The Pirate Challenge

There’s another challenge on the horizon…The Pirate Challenge!


This poster was created by Melbourne teacher, Sharon Dixon after hearing Thembi Shears talk about the challenge at the APPC earlier this year.

You can read all about Brisbane teacher, Thembi Shears‘ Pirate Challenge in the upcoming November 2015 issue of The Piano Teacher magazine.

Issue 8 of The Piano Teacher magazine will be mailed to subscribers and posted online in November.

If you are a piano teacher in Australia or New Zealand you can subscribe to the magazine and have it mailed to you (FREE!) and for our International readers you are welcome to read the magazine online at

Up: a review by Michelle Randall

Sydney teacher, Michelle Randall offers us this review of Up.


Watching the movie Up will enhance the use of this collection of Easy Piano pieces (about a Grade 2 AMEB level) published by Hal Leonard.

Michael Giacchino composed a character theme-based score that follows and changes as the characters age in the film. A ‘simple piano’ piece can grow with the characters by use of orchestration and other compositional techniques including tonality, dynamics and texture.

Up is a G-rated film dealing with emotive, human situations rarely covered in other children’s entertainment. It would be wonderful if students could play selected pieces and your studio could come together to watch the film. That would surely be a learning experience the student would remember!

Whereas the movie Frozen demonstrated how important and influential songs in a film can be, Up is much more an instrumental score. Giacchino likens it to an opera, although only a couple of songs have lyrics.

There are a lot of on-line resources about the film music, including the composer and producer discussing the music. Compositional elements could be discussed and explored with students.

The book itself is presented with clear easy to read large staves; a great size for students and teachers who don’t like to wear their glasses. Some pieces are neatly 2 pages long, which appeals to a lot of my students and some are considerably longer.  There are some tricky rhythms throughout some of the music, so I would work on those away from the piece and then introduce them and play them for the student.

Easy piano arrangements of 13 pieces from Pixar’s mammoth animated hit. Includes: Carl Goes Up • It’s Just a House • Kevin Beak’n • Married Life • Memories Can Weigh You Down • The Nickel Tour • Paradise Found • The Small Mailman Returns • The Spirit of Adventure • Stuff We Did • We’re in the Club Now • and more.

Au RRP inc GST $26.95 

Order Code: 129727

Available from your favourite music retail store!

Relaxing Music for Piano Solo

Teachers across Australia and New Zealand have been joining our review team to provide real life reviews of new publications.
Winston Hills teacher Dianna writes…

Thank you so much for sending me the book ‘Relaxing Music for Piano Solo’ to review. I think it has to be one of my favourites!

It says “40 soothing selections including Beautiful Dreamer, Claire de Lune, Fur Elise, Londonderry Air, Pie Jesu, The Swan, To a Wild Rose”.

The pieces range in difficulty from 3rd grade to 6th grade.

There is no fingering on any of the pieces (not necessarily a bad thing though). Most of the pieces are two pages long, but some are longer and page turns can be tricky, but easy to copy the page that needs to be turned and tape it in for performance purposes (except the piece that goes for 6 pages).

The arrangements of the pieces are fantastic though. Some of my favourites are ‘Nimrod’ (Elgar), ‘Largo’ (Handel), ‘The Ash Grove’ (Old Welsh Air), ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusic’ Second Movement (Mozart) and ‘Jupiter’ (Holst).

I was asked to play last minute at a wedding recently. Usually I play the violin, but this time they wanted the piano, and this book was full of pieces just perfect to play.

The selection of repertoire is great. Lots of classical pieces that aren’t too difficult, but well known.

Looks like this would make an ideal book for 40 Piece Challenge students. Older students would find some ‘quick win’ repertoire and younger students would have a plethora of repertoire to continually work on.  A handy book full of useful pieces for any pianist to know!

Order code is 130679 $29.95 from your favourite music retail store!



Everything We Want in an Incentive Program

Piano teachers across the world are catching on to the 40 Piece Challenge idea. Many piano teachers and bloggers have written about it including the original post from Tim Topham that led us to create the challege in The Piano Teacher magazine in the first place!

Other teachers from around the world including  Frances WilsonElissa Milne, Carly McDonald, Rebecca Stewart and Samantha Coates have all written about the challenge.

Teacher and Composer Wendy Stevens has created new downloadable charts for teachers. Follow the link to read her whole blog and to get your hands on her downloadable charts.

From Wendy’s blog…

Are you one of the many teachers that is motivating their students with the amazing 30 or 40 piece challenge? If you don’t know anything about it or haven’t tried it yet, stop everything and consider the benefits that teachers from around the world are reporting:

  • Better sight reading skills
  • Exposure to more styles of music
  • A better “sense” of accomplishment for the student
  • Overall faster progress
  • More teacher satisfaction, knowing you are motivating students with music

It might sound too good to be true, but that’s just what it does. It’s everything we really want! The idea is that you challenge your students to learn and polish 30 (or 40) pieces during the year. These can be recital pieces, holiday pieces, pieces for the school talent show, hymn arrangements, method book pieces (as long as they are 16 measures…that’s my rule), or any piece they have to read!

Can My Piano Students Do It?

If you are worried that they can’t possibly get through that many pieces, remember that the key is that you give them not only challenging pieces, and pieces at their level, but also pieces that area easier than their level so that they get through a lot of literature and you can expose them to many styles of music. ALL of this reading of music results in better readers and really gives a sense of accomplishment to students which is paramount especially in the school age years (stay tune for more on attending a “Have You Forgotten What It’s Like to be a Child” workshop!).

Click here to read Wendy’s entire blog post.

Piano Music of Sonny Chua

0101340976Piano teachers across the USA are travelling to Chicago this week to attend the NCKP. As a special treat this year in the exhibitor hall there is an Australian Music Booth! If you are one of our US readers attending the NCKP, go along and check out  Australian composer, Sonny Chua’s music.

If you are not lucky enough to be in Chicago this week, here is a sneak peak inside Sonny Chua’s collection: Piano Music of Sonny Chua. This collection would be fabulous for 40 Piece Challenge students as it includes pieces at a range of levels, so some quick wins as well as some pieces to work towards.

SonnyChuaSonny Chua writes of his Piano Music Collection…

These miniatures were created to taunt, tickle and teach. I wrote these pieces to amuse myself, as much as for the student to perform, and for the audience to participate as our unsuspecting victims.

Even though these works are preceded by descriptive titles, I hope the music itself is just as evocative without its extra-musical references. I believe music is a unique language and can perhaps communicate more richly and mightily than words.

These pieces were great fun to write as they allowed me to explore many aspects of pianistic technique and timbre. It was also immensely enjoyable to dabble as a “sonic character actor” with a range of musical concepts and styles. I hope you will enjoy the craft and the bluff in this quirky collection of piano music.

Piano Music of Sonny Chua (order number 0101340976) is available through these great stores in Australia and available from all good stores in the US via Hal Leonard. The collection includes:

You Dirty Rat (from a Gangster Suite)







Angel (intermezzo from Sonatina)







No. 3 (from Waltz it All About?)





No. 12 (from Waltz it All About?)





Hoonmobile (from Bogus Boogies)







Headache Crawl (from Bogus Bogies)





TV Zombie (from Bogus Boogies)





T-Rex Hungry (from a Day in the Life of T-Rex)





Jamaican Fumble (from Red Hot Rhapsodies)





Theme & 12 Deviations

40 Piece Challenge Stickers!

Another fabulous idea from a clever NSW piano teacher, Catherine.

40PieceChallengeStickersI made my own stickers! I designed stickers using Vistaprint.
The students get a sticker for each piece they complete that has the number so they always know where they are up to.
I also have a matching list where I record the pieces.
It has the added bonus of making their notebook look happy and successful.

What a fabulous design! We love how cheerful they are, Catherine. Thanks for sharing your idea!

Relaxing Music – Grade 5/6+

Sam_Coates_067_cropThe ‘Relaxing Music’ volume contains a wonderful selection of well-known classics for the piano (such as Debussy’s ‘Claire de Lune’) and also features some excellent arrangements of orchestral pieces (such as Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ variation and Holst’s ‘Jupiter’).

As the name of the volume suggests, all of the pieces portray a mood of reflection and tranquillity.

This compilation is mostly suitable for late intermediate to advanced pianists (Grade 6 and above) (containing pieces such as), however there are some ‘easier’ pieces such as Fur Elise which is typically graded at around Grade 5 difficulty.

It would be an excellent addition to any young pianist’s music library.

Big thanks to reviewer Samantha Coates!
130679Song List:
Air (from WATER MUSIC), Air On The G String (from ORCHESTRAL SUITE NO. 3), Aria (from THE ENGLISH PATIENT), The Ash Grove, Ave Verum (Jesu, Word Of God Incarnate), The Bamboo Flute, Barcarolle (from THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN)), Beautiful Dreamer, Canon In D (from ORDINARY PEOPLE), Clair de Lune, Dance Of The Spirits (from ORFEO ED EURIDICE), Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (“Romance”) – Second Movement, Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, Fur Elise, Gymnopedie No. 1, How Can I Keep From Singing, Intermezzo (from CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA), Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring, Jupiter (from THE PLANETS), Largo (from XERXES), Londonderry Air, Mazurka In A Minor Op. 17 – No. 4, Meditation (from THAIS), Minuet, Morning (from PEER GYNT), Nimrod (from ENIGMA VARIATIONS), Pastorale (from CHRISTMAS CONCERTO, Op. 6, No. 8), Pie Jesu, Prelude in B Minor Op. 28 – No. 6
Prelude in C Major (from THE WELL-TEMPERED CLAVIER, BOOK 1), Prelude in E Minor Op. 28 – No. 4, Reverie, Sakura (Cherry Blossoms), Solvejg’s Song, The Swan (Le Cygne) (from CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS), Symphony No. 5 In C-sharp Minor (“Adagietto”) Fourth Movement Excerpt, To A Wild Rose (from WOODLAND SKETCHES), Traumerei, Waltz In A-Flat Major Op. 39 – No. 15, Water Is Wide.

This publication is available from all these fabulous stores. The Australian RRP is $29.95 (inc GST) and the item code for ordering is 130679.