Upper Hands Piano Giveaway Winners

We were thrilled by the response to our Upper Hands Piano giveaway. Annoucing the winners! 

Upper Hands Piano


Lisa D. will receive Upper Hands Piano Book 1. 

Janice Martin will receive Upper Hands Piano Book 1.

Patti's Music will receive Upper Hands Piano Book 1.

Rebecca will receive Songs of the Seasons: Spring.  

Jan Foreman will receive Songs of the Seasons: Spring.


Winners should email for instructions on claiming their prize. Thanks to author Gaili Schoen for sharing her books with our readers!

We would love to hear more thoughts from our readers on teaching adult piano students. Please share your questions, comments, or tips on teaching adults students below this post!


Teaching Adults Age 50+ with Upper Hands Piano

Upper Hands Piano is a series of piano method books for adults ages 50+ by Gaili Schoen. We were curious to learn more about these books and their concepts. Gaili has shared below some of her tips and strategies for teaching mature adults with Upper Hands Piano. 


What is so great about teaching older adults?

-Teaching retired adults is great because they can take lessons during the day, which can free up the teacher’s weekends and evenings to spend time with family.

-Since they are paying for their own lessons, older adults practice!

-They love and look forward to their lessons and most are extremely appreciative of their teachers.

-They have developed an ear for melody and rhythm, which helps them to learn familiar pieces more quickly.

-They can and expect to pay well for lessons. Adults over 50 own over 65% of the net worth of all U.S. households (U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey) and want to spend it on fun,  relaxing, health-promoting activities.

What is DIFFERENT about teaching adults over 50?

 -The PEDAGOGICAL model is teacher directed. We choose repertoire that is appropriate to the child’s level, and teach them musical concepts in a preconceived sequence. 

-The GERAGOGICAL model is student directed. Lessons are driven by student needs and goals. Older adults often come to lessons with the desire to play a particular song, or piece, or style of music that they love. If they want to learnRhapsody in Blueon their first lesson, we say great!  We write out a bit of the theme or find a simple arrangement they can play right away. If they haven’t learned to read music, we write letters next to the notes and help them to play the rhythm by ear. Or we show them the keys and let them imitate us. We rarely say, “that’s too difficult,” but rather find a way to make the music they love accessible to them.

Tips for teaching piano to older adults

-Older adults come to you to learn to PLAY the piano. Get them to PLAY right away, and teach them little bits of music theory and technique gradually. Make it FUN to play in your studio! It’s ok if the rhythm and notes aren’t perfect. WE ARE NOT MOLDING VIRTUOSOS! We are nurturing piano lovers.

-Don’t be too much of a stickler on fingering; see what is most comfortable for your student, then get them to be consistent with it, wherever possible. And don’t make them count everything! Sometimes using their ear to help play a familiar song is much more fun and accurate for beginners, than trying to count all the eighth notes.

-Extra songs should be introduced alongside the UPPER HANDS PIANO METHOD pages, such as theUpper Hands Piano: Songs of the Seasonsbooks, or the ”easy” Fake Books published by Hal Leonard (i.e.Your First Fake Book,The Easy Standards Fake Book, The Easy Sixties Fake Book.) Write in the notes your students don’t know, next to the note heads (not above them!), and write in simplified chords next to the chord symbols, until they’ve learned to read chord symbols. Simplified classical pieces are great too; just write in the letters where needed. Let them choose several things they like, then you find the easiest amongst their choices to play first. Remember, if the rhythm seems too challenging to count, let them use their ear. Singing or saying the lyrics can help them play songs they know with fairly accurate rhythm.

The best ways for older adults to practice using what we know about the brain and memory

-Encourage your students to space out their practice. Spaced practice means that they need to leave time in between their practice sessions for some forgetting to set in. After we forget something, it is more difficult to relearn it. But that difficulty makes us learn it deeper and better! The latest brain research shows that short daily practice sessions will help us to remember new musical skills and pieces better than a couple of long practice sessions per week.

-Encourage your students to practice before they go to bed. Sleep plays a large role in memory consolidation.

-Encourage your students to interleave their practice. Interleaved practice means that they should alternate practicing troublesome musical passages with other skills such as finger exercises, sight reading, clapping and counting phrases, analyzing the musical structure, playing scales, practicing chords, reviewing old pieces, listening to their pieces on iTunes or Youtube etc., playing with their eyes closed, exercising, taking deep breaths and snack breaks….and other non-musical activities!

What makes the Upper Hands Piano Method uniquely suited to older adults?

-Upper Hands Piano was written specifically for older adults to aid memory retention using cognitive tools such as mnemonics, novelty and brain games. The series features larger notes and type for easier reading. TheMusical Mind Games train the brain while helping the 50+ student to learn new musical concepts. There are many note reading and writing drills; Research shows that repetitive study is the best way for the brain to embed information into long-term memory, and unlike children, adults appreciate drills.

-TheUpper Hands Piano series emphasizes learning chords in all 12 keys. The student learns major, minor, diminished and augmented triads inBook 1, major and minor inversions inBook 2, 6ths and 7ths inBook 3, and 7thinversions in Book 4. Understanding and identifying chords is an important part of learning and understanding classical as well as popular music.

-Upper Hands Piano teaches the student how to read chord symbols so that they can play popular music in fake books. Most adults over 50 like to play a little bit of everything, and benefit from learning how to read both traditional notation and chord symbols.

-Upper Hand Piano is written with a friendly, encouraging, informal tone, with peer testimonials and helpful suggestions. The website offers additional support with videos, flash cards, free sheet music, and regular piano-information blog posts.


Gaili Schoen is generously giving away some Upper Hands Piano books to our readers. 5 winners will be randomly selected! 3 will receive Upper Hands Piano Book 1 and 2 will receive Songs of the Seasons: Spring. To enter the drawing, leave a comment or question below about teaching piano to older adults. Contest ends 3/13/2015. Check back to find out the winners! 

Update: Winners have been announced! Visit for the results of our giveaway.

Disclosure statement: This is an Ad Feature promotion by Upper Hands Piano, an advertiser in our magazine. Clavier Companion receives no compensation for this blog feature.

J.S. Bach Piano Recording Competition Sponsored by The Stravinsky Awards

June 1, 2015 is the application deadline for a most unusual competition:  THE J S BACH PIANO RECORDING COMPETITION offers First through Sixth cash prizes in 2 different age divisions;  Ages 12 and under, and Ages 18 and under.  There are no specific repertoire requirements other than, of course, a solo work (or works) for piano by J S Bach.

This Bach Competition is sponsored by THE STRAVINSKY AWARDS, established in 1984 in honor of the distinguished pianist, composer, and teacher who was the youngest son of towering 20th composer Igor Stravinsky.

Since its inception, The Stravinsky Awards has focused upon young adults and children and has over the years presented a wide variety of piano competitions, ranging from international residency competitions/festivals which have attracted upwards of 600 young pianists from Asia, Europe, and the Americas:  In addition, various separate competitions for pianists ages 7 to 18, have been offered for the best performances of works by Bach, Igor Stravinsky, Soulima Stravinsky, and Haydn.  In the early 1990’s The Stravinsky Awards was affiliated with The Ivo Pogorelich Festival in Germany which offered stellar concerts by Stravinsky Awards Prizewinners.

The Stravinsky Awards was the first large scale competition to eliminate any repertoire requirements.  Executive Director Roger Shields realized that no pianist played everything well, notably in the sense of conveying a unique, convincing and very personal interpretation.  Knowing that many talented performers might be eliminated due to stringent repertoire requirements, Shields insisted from the very beginning upon the free choice of repertoire.

Since The Stravinsky Awards was first presented in 1985, Shields notes that many other competitions, such as The Van Cliburn Awards, followed Shields’ innovations by eliminating repertoire requirements.  Shields also emphasizes that in order to have a successful career, performers must come to realize what they play best and thus choose concert repertoire which revealed their natural potential.

As to the idea of a competition exclusively by recordings, Shields notes that performers, at least in their formative years, must learn to listen more objectively to themselves.  Making a recording is now easy to do in one’s own home, and thus student and teacher can listen over and over again, assessing the performances.  Many are quite shocked with what they initially hear, but if judicious criticism is applied, one’s playing can be improved tremendously.  While some performers greatly dislike making recordings, it does seem to be a skill in these times that one must learn how to do. 

Certainly listening to one’s self is one of the premier means of improving one’s playing as it is so very difficult to judge one’s playing while one is actually playing! Learning to relax and to play freely by means of recordings will ultimately result in freer and more relaxed live performances.  Obviously, one can record over and over again until ultimately achieving a performance that is satisfying and which truly represents their abilities. True, the most exciting and communicative performances usually come about in live performances, but we feel that recording skills will further enable and enrich playing live.  Shields also feels that one will acquire a great deal of confidence in actually hearing what one can do without the stress of a live performance:  Successful performances are simply not possible without a great deal of confidence.

An added benefit to a recording competition is the elimination of the expenses of travel and housing. As for judging, it is helpful to listen and re-listen to recordings, something obviously not possible live.  True, sometimes a live spark might be elusive, but intelligence and sensitivity are easily judged in recordings, which can be heard over and over, feasibly allowing  judges to refresh their memories and opinions.

This is the fourth time The Stravinsky Awards has sponsored a Bach Competition.  Frankly, we feel that little is more revealing than how one plays Bach.  The ability to create diverse characterizations, to master control over multiple voices, and to achieve  absolute clarity and intelligence  is  demanded in contrapuntal music. 

Unfortunately today the study of counterpoint is more and more neglected. Thus our true purpose is to encourage more work on Bach, especially beginning at an early age.  It is usually too late and/or terribly laborious for adults to become masterful Bach players (however there are always exceptions). The mastery of counterpoint requires years and years of study:  One should begin studying Bach as young as possible, first learning some easier “character” pieces, perhaps such as those in The Anna Magdalena collection; then work through 2 part (The Inventions?), then 3 part (The Sinfonia?), then 4 part works. The young brain and spirit can gradually learn to handle first 2, then 3 independent voices, and so on. While the young student can do this almost effortlessly, older students who have not been introduced at an early age to the progressive study of Bach nearly always find the development of a natural ease with counterpoint to be quite difficult, if not often nearly impossible.

Beyond all considerations of such practical elements of teaching and development, let us remember that the music of J S Bach is above all a miraculous means to enlightenment.

For questions, rules and regulations, and an application form for the 2015 Competition, please contact Roger Shields, at

The Stravinsky Awards

A Stravinsky Awards Concert  Reception 1990's with Soulima Stravinsky at left,  Executive Director Roger Shields, and at the right, a prizewinner from China.

Announcing the Winners of our Readers' Choice Survey!

ThePianoMag Covers 2014

Announcing the results from our Readers' Choice Survey! We enjoyed hearing about your favorite articles, interviews, and covers from our 2014 issues. Here are the winners in each category!

Most Intriguing Interview 
Piano As Art: An Interview with Shauna Holiman (January/February 2014)
Most Inspiring Article 
Louise Goss: In Memoriam (September/October 2014)
Most Helpful Article
Lesson Plans: A Teaching Essential? (September/October 2014)
Best Cover 
Piano As Art (January/February 2014)
If you didn't get a chance to take our survey, it's not too late to share your favorite content with us. Tell us what inspired, entertained, or delighted you in recent issues of Clavier Companion. We'd love to hear from you!

Remember the year with Clavier Companion!

Celebrate 2014 with Clavier Companion

As 2014 comes to a close, we're taking time to celebrate and remember an exciting year for our magazine. We're hoping our readers will join the fun by voting for their favorite articles, interviews, and covers from our 2014 issues. Here's how you can participate in our Readers' Choice Survey
  1. Take time to explore our digital editions from 2014. Revisit your favorite content and catch up on articles you may have missed during the year. Click here to visit past issues on our website.
  2. Vote for your favorite articles, interviews and covers by completing our brief Readers' Choice Survey. Click here to vote by completing the survey.  
  3. Check back on our blog and Facebook page for the results! We'll announce the Readers' Choice for each category in early January.
We'd love to hear from you in the comment section of this post! Take a moment to share something you found enjoyable or moving in Clavier Companion this past year. Thank you, readers, for your loyal support of our magazine!