Archive for the ‘Teacher of the Month’ Category

Teacher of the Month – Dodie Brueggeman

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

???????????????????????????As Simply Music’s first blind piano teacher, Dodie Brueggeman has had to face many challenges, yet she is a thoroughly successful and greatly loved teacher, familiar to all who know her as unfalteringly optimistic and generous.  This profile is a little different in that for reasons you will understand, it features no interview, but includes a contribution from her sister Dixie Cramer, also a Simply Music teacher, and a moving film made for a Washington film festival by a Simply Music student and two friends.

By Dixie Cramer

Dodie’s experience with music began before birth with a mother who loved to sing as she went about her daily tasks and would often sing to us during our naptime while accompanying herself at the piano.  Both our parents would frequently sing for special music in church and our family enjoyed singing round the piano together as Dad played his steel guitar.

By the time Dodie reached the age of seven, her ability to harmonize had developed to the extent that she and I were often called upon to sing for church as well.  Our mother had joined a record club so we were introduced to the classics via our hi-fi. Determined we children would learn to play an instrument, our parents enrolled us all in music lessons as location & finances would permit.  Dodie’s & my instrument was the piano.  One of Dodie’s favorite pieces, “The Spinning Song”, she retained into adulthood.

Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age eight, Dodie lost her eyesight at age twenty due to diabetic retinopathy two months into her marriage.  Playing the piano no longer seemed an option for her, and she threw herself into learning to navigate through life minus her vision.  Her first marriage did not survive the changes imposed on the young couple’s lifestyle and ended in divorce after just three years.

Several years later she remarried, and she and her second husband adopted a baby girl, Nikki, who became the main focus and joy of her life.  Sadly, that marriage, too, ended in divorce and Dodie faced new challenges as a single parent.

Wanting her young daughter to have the opportunity to explore her own musicality Dodie purchased a piano. Later, with Nikki in high school, Dodie began her quest for a way to supplement her disability income. I had started my training with Simply Music, and encouraged her to check it out. Within a short time after completing her training, she had registered a number of students and begun building a reputation as a highly effective teacher with up to eighteen enrolled.

As a blind Simply Music teacher, Dodie faced another new set of challenges which she overcame with creativity and her indomitable sense of humor.  She instinctively knew how to encourage and motivate her students, all of whom grew to love her. This is particularly true in the case of the man who ultimately married her, confessing, “I wanted the teacher more than the lessons.”  Fortunately, with the vast majority of her students, their love for Dodie carried over into their love for piano as well.

While overcoming her own issues in accessing the Simply Music teaching and learning materials, Dodie spent countless unpaid hours making the program accessible to other visually impaired teachers and students. This included the daunting task of learning to read braille music notation.  Just one measure of intermediate music could include up to thirty braille characters!  Now it is her hope that others will reap the benefits of her labors.

Dixie recently wrote to Neil Moore with news about Dodie:

Dodie had begun having ongoing abdominal pain…but had received a clean bill of health in her Feb. checkup, so figured it was the stress of the move interfering with her digestion.  The discomfort only intensified following their move until the pain was quite unbearable.  In the tests that followed it was determined that Dodie was in stage 4 of a form of cancer called serous adenocarcinoma.  It has invaded her cervix, uterus (which is literally packed with tumors), ovaries, 2 areas in her abdomen & 2 glands in her neck.  Treatment will consist of intense chemotherapy, radiation &, of course, surgery.

Because the health care is so poor in Nevada (the doctors were proceding as slowly through the tests as if this were simply routine), Dodie & her husband, Eugene, in desperation, contacted the Cancer Care Alliance affiliated with the University of Washington.  They’ve had to leave their apartment in Reno & are currently renting an apartment in Seattle for her to receive treatment which will extend her life up to 5 years.

Dodie is handling this new unwelcome challenge with her characteristically optimistic spirit, determined to do whatever is necessary to deal with the chemo (which will be more intense in its doses than normal) & to try to beat this new threat to her life.
Dixie is now co-ordinating a campaign to raise funds for Dodie’s treatment and housing costs.  You can make a donation at  Dodie is keeping a blog which gives a beautiful insight into her ongoing positive outlook on life.



Teacher of the Month – Gypsy Wulff

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Photo on 21-10-13 at 1.02 PMGypsy Wulff lives in Fremantle, Western Australia and has been teaching Simply Music to private students for 15 years.

Although she was originally focussed on teaching literacy and numeracy to students with learning difficulties, her relaxation and enjoyment was playing the piano.  In the late 90’s, her teacher of some years, Kerry Hanley (who eventually spearheaded the Simply Music Method in Western Australia) suggested that she do the Simply Music Teacher Training.  Initially resistant to transferring her much loved recreation into the work arena, she decided to proceed and took on just a handful of students in addition to her tutoring work.  Their success and enjoyment of the method soon saw her studio expand and the rest as they say, is history.  She closed her tutoring business and took on teaching full time as well as coaching other teachers in the method.

In this interview with Elizabeth Gaikwad, she shares her own background in music and expresses her views and experience of teaching the Simply Music Method.  She can also be heard playing Imagine with 19 year old singer Melissa Kiiveri (singing both melody and harmony).  Melissa is one of her previous Simply Music students who composes her own music and is now doing vocal studies.

Listening to the interview you’ll hear why Gypsy is one of our most loved and respected Teachers.

Teacher of the Month – Page Stegner

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

TPL_SmokinRatsMG_3395_weba3f673.1Would you take lessons from someone in a band called The Smokin’ Rats?  If that person was Page Stegner, we’d recommend it.  Actually, in the band he’s a guitarist, but in this interview with Valerie Cotta, he explains how training as a Simply Music Piano Teacher has transformed his guitar playing, and also shares how being a relatively inexperienced pianist hasn’t stopped him from being a very successful and popular piano teacher.  His sense of enthusiasm and genuine love for his work cuts through like a Hendrix solo.

Teacher of the Month – Irene Stephenson

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

2013-04-26(4)“Miss Irene” Stephenson has been a much-loved music teacher in her Ontario community for more than two decades.  She discovered Simply Music when looking for an effective way to teach adults, and has since been inspired to create new opportunities for her students’ parents to develop their own playing.  Here she talks with her student Matthea about the joy of teaching.


Teacher of the Month – Shanta Hejmadi

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

SimplyMusicRecital2013-089Shanta Hejmadi is a classic case of someone destined for a musical career who finally found it in teaching.  Although an accomplished singer, Shanta doubted her abilities as a piano teacher until she was introduced to Simply Music.  Now she’s a very successful and much loved teacher in Minnesota, and, as you can hear in this chat with Helen Peterson, a passionate advocate for the value of sharing music.


Watch the beautiful vocal stylings of Shanta in this acapella trio (she’s on the left), singing Salve, Regina by Jocelyn Hagen.



Teacher of the Month – The Canberra Girls

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

photoWith 60 years of teaching between them, the tight-knit team of Teachers in Australia’s capital are a classic example of the power of cooperation and shared support, not to mention laughter.  You can hear in this chat with Elizabeth Gaikwad how well they get along and their deep commitment to their students, their teaching and each other.

Hear Elizabeth speak with The Canberra Girls

Teacher of the Month – Ian Christie

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

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Besides being a Simply Music Teacher (and marriage celebrant into the bargain), as a professional musician Ian Christie has enjoyed innumerable musical adventures.  In this conversation with Gretta Dunn, he shares some stories of his working life and the experience of juggling performing and teaching careers.


Hear Gretta speak with Ian


Teacher of the Month – Kim Nelson

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Zippo lighters or piano teaching?  Luckily it was piano teaching that won out.  Even though Texas single mom Kim Nelson had never played piano she wasn’t going to let that get in the way of pursuing a vision and building a thriving studio.  Kim is living testament to the power of determination.  In this chat with friend and fellow Teacher Kathy Kiger, Kim’s reflections on the many ways teaching has changed her life are inspiring.


Courage and Confidence  – the Simply Music Way

Recently, on the ECL, I shared about a personal breakthrough I experienced in my teaching.  It was one of those defining moments that I suspect we all have as Simply Music teachers and it left me even more resolved and committed to helping to create a world in which everyone plays…freely.

First off, here’s a little about my background.  I have been teaching Simply Music for about 3.5 years.  When I signed up for teacher training, I could play heart and soul and had a month or two of piano lessons as a kid.  That was the extent of my pre-Simply Music piano experience.  While I had always wanted to play the piano, that actually wasn’t the primary reason for my first call to Neil to find out about teaching.  What led me to Simply Music was an urgent need to find some way to support my three daughters after finding myself, very suddenly and unexpectedly, as a single mom.  After much searching and prayer, a dear friend and fellow homeschooling mom told me to check out this program called Simply Music she had stumbled onto in a magazine ad.  Looking back, it seems more than a little crazy but after reading every jot and tittle of the website, I called Neil to see if I could be a piano teacher…even though I didn’t actually play the piano.  It was a terrifying phone call to make but after telling him my background and situation, he told me I would be a fantastic teacher.  And I believed him.   Thus began my amazing Simply Music journey.  I began teacher training in September of 2008 and started teaching my first students in May of 2009.  As of January 2013, I will have over 45 students enrolled.

Aligning myself with Neil and Simply Music was one of most important and best life choices I have ever made, but as a new player and teacher, I have also struggled greatly with insecurity and overcome fears too numerous to mention.  In fact, if my children weren’t depending on me and I wasn’t absolutely certain it was the Lord’s answer to my prayers, I may have quit early on.   The rewards and benefits of staying the course and navigating this long-term relationship were confirmed (again!) this summer when I started a new adult student.  As a transfer student from another Simply Music teacher, I knew she was much more musically experienced and educated  than me.   Her prior musical experience included an advanced musical degree with an emphasis in piano and many years as a public school music teacher, band director, church pianist and traditional piano teacher.  When she came to her first lesson I asked her what her goals and expectations were and after talking about her fears and insecurities, mostly associated with music falling off the piano and extreme performance anxiety, she said she wanted to learn to play without music. We had a great lesson and after going over her foundation song, a snippet of an arrangement and giving the class a composition assignment it was time to go. As she was leaving she asked what the large object in the back of my studio was. It was a portable air conditioner I purchased when my main a/c was out for 10 days. After answering her, I remembered I had written Lead Me to Light lyrics for another class about my A/C being out…in Texas…in August, so I even sat back down and played and sang my tale of woe for her, which she seemed to enjoy.

It occurred to me when she left that I am finally secure in my ability to contribute to anyone’s musical journey.   In the past I would have been very scared of her musical accomplishments, and even as recently as a year ago may not have even agreed to teach her.  But this time I wasn’t. Experience or no experience, degree or no degree; for once I wasn’t the slightest bit intimidated by someone’s musical background. I respect and applaud her background and abilities, but I’m not scared of them. I now own and respect my piano and musical background and it feels great.  It’s about so much more than piano isn’t it?!



Teacher of the Month – Kerry Verdon

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

“To me, everybody has a child within them, regardless of the age they are”.

Despite her limited musical background, the always positive Kerry Verdon has found a home in music teaching, and it’s a truly nurturing home in a huge variety of ways.  As well as teaching Simply Music Piano, Play-a-Story and Simply Music Rhapsody herself, Kerry runs two studios that also include other instrumental teaching.  She is also a great supporter of the Simply Music Teachers, organising conferences and “playshops” and  other events for our Teachers and generally being a central figure in the active Melbourne community.  She also worked for Simply Music for nine years doing just about every task we could load her up with.

Her latest project is the especially exciting one of helping Jonathon Welch develop his wonderful School of Hard Knocks Institute, donating her time to teaching music to disadvantaged people under the banner Keys to Success.  She speaks here with Unmani about what it’s like to make a difference in the lives of those who wouldn’t otherwise have this opportunity.

 Listen to Unmani speak with Kerry Verdon