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January / February 2023

Notes from M&J


Happy 2023, Music Makers! We have an exciting year ahead of us in the studio, with events ranging from recitals to group outings, to the addition of a brand new Music Maker, Baby Colwell #2! In this month’s newsletter, we’ll cover the details of our parental leave, group class, and learn more about this year's studio theme. We are so thankful for the support you offer your students and the value you place on making music; we can’t wait to see what musical adventures lay ahead in 2023!

Our best to you,

Melia & Justin

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This year, our studio theme is “Composing: We Can Too!” At the piano, we usually play other people’s written music. By equipping students with a few simple tools and encouraging them to tap into their own creativity, however, we hope to show our Music Makers how they too can be composers! Our group classes and our quarterly newsletter will center on this theme.

Creative Constraints: Use Words!


Creativity often arises from constraints, and sometimes the hardest part of composing is figuring out what constraints to work with! For a professional composer, creative constraints might be the needs of a particular production (soundtrack, musical, ballet, etc.), the pedagogical needs of a student-oriented piece of music, the performing forces available, or even the length of a recording format (i.e. This album must fit on a 33 LP!).


For our Music Makers, creative constraints might relate more to their knowledge of music theory: What five-finger patterns do we know? What chords can I play in my left hand and how fast can I move between them? In our last two newsletters, we've discussed ideas on getting started with melody and harmony. In addition to these tools, writing music to words could be just the spark a student needs to start composing. Is there a favorite story they love to retell? Does your family have a favorite poem? While the composition may not ultimately be sung with words, they can be one more parameter in our creative process.


Try it out! Choose a five-finger pattern and see if your Music Maker can create a new melody for the popular nursery rhyme, "Pop Goes the Weasel" or a tune for "Humpty Dumpty."

Studio Updates
Piano in the News
Group Class
Parental Leave


Father-Daughter duets, anyone? David Bowie's daughter Lexi recently shared this cute clip of the late musician playing the piano with her! They seem to have been great practice partners. 🙂

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Practice Tip


Spell It, Say It!

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One of our favorite practice techniques is like powerlifting for the brain: While you play, say the names of the notes OR the finger numbers you use to play. Playing and speaking at the same time makes your brain work really hard and helps it retain information, making practice time more effective and powerful!

Spring Studio Event



February Group Class

Our first group class week of the spring semester is February 14-16. Per the studio calendar, classes will take place at the following times:

Tuesday, February 14 @ 4 & 5:30 PM

Wednesday, February 15 @ 4:30 PM

Thursday, February 16 @ 6 PM

All classes will take place in person. Please register for the session your student will be attending in the studio portal by Monday, February 6.

Parental Leave

Those who signed up for parental leave packets will receive your materials during the week of January 30! The $30 fee for packets appears on your recent February invoice.

If all goes to plan, our last week of lessons will be February 13-16 (Group Class Week), after which we will be on parental leave for the remainder of February and March. Lessons will resume the week of April 10-13, the week after most students have Spring Break.

You will NOT receive an invoice for the month of March. You WILL receive an invoice on March 15 for April lessons, due April 1.

Spring Studio Event:

GVSU’s French Fest

There are always great performances happening around Grand Rapids, and we would love for our students and their families to join us on Sunday, March 26th at 3PM at Alger Park Church for another installment of GVSU’s FrenchFest! In this free recital, we’ll be hearing works from Ravel, Poulenc, Saint-Saëns, and Boulanger. Check out the website for more information. Please RSVP to your teacher if you’re interested in joining us!

Recital Pieces

It’s hard to believe, but we will be picking recital pieces for our in-person Spring Recital (May 13) over the next few weeks (since our parental leave ends only six weeks before the recital!). For students who don’t receive a parental leave packet, our leave is a great opportunity to prepare for the recital.

Recital Pieces
Student Spotlight


Congratulations to our two winners of the “88 Days of Practice Challenge!” Both Shi-ning (first place, pictured) and Selah (second place) practiced over 88 days between the start and end of the Fall Semester. The rest of our students have the opportunity to keep working on their keyboards until our parental leave in February; let’s get practicing!

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