Composer of the month – Helen Marlais

Helen Marlais (R) and I (L)

The composer for June is…Helen Marlais!


Dr. Helen Marlais is an author, composer, teacher and clinician. She is well-known for her popular piano method book, “Succeeding at the Piano”.  Dr. Marlais is also the Director of Keyboard Publications for the Frank J Hackinson (FJH) Music Company, a leading name in the music publishing world. She is an associate professor of music in Grand Valley State University, and has presented and performed internationally.  I met Dr. Marlais in March 2017, when she was introducing the 2nd edition of “Succeeding at the Piano“.

Popular Pieces

Instead of introducing individual pieces by this composer, I’d like to discuss the publications I use frequently in my studio:

In recital.jpg

In Recital series: Dr. Marlais has written a series named “In Recital” which offer students a variety of “recital-worthy” pieces. These pedagogical pieces range in genre from classical to traditional to jazz to holiday to popular pieces, and have solos and a duet. Furthermore, each book is carefully leveled and has performance preparation strategies for the student. There is usually something enticing in the book for a student, which we can use for a recital, or for general interest.

sight reading.jpg

Sight Reading and Rhythm Every Day series: Coauthored with Kevin Olson, this unique sightreading book has the usual short excerpts for sightreading. It also features creative exercises to encourage students to learn rhythm and reading. For example, students may be asked to tap and speak a phrase using a particular rhythm, or tap, clap, snap, and stomp a rhythm. Students are encouraged to read using the intervallic and landmark note approach. The series gradually increases in difficulty, ranging from level 1A to 6. I often supplement my lessons with this book, especially if students are not following the RCM syllabus.

Dr. Marlais offers many publications designed to help students experience music in a comprehensive manner. You may peruse her entire collection at

NOTE: Thanks for reading “Composer of the Month”. The blog will be featuring other content, but I will intermittently post more introductions to composers in the future.

Interested in starting you piano journey?

Published by hannahannika

Piano Teacher

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