First Chair in County Orchestra, this year, goes to a Freshmen Flutist!

Congratulations to Marissa, a freshmen, who was first chair this year in County Orchestra.  This is highly unusual, as students qualify by recommendations from their band-director and by having placed in PMEA district band the following year. Marissa made 4th chair in district band in 8th grade, which is also highly unusual and most students do not get into districts until in high school!  But, Marissa’s hard work and dedication to learning her audition music is paying off!23622177_1583895445009237_8993950361087199806_n.jpg



As a professional oboist with oodles of years of performing (and working on computers), the thumb can be a very sore subject!   I have basal joint arthritis in my right thumb, which has required a few cortisone shots to get me through a challenging English Horn solo with orchestra a few years ago.  But, one can only have so many of those shots before it damages the joint.  I have a doctor ordered thumb/wrist brace that I wear at night if it gets too achy, but with some useful devices, that help support the oboe and take the weight off my thumb, I am able to play quite comfortably.

There are a lot of ways to relieve the pressure of the weight of the oboe to prevent issues or to make playing more comfortable, even if some damage has been done.  Not all work for all players, so you have to experiment to see what works for you.

The most basic device is a rubberized cushioned thumb saddle that I use on my own oboe as well as with my beginner oboe students, especially those with small hands.  The removable Ridenour Thumb Saddle is actually labeled for clarinet, but it works on the oboe too.  It slides over the thumb rest (if there is a ring, you will need to take a knife and make a slit in the top so it will slide around the ring).   See link below for a description and picture.

I also use a device that attaches to my thumb rest and rests on my chair to take the weight of the oboe off of my thumb.   It is also removable and easy to store.  I believe that only RDG sells this device (see link below).  There is a long and short version plus one that has an adaptor for those oboes without a ring on the thumb rest.

Some oboists swear by neck straps and there are elasticized and non-elasticized versions.  You do need to have a ring on the thumb rest to attach a neck strap.

There are also more complicated and expensive options that sometime require installation by a professional.  Forrest’s has a wide variety of those options including adjustable thumb rests and floor pegs for English Horn (see link below)

The following links are for information purposes only – you may find these projects less expensive elsewhere):

Ridenour Thumb Saddle for clarinet:

The Kickstand BHOB

Installed thumb savers, neck straps and pegs:

Helpful Literature:

“Playing (Less) Hurt:  An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians,” by Janet Horvath

“Oboemotions:  What Every Oboe Payer Needs to Know About the Body,” by Stephen Caplan


Excited to be here!

Hi everyone! I have been super excited to start teaching at Perfect 5th. In the past month and a half I’ve started working with my first few students, and gotten to know the facilities and many of the fantastic instructors who work here. As a matter of background – I used to teach piano and guitar full time for 7 years, but I took a break from that life to go back to school. Now I’m back to teaching lessons on a part time basis, and I couldn’t be more happy to do it at Perfect 5th. I can’t wait to get more involved and see what opportunities await!

Goal Setting : Partnering Together by Examining Motives and Emotions in the Music Studio

Goal Setting : Partnering Together by Examining Motives and Emotions in the Music Studio

Occasionally, I have a student who does not practice or move ahead in lessons,  and I start to wonder what I can do to get the ball rolling to help the student make progress.

I have a flute studio of about 55 students, and I generally have about 5 students like this at any given time.  Lack of progress and practicing seems to happen across all ages, from ages 5 to adult.  I find it necessary to constantly examine my own motives for wanting them to work hard and move ahead, but I realize I must remain open to exploring why a student may not be progressing. I must examine the motives of the student and myself.

There are several ways I go about this.

The first is an exercise I do at home, when I have time to reflect on the situation. I try to thoughtfully write out all the goals that I have for my student, for myself, and for my flute studio. Then I write down what I think my student’s goals are.  This does not mean that this is EXACTLY what the student’s goals are, and I recognize the fact that I may be making assumptions.  But, this is helpful because it helps me to think outside of the box and begin to uncover certain reasons why the student is not progressing.   I try to  explore in myself why I might have certain goals for this student, and discover if there are any conflicting goals the student may have. This is simply a brainstorming exercise that can help me look at possible multifaceted reasons that the student is not practicing or progressing. In this situation, I imagine what the student may be thinking and feeling vs. my own thoughts and feelings. It helps to identify my own goals that may be in conflict with the possible goals and needs of this particular student.  

The second way to examine goals is to simply go into a lesson with a sheet of paper and explain to the student that I would like to hear what their goals are.  I write down what his or her goals are in one section, and write down what some of my goals are for that student.   I write down and  share with your student some of the reason for some of the goals that I want for the student, and I also want them to try to explain to me reasons for some of their goals.  If the goals between student and teacher do not match up, it is simply my job to make sure the student knows that I am there to partner with them to come up with a set of goals that is reasonable for the student. It may be that the student only says one or two things for the goals. (‘I want to have fun” or “I just like my lessons and playing flute”). If that is the case, I have to examine if that is enough reason for me to continue teaching her, especially if I have goals that are more focused on only having students who work hard or have a high level of playing.  For me, having fun playing and enjoying lessons (while not really practicing) can certainly be a good thing for some students who are already juggling a full schedule or having emotional issues.  Helping them grow into good adults and creating joy in their life is absolutely a positive benefit.

Sometimes, student’s goals are in conflict with needs and wishes of their parents.  In this case, it is important that communication about goal setting includes the parents.  The exercise above can be modified to include the parent’s goals and feelings.  If a student is progressing slowly and the parent is wishing them to improve more quickly, the teacher does need to be in communication with the parent.  A thoughtful approach with a sheet of paper that can list concrete goals and the  feelings  and emotions of all parties is helpful.

Many students are more willing to work on their practicing skills, fundamental skills and music once they are involved in the goal setting process. I try to also teach them that their goals can simply turn into “wishes” if they do not come up with any steps to achieve those goals. If their goals turn into wishes, then they simply will not progress.

As a side note,  working on goal setting with a student is a great exercise for them, and doing this with your students can set an example of how to go about making changes in any situation in life. Perhaps this student will eventually mature into a mindset that includes setting goals toward improvement in music. 

 Upon examining my own goals,  I have discovered that in essence, I strive to be a teacher that is there for every student who walks across my threshold.  I may not be aware of all the things that they are dealing with in life, but I am open to the possibility that for some reason I am there to help them with whatever they are dealing with, and this may not coincide with my personal goals for them. Most of the time, it is musical, but other times, I hope that i am helping them grow as human beings and lifting up their human spirits in some way that I may never know.

10 Tips For Making Your Practice Time Really Count (from Music Teachers Resources)

  1. Practice a little EVERY day; this is far more beneficial than one or two long practice sessions a week.
  2. Have a certain time every day that is set aside specifically for your practice. It will then become part of your daily routine.
  3. Split your daily practice into even smaller time chunks i.e. technical work in the morning and pieces in the afternoon/evening.
  4. Learn each piece a phrase at a time. Practice each phrase SLOWLY until you have it and then go to the next phrase.
  5. Starting at the beginning of the piece and then going to the end each time you practice is not an effective use of your time! You are merely practicing mistakes!
  6. Don’t practice mistakes or you will become very good at playing them!
  7. Once in a while, start in the middle of your piece and work to the end.
  8. Regularly record yourself and listen carefully to your recording.
  9. Practice the hard parts-not just the parts you like.
  10. Listen to your pieces being played by the great players (or sung by the great singers).

These tips were found on

We hope to see you at our Halloween Open House this Sunday, October 29, 2017 from 2-5 p.m.!

Art is More Than Just a Pretty Face!

Art is More Than Just a Pretty Face!
by Jennifer Speiser, Art instructor at P5jenniferspeiser-1.jpg
I often hear, “you were born with a talent to paint” or “you’ve spent years practicing to be able to paint so well”.  While I do admit I come from a long line of amateur artists, I have spent little time practicing with paints, until recently.  In 2014, I was struck by a life altering illness. I had to quit a career I had worked so hard at and loved passionately.  I was left with lots of ‘extra’ time on my hands.  One day, I watched a how to paint in One Stroke video on YouTube.  I went to AC Moore, purchased some acrylic paint, brushes and a few canvases.  The rest is history.  If I can do it, so can you!  The hidden treasure: painting was benefiting my health in ways I had not planned for.  Here are a few the health benefits of painting (and drawing):
Strengthens memory-One of the health benefits of painting and drawing can be experienced by those who suffer from illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other conditions impacting memory. Although they may have problems with their memory, enabling patients to engage in painting and drawing can help boost their recalling skills. As they sharpen their minds through imagination and thinking, they may experience less complicated conditions of their illnesses.
Enhances problem solving and motor skills-Individuals may actually be surprised to learn that painting and drawing can instigate the development of critical thinking and problem solving. In fact, painting and drawing enables an individual to realize that there can be more than one solution to a single problem. As they discover the artworks they can produce from a blank sketch pad, they develop the technique of thinking outside the box.
Fosters stress relief-Perhaps the biggest health benefit of painting and drawing involve the emotional aspects of individuals. Just like physical activity, art work has the same stress relief benefits that can lower blood pressure, heart rate and lessen the release of stress hormones into our systems.
Improves communication skills-As art involves expressing one’s inner thoughts and feelings, artists can project all these indescribable emotions through paintings and drawings. In using art to break free from personal limitations, individuals can surpass their weaknesses. These can include shyness, autism, and other disabilities.
It’s just plain fun!
Be sure to check out the art classes offered at The Perfect 5th!  Classes are geared towards all ages and experience levels.
Jennifer Speiser can customize a paint night for you and your party of friends.  Just drop us a line at to get in touch with Jennifer, or visit her page at