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Student Honors: November/December 2020 RCM Exams

Thursday, December 17, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

This comprehensive exam-based program operates year-round and we had a few students participate in the November/December session. Congratulations to: Helena Horowitz (Level 2 Piano) First Class Honors with Distinction ♪ Priya Perekam (Level 4 Piano) First Class Honors ♪ Karthik Thyagarajan (Level 6 Piano) First Class Honors with Distinction ♪ Aruni Veluri (Level 5 Piano) First Class Honors

Winter Break 2020

Monday, December 14, 2020 | News

Compliments of the season to you and your family! The Studio will be closed for Winter Break from Monday December 21 through Saturday January 2.

Student Honors: NVMTA Fall Festival

Sunday, December 13, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

This annual event was held this year using pre-recorded videos. Congratulations to the following students who received the top score of Superior. Owen RollinsEliana Rougle  Karthik Thyagarajan Kavya Thyagarajan Varun Veluri  Aruni Veluri Alex Xu.

Student Honors: RCM Celebration of Excellence 2020

Saturday, December 5, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

In the fall of 2020, RCM announced awards for top-performing students from the 2019-20 academic year. In our Studio, we had two students so recognized: Hannah Wang, and Alex Xu. Hannah received a State Award for earning the highest score in her level in the state. And Alex received a "gold medal" for earning the highest score in his level in the entire Southeast US region.


Thanksgiving Break 2020

Wednesday, November 25, 2020 | News

The Studio will be closed for the Thanksgiving Break from Wednesday November 25 through Saturday November 28. There will be no lessons during this time. We re-open on our usual schedule on Sunday November 29. Happy Thanksgiving!

Student Honors: 2020 Studio Stars

Saturday, September 12, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

Congratulations to our 2019-20 Studio Star Award winners! This in-house award is based on simple objective criteria. You can read more about how to earn the Studio Star via For Our Students in the menu. The coronavirus situation reduced the number of students who were able to earn the award this school year, so we are especially pleased with the students who were able to find a way to sustain their achievement even with this year's disruptions.

WORKSHOP PARTICIPATION (5+ classes attended with 5+ different pieces performed from memory)

Helena Horowitz, Ada Kiefer, Priya Perekam, Karthik Thyagarajan, Hannah Wang, and Alex Xu

40 PIECE CHALLENGE (40 different pieces learned to completion)

Jamison Cheng, Liam Horgan, Helena Horowitz, Hong-duc Pho, and Hannah Wang


Student Honors: August 2020 RCM Exams

Monday, August 17, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

Three of our students participated in the August 2020 session of the RCM Certificate program and all students earned top marks. Congratulations!

♪ Level 5 Piano ♪ Katrina Nelson ♪ First Class Honors 

♪ Level 8 Piano ♪ Owen Rollins ♪ First Class Honors

♪ Level 8 Piano ♪ Philip Wang ♪ First Class Honors with Distinction

Special Remote Group Programs

Monday, August 3, 2020 | News

We knew that Summer 2020 would be like none other so we set out to support our interested students with innovative group enrichment classes with ultra-low tuition. Our only goal was to have fun and stay engaged while learning something new! Students joined us for the following special programs:

♪ 1/2 Day Remote Piano Camp with Andrew Horowitz

♪ Remote Group Theory classes with Olga Robets

♪ Summer Performance Workshops with Aphrodite Mitsopoulou

♪ Digital Music Composition with our old friend Tyler St. Clare

Summer Recital Report 2020

Sunday, July 26, 2020 | News

We were not able to host our usual Summer Recital due to the coronavirus situation but we made alternate plans to celebrate and demonstrate the achievement of our students! Bright Starts (group beginners) participated in a live online recital using Zoom on June 6. We were joined by nearly 40 students and parents and families members from all over the world. Our individual-lesson students participated in a YouTube virtual recital and we received  nearly 90 different video submissions from our students. We've prepared a YouTube playlist with a selection of 20 videos representing a variety of ages and levels as well as our teacher-introduction video. If you're interested in what we do, check it out! 

 

Student Honors: 2020 NVMTA Sonata Festival

Thursday, July 9, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

Congratulations to Aruni Veluri and Philip Wang, who both earned the competitive award of "Honors" in the Sonata Festival hosted by Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association (NVMTA). This year, the coronavirus situation forced the usual in-person Festival to move online. It's great to see so many students overcoming the challenge of remote participation by preparing and presenting polished performances. 

Student Honors: May/June 2020 RCM Exams

Friday, June 19, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

The coronavirus situation closed down many of the events in which our students often participate, but some events did arrange for alternate programming online. In particular, we're proud of our students' accomplishments in completing demanding RCM Exams, even in this unusual time. Unlike many events, the RCM Exam attempts to make a rigorous yet noncompetitive comprehensive assessment of a student's accomplishment at a given level. This involves much more than preparing one recital piece! Students present a program of multiple pieces in varied styles and also are tested on music fundamentals such as scales, arpeggios, and aural skills. A related but separate program of theory exams assesses student achievement in that field. Read more at rcmusic.com. The designation "First Class Honors with Distinction" indicates a top score above 90%. Congratulations to our participating students!

♪ Level 1 Piano ♪ Helena Horowitz ♪ First Class Honors with Distinction

♪  Level 2 Piano ♪ Hannah Wang ♪ First Class Honors with Distinction

♪  Level 6 Piano ♪  Vihaan Mathur ♪  First Class Honors

♪  Level 5 Piano ♪ Tina Hong ♪ First Class Honors 

♪  Level 5 Theory ♪ Karthik Thyagarajan ♪ First Class Honors with Distinction

♪  Level 6  Theory ♪ Vihaan Mathur ♪ First Class Honors with Distinction

♪  Level 6 Theory ♪ Alex Xu ♪  First Class Honors with Distinction

Student Honors: NFMC Festival 2020

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

On March 12 & 13, many of our students were scheduled to perform at NFMC Spring Festival, a nationwide event sponsored and run at the local level by the Springfield Music Club. The coronavirus situation forced the club to cancel the in-person festival, but many students chose to participate in the alternate online programming which the club offered in late May and June 2020. The following students earned the top grade of "Superior" in this non-competitive event: 

Tina Hong, Liam Horgan, Helena Horowitz, Vihaan Mathur, Courtney Nguyen, Lindsay Nguyen, Gizem Onerci, Priya Perekam (solo and concerto!), Owen Rollins, Pelin Sarac, Ian Sigler, Kavya Thyagarajan, Hanna Wang, Philip Wang, Angelina Yoha

Student Honors: Studio Honors Recital 2020

Sunday, May 31, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

Our annual Honors Recital was originally intended to be held at our beautiful little Studio on April 25 but the coronavirus situation forced us to move online. Still, all originally invited students chose to join us for a live recital held by Zoom, with dozens of family and grandparents all joining us remotely. To learn more about our Honors Recital and how we select students for participation, check out the short info sheet via For Our Students in the menu.

Congratulations to our performing students:

Jeffery Chen (Prelude in D-flat Major "Raindrop", Frederic Chopin), Genevieve Chin (Tarentella Furioso, Dennis Alexander), Zoe Hicks (Energetic Etude, Melody Bober), Liam Horgan (Sonatina in C Major, Theodore Latour), Helena Horowitz (Starry Night, Italo Taranta), Maya Lang (Spokane Fall, Victor Labenske), Eliana Levine (Sentimental Waltz, Franz Schubert & Romanza, Angela Marshall), Aiden Lu (Dancing Goblins, Ryan Brechmacher & Serenade, Cornelius Gurlitt), Katrina Nelson (In Church, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky), Brandon Pak (Asymmetry, Wynn-Ann Rossi), Erin Pak (American Gothic, Catherine Rollin), Priya Perekam (Minuet in g minor, J.S. Bach), Ai-Lan Pho (Mighty River, Jennifer Linn), Ryan Qi (The Orphan, Jean Louis Gobbaerts), Anne Severino (Invention in F Major, J.S. Bach), Kevin and Alex Shin (Dueling Fingers, Melody Bober), Karthik Thyagarajan (Mazurka in g minor, Frederic Chopin), Evan Thorn (Toccata in a minor, Timothy Brown & Sonatina in G Major, Muzio Clementi), Aruni Veluri (Sonatina in a minor, Georg Anton Benda), Hannah Wang (Hero Variations, Wynn-Ann Rossi), Philip Wang (Sonata in d minor, Domenico Scarlatti), Alex Xu (Pineapple Rag, Scott Joplin)

Student Honors: Golden Key Music Festival 2020

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

Congratulations to Katrina Nelson and Anuragi Thapliya, who earned the competitive prize of "Super Bronze" in the Golden Key Music Festival in February 2020. Participating students have the opportunity to prepare a video showing their best work, and receive comments and a score based on the video they submit. 

REMOTE LESSONS: Tech Tips / Improving Sound Quality

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 | Practicing and General Education

About this post: With some months of experience, we’ve gone through some tech troubleshooting and we’ve written this Tech Tips Checklist (below) to help you get more out of your LIVE VIRTUAL LESSONS. 

FIRST THINGS FIRST Start by using whatever you have. Don’t be discouraged by technical challenges. Any device that works will be OK for a few lesson and for most beginner and early-elementary students.

IMPROVING SOUND QUALITY There are two issues to consider: delivering better-quality audio to your teacher; and receiving better-quality audio from your teacher. Audio matters more than video for our purposes, and most of the steps below to improve audio will also improve video.

There are many factors at play when it comes to delivering and receiving better-quality audio. In the checklist below, we cover the steps most likely to deliver improvements in your audio, in the order that will make the most difference. How much effort you should invest in this task varies based on your circumstances. Better-quality audio matters little for an elementary-level student taking just one or two remote lessons. Better-quality audio is absolutely vital for advancing students taking remote lessons long-term.


STEP ONE Ask your teacher how you sound! You don’t know how you sound to teacher! Your teacher may tell you that you sound great already. If that’s the case, and you are not an advanced student, skip the rest of this post! The inverse is also true: if your teacher sounds terrible to you, they won’t know if you don’t tell them.

STEP TWO Use a high-quality laptop if you are lucky enough to have one. Turn off any microphone signal processing features that your operating system may be running. Detailed directions are beyond the scope of this post. This YouTube tutorial will show you how. (Use the chapter markers; directions for this start at 9:33.)

STEP THREE Test your connection speed. If you are relying on wireless, take your device and sit down next to your piano. Use a wired connection (ethernet) if you can. Go to speedtest.net and run a speed test. To receive good-quality audio from your teacher, you need a minimum of 10mbps/sec download. You probably have that already. To deliver good-quality audio to your teacher, you need a minimum of 10mbps/sec upload. If you are not able to test at or above 10mbps at your piano, troubleshoot your internet connection. If you are relying on a wireless connection, keep in mind that in some cases, you can test at very high speeds but you may still experience inconsistencies and momentary drop-outs in your Wi-Fi signal which may significantly degrade your sound. Using a wired internet connection (ethernet cable) may in some cases deliver a huge improvement in your sound. You can find 50-foot ethernet cables at Amazon for as little as $15. 

STEP FOUR Learn how to enable original sound in Zoom. Detailed directions are beyond the scope of this post. This YouTube tutorial will show you how. You may also consider the information on the Zoom support website.If you get distortion or static when playing or speaking loudly, adjust your mic input volume in audio settings within the Zoom app.

 STEP FIVE Buy an external USB condenser microphone. A better microphone won’t make much difference if you haven’t taken care of all of the above steps first. But once you’ve taken care of those steps, a mic can really improve the sound you deliver to your teacher. The most popular are made by Blue, but there are many brands from which to choose. A pro-audio dealer such as Sweetwater Sound can provide high-quality devices and personal recommendations, at higher prices ($80-$200). But probably any USB condenser microphone selling for around $30 or more will be a huge improvement over your computer’s internal microphone. For ease of use, choose a USB microphone. Unless you already have a computer audio interface, avoid microphones with analogue connections (sometimes called TRRS or XLR).

STEP SIX External speaker(s). Even on expensive laptops, the internal speakers on your device can’t give you great sound quality. And because they can’t be moved, your internal speakers may interfere with the sound you’re capturing. The microphone will pick up the sound coming from your speakers, which can create echo effects, fuzz, and otherwise degrade the audio you are hearing and/or sending. Any decent Bluetooth speaker will give you a big upgrade. Separating the speaker from the microphone (one device points one way, one points the other way), will further improve the sound you are hearing and/or sending. Use a wired connection to your speaker if you can, but if you can’t, the Bluetooth connection will probably work just fine.

STEP SEVEN Tips and tricks. Even after doing all of the above steps, you still might need to adjust settings as you go. Unlike the steps above, these tips are all situational. You won’t need to try everything!

• Try headphones. For better listening to your piano and for hearing safety, avoid wearing headphones throughout the entire lesson if possible.

• Turn off your original sound when you are not playing.

• Move closer to your microphone when speaking. The mic settings for playing the piano may not be optimal when speaking.

• Mute your speakers when you are playing extended passages

• Mute your mic when your teacher is playing extended passages

• Move your external speakers and microphone, experiment over time to find good placement.

• Make test recordings on your device to determine what settings sound best.

AND LAST... Don’t be discouraged. Start with whatever you have. Not everyone will need to go through every step. 



REMOTE LESSONS: Getting Started Guide

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 | Practicing and General Education

In a LIVE VIRTUAL LESSON we will use a video conferencing app to conduct a lesson of similar length and content to the student’s usual lesson. After the lesson is over, the teacher will email an updated assignment sheet.

In a CORRESPONDENCE LESSON, you will send a video or audio recording of each piece, section, or task you want attention on. You can send clips of all the different things you are working on, or just one piece. It’s up to you. You may also wish to send written comments or questions. Your teacher will review the materials you send and reply with written comments and/or a teacher video. The teacher will create a new assignment sheet which will be emailed to you.

Most students will do better with a LIVE VIRTUAL LESSON. We are offering the CORRESPONDENCE LESSON option only because it might be better for a very small number of students. A few students may do best with a combination. Ask your teacher!


LIVE VIRTUAL LESSON: BASIC CHECKLIST

♪ For the first lessons, parent help may be required.

♪ Choose a quality laptop computer with a good camera.

♪ Set it up ahead of time, and make sure it works by taking a video recording.

♪ Listen to the recording to make sure the audio quality is acceptable. Troubleshoot ahead of time.

♪ Find a stable place to put it where the student can see the screen AND the teacher can see the student’s face, hands, and keyboard.

♪ If you have EVER used a metronome before, it will be helpful to have a separate device available. You can always buy an old-fashioned metronome on Amazon or locally at Foxes Music. (Pretty much any option in the $10 to $30 rage will work.)

♪ If you have long hair, pull it back so your teacher can see more of your face!

♪ Plan to be present and engaged throughout the entire lesson. Probably your child will maintain appropriate behavior but…it can’t hurt to supervise them the first time. After the first lessons, you’ll have an idea of how much support and assistance your child needs going forward.

♪ Don’t be discouraged. Start with whatever you have, however you are able. 


LIVE VIRTUAL LESSON: ADDITIONAL TIPS & NOTES

♪ If you can’t use a laptop, a tablet or phone will work. Getting the set-up right, so that your teacher can see the student’s hands, face, and keyboard may be harder.  

♪ Placing your device on a soft surface may in some cases improve the sound quality. 

♪ A wired connection is better than a wireless connection. A wired connection isn’t practical in all circumstances but use one if you can. You can purchase very long ethernet cables for $10 to $30.


CORRESPONDENCE LESSON: BASIC CHECKLIST 

♩ Make a test video ahead of time. Make sure the audio quality is acceptable.

♩ Find a stable place to put your video recorder and make sure that your hands, face, and keyboard are visible.

♩ Get organized ahead of time. Decide what questions you will ask and what pieces and tasks you will record. If you’re not sure, go through your assignment sheet in order.

♩ If you have long hair, pull it back so your teacher can see more of your face!

♩ When you are ready to make your recording, announce each question, piece, or task clearly, so your teacher knows what you are playing and/or what you need help with.

♩Edit or trim your video(s) to remove long blocks of silence.

♩ Send it to your teacher just once each week. Send it on your normal lesson day if you can.

♩ Send it to your teacher in a standard format, and use a standard service (Dropbox, iCloud, One Drive) to send it. Or compress it. Probably, it will be too big to send by standard email.  


CORRESPONDENCE LESSON: ADDITIONAL TIPS & NOTES

♩ Send in as much content as you can, but you don’t have to send in everything. You can choose what is going to be useful to send in.

♩Placing your device on a soft surface may in some cases improve the sound quality. 

♩ The built-in mic on your phone, tablet, or laptop is probably acceptable for elementary students. It may not be acceptable for advancing students. Try recording with whatever you have, then listen. It may sound pretty good! If it doesn't, you can consider further troubleshooting and/or upgrading your equipment.

♩ Your teacher will reply by sending you a video response or by sending written commentary. Your teacher will decide what they think is best. Your teacher will also follow up with a new assignment sheet. If you submit your video on the same day and time as your usual lesson, you can expect a response within 24 hours. If you submit it after your usual lesson day, you can expect a response within one week.


ADDITIONAL CONSIDERTIONS FOR ADVANCING STUDENTS

The built-in microphone and built-in speakers in your quality laptop or tablet are probably acceptable for elementary students. For advanced students, better sound quality may make a big difference in the usefulness of either VIRTUAL or CORRESPODENCE lessons. We have a separate "tech tips" post on improving your sound quality. 

Student Honors: Master Class February 2020

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

On February 29, 2020, the studio hosted Rosanne Conway as our guest artist clinician. She brought fresh perspective and expert coaching to five very well prepared students! From among our many students, we selected students for this event based primarily on their preparation of challenging repertoire. Thanks and congratulations to our participating students:

♪ Caeli McIntosh ♪ Sonatina in C Major ♪ Biehl

♪ Philip Wang ♪ Sonata in G Major, Op. 49 No. 2 ♪ Beethoven

♪ Alex Xu ♪ Clair de Lune ♪ Debussy

♪ Noah Tennenbaum ♪ Diabolical Suggestion ♪ Prokofiev

♪ Owen Rollins ♪ Elegie ♪ Rachmaninoff 

Student Honors: NVMTA Bach/Baroque Festival 2020

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

Congratulations to Elena Valdez-Torres and Karthik Thyagarajan, who earned the top rating of "Superior" in Bach/Baroque Festival, an annual event sponsored by Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association. In this event students perform two Baroque-era pieces from memory and receive a rating and comments. In addition, outstanding students have the opportunity to be selected for Honors. Plus, a harpsichord is available for all students to play! In addition to his Superior rating, Karthik was also selected for second audition, similar to an honorable mention award.

Student Honors: 2020 RCM Celebration of Excellence (Honors Recital)

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 | Student Awards and Honors

Congratulations to Helena Horowitz who performed at the Southeast Region RCM Celebration of Excellence on February 23, 2020 at USF in Tampa, Florida. Helena played in a recital alongside students from throughout Florida and the southeastern United States. Students were selected for participation based on their high scores on the previous school year's RCM Exams. Learn more about RCM Exams at rcmusic.com/learning/examinations

Summer MUSIC Camps for Ages 12 and Under: Yes You Can!

Monday, January 27, 2020 | Practicing and General Education

About this post...

In the short article which follows, I describe what led me to seek sleep-away music camps for students age 12 and under. Following that, I have listed and linked five recommended summer camps. This list was developed from my own research and from personal recommendations. This article is not ad-supported and there is no sponsored content. 


Each year in January...

I recommended sleep-away summer camps and festivals to some of our advancing teens. Only very rarely has anyone taken my advice and actually attended a program. It’s OK, I don’t take it personally! Plus there are good reasons why students and parents haven’t often chosen to pursue this opportunity: the tuition expense; the need to travel away from home; schedule conflicts; competing interests. And I never push very hard—I mention and recommend the possibility, but I rarely follow up with persistence.

But I suspect that there is an additional factor keeping more students from participating: the influence of what I would call anti-specialization pressure: “I’m not one of those kids.” “I wouldn’t go to a music camp unless I was really serious.” “What’s the point if I am not going to major in music?” It's OK, I don't take it personally. And I don't expect any student to major in music!

This winter, I started looking for music camps that serve students age 12 and under and I had a thought: If our older and advancing students have pre-formed ideas and competing interests and obligations which keep them from considering summer music programs, maybe there are some younger students out there who might be interested!?

I undertook a search for quality programs suitable to our many somewhat-serious-but-not-necessarily-elite younger students (age 12 and under). I looked for camps that were non-competitive or minimally competitive in both entrance process and camp environment…but that were also “real” music camps—which to me means that the program offers and requires individual music lessons from qualified adult teachers and supervised practice on quality instruments. After a pretty thorough search, I was a little surprised to find only a handful of such programs that are open to younger students. (I only looked for camps in the eastern U.S.)

These sleep-away camps aren’t just for future professional musicians and they’re not just for advancing students. They are suitable for any kid who loves music and is interested in an immersive experience. They also offer all of the traditional summer camp essentials like outdoor recreation and evening programs. 


Recommended music camps accessible to students age 12 and under

SONATA/SONATINA (sonatina.com) Bennington, Vermont.

Unusual piano-focused in-town program. Four one-week sessions which may be combined.


ENCORE/CODA (encore-coda.com) Sweden, Maine

Traditional summer music camp in a lake-side setting. Most instruments and voice including musical theater. Two three-week sessions which may be combined plus a shorter two-week option for ages 8/9/10.


INTERLOCHEN CENTER FOR THE ARTS (interlochen.org) Interlochen, Michigan

Traditional summer music camp in a lake-side setting. Two-week sessions plus other programs for advanced/elite students and many other disciplines.


POINT COUNTERPOINT (pointcp.com) Leicester, Vermont

Chamber-music focused program for strings and piano. A more focused and slightly more intense program than the others on this list. Traditional music camp experience in a rural setting with lake access. One one-week session in August for ages 12 and under plus multiple sessions for advancing older students in June and July.


WALDEN SCHOOL (waldenschool.org) Dublin, New Hampshire

One five-week session plus a shorter three-week option for ages 13 and under. Creativity and composition-focused program.


To parents and camp directors

I’d love the opportunity to expand this list. If you know of good programs in the United States, let me know about them! I’ll look into any recommended programs and consider adding them to the list.


Summer in our little studio

We sometimes dream of running our own piano day camp at the Studio…but not this year! But we’ll be open and here for you all summer, every summer, with easy flexible scheduling and no minimum requirements or monthly tuition. We post general details to the Summer Programs page of our website each year in early spring with full details and all schedules posted by May 1.