Oliver Diez thought his teaching career peaked when his fourth- and fifth-grade students were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York in March as the only elementary school band on the bill.
Actually, he was just getting started. The 43-year-old music teacher was named the 2020 Francisco R. Walker Teacher of the Year on Thursday night, claiming the honor from among the 19,000 teachers of the Miami-Dade School District.
“Of all the concerts I’ve prepared for over the years,” Diez said in his acceptance speech, “you’re never prepared for something like this.”
Diez has spent all two decades of his teaching career at Palmetto Elementary in southwest Miami-Dade, building a fledgling music program into the largest elementary school band in South Florida. He helped launch a booster club, now a registered nonprofit, for travel expenses for performances. More than a third of the school’s roughly 600 students are involved in the program.
Diez starts his students young, learning to play their introductory instrument, the recorder, in first grade. From there, they can join one of the many before- and after-school offerings at Palmetto Elementary: chorus, concert band, jazz combo, orchestra and drum line.
In his speech, Diez thanked his fellow finalists, including Ray L. Parris, 46, of Hialeah Miami-Lakes Senior High, who was the teacher of the year runner-up. He also compared the students’ learning process to a music rehearsal.
“It will be messy at times and mistakes will be made that will need fixing,” he said, “but in the end we need to unite our students to work together for that final performance.”
To bring his lesson to life, he instructed half the crowd to stomp and the other half to clap. Together, they created the beat to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
One of Diez’s former students was in the audience at the Teacher of the Year ceremony held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on Thursday night. Christopher Fisk, his former student who is now 24, was named the runner-up rookie teacher of the year out of Miami Northwestern High School.
The crowned 2020 rookie teacher is another homegrown success. Laura Haim, 33, began her teaching career in Miami-Dade teaching math and science at the school she attended as a child: Pinecrest Elementary. Her mother is former Miami-Dade School Board member and former Pinecrest mayor Evelyn Greer.
As teacher of the year, Diez takes home more than $5,000, a gift basket and a new Toyota. He will advance to the state-level teacher of the year competition held in the summer.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Thursday night that he pledged $5,000 to the teacher of the year, $3,000 to the rookie teacher of the year and $500 to all finalists.
New research has found that more than two-thirds of young people are active musicians.
The study by music charity Youth Music, in tandem with Ipsos Mori, polled more than 1,000 British children aged seven to 17 about their music habits. Unsurprisingly, 97% of them had listened to music in the previous week – but 67% had also engaged in “some form of music-making activity”. It’s a huge rise from 39% in 2006, when Youth Music conducted their previous survey.
Among those who said they made music, singing was the most popular means, with 44% saying they did so compared with 17% in 2006. Thirty per cent of surveyed children played an instrument – 39% of whom are somewhat self-taught – with the piano proving most popular. Eleven per cent made music on a computer – rising to one in five young men – while fewer than 10% rapped or DJ’d.
Music-making tends to fall off as children get older – 79% of children aged seven to 10 made music versus 53% of those aged 16 and 17.
Income affected the findings: 76% of children entitled to free school meals described themselves as musical, versus 60% of those not entitled. Activities including rapping, DJing, writing music and making music digitally were all markedly higher among children from lower-income backgrounds.
The research comes as enrolment in music qualifications is in decline, with the number of schools offering A-level music falling by 15% in the last two years, and 60% of schools reporting that the introduction of the English baccalaureate (Ebacc) was negatively impacting music eduction.
The report’s authors argue it is vital “to make music an indispensable part of school life”. But they also acknowledge the potential in mobile video apps like TikTok, saying: “While there may not be a lot of music involved, the app encourages young people to be creative, autonomous and hone their performance skills, often in highly humorous ways.”
Writing in the introduction to the report, Youth Music CEO, Matt Griffiths, outlines some of the problems around access to music for young people: “While we might have online access to more music than ever before, we still can’t afford to go to that festival, be a regular gig-goer, rehearse with a band or afford to buy that instrument we’ve always wanted. And if we’re at school, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to access music in the curriculum where its importance is in many cases being downgraded.”
The report’s authors recommend that “public music education funds should be targeted towards those who face greatest barriers to access”, and “those involved in supporting young people’s wellbeing should give greater consideration to the role that music can play, and how young people’s passion for listening to music and their everyday creative lives can be interwoven with wider strategies to support good mental health.”
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A new report calls for music education to be “reshaped and democratised” to better reflect the interests and activities of young people and make sure those from less privileged backgrounds do not miss out on opportunities.
Research into the views and experiences of young people aged between seven and 17, commissioned by the charity Youth Music, finds that young people are more likely than they were a decade ago to see themselves as musical and participate in musical activity.
64% of respondents said that they were musical, compared to 48% who said this in a similar Youth Music study in 2006. And two thirds said that they were engaging in some form of musical activity, compared to 39% in 2006.
The most popular music-making activities were singing and playing an instrument, with take-up of both growing since 2006. 44% of young people said they took part in singing, compared to 17% in the previous study, and 30% reported playing an instrument, up from 23% previously.
The report says the rise in playing instruments is partly down to government supporting this through group lessons, but adds that another important factor is the increased availability of YouTube tutorials.
Of those who play an instrument, 39% said they were teaching themselves to some degree, compared to 16% guiding their own learning in 2006. Almost half of respondents who played the electric or acoustic guitar, drums or other percussion instruments said that they were teaching themselves.
There has also been a growth in the proportion of young people making electronic music, with the percentage making music on a computer or other device growing from 4% to 11% since 2006. This activity was particularly popular among young men aged 16 to 17, almost one in five of whom (19%) reported creating music in this way.
Young people receiving free school meals were more likely to see themselves as musical, with 76% in this group describing themselves in this way, compared to 60% of respondents not in the demographic.
While those receiving free school meals were equally likely to sing or play an instrument, they were also twice as likely to take part in karaoke (22% compared to 11%), make music on a computer (20% compared to 9%), and write music (15% compared to 7%). They were also much more likely to take part in rapping, MCing and DJing.
“Many young people with limited financial means are experiencing a rich musical childhood,” says the report, “it just looks different to that of their more affluent peers. It’s more likely to emanate from their home, have a DIY feel to it and less likely to be taught in a formal way. Often it’s ‘everyday creativity’ – activity which is already happening in people’s lives, an accessible form of culture that they can engage in.”
Among the technologies supporting the growth of new ways of engaging with music, the report names the app TikTok, which enables users to upload lip-synched videos to social media channels, and open source software that allows ‘bedroom musicians’ to create tracks using professional-level functionality.
But the report notes that such forms of music are often not recognised in formal education, leading to barriers in participation as age increases, with a knock-on effect in the make-up of the music industry.
“Bedroom musicianship and karaoke-style apps are part of a suite of activities that develop young people’s musical identity but often go unrecognised in formal music education, says the report. “This is a missed opportunity to engage young people and support them in their musical development.”
“If young people don’t have access to professional guidance, they’re less likely to have support to progress to more advanced levels of technical competence, to learn from expert role models, to understand the career paths available to them, and to be aware of key legal issues and risks in the music industry.
“Music education needs to be reshaped and democratised for an evolving landscape – and it needs to start from young people’s existing creative identities and to nurture talent from diverse backgrounds. Not only will this result in higher engagement, but it will also serve to level the playing field, meaning those from less privileged backgrounds are less likely to miss out.”
The report also points to a disconnect between music education and the music industry, meaning that “young people often aren’t aware of the opportunities available, or the paths they need to follow to pursue a musical career”.
“This is limiting the size of the talent pool and may be hampering the country’s future competitiveness,” say the authors. “There is a real opportunity for the industry and education sectors to join up to provide more inclusive pathways to success, both for artists and those working behind the scenes.”
The report argues that music education should be “re-imagined” under a new model “that’s more aligned with young people’s existing musical identities and with outcomes that go beyond attainment to better capitalise on music’s social value.”
It argues for more industry-facing curriculums and partnerships, and better consideration of the needs of DIY musicians.
“Digital technologies should be embedded, and programmes should prepare young people for a wide variety of industry roles including what’s required to have a successful freelance career,” add the authors.
Youth Music calls for policymakers to encourage music and creative industry opportunities outside London and direct music education funds towards people with the greatest barriers to access. It also urges the music industry to commit to paying a real Living Wage and follow the Internship Code of Practice, which states that interns should be paid at least the national minimum wage.
Supporting mental health
The report also argues that those responsible for young people’s wellbeing should give greater consideration to the role that music can play, and embed people’s interest in music into strategies to support mental health. In the survey, 85% of respondents said music made them feel happy, 41% said it made them feel cool, and 39% that it made them excited.
“The experiences of young people included in our study align with the wider evidence – that listening to and playing music is a vital way of regulating and articulating emotions, developing social bonds and feeling more in control of life,” says the report.
“Young people are using music as a resource to draw on, a coping mechanism to support their personal wellbeing. They’re doing this creatively, strategically and – often – independently. There’s an opportunity therefore for schools, charities and arts organisations to support young people to use music in this way.”
The story of a down-and-out boxer reconnecting with his estranged, younger brother who is a gifted pianist with savant syndrome.
The Singapore International Piano Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary! To mark its silver jubilee, six phenomenal virtuoso pianists from across Asia, Europe and the Americas, from rising star to celebrated veterans, will present varied, colourful programmes in their Festival debuts. The youthful passion of Seong-Jin Cho rubs shoulders with the established artistry of Dénes Várjon, Jeremy Denk, Dang Thai Son and Darío Alejandro Ntaca, in a myriad of works spanning Mozart and Beethoven, Chopin and Schumann, Debussy and Ravel, Prokofiev and Bartók. The quarter centennial celebrations culminate in the long-awaited Singapore debut of the legendary Martha Argerich in duo recital and in Prokofiev’s brilliant Piano Concerto No. 3.
The Singapore International Piano Festival has presented over 80 pianists in recital, many of whom are among the very greatest in the music world. Unlike most recital series, each annual edition of the Festival uniquely features recitals over consecutive evenings, offering concertgoers who regularly attend every evening an intense, varied and richly rewarding pianistic and musical experience. Alongside such celebrated virtuosi as Nelson Freire, Stephen Kovacevich, Nikolai Demidenko, Pascal Rogé, Piotr Anderszewski, Stephen Hough, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Lars Vogt and Angela Hewitt, the Festival has also had a fantastic track record of impressive debuts by such rising stars as Benjamin Grosvenor, Wang Yuja, Lukáš Vondráček and Nareh Arghamanyan, as it strives to nurture promising young talent. Beginning in 1994, at a time when piano recitals were rare and much-treasured events, the Festival has since established itself as a regular highlight in the musical landscape of Singapore, hosting pianists - and audiences - from all over the world as Asia's Premier Piano Festival.
The Greatest Showman | George Vidal
The Piano Guys are an American musical group consisting of pianist Jon Schmidt, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, videographer Paul Anderson, and music producer Al van der Beek. They gained popularity through YouTube, where in 2010 they began posting piano and cello compositions combining classical, contemporary, and rock and roll music, accompanied by professional-quality videos. In August 2016 the group surpassed one billion views on their YouTube channel, which at that time had nearly 5 million subscribers. Their first six major-label albums, The Piano Guys, The Piano Guys 2, A Family Christmas, Wonders, Uncharted, and Christmas Together each reached number one on the Billboard Classical Albums and New Age Albums charts.
The group originated as a social media strategy for Anderson's piano store, The Piano Guys, in St. George, Utah. Anderson was acquainted with Schmidt, a locally notable pianist who often came in to practice on the pianos when he was in town. In 2009 Anderson saw a music video that Schmidt had uploaded to YouTube, "Love Story Meets Viva la Vida" – a musical blend of the Taylor Swift country pop version and Coldplay's Baroque pop song "Viva la Vida", which Schmidt performed with Nelson on cello. That video logged more than one million hits. Anderson asked the musicians to do more videos that he would professionally film and upload to his store's Facebook and YouTube pages to promote his store. Nelson brought his neighbor, van der Beek, a songwriter and music arranger, onto the team. Tel Stewart initially assisted with video production.
While the first few videos did not make much of an impact, "Michael Meets Mozart" (2010) gained a respectable showing after Schmidt invited the nearly 30,000 people on his fan mailing list "to watch it and share it". In June 2011 the group won the "Most Up-and-Coming Channel" award in the YouTube "On the Rise" contest, which brought 25,000 new subscribers to their channel. In 2011 and 2012 the group uploaded a new music video every week to two weeks, attracting thousands of new viewers each time. Meanwhile, The Piano Guys store did not register any piano sales from two years of posting videos, and closed in March 2012.
By September 2012, The Piano Guys had uploaded more than 30 music videos which had garnered 134 million views, and had 757,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel. That month, they signed with Sony Masterworks. Rather than receive royalties on album sales, the group opted to split the profits with the label while financing their own music and marketing. After signing with Sony, they released their first album, The Piano Guys, followed by The Piano Guys 2 in 2013 and Wonders in 2014.
The Piano Guys tour in the United States and abroad. They have appeared in sold-out concerts in England, Germany, Hungary, Japan, and Russia. In 2015 they were on the road for three weeks at a time, but in 2016 decided to limit that to "10-day runs" to be more available to their families. They have also played at major classical and pop venues, including Carnegie Hall, Greek Theatre and the Royal Albert Hall.
Their decision to perform at the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017 elicited controversy. While other musical groups declined invitations to perform, the group denied that their performance was "an endorsement or a political statement". They explained on their blog: "We don't feel right limiting our positive message only to people that believe or act the same way we do".
At the inauguration's Liberty Ball, The Piano Guys played a custom rendition of Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" without consent from its original artist. This had been one of the songs used by Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign. The Piano Guys later released a statement noting that their unscheduled rendition of the song was not meant to be political. On the 12 December 2017 did a live stream on their YouTube channel, called 'Light The World Christmas Concert with The Piano Guys and Friends'. On 25 Sep 2018, they performed their trademark classical renditions of today’s pop hits in Singapore. “We are so happy to be coming back to Singapore. We love the country and its wonderful people. Cannot wait to see our very special fans at the Star Theater.”
World's first 108-key concert grand piano built by Australia's only piano maker
One of Australia's last remaining piano-maker has just created an instrument the likes of which the world has never seen.
Most grand pianos have 88 keys but Wayne Stuart's family-run business in Tumut, southern New South Wales, has built the first known piano with an impressive 108 keys.
This means it boasts a nine octave range, unheard of on the piano until now.
"We need new horizons and this is certainly a new horizon."
Mr Stuart has been handcrafting pianos for 40 years but this is by far his most ambitious creation.
Made with ancient Tasmanian Huon pine, the masterpiece measures 3 metres in length and took 18 painstaking months to build.
"We've got an awful lot of strings and they needed to be supported," Mr Stuart said.
"Also, the performance culture has changed a lot and increasingly, pianists are stretching into the piano and playing on the open strings.
"You only get one hit with things like this and you've got to get it right, and I think we've made a pretty good fist of it."
The result, according to Mr Stuart, is a grand piano that feels and sounds more like an orchestra than an instrument.
Conductor: Tugan Sokhiev
Anna Netrebko - “Vissi D’arte” from Tosca (Giacomo Puccini)
Ildar Abdrazakov - “Votre Toast” from Carmen (Bizet)
Yusif Eyvazov - “Le fleur que tu m’avais jetee” from Carmen (Bizet)
Hibla Gerzmava - “Pace , pace mio Dio” from La Forza Del Destino (Giuseppe Verdi)
Fabio Sartori - “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot (Giacomo Puccini)
Jacques-Greg Belobo - “Le veau d’or” from Faust (Charles Gounod)
Chorus of Bolshoi Theatre - “Va pensiero” from Nabucco (Giuseppe Verdi)
Hibla Gerzmava - “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess” (George Gershwin)
Placido Domingo - "Amor vida de mi vida" from Maravilla (Frederico Moreno Torroba)
Enseble of Bolshoi Theatre - Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure (Richard Wagner)
Placido Domingo - "Nemico della patria" from Andrea Chenier (Umberto Giordano)
Anna Netrebko & Yusif Eyvazov - "Vicino a te" Final Duet from Andrea Chenier (Umberto Giordano)
Dmitry Ulyanov - "Velichavaya, v solnechnyh luchah..." from "War And Peace" (Sergey Prokofyev)
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