Mrs. O's Blog

What is Your Practice Mindset?

When you sit down on that piano bench, is your inside voice singing with enthusiasm to play that new song again or do you sit down with guilt-ridden thoughts like ‘I have to practice or Mom is going to be mad’?

Before you play the very first note, your mindset will determine if your practice will be successful or just putting in the time.  Every time you play the piano, you have the choice to make progress and create music or just play “through” your lesson.  How can your practice be more efficient, effective, energizing and exciting?  It’s all about your mindset.

Do you say:  This song is too hard; I’m never going to be able to play it.

Or do you say:  This is the hardest song I have ever tried to learn.  I can’t wait to get started!

Do you have the mindset that believes hard work, time and effort will get results or do you grumble about having to work hard?  “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” – Unknown.

Try this mindset before you begin practicing:

I can do hard things; I am a problem-solver; I enjoy tackling new and difficult things with zest!

Do you believe that this way of thinking will result in great progress on that new song today?

How can you tell that you are practicing with a positive mindset?  Does your practice time just fly by or are you counting the seconds to get off the bench?  When you are engaged in the creative process of making music, you are not aware of time.  You are focused on the beauty of sound and melodies.

At each practice session, make a deal with yourself that you will...

Work hard tackling new challenges

Laugh at mistakes and

Take time to cheer at your success!

How Old is Too Old?

Portrait of happy elderly woman playing the piano at home

Whether you are a returning student or a beginner, age is not a limitation for learning how to play your favorite songs.  In fact, “later in life” may be the perfect season for you to enroll into lessons.  You may be more in control of your time, have fewer distractions, or just feel ready to do something different.


Adult students are not alone. Many enjoy taking group classes with other adults.  Other adults prefer traditional private lessons. Some adults enjoy playing for one another during coffee play-ins. Other adults have even gone “public” by performing their favorite tunes for residents at a memory care center. It’s your personal journey to play what you want and for whom.


I have had the privilege of teaching a jazz enthusiast who was 78 years young. He was an inspiration to many of my younger students and shared his love of jazz. It was amazing how many new skills he incorporated into his playing week after week. He came with a “bucket list” of songs he always wanted to play and we accomplished many of them.


Today there is an abundance of piano methods designed specifically for the adult learner.  Discuss with your teacher which approaches may be best for you. Keep a list of songs you would love to play.  Understand that it is a journey and progress will fluctuate from week to week as your skills develop.


So sit back, take a deep breath, dive in, and enjoy making music!

How Early Can My Child Start Piano Lessons?

Two Years Old Toddler Boy Playing Piano, Music Schoool.: Two years old funny positive toddler child playing piano. Early music education for little kids. child at school learning music instrument.

This is probably the most common question I am asked as a piano teacher. My first response is that I think 4-year-olds are able to begin private piano lessons. Today’s teaching studio offers a wide variety of instructional tools to keep the young student fully engaged for a 30-minute lesson, such as rhythm instruments, music games, software programs designed for the early beginner and piano instruction materials specific to young learners.


As the discussion continues, I also explain that “partnership” lessons may be a better option for some 4-year olds. This format allows for more social interaction, music games, skill-building through peer demonstrations, ensemble experiences and more time away from the piano bench than a traditional setting. Sharing music with a peer right from the start is wonderful!


For 3-year olds and young 4-year olds, they may be best served in small group classes that introduce music fundamentals and basic keyboard skills through group activities. The focus for this curriculum is learning gross motor skills that will eventually evolve into fine motor skills.  Concepts include up/down; forward/backwards; slow/fast; soft/loud; right/left; high/low, etc.


So which plan is best for your child? At the initial interview, the teacher will assess the student’s readiness. Then an individual plan will be designed to increase strengths while developing weaknesses. Parents worry too much about their child not having the “necessary skills or abilities” for taking lessons. I would like to suggest that, while your child may not have certain attributes now, the music lessons can develop many of them!


Parents should look for a positive teacher and environment for the young student. Early readiness programs should encourage creative expression, singing, rhythm activities, beginning keyboard skills and lots of FUN!

College-Bound Vocalists and Instrumentalists…Are you ready for Music Theory 101?

Beautiful Pianist: beautiful middle eastern girl playing piano

Most high school musicians know that they will have to submit a performance tape for college auditions. Students are exhilarated when receiving their acceptance letter and can’t wait to begin their collegiate studies.  And then … 8 a.m. Music Theory 101 class happens.


Parents and students know that in addition to their performance lessons, coursework will also include music history and music theory. What most fail to realize is that keyboard skills are often essential in completing theory assignments.


Over the years, fellow musicians have shared their horror stories for spending hours in the rehearsal rooms trying to teach themselves keyboard skills in time to complete their first skills test. Others have the common story of dropping out of music programs because they couldn’t handle the theory exams–and when delving deeper, these students had no previous keyboard training and rapidly fell behind. As a pianist, I have memories of helping develop piano skills in my classmates so they could pass.


I strongly encourage juniors and seniors in high school to take time to focus on keyboard skills prior to taking that first college theory class. Keyboard skills will help you to:

Learn staff notation in preparation for reading orchestral scores

Analyze harmony structures

Increase dexterity in playing scales and diatonic triads

Play four-part harmony compositions

Understand rhythms, meter and syncopations

Develop ear-training and singing abilities as you play the examples

Check your own compositions before someone else plays them


While your performance lessons have introduced you to music fundamentals, most vocalists and instrumentalists have only had to pay attention to their single line of music. Music theory explains how that single line of music is integrated within an entire composition and so much more. Be the best-prepared freshman and get ahead now before facing that 8 a.m. class!

Music and Alzheimer’s Disease

Portrait of a Senior couple and microphone

Today, research is exploding with the positive impact music has on patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Music is being proven to be an effective NO-DRUG method to awaken and engage patients struggling with memory loss and depression. Music Therapy is becoming an essential component to individual treatment plans to awaken memories and restore cognitive abilities.

Two years ago, Mrs. O’s Studio adopted a local memory care center as a means for her students to give back to the community. Once a month, on Saturday afternoons, a handful of students perform a wide array of piano and instrumental music for the residents. The parents and performers have witnessed many amazing responses to the music. Residents who seemed to be asleep will awaken, sit taller in their chairs, and keep their eyes focused on these youngsters. Residents will hum along and then burst out into song during renditions of show tunes, patriotic themes, holiday carols, and, especially, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”! It is a gift to see their faces light up with a spark in their eyes and their enthusiasm renewed as they engage in conversations with the students.

Doctors and scientists are only just beginning to understand the power of music. The evidence clearly suggests that music evokes emotions, which awakens memories. Research shows that musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities with those afflicted with memory loss diseases. Music can evoke physical responses, like singing and dancing, which are engaging activities that can lift the spirit. Science has repeatedly proven over the past three decades that performing and listening to music shows significantly increased use of areas of the brain and heightened brain stimulation. And, we don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that music has the power to shift our mood, manage our stress, lift us out of depression and stimulate positive thoughts and interactions!

Are you tapping into your personal music power?

Good to Great

In preparation for recitals and to achieve progress at weekly lessons,  students have challenged themselves by asking the question: 
"What can I do to move my performance of a song from GOOD to GREAT?" 
This thought process has actively engaged the students. 
They take more ownership in creating a musical performance.
“Greatness is not a function of circumstance.
Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter ofconscious choice, and discipline.

--- Jim Collins,author of Good to Great
You can help students determine if they accomplished their goals
when sharing your thoughts after listening to practices and performances. 
 Some examples of sharing goal-focused feedback to students are...
 I could clearly hear the difference between your
soft “piano” sounds and your loud “forte” sounds.
You really captured the mood – the spirit – the feelings of that piece!
While you were playing, I could actually see...
the soldiers marching, the baby sleeping, the dancers spinning, etc.
 What an excellent job of keeping the beat; I was tapping my foot with you.
You kept the energy going from the beginning all the way to the end!
That second piece you played really made me smile.
Your memory skills are awesome.
It was amazing that you could focus and play all those notes by heart.
All students value encouragement - it helps when learning a new piece, repeating the technique exercises and focusing during another practice session. 
Thank you for your continual support and cheerleading.

Keyboard & Theory Summer Crash Course

Exciting Summer Music program for talented students pursuing their musical education at the collegiate level.
Keyboard & Theory Crash Course is designed as a fast-track refresher or preparatory program.  While the lessons are individualized, studies include:
Chord Cadences
Key & Time Signatures
Keyboard Technique