Music Lesson Fun: October Piano Party!


It’s always exciting to begin a new school year with my young piano students.  Every week I get to spend 30- 45 minutes with each child, precious one-on-one time when we explore music together,  playing a wide variety of  songs, learning to read the notes on the page, improvising in different styles, building a solid knowledge of music theory, and most importantly, allowing them to grow with music…a treasure to last a lifetime!   The children rarely have a chance to see each other,  hear what others are working on, or build friendships with their fellow piano students.

Last week I invited all my  piano students to an October  piano party.  Not a recital with a formal program, this was  a time to share their favorite songs, do some  activities we don’t have time for during regular private lessons, and a chance for the children to have some fun with each other. Continue reading

Keeping the Fun in Piano Lessons: December Chocolate!

piano with Christmas book and chocolate advent calendar


December 1st has arrived!  Practicing the piano can take a back seat to other activities, especially during the busy holiday season.   Every year I purchase Advent calendars at Trader Joe’s for 99 cents a piece, and each of my piano students gets one.  Even the adults!   When the students practice the piano during December, they can open the window for that day and eat the piece of chocolate!  If they forget to play, they have to leave the door for that day closed.    When January comes, they can open the remaining doors and eat the chocolate, but only when they have practiced!

Are you beginning to feel the holiday spirit?   Pour yourself a cup of cheer and take a few minutes to enjoy the Jingle  Brothers!

UPDATE: 2014   This year I bought my calendars at World Market.  They can be ordered online.   Trader Joe’s still sells the calendars, but the designs aren’t as fun this year.  I bought the ones at World Market that are made in Germany and have child-oriented Christmas pictures on them…$1.49 each.

Thanksgiving: Music, A Wedding, Family and Food

This year our Thanksgiving week  included the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service,  a wedding,  a birthday and a weekend at home with the entire family.   I want to share all of this with you and do some experimenting with my photographs.

How did you spend your Thanksgiving holiday this year?


photo of choir at annual Interfaith Service

This year’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service was held at a brand new church in Escondido. Food and funds for the Interfaith Family Services were collected to feed and shelter the homeless.    The choir included 110 singers from  7 area churches.

photos from Morgan and Charlie's wedding

Morganne Delain (Nolan’s mom) wed Charlie Sloan in a beautiful Thanksgiving Day ceremony, followed by a feast!

Our daughter Rachel and her boyfriend Nolan provided music as their gift.

Rache and Nolan singing for the wedding

We decided to have our family Thanksgiving celebration on Saturday.  Traditional turkey dinner with a Diestel turkey,  grown here in California.

family Thanksgiving photos

The  entire family plus guests gathered on Saturday afternoon.



Our family loves to play card games when we all get together.  The army blanket on the kitchen table is a tradition!

Marianne's birthday cake

Our eldest daughter Marianne celebrated her birthday.   She was born the first year we were married and we brought her home from the hospital on our first Thanksgiving together.

The delicious carrot cake recipe came from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.   Here is her recipe for Carrot Ginger Layer Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.  I doubled the recipe to make this giant cake!  Rachel did the frosting and decorating.

In Unity We Lift Our Song: Giving Thanks As a Community

Escondido Interfatih Choir

Escondido Interfaith Choir


Tonight is the night.  Once a year our community gathers, hosted in a local  church, to celebrate our gratitude for all the blessings we have received.  In the process we remember those who serve our community and nation.  We also remember those who are struggling and need our help.   There is only one event  during the year when we come together to express our unity as faith communities and as people.  We don’t dwell on our differences, but take joy in making music together,  praying together and sharing our gratitude.

This celebration is sponsored by the Escondido Clergy Association, but as with most large events,  the organizing is largely done by a few people every year.    Rev. Faith Conklin of  First United Methodist Church calls me every summer to join her for breakfast.   We meet several times during the months preceding Thanksgiving.  With input from my fellow music ministers in other churches, as well as her fellow pastors, we come up with choral anthems, special acts of praise from local musicians,  speakers who will share insights about gratitude, and those who will help with the logistics of day.

Tonight is the night.  All the preparations have finished and we have only to gather at the appointed time.  Musicians will begin to arrive at 4:30 pm.   By 5 pm we will have over 100 singers seated.Directors of the singers who are participating will take turns rehearsing the choral music.  By 6:30 all the singers will share a light meal provided by the host church.  And then it happens.  The community gathers.

Imagine the sound of over one hundred voices lifted in glorious song.   Those who have come to participate in the congregation will join with those hundred voices in hymns that we all share.  By the end of the evening, we will all feel as one. Our gratitude for the blessing of community will be spoken.  We’ll collect food for the poor, and donate funds to help those who need it most.   But the greatest gift of the evening will be our oneness.

All are welcome:   2011 Interfaith Thanksgiving

November 22, 2011  7 pm

Hosted this year by Escondido Seventh Day Adventist Church

1301 Deodar Road,  Escondido, CA

Map and Directions



Piano Students Share Halloween Favorites

By mid-October my piano students each had compiled a list of their best songs that qualified as “Halloween Music”. The title of the song didn’t really matter, but the sounds were important. Songs in a minor key or that had some special effects were prime candidates for the Halloween list. Each student had the opportunity to record some of their songs on their last lesson day before Halloween.

We cleared away the music books and put a spooky Hallween skull on the piano. We did a few test runs and then recorded each song with an IPad. The students were fascinated to see that we could upload the video directly to YouTube, and it was convenient to get the parents’ permission on the spot. The piano families enjoy sharing these videos with family and friends who live far away. They can also look at videos that were made in previous years and celebrate their improvements and progress!

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