November 2022 Newsletter

“The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time.” – Douglas Wood

The holidays are just around the corner, and with them comes the excitement and anticipation of delicious feasts, gathering with family and friends, favorite traditions, holiday music, concerts, and giving thoughtful gifts. Our hearts are full of more gratitude, cheer, and kindness. Musicians are especially busy this time of year spreading peace and joy through the power of music. My students love holiday music, and it’s been a fun and busy couple of weeks helping them choose the perfect piece to learn and share with family and friends. It’s important that our students understand the impact they can have on others through their music.

May we enter this busy holiday season with an attitude of gratitude. We have much to be grateful for as members of DVMTA. I’m especially grateful to associate with each of you, and for the friendships I’ve made. I’m grateful for our Board who work diligently to ensure our events are successful and run smoothly. I’m grateful for the opportunities DVMTA gives me and my students to learn and to grow.

I wish you and your families a very happy holiday season!

Tammy Shorts
DVMTA President 2022-2024

General Meetings

Our General meeting this month is on November 18th at 9:30 AM at My First Piano, 1818 E Southern Ave., Suite 5, Mesa.

Please join us as my friend and mentor, Dr. Michael Bryson, gives us practical tools to improve our ability to compose music, as well as encourage us to get our students composing and arranging their own pieces.

If you have never composed before, or if it’s one of your hobbies, I assure you that you will learn valuable tools from Dr. Bryson.

He will explain the benefits of composing, as well as walk us through the guidelines of DVMTA’s Composition Festival guidelines, to help those who wish to enter pieces next year.

Join us for an enlightening meeting! See you there!

Toni Tetreau, Vice President


It's NEVER too late to join DVMTA! With student events throughout the year, there's always something fun to look forward to. What fellow teachers do YOU know that might like to come to our next General Meeting and see what we're all about??

WELCOME to our newest members: Carol Donigan and Diana Iorio! We're excited to get to know you better!


Sara Pratt, Membership Chair

Shop with Amazon Smile!

DVMTA is still officially signed up to receive donations from Amazon Smile! All you need to do is visit and choose Desert Valley Music Teachers Association as your charity. Then, if you make all future Amazon purchases through, Amazon will donate 0.5% back to DVMTA! That doesn’t seem like a lot, but if we spread the word to all of our families, it will definitely add up! Every penny counts! This is a simple, sensible way to help DVMTA fund our yearly student awards!

Thanks for your support!

Music Marathon

Music Marathon was a great success! We had 459 performers and 27 teachers sign up for our event! Our venues were Superstition Springs Mall, Southeast Valley Bible Church, Copper Springs Retirement Community and a Virtual option.

A big thank you to Claire Westlake for setting up our Facebook page and being our tech support!

The music brought a lot of joy to the senior residents of Copper Springs, and at the mall, shoppers stopped and listened for a while.

Riverton Piano provided the grand pianos for our event again this year! We appreciate their generosity and great customer service.

Thank you to my committee, Nancy Chase was amazing at scheduling recitals at the venues and Diana Palmer is going to be inputting student names for our spreadsheets.

The chair setup and take down at the mall was a huge job. Thank you to Amy King, Lori Kaye Faler (and spouses) and the studio of Lori Weidemann for their help. We had the chairs set up and taken down in no time.

Also thank you teachers for all the work to prepare these students for the Music Marathon! You are Amazing!

Sharon Vance, Chair

Original Composition

Compositions for the Original Composition Festival have been turned in and submitted for evaluation. Thank you to all the teachers who participated and helped their students get pieces written and recorded. It’s always inspiring to listen to them perform their compositions.

The recitals will be Saturday, November 19th at 1:30 & 3:00 pm and Sunday, November 20th at 3:00 pm at Southeast Valley Bible Church (710 E. Williams Field Road, Gilbert) All students who submit a composition will receive a certificate and written evaluation, and students participating in the recital receive a medal.

Many thanks to all those who made this event possible!

Buffie Meeker, Chair
(480) 274-5743

December Brunch

Our December Brunch this year will be December 2nd at 9:30AM at Sassy’s Bakery and Cafe in Mesa.

Address: 4210 E Main Street Mesa, AZ

I hope you can all join us for some good food and friendship!

Kelli Riding, Chair

Cavalcade of Rhythm

Blow me down! That was a rollicking good time at our Cavalcade read through! Thank you to all of our directors for volunteering their time and talents.

Registration is underway and closes on November 18th.

As of Nov. 4th, we have 134 students registered with plenty of room in all groups. We especially need more to play in groups 1 and 2. All information and registration materials are available at in the member documents.

Please remember to turn in both the registration form and the cover sheet (that states when you are available to help) to Sara Pratt. We need all hands on deck to make this successful.

As your students begin their voyage to learn their songs, please remember to read the director’s notes, which are available in the member documents. Don’t wait until February to have them start. The songs should be well-prepared (played up to tempo given in director’s notes) by the first rehearsal on February 6-7.

We want this to be a fantastic experience for all involved, so let’s work hard to prepare those Pirate Partners, mates!

Carolyn Eldredge, Cavalcade Captain

Crewmates: Lisa Hunt, Sara Pratt, Charles Newton

Awards in Excellence

I found this article very helpful so I thought I would share it with you. It was written by Megan, piano teacher and author of Pianissimo: A Very Piano Blog.

It’s the time of the year when many piano students are preparing for piano recitals and competitions. There is a lot to think about in these preparatory stages between learning the music and preparing for the actual performance.

Performing stirs up all kinds of emotions: nervousness, excitement, fear, anxiety, uncertainty.

Some kids aren’t phased by the thought of performing, while others are terrified. And, many fall somewhere in between.

There are a number of things that parents and teachers can do to help kids become confident, successful performers. Try out some of these tips to set your piano students up for success!

Start Preparing Earlier Than You Think You Need To

When preparing music, you can almost count on a setback in the calendar, especially in the late winter and early spring months as performance season approaches. Students may miss a lesson or two due to sickness, travel, school conflicts or weather. While teachers may think there is plenty of time to prepare, a couple of missed lessons can really make a student lose momentum. Even if you think a student has plenty of time to learn a performance piece, it’s always wise to have a backup plan.

Select Music That Is Level Appropriate

Some kids are really invigorated by taking on a challenge and learning something difficult to perform. That tends to be the exception, though. It’s a safer option to level down just a little so that a student can really master a piece that doesn’t feel too overwhelming. You want to give your student a chance to nail every detail of their music and that could feel out-of-reach for some students if you choose really challenging music.

Choosing the right music for your student will give them the opportunity to perform confidently in either a competition or a recital. In a competition, the judge is specifically looking for accuracy, so it’s important to choose something that the student is capable of doing really well, rather than something that sounds impressive or is fun to play.

Thankfully, there are tons of great piano arrangements that are manageable for all levels of pianists. And, just because a piece might play a little easier doesn’t mean that it will sound too easy.

Search for arrangements by Jennifer Eklund, Chrissy Ricker and Lisa Donovan Lukas to find great learning pieces.

Ramp Up Your Practice Routine

In the months and weeks leading up to a performance, it’s really important to maintain a consistent practice routine. Parents and teachers will need to work together to make sure that students have plenty of time in between lessons to practice their music. It’s certainly not the time to slack off or move piano practice down on the list of priorities.

Go Through The Motions Of Performing

Not only do kids need to practice their music, but they also need to practice the whole routine of how to perform. Everything from getting situated at the piano, playing their piece, recovering from mistakes, taking a bow and walking away from the piano. Give kids many opportunities to go through these motions in the weeks leading up to their performance.

It feels very different to play for people other than a teacher, so find opportunities to perform for anyone who will listen.

Teachers can have students perform for other students or parents at lessons. Or, they can hold a masterclass specifically for students to perform for each other. Parents can help kids find little opportunities to perform – in the music room at school, on the piano at church, at home when friends or family are visiting or even for long-distance relatives over a video call.

Try Performing On Variety Of Pianos

One surprising thing about learning the piano is that every piano feels different and when you play on a piano that is not your own, it can be difficult to acclimate to a different instrument and a different environment.

Unfortunately, it’s often impossible to prepare for the exact instrument or scenario of a performance. The best way to overcome this challenge is to get as much experience as possible playing on different instruments in different places. Students won’t be able to practice the exact details of what the real performance will be like, but they will have the chance to practice adapting and that is a really important skill to have.

When a student is playing a new piano for the first time, they have to instantly adjust to the feel and sound of the piano. Plus, having different surroundings can feel really disorienting at the piano, so it’s important to understand what that feels like and to learn how to adjust.

Don’t Project Your Own Fears Or Insecurities

If you feel nervous on behalf of your child or student, they will likely sense that and feel more nervous themselves. A student may not even feel scared of performing, but they can learn that it’s a scary experience just from the way adults talk about it.

Instead of focusing on the uncertainties of a performance, focus on the parts that are in your control. Help your students recognize their smart preparation strategies. Help them to understand their strengths. Affirm them and help them build their confidence.

Focus On The Big Picture, Not The Small Details

A lot of students (and professionals!) get discouraged by small mistakes such as memory slips, occasional wrong notes or a clumsy performance. All of these things are a very normal part of performing. While they feel like a big deal, the reality is that audience members rarely dwell on these things the same way the performer does. In fact, many people don’t even notice that they are happening.

While it’s definitely important to acknowledge and grow from mistakes, it’s equally important to focus on the good things that happened in a performance. Compliment your student on a strong start or a strong ending to their performance. Encourage them if they made a great recovery from a mistake. Focus on the stylistic qualities of their music, such as if they played with emotion, if their music was energizing or if they played with a particularly beautiful tone.

These bigger picture aspects of creating music are truly more impactful than the little mistakes that occur. Students need to be taught this and continually reminded of this.

Accept That Mistakes Will Happen And Learn To Recover From Them

Another common misconception that piano students of all ages have is that there is such a thing as perfect performance. Somehow we convince ourselves that there is exactly one right way to perform a piece and we might become fixated on trying to achieve that one perfect performance of our piece. This is an unhealthy way to approach music.

There are no two performances or iterations of a piece of music that are exactly the same. By shifting the focus away from trying to achieve perfection and instead on learning to adapt to surprises, we open a whole new world of musical ability and enjoyment. This is where making music truly happens, not in chasing perfection. This is an important skill to instill in kids early on.

Good luck to all students in recitals and competitions in the coming months! Remember to help them enjoy the full process of preparing, performing and learning.

Claire Westlake, Chair

Achievement Day

A frequently asked question about Achievement Day is, “Are there any practice tests for Ear Training?” Unfortunately, the answer is no. However, the list of objectives contained in the requirements packet on our website are specific for each level, and there are outside resources available to help you prepare your students.

One resource that I have found to be particularly helpful at the lower levels is Alfred’s Ear Training Book series. This series consists of Level 1A to Level 6 Ear Training exercises that correlate well with the Achievement Day objectives. I have found that exercises from levels 5 and 6 can even be modified to address some Achievement Day objectives at levels 7 and above.

Another good source for ear training practice is an iPad application called Earpeggio. I use this with my older kids because it is drill oriented and lacks the cute graphics and games that appeal to younger kids. This app has practice in intervals, chords, scales, melodic contour and dictation, rhythm dictation and tempo. Each practice can be adjusted to include just the intervals, etc., that you want to practice, how the intervals, etc., are presented and the number of problems you wish to do. These adjustments can be made by both teacher and student.

Another issue that teachers face when preparing students for ear training is that sometimes it may not be clear HOW an objective may be tested. For example, at the primer level, students must identify intervals of melodic skips and steps. It is not clear that students will be auditorily presented with a series of three notes that either skip or step, up or down on the staff and asked to circle “step” or “skip” on the test paper.

There is a simple solution – ask me! As chairperson, I have access to all achievement day documents and can easily tell you how certain objectives are tested! I am always happy to help!

Carolyn Rooder, chair

Awards Plus

Don't forget to keep records of student participation! Events like this month's Music Marathon and the upcoming Original Composition and Cavalcade all contribute to qualifications for the Devoted Performer and the Senior Scholar awards.

Letters of Intent are due by December 1, and further information is on the website.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Jenna Hartley, Chair

Copyright (C) 2022 Desert Valley Music Teachers Association. All rights reserved.

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