Music lessons in the time of COVID-19

Our world has been forever altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus began to spread around the world, teachers have had to adjust their teaching methods. I have tried Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and Zoom, but my preferred platform is Zoom.

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Composer of the month – Dennis Alexander

The composer for August is …Dennis Alexander!

Dennis Alexander and I, after I won a set of “Premier Piano Express”, autographed!


I have been playing Dennis Alexander’s music for over 10 years. From his Christmas music arrangements to his Alfred’s method books, I’ve enjoying playing his vast range of educational piano pieces. Mr. Alexander was born in 1947 in Dodge City, Kansas and attended the University of Kansas. He taught piano and pedagogy at the University of Montana for 24 years, and has also taught at Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge. He currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the annual “Dennis Alexander Piano Competition” takes place. Students aged 7-15 compete for trophies and cash!

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Composer of the month – David L. McIntyre

The composer for July is …David L. McIntyre!

Me (L) and David L. McIntyre (R)


I was first introduced to David McIntyre‘s piano music in the 2015 Piano Syllabus from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Although I am familiar with his piano compositions, he also writes extensively for orchestra, chamber ensembles, strings, voice, brass, and woodwinds (flute, bassoon, oboe, clarinet). Mr. McIntyre was born in 1950 in Edmonton, AB, and currently resides in Regina, SK. He has taught piano and composition at Canadian Bible College, University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan.

I met Mr. McIntyre in-person at the CFMTA  (Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations) National Conference in Winnipeg, MB in July 2019. At the Gala Concert, pianist Dr. Christine Vaderkooy performed pieces he had written for her daughter and her son.

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Composer of the month – Nancy Telfer

This month’s composer is Nancy Telfer!



Nancy Telfer is a Canadian composer from Bracebridge, Ontario. She studied piano, voice, composition and education at the University of Western Ontario. Ms. Telfer has composed over 350 works for orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles, and soloists.

I met Ms. Telfer at the Contemporary Showcase Festival held in Toronto, November 2018. This festival is sponsored by The Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects (ACNMP), an organization dedicated to promoting contemporary Canadian music. She was adjudicating junior and intermediate classes.

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4 Ways Becoming A Parent Changed My Teaching

It is beginning of 2019 and I have been reflecting on my teaching career of 12+ years before becoming a parent last year.  Even before parenthood, my teaching has changed dramatically from when I started teaching my first student, without formal pedagogy training. However, as I gradually went back to work after the birth of my son, I began to notice a few things as a result of becoming a parent. I was now experiencing music learning from the parent side, and I am sure I will continue to learn new things as my son becomes old enough to participate in learning an instrument. Although not necessarily new, I have found that becoming a parent has reinforced the following 4 conclusions:

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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“.

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Composer of the month – Elissa Milne

Elissa Milne at a conference, speaking about the 40 Piece Challenge

The composer of the month of May is…Elissa Milne!


Elissa Milne is a versatile teacher, composer, and clinician from Sydney, Australia. She has written music for the piano, organ, choir, as well as for musicals and chamber ensembles. She is most well-known for her educational piano pieces, and her compositions can be found in the syllabi of the examination boards around the world, including the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM), Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), and Australian Music Exams Board (AMEB). She is also one of the administrators of the popular Facebook group for music teachers, “The Art of Piano Pedagogy”.

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Public Performance Tips

On the last Sunday of April, I attended ORMTA Central Toronto Branch’s biannual scholarship recitals. There were three separate recitals based on level (Junior level 1-4, Intermediate level 5-8, Senior level 9+). Performers from each recital were eligible for various scholarships (money!) based on their performance. Although there weren’t “first, second third” place prizes, there was one “overall outstanding performance” award that was commensurate with the amount of money awarded. The performers selected for the recital had auditioned for a spot two weeks previous to the recital, and only the top 30% were chosen for the recital. This means that all the performances were polished, memorized and musical. However, performing in public, on a stage is a different story. I witnessed several performers fumble, missing a few notes or even memory slips of entire sections. Why does this happen?

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