Tag Archives: music

Top Twenty Things You Should Never Say to a Piano Teacher

These are funny and true! Years ago, I saw a post from a website that I follow entitled, The Top Ten Things One Should Never Say to a Piano Teacher. I laughed as I read and related to them. They hit home with me and I copied them so not to forget. Over time, I’ve added 10 of my own. All but two I’ve heard in my own studio. In fact, several of these I still continually hear from current students, like #1, #12, #14 and #18!keep calm

Funny and Not So Funny Things Piano Teachers Hear

1. We forgot his piano books. (Can’t teach without them!)
2. She doesn’t practice because she’d rather be doing other things.
3. He’s going to do his practicing on his Grandma’s piano because we don’t have one.
4. Phew! We barely made it. He’s been home from school all day with a nasty stomach bug! (Yikes!)
5.  So, what do you do for work, do you have a real job?
6. His Aunt is getting married tomorrow. I told her he could learn that wedding march song in today’s lesson.
7. He’s probably not going to like piano… but can he try it anyway?
8. We have a birthday party next week. Just let me know when you can do a make-up lesson.
9. We sometimes run late….You could just add a few minutes on to the end of the lesson, right?
10. I don’t understand why my child isn’t progressing; he sits at the piano for 30 minutes a day playing all his favorite songs.
11. Is it really time to pay you AGAIN?
12. Did he leave his piano books here last week? 
13. What? You get paid to do this?
14. She didn’t practice because we had too much to do.
15. Sorry, Mom couldn’t get me here on time. I know I’m 20 minutes late, but Mom says it’s okay if I stay 20 minutes longer. (During the next student’s lesson-time)
16. Do you give a discount for families that have more than one child in lessons?
17. What? We have to PAY for the books?
18. I had a busy week, so I sat down on Saturday afternoon and practiced solidly for three hours to make up for all the days I had missed. (Practicing every day is the only way to retain what you’re learning and gain technical skills.)
19. Do I have to practice? (Only if you want to improve.)
20. Or my personal favorite……What? We have to have a piano to take piano lessons?


My First Gig

The last few years I have been doing more teaching and fewer gigs. I still perform one to two days a week, but as I grow older I prefer a less hectic life, so I now do more teaching than performing. I have years of stories to tell, but little time to write it and lately it’s been on my mind because I’m finding that some of these memories from the past are getting hazy and I don’t want to forget them. I want to share them. Here.

So let me start off with a story from many years ago, from when I was a child taking piano lessons.

I was probably about 11 years old when one day after church, Maxine, my Sunday school teacher from when I was younger approached me about playing the piano for the early elementary Sunday school kids. At that time I was a very shy, self-conscience girl and scared of my own shadow. I told her I didn’t think I could do it. She sensed my nervousness and told me that if I made a mistake the young kids wouldn’t care. Of course my mother said right in front of her, “Shannon, you can do this!” and encouraged me to take the job. But I told Maxine that I had to think about it and that I would tell her the following Sunday.

So that entire week I’m going back and forth with the idea, wondering if I could do it. She had told me that the music was all songs that I had sung when I was in her elementary class. But I knew that singing them was NOT the same as playing them. All week my mom was encouraging me, (I would not be where I am today without her encouragement) and finally decided I would do it.

So the following Sunday I told Maxine I would be her piano player. She was delighted. So Maxine handed me the music that she wanted me to learn. I looked at it and was horrified! It looked so hard! I’m panicking wondering how I’m going to pull this off. I didn’t want to disappoint, so I took the music from her and prayed. My mother’s words were ringing in my head, “We need to always give God our best”. I thought, “How can I give God my best when it’s so hard!?”

That following week along with my school work, my normal piano practice and my household chores, I practiced and prayed, working diligently on the music. Thankfully she only gave me only a few of the songs to learn. The rest would come later. So I worked on my right hand alone. I worked on my left hand alone. Then I put my two hands together and worked and practiced and before I knew it Sunday arrived. I was not confident. I was scared and nervous but I knew that God would be with me. Maxine gathered the children in a big circle around the old upright piano in the Sunday school room and I played Jesus Loves Me while the children sang. Did I mess up? Yup! Did anyone care? Just me. Just as Maxine said, the kids didn’t care!

I continued playing for the early elementary kids for a long time and learned more songs as the time passed. Of course the music that Maxine gave me was not difficult, but at that time in my piano learning journey, it was hard. I look back at it now and consider it my first gig. Little did I know that there would be many more gigs in my future.

Wow, that experience shaped my entire life. I wanted to run when Maxine asked me to play. I had a real fear of playing in front of others. But with my mother’s encouragement, I faced my fear as a child so many years ago and every time I played in front of anyone other than my parents, it continued to get easier and easier. From then on, I’ve pretty much been a church piano player and I still am to this day. Do I still get nervous? I still sometimes do, but just a little bit.

Thank you mom. XOXO

Sight reading

Distractions: Hearing Aids, Cell Phones, Children and Chocolate

I was at the piano one day recently, playing for shoppers, taking requests, stopping to visit with folks between songs. A couple of the regulars stopped by to listen when it happened again.

Ring, Ring, RING! You guessed it; I’m in the middle of a song when somebody’s cell phone rings. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that people have their cell phones on and ready to take a call while hanging around the piano. It’s not like I’m performing a concert, just leisurely playing people’s requests. However, if someone does have a call, it would be nice if they would leave the area while they take the call.  (There are some that stay near the piano and try to talk over the music, now that is distracting!)

So, anyway, I’m in the middle of playing a song when a man’s cell phone begins to ring. It rings four times and he’s not answering it. (It is not the first time this has happened, it actually happens all the time!) He doesn’t hear his phone ringing, but I do! So I turn to him on the fourth ring, as my hands continuing to play and tell him kindly that his phone is ringing. He says, “What? Really? You can hear that? I didn’t hear it!” Looking embarrassed, he walks away while he takes his call.

This man doesn’t hear his phone ring because he tells me that he turns down his hearing aid while listening to me play. I have had others tell me they do the same because if their volume is too high, it distorts the music. Actually there are several regulars that I have to let them know when their phone is ringing! I tell them they should set it to vibrate!

I began writing this new post a few weeks ago, but have been too busy to finish and post it. Since I started this new post, cell phones ringing at the piano has now become an epidemic. It has been happening a lot lately and now, just yesterday, a new visitor stopped by the piano and made a request. HIS cell phone began ringing a VERY loud ring while I was playing his request. He didn’t hear it and so I turned to him as I played and told him that his phone was ringing. He took it out of his pocket and said, “Wow, you must have good hearing!”  Hmmm……..I guess I do have great hearing!


And speaking of distractions, the other day, a couple of brothers about 3 and 4 years old came running up to the piano, with sticky chocolate fingers and started banging on the bass clef keys, while I’m in the middle of playing a song. I could not see any parent around at first. I abruptly stopped my song when I looked down and saw the chocolate all over the keys. (At first I wasn’t sure it was chocolate, if you know what I mean!)  I asked the boys, “Where are your parents?”  They answered by banging louder on the keys. I stood up and looked around and saw their mother walking slowly toward the piano.  She said in a nonchalant tone, “Now boys, you shouldn’t be doing that,” as she browsed a rack of clothing. By then the boys had moved all over the keyboard with their sticky, chocolaty fingers.

One of my most favorite parts of playing the piano for the public is when children come by. I love seeing their little faces light up when I play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Their curiosity and interest of watching my fingers as they hear the music is priceless, especially if it is the very first time they heard and saw a piano. But these boys were not interested in listening to me, only making their OWN music!

The people that were sitting listening to my music were rather surprised that the mother was so lax with her children and actually, so was I! I wondered if this mother would stop her children if they tried climbing on the top of the piano. Before they had a chance, she abruptly said “Let’s Go!”  And off they went. So I got a cloth and began cleaning the keys.


While I was cleaning the keys I looked up and noticed the sweetest little face watching me. She was about 5 or 6 years old. When I smiled at her and she timidly approached me and asked what I was doing.  I told her that I was cleaning chocolate off of the piano keys. She asked me if I would play a song for her when I finished cleaning. I of course told her I would. When I asked her what she would like me to play, she said “Jesus Loves Me. “

As I played, she sang with a pure, sweet voice:

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong.

Yes Jesus loves me
Oh, yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so.

She knew all the words and sang it beautifully! When she finished, I clapped for her and asked if she knew the second verse. She said she did not. So I sang it to her:

I love Jesus, does he know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus loves to hear me say
That I love him every day.

Yes, I love Jesus
Yes, I love Jesus
Yes, I love Jesus
In prayer I’ll tell him so!

And with that, off she ran to her mother who by now was standing close by, watching us with a smile on her face. I told her what a darling her daughter was and she had to agree!


I sum this all up by saying,
“Time spent at the piano is always time well spent!”
Yes there are distractions, just as there are in life.
Some notes are sour, some are sweet, but they both make a melody.
Some people are sour, some are sweet, but they both make up life!

One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Treasure

You’ve heard that quote before…..which simply means that something that one person considers worthless may be considered valuable by someone else. It’s the same with music. One person’s ear sore maybe someone else’s masterpiece.

One day, quite a while back, I was playing what I thought to be a beautiful piece. It began a bit unusual and tad monotonous, but only at the beginning and then developed into a flowing, gorgeous piece. I was only at the beginning of the song, when this small, elderly woman slowly approached me. She stood very close behind me, as if she was looking at the music I was playing. I could feel her breath on the back of my neck. I said hello to her, expecting that she was going to tell me how pretty the music was, but instead, she said to me in a very nasty tone, “I would think……..that you could find something better to play than this trash!” I was horrified! I tried to explain as my fingers continued; telling her that I try to play a variety of music and that maybe the next song would be more to her liking. But she didn’t say another word, she just walked away.

It was very upsetting to me and it made me nervous that she would say something so horrible to me. I began to doubt if this song was as melodious as I thought. I continued to play with as much feeling as I could muster to possibly try to make up for how hideous I was beginning to think this song was.   I was starting to believe what this woman had said to me!

As I was playing the last line of music, thankful that this debacle was almost over, I noticed a tall, dark and handsome man (no kidding) coming quickly down the escalator straight ahead. He was coming towards me. Trying not to lose my concentration and to continue playing with feeling, I came to the end of the song and hit the last note just as this man reached the piano. I seriously thought he was going to tell me that it was a hideous song and I was actually going to apologize to him for the calamity piece I chose to play, but before I could speak he asked me, “What was the name of that piece?” I timidly told him the name and he said that it was the most beautiful piano piece he had ever heard! I couldn’t believe it! He continued to go on and on about it asking questions about the composer, if he could purchase it on CD, if there were other songs like it, etc.

I thought about this the rest of that day and continue to think about it to this day, amazed at how people can look at things and hear things so differently. I guess the world would be a pretty boring place if we all liked the same things!

Aren’t you wondering what piece I was playing??

Updated: Spiders in the Piano!

Yup, you guessed it, it happened again! Last Friday night at the Marriott a young couple who was married earlier that day was hanging around the piano listening to the music. All of a sudden the bride jumps up and stomps on something. Everyone turns to see what was going on and she told us all that a spider was dangling from his web from the glass dome ceiling seven stories up! She said he dropped to the floor and she had no choice but to stomp him! We all marveled that a spider could spin a web that long so quickly. Amazing!

So we now know that there are no spiders in the piano, they just drop from the ceiling. Hmmmm, I’m not sure which is worse!

A Dentist and His Dream

Today, a dentist happened by the piano while his wife shopped. He sat down to listen and then began asking me questions such as how old I was when I started playing, if I enjoyed my job, if I taught lessons and other questions about my music.

He told me that his son and daughter were both taking piano lessons. He said his son just graduated from High School and was going to attend an out of state college in the fall and how he was going to miss his son’s everyday piano playing.  He also shared that he himself had always dreamed of learning, but never had the opportunity to take lessons as a child. I told him, “It’s never too late to learn, you have the opportunity now and you should begin lessons right away! If this is what you truly want, with determination and practice, you will learn!”

He then told me that he had been in a previous accident and held up his right hand for me to see. His hand was missing two fingers; the top two knuckles were missing on his index and middle finger.  He had about an inch of finger left. He said he didn’t know if it was possible for him.

I began to tell him that it is possible. “Anything is possible if you want it badly enough.” I told him that I recently saw an inspiring video about a Chinese girl who had no fingers at all on her right hand, but that did not stop her from learning and becoming a beautiful pianist. He excitedly told me that he saw that video too and was truly amazed! I told him that if she can do it, he can too.

I don’t know if this dentist will begin learning piano or not, but we left our conversation in agreement that anything is possible when there is determination.  As he walked away I said, “Do it now, because a year or five years down the road, you’ll bump into me again and tell me how you wished you would have made the commitment.” I have a feeling that I have not seen the last of this dentist.

Please watch this inspiring video of a young Chinese girl with no fingers on her right hand, performing so beautifully. Then ask yourself, what is stopping you from achieving your dreams?

Girl Playing Piano

Pink Suit, Complete with Matching Hat and Heels and Bag

It was a busy Saturday afternoon at the mall and I had just returned to the piano after taking a break. I was mostly playing what I wanted to, but also taking a few requests as people stopped by the piano. Escalators were on each side of center court and on the second floor there were balconies with railings above, overlooking the piano in center court. Many times people would stand leaning against the railings looking down at the piano. Sometimes they would wave or shout out a request from above.

Well, this particular day I noticed a well dressed lady on the second floor, sometimes leaning against the railing, sometimes pacing as if she was waiting for someone. She was a blonde lady, sporting an iconic pink suit, with a matching pillbox hat, similar to an outfit that Princess Diana had worn in the past. She moved from one side of the balcony to the other and I could almost hear her high heels clicking as she walked.  

I continued to play, as if she wasn’t there, but at the same time I was very aware of her. Maybe it was the way she was dressed, or maybe it was that she was hanging around for such a long time, or maybe it was because I thought she was staring at me. Whatever it was, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

After about a half hour, my manager approached me saying in a rather serious tone, “Shannon, if you feel like you need to take another break, go ahead and do so.” I was in the middle of a song as she passed by saying those words and I responded by saying, “I’m fine.” Puzzled, I couldn’t understand what she was talking about. She had never said that before. I always could take breaks when I felt I needed to and I had just taken a break about a half hour before. So I just shrugged it off and kept playing.

Another 15 or so minutes passed as I played and the lady was still up on the second floor, listening, waiting, pacing, staring or whatever and it was really starting to make me feel uncomfortable. I thought again of the words of my manager, wondering what was going on. Just then, straight ahead of me coming down the escalator is this lady, click, click, clicking her heels as she approaches me. I’m in the middle of playing a song and I look up at her face and OH MY! As wrong clunker notes are coming from my fingers and echoing throughout the store, I see heavy pancake makeup on a five o’clock shadow, black false eye lashes, hot pink lipstick and a blonde bombshell wig! This is no SHE, this is a HE!  

I’m in a state of shock, completely speechless when she, I mean he, says to me in a deep masculine voice, “Do you take tips?” And with a hairy masculine hand, complete with large rings, long fake fingernails painted hot pink; he slaps a five dollar bill on the piano and says, “You’re good!” He then click, click, click, walks out of the store.

I then NEEDED a break, so I hurried to the back, straight to my manager and said, “I now understand what you meant!” I told her what had just happened and she explained to me that before I was even aware of this person, he had been watching me and that they had been watching him.

Yikes, freak out! I can easily “lose myself” in my music, but this incident really helped me be more aware of who is around me and I learned the lesson that things are not always as they seem.