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!




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

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.

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

Voice Teacher, Amanda, Shares tips on finding a teacher!

Tips on choosing a voice teacher. . .

Voice teachers are as subjective and as varied as the genres we can sing in! When looking for someone to study with, here are some things to be curious about:

Their availability and pricing. If your schedules don’t line up, then you cannot reach your goals with them at this time. Some teachers have a waiting list. If you really like this person, you may wish to wait for an opening. If your needs are more time sensitive, you may wish to look for someone else. This teacher may even be able to suggest other teachers in the area that fit your needs (pricing or otherwise). Don’t be afraid to ask anything!

Their schooling.  There is no one neat little certificate that says a person can teach voice. If there was, I would have it. Their is freedom in this. There is also a danger to this. If you were going to hire a personal trainer, you would check to see what gives them the right to train you.  Do the same for voice.

Their philosophy or teaching style. Continuing the trainer metaphor. . . If you wanted to run a marathon, you would pick someone who has experience training for one. If you wanted to learn how to run a faster 5k, you might choose a different trainer than one who has only run marathons.  Choose a teacher who knows what you want to know and can teach it to you well.

Keep in mind, the best teacher is not always the best performer or vice versa.  One can have all of the credentials in the world and still not be able to convey that knowledge in a way that clicks with you. Go with your gut, and find someone who understands your learning style and your goals. Also, find someone whose teaching style you can understand.

Their Goals.  Be prepared to share what you hope to learn or to do with your voice lessons.  Ask them the same questions.  You can ask how they handle specific vocal issues (belting, changing voices, breathy sound,etc.). You can ask what their goals are for their students after leaving their studio.  Every teacher has a different focus. Find one whose focus can align with yours.

Any cancellation policies or other expectations.  Some teachers will let you cancel and not pay for the missed lesson. Others will not.  Investigate this.  Do they have recitals you must perform in?  Will they only work on their repertoire and not coach you for auditions and singing elsewhere?You have a right to ask about anything you can think of.

Remember that this is a service. You can cancel your service anytime. You can seek another’s services after or even at the same time. I have learned something different from each of my voice teachers, and they have all helped to shape me and my voice today.  Stay curious!


Amanda Ainscough is an very active vocal artist and can be heard singing all over Central PA.  She also has a large studio at the Perfect 5th!


Flute foundations: 5 note patterns!

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In the flute studio at P5, on any given day, one is likely to hear about 10 minutes of every 30 minute lesson on 5-note patterns.   5-note patterns are the first five notes of every scale, and students are required to learn them from memory by the time they are finished with Blocki Book 1.  In order to do so, we practice with games that help the student memorize them.

The first step is working on finger changes between 2 notes at a time.  Then, as we focus on memorizing the 5 notes in a row, we play a game where we put the notes out in front of the student, and after playing it successfully 2 times in a row, we turn over a note to the blank side of the card.  The student again tries to play the 5-note pattern in a row and tries to recall what the missing note is.  As they continue this, they eventually have turned over the cards and they are playing from memory.

After the card game, we may place the note cards under rhythm cards and play the five note patterns to different rhythms that the student is soon to be focusing on in their music.  They play their five note patterns to these different rhythms.  To make it even more difficult, we play the patterns in harmony, with the teacher starting on the third note above the students note.  This also means that the teacher is playing a different rhythm from the student, thus reinforcing ensemble and leadership skills.

Another activity that we do with the five note patterns is walking while playing them.  I got this idea from Kathy Blocki, my mentor and KinderFlute trainer.  The students and I  walk outside on good days, or in a circle inside, playing the 5-note patterns over and over.  It is much less boring to practice scales while walking around! The student is to match their feet to the quarter notes that they are playing (one note each foot).  After they master this, then we work on 8th notes ( 2 notes each foot), and then 16th notes (4 notes each foot) and 32nd notes (8 notes each foot).  This activity is beneficial for several reasons. First, it helps students learn to hear the subdivision of the beat and feel it with their bodies.  Second, it is a good way to practice speeding up their five-note patterns.  Lastly, walking and playing scales is a skill that involves more brain power…it is much more difficult to play the scales while walking, therefore, if they are able to do well with this, is demonstrates mastery over the fingers when playing scales.

Sometimes in lessons, I pull out the Jenga game, which has all the 5-note patterns written on the blocks.  They pull out a block, and play the scale that is written on it.  We keep playing until the blocks fall.  I have other board games that I re-designed to become a randomized practice game, as well.  A favorite is the zoo-animal game, that requires the student to pull out random animals from a box and play the scale that is  on the animal.  Students try to make a very large zoo before they leave their lesson!  We also have random M&M days, where I have them play as many 5-note patterns from memory, and students collect M&M’s in their bags which I then hang up on a cork-board for all students to see.  Once a bag is full (and this may take several months), the student can take their bag home and we begin again.

Despite all the fun ways I have to teach scales and 5-note patterns, I work very hard at reminding students why I think scales are important.  I make up a beautiful song and play it for them on my flute. Within that song, I place scales in it and have the students point out when I am playing scales.  I tell them that scales occur in my music all the time, and because I practice my scales, I can learn lots of my music quickly! I show them music that I am personally working on and have them point out the scales in it.  I also tell them that scales are the time to practice lowering their fingers and practice good posture, so that they can play very quickly, eventually!