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November 2020

Notes from M&J


Happy (early) Thanksgiving from Yellow Door Music Studio! We are so thankful for our students and their families for their support throughout our Fall Recital season, and we were so impressed with their performances!

Before you sit down to your turkey and pumpkin pie next week, we hope you’ll take some time to read this month’s newsletter. You’ll read about living Composers of COLOR and a piano-playing engineering professor, plus a few updates about studio happenings.

With thanks,

Melia & Justin

Music of Color
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This month’s newsletter focuses on three African American composers living and working today. Let’s meet them!

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Chanda Dancy composes for film, television, and the concert hall. In addition, she plays in a rock band—how cool is that?! Dancy studied at the University of Southern California and has been called “a foremost black American contemporary composer.” Learn more on her website!

This month on the playlist... listen to several short tracks Dancy’s score for the sci-fi movie After We Leave, which won the award for Best Original Composition in a Feature Film at the UK Music + Sound Awards in 2020.

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Jeffrey Mumford’s works have been performed by prominent soloists and ensembles all around the world. He has been composer-in-residence at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and currently teaches at Lorain County Community College in Ohio. Learn more on his website!

This month on the playlist... Mumford’s Two Elliott Carter tributes, two short solo piano pieces dedicated to American Modernist composer Elliott Carter. The first movement was composed between 1983 and 1984, the second in 2006.

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Jessie Montgomery sees music as “my connection to the world,” and not only because her works have been performed all over the world. She brings together classical and folk music with themes of social justice. She is currently a composer-in-residence for the Sphinx organization, which is based in Detroit. Learn more on her website!

This month on the playlist... listen to Montgomery’s Banner, an orchestral work composed in 2014 in honor of the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key penning the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Thanks to writer Audery Seraphin and ArtsBoston for highlighting these and other Black contemporary classical composers!

And now, four activities to watch, read, listen, and do to make your month more musical!


Unlike composers from the past, living composers often give video interviews that offer us insight into their compositional process. Check out these interviews with our three composers to hear about what inspires them to make music!


Read about the inspiration behind Jessie Montgomery’s Banner . What are the national triumphs and tragedies evoked by the sound of Banner? Can you hear any musical quotations as you listen?


Soak up the sounds of these three composers through our Music of COLOR playlist on Spotify!

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With your parents' permission, explore the Living Composers Directory from Music by Black Composers. This list allows you to sort composers by name, region of the world, life dates, and gender. Find a composer that interests you, and Google their name. (Sometimes it’s helpful to add a keyword like “composer” or “music” after the name.) Listen to one of their pieces or read about them. There’s a world of classical music by Black composers out there!

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Studio Updates
Piano in the News


We all know music is good for our health, but this professor decided to bring it into her classroom, too! Click here to read more about this talented teacher.

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Practice Tip
Thanksgiving Dinner



Studio Calendar Reminders

There are NO lessons during the week of Thanksgiving (November 23–27), unless you have scheduled a makeup lesson. We’ll see students again during the week of November 30–December 3.


Our second (and last!) set of group lessons for the semester are Tuesday December 15 from 4:30–5:30 PM or Thursday, December 17 from 6–7 PM. We have assigned students to a group lesson based on age, but if the other time slot fits better in your schedule, feel free to switch.


If you have accumulated a make-up credit for the Fall Semester, look for an email soon with make-up dates and times during the week of December 14–18!

COVID-19 Update

For the time being, we plan to continue offering in-person lessons at our home studio on an optional basis. Because our business is an individualized personal service, we can legally continue offering lessons in person, and we are confident that we are operating as safely as possible. Students have done an excellent job following our safety protocols (handwashing, masking, personal distancing), and we've recently purchased a large-room air purifier to add an extra layer of protection. As a reminder, we do ask that students attend lessons via Zoom if they are showing signs of illness or have been exposed to COVID-19.


Our students did a phenomenal job preparing and performing their pieces for our Fall Studio Recital. And thanks to all who joined us for the broadcast! The video is now available on Facebook and YouTube.

Student Spotlight



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Recording for a recital, audition, or just to share with friends can be a whole new experience for students! Here are a few tips to keep future recording sessions smooth and seamless:

1. Take time to warm up and practice your piece SLOWLY before you hit “record.”

2. When recording, it can be helpful to keep a certain word or idea in your mind (“peace,” “intensity,” or “fun” are all good examples) to keep you focused while you play.

3. NO recording is perfect! Give yourself a certain number of takes (3-5), then take a break. Oftentimes places that seem like big mistakes in the moment don’t seem so bad when you listen back later.

COVID-19 Update
Calendar Reminers
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