Leila Viss

Leila Viss

Hi, I'm Leila Viss, pianist, organist, teacher, author of The iPad Piano Studio and blogger at 88pianokeys.me. I enjoy teaching piano to around 45 students ranging in age from 6 to 91. I am drawn to discovering innovative teaching methods and successful practice strategies to encourage the average player stick to the bench for life. Customizing lessons for each student is a priority and therefore I provide "blended" instruction of Classical, Jazz and Pop. The ever-changing tools of technology assist me in my daily teaching. Every student not only has a private lesson but a lab session as well. Lab assignments include activities using the latest music software, MIDI, iPad apps, a Clavinova and more. In 2012, I decided to try my hand at hosting my own blog and have found a new “love” at 88pianokeys.me. My fascination with the iPad and apps resulted in the book "The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps." What began as an idea, a nudge and then a reality is now serving as required reading for pedagogy students. Invited by Pete Jutras, the editor of Clavier Companion, I now pen a column for the piano magazine called "Apps for Teaching." I've served on planning committees for the MNTA (Music Teachers National Association) 2013 Jazz/Pop Track, the MNTA 2014 Improvisation Track and was appointed chair of the Creative Pianist Track by Dr Sam Holland of the NCKP 2015 (National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy.) Much of the above activities in the previous paragraph has to do with my good friend and colleague Bradley Sowash--a dynamic jazz pianist, author and educator. He contacted me in 2012 to help him plan the 2013 Jazz/Pop track. Things haven't stopped since then as we have co-founded 88 Creative Keys. This joint venture features camps, clinics and workshops to promote creativity. When not teaching, blogging, planning...I am usually practicing the organ and piano for my church position, adjudicating piano and composition competitions, presenting at conferences, exercising, and if there’s any time left, reading a good book (on my iPad, of course).

After hearing Mannheim Steamroller’s first Christmas album (quite a while ago), I have been a huge fan of creative arrangements of holiday music. From “Jingle Bells”, to “Deck the Halls” to “Carol of the Bells”, most people from any religious preference recognize and seem to enjoy the tunes of the season. These familiar melodies attract students, and, when coupled with wonderful arrangements offered by current composers, the combination provides great tools for propelling budding pianists to new levels of playing.  Below is a list of ideas for utilizing the tunes and spirit of the season to enhance student’s learning experience and progress. Yes, I know a little late for this December–but now there is plenty of time to plan ahead for next year!

Shop Early
So many books/series include a CD that most students choose their holiday recital piece by listening to various options–usually in October (early, I know!) Every CD I own has been imported to iTunes and then moved to my iPod. Thanks to one cable, the iPod conveniently hooks to my Clavinova and high quality speakers allow students to select a favorite piece and begin to prepare early to guarantee a successful performance.

Make a List and Check it Twice
As students move closer to the performance date, they are welcomed to try out their pieces on “Bella”–my Yamaha C6 residing in my upstairs living room (instead of the piano in the studio). While there, we review the 5 p’s of performing:  [···]

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Recently, our neighborhood in suburban Denver enjoyed the grand opening of the “Streets of Southglenn”. Once a mall, it is now a village of specialty shops, restaurants, flower-pot-adorned streets, department stores, fountains and a natural foods grocery store. This national chain store features local rock bands and small ensembles during special store functions.

One evening, while shopping and dining–yes there is even a place to dine at this organic market–a band was playing up on the balcony, an extension of the dining area. Inspired by the live music instead of the typical “musack”, I envisioned a piano up in the balcony and opening performance opportunities to local teachers and their students and local artists. [···]

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