In the Beginning...
Monday, October 18, 2021 by Mary O'Connor | OCMS
Today, since it's a "teaching day", I'm thankful for my piano studio, my students, and my piano :)
When I was growing up, my dad was a minister, meaning we lived in whatever parsonage the church chose to let us live in. The one we had in Pawcatuck, CT had an upright piano that someone had put out in the sunroom. Not the best place for a piano, but I digress.
Since we had the piano already, someone - probably my mom - decided that I would take lessons. We had the organist from the Baptist church just across the river in Westerly, RI
Apparently, Clara Pashley was fondly remembered at the church (now Central Baptist Church) since she was mentioned in an article from 2010.
Miss Pashley walked to our house each week and taught me (and my mom who was always listening in) piano for the grand sum of 25 cents.
I started with Ada Richter's classic Teaching Little Fingers to Play, which has now been morphed into the John Thompson library.
From there, it was the Michael Aaron series, and some sheet music.
There was no music store in our town, so I have no idea where any of this music came from - but I still have it all.
My parents did very well for their quarter a week investment, especially since my mom paid good attention and was able to beef up lessons she'd had as a child. Later on, she played well enough that she was church organist for a local Roman Catholic Church.
But I digress...
In those days, kids couldn't do a whole lot of activities, so in 6th grade, I decided I wanted to be a Girl Scout. Bye, bye Clara .
Girl Scouts didn't last long but I did play piano in a talent show. I remember, I carefully cut Burgmüller's Ballade out of my Michael Aaron book and made a nice construction paper cover. (I still have this, too)
I doubt that I played this well but here's what it was supposed to sound like:
A few years intervened and we moved to Springfield, MA. The parsonage piano there was in terrible shape and in the dark, never-used basement. But I decided to make it mine and cleared up the area around it and started "practicing".
My Junior or Senior year of High School I decided I wanted to major in music in college. I decided to learn, on my own, a piano arrangement of Aragonnaise by Jules Massenet. I have no idea why or where that sheet music came from but I started working furiously on this piece.
Hopefully, at some point, it should have sounded like this:
I started pedaling (no pun intended!) my music to the Universities of Connecticut and Massachusetts and ended up at UMass Amherst since we were state residents.
Early morning gym classes (usually swimming), then wet hair traipsing across campus to music theory in winter 5 days a week. AARRGGH!
But I stuck it out.
My wonderful piano teacher, Howard Lebow, was killed in a car accident my sophomore year and I was devastated. There was about him in a post on January 26, 2018 over on https://oconnormusicstudio.com
I took yet another break from piano lessons - but I kept playing.
After DH graduated, we moved to Milwaukee, WI for his graduate school. Besides working 2 jobs, I found time to commandeer the practice rooms at the University of Wisconsin. I also found a teacher at the Schaum School of Music. She was amazed that I had no piano at home to practice on.
When we later moved to Alexandria, VA my DH gave me a choice of new car or piano. So, I found a used piano. The owner had acquired it in a divorce and wanted it gone. Yesterday. She even paid to move it out of her apartment.
The new-to-me piano took up half our living room. When my parents came to visit, their feet were under my piano as they slept on cots.
I found yet another new piano teacher and she is still my best friend to this day.
That piano moved to several locations before I bought a brand new Yamaha grand piano. The movers accidentally brought in the wrong one and I made them return it. The people who lived in an apartment were probably unhappy when they had to return my piano and take their own new baby grand back.
I started teaching as a traveling piano teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland. I continued that in Wilmington, DE.
When we got to Fairfax, VA I decided no more traveling. Students would come to me. And so they have since 1973.
What is supposed to be our living room is filled with music books, electric keyboards, the grand piano, 2 organs, 2 violins, 2 clarinets, a hand-made (by me!) dulcimer and other musical "stuff".
Piano playing has gotten me through the worst times of my life. Teaching has been a lifeline for me, as well.
I am so thankful for the students who have stayed with me over the years.
Halloween LIstening and Coloring Pages
Saturday, October 16, 2021 by Mary O'Connor | OCMS
I have purchased a set of Shades of Sound Listening & Coloring Book: Halloween for the studio.
Each week, I will print out some of the pages for your student and put them in his/her notebook. After listening to the music on YouTube, the student may color the pages.
After they are colored, please return them to the notebook so that there will be a complete book when finished.
If you are an adult and want to listen and color, too, just let me know and I'll print you a set.
From the website:
The Shades of Sound Listening and Coloring Books are a great way to encourage students to listen to great piano and orchestral repertoire. Students of all ages will love coloring the fun pictures while listening to and learning from the music of the great composers.
This Shades of Sound Halloween edition includes 13 spooky pieces of piano and orchestral literature, ranging from the Baroque to the Modern period. By spending just 5-10 minutes per day listening for just a few days per week, students can listen to and complete the whole book in a few weeks.
Aspiring pianists need to know the literature, hear the greats perform, and be inspired and excited by the great music that is available! Just as writers need to read, read, read, pianists need to listen! Through this fun curriculum, students will learn about the musical periods and the great composers and their works. Listening repertoire selected includes selections from the standard solo piano literature, as well as solo piano and orchestra literature and orchestral works.
My hope is that students can add just 5-10 minutes of listening per day to their normal practicing. Listening to great music will change their understanding of music and will vastly increase their music history knowledge. It will excite and inspire them, encourage further study and listening, give them new pieces to add to their own repertoire wish list, infuse more great music into their lives, homes and families, and will boost their musicianship and expression to the next level.
The Halloween Shades of Sound book includes 13 different pieces, including:
- Totentanz by Liszt
- Le Cimetiere, from Clairs de Lune by Abel Decaux
- Graceful Ghost Rag by William Bolcom
- Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov
- Tarantelle, from Music for Children Op. 65 No. 4 by Prokofiev
- Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka
- In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg
- Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by Bach
- Funeral March, from Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor by Chopin
- Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens
- The Banshee by Henry Cowell
- Scarbo, from Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas
Students may use The Playful Piano – Halloween Listening YouTube playlistto listen along with their book using quality recordings. The playlist is ordered to go right along with the book, and also includes 5 extra pieces (some pages include optional “Further Listening” examples students may listen to).
2021 Fall Piano Lesson Registration
Monday, September 13, 2021 by Mary O'Connor | OCMS
Thank you for your interest in the O'Connor Music Studio!
Available times are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the day, after school and early evenings for all ages and levels. There may be other times available if requested.
After you register, you will get a confirmation email with the information you need to access the Student Portal. After logging in you may choose from the available lesson times or request something different.
If you are a transfer student, please have your most recent method book(s) and notebook for the online interview.
Prospective students must have a piano, organ or electric keyboard to use for daily practice.
Roadtrip! students (ages 4-5) are scheduled for half-hour lessons with their parents present.
Beginning children (ages 6 to 9) are scheduled for half-hour lessons.
Youth (ages 10 and up) may be scheduled for half-hour lessons or forty-five minute lessons.
Adults are highly encouraged to take hour-long lessons, but are always welcome to schedule half-hour lessons at first.
I look forward to meeting you!