<![CDATA[Katherine's School of Music - Blog]]>Sun, 31 Jan 2016 18:14:25 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[April 2015 News Letter]]>Mon, 06 Apr 2015 17:51:59 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/april-2015-news-letterWelcome to your April 2015 Newsletter! In this issue you'll read about:

- Guild Auditions
- April Master class
- Concert in April

Guild Auditions:
Guild is in just two and a half weeks, on Friday, April 24th at Denton Cottier and Daniels Piano and Organ store in Rochester NY! I am hearing wonderful things during lessons. With such a short time left, it can be hard to know what to focus on so here's a little to-do list for those students who are participating:
1) Keep drilling with a metronome using the music.
2) Do memory drilling on all pieces using a metronome (for those who are memorizing--this helps to combat the effects of nerves during the audition).
3) Find your pieces on You tube or in the email I sent and listen to them often, striving to imitate the musicality of professional pianists.
4) Daily review the scales and cadences for each of your pieces making sure you know the key signatures for all of your pieces by heart.
5) Follow all instructions on your practice assignment sheet carefully. 
If you make a regimen of repeating these steps until audition day you'll 1) feel and be solidly prepared and 2) help to ensure a good experience at your first Piano Guild audition! Remember, a performance is simply a snapshot of your current playing skills. As you hopefully gain more and more playing experience, each time will feel different so keep your expectations high but appropriate for where you are right now. Do your personal best. :-)

April Master Class
This month, master class will be on the 25th (the day after Guild Auditions) from 10 AM to Noon. I hope everyone will be able to make it because it is Jazz Appreciation Month! We'll meet a few Jazz Giants, learn a little about the origins and history of Jazz, play a couple of Jazz forms and scales and try a little improvisation! By the end of the class, you'll be playing 12-bar piano blues and speaking Jazz lingo (after you swallow that huge bite of muffin, that is!). I'm really looking forward to this class!

Concert in April
If you enjoy attending local concerts, consider attending the Genesee Valley Wind Ensemble's Sunday afternoon performance on April 26th at 4:00 PM. It will take place in the Elba Central School auditorium and will feature a variety of works and styles including a medley of Japanese folk songs (including Sakura/Cherry Blossoms), a virtuosic trumpet feature by Alexander Goedicke, the charming and well loved English Folk Song Suite by Ralph Vaughn Williams, Frank Ticheli's warm and richly harmonized arrangement of Shenandoah, the hauntingly compelling October by Eric Whitacre, Henry Fillmore's famous march Americans We and selections from John Williams' best loved soundtrack to Star Wars. I believe the cost is a suggested donation of $5 but I am not sure about that, so I'll try to update here if I'm wrong! It's going to be a rewarding experience, I truly hope to see you there!   
<![CDATA[February Newsletter 2015]]>Thu, 19 Feb 2015 05:00:39 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/february-newsletter-2015 Hello, families of Katherine’s School of Music! This is your February 2015 Newsletter. In this issue:

  • Guild update

  • Piano portfolios

  • Next master class

  • Progress report signature slips/Optional parent meetings


Guild Update

I have received dues for all Guild participants (thank you!) and mailed in our joint fee and registration. The next step will be to hear back from headquarters about our assigned date for the auditions. I will let you know as soon as I hear!

Piano Portfolios

I hope you’ve been enjoying your break this week! I have really enjoyed the opportunity to slow down and get into “creative” mode again. As I thought about the studio, I remembered a great suggestion I’ve heard from several people (including another piano teacher and a soldier) and have wanted to incorporate here: achievement portfolios. It would be awesome for each student to create a portfolio in which his or her progress, achievements and honors can be logged attractively and professionally for future reference and encouragement.

Physically, this would be a 1 ½  or 2 inch 3-ring binder with dividers. Sections in the book will include method books (certificates of completion), theory, technique, master class attendance, record of repertoire (not in method books), listening curriculum, projects and Guild/awards/recitals (for which certificates of participation will be awarded). Photos could also be included if available. Because of the variety of purposes such a book could serve for each individual, I would like it if each student chose and purchased his or her own binder and dividers. However, I will provide all of the inserts and help each student build the portfolio little by little as each achievement or progress point is passed.  

An immediate use of the portfolio that I am currently planning for is that of displaying each student’s book at the spring recital for audience members to peruse during the reception. A recital is a great opportunity to show off not only the student’s current performance level, but also all that the individual has accomplished throughout the years. If you are on board with this plan, could you provide your child’s binder and dividers at the next master class they attend? I would like to take some time to build our portfolios at each master class beginning February 28th.

Next Master Class

The next master class will be on February 28th from 10am to 12 noon. I am enthused about several students who are prepared to perform on this master class! We’ll also take some time to begin our piano portfolios and we may revisit a game from master class past.

 Progress Reports

Finally, I want to mention that progress reports have gone out and if you have not done so yet, I would like to receive the signed slip from each student so I can be sure that all reports have gotten into parents’ hands J  Also, if you haven’t been in yet, I wanted to reiterate that I welcome parents to sit in for all or part of a lesson at this point either to observe or to bring up any questions or concerns you may have!

 I feel totally blessed by the highly dedicated group of families in the studio this year—thank you, moms, dads and grandparents for setting such unwavering examples of commitment for your piano player! What an awesome legacy you are creating for your kids to follow!      



<![CDATA[January Newsletter]]>Mon, 02 Feb 2015 19:40:03 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/january-newsletterHello everyone and Happy New Year! We’ve had a crazy start to 2015, haven’t we? I recall similar frigid temperatures last year at this time, also resulting in some school closings and lesson cancelations. (And probably every year before that…) Here is your January Newsletter in which you will read about:
  • Christmastime visit to Clover Hill

  • Quick Overview of January through June

  • Mid-Year Assessments

  • Piano Guild Auditions

Clover Hill
Our visit to Clover Hill went so well! All students carried themselves confidently and performed their pieces well. Additionally, the warm and friendly interaction between the residents and our families was a blessing to me and, I think, to our friends at Clover Hill. It was a nice reminder that we can use our music to create connections with people we might otherwise never meet. Let’s make this an annual event; perhaps we can even visit again in the spring to perform our recital pieces. Thank you to all parents for your support!

 January to June
Briefly, I want to point out that our end-of-year recital is scheduled for Sunday, June 7th and that the last week of lessons is the week of June 15th. Also, there are four remaining master classes: February 28th, March 21st, April 25th and May 30th and three remaining progress reports in January, April and June. And by way of reminder, all Albion school holidays and vacations are observed in the studio as well—including snow and emergency closings. These dates are also on the studio calendar so feel free to request one if needed.

 Midyear Assessments
Last year I tried a new thing in the studio: comprehensive mid-year evaluations. I also met with parents at that time as we discussed goals for the second half of the year. This year I am making a slight change. Because we had a performance last month and took some weeks to focus on perfecting our Christmas music, I would rather not pause again this month to reenter “performance mode.” Instead, I would like to evaluate only the scales and chords that each student has learned so far this year. An anecdotal evaluation will be provided to parents and students which will include end-of-year goals for scales and chords as well as the mid-year progress report. Also, I will open up the invitation (and Welcome!) for parents/guardians to attend a portion of their child’s lesson in February if any wish to touch base or discuss anything but I won’t “require” it. Students whose lesson falls on Tuesday through Friday will have these evaluations January 27th through the 30th and Monday students will test on February 2nd. Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

 Piano Guild Auditions
Yesterday I received the dates for this year’s Guild Auditions. There are three weekends scheduled for our Rochester chapter: March 19th-21st, April 23rd-25th and April 30th-May 2nd. The next step is to submit our dues, a final list of participants and our preferred weekend. When I looked at my calendar, the weekend that works best for me is the last one but I can make any of them work if needed. If you see a date you absolutely would not be able to attend, please let me know ASAP.

Each guild participant (currently 8 students) will receive an informational paper at their next lesson which will include a tentative list of songs and scales (we don’t have to finalize these until closer to the auditions though) as well as your fee amount (which is final). Please submit the fee to me by the end of January if possible as Guild requires that I cut a single check for the whole studio and the earlier, the better. If you want to change your participation decision—either withdraw or decide to participate—it’s ok, just let me know within the week! Any other questions please let me know!  


<![CDATA[November Newsletter]]>Fri, 14 Nov 2014 02:46:37 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/november-newsletterHello everyone! Here is your November 2014 Newsletter. In this newsletter you will read about October master class, a few practice hints and upcoming progress reports.

October Master Class
How many people can we stuff into our relatively small piano studio? We were able to fit about eleven people inside last month! First we were delighted as a few piano veterans demonstrated their prowess on various scales and chords. Then we were treated to several brave performances in lots of interesting styles. Between mouthfuls of sweet breakfast food, we worked our rhythm muscles at Rhythm Boot Camp and were rewarded afterwards with a fun but challenging game: "Rhythm Cranium." (We also "oohed" and "ahhhed" over an impressive, professional video performance of a piano work by Franz Liszt.) With not enough time for the entire game of Cranium at the end, we decided to restart our game at a later master class when we have more time to play. It was a lot to fit in, but since our masterclass, I have noticed much greater facility with rhythm in all who attended. We'll continue to visit rhythm and counting in a more focused way for a few more lessons. Our next master class is on Saturday, November 22nd. Our attendance is probably going to be much slimmer this month and so our activities will likely center on games and activities tailored to 3-4 people. ALSO: All who are attending, could you let me know if you would be able to make it at 9:00 AM rather than 10:00 AM? I have a personal conflict and need to leave by 11:00 but don't want to cut the class short. Just let me know in your lesson this week! Thanks.

Practice Hints   
First, I want to say how impressed I have been with lesson preparation in general in the studio. Great work, everyone, keep it up! Now, I'd like to pass on a practice hint (moms and dads, please pass this on if your pianist isn't going to read). As you grow into more and more advanced music, it can be hard to keep finding things to practice in your music, even though you know it's not perfect yet. What do you do when you can mostly play a piece but you know it needs that final push to be "performance ready"?
My first key concept is TRANSITIONS. Transitions occur between two sections of homogenous music, usually the point at which hands move to a new place or a new melody begins. However, for our purposes, think of a transition as any spot where you find yourself pausing and searching for the next note (even briefly). In your music, go through and draw parentheses about 2 beats before and after that point where you always pause. Do this all of the way through your music. Then, when you practice, just practice what is between the parentheses until it's smooth. This gives you a laser focus for each practice time--you'll see so much more progress when you limit your playing to those specific spots until they are solid.
The second concept is ENDINGS. "All's well that ends well!" It's true, if you can pull off a solid, memorable finish to your piece, no one remembers a stumble or two in the middle of the piece. The idea is that since we tend to start at the beginning and learn through to the end, the end of the piece is the least repeated and thus, the weakest. This week, practice this exercise: play the very last beat of your piece--both left and right hands, all notes. Repeat it a few times. Now start at the second-to-last beat and play to the end. Play them two or three times. If solid, start at the third-to-last beat. Repeat. As you do this, you are making the last beat a highly repeated event. Repetition leads to strength! In no time, the last half of your piece will become as strong as the first. Now, you just need TRANSITION practice to bridge them!

Progress Reports
Progress reports are coming out next week--I apologize for the delay in these. I'll be sending them with each student in a regular letter-sized envelope.

Thanks for a great first quarter!  
<![CDATA[October 2014 Newsletter]]>Fri, 17 Oct 2014 01:29:08 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/october-2014-newsletter Hello students and families! The school year is officially rolling and all of our activities, including piano lessons, are in full swing. Here is your October newsletter in a slightly new format for those with limited time to read:

·         In the month of September, the studio welcomed several transfer students. It can be hard to start lessons with a new teacher so it’s awesome to see each of you working hard, enjoying piano and succeeding. It’s great to have everyone, keep up the great effort!

·         The first master class was a great kick-off to the year. Our featured performers were Zach S. (first-time performer—Great Job, Zach!), Colby, Emma R. and Nate. We held a “true” master class where students took turns demonstrating various skills at the piano. Everyone survived, and thank you to those who willingly (or unwillingly) “volunteered” for the task! There is a great attitude towards trying new things in the studio.

·         Our next master class is schedule for October 25th (just a few days away already). My brainstorming for this master class has pointed to a focus on rhythm in various formats: reading, writing, dictation, swing rhythms, on the piano, using various counting methods, etc. We’ll have performers, a presentation, at least one game and hopefully a video. I really look forward to master classes, and this one is no exception!!

·         Guild Auditions will be held this spring in Rochester, NY. If I haven’t spoken with you about them or have only had a chance to speak with your child: Guild is an annual adjudication for piano players. Never a competition, simply an opportunity for personal challenge; the auditions afford an opportunity to perform prepared music and scales before a Guild “judge” (another piano teacher). The event usually takes place during the school day and so parents are a big part of the day, picking up their child from school and transporting them to the location. I’m about ready to send in an unofficial count (no names needed yet) for how many students will be participating from our studio. If you’re interested—even if you’re kind of interested, let me know so I can let Guild know! This will be an excellent experience for all who decide to attend.

·         On December 13th, our studio holiday party and master class are set to take place (same time as usual: 10-noon). Most students have received their Christmas music for performance on that class. Since drawing up the calendar, I’ve had the idea of taking that afternoon to perform our holiday and other prepared music at a local retirement home. It would be a great opportunity to bless some special people and a low-key way to perform at a larger venue. Please check your calendars and let me know if this will be a possibility for you on December 13th in the early- to mid-afternoon. Thanks!



<![CDATA[August 2014 Newsletter]]>Fri, 29 Aug 2014 01:06:57 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/august-2014-newsletterHello Everyone! As summer winds to a close and we look towards starting school with all of the sports and activities it brings, I'm gearing up for another successful year! Lessons begin the week of September 8th, just a week and a few days off and I have just sent out a mailing including lesson time, studio calendar and master class choice form.  In this newsletter, you will read about:
--Many New Students!
--Goals for 2014-2015
--September: Establishing a Foundation for Success in 2014-2015

Many New Students!
A big welcome needs to go out to all of the new students at Katherine's School of Music this year! The studio has grown to 19 (and counting...) and a five day teaching schedule. I'm amazed and grateful and so looking forward to getting to know everyone. Master classes should be bustling events this year and I know that all of my students will truly enjoy the friendships they'll make through the studio.  

Goals for 2014-2015
Today, my husband kindly blessed me with a quiet day at home while he took the kids to the park, the ice-cream shop, etc.. Finally alone with my thoughts, I began to write down this year's over-all studio goals.  
    Goal #1: Each student will increase the breadth and depth of listening experience with fine performances of fine and significant music.  If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: There is little occasion for which anything other than fine, quality sounds should come from our instruments. It is my pleasure to search out and to provide exquisite models of sound and beauty for all of my students to hear regularly.   
        Activities: A listening curriculum has been created for this purpose. Each month, students will receive a themed CD. The CDs progress in a purposeful order and a workbook will be included for weekly listening assignments. 
    Goal #2: Each student will develop strong, foundational technical skills at their technique level. Scales, arpeggios and triads are the "Practical Theory" of playing an instrument. Practice these with strict tempos and fine tone and you will master half of all the music you have yet to learn in your life. True story.  
        Activities: Technique will be assigned weekly according to the Royal Conservatory Development Program Level the student has been placed in. Each student's technique will be guided to mastery weekly during five to seven minutes of technique time at the beginning of the lesson.
    Goal #3: Each student will make measurable progress and improvement throughout the year. This one speaks for itself! Each student is unique and will progress differently from every other student according to age, interest in the instrument, level, temperament, etc.. My number one priority for each student is that they are making steady progress individually and showing notable improvement at the end of the year. (Rarely do I fail to see this occur!)

 September: Establishing a Foundation for Success in 2014-2015
While September will see students diving into new songs and exercises at their own level, I'm also continuing a tradition started last year. A huge focus in September will be on re-establishing a gorgeous piano (or flute) tone. We'll do this through listening to and playing some easy but highly lyrical piano pieces by Bela Bartok (specifically from First Term at the Piano and For Children Volume 1). Additionally, a big focus in September will be on establishing a structure and foundation for technique practice. September will conclude (except for 2 more days of lessons) with our FIRST MASTER CLASS OF THE YEAR! In that class, we'll wrap our focus on tone into the introduction of our year-long listening curriculum.  We may also have a performance by a student who took summer lessons and I'll have a few students demonstrate mastery of the Bartok pieces we've studied. I can't tell you how excited I am to get started! It's going to be an excellent year!
<![CDATA[May Newsletter]]>Tue, 06 May 2014 14:56:14 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/may-newsletterJust two more months before summer vacation and, as we all know, they go quickly!  In this May newsletter you will read about:
--Recital News
--Next/Final Master Class
--Invoices and Lesson Reminders

Recital News
The recital is now officially set for Sunday, June 8th at 2:30 PM at Gotta Dance.  There is no admission fee and each student may invite up to 4 guests.  Following the recital, all attendees are invited to stay for a dessert and punch reception.  Recitalists should plan to dress up a little: nice slacks or tan pants and collared shirt for boys and a dress or a skirt/slacks and blouse for girls.  Over the next week or so, recital pieces will be designated for each student.  Piano students will be memorizing their music.  

Next/Final Master Class
The next and final master class of the year will be held on Saturday, May 31st from 10 am -noon.  We'll have a "mock" recital and most likely incorporate some of the topics we were unable to touch on last month.

Invoices and Lesson Reminders
Recently, Yahoo made a change to their email that does not allow third parties to send emails using their servers (a security measure against spamming and fishing).  Because I have a yahoo email address, my (and others' with Yahoo) automated lesson reminders and emails through Music Teacher's Helper are being flagged and returned "undeliverable".  (You may have noticed you're not receiving anything lately.)  There is a temporary solution to the problem but until that goes into effect, if you are a person who likes the pay by PayPal option, you will simply need to log in to your account through my website, look at your invoice and click "pay now" from there.  If that doesn't work for any reason, we'll just go back to the old-fashioned method!  I have printed all invoices this month and will be handing them out during lessons this week.

What a great year we've been having at the studio!  Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about anything and I'll see you this week at your lesson!

<![CDATA[March/April Newsletter]]>Mon, 07 Apr 2014 23:11:27 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/marchapril-newsletterHave you ever transferred a house plant to a bigger pot?  At first, nothing seems to happen; it doesn't get bigger or even seem to add new leaves.  Then the plant suddenly shoots up and out almost overnight.  What happens is that the roots grow into their new home first and afterwards the plant proceeds to grow in proportion.  This reminds me of humans.  Though we are always growing, there are times when our growth is visible to others, and times when it's happening out of view.  Though I've been quiet on the newsletter front, I can tell you that I have not been music-educationally inactive this last month!  Sometimes, the roots just need to dig down for a while.  :-)

That being said, this is your March/April Newsletter.  It contains the following:
Progress Reports/Vacation
Recital News
Master Classes

This week, April 7-11, marks the end of the "third quarter" at Katherine's School of Music!  Only nine weeks of lessons until summer (not counting this week).  Each student (except for my two new students!) will be receiving a progress report in lessons this week using the same form as last November.  Parents, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for all of your support at home.  I can see it in every student who comes into the studio--I hope you're proud of your child's skills as I am!
Next week, April 14-18, is Albion's vacation week--that means vacation from lessons at Katherine's School as well!!  Enjoy your time off :-)

I am hoping to have our end-of-year recital in late May/early June at Gotta Dance!  Some families have already mentioned days that will not work (thank you!!), and I would also like to hear feedback concerning Saturday and Sunday afternoons in late May and early June: are any of these days possible for a recital?  I will try to have the recital date solidified within two weeks from now so any comments or requests for dates/times should be communicated as soon as possible.  I'm really looking forward to it!

At our last Master Class, we had performances by almost everyone in attendance and practiced sharing specific, positive feedback with each other.  Afterwards, we had a listening/music history activity in which we learned how to tell approximately when a piece of music was probably composed by listening for various key aspects.  Here's a copy of the "Time Table" we used to sort our music.
Finally, we divided into teams and played a game in which we had to listen to a musical excerpt, discuss it with our team and try to accurately guess when it was written.  I was extremely impressed with both teams!  Even though the girls won, the boys did some pretty impressive sleuthing!  If you weren't able to make it to the master class, you can try this on your own by turning to a classical radio station.  Make your guess, listen for the composer to be announced, and if he or she is not listed on this chart, do a quick internet search.  See how close you can get!
April is Jazz Appreciation Month--my favorite "themed" month of the year!  This month's master class (on April 26th from 10am to noon) will be focused on Jazz.  Some ideas I have for the class include: activities around Jazz form and improvising, a quick overview of Jazz history (with a focus on piano and flute) and of course Jazz listening or a Jazz video.  It's going to be a lot of fun and very informative for all ages.  :-)   
<![CDATA[A Funny Trick to Practicing┬áMore Effectively]]>Fri, 07 Mar 2014 00:08:42 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/a-funny-trick-to-practicingmore-effectivelyWell, we just had a week out of the Twilight Zone!  The effects of a common phenomenon, Noten Oughpra Ctice, caused all kinds of music to retreat in a backwards trajectory towards infancy.  In case you've never seen this phenomenon, it can take a piece of music that has been brought to maturity and render it like new piece of music to the player.  I thought it was a good time to make a couple of practice suggestions since practice is the only antidote for the effects of Noten Oughpra Ctice.  (Too cheesy?  lol)

First, I wanted to discuss a major reason why, I believe, Noten Oughpra Ctice (not enough practice) occurs: glaring differences in expectations!  We hold far lower standards for ourselves in practice time than our teacher expects at the lesson.  Why this is, I haven't considered.  It could be not enough detail in the written assignment that is sent home, or it could be that we tend to take it pretty easy on ourselves.  I once said to a teacher that I had "run out of things to practice" and didn't know what to do anymore.  Oh Boy!  Was that the wrong thing to say!  "Run out of things to practice?" he slowly replied, dumbfounded, "Well what about..." and he proceeded to list a dozen things I could do.  He was right, of course.  I was just ceasing to push myself--in no way had I mastered that music! 

Sometimes we come to lessons having never pushed ourselves through the difficult sections during the week.  Instead, we hit a tricky part and automatically think we should "save" it for the teacher to work out.  (Which is an illusion, by the way.  Whether in the lesson or in practice time, we'll be doing the work.  It could make the lesson a really expensive practice time!)  What if, instead, we carefully and slowly worked it out ourselves, asking ourselves the questions we intend to ask the teacher and trusting ourselves to come up with a good answer?  I know what would happen: we would make notable progress!  A teacher can work with that!  Even if we don't quite nail it by the lesson, we've thought it through, played it through and prepared it so that the teacher can give us the speed boost we need to finally get it.

Ok, so now for the funny trick: to make proper progress in your practice time, imagine your teacher sitting there with you!  That simple.  As you are practicing, imagine your teacher's reaction to everything you are playing and practice it so that it sounds the way your teacher would approve of.  It really works!!

This trick propelled me into a whole new level of playing in college.  It all started with a picture in one of the piano practice rooms.  Someone had copied and enlarged a photo of their piano professor and taped it right where your eyes naturally go when you're at the piano, so you couldn't avoid seeing "her".  At first, I thought it was pretty strange that someone would do that and kind of creepy.  Then I realized why....someone was trying to keep a constant reminder of their teacher's expectations.  The light went on, and from then on--though I didn't put my professor's picture up--I constantly imagined how he would respond to how I played things.  It was like constant "speed boost" mode!

So this week, next week, every week, when you are sitting down to practice, think about your teacher and imagine he or she can hear every note you're playing.  Would you get the "stamp of approval?" 

<![CDATA[Written Music Doesn't Tell the Whole Story]]>Fri, 14 Feb 2014 22:23:32 GMThttp://katherinesschool.weebly.com/blog/written-music-doesnt-tell-the-whole-storyHave you ever played or heard of the game "Mad Gab"?  If you haven't, let me quickly describe it.  Each card has a strange phrase
on it that is not English or any language, just gobbledygook.  But when you say the gobbledygook out loud, you are supposed to hear something familiar about it--it's an English phrase or name or other noun and you have to say it correctly in English.  It's hilarious because everyone can usually hear the English words after the card is read out loud--except for the person saying it.  They are still pondering the appearance of the gobbledygook.  Since they don't recognize anything about the mixture of letters on the card, they keep pronouncing the "words" in labored and odd sounding ways.  Those who rock at Mad Gab are people who can quickly detach from the writing on the card and key in on the sounds their mouth is making.  The written word in this game is a poor clue, the answer lies in what you hear.  Obviously, you can't win Mad Gab if you have never learned the language it's in, right?  If winning Mad Gab is about hearing English, you need to have heard a lot of English in order to recognize the words.

Now, have you ever heard the song Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?   I'm going to say you have.  If I put a bunch of black dots in front of you and you started to play them and they started sounding like Twinkle, would you notice?  It might take a few notes but I'll say you would notice and that you would change how you were playing as soon as you noticed.  At first your playing would be very labored, you would be counting every beat, eyeing the intervals, but then, you would recognize the music and start playing Twinkle.  Do you see how the black dots on the page are not the music and how important it is to have heard the music in order to interpret the dots effectively?

You won't have always heard every piece of music that you play but you will probably have played or heard many of the combinations of notes and rhythms on the page.  You can make music from the little black dots by listening to what comes out of the piano and making it sound like other music you've heard before.  Just like in Mad Gab, the trick is to rely on the black dots only long enough to get the sound in your ear--then listen to see if you sound like you're playing music or just laboring through an uninspiring string of notes.  This is where having heard a lot  of good music and musicians will help you.  You'll know what music should sound like--and what it shouldn't. 

Just like in the game of Mad Gab, if you keep looking at the gobbledygook on the page and trying to make music out of it, you're never going to.  Music happens in the realm of sound, so use the symbols on the page only to provide yourself sounds to work with, then reference the symbols only lightly as you listen to and shape the sounds you hear.  Dots on the page are not music, they are just the clumsy gobbledygook we have agreed upon to communicate the sounds the composer was first inspired by.  He or she is depending on you to intuit the things he or she could not specify on the written page.  Become a worthy interpreter by continually filling your ear with inspiring music and musicians.  There is so much left unsaid--and it's up to you to say it.