November 2015 Student of the Month

November 2015 Student of the Month
Elizabeth Murray

Ready for Ragtime – M. Bober

Dance – Gurlitt


Elizabeth is 12 years old and is currently in the 7th grade at St. Charles Borromeo School in Destrehan.  Elizabeth has been taking piano lessons for about 3 years now, and she has shown tremendous improvement in both her practicing and performance techniques in the past month.  Elizabeth is an eager participant in all of the performances and competitions throughout the year, most recently playing in NOMTA’s Romantic and Contemporary Auditions at Loyola University this November.  When she is not practicing, Elizabeth enjoys art and participating on the Louisiana STORM Aquatics swim team.  In Elizabeth’s own words, she enjoys coming to lessons because “Piano is Fun!.”  I’m glad you still think so, Elizabeth.

October 2015 Student of the Month

October 2015 Student of the Month
Nathaniel Kinchen

Gypsy Rhapsody – Rollin

Minuet in G – J.S. Bach

13 year old Nathaniel Kinchen has been a student of mine for over 3 years now.  He is currently in the 8th grade in a homeschooling program that he attends with his brothers.  In the past few months, Nathaniel has developed much more disciplined practice habits, prepared pieces for performances, and shown marked improvement in his sight reading.  In addition, Nathaniel consistently performs well in both recitals and competitions.  He will be beginning extended lessons in January of 2016.  In addition to piano, Nathaniel enjoys martial arts, playing the drums, and technological pursuits.  He also works part time at his dad’s store, Hall Piano Company!  In Nathaniel’s words, he enjoys music because “it is another way to express yourself other than through words and actions.”  Well put, Nathaniel.

September 2015: Student of the Month

September 2015 Student of the Month
Joshua Ngo

Baby Circus Elephant – David Carr Glover

6 year old Joshua Ngo is one of my newest students.  After only 3 months of lessons, Joshua is already reading his notes on the staff, counts out loud, and plays with a beautiful legato touch.  Most recently, Joshua finished memorizing his first piece, “Baby Circus Elephant” by David Carr Glover.  Joshua is a first grade student at Lake Castle Private School, and he enjoys reading and hanging out with his sisters when he is not in school or practicing.  I am thrilled to have Joshua as a student and can’t wait to see his progress as he grows into his very mature work ethic! is Featured in a Book!

Really cool things are happening over here! is a featured website  in David Cutler’s new book, “The Savvy Music Teacher!”  Cutler’s book provides a blueprint for creating a successful career teaching music, and I am very honored to have been chosen as a feature for this book!  It’s currently available for sale on Oxford University Press’ website.

The Savvy Musician

Kaitlyn Tholen’s Senior Recital

This June, my student teacher and 2014-2015 Lynn Celestin Memorial Scholarship recipient, Kaitlyn Tholen, performed a fantastic Senior Recital at Hall Piano Company.  Kaitlyn has been studying with me for 10 years and has been teaching privately for 3 years, as well.  She will be attending Tulane University in the Fall, where she will be studying pre-medicine with a minor in music.  I am so very proud of Kaitlyn’s accomplishments and wonderful example that she sets for her peers.  You can download and listen to the audio recording of Kaitlyn’s recital here.  Congratulations to Kaitlyn!  Keep up the great work!





2015 LFMC Festival Results

Congratulations to all of the students who participated in the 2015 LFMC Festival at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary on Saturday, March 14.  I am pleased to report that all of the students who participated received “Superior” ratings!  Keep up the great work!

Sarah Fath
Nathaniel Kinchen
Stevie Kinchen
Neel Mondal
Sneha Mondal
Patrick Murray
Destiny Sanders
Kaitlyn Tholen
Jenna Thomas (Student of Kaitlyn Tholen)
Wendy Yang

Romantic and Contemporary Auditions 2014

A very big congratulations to all of the students who participated in the Romantic and Contemporary Auditions on November 15th.  We had some outstanding results this year, including 3 medalists and 6 students chosen to play in the Honors Recital on November 16th at the UNO Performing Arts Center.

Medalists: Sarah Fath, Nathaniel Kinchen, Elizabeth Murray

Honors Recitalists: Stevie Kinchen, Neel Mondal, Priscilla Moradel, Patrick Murray, Destiny Sanders, Jenna Thomas (Student of student teacher, Kaitlyn Tholen)


Neel Mondal



Stevie Kinchen


Patrick Murray


Destiny Sanders


Priscilla Moradel


Jenna Thomas

Learning How to Learn

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about what motivates me as a teacher.  Am I getting the right message across to my students, and am I helping them learn practical skills that will benefit them as musicians?  Sometimes, I find myself getting caught up in the time frame in which things are getting done (or not getting done, as it were) rather than WHY things are not getting done.  It can be easy to yield to the pressure of preparing students for juries, competitions, college auditions, etc. and miss the fact that some students are struggling, not just coming into lessons unprepared.  It is easier to pull the old “practice more” than to sit down and really try to help the students approach the problems in a disciplined manner and explain how to fix them.

The more students I meet and the longer I teach, the more I have realized how few of my students will realistically go on to be professional musicians, much less professional pianists.  Most of the students I teach are are young, intelligent people who have other subjects and interests in which they excel.  Most of them are worldly enough to understand that in terms of practicality, music may not be their best option.  That’s fine.  Everyone has bills to pay and other people in their lives to think about, and sometimes the most practical option really is the best option.  Basically, how can I make music into a practical skill for people whose goals are not to become professional musicians?

As we watch our school systems change and morph into things that we have started to fear and resent, it has become clear that most children and even adults are not learning how to learn.  They are learning how to regurgitate.  They are learning how to memorize information with no insight into its practical use, spit that information out on a test, and promptly forget it.  This is what our modern school system emphasizes.  We, as instructors of music, are not the modern school system.  It is not our job to make sure that all of our students get A’s.  It is our job to teach our students practical methods of approaching an “impractical” subject.  It is our job to teach our students how to learn and continue to build on that knowledge.

In one of my recent piano classes, I started getting frustrated with my students’ lack of attention to the dynamic markings.  No matter how many times I reminded them, they continued to just play notes.  Notes, notes, notes.  Boring notes.  Consistently loud notes.  This time, I decided to approach it from another angle.  I asked them why one line was marked “forte” and the next line “piano?”  “What’s the point of the dynamics?  Are you just doing them because I’m telling you to?  Don’t do anything because I tell you to do it.  Do it because you have thought about it and it makes sense.  And if it doesn’t make sense, then you challenge me on that.  The point is to make music.  Do it because you want to make music.”  It was as if I had given a 5 year old permission to eat candy for every meal.  Giving a student permission to make their own choices and to think rather than accept as fact is hugely empowering.  Nobody should need their teacher’s permission to disagree.

Since this class, I have been spending a great deal of time working with my students to help them understand why they have problems with certain concepts and techniques and not with others.  More importantly, if we can identify the problems, then we can identify the solutions.  Every single person is different, and every single person should know that the way they think is never wrong. What is wrong is working against your “problems” rather than working with them.

I do not need all of my students to go on to be professional musicians.  What I do need them to do is to come out of lessons having learned something about themselves that they didn’t know before.  Learning about yourself through music inspires a desire to share what you have learned with others.  This is when music can become an outlet to express yourself articulately and uniquely.  That is my job as a teacher: creating a safe space for students to question and learn from those questions.

Lynn Celestin Memorial Scholarship Concert

On September 20, 2014, we held the inaugural concert for the Lynn Celestin Memorial Scholarship Fund through the Steinway Society of New Orleans at Hall Piano Company.  This concert featured our scholarship winner, Kaitlyn Tholen, friends of Mrs. Lynn Celestin’s, and some of her former students.  Special congratulations to my students Kaitlyn Tholen and Emily McWilliams for their performances.  It was a great evening!

photo 1-8 photo 5-8photo 4-7 photo 2-4

Emily Fransen and Peggy Fransen in Concert!

My mom and I will be playing our very first concert together this weekend, and we are very excited!  We have inadvertently programmed all Romantic and Contemporary music, and I am personally pretty happy about it.  The concert will feature both duet and solo work, and we hope that you can make it!