of the skills found in each arrangement. New techniques and musical concepts are introduced progressively throughout the book, and this brief overview is meant to help teachers guide their young violinist through any potentially challenging skills new pieces may present.

God of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman MusicGod of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman Music – 

When I was 11 years old and learning violin, I desperately wanted a book of hymn arrangements to play, but there were none. That’s what made me write this one. I wanted a resource that families, siblings, friends, and churches could use and enjoy for a variety of settings and occasions – recitals, weddings, church, parties, sing-a-longs, and even just around the house.

So SHARE IT with all of your friends! (And don’t forget to order your own copy!!!!!)

God of the Ages Hymn Arrangements for Violin by Lacie Bowman Music

Click Here to Order.

9 Music Books to Read in 2015

 

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There are so many amazing books about music out there, and sadly, there’s not even a fraction of the time we would need to read them all.

So, while you’re prioritizing which music books to read this year, here’s a list of 9 to help you get started. They are some of my absolute favorites.

1  |  The Perfect Wrong Note

This is one of the best books I have ever read. At it’s core, it is an exposition of Beethoven’s “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” The author shows the importance of involving body and emotion (not just brain)  in the execution of a piece and teaches really practical ways to avoid tension and let your body follow its natural flow without sacrificing mental alertness. The goal is this: if you’re going to play a wrong note, play it well.

2  |  Music at Your Fingertips

This one is every bit as good as The Perfect Wrong Note, just in a very different way.  I appreciate so much about the advice in this book. The author is an experienced, international pianist, and she gives extremely practical advice on practicing, musicianship, memorization, developing finger control, preparing for performances, listening, teaching, sight-reading technique, selecting repertoire, and more, and it’s wonderful. This is NOT a how-to-play-the-piano-in-5-easy-steps kind of book. It’s about learning how to handle your instrument like an artist.
READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE.

Mini-Reviews for 9 Music Books to Read This Year. The Gift of Music. www.sfzMusicBlog.com #book #reviews #books #classical #music3  |  The Gift of Music

I have used this book so many times when studying composers.  Each of the 42 chapters is devoted to a composer and includes a quote, mini-bio, recommended reading list for further study, and recommended listening list.

As a musician, I appreciate the scholarship, history, and education in this book.  As a Christian, I appreciate the authors’ analysis of the composers’ lives, priorities, and standards. Using the recommended listening lists as a guide is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with the great composers’ most known works. Definitely add it to your library!

4  |  Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff

If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be adorable. It’s a fantastic overview of Schumann’s life and musical career, and it gave me a greater appreciation for his work. It’s a kids’ book, true. But it’s great for adults and families, too.
READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE.

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog. www.sfzMusicBlog.com #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

IMG_8990-25 | What Makes Music Work

This is the most comprehensive book presentation of basic music theory that I’ve read to date. Most “Introduction to Theory” books confuse even the most basic concepts by using the most technical and musically scientific terms possible. This book was radically different – simple, concise, and in plain language that beginners can understand. Music theory is only confusing if you make it so, and this book doesn’t.

This book is intended to be a informal course for beginners, though it does venture into some relatively intense theory by the last third of the book – particularly advanced chord structures, harmonization, and composition. These more advanced concepts are taught extremely well, but if it is confusing for the time being, lay that part aside for a while and come back to it when you have worked your way to that point.

6 | The Joy of Music

Actually, I recommend that you read half of this book. Specifically, these chapters:

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
The World of Jazz
Introduction to Modern Music
The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach

These are a collection of scripts from various radio/television interviews the famous conductor / composer Leonard Bernstein gave over the course of his life. So, while half of the scripts are hard to appreciate because they lack the musical context that would have been present in the radio programs, the four chapter listed above are amazing. It’s extremely educational (Bernstein often jumps into conversations on chord structures, compositional forms, and stylistic specifics, complete with musical scores), but the conversational style of the chapters keeps it easy to understand.

Note: There are a few issues with the other chapters in this book, namely language and morally questionable operatic scenes.

7 | What to Listen for in Music

This book is a listener’s introduction to fundamental elements and forms of music, written by 20th-century composer Aaron Copland. First, he talks about what makes music: rhythm, melody, harmony, tone color, texture, and structure. Then he goes on to explain fundamental music forms: sectionals, variations, fugues, sonatas, free form, opera & drama, contemporary, and film scores.

It’s a great resource for music students and music enthusiasts. Although… if you’re an enthusiast, you’ll be a student by the end of the book. ;)

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8 | Glory & Honor: The Music & Artistic Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach

This is a unique biography because it is divided into three parts:

PART I is a great overview of Bach’s Life and Musical Career. It outlines the highlights of his career without getting bogged down on unnecessary details. And the best part? It’s interesting. It’s worth reading just this section if you’re short on time.

IMG_8902PART II is a close look at Bach’s Character. The author talks about his many strengths and a few of his weaknesses. This is the longest section and does feel lengthy if you’re trying to hurry through it. Still, if you take your time, it is interesting to get such a close look at the person of Bach.

PART III discusses Bach’s Legacy – the way his work affected classical music, history, and us. It really is incredible how great of an impact one person can have on so many other lives.

It’s a great book. I would NOT recommend trying to plow through this one, or it will feel dry. This book has a lot to offer, and it would be best to spread it over a month or two. Definitely a valuable book for Bach lovers.

IMG_89619 | Classical Music

This one is similar to The Gift of Music, only it is twice as thick, covers more composers, goes into greater depth, has fun Q & A boxes, gives more thorough listening lists, and is written from a secular perspective.

Classical Music covers 50 composers, and each with a detailed mini-biography. The author also gives four listening lists for each composer:

The Starter Kit (5 pieces)
A Top Ten (10 pieces)
A Master Collection (25 pieces)
A Beethoven Library (A LOT)

The author is a good writer and has a touch of humor to boot. It’s really an enjoyable book. I have not read all of way through this one, so I’m not able to comment on any problems that may present themselves in the later part of the book. However, the scholarship is excellent, and it is definitely a fabulous resource for musicians.

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I hope you are able to enjoy some of these wonderful books this year. If you read any, I would love to hear your thoughts on them!

 

 

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The Story of the Incredible Orchestra: A Pictorial Review

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

Title:  The Story of the Incredible Orchestra
Author:  Bruce Koscielniak
Pages:  33
Reading Level:  Child – Young Adult
Audience:  Music Students, Families
Stars:  ★★★★★

I have been looking for a good children’s resource about the orchestra, but after hunting around for a couple of years, the stuff I was coming up with just was’t that impressive.  Shallow.  Goofy.  Boring.

Then a friend recommended this title, and well…  search over.

The content of The Incrdible Story of the Orchestra focuses in two main topics:

    1. The origin of the modern orchestra and its development.
    2. The history of each instrument in the modern orchestra.

At the beginning of the book, the author takes us all the way back to the Middle Ages – an era before the symphony existed – to teach us about the medieval instruments and ensembles that set the stage for the symphony as we know it today.

After that, the author traces the histories of the main instrument families and gives a layman’s explanation of how each instrument works…  along with lots of illustrations!

All of this is sprinkled throughout a pleasant overview of the four prominent musical periods that have developed since the orchestra’s birth. He even takes the last few pages to introduce jazz and the modern use of synthetics…  all in good taste.

It’s great!

But the content isn’t just great… it’s appealing.  And that is key.  The material is well-organized and interesting, and every page has colorful illustrations.

Stylistically, the artwork is unique.  It looks like an unlikely combination of hand sketches and watercolor paintings.  It is a tad busy, but the colors are soft, which keeps it from being overwhelming.  (FYI: The colors in these pictures came out a bit brighter than the colors in the book.)

 

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com. #kids #orchestra #reading #stories#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #orchestra #reading #stories

 

Concerns

I didn’t have any concerns with this book – the information was accurate, and there was no inappropriate content.

Summary

Studio library, family library, personal library, music classroom…  Go ahead and get it!  It’s great for every occasion.

You can get your copy on amazon HERE.

#Review of The Story of the Incredible Orchestra | The #Music Blog, www.sfzmusicblog.com.  #kids #activities #orchestra #reading

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Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff: Biography Review

 

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

 

Title:  Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff
Author:  Opal Wheeler
Pages:  167
Reading Level:  Child – Young Adult
Audience:  Music Students, Music Teachers, Families
Stars:  ★★★★★

 

If I had to pick one work to describe this book, it would be adorable.  I love it!

First of all, it’s a fantastic overview of Schumann’s life.  Second of all, it’s just plain charming.  The book starts with the lad Robert and the many adventures he had with his faithful kitten, Ziff, at his heels.  The story continues through his musical career and into his happy life as a husband and father.  His family life – both as a boy and as a married man – was delightful, and this book highlights the sweetness of those relationships beautifully.

The illustrations are darling.  The biographies from Opal Wheeler’s Great Musicians Series are illustrated by various artists, but this one is my favorite.   They are black and white, but they’re very tastefully done – simple, sweet, and charming.  The work of this particular illustrator reminds me of old-fashioned Christmas Card artwork.  Love it.

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

And then there is the wonderful sheet music scattered throughout the book. Schumann wrote piles of music for his little ones, and thousands of boys and girls around the world have benefited from them.  Many of his pieces from Album for the Young are included, as well as snippets from his Sonata in G and others.

Even if no one in your house can play the music yet, try following along as you listen to recordings of the pieces. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with the composer’s style and learn to recognize his compositions.

 

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

The writing style is interesting, quick-paced, and in story format, with a pleasant level of maturity.  It’s a great resource for little readers and would also be a fun family read aloud.

You can take advantage of the study guide (separate purchase) for the book, if you’d like to incorporate discussion points and quizzes into your group reading time.

 

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff | #Composer #Biography #Review on The Music Blog.  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #music #schumann #composers #books #classicalmusic

 

Critiques & Cautions 

There are no inappropriate details in the book, but here are a few FYI cautions for parents to be aware of:

– Robert lies to a piano salesman in order to gain access to his pianos for a practice session.  It’s not portrayed as wrong – only as a little joke  p. 46
– Robert says that his music cannot be bound by rules.  p. 72
– Robert says that the fairies have blessed his little baby…  Which, of course, is absolutely ridiculous. p. 92

 

schumann.2In Summary  

This little biography is a fantastic overview of Schumann’s life and is definitely worth adding to your music library.

Music Teachers & Parents, it’s a great resource to spice up your student’s music history studies and would make great reading assignment for a composer of the month project!

You can buy it from Amazon HERE.

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Great Composers Coloring Book: Review

 

Great Composers Coloring Review & Preview.  Lots of pictures inside!  www.sfzMusicBlog.com  #classicalmusic #classicalcomposers #classical #music #teaching #resources– 

Title:            Great Composers Coloring Book
Author:        John Green, Paul Negri
Pages:         30
Audience:   Students & Families – 8 & up
Stars:           ★★★★


A coloring book of the composers – what a fun way to add a splash of color to your children’s music history!

Okay, that was a tad cheesy.  Moving on.

I really like this coloring book.  The illustrations are artistic and classic – no goofy cartoons, no impressionism, no unrecognizable modern art.  Personal taste aside, I think that’s particularly important when dealing with historical characters because it helps the individuals become “real” for children in a way a cartoonized character (or an unrecognizable modern glob) can’t quite pull off.

 

Haydn & Mozart in the Great Composers Coloring Book | Review on The Music Blog

 

This coloring book includes a good variety of composers from the Baroque to modern periods:  Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Chopin, Copland, Debussy, Dvorak, Gershwin, Grieg, Handel, Haydn, Joplin, Liszt, Mahler, Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn, Mozart, Prokofiev, Puccini, Ravel, Rossini, Schoenberg, Schubert, Robert & Clara Schumann, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Vivaldi, & Wagner. The composers are featured in the order they were born.

 

Verdi in the Great Composers Coloring Book | Review on The Music Blog

Violinist in the Great Composers Coloring Book | Review on The Music Blog

 

Another thing I really like about this book is that each coloring page has a short description of the composer under his illustration.  This helps children can get to know the composer a bit while becoming acquainted with his face.  The descriptions are concise — 50-70 words each — and do a great job sharing the most important aspects of the composers’ lives and work, along with a few fun music history tidbits to boot.  Here are a few samples of the descriptions:

SCHUMANN | Robert Schumann was born the same year as Chopin, and he also wrote some of the finest piano music of the Romantic period, as well as symphonies, chamber music and songs.  He was born in Germany and spent his life there.  He was an important music critic and helped many young composers.  His wife, Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was one of the greatest pianists of the nineteenth century.

ROSSINI | One of the most popular opera composers of all time, Gioacchino Rossini composed dozens of operas, including the famous Barber of Seville.  Born in Italy, Rossini traveled throughout Europe and was enormously successful in his lifetime.  His lively music is full of humor and delights the listener with many beautiful melodies.  One of his best known works is his William Tell Overture.

TCHAIKOVSKY | Among the very greatest of Russian composers, Peter Tchaikovsky wrote symphonies, ballets, operas and other works, including the beloved ballet  The Nutcracker, frequently performed at Christmas time.  In 1891 Tchaikovsky came to New York City and conducted at the official opening of Carnegie Hall.

STRAVINSKY | The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky is considered to be among the most important composers of the twentieth century.  His music was so different from anything before it that at the 1913 premiere of his ballet The Rite of Spring in Paris, riots broke out in the audience.  In 1917, Stravinsky met the great artist Picasso, who made a famous sketch of him.

One thing to keep in mind:  the illustrations are quite detailed for a coloring book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that the coloring book will be most appropriate for older children who can handle the fine lines and small coloring spaces.  I would recommend it for approximately ages 8 and up.

 

Beethoven in the Great Composers Coloring Book | Review on The Music Blog

 Schumann & Schoenberg in the Great Composers Coloring Book | Review on The Music Blog

Ravel in the Great Composers Coloring Book | Review on The Music Blog

Concerns


CHOPIN | Chopin’s description mentions that he lived with George Sands, and the picture is of him & Sands together at the piano.  Neither the description or picture is graphic, but since their relationship was inappropriate, you will want to know it is there.  Here is the description, along with the picture, for you to review:Chopin in the Great Composers Coloring Book | Review on The Music Blog

“Frederic Chopin has been called “the soul of the piano,” and he composed some of the finest music ever written for that instrument.  He was born near Warsaw, Poland, but moved to Paris where he spent most of his life and career.  Regarded as a great composer of the Romantic Period, he lived with the famous writer George Sand (shown here; she was born Aurore Dupin).  His Polonaise in A-flat Major, called “Heroic,” is one of the most famous piano works ever written.”

Younger children probably won’t catch anything strange from the picture or description, since neither is explicit, but you may need to discuss the issue with older, more discerning children.  Or, if you prefer, you can just tear out the page.

JOPLIN | Joplin’s description mentions that he played in social clubs.  True, social clubs of Joplin’s time weren’t anything like today’s, and hopefully your kids don’t even know what “social clubs” are anyway, but still…  just an FYI.

RAVEL | Ravel’s description mentions that he and his friends had “wild ideas on art and culture.”  I don’t think “wild” is the best word to describe Ravel’s ideas (Impressionism), but that’s how they chose to present it.  Just another FYI.

 

Tchaikovsky & Dvorak in the Great Composers Coloring Book | Review on The Music Blog

Conclusion

I think you’ll love it! Try talking about the composers or listening to their music while coloring with your children!  Have fun!

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Beethoven & The Chiming Tower Bells: Children’s Biography Review

 

Review of Children's Beethoven Biography by Opal Wheeler on The Music Blog Title:          Beethoven & the Chiming Tower Bells
Author:      Opal Wheeler
Pages:       168
Reading Level: Child – Young Adult
Audience:  Students, Teachers, Families
Stars:         ★★★★

 

This little biography is a great overview of Beethoven’s life. The book starts with Beethoven’s childhood and continues through his musical career, highlighting the major successes and disappointments he experienced as he worked.

The style is interesting, quick-paced, and in story format, though by no means immature.  It’s a great resource for little readers and would be a fun family read-aloud, too!  You can also purchase a study guide for the book, if you’d like to incorporate discussion points and quizzes into the book.

One NEAT feature of this series is the sheet music scattered throughout the story. Even if no one in your house can play the music yet, try following along as you listen to recordings of the pieces. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with the composer’s compositions! In this volume, you’ll find excerpts of Beethoven’s sonatinas & sonatas, ecossaises, rondos, minuets, scherzos, and programmatic music.

The illustrations are sweet & simple.  They are black and white, but I find them very tastefully done.

[box style=”white” ]Ludwig Beethoven & the Chiming Tower Bells is from the Great Musicians Series.[/box] 

Critiques

I have one main critique of this book and the other books in the series:  In an attempt to keep things cheerful the author sometimes misrepresents negative elements of the composers’ lives and character so they don’t seem as bad as they really were.  There are two main examples of this in the Beethoven biography.

1.  Beethoven’s father was an abusive alcoholic, but the only portrayal we are given of him in this book is that he was a kind, affectionate father – taking young Ludwig on his knee, praising him for his accomplishments at the piano, etc.  Consequences of his irresponsibility are mentioned in the book (family having little food, having to sell household items so they didn’t starve, etc.) but only in the context that he was unable to make much money.  Nothing is mentioned of him being a drunkard, and so we are left with the impression that he was a loving father who just couldn’t find a good job.

2. Those that knew Beethoven tell us that he was proud, impatient, and struggled with outbursts of anger.   Here, we are given the impression that he was actually gentle and humble…  Quite the opposite!  I’m sure he had his sweet moments, but if those are to be mentioned it needs to be clarified that it wasn’t the norm.

I appreciate the author’s discretion in dealing with mature issues, and I am definitely not advocating that inappropriate detail should be included in the books – only that inaccuracies should be avoided.  It is better not to mention a topic than to slant facts so the reader will receive a more positive impression of the story than is accurate.  

There are no inappropriate details to address, but here are a few smaller items for parents to be aware of:

– Luck / Fortune is referenced in a number of places.  p. 33,46, 64
– It comments that Beethoven “just wanted to be alone” as a boy without clarifying that he was avoiding his abusive father.  As a result, the reader might get the idea that he didn’t like being around his family.  p. 19
– It is mentioned that Beethoven didn’t care about rules, he just wanted to follow the music as it sounded in his mind.  p. 95

WITH THAT IN MIND…  Let me be clear that despite the above critiques, I still loved the book.  It’s the best Beethoven kid’s biography I’ve read so far, and I definitely recommend it!

 

Ludwig van BeethovenIn Summary  

Music Teachers & Parents, it’s a great resource to spice up your student’s study of music history and would make great reading assignment – especially if you do a composer of the month!  Definitely worth adding to your music library.

You can buy it from Amazon HERE.

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New Shipment of Books!

 

I just got a new shipment of music books in the mail!  I’m super excited to get to reading and reviewing this stack of books for The Music Blog.

Here are the titles…  Have you read any of these?  Thoughts?

 

New Shipment of Music Books | The Music Blog

 

For Teachers

The Independent Piano Teacher’s Studio Handbook 450 textbook-size pages full of tips for establishing a professional private studio.  The subtitle is “Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Teaching Studio”, and it looks like it’s going to live up to that claim.  Looking forward to going through this one!

That’s a Good Question: How to Teach by Asking Questions.   I’ve found that asking questions is one of the most productive ways to help my students take more initiative in evaluating their music.  I was excited to find a book that develops this idea.

For Students / Musicians

The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self.  This one was recommended to my by a fellow music teacher and friend [who also happens to be my sister-in-law].  Looks absolutely fantastic.  Thanks, Lily!

Piano Playing with Piano Questions Answered.  Written by renowned concert pianist, Josef Hofmann.  The first half of the book discusses technique and style. The last half is a lengthy Q&A section on all things piano.  There should be some great insight here.

Singing & Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today.  There are a lot of opinions out there about music in the Church.  This author seems to address the topic without sinking to emotional, ad hominem arguments.  I hope it’s as good as it looks!

For Children

The Story of the Incredible Orchestra.  I’ve been looking for a good book for children on the orchestra, and it looks like I may have found it!  Recommended to me by a friend and fellow music teacher – thanks, Hannah!

Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff.  From the Great Musicians Series by Opal Wheeler.

Ludwig Beethoven & the Chiming Tower Bells.  Also from the Great Musicians Series.

Meet the Great Composers: Book 1.  An anthology of mini-bios and musical activities about the great composers.  Fun!

Famous Composers & Their Music: Book 2.  Another anthology of mini-bios and musical activities about the great composers.  More fun.  ;)

Great Composers Coloring Book 

I’m going to go get busy reading.

Have any other great books you think I should get that aren’t already here or on the Music Resources pages?  Please tell me!  I love recommendations.  :)

 

 

Advice to Young Musicians: Book Review & Free eBook

Advice to Young Musicians  |  Review & Free eBook  on  The Music Blog

 

Title:            Advice to Young Musicians
Author:        Robert Schumann
Pages:         48
Reading Level: Young Adult – Adult
Audience:   Students, Teachers, Families
Stars:           ★★★

 

Robert Schumann’s collection of piano compositions, Album for the Young, is well-loved, and thousands of young musicians have played his charming pieces.  But not very many know that he wrote a tiny book of words, too, called Advice to Young Musicians.

Advice to Young Musicians is a classic wit-and-wisdom-style book.  It’s not written in chapters, or even paragraphs, but in sixty-eight short music “proverbs” containing what Robert Schumann considered to be the most important advice he could give to a young musician.

Like most wit-and-wisdom books, some of the proverbs are better than others, and not every proverb is profound.  But the book is enjoyable, and much of the advice is profitable for musicians on a variety of levels.

Here is a sample of the content ~

 

52.  Do not judge of a composition on a first hearing; what pleases you in the first moment is not always the best.

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31.  If all would play first violin, we could get no orchestra together.  Respect each musician, therefore, in his place.

[hr color=”GRAY” width=”300px” border_width=”1px” ]

 

11.  You must not only be able to play your little pieces with the fingers; you must be able to hum them over without a piano.  Sharpen your imagination so that you may fix in your mind not only the melody of a composition, but also the harmony belonging to it.

[hr color=”GRAY” width=”300px” border_width=”1px” ]

 

22.  You should neither play poor compositions, nor even listen to them, if you are not obliged to.

[hr color=”GRAY” width=”300px” border_width=”1px” ]

 

39.  The study of the history of music, supported by the actual hearing of the master compositions of the different epochs, is the shortest way to cure you of self-esteem and vanity.

 

It’s a short little book – one you can read cover-to-cover in about 15 minutes.

To get the most out of it, though, reading it all at once isn’t the best plan.  Instead, pick one good quote at a time and make it your musical motto for the day – or the week! This way you’ll be able to focus on internalizing and applying the very best pieces of advice, instead of just reading straight through all of them at once.

[box style=”white” ]

NOTE:  Advice to Young Musicians is a book for “young musicians”, not “young children”.  It is written in older English, so some of the language can be a bit challenging for our modern phrasing and vocabulary.  This isn’t a criticism of the book, just a clarification.

If you would like your young child to benefit from the book, try reading it aloud to them in small portions, offering explanations and application along the way.[/box]

It’s always fun to add a book by one of the great composers to your music library.  You can get your own copy of Advice to Young Musicians from Amazon HERE, or if you like, you can READ THE BOOK FOR FREE here!




Music At Your Fingertips: Review

 

IMG_7875

Title:         Music At Your Fingertips
Author:     Ruth Slenczynska
Pages:      162
Reading Level:  Adult
Audience:     Students & Teachers
Star Rating:  ★★★★★

 

I appreciate so much about the advice in this book, but I think it all boils down to these three things:  It’s experienced, practical, and to-the-point.

Ruth_Slenczynska_PianistExperienced

Ruth Slenczynska has spent the greater portion of her life at the piano.  She started studying at age three, made her debut performance in Berlin at age six, and performed in Paris with a full orchestra by age 11.  She spent her following years performing around the world and studying with renowned musicians, including the iconic pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff.  So when she writes about the piano, she isn’t writing dreamed-up ideas of an experienced-pianist wannabe.  She is a real expert, and her writing shows it.  She talks about tried-and-true exercises, and techniques that helped her to develop her strengths and master her weaknesses at the piano, and they work!

 

Practical

So practical.  The subtitle of the book is “Advice for the Artist and Amateur on Playing the Piano”, and it’s true.  Ruth Slenczynska is a concert artist, but these sixteen chapters are full of discussions that are every bit as valuable for student musicians as for world-touring professionals – principles and tips for practice, musicianship, memorization, developing finger control, preparing for performances, listening, teaching, mastering technique, selecting repertoire, and quite a bit more.

Consider this paragraph on mastering difficult passages:

[quote]There is no passage so difficult that it would not be possible to find a metronome speed slow enough to play it comfortably.  Technical problems are controlled by the mind.  We must train the mind before we train our hands… which we achieve by working at a slow tempo.  Forcing speed too soon is like forcing a child to walk before he is ready.  You make no progress, and you can jeopardize the equilibrium and control you may have acquired.  [/quote]

And these rules on developing a defined, expressive melody:

[quote]A melody without direction becomes purposeless.  Here are three basic rules:

  1. Concentrate for the full length of the musical line, with out interruption.
  2. Determine the mood to be expressed and make every detail point toward it.
  3. Find the focal point or climax of a phrase or section in order to give direction to your musical thought.[/quote]

And this tip on working towards a performance tempo:

[quote]…Always aim at a faster tempo than [you] will need.  In performance it should never be necessary to use your ability to the limits; there should always be a margin of reserve. [/quote]

This is advice that you can read, take to the piano, and immediately apply.  I love books like that.  And while it’s true that her instruction is addressed to pianists, the majority of the principles can be easily and effectively applied to other instruments as well.

 

To-The-Point

The author doesn’t waste time or space.  Most of the chapters are 8-12 pages – the perfect bite-size bits to chew on. No worrying about getting bogged down in the middle of a forty-page chapter!  The chapters are relatively disconnected from one another in subject, but each one addresses its topic with competence and perception.  She is concise, and her comprehensive approach to the piano is genuinely fun to experience.

[box style=”white” ]Important Note…  Most of the chapters address a broader arena than the title implies.  The chapters on building and preparing a solo concert program (#8-9), for instance, teach good methods for preparing for a performance of any kind, and the chapter on teaching at the college level (#15) gives teaching tips that are useful for much more than just the college classroom.  So spend a little time in each of the chapters, even if the title seems like it won’t apply to you.[/box]

 

In SummaryRuth_Slenczynska_Autograph

If you are a musician focused on improving your technique, you’ll enjoy the book.  It’s full of principles that will guide your progress and challenge you musically and physically!  You’ll also enjoy the new drills and historic trivia you learn along the way.

If you’re a music teacher, I encourage you to read the book!  Most of the principles for students apply to teaching students as well, and I gleaned so much from this book as a teacher.  It is, hands-down, the number one resource that has affected the way I teach.

Music at Your Fingertips is certainly not a glamorous book.  The cover design is outdated, the layout is basic, and the pictures are black and white and a little bit fuzzy.  But the content is exceptional!

 

You can see a preview / purchase the book  from Amazon HERE.  Have fun!