Monday, July 25, 2016

Who's Who at the Center for Young Musicians- Margaret Flower

We are so pleased to welcome Margaret Flower into the community of teachers here at CYM! Ms. Margaret joins our vocal department for the 2016-2017 school year.

Margaret Flower, soprano, is a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she recently moved back to after spending two years in Texas. She lately completed her Master of Music degree in Vocal Pedagogy and Performance at the University of Texas at San Antonio and holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Margaret has taught private voice lessons at the middle school, high school, and collegiate level at the Comal Independent School District and The University of Texas at San Antonio. Her focus is on developing healthy vocal habits that allow students to continue their music throughout their lifetime, instilling whole-body performance, and providing pedagogical tools for students to continue their study independently. Margaret has appeared as Miss Todd in the UTSA Lyric Theater performance of Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief and on the Lincoln Center stage singing Verdi’s Requiem with the Ithaca College Choir. She has also appeared in opera scenes as Orphée Gluck’s in Orphée et Eurydice and The 3rd Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. She is looking forward to starting her new studio with CYM!

We're fascinated to know more about Ms. Margaret, so we sit down for a little Q+A:

CYM:       What is your favorite piece of music to play and or favorite composer?

Ms. Margaret:       That's difficult to say! I love so many different composers for so many reasons! I think my current favorite composer is Giacomo Puccini. I have been listening to, reading about, and singing more Puccini lately and I just adore his operas! His music captures the complexity of human emotions and tells such real stories. I am also so impressed with absolute precision needed to perform his music well. I often find myself with jaw dropped and tears streaming down my cheeks while listening to his music.
CYM:       When/where/how do you listen to music for fun?

Ms. Margaret:       I mostly listen to music while I am driving. I am often on the go or taking road trips, and I love to play entire musicals in the car: JC Superstar, Les Mis, Phantom (mostly Lloyd Webber), Into the Woods, Rent, Hairspray, and of course my latest is Hamilton! I just love jamming out in my car. I don't care how crazy I look to other people, I just perform every part to my hearts content.

CYM:                 What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

Ms. Margaret:       I seriously considered going into law or criminal justice. I wanted to be a detective and solve crimes, probably due to the many episodes of Law and Order I watched growing up. My mother joked about me becoming "the singing detective."
CYM:              Where do you live? Would you like to share anything about your family/roommates/pets?

I currently live in Mars, PA. I just moved back to the Pittsburgh area after spending two years completing my Masters degree in San Antonio, TX. My fiancé and I are getting married this September and are looking for a new apartment in the Franklin/Sewickley area. We have an adorable calico cat named Winnie (Winifred Sanderson), who I rescued close Halloween and named after Bette Midler's part in Hocus Pocus.

CYM:              Favorite childhood book?

Ms. Margaret:       My favorite childhood book was called, "But No Elephants." My mother worked for Scholastic when I was young and often brought books home for my and my brothers. It was about an old woman who allowed all these animals to come into her house during a snow storm, "but NO elephants!" she would shout. A couple years ago, I gave the book to my niece, and it quickly became her favorite book too. She loves shouting, "but NO elephants!" during story time.

Hello, Ms. Emily!

Ms. Emily Kelly

For the 2016-2017 school year, we offer a warm hello to our guest instructor, Ms. Emily Kelly here in our violin studio at CYM! Ms. Emily comes to us as we say "see you in a little while" to Ms. Elisabeth as she cares for her new baby. Read on to learn a little more about Ms. Emily:

Emily Herdeman Kelly enjoys a rewarding career as a performer and educator. An experienced orchestral musician, Ms. Kelly has been seen with the Houston Symphony, Austin Symphony, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, and the New World Symphony.  She has participated in professional and fellowship orchestra festivals including the Britt Festival, Colorado Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Round Top Festival Institute, and the Beijing International Music Festival in China.  Ms. Kelly is a dedicated teacher and currently maintains studios in Pittsburgh, PA at the Carnegie Mellon University Preparatory School and the Pittsburgh Music Academy.  Additionally, she has taught at Indiana University String Academy and Rice University Preparatory Program.  She was recently awarded a teaching fellowship through MusAid where she had the opportunity to teach and perform for an El Sistema School in San Salvador, El Salvador.  Ms. Kelly has a heart for service and in addition to regular performances at libraries, hospitals, and retirement communities, she has volunteered with the nationally recognized programs Music for Autism and Purple Songs Can Fly.  She has completed Suzuki training through Book 3 and has additional studies in pedagogy with Mimi Zweig and Kenneth Goldsmith.  Her principal teachers include Paul Biss and Kathleen Winkler, and she holds Bachelors degrees in Economics and Violin Performance from Indiana University, and a Master of Music degree from Rice University.

Ms. Kelly currently lives on the North side of Pittsburgh, PA with her husband Josh and their two cats.  When shes not practicing, rehearsing, or teaching she also enjoys running, reading, studying Spanish, traveling, and tea.  

Welcome, Ms. Emily!

2015-2016 Year in Review!

Wow, what an amazing year we have had. It is hard to believe it is already the end of this year of growing, performing, and learning! Let's let our photo library tell the story...

Our littlest musicians showed us what they were learning in class at the fall Ensemble Recital:

where we learn to perform with one another...

and collaborate with other musicians, especially colleagues!

Violinists perform from the Suzuki repertoire

...the cellists do too!

Guitars are all smiles after a great team effort.

Soon, the holidays are here.

It doesn't feel like the holiday season until Wintergarden and the big, white piano!

We are so thankful for old and new friends.

And new performing spaces...

Like at the Carnegie Museum.

...and for new faces, like Mr. Erich, helping here at Light Up Night.

Light Up Night is always a grand evening-

Especially when you're singing carols outdoors...

and enjoying the glow of a welcome entrance.

We've had some great new experiences immersing in new musical styles

and trying out new ways to play our instruments!

Sharing music with our community is so important...

we are glad to have visited with the residents at Vincentian Home!

Sometimes we get a little bit silly...

and curious about how things work.

Combining our musical art with visual art...

Makes for a beautiful experience!

Music shared in a beautiful setting,

with some wonderful audience members-

makes for an unforgettable experience!

Our message of music can be heard over the air waves,

in small friendly spaces with small, friendly faces...

and in auditoriums full of our family and friends!

In threes,

in twos,

and sometimes just one!

We celebrate daily practicers,

those who grew up at CYM,

and new beginnings with wonderful new friends!

See more from CYM's flickr photo gallery.

We have loved this wonder year of making music and magic with our students, teachers, friends, and family. We can't wait to start a great new year in August!

New Students who enroll for the 2016-2017 CYM School Year before August 22 receive one month's free tuition!

Do you know a new student or family for whom CYM would be a great fit?
All the more reason for them to register before August 22!

 In addition to the above benefit for the new family, when you refer a friend who enrolls, you are granted an additional admission for a field trip ticket or entrance into an additional CYM Workshop or Activity in the 2016-2017 school year. Begin the enrollment process online or reach us at

See you on August 29th!

Monday, July 11, 2016

CYM joins forces to support the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with the Symphony Shop Walk in Sewickley

CYM is excited to announce a special collaboration with the Pittsburgh Symphony North, in affiliation with the Pittsburgh Symphony Foundation...

Please join us on August 2 in the village of Sewickley for a special fundraising event for our Pittsburgh Symphony. CYM's community of families enjoys a myriad of exceptional learning experiences with the PSO during our school year- we want to show our gratitude by supporting their goal for keeping great music alive.  

We are opening our doors that day to "Symphony Shoppers" by holding special performances throughout the day and a Community Concert that evening.

Want to know more about the "Symphony Shopper" event? Click here.

Anyone is welcome to participate in the performances that day- students, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors of all ages, ability levels, and musical styles!

Forms to register for this special event are below, and located at the information desks in Wexford and Sewickley, as well as at the Explore Sewickley office.

Want us to email you a form to print at home and submit? Click here!

Mr. Ryan's Summer Adventure Part 5- Dakota Chamber Music Festival and a final bow...

Greetings from the last day of Dakota Chamber Music...

Our coaching responsibilities are all wrapped up and all that's left are the final participant concerts!  I've found a corner of the hall to listen to the dress rehearsals and spend some time reflecting on the work of the past few days.  I've already picked up a few new teaching ideas by watching the other coaches work with their groups!

Working at a festival like Dakota Chamber Music is something of a dream come true for me.  My own summer experiences as a student exerted the most powerful pull towards pursuing music as a vocation.  It is wonderful to re-enter that world, if only for seven short days!  Of course, although the schedule of a summer festival is intensive, most of the real work of a festival happens year-round, behind-the-scenes: not only the countless hours of rehearsal, but the difficult work of planning the whole festival!  Much of that work was done by Drs. Erik and Dianna Anderson, professors at Minot State of cello and piano, respectively.  The entire festival ran like clockwork; I saw no detail overlooked and encountered no serious problems for the entire week.  That really is a major achievement on the part of DCM's staff!

Dakota Chamber Music saw record attendance this summer for their 20th anniversary.  There were combined 80+ participants for the weekend retreat (Sun-Mon) and the regular festival (Tues-Sun), with 10-13 coaches present for the sessions.  Each participant performed in two separate groups, and each coach was responsible for four groups with whom they met daily.  It's not hard to understand why there were two final concerts, with the first being nearly three hours long and the second nearly four!  Wow!!!!! 

In honor of the 20th year, members of the Ying Quartet returned for a few days of coaching and a very warm performance of Gabriel Faure's C minor piano quartet on the opening concert.  They were heavily involved in DCM's early years and we were able to learn so much from their tremendous musicianship and personal conviction.  

The festival was held on the campus of Minot State University, whose wonderful facilities included a spacious and balanced-sounding concert hall.  Participants stayed in dormitories with meals provided by the festival.  After a long day of focus, it was great not to worry about the logistics of meals and travel, and instead enjoy activities on the campus.  

A typical DCM day went like this, from 7:45am to 10pm 
  • Breakfast
  • Practice session (with coach)
  • Morning Coachings (2 groups)
  • Morning Faculty Presentation or Performance class (3 groups)
  • Lunch
  • Practice session (with coach)
  • Afternoon Coachings (2 groups)
  • Afternoon Faculty Presentation or Performance class (3 groups)
  • Dinner
  • Concert/Soccer/Sightreading 

Lots to do!  As coaches, we were involved in each activity, so we were certainly never bored!  The strength of the music and the investment of the students gave me energy throughout the whole week.  

Well, almost.

Students were assigned half-hour blocks where they could request practice help from a coach.  Usually a student had run into a problem on a small section of music which, although they had practiced, they were unable to improve.  I found each student to be very teachable and each problem very solve-able--in each case it was simply a matter of identifying the different elements needed to play each passage, practicing these elements separately, and eventually joining them together into one gesture.  Who knew this practice method could be so effective?  ;)

Coaching sessions with each student ensemble followed the assigned practice-help blocks.  Teaching points ranged from technical aspects such as intonation, rhythm, giving/taking cues, and delegating responsibility in the group (this person is reponsible for the new tempo here, that person should lead the cresc., etc.) to musical questions such as "is this part louder or softer?", "why is it softer?", "who has the melody here?", "is the most exciting part right now or later on?".  Answering questions like these helped the participants understand the audience's experience of the piece and get all of the members of the group working toward the same musical idea.  

Next were performance classes, where our teaching strategy was different.  Because a large audience was present and time with each group was limited, we tried to address only one topic with each group .  We also tried to address the topic broadly enough so that, even if the audience didn't know the piece being played, they would still be able to follow the discussion and apply the general principles discussed to their own pieces.  

Each group of faculty (Ying Quartet, Luminus Piano Trio, Beo Quartet, and others) gave at least one presentation to the festival at large.  Beo was afforded the opportunity to give two.  The first demonstrated the sounds and techniques used to play different expressive markings (the very same one given to composers during the Charlotte New Music Festival, but from the performer's perspective).  The second discussed a few complicated rhythms and showed how to figure them out so that the ensemble could think about them in exactly the same way.  That way, the group would sound more together in terms of both rhythmic accuracy and feel.  

And of course social/activity time is built into the day!  Students were allowed access to the library to read any chamber music they were able to find.  The festival also made room for a trip to play laser tag and eat "galactic pizza" (too big to fit through the door; must be turned on its side!) and the annual DCM soccer game, after which we all were sore for the rest of the week.  Those interested in local wildlife could spot a family of turkeys roaming the grounds.  The coaches watched the chicks' improvements in their ability to fly with great interest!  

A festival like Dakota Chamber Music would not be possible without the effort made by the participants, their teachers, and their parents over the years of their musical study.  It is my aim and my sincerest hope to prepare the young students in my studio to one day encounter music in this thrilling and deep way, meeting their peers from all across the country to work for beautiful and meaningful art.  Perhaps, for some of us, that day will come too soon! and for that reason, I will treasure each small step made by my students along the way.  I look forward to getting back to teach the remainder of our summer at CYM, and I wish you all happy, productive practice!

All best,


Friday, July 1, 2016

Mr. Ryan's Summer Adventure Part 4- Rehearsal, rehearsal!

This is a picture of the schedule we used to organize our rehearsals with the participants about their "miniatures".  These pieces were written in six days during the festival.  We had only three days to learn and rehearse them before the concert!  

When learning a new piece (or several), a musician (young or old!) is likely to feel panicked and disoriented because there is too much new information for the brain to deal with all at once.  I certainly feel this way sometimes.  This feeling is called "cognitive dissonance", and it can be very uncomfortable.  Personally, I strongly prefer to practice in ways that minimize the amount of cognitive dissonance.  This means that I stick with one section or one element of the music until I am comfortable enough to add more.  For instance, if I wanted to learn to juggle while riding a unicycle, my first step would definitely NOT be to jump on the unicyle with flaming torches in my hands!  Of course, some cognitive dissonance is desirable because it lets me know I am working just at the edge of what I am able to do.  However, if those feelings become painful, I treat that as a signal that, perhaps, I am trying to do too much at once.  I believe students should look for their ideal balance of comfort vs. discomfort while learning their instrument to keep permanent frustration from setting in. 

Sometimes the cognitive dissonance can grow so painful that I eventually blurt out, "I hate this piece!"  Even if I'm not saying it out loud, I might be thinking it.  This can even happen to audience members who are listening to a piece for the first time.  The problem is obvious: although the discomfort comes from the newness of the piece, we might mistakenly assume instead that we don't like the piece.  Hardly fair to the composer!  

Sometimes the stress got to us.

Discomfort in the beginning stages is something the quartet is careful to keep from influencing us when preparing new works.  Whatever our initial impressions, we are careful to give each piece our best preparation and even our best imagination.  Without fail, each new work has grown on us as we become more familiar with it, and after good preparation on our part, the composer is able to offer surprising insights into their piece which really open up the music!  Personally, I concentrate on judiciously limiting the scope of my workload so I have the brain space to really understand what is happening in a piece.  

Happy practicing, all!  More on Dakota Chamber Music in a few days.  

-Mr. Ryan