Jennifer Thomas

Jennifer Thomas

Jennifer is a composer, recording artist, and piano teacher from Seattle, Washington. She has been teaching the piano for 15 years, and currently maintains a small studio of 15 piano students and 2 violin students, where she encourages creativity, and fun. In addition to teaching, she records and composes her own music, and she performs publicly. Last year she toured the northwest including shows in Seattle at Benaroya Hall, Salt Lake City, Idaho Falls featuring guest artists Emmy award winning composer/pianist Jace Vek, and pianist Michele McLaughlin. She released her debut album "Key of Sea" in January of 2007, and just released a 2nd album, "The Lullaby Album" in July of 2009. The 2-Disc release features 13 original and traditional lullabies in both Solo piano and fully Orchestrated versions. The album includes the talents of Emmy Award winning composer/pianist Jace Vek, Ourstage Grand prize winner Jillian Goldin, and Grammy Award nominated producer Paul Speer. Jennifer's music has been featured on NBC Universal sports, as well as several independent films, most recently Poor Boyz Productions 2008 International Free Skiing Festival award winning release "Reasons". She won a publicly voted award for her music in the 2008 Swan Lake Moving Image and Music Awards in Germany, and her song "Fly Away" won 1st place in the 2007 SLM: IM Awards, three 1st place channel prizes for Instrumental Music on, was included in Kathy Parson's "Top 20 of 2007" list (Solo Piano Publications), "Top 20 of 2009" and "Top 40 of the Decade" lists. Jennifer is currently scoring her first film score (to be completed by September 2010) and is working on a new Classical-Crossover album set to be released in late 2011. Jennifer started playing the piano and violin at age 5, and went on to study Piano Pedigogy at Brigham Young University (Idaho). She has performed as a soloist with the Murray Symphony Orchestra on the MacDowel 2nd Piano Concerto, and won the silver prize in her university's concerto competition for Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto. She has worked with the Seattle Symphony, participated with the Seattle Composer’s Salon at Benaroya Hall, and was a featured soloist at the Roosevelt Hotel. Jennifer performed with the Salt Lake Temple Square Concert Series for 3 years, and has also performed on the violin with various symphonies including the Oregon Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra. Jennifer and her husband, Will have one toddler, Preston, and one baby on the way due in August of 2010. She enjoys motherhood and learning to juggle her music career along with it. She enjoys writing, chocolate, cooking, fashion, blogging, and a variety of outdoor sports.

To start this off, I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed being an author on this blog for the past year and a half and the wonderful people I have met, as well as the beneficial information I have learned as well. This will be my last article on Music Teacher’s Helper, as I’m getting ready to have my 2nd baby here quite soon, and am starting my hiatus.  

As I’ve been contemplating what topic to cover for this last article, it occurred to me while teaching, that it might be beneficial to talk about how I’ve integrated my home studio into my music lessons, and how it has affected my students for the better.

As well as being a music teacher, I’m also a composer/recording artist and so I have a studio in my home.  Many parents and students have asked me “Why do you need two keyboards?” or “How do you record all of that right here?”, as well as many other curious questions pertaining to what goes into recording music from a home studio. [···]

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A magical thing happened to me when I was 12 years old.

My mother, who had always been well versed in classic movies, had a rather large library of old musicals.  Despite growing up as an adolescent in the 80’s and 90’s, I was raised watching actors like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Audrey Hepburn, Rosemary Clooney and more. 

The most impactual moment of my musical training happened to me while watching the 1945 classic movie “Anchors Aweigh” with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.  About halfway through the film, there was a scene where the two actors (playing the parts of Navy Sailors) were trying to chase down a famous pianist/conductor named Jose Iturbi.  They ended up sneaking into the Hollywood Bowl, sliding down a dirty hillside and running down rows of bleachers and chairs all the while the most magnificant thing was happening on the stage…

There, on the huge stage of the Hollywood Bowl, were 17 grand pianos in a half circle, with Jose Iturbi on the central piano playing and conducting. They were all simultaneously performing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.  All at once – like a massive hive of bees just buzzing. away collectively.  It was truly amazing.  Some of the pianists were even children, maybe even the same age that I was at the time.

I must have rewound and watched that scene of the movie dozens and dozens of times. I was completely mesmorized. 

Shortly thereafter, my mom bought me a copy of the sheet music for the Hungarian Rhapsody. Despite the fact that it was well beyond my playing capabilities at the time, I wanted to learn that piece of music so badly.  I would spend hours a day practicing that song. Then I would go and watch the scene from the movie again. Then go practice some more.  It was like this massive adult sized challenge and I was determined to conquer as a little 12 year old.

It was the moment of my life when I realized that music was neither hard or impossible.  It just took a lot of hard work and dedication. Afterall, they were just notes on a page. And thus began my passion for the piano for years afterwards, leading to college, competitions, and now teaching and recording.

I will sometimes dig out that same movie scene and play it for select students who need to see something truly inspiring – which brings me to this post topic.  There are actually many wonderful music-themed films out there that can be inspirational for students to watch.   Just as it is beneficial to take students and children to concerts where they can experience live music, movies can be beneficial as well when they have a strong motivational message.

Here is my own personal top 10 list of movies about music, with number 1 being my most favorite. I have watched all of these films, and have written my two cents about each of them.  All the movies are either G, PG, or PG-13. [···]

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motivating students to practice music

I recently asked a group of parents what was the one thing they needed help with regarding their children’s music lessons, as well as something that the teacher could be working on as well.  The answer:  Motivating children to practice.

I’ve had this discussion with my own students’ parents many times.  Some parents really push their kids, and some have little to no involvement at all.  What are they doing wrong? What are they doing right? These are things they ask me.

I personally do not think that there is one right answer because every person is unique.  For example, I was a very self-motivated child and never had to be told to practice.  I just did it, and excelled at it. However, I know that some of my students don’t progress with this type of method in the home and practicing does not happen.

It can be true of the reverse as well though.  Some children may need to be reminded or pushed to practice, and therefore they excel with that type of motivation.  Whereas other children, when pushed too hard, back away or rebel.

Here are some things that I have found to help me with my students, as well as advice that I would offer to parents.   [···]

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