Monthly Archives: November 2012

Piano Teaching Tips from Melody Bober

Melody BoberI hope your teaching year is off to a fabulous start and you are enjoying your students as much as I am treasuring every moment with mine! We recently presented our fall piano recital on Sunday, November 11th. It is always a bit of a challenge to prepare selections after having just gotten back to school in September, but it seems the students always come through with excellent performances. I’m always so proud of them. Along with Fantastic solos and duets, we have added something special to our recitals: Trios! These have been so popular, the students actually clamor to participate. There are several reasons for this:

  1. They love the camaraderie. Duets are special, but having 3 people on a bench is just exciting – to play, listen to and watch. And the ensemble possibilities are endless: a teacher and 2 students, a parent and 2 siblings, 3 siblings or 3 friends, etc. It’s a lot of fun.
  2. They love the sound it creates. Again, duets offer a fuller sound, but having very part of the keyboard covered gives a whole different dimension.
  3. They love the challenge. Not only do trios give the students a great opportunity to count and keep a steady beat; they offer wonderful musical and expressive skills as they listen for the integration and blending of parts.

I am excited to introduce Books 5 & 6 of Grand Trios for Piano for your intermediate and late intermediate students. Let’s take a look at “Prelude in G Major” from Book 6. This piece is fast-paced, with a key change to E flat Major in the middle section that offers a change in dynamic level as well. A challenging rhythmic section provides the segue back to the “A” theme with a powerful ending, making this piece especially nice for a recital opener or showstopper lose. Here are a few tips on learning, preparing and performing this trio:

  1. Your intermediate students are getting older (and maybe bigger!). Feel free to add a bench for the performance so everyone is comfortable. I have students that want to share the bench until they graduate. That is perfectly fine as well!
  2. One of the main challenges of playing trios is getting acclimated to the layout. The middle part is probably the most difficult to follow. During practice, make sure your students know exactly where to look as pages are being turned.
  3. Assign the page turn to the part that can afford to drop a hand. For instance, the high part could turn at measure 9; the middle part at measure 18; the middle part at measure 27. Of course memorizing is ideal – no page turns to worry about!
  4. Knowing the parameters of each part is also helpful. Where does their particular part lie on the keyboard? What are the highest and lowest notes? How close will they be to their neighbor’s hands? Studying this as the learning process is taking place puts them at ease and creates a higher level of comfort when they finally put the piece together as a group.
  5. The Students will want to make special note of the dynamics as the melody is transferred between the three parts. One of the star attributes to playing trios successfully is being sensitive to fellow players and contributing their individual part in the most musical way to benefit the work as a whole. I have students that enjoy learning each other’s parts. This is another way they can become familiar with the design of the piece.
  6. Rhythm, phrasing, articulation are all important teaching tools within each part.

As in all music, these components of expression will bring the piece to life. When learning individual parts, it is crucial to abide by the tempo marking and obviously play with a steady beat. This can be achieved several ways:

  1. Use the metronome at home and at the lesson.
  2. Play one of the parts with your student at the lesson.
  3. Make a recording of the other 2 parts and have the student play along.

One of the major deterrents teachers have from using trios is the time factor and getting students together to practice. I have found that if you practice individually with the metronome or recording as stated above, the task of putting it all together becomes much easier. If the strict, disciplined practice has been done on their own, they may use the sessions where they are together to get used to the sound of everyone’s live performance, discover the musical flow of the piece with all three part, and become confident in their musicianship skills. We already know they are going to enjoy the time together!

Many times we as teachers have to go the extra mile to provide opportunities for students to come together to practice. Oftentimes, I will provide donuts and orange juice for a Saturday morning practice, or perhaps an evening pizza party/rehearsal would be fun. Encourage students to go over to each other’s houses for a special time of practice and fellowship. If they are old enough to drive, many of my students will just pop in on each other’s lessons for a few minutes of practice. This is extremely helpful.

Do you have students that get extremely nervous at recitals? Maybe even decide not to perform at all? Trios are a wonderful way for these students to stay involved in a nonthreatening way. Having two additional people working with you, right beside you, is less intimidating than being on your own. It keeps them playing, and they usually resume solo work at some point.

Want to really energize your recital? Perform “Prelude in G Major” as a double trio. You won’t believe the amazing sound 12 hands can make!

I would like to add that utilizing trios with your younger students is a thrilling experience as well. The Grand Trios for Piano books 1, 2 and 3 offer opportunities for props, costumes and added instrumentation as their imaginations allow.

Wishing you all the best as you incorporate trios at your next recital!


Melody Bober
Author, Arranger, Composer

Grand Trios for Piano, Book 6Prelude in G Major


How I Won Ms. Senior America 2012

By Elisabeth Howard

“And now ladies and gentlemen, the moment you all have been waiting for. The new Ms. Senior America 2012 is . . . Ms. California, Elisabeth Howard!” I was competing as Ms. Senior California with 34 other State Queens from all over the United States.

I performed “Sempre Libera” from the opera, La Traviata. I knew I would have to muster up every bit of my Vocal Power Technique. “Sempre Libera” was the first aria I had been given by my voice teacher at age 16, just before I was accepted to The Juilliard School in 1959. And here I am at age 71!

Although I won the hearts of the judges and the audience on this day, my journey to this performance was not always an easy one. While in my Master’s Program at Juilliard, I lost my voice—every singer’s greatest fear! I was teaching a minimum of 20 hours each week, was President of the Honor Society, and with the incorrect use of my voice, I strained my voice to the point of losing it. Fearing that my voice was damaged permanently and unwilling to live with this prognosis, I did extensive research to understand the “human singing mechanism.” As a result, I went on to develop the Vocal Power Singing Technique.

My first book, Sing!, (accompanied by audio recordings), was published in 1980 and was the first of its kind to teach non-classical singing. I was a pioneer, performing everything from commercial music and rock to jazz and musical theater. I have taught my Vocal Power Technique to pop, jazz, rock, and musical theater singers, as well as to voice teachers who wanted to know how to teach non-classical singing. I have traveled all over the world teaching workshops and leading master classes in 11 countries and 37 international cities.

Winning the Ms. Senior America crown was dependent on my voice. I had to knock it out of the ball park! How did I do it?

• Vocal Colors
• Agility—for the fast and high coloratura runs
• Pitch Accuracy
• Head Voice
• Chest Voice

I used my signature technique, the Diaphragmatic Vibrato, for all my sustained tones, especially for that high, sustained D-flat at the end of the aria. That final note brought the audience to its feet with deafening applause and bravas!

And now, ladies and gentlemen I’m here to tell you that everyone can sing! Your voice is an instrument, and you learn to play it just like any other instrument. Give yourself the gift of singing! My user-friendly instructional course, Sing!, is a self-contained package, perfect for your library shelf. For the price of one vocal lesson, you receive a 144-page book and four hour-long CDs, plus, if you wish, the hour-long Born to Sing! DVD (also available separately). The Vocal Power Method will get you to a level of singing you never dreamed possible. This step-by-step, singing method will change your life forever. I can honestly say that I am proof of the pudding!

About Elisabeth Howard . . .

Elisabeth Howard is on the voice faculty of Pepperdine University. She is a graduate of the Juilliard School, and has performed extensively in opera and music theater. She has given workshops and master classes in 11 countries and serves as Director of the Vocal Power Academy in Los Angeles. Among her many illustrious clients are Sting, The Police, Priscilla Presely, and Paige O’Hara (voice of Belle in the film Beauty and the Beast.)

Ms. Howard is the author of Sing!, co-author of Power Speech , American Diction for Singers, and the Born to Sing DVD, and author of The ABC’s of Vocal Harmony, all distributed by Alfred Music Publishing Co.

Click HERE for more information on Elisabeth Howard’s publications.

Mark Williams Tribute

Mark Williams

Mark Williams was one of the premier composers for school bands and orchestras. Co-author of the Accent on Achievement band method, he had over 200 published works to his credit. As a clinician and guest conductor, he traveled to 34 states, 5 Canadian provinces, and Australia.

Mark was a warm, kind, generous, and brilliant human being and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him or experienced his great music.

Personally, I only met Mark Williams once at the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic in 2007. With that short time, I saw a hard-working man with a great sense of humor. He even helped tear down our booth Friday evening and joined us for our tradition of deep dish pizza that night. He opted to walk back to the hotel afterwards, which surprised me because it was freezing cold and we weren’t what I would consider walking distance from the hotel. I had no idea that had been my only chance to get to know Mark, as he passed away on January 3, 2008.

As we are preparing for Midwest 2012, I couldn’t help but think back on that night, so I asked a couple of folks who knew him to write a few words about him…

Victoria Meador
Marketing Project Manager
Product Line Specialist: Concert Band, Marching Band, & Sound Innovations
Alfred Music Publishing

Mark Williams was more than a uniquely talented composer and teacher. After all, each of us aspire to be unique in our approach to teaching and composing. Rather, Mark created and thrived in his own league as a composer and teacher. His compositions helped every elementary and middle school level teacher to take their bands or orchestras to a higher level of performance and enjoyment. Every one of his clinics—and I attend ended many of them—inspired every band and orchestra director to discover the fun and educational value of letting their students play the music that they enjoyed playing, while learning important techniques that helped them to replicate the fun that they had playing his compositions and arrangements.

Mark rejoiced in the art of discovery! He had fun in discovering new ways to bring classical treasures to life. He truly enjoyed motivating experienced teachers to discover unique ways to energize their approach to teaching, and to truly enjoy that special feeling of discovery when their students really felt that they owned a new way of expressing their musicality.

I miss having the opportunity to experience Mark’s creative spirit on a regular basis. I rejoice in the many opportunities that I had to be a small part of his tremendous talents.

Danny Rocks
The Company Rocks

One of my proudest achievements during my 35 years as Alfred’s Editor-in-Chief was the discovery of Mark Williams. Mark’s first publication was “Greenwillow Portrait” which was an unsolicited manuscript just like the hundreds of others I received during those years. It was such a special piece, and I immediately picked up the phone to tell him we would publish it the following year. That was my first conversation with Mark and his enthusiasm and excitement about band music was immediately apparent.

From that day forward I always called Mark as soon as I received what was to become an amazing string of hits that made a major impact on the success of the Alfred Concert Band catalog. I was honored to have Mark as my co-author of Accent on Achievement. Some of my fondest memories are related to having Mark stay at my house for extended periods as we planned and ultimately wrote what we both felt was the most practical and creative band method ever written.

John O’Reilly
Co-Author of
Accent on Achievement

I was lucky to work with Mark Williams at Alfred for nearly 20 years. We attended many shows and enjoyed many laughs together. Mark was the closest thing to Mozart for school music that I could think of. He was such a genius at really understanding all the intricacies of each instrument and the challenges that beginners face. That’s why his music was so popular—he wrote it in a way that made every student successful when they performed with their band or orchestra. Luckily, we still have his body of music to share with the world for generations and generations. Mark was a kind, loving and generous human being and he will be deeply missed by all of us in the Alfred family.

Andrew Surmani
Senior Vice President
Managing Director, School & Church Publishing
Alfred Music Publishing