From the Founders – Neil Moore with Dan Cohen

Posted on March 4th, 2014 and written by simplymusic

Neil_at_Piano-252x300To watch the amazing documentary Alive Inside and see the transformation in people through the simple act of listening to music, is a beautiful demonstration of the healing power of music.  Here Neil Moore talks with Dan Cohen, the man behind Music and Memory, the program that is contributing so enormously to dementia patients.  Dan talks about the success of this program and the impact it is having on patients and their families.

The Film – Alive Inside

Posted on March 4th, 2014 and written by simplymusic

Alive Inside FinalFrom

Alzheimer’s and dementia are a reality for an increasing and often unseen population. Though well intentioned, many nursing homes are not equipped to fully meet the needs of these residents. We are left with several questions without any real or comforting answers: How do I want to age? What can we do for our loved ones? Can we do better?

Alive Inside investigates these questions and the power music has to awaken deeply locked memories. The film follows Dan Cohen, a social worker, who decides on a whim to bring iPods to a nursing home. To his and the staff’s surprise many residents suffering from memory loss seem to “awaken” when they are able to listen to music from their past. With great excitement, Dan turns to renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, and we follow them both as we investigate the mysterious way music functions inside our brains and our lives.

Besides telling a moving story, it is our hope that this film will encourage widespread adoption of personalized music programs in nursing homes and outpatient therapy in homes. We hope that our film will inspire and educate the millions of people burdened by diseases that affect memory, and create a grassroots demand for this kind of low cost treatment, which could help not only patients but also caregivers across the globe. Like many films that concentrate on a simple story but echo into larger stories, we feel this film raises questions about how we as a society care for the elderly and afflicted.

Alive Inside focuses on one man’s journey, but it raises many deep questions about what it means to still be Alive Inside. It questions when we stop being human, and what it takes to re-start a life that has faded away. It asks questions about how we see our elderly, and how we are going to treat an epidemic of these degenerative diseases.

This documentary, directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett,  featured at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary.

Check out this extraordinary journey of a filmmaker from Kickstarter to Award Winner

Here are the remaining screening dates for 2014, but be sure to stay tuned through Facebook or Music and Memory for updates.

When All Else Disappears, Music Remains

Posted on March 4th, 2014 and written by Mel Karajas

Hey everyone,

My name is Mel Karajas and I am the coordinator of The Playground. After watching the ‘Henry’ clip from Alive Inside and learning more about Music and Memory, I wanted to be involved in whatever way possible. In this special edition of our blog, that way right now is to tell you a story very dear to my heart.

Introducing Beryl Beveridge, my grandmother. She enjoyed music from a very early age but didn’t decide to take lessons until she was 15. She chose the piano but her parents could not afford the lessons. Having already left school to work and contribute to household finances, she paid for the lessons herself. At 21 (in 1940), she had saved 250 pounds to buy her own instrument, a pianola. The piano took pride of place in her parents lounge room and when she married, it moved with her to her own home.

She discontinued lessons, but never lost her passion for playing. My memories of her holding on tight to the sides of her piano stool and pedalling away to The Entertainer still bring a smile to my face! Even funnier was my younger brother and I trying to play with one of us using our hands on the foot pedals and the other on the keys pretending to play. But it was The Black Hawk Waltz that she adored, could play without sheet music and was part of her soul.

Skipping forward to her 60’s, she participated in plenty of community activities including ballroom dancing and exercise classes. Always a strong and independent woman, she wanted to be with her friends doing the things she enjoyed. This changed all too quickly. She was a little forgetful at times and became more fragile, but we hoped that this was just due to her age. It was when her usual bus driver came to collect her for Tai Chi that we noticed a serious shift in her behaviour. She failed to recognise him, said she had never done Tai Chi before and became verbally aggressive. Her family was called, my Gran was assessed in hospital and her health deteriorated rapidly. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and placed into a nursing home with 24 hour care.

Going to the home was an anxious experience for me. I was so used to Gran being alert and vibrant, now she wasn’t and that upset me greatly. We’d sit on the couches next to the radio, not speaking and she’d listen to classical music. Sometimes, she would ask me questions about when she was going home … to the house of her childhood 60 years ago. I didn’t have any answers so instead, turned her attention to the piano that was in the sitting room. Only once did she take me up on the offer to play, but I’ll never forget it … The Black Hawk Waltz. Even though she was calling me my Mother’s name (Karen) but also knowing I was Melanie and she didn’t know what year it was, she still remembered how to play this piece. Amazing!

She remained in this home for 7 years and still occasionally came to family gatherings. The last Christmas that she was able to leave the home was where we were able to film a gem. She had been almost silent for hours then, out of the blue, got a gust of energy and sat herself at the piano … her pianola, now at my Mother’s house. After madly scrambling for a camera, here is what we saw.

She passed away in February 2012, but telling this story out loud is still very powerful for me. The connection we all felt while Gran played, shows me the power music has not only for Alzheimer’s patients, but also their families.

For more information about the Music & Memory  project and how you can make a difference, just click here.

Thank you!

:-) Mel Karajas

Simply Music Australia

Congratulations to our winners!!

Posted on March 4th, 2014 and written by simplymusic


Thank you to all those who entered our giveaway for a copy of Leila Viss’ e-book “The iPad Piano Studio”

We are very excited to announce these 5 teachers as the winners :

Unmani, Alex Nguyen, Patti Phears, Kylie Stacey, Ginny Webb

Some of the ways that they would integrate the apps into their teaching are:

1. I would use iReal Pro to create band accompaniments to songs like Honey Dew or Amazing Grace or let the students create band accompaniments to their original songs.

2.Use for comp ideas for students for whom some of standard comp. ideas aren’t working – use what what they have created rhythmically. Then you send them away to put a melody on the created rhythm, or chords, or lyrics.

3. Many parents have iPads that are with them in the lesson and I think they would be willing to buy some of the apps for use in class as well as at home once they are introduced in class. This could be a great way to have a tonne of fun passing rhythms around the room on digital drum pads.

4. Choose an app (such as the fun sheep game) as a 3 minute warm-up at the beginning of the lesson: to help create a sense of fun. It could be used as a reward, for children who struggle with behavioural issues.

5. I would use it to download and store a whole bunch of songs and tunes and music scores instead of having files and boxes full of the stuff taking up space in my slightly squishy music room!

If you missed Leila’s article, simply click here to take a look.

Integrate the iPad into Your Musical Development

Posted on January 22nd, 2014 and written by simplymusic


By Leila Viss

I would never force anyone to submit to the tyranny of technology. It can be complicated and intimidating, boasts a language all its own and has a tendency towards flakiness. However, if the world refused to embrace technology, we’d still be on horseback, boiling water over an open fire and licking a stamp instead of sending an email.

The appliances we take for granted every day–from the coffee maker to the lamp stand–help us to function each day. Some may find the latest tech “toys” dispensable, like a slick tablet or the latest smart phone, but they are signs of what is to come. Although making music requires instruments with no additional technology, learning how to play these instruments can be greatly enhanced by technological tools.

There are those that fear technology will take the place of a human teacher or that a tablet may distract learning and prevent a student-teacher connection. Others claim they’d rather learn “the old-fashioned way” but assume if they resist technology it will run them over and so begrudgingly drag their feet to the Apple Store.

I understand the fearfulness, and know the trepidation of those who feel coerced into the technological world.  We all know it is here to stay and today’s students not only embrace technology within their lifestyle, they expect it. So yes, it’s time to break the cycle and replace fear and resistance with information and skills.

The good news? If you have avoided using a large desktop computer, sequencer, CD burner, camcorder, count yourself lucky. Those bulky, somewhat limiting tools are no longer necessary thanks to Steve Jobs’ vision of a slick tablet and accompanying apps. An iPad is light enough to fit in the palm of your hand yet strong enough to equip you with just about everything you might need as a savvy music teacher or student.

My book, The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps, was written, particularly for teachers, out of my fascination with something so small that is capable of morphing into just about anything with the help of the right app. The book dispels the notion that the iPad is only for those who have an extensive background in technology, and propels those who prefer to stick with what has worked in the past to experiment and integrate technology bit by byte into daily lessons. The iPad has revolutionized my already tech-savvy studio by streamlining so many essential tools into one hand-held device.  It can do the same for you.

The iPad has some key native apps such as the camera, a mailbox, a browser and more, but the App Store is stocked with apps that will transform your iPad into a repository of incredibly useful tools. As the selection of apps can be overwhelming I’ve trimmed my growing list of favorites to five that I believe will specifically enhance your Simply Music lessons.

You’ll find a brief description of each app along with the folder in which I store the app on my iPad home screen. In addition, available operating systems are listed and are hyper-linked if you are interested in purchasing them.


mza_2456215629978552246.175x175-751) Right Note

Developer: Orange Qube

Folder: Intervals

Description: Right Note boasts four extensive modes that challenge listeners to compare intervals, identify intervals within the context of a small phrase, match pitches and dictate melodies.  With the inclusion of well-sequenced lesson plans and options to isolate intervals for customized exercises within each mode, ears can master intervals of their teacher’s choice or students can follow the various levels designed by the developers.  The allure of Right Note is the recent addition of the microphone. Those in training can play their answers on an acoustic piano and even have an option to hunt and peck before entering the correct answer. The microphone magically picks up the performance to be judged correct or incorrect by the app. If the wrong answer is entered, the player is given a chance to hear the sample again before a second attempt. Yes, at $6.99, Right Note may seem pricey as it is dedicated solely to ear training. However, this app closely simulates playing by ear with instant and beneficial feedback, making it well worth your consideration.

Compatible: iOS

Price: Free (trial version) or $6.99 (US), $7.49 (Aus)


anytune-copy2) Anytune Pro

Developer: Anystone Technology, Inc

Folder: Power Tool

Description: When attempting to learn a favorite piece by ear, this app will serve you well. Anytune, as its name implies, can import any tune from your iTunes library and slow it down and loop certain sections when repetition is required for mastery. The app also can change the pitch of your selected tune if you are interested in learning it in a more friendly key.

Compatible: iOS

Price: Free (trial version) up to $14.99 (US) $15.99 (Aus)


mzl.iuobqwqa.175x175-753) My Rhythm

Developer: Gregory Burk

Folder: Rhythm

Description: My Rhythm dons a hip look with colorful drum pads. Players must choose various grooves and instruments and maintain a steady pulse while reading rhythms within a unique box and dot notation. As play advances, the box notation disappears, and the ears must kick into gear to match the rhythms played. Bonus: this app features opportunities to create original rhythms.

Compatible: iOS

Price: $1.99


71EcUw2mCmL._SL500_AA300_4) iReal Pro 

Developer: Technimo, LLC

Folder: Power Tools

Description: Voted one of Time Magazine’s 50 best inventions in 2010, this recently redesigned app qualifies as a power tool because it transforms your device into a book to create, edit and even print chord charts. In addition, with one tap, the iReal Pro provides a back-up band featuring piano or guitar, bass and drum accompaniments for your lead sheets and creative projects.

Compatible: iOSAndroid

Price:$7.99 (US) $10.99 (Aus) with in-app purchases available.


mzl.pxlvedjn.175x175-755) The Most Addicting Sheep Game (TMASG)

Developer: Just So

Folder: Rhythm

Description: One may question why a serious piano teacher would recommend this app as it borders on the ridiculous. The point: players must tap or swipe to the beat of catchy tunes to prevent sheep from tumbling off a narrow path. In my defense, scheduling time to play TMASG may “provide just the right mix of levity and challenge needed to keep students on the beat, motivated, and returning for more.” These words are borrowed from my recent AND first article in the Nov/Dec Clavier CompanionI’m honored to be a regular contributor. Look for my articles on integrating apps in daily lessons entitled “First Looks: Apps for Teaching.”  Warning: if you do purchase the app, watch out; this is the most addicting app in my studio.

Available: iOS Windows

Price: $0.99

Teachers – curious to know how to integrate these apps into every lesson? My book The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps answers this question and so much more. In addition, this hybrid paperback experience is available in a digital edition and both include QR codes which when scanned, bring you to a correlating and growing video library and regularly updated blog.

Check it out at:

More about Leila Viss

Want to win a digital edition of ‘The iPad Piano Studio”? We have 5 to giveaway! Just email Mel Karajas answering this question: how you would integrate apps into your teaching? to be in the running.



Coaching – Lead Sheets

Posted on January 22nd, 2014 and written by simplymusic

PA1712124-300x225By Dane Andrus

Very early in their learning experience, Simply Music students are introduced to chord accompaniments through songs like Amazing Grace, following written chord symbols represented by alphabetical letters. 
What they won’t realize at that point is how many applications there are for chords. The seeds are planted with Amazing Grace and other early accompaniment projects; later on they will discover what a magnificent musical “tree” can come of this planting, with many branches, then branches from branches.

When you are developmentally ready, you will learn 
to read sheet music in your Simply Music lessons. Musical notation’s origins can be traced back to the 9th century monasteries of Europe. With the power and dictates of the church behind it, this system became the standard. The original system was very crude, and over the centuries has been refined and developed by musical scholars of the day.

It has developed into our current, complex, multilayered musical language.

For the musician reading traditional sheet music, it is a requirement to adhere to each written instruction and execute it musically. For a professional classical pianist, the highest endeavor is to flawlessly recreate Beethoven’s or Mozart’s musical visions by adhering closely to carefully created written instructions. When well executed, this written music is elevated to fine art.

But less than 100 years ago a new system of representing music emerged, coinciding with the birth of jazz in the United States. The players of this new style found that traditional music didn’t, and couldn’t meet their needs, so they developed a more flexible chord-based system. They called the resulting charts “fake sheets” or “lead sheets”.  Lead sheets provided more scope for improvisation and interpretation than the more specific directions of traditional notation. Today, although lead sheets do not typically have application in classical music, they have become invaluable for most all other musical genres. These two different systems are musical languages that serve two different purposes, and the rules are different.

For the musician reading a lead sheet, the rules are different because improvisational purposes are at work. On the piano, you will be reading a traditionally written melody (almost always for the RH), and chord symbols (for the LH). The endeavor allows the musician to make choices about how they play each chord.  This is the creative environment, the foundation, for improvisation. The musician takes part in steering the music, and makes creative choices of his/her own liking. Although the composition of the song doesn’t change, the improvisation of a song might never be played the same way twice!

Lead sheets have only one staff (5 lines and spaces), and that’s for the melody, so that part is not any different to traditional musical notation. However, the bottom staff is either ignored or not written at all.  Instead, above the staff are chord symbols, like the letter C, which represents the C major chord. The lead sheets give the illusion that they are shorter and more condensed, as if there’s less to it, but it’s not true. It is up to the musician, in fact, who ultimately choses how simple – or complex – they make the music. While adhering to the basic rhythm, the C chord can be played a number of ways: the chord itself, a broken chord (arpeggio), inverted (same notes, rearranged), or smaller (leaving out notes). These are the most common choices. In theory, any or all of these improvisational choices will work to create something that will sound musical. In reality, there are some choices that sound much better than others. They are subjective and personal. The purpose is to allow the musician to create for themselves. And just like an improvisational speech, or improvisational comedy, they use a subject matter to improvise from; the subject matter in musical improvisation is the chords. For advanced improvisation, even the melody is improvised on. But for the beginner, once you know the chords, that is your database, and those chords are used to make things up!

Lead sheets are often compiled into larger publications called Fake Books.  These fake books had a notorious beginning. They were illegal because they infringed upon copyright, the problem being the original composers would not receive royalties. It was truly an underground venture, but almost all working jazz musicians used them.

In 1964, even the FBI got involved, and observed that “practically every professional musician in the country owns at least one of these fake music books as they constitute probably the single most useful document available.”

Finally, after decades, by the mid-1970s, the music industry began to put out legal, legitimate, copyrighted collections of fake books. Although they were created by jazz musicians, musicians in pop, blues, gospel, and country were using them extensively as well.

Hal Leonard Publishing and Sher Music Company are the two fake book publishers that just about all musicians internationally use.

Sher Music Company is located in Sonoma County in California, about 50 miles away from where I used to live. In the ‘90’s, years before I ever met Neil Moore or thought about becoming a piano teacher, I was learning how to play jazz. I was taking lessons from a piano teacher in Oakland named Michael Smolens. We were using Fake Books. After quite a few months during one lesson he pointed something out in a piece and admitted he had a hard time with the calligraphy of that particular piece. I didn’t know what he meant. He flipped to the introduction of the New Real Book where it named him as the musical calligrapher for Sher Fake Books. He directed me back to an art studio in another part of his large studio/house. I came into a big room where several tables had big oversized galleys of musical manuscripts on them. All were jazz pieces, all works in progress. He explained his job was, among other things, handwriting the melody notes, symbols, and chord letters for lead sheets for Sher. Upon completion, a galley would then be shrunk down into an 8×11” size and compiled with about 200 other songs for a fake book. It was obvious just looking at his work that this was a painstaking, time-consuming, exacting job. Thinking back on that now, I realize he must have eventually been put out of work, as all fake books subsequently have been created with music writing software that is available to anyone who owns a home computer.

At about that same time, and closer to my home, a jazz pianist named Larry Dunlap caught my attention. He and his wife, a vocalist, lived in Pacifica on the coast, just south of San Francisco. Larry played jazz at various venues around town. I would seek him out and
I bought his CDs. I heard him on the radio. Well, turned out Larry’s other job was working for Sher Music Co. too. He has now arranged several hundred pieces for various fake books, and has a couple of new ones coming out soon. He is currently the Musical Editor for Sher Publishing. Publisher Chuck Sher himself said, “Larry Dunlap is the consummate professional – everything he transcribes for Sher Music Co. is immaculate, and as accurate as can be done. Plus he’s a funny and super-nice guy. What more could a publisher ask?”

Next month, in the Simply Music Newsletter, my interview with Larry Dunlap.

Coach of the Month – The Vargas Family

Posted on January 22nd, 2014 and written by simplymusic


By Sandy Larsen

When a student is as refreshingly honest about the peaks, valleys and plateaus of musical life as six-year-old Jade and nine-year-old Ely, their teacher knows they have a great attitude.  She also knows that those students have the support of a very special contributor – the Life Coach.  We thought it was time to celebrate that most unsung of heroes; the parent, grandparent or other loved one who faithfully supports the student in class and at home, often spending every minute of their playing time at their side, faithfully guiding them through not just the week’s tasks, but also the roller coaster of their long-term personal relationship with music.

Simply Music Teachers expect a significant contribution from their Life Coaches.  For us, the experience of music lessons is a three-legged stool, with equal weight carried by Student, Teacher and Life Coach.  Without any of those three, prospects of maintaining music as a lifetime companion are much reduced.

This issue’s Life Coach is actually pretty much an entire family.  Dad Ricardo Vargas, Mom Kelly and most especially Grandma Suzie Zigler are a true partnership.

Listen to Jade and Ely’s Teacher Sandy Larsen in Omaha, Nebraska as she chats with this exceptionally committed team.

Student of the Month – Asha Amaranti

Posted on January 22nd, 2014 and written by simplymusic

6178360_300By Ginny Webb

Asha, aged 16, has been a student of mine for a number of years and has just started level 9, as well as completing a number of supplementary programs. He has dabbled with a broad range of styles and genres as part of the accompaniment program, as well as dipping into the SM Jazz program. Asha has performed advanced Christmas and  other songs at my end of year concert, several years running. Here is a video of Asha and his Mum, an enthusiastic vocalist to Asha’s accompaniment, performing the Jazz standard  ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’, during lessons.

Recently, Asha has discovered a love of classical music. Drawing on the skills acquired through his Simply Music piano lessons, sometimes with the help of a program called Synthesia, along with  dedicated daily practice, Asha has successfully taught himself a number of complex classical pieces, which he has memorized entirely, and which he plays with wonderful depth and feeling.

Among these is Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody, which Asha first heard on a Tom and Jerry cartoon! He was determined to be able to play it and has indeed taught himself the piece in its entirety.

A year 11 student, Asha  has just successfully  completed the requirements for The Duke of Edinburgh Award at school, with piano as his chosen area of learning and me as his supervisor, working on two classical pieces including Moonlight Sonata.

Asha has a strong connection to Rottnest Island, just off the coast of Perth, where his father works. As a budding film-maker, Asha recently acted and directed a short comic film, ‘Nacho’, which he entered in the Rottnest Funniest Shorts film competition as part of the Rottnest Comedy Festival 2013. Asha’s ambition is to create movies and to perform the soundtrack himself on piano. I have every faith that he can achieve this, and perhaps even compose the soundtrack, if he sets his mind to it!

Review – Devil’s Trill by Gerald Elias

Posted on January 22nd, 2014 and written by simplymusic

images-1By Teri Davis

“Perhaps the power of music is greatest because it is temporal rather than spatial, meaning that once it is heard it is gone forever.”

In the novel Devil’s Trill, it is obvious that many musicians do not easily blend into society.  These gifted few expect more from themselves and others, while not always living in the everyday world.  Many have their own eccentricities that in turn allow them to experience and communicate music on a level that is difficult to achieve and understand.

Daniel Jacobus is one of these. He is an excellent musician.  However, he has difficulties with people.

Even though blind, he is considered to be one of the best violin teachers alive.  Those few who are fortunate enough to become his students are challenged through their technical and artistic expertise to truly create music as the composer chose to communicate through his writing.  There is a difference between being technically correct and playing music.  If his students refuse or fail to notice this, Daniel does not hesitate in humiliating anyone.  If the student quits, Daniel feels that it is for the best.

Daniel is also not a fan of the Grimsley Competition for violinists.  This competition occurs once every thirteen years. The winner must not be over thirteen years old and is awarded the privilege of using the “Piccolino Stradivarius” in a concert at Carnegie Hall. The winner this year is Kamryn Vander who is only nine years old. However, the prize violin is stolen before the performance and Jacobus is the most likely suspect, with a motive to take it. Unfortunately, Daniel also met with a rival teacher who coached Kamryn and who is strangled by a G-string from a violin. Guess who is missing their G-string?

Sometimes friends are as valuable as music, and for Daniel, Nathaniel Williams is just that person. He works with an insurance company and specializes in the recovery of stolen musical instruments. Their friendship has endured many years since they performed together years ago. Also, accompanying the two is Daniel’s new student, Yumi Shinagawa, who seems to have secrets of her own.  Why is she involved?

Devil’s Trill is an adventure into the world of concert musicians with the challenges of the business of public relations balancing the artistry of music. This mystery does not glamorize the business and the competitiveness in the world of concert music.

The author, Gerald Elias, is a world-class violinist and conductor who wonderfully describes the inside world of concert music while  showing awe and respect for the art of making music and still managing to write an excellent mystery.

Buy the book