Welcome back for week three of the “Rock Your Socks” composer series! In case this is your first week on my blog, make sure to check out my previous blog posts about Amy Beach and Fanny Mendelssohn. Both were truly incredible composers that few have heard about. Throughout the course of my blog, I’ll be inserting the occasional four-week series about different composers you should know about. This month, I’ve been writing about female composers in history in honor of Women’s History month.
To introduce the next composer of this series, I have to do a little bit of a preface. Without trying to diminish neither Fanny Mendelssohn’s nor Amy Beach’s incredible compositions, I have to admit that their particular styles are not my first choice when I want to listen to classical music. For the most part, I have a few favorite pieces from each that are on my classical music playlist. Cecile Chaminade, however, makes the top five in my list of favorite composers. Her flute and piano compositions are not only impressive when it comes to the technical elements of the music, but each piece feels like it takes the listener on an emotional journey or tells a story. (And, in fact, much of what she wrote was for ballets and operas, so I guess I’m not far off). They have almost a cinematic quality to them that keeps me riveted through the whole piece, and leaves me wanting more at the end! So, basically, Cecile Chaminade knows how to use magic. There’s no other explanation.
Now for the facts: Cecile Chaminade was born in France in 1857. She received her first music lessons from her mother, who was an accomplished pianist and singer. Cecile began composing at seven years old. When she was of age, her father would not allow her to study at the Paris Conservatory of Music, but she was allowed to study privately with Conservatory professors. She later toured the United States, (including performances at the historic Carnegie Hall) and Europe, frequently performing for Queen Victoria. She was the first female to be awarded a position in the the Legion of Honor, and even inspired women across the United States to form musical societies called “Chaminade Clubs.” Throughout her life, Chaminade is speculated to have written approximately 400 pieces, publishing around 200 of them during her lifetime. Cecile died on April 13, 1944
If you’re looking for a fantastic piece from the late Romantic period, I would recommend Chaminade’s Arabesque no. 1, Opus 61. You will not regret it. The motive and sequences she uses throughout elicited an emotional response when I first heard it, (my eyes fogged up ok? It happens. I'm sure it was just allergies or something....) Really though, it is so, so beautiful. For any piano families reading this blog, I strongly encourage you to check out more of Chaminade’s work, maybe share some facts you learned about her with your family, and spread the word! There really are very few who know about these accomplished composers, and I would love to do my part in helping others discover their amazing contributions to classical music!
Thanks so much for joining me as I geek out about these stunning composers. I hope you can join me next week for the fourth and final installment of this little series. See you next time!
Welcome back to my blog for week two of this four week composer series! For my first time through this series, (I’ll be throwing in four weeks of great composers a couple of times throughout the year) I’m focusing on female composers in honor of Women’s History Month. I’m so excited you’re back and I’m thrilled to be able to write to you today about a composer who will completely rock your socks off. Seriously, this is one lady you’ll never want to forget.
Many music enthusiasts have heard of a man named Felix Mendelssohn, famous for many pieces during the Romantic Era including A Midsummer Night’s Dream Scherzo and the traditional Wedding March. Far fewer have heard of Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix’s older sister.
Like many of the composers I’m including in this series, Fanny was a talented musician from a very young age. She was first taught by her mother, (who was taught by a student of J.S. Bach) and by the age of thirteen she could play all twenty-three of the preludes from The Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. Despite her natural talent and love for music, Fanny had a difficult start with very little support from her father. He told her, “Music will perhaps become his [Felix’s] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament.”
Fortunately, Fanny’s mother, her brother Felix, (and later her husband Wilhelm Hensel) encouraged her to pursue music, and she didn’t disappoint.
Fanny often composed privately, publishing some of her pieces under Felix’s name. One of which, Italien, was chosen by Queen Victoria as her favorite. When the queen made this announcement, Felix disclosed that it was one of his sister’s compositions. In addition, Fanny Mendelssohn is now speculated to be the creator of the musical genre dubbed Songs Without Words, a category in which she and her brother both composed a number of beautiful pieces.
Throughout her lifetime, Fanny Mendelssohn composed over 460 of her own songs, as well as composed collaboratively with her brother. She did eventually perform publically at the age of thirty-three, finally published a piece under her own name in 1846, and passed away in 1847.
If you haven’t heard any of Fanny’s music just yet, I would encourage you to check out some of my favorites: Capriccio in A-Flat and Piano Trio in D minor. No, I didn’t have those titles memorized. But they have made it to my favorite classical playlist;). Don’t you just love those people who can spout off titles of obscure classical pieces? I’m not one of them. Yet.
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Fanny Mendelssohn! We’re already halfway through the first composer series of this blog. Make sure to hop on next week for the third composer of the month, and feel free to post any comments, like or share. See you next week!
Welcome music teachers and parents! I’m so excited you stopped by. As a piano teacher, I get really enthusiastic about music blogs, lessons, and other teaching aids. There are so many online resources that I reap the benefits from on the daily. This blog, however, is primarily for the parents with kids in piano. My goal is to instill in every home a more comprehensive music knowledge-base, a deeper understanding of what your kid is doing every week in lessons, the benefits they reap beyond the bench, and more. Many of these posts will be applicable to adults in lessons as well - so stay tuned for some great tips and information!
First Thing’s First: I’m not a child psychologist, and I’m definitely not a parenting expert. My opinions on many of these topics are based off of my experience as a teacher thus far. Occasionally, I’m going to throw suggestions to you as the parents in order to help you have more success with the little musicians in your home. Ultimately, this is your home we’re talking about. You’re the boss. I’m just getting your professional parental juices flowing and offering some ideas you might like.
Thank you for bringing me along on your music-learning journey!
I’ll see you on Monday!
This week marks the start of a four part series I’m calling the “Rock your Socks” weeks. Each week, I’ll be sharing a little bit of information about four composers in history that you probably didn’t know about and you’ll wish you heard about earlier! Following the four weeks of composers, I’ll be moving on to different topics. Throughout the course of this blog, I’ll occasionally throw in another four-week composer series, so stay tuned to get your healthy dose of music history!
This week, I’m highlighting a composer I didn’t know about as a kid and have grown to absolutely love as an adult. Her name was Amy Beach.
Born in New Hampshire in 1867, Amy Marcy Cheney was born in a unique time for music. Romantic music was at its peak, but a new era was just around the corner. Much of her original compositions reflect the beautiful juxtaposition of romanticism and modern music. While she was not recognized for it publically at the time, Amy could now be considered a key player in ushering in the modern era of music.
Born a prodigy, Amy quickly developed an impressive track record of musical feats. Some of her most impressive include having at least forty vocal pieces memorized by the age of one, harmonizing those melodies with her voice by the age of two, and began composing music shortly after beginning her classical training on the piano. One account even explains how during a summer with her grandfather, (who did not own a piano) she composed three fully-developed waltzes, only to play them when she returned home in the fall.
It’s worth noting that male musical prodigies born in the United States who had the money, (and Amy’s family were quite wealthy) were often sent to Europe for classical music training. Because she was a woman, Amy was not afforded this opportunity and had to make due with tutors at home and her own thirst for musical knowledge. Despite the challenges of the time and the discouragement she received due to her gender, (a little later in life, her husband had a condition for their marriage that she could no longer perform or teach the piano) Amy went on to become the first American woman to compose a symphony, was the first woman in history to publically compose for choral music, and altogether composed approximately 300 original works. Some of her most widely-known include Gaelic Symphony, Theme and Variations for flute and string quartets, and Cabildo.
Following her husband’s death, Amy finally had the chance to tour Europe for two years performing hers and other renowned works, but had to return to the United States due to the onset of World War I.
Music History in Lessons and at Home
As part of music lessons, I obtained a great stack of composer flashcards from www.classicsforkids.com, (check out the video description on my media page). When I bring the flashcards to lessons, I lay them out and let the students choose who they want to learn about. I have no idea why, but almost all twenty of my current students have chosen Amy Beach within their first two choices. And she’s not even the only woman composer in the stack. I guess she’s just awesome that way.
I have believed for a long time that early exposure to classical music has a hugely beneficial effect on the kids of today, (and even more so when they get this exposure at home, not just once a week during lessons). Why not throw in a little information along with it? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a little tidbit or two about the composer of a song you happen to have playing in the house.
A Challenge for Parents
Here’s my challenge for the next four weeks: each week, after reading my snippet about the highlighted composer, find some time to have one of their pieces playing in your home. At some point while the music is playing, mention something interesting about the composer, such as: “Hey, did you know that the person who wrote this wrote over 300 other songs? She was pretty cool.” A little bit of musical brainwashing, if you will;)
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Join me next week for another great composer who will rock your socks!
Over the last couple of weeks, this blog has covered some of the common concerns for parents with kids in piano lessons. While I hope that some of my perspectives have put your mind at ease, (and maybe even helped you choose to stick with lessons a little longer) I also understand that sometimes it really is appropriate to quit piano lessons. I trust that you will be a good judge for when it’s okay to quit. In this blog, I want to address one of the most uncomfortable things for parents when they have to pull out of lessons: telling the teacher.
If you ever have to approach a teacher about quitting, here are a few suggestions compiled from my own and other teacher’s experiences:
1. Give Plenty of Advance Notice
In discussion with other teachers, this was easily the most prominent answer when I asked what they would like to see happen when a student has to quit. Across the board, teachers I spoke with seem to agree that 30 days is an appropriate notice to give for quitting lessons. Whether your teacher makes a little money on the side by teaching lessons or it’s their primary source of income, always assume they’ll need enough paid time to find a student to replace the one they’re losing. If this is not the case and the teacher has families on a waiting list, they will let you know. Advance notice also gives the teacher the chance to restructure some of the student’s last few lessons so they can set the student up for success should they continue playing the piano on their own.
2. Let the teacher know why you are quitting
Admittedly, this one is tough. The older I get, the more I tend towards feeling like I don’t have to explain myself to others when it comes to my personal life decisions. However in the case of music lessons, I believe that being open with the teacher can help them move forward and improve their policies and procedures. I firmly believe that a good teacher stays in a student mentality to some extent throughout the course of their career. If I notice that my students are quitting and they all have similar reasons, I might be guided to something I need to change. Even if the reason doesn’t have to do with your teacher directly, I would encourage letting them in on it anyway. You never know what they might find beneficial.
3. Honor previous commitments
Wherever possible, try to stick to commitments such as finishing up through the term, (I have my studio scheduled in quarters; your teacher might have a different arrangement). Other commitments could involve reaching a certain level, or being able to play a certain song. Barring family emergencies or personal catastrophes, sticking to a commitment is great for the student and helpful to the teacher. (Most of us prefer giving the student a great send-off!)
4. Throw a kind gesture their way
Alright, this one might be a little selfish. I just know from personal experience that sometimes losing a student you love is really tough. Besides teaching your child piano, your teacher has likely developed a relationship with them and loves them a lot! In a couple of instances, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really sweet families who sent me a kind note of thanks after teaching them for some time. I know, I know. I’m being a little sappy here. And certainly, your teacher is a professional who would never require this. That would be weird. I’m just throwing it out there in case you otherwise would not have thought about it. I don’t know one music teacher who wouldn’t love this.
Thank you so much for reading. Join me next week for the first of a four-part series that will absolutely rock your socks!! Spread the word, because your friends with kids in music lessons, (not just piano) are going to want to tune in! See you there!