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September 2021

Notes from M&J


Fall is in the air in West Michigan—time for sweaters, apple cider, and technicolor trees. We have some exciting events in store at Yellow Door this fall. In this month's newsletter, you’ll find important announcements about Piano in the Park (Sep. 25), Group Class week (Oct. 11-12), and the Advanced Track Masterclass (Oct. 9). We’re also excited to announce our studio year theme for 2021-22, “Women of the Keys: Piano Music by Female Composers.”

Our best to you,

Melia & Justin

Image by Chris Lawton
Women of the Keys
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Our studio year theme for 2021-22 is “Women of the Keys: Piano Music by Female Composers.” Throughout the history of classical music, women were encouraged to cultivate musical skill at the piano for domestic music-making and teaching. But when it came to composingthe creation of “serious” art music for the church, concert hall, and conservatorysocietal barriers kept many women from pursuing their dreams. Not only are there fewer female composers in the classical tradition, but biases in the way we think about and teach music also prevent the women who broke those barriers to be recognized and celebrated for the substance of their work.


This year, through our newsletter, group classes, and spring recital, we are excited to explore the work of female composerssome our students may already know like Melody Bober, Nancy Faber, and Florence Price, and others who may be new to them like Fanny Mendelssohn or Dianne Rahbee.

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Amy Beach


This month, we celebrate the work of American concert pianist and composer, Amy Beach. Beach was regarded as one of the preeminent American classical composers of her generation, and her story epitomizes the struggles that many women faced in pursuing a career in composition.

Check out four activities to watch, read, listen, and do to learn more about Amy Beach and her work!


This brief video provides a helpful overview of the many ways women were excluded from the classical music tradition.


We’re building another playlist… Enjoy several works by Beach—not just for the piano—in our new “Women of the Keys” Spotify playlist.

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Learn more about the life of Amy Beach! Younger students will enjoy this shorter biographical sketch from Classics for Kids. Older students can check out this longer biography from the Library of Congress.

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With your parent’s permission, do a Google search for “great composers.” What names come up? What do you notice about their genders? What are their nationalities? What is the color of their skin?

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Studio Updates
Piano in the News


Can you remember the last time you went to a concert? Neither can we! Thankfully, live music is slowly returning to the Grand Rapids area. In fact, Grand Valley State University is holding “Brahms Fest” throughout the 2021-22 academic year, featuring the piano chamber music works of German composer Johannes Brahms at local venues throughout the city.

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Piano in the Park
Group Class
Park in the Fall



Piano in the Park

Our fall studio event, “Piano in the Park” will take place on Saturday, September 25 from 11 AM to 12 PM at John Ball Park, near the intersection of Dayton and Valley. Join us for a morning of music and fall fun. Please remember to RSVP by replying to the “save the date” email by Saturday, September 18.

Group Class

Our first group class week of the semester is October 11-15. Per the studio calendar, classes will take place at the following times:

Monday, October 11 @ 6 PM

(in person)

Tuesday, October 12 @ 4 PM

(in person)

and 5:30 PM (Zoom)

Please register for the session your student will be attending in the studio portal by Monday, October 4. We have capped in-person classes at 7 students for COVID safety.

Advanced Track Masterclass

In lieu of a group class in October, Advanced Track (AT) students (45- and 60-minute lessons) will participate in Yellow Door’s first ever masterclass. The AT Masterclass will take place on Saturday, October 9 in two sessions, 11 AM to 12 PM or 1 PM to 2 PM. (Students will only attend one of these sessions.) Please register for the session that will work best for your schedule in the studio portal by October 2. Please note that AT students will not have a lesson or group class the following week, since this event takes the place of a group class.

What is a masterclass?

A master class is a public piano lesson with an artist who is not the student’s normal teacher. When performing and receiving feedback, students are exposed to new ideas and strategies to improve their playing. As students observe, they learn more about repertoire and artistry.

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We are thrilled to welcome Emily Grabinski Conklin as our masterclass clinician. Emily is the Faculty Accompanist at Grand Rapids Community College, where she plays for choirs and soloists and teaches group and applied piano. Emily holds a Master of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Practice Tip


What is practicing?


I (Justin) have recently started working with several beginning students, and as I encouraged them to “practice” a new piece of music at home, it struck me how mysterious this term is. What is practice at the piano? What makes for efficient and effective practice? Why does it matter? So… this studio year, I hope to offer ideas about practicing, both philosophical and practical, geared toward the parents of our Music Makers, better known as “Practice Partners.”


What is practicing? To my mind, practicing is the act of systematically working toward mastery of a specific musical skill. It usually occurs through a focused, daily input of time at the piano. Musical skills that our students might be assigned include… repertoire (a “piece” or “song”); a five-finger pattern, scale, or arpeggio; an etude or technical study; a composition assignment; a theory worksheet; or a listening assignment. Our students work on multiple musical skills at the same time, so we often encourage them to break up their daily practice time. For example, they might spend 5 minutes on scales, 5 minutes on each piece of music they’re studying, and 5 minutes to complete a worksheet. Over the course of a week (5-6 practice sessions), daily, focused practice leads to growth in specific areas. And over longer periods of time (months, years, decades!), daily, focused practice leads to mastery of the instrument and overall enjoyment of music.


What questions do you have about practice? Send me an email at (, and I’ll try to answer them in upcoming newsletters.

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