5 Tips for a Successful Performance

Every year, my piano teacher hosted two piano recitals. Even though I practiced and practiced, I could not overcome the stage fright until my senior year of high school.

So, here are 5 tips to help you execute a successful performance.

1) Practice Performing

There isn’t a better way to become comfortable performing then by doing it. My mother would have each of us kids perform one or two pieces for anyone who walked through our door – even the guy who repaired our appliances. Find opportunities to share your music. Be courageous!

2) Practice Acting

Stage freight starts in the mind. Pretend you are an actor or actress. Imagine that you are someone else on stage. It may sound strange, but it psychologically helped me to overcome my fear of feeling vulnerable.

3) Practice Imagining

Walk through the entire performance (even in the clothes you would wear). Sit in a chair near the piano. Imagine that there are people and other performers surrounding you. Walk to the piano, and adjust the bench to a good distance. Take a deep breath and perform for your “audience”. Remember to bow at the end of your performance!

4) Practice Ghosting

Have you ever tried to play your piano piece on a hard surface while singing it in your mind? One of my teachers called it “ghosting”, like you are moving your fingers without hearing the actual sound. If you have a memory glitch without even playing the piece on the piano, then you most likely will have it when actually play the instrument. Review that passage and practice ghosting again.

5) Practice Breathing

Yes, it may sound like a blonde joke, but it’s true. You need to make sure that you are breathing when you play. Take deep breaths during the challenging passages. Oxygen to the brain can only be a good thing when you are under pressure.


No matter what happens, remember to make colorful music!

Music and the Brain

200 Days of Practice!

Each year, I introduce a new challenge for my students to engage in. At the end of the school year, the students who attained the goal are honored with a trophy! For the 2014 – 2015 school year, my challenge to each student in my studio is to practice 200 days from September – May! This comes out to approximately 5-6 days per week. Each day they practice, they will fill in a star on the chart below (click to download and print). The first student to reach 200 days will receive special recognition! Parents, please hold your children accountable by having them come to you first before they fill in the star.


If you would like to use other charts, I have found a few others online that might appealing. I’m looking forward to a successful year of practice!


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200 Days of Practice: the practice shoppe


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All Star Recital Practice: Ear Training and Improv

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Planes and Jets Theme: Kids Pointz


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Coloring Music Chart: ABCTEACH


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Flowers Practice Sheet: Susan Paradis

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Practice Sticker Charts: Making Music Fun


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Music Practice: Chart Jungle

Name It in a Minute!

At the beginning of the summer, I challenged each of my students to name all of the notes on the grand staff in one minute. Lesson after lesson, I would set the timer and use flashcards to test them.


One of the first students to attain this goal almost didn’t try it a second time. She named them in 1 minute and 24 seconds. I encouraged her to overcome her fear of failure by being courageous. She decided to overcome her fear and try again. When she saw the timer, her eyes shined with excitement. She made it in exactly 1 minute! She almost couldn’t believe that she really attained that goal!


Sometimes it takes the extra bit of encouragement to help students move toward their goals. Teachers and parents, don’t give up! Keep on encouraging! It may be the moment that helps them reach the stars!


This week is the last week for students to fulfill this challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing how many more students will name those notes in a minute!


Do you have any great ideas to encourage students to memorize notes on the grand staff?




Name It In A Minute!

Piano Practice Guide for Early Beginners


Piano lessons are not successful unless students learn how to practice on their own. Each lesson, I usually write down a list of songs and technical exercises for my students to be practicing. For each song, I found myself writing down similar objectives. Instead of rewriting the list each week, I decided to create a practice guide. Here’s what I have assembled for my students, who are just starting to learn how to read music:


Practice Guide for the Piano


Before you start practicing, make sure you are at a good distance from the piano. Sit up tall and place your feet flat on the floor or on a stool. Number your fingers (remember, thumbs up number 1). Place your hands on your knees to help you form a good hand shape. You are ready to begin!


Practice ONE measure at a time. Play with one hand first. Once you go through the list below, practice with the other hand.


  • Name the notes in the music before you start playing on the piano (A B C D E F G)

  • Find your hand placement on the piano: Name the first note in the music. Which hand plays that note? Which finger plays that key on the piano? Repeat for the other hand.

  • Play and name the notes 3 to 5 times.

  • Play and count the rhythm 3 to 5 times.


Practice the entire song with both hands SLOWLY. After you are done, ask yourself the questions below. If you answered with “No” or “Maybe”, play it again until you can say, “Yes” to each question.


  • Did you play the correct notes?

  • Did you count aloud (or in your mind) throughout the piece?

  • Did you play with a steady beat?

  • Did you play with curved fingers and with a ball-shaped hand?


Practice musicianship hands together.


  • Try to play the song with a warm, round tone.

  • What are the dynamics? Practice them (Forte is played heavy. Piano is played light. Mezzo Forte is in between Forte and Piano).

  • Try to sing the lyrics of the song as you play.

  • Can you play the song without the music?


Download this practice guide here:

Piano Practice Guide for Level 1a


Organized and Ready to Practice!


The new school year starts soon! It’s important to get everything in order before starting this new season of piano lessons so that nothing hinders your child from practicing. Please make sure that your child has the following items:


  • Spiral Notebook

  • Pencil & Eraser

  • Metronome (extra batteries, if needed)

  • Nail Clipper (please trim nails once a week)

  • Flashcards or the equivalent on a technological device

  • Motivational Charts

  • Music Stand

  • Tuned Acoustic Piano

  • Plenty of light near the piano or keyboard

  • Bench (with cushion/pillow for younger students)

  • Footstool (for younger students)

  • Music is organized and ready to use near the piano or keyboard (Move music books from previous years in a separate area).



If you don’t have the space to organize piano books in a book shelf, try these solutions:


  • Find all of the books, and divide into current music, repertoire music and past music. Store them in Magazine Dividers near the piano. Label them (if you want to go the extra mile).

  • Find all of the current books and store them in a hanging Wall File near the piano.

  • Store the metronome, pencil, eraser, nail clipper and flashcards in a binder zipper pouch. Hang a hook on the wall near the piano, and slide the zipper pouch on it.

  • Use a combination of a mail holder and hook to store current music and to hang the binder zipper pouch mentioned above.

  • Store all of the music in a Square Basket near the piano. Make sure the basket is square or rectangle and not round; otherwise, you may damage the books.



Do you have any solutions for organizing piano music and materials? Please share!


Getting Organized

Organized and Ready to Practice!

The Test of Relaxation


The only way to successfully play the third movement of the Concerto in G Major by Maurice Ravel is to have a constant balance between strength and relaxation. It’s the shortest of all the movements, but the most challenging to endure. As I practiced, I had to find moments to relax the hand in between chords or  between passages in order to prevent tension. There is so much life in this music that it requires a consistent mindset of living in the moment of performing and not thinking too far ahead; otherwise, it’s easy to become distracted by any tension in the hands, arms or even shoulders. After performing this piece with Anne Louise-Turgeon, I’ll never forget the feeling of satisfaction. Hard work pays off.



The Beauty of Listening


The simplicity of the second movement of the Concerto in G Major by Maurice Ravel can only be fully appreciated after the experience of the vivacious first movement. It’s a breath of fresh air, like stopping to enjoy a beautiful sunset after a long day. As time passes by, you begin to hear tension that builds into a delightful swirl of movement. It’s almost like getting lost into a whirlwind of colorful sound. It has become one of my favorite pieces to play, because it’s a challenge to be patient enough to truly listen for the variation of colors in its music.



My First Piano Lesson

Exactly 20 years ago today, I sat down at a piano and experienced my very first lesson. I’ll never forget that morning. When I was playing with my toys, my mother walked into my room  and said with excitement, “Jamie, are you ready for your first piano lesson today?”


“Today?!” I exclaimed. My heart raced with joy and enthusiam – I always wanted to learn how to play the piano!


Twenty years later, I am now teaching piano and performing music. It’s such a great reminder as to how precious those first few lessons are for any child. Last week, I went through a few keep sakes and found all of the notebooks my first piano teacher used to write down a list of things for me to practice. They definitely brought a smile to my face!


My First Lesson



Piano Lesson Drawing

Beginner Student

The Challenge of Virtuosity

The first movement of this concerto I performed certainly challenged my virtuosity! The hours I poured into this piece definitely made a better musician out of me.The opening of the concerto alone took a considerable amount of vivacious energy, note accuracy, and rhythmic drive.


The piece is the first movement of Maurice Ravel’s concerto in G Major, which he began composing in 1929. I studied under Anne Louise-Turgeon at Florida Atlantic University, who performed the orchestral part in this senior recital in 2009. Enjoy!


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