Yes, Virginia, You Must Practice Sight-Reading!

Sightreading, also called a prima vista (Italian meaning “at first sight“), is the reading and performing of a piece of music or song in music notation that the performer has not seen before.

The only way you will learn to sight-read and get good at it is to practice sight-reading and you must practice every day to improve those skills (10-15 minutes of your practice time).  Knowing your scales and increasing your technique is paramount to becoming a good sight-reader.   l

I have noted below key areas to look at before you begin to sight-read.

Key signature(s) and time signature(s) – noting any changes throughout the piece

Unusual rhythms and repeated patterns


Repeats (including any D.S. and D.C.)

Tempo – don’t worry about playing fast when learning to sight-read – it is more important to try to be accurate.

I play duets with my students to incorporate sight-reading in a fun way.  We are practicing not only sight-reading, but also playing in tune with one another and I am emulating good tone production for my students to hear and imitate.  Get with a friend or a group of friends – play duets, trios, etc. with any combo of instruments and just have fun!


What is a teaching artist?

Hello! Heather here.

The Association of Teaching Artists defines a teaching artist as “a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through, and about the arts. A teaching artist, by definition, is a two-career professional: a working artist and a working educator.”

I have always defined myself as a teaching artist because for my entire adult life I have worked simultaneously as a recording and touring musician as well as a music teacher. As most of us know, it can be difficult to support yourself as an artist in the music industry; it can take years to establish yourself, and all too often musicians are offered payment in the form of “exposure” – which may be great in some circumstances, but it won’t pay the rent! 🙂

That’s why I’ve always been grateful for the opportunity to support myself as a music teacher. It offers more flexibility than a typical job, so if I need to take time off for touring or conferences I can do so and trust that my students will be waiting for me when I get back. There are challenges for the self-employed too, of course – but overall I could not imagine a better way to support myself as an artist. I was lucky to discover that I adore teaching, and the fulfillment I get from instilling a love of music in others is its own reward!

I also feel that my work as an artist enriches what I can offer to my students; practical advice about songwriting, booking, promoting, touring, and all of the hats an aspiring musician has to wear is valuable to many of the people I have worked with over the years.

That’s why I think it’s great that so many of the staff at The Perfect 5th are teaching artists too, in many different genres and fields! It makes a difference when the person teaching you has a wealth of practical experience to offer you. Visit to read about some of our wonderful teachers and the art they make inside and outside of the school!

And if you’d like to support my band Good In The Dark, you can buy our album at The Perfect 5th or follow us on Facebook ( and Instagram ( Thanks!

Great Job at District Auditions!

Each year, close to 100 flutists at the high school level try out to be in district band and orchestra.  It’s a long process, where students get their music in May and audition in December.  They audition on scales and a college-level piece of music.  This year, Marissa Duggan, Jacey Crayton and Michele  Arnold made it in.  Jacey even had the honor of achieving first chair in band!  The top 8 students get to try out for district orchestra, so Jacey made principal flute in that, as well! Congrats to all 3 outstanding flutists, for their hard work!



Tune It or Die

Do you ever wonder why the oboe tunes the orchestra?!  In the late 1600s, orchestras were comprised of mostly string instruments. Two oboes were sometimes used to boost the first and second violin parts. Soon composers were writing separate parts for the oboe, showing off its beautiful singing tone as a contrast to the violins. The bright, rather penetrating sound of the oboe was easy to hear, and its pitch was more stable than gut strings, so it was the obvious choice for reliable tuning. Other instruments were used in on occasion in the orchestra at that time – flutes, bassoons, French horns, clarinets – before its instrumentation became relatively standardized as we know it today. But oboes were almost always present, so they became the standard instrument for tuning.

Orchestras always tune to ‘A’, because every string instrument has an ‘A’ string. The standard pitch in the United States is A=440 Hertz (440 vibrations per second). European orchestras favor a slightly higher pitch – A=442 or higher.

Now here is a little known secret that the audience may not know – oboes can play sharp or flat, just like any other instrument, but every oboist uses a little electronic meter to ensure that their ‘A’ is exactly right.


Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Voice

Here are some tips I have learned for maintaining a healthy voice, especially over the winter months! :

  1. Stay hydrated! This is crucial for maintaining healthy vocal cords and a healthy overall body.
  2. Don’t overuse your voice when you are sick.  If you can, avoid speaking whenever possible.  Don’t whisper, this is horrible for your voice!
  3. Get plenty of rest.  6-8 hours a night is best for most people, only you know your body. Listen to it!
  4. Eat a variety of colorful foods (Fruit Loops do not count!)  Most fruits and veggies are wonderful for your body, and some can help you fight inflammation and promote healing.
  5. I recommend drinking warm water with honey.  Throat Coat tea is wonderful as well, but is more expensive.
  6. Here is an exercise you can do to help raspiness/hoarseness: blow through a straw into a glass of water (just like you used to blow bubbles into chocolate milk when you were little!)  This helps your vocal cords relax and is also a good diaphragmatic exercise.
  7. Speaking of exercise, try to keep your body healthy by exercising regularly.  It is good for your mind and your body.  Do things you enjoy, and exercise with a friend if you need someone to help keep you motivated.  Meditation is also wonderful for your body and can help you be more relaxed as well as help with your breathing.
  8. Take a steamed shower to help your vocal cords relax and to moisten mucous membranes when you are sick (or run your shower on hot and sit in your bathroom and breathe in the steam, just like a sauna!)
  9. Warm up AND cool down your voice before performing.  Humming is a wonderful way to start warming up your voice in the morning and is also good for cooling down your voice if you aren’t able to fully sing your warm-ups.
  10. Find throat sprays/lozenges/natural remedies that work for you. Everyone is different!
  11. Avoid irritants like alcohol, smoking, and caffeine.  If you are like me and have a cup of coffee or another form of soda once in a while, make sure you re-hydrate with water to compensate.  Caffeine is a diuretic.
  12. Be smart with your voice. As I stated before, whispering is horrible for your voice.  Avoid it if you can!  Yelling and screaming should be avoided as well.  Do not push yourself to sing if pain is present.  Don’t forget to warm up before singing!

These thoughts have been brought to you by my own personal collection and also with the help of Meagan Earls in her article 15 Tips for Singing While Sick.  You know your body the best out of everyone, so take good care of your body and your voice.  It is the only one you have!