Musical experiences

Welcome back to Term 2!

I hope our students have enjoyed some extra musical experiences over the school holidays.

In the rush of farm stays, soccer camps, holiday programs and fun parks, musical experiences can often be forgotten.


I was fortunate enough to attend 3 world class concerts over the holidays. Two were classical and one was jazz/funk/rock.

For me several things were delightful:

  • watching the differences between genres and how each perform
  • seeing passion and joy come through all performances
  • knowing that there are so many musical options all over Sydney, every night
  • bumping in to friends who were also attending

There are wonderful ways to get children involved in music. Certainly, children could not be taken to the jazz concert I attended, as it was held in a licensed venue. However the two classical concerts were both possible events to be enjoyed by the slightly older child.

Another fantastic and ongoing event is the Sydney Flash Mob choir, under the baton of Richard Gill. I signed up for this as I love singing in groups, and am always keen to hear from Mr Gill, who is so passionate about music and music education.

Musica Viva’s Festival was held during the holidays, and they have a magnificent kids program. Unfortunately it will be another year until this comes round again, but most of our children have fortunately experienced the professionalism and joy of Musica Viva performances in their schools.

Here is one of the artistic activities on offer at the Conservatorium last week. 

So even as we return to the busyness of school and other extra curricular activities, please do remember that it’s great to supplement your children’s music lessons with experiences of music out there in the real world!

Get ready to practise!

Welcome back to 2017!

It’s a brand new year and Stellar Music School has a completely new approach!

We are continuing to focus on the relational aspect of our tuition, believing that having inspirational teachers who are musicians in their own right, is a key way to inspire passion for music in children.

However, we have said goodbye to our physical properties in Lindfield and North Sydney, and now our highly qualified and passionate teachers will be coming to you!

Lessons will be held in your homes from now on.


What can you do to prepare for our teachers’ arrival?

  • Get rid of distractions: turn off the TV, make sure siblings are in another room
  • Get ready by making sure the room is well lit and ventilated
  • Make sure you’re not hungry, by having a snack and a drink of water
  • Open your practice diary so your teacher can see where you got up to last week

I often say to my students that the most important practice of the week is the practice you do immediately after the lesson.

When your teacher leaves at the end of the lesson, DON’T IMMEDIATELY CLOSE THE PIANO OR PUT AWAY YOUR INSTRUMENT!!

If you stay and practise for about ten minutes more, it will help you to remember the new learning you just did, and it will make every other day’s practice that much easier.
We look forward to coming and teaching you at home. Keep practising and keep loving your music!

Slow and careful practice

Welcome back to Term 3, which will be a busy term holding many exams and concerts!

Today’s blog and is another encouragement on how to practise more effectively.

Many of my students present me with work-in-progress which is extremely disjointed, as they play too fast for their current ability regarding this piece. They play one bar well, then stop, read and fiddle for notes, before playing another bar then pausing again.

The better to way to prepare, is to play so slowly that it is IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE MISTAKES! This takes discipline, but is an excellent way to play so that the student can observe all aspects of the piece at a slower speed, gradually increasing speed over consecutive practices, until they can succeed with no mistakes and no pauses.

Never stop learning!

Carillon music

When I was a child, I thought that life had a destination.

I imagined that at some point, I would finally have all the answers, and would arrive.

It has been a journey to discover that even arriving at adulthood does not guarantee a complete understanding of life!


One thing that I have noticed over recent years is that I am obsessed with knowledge. I love learning new skills, reading new information, and trying new things.

One of the subjects that has fascinated me of late is the increasingly popular study of neuroscience, and in particular, the studies concerning musical education and neuroscience.

It has been shown that the benefits of musical education in a child’s early years are many and long-lasting.

And one of these benefits is that music learners tend to be life-long learners!

I can look back to see that this is true of my own life so far.

Less than 2 years ago, I began to study a new musical instrument – the carillon. I have worked hard, and in recent months gained my qualification as Honorary Carillonist at Sydney University.

And now this week, I have been fortunate enough to visit the Riverside Church, New York City, and was able to play on this magnificent instrument; the largest carillon in the world. The bells are so massive that you can see me almost standing to sound the pedals.


I would encourage all of our students to relish their studies and to embrace all new learning as they become life-long learners!





Let’s talk about dynamics!

Dynamics is a funny word which basically refers to the intensity or volume of the music you are playing.

From almost the beginning of our lessons, when we have started to build our technique, and don’t have to think so hard about finger shape or embouchure or breath, we are then introduced to dynamics.

Usually the instructions are given in Italian, and look like this: or p.

Sometimes my students decide to learn a piece, reading the notes and practising them first, then at some later stage they will put in the dynamics.

This is a mistake, because then they are missing dozens or scores or hundreds (depending on how much they practice!) of times when they can play the dynamics. They will be committing a piece to memory and making muscle and audial memories that miss half the picture if they omit the dynamics.

I would encourage that dynamics are always observed from the very beginning of learning new repertoire, and slow, careful practice is the most effective way to do this.

Holiday homework

I’m sorry to disappoint my students, but I don’t see holidays as an opportunity to rest; I see it as an opportunity to practice without the problem of school taking up so many hours of each day.

My suggestion in making holiday practice more fun, is to mix things up a little. Try different repertoire, try different technical exercises or scales and arpeggios. If you’re an instrumentalist, take your instrument into a different practice room for a change.

Do your siblings learn music? Try forming a duo or a trio. See if you can make an arrangement of a song you all know and like.

See how creative you can be. Maybe write your own song.

And in the other extra time you have, try to see a live show, or a concert. It’s always inspiring to see professionals play.

Enjoy the time off school, and mix things up a little with your music during the break!


Let’s talk about endings

In our recent vlogs, we’ve been looking at beginning to learn a piece, and how to sensibly approach the early stages of practising a new piece.

However, today I would like to focus on endings.


Often my students will finish a piece quite abruptly, almost throwing their hands back into their lap and turning expectantly to look at me. Or when I am accompanying, the student will have put down their instrument while I am still playing the last phrase.

Both actions can ruin a piece.

Sometimes it will be appropriate to use a more dramatic movement at the end of a piece which is loud, fast and virtuosic.

But consider a piece where the sound has died away to almost nothing. It can be extremely jarring to suddenly put the instrument down, or move one’s hands away from the keyboard.


Watch this week’s video to see how I suggest this is approached, and think about your repertoire, and what ending is appropriate for the mood of each different piece.



Start small

Welcome to our first musical challenge of 2016!

We have just started back at school and music lessons for the year, and a lot of the problem can be regaining momentum.

I have often come back from a break and expected myself to do 3 hours’ practice on my first day back.

Sometimes I succeed.

But often it takes longer than one day to rebuild a habit.


So today, I encourage you to start slowly.

Sit down at the piano (or get out your instrument) and practise for 5 or 10 minutes. Or decide to practise during an ad break (if you’re allowed to watch TV during the week! I often have done this and become so absorbed that I never get back to the TV show.)

Don’t try to play the whole piece immediately, but break it into smaller portions – look at a page, or a line or one bar.

Start slowly, playing one hand at a time. Or if singing, don’t use words initially, but sing through on a vowel. If playing another instrument, perhaps play through all slurred, or all tongued.

Play slowly enough that you don’t need to pause to think or read the next note; always reading ahead as you go.

Repeat a few times, then move on to the next bar or line.

Each day add a little more, and keep working, and persevering, as you continue to learn more of each new piece and work towards mastering each one!




Welcome back

Welcome back to our first full week of lessons at Stellar Music School!

I am trialling an exciting new programme this year, in which I will offer a free private lesson each fortnight to one lucky student!

How can you win this private lesson?


I will upload a video on YouTube every fortnight, on Monday, and in it I will be approaching a musical concept or practice challenge on one of my instruments – the piano, pipe organ or carillon.

I will explain the challenge, and give practical tips for how to approach this concept, and then I encourage my students to upload their own video in response, in which they demonstrate some slow and careful practise in the manner I have suggested.
I will watch all videos and announce a winner each fortnight.



On Monday 15th February I will send through the first challenge, and I hope to be inundated with responses!


I hope to prove that passion for music, combined with practice and perseverance, can lead to excellent performances.

Happy practising!