Treasury Casino photoshoot

Here are a few pixs from a photoshoot last year. The client was Treasury Casino in Brisbane, and right now these are very big posters on the casino walls! I haven’t been there to see them yet, but my husband took these photos. I must get over there, hope they don’t change them any time soon.

Treasury Casino2

Treasury Casino1

In a happy coincidence, my aunty Shirley from Singapore stayed with me recently, and Mike took us to Boundary Markets in the West End. It was my first time going there. Shinji Ogata (who was with me in that photoshoot) has a studio there where he does live portraits. Shinji did a portrait of my cousin Melanie, and here we all are!

Shinji at the West End markets

This is his website: Acoustic Drawings: The Shinji Ogata Gallery. Here’s his 20 minute watercolour of me, which he did while we were working. He had a small bag of paints and paper with him, to paint something in between shoots. That’s an artist!

Joanna Funk by Shinji Ogata

He calls his work Acoustic Drawings because it’s a one-take work, like improvisation. To top it all, his favourite jazz musician is Bill Evans! So’s mine!

Here’s his take on Bill. Click on it to go to the original work.

Bill Evans Shinji Ogata
Bill Evans by Shinji Ogata

This isn’t a post about piano lessons or even playing piano, but it’s still great to end it with something connected to an awesome jazz musician :-)

Students writing songs and staying up late to play

Arthur said, “I write songs.”

“Well next time you write one let’s see it,” I said. “Maybe we can put chords to it.”

“OK. I write country and folk songs.”

Fine by me.

This week Arthur waved a piece of paper at me.

“I wrote one!”

Shock Resistant by Arthur

“Okay guy, you better read it to me.”

(Tempo: throbbing metal beat)

Arthur began:

Is your alarm not working?

Is your phone not working?

Do you feel like nothing…..anymore

Well you better look out, ‘cos I am

Shock-resist, shock-resist, shock resisTANT!

Shock-resist, shock-resist, shock resisTANT!

Electrical wires

as a cape

Electricity as hair

A light bulb

as a nose

Better look out, ‘cos I’m

Shock-resist, shock-resist, shock resisTANT!

Shock-resist, shock-resist, shock resisTANT!

Ho. That wasn’t country. We’ll need some wild air guitar, for sure.

Awesome isn’t it? These kids knock me out. I’ll work on this in the term break. Time to use MuseScore again. Actually I recently upgraded to MuseScore 2.0. I’ll post the score here when it’s done.

Elsewhere, I got a beautiful sms one night from a parent.

9.30 and still playing

She attached a video. Happy happy.

Related posts

Ice Cream man lyrics
Ice Cream Man Duet video

Orchestra rehearsal: awesome band and a touch of greatness

In this week’s orchestra rehearsal for the Queensland Music Festival “Under This Sky” event we were joined by music heavyweights.

Some real cool dudes were set up behind us. They were the house band – a Samoan funk band called Bass 6. Their keyboard player ran off those jazzy 11ths and 13ths, on a really bright-sounding, digital piano. They were warming up, it sounded great and I was now distracted. I didn’t want to play, I wanted to watch them. The keyboard player was Sam Tuuga, who arranged several of our songs.

Topping that, music royalty was in the house. QMF Artistic Director James Morrison was sitting with producer Tara Hobbs, along with Choral Director Cath Mundy and Creative Director Sean Mee.

No pressure then.

We collected our new music and Conductor Shaun Dorney waved his baton and cued us in.

Well, he cued some of us in. The MELODICA section had to wait 49 bars.

49 frigging bars.

As they say here, far out.

I counted diligently, while a battle raged in my mind. It went like this:

Me, the blogger: Hey, hey, hey… James Morrison is standing up right in front of us, with his trumpet! Where’s my phone? Must get a photo.

Me, the musician: Forget it. Just concentrate. We are on BAR NINE (2-3-4), TEN (2-3-4), ELEVEN…

Blogger: But he’s playing NOW!

Musician: Yep. I’m hearing James Morrison playing live, and it’s sunshine piercing the clouds. He lifts his horn and fills the air with the sweetest, prettiest, happiest notes. Magical, musical stardust is raining on us. I’m in the moment, my mind is blank but for the music.


What bar is this?

Blogger: Ah well. We’ve stuffed that up. Get a photo then.

QMF Artistic Director James Morrison and Conductor Shaun Dorney
QMF Artistic Director James Morrison and Conductor Shaun Dorney

Elsewhere, Nathan, a clarinetist, asked politely what I called “that instrument”.

This happens a lot. At the Sunnybank Theatre Group, someone in the cast said, “Oh it’s a mouth-piano!” I thought that was a pretty good name.

Back to Nathan, we chatted a bit and he said he recently took his AMEB Grade 5 exam, and just got the result – Honours! Well done, guy.

Nathan the clarinetist
Nathan the clarinetist

Finally James, a flautist, asked if I wanted any videos of the orchestra for the blog. Are people nice or what? It must be the music that does it. More about the flautists soon.

Melodica: Jammin’ in da orchestra

It’s the second rehearsal of the Logan Orchestra, which performs Aug 1-2 as part of this year’s Queensland Music Festival (QMF).

We have a new location: Old Logan Village Road, Waterford. So I pray to Google Maps and off we go.

Lovely Isabel was there, waiting for us with new music, here she is.

Isabel Hart, QMF Project Co-Ordinator
Isabel Hart, QMF Project Co-Ordinator

Looking at the music, Melodica has chords and…a reggae beat! Aw, look at that! Bars and bars of it. Today we are groovin’

Jammin Melodica by PicSay

I managed to keep count when I wasn’t playing, most of the time. Conductor Shaun only shouted once: “Melodica, this is you, now.”

Anyway, he doesn’t seem too mad with me. What do you think?

Da Boss! Shaun Dorney, QMF Orchestra Director and Conductor
Da Boss! Shaun Dorney, QMF Orchestra Director and Conductor

We were in a lovely place, Canterbury College. I think we’re having a few rehearsals here. The college is hosting an Arts Open Day on May 26. So I thought I would include the flyer here for your perusal.

Canterbury College ARTS OPEN DAY

Next rehearsal is in a couple of weeks!

Right hand or left hand? It doesn’t matter when you’re four

Dayna is my beautiful, cherubic four-year-old student. I first met her when she was three, when I taught her two older sisters. She used to roll around on the floor nearby with books and colouring pencils, occasionally sneaking up on us and plonking a note or two. After a while she started bugging her mum, “Mummy, I want to learn too!”

Dayna’s two sisters had one and a half hours of lessons between them, and originally we decided to adjust the time so that Dayna could learn something fun for the last ten minutes.

To start with, I visited Susan Paradis’ website – she was an invaluable resource when I first started teaching piano. Really, the generosity of the online community knows no bounds. I chose her Wiggly Worm pdf for Dayna.

Dayna greeted me at the door the following week! She was so keen to start! We played games numbering our fingers and playing low and high sounds, then we looked at Wiggly Worms. We went through it and I left it with her for the week.

Wiggly Worms by Susan Paradis

The following week, Dayna played it clearly, with determination and pride (“Ta Da!”) This followed by squeals of delight, and a bit of jumping around.

Right! I started her on a Bastien Primer A book. Dayna was a voracious learner and her ten minutes blew out to 30 minutes from the second lesson. Now all three girls had half an hour each. Dayna couldn’t tell me which was her right or left hand. At first, I tried to draw a right or left hand by each short song, later I asked her, “When you draw, which hand do you hold your pencil?” She put up her right hand, and I started to draw a pencil on all the R.H. pieces.

Each week I asked, “Did you have a chance to practise, Dayna?” She would nod vigorously, and open the book. I guessed she was practising by herself without any guidance, because she would play right hand songs with her left hand and vice versa. She would be a bit nonplussed when I gently switched her hands around, although it didn’t stop her playing all her songs correctly.

Incidently, from what I can see, young children who have the benefit of a parent overseeing their practice generally learn their pieces more quickly and with less errors than their unsupervised peers. But I also think that the child who learns independently is building precious skills and character traits for life. The delight of independent discovery is potent, if the penny drops! That’s the gamble I suppose. Hopefully I can help a little bit there.

Anyway, I was thinking about Dayna one day and thought, “Joanna, you need to lighten up on this girl! She’s only four and you’re teaching her like her seven-year-old sister. Cut her lesson down to 15 minutes! And really, in a song like this, who CARES if she is using her right or left hand? She’s practising all by herself, she psyched and she’s only four! It’s all good!

Big notes

So last week I said, “Dayna! I want to hear everything you practised! Play it for me, just the way you’ve been doing it all week.”

Dayna played about six or seven songs, mostly with her left hand, although by the time she got to Mary’s Lamb (which sounds very much like Mary Had A Little Lamb) she decided to do that with her right hand. The songs sounded great and Dayna was happy. I did mention to her mum that she likes using her left hand to play, even though the family claims she’s a Righty.

I made her lesson a bit shorter, and picked out some Music Express sheet music for her with big pictures which she could colour in and bring them to the next lesson. Yay!

Bringing books to my students


There are so many fun piano books out there, for kids and for adults. But I can’t buy them all to bring around to my students.

So I had a chat with Music Express‘ owner. Sorted! I can now pick what I want and let them know when I sell something. How’s that for a great working relationship?

Kid in candy store time! I picked several things I thought my kids, or adults might like. I particularly love duets. It can be a lonely deal learning piano and two people playing together is a great experience. And I get to play with my students!

My students always have one work book. I want their technical ability to improve and the lesson books introduce whatever the next concept is in a logical manner.

I have teenagers on adult learner books, and some of those songs are…well… just not from their era. I still want us to work through those lessons, but let’s find something that’s a little lighter to play too! In the future I hope they will tell me what to look out for, for them.

So I hit the road with my books today, and the students are going for it! It’s a great feeling to see them like what I picked for them. Can’t wait to show the rest next week.

Melodica goes to orchestra rehearsal!


Look at that! Scores for my beautiful melodica to play in a Queensland Music Festival orchestra in Logan! They arrived in my inbox a day before the first rehearsal.

“You have arrived at your destination,” said my GPS, on the Brown Plains Road with trees everywhere and not a sports centre in sight. Aw come on! I have zero internal GPS and don’t want to be late! A U-turn and some scouring of the horizon for any building.. yes! Found the sports stadium with ten minutes to go.

I headed for Court No. 2, which was milling with people!

Where do we all sit?
Where do we all sit?

“Who have we got? Any sax players yet? Over here!” Shaun Dorney, QMF Orchestra Director and Conductor, was bellowing. He was seating people within an area defined by red tape. This was the size and shape of our raised stage, which has yet to be built.

“Excuse me, what instrument do you play?” This chap was directing people to their music folders.

“Melodica,” I said.


“Oh hello!” Isabel Hart looked up. She’s Project Co-Ordinator, and was the first person I met at the audition about a month ago.

“Your music is down there on the extreme right,” she said. The folders of music were laid out on the floor, and sure enough, all by itself at the end, was a lovely black folder with the label MELODICA on it! Rockin’!

“Melodica! Here!”

Oop. That’s me!

Shaun seated me with some oboe players. Fresh-faced high-schoolers. I leaned over and peeped at their music, it looked similar to mine.

“We have the widest range of musicians ever!” Tara Hobbs beamed. Tara is QMF Producer on the project. “All ages and ranges of musical abilities.”

This is Jay Turner, who composed one of our main songs! He has a beautiful mandolin, all amped up. I’m gonna ask him to jam with me when I get the chance.

Jay Turner, composer and Mandolin Man
Jay Turner, composer and Mandolin Man

QMF Creative Director Sean Mee explained to us the context in which we were playing. It’s a massive two-day celebration in Logan entitled Under This Sky, which will take place at the Logan Brothers Rugby League Club August 1-2.

Under This Sky is a story of joy and identity, of the ordinary and the extraordinary. This is an epic celebration of place. QMF website

SBS is documenting the entire project journey.

SBS cameraman and QMF Creative Director Sean Mee
SBS cameraman and QMF Creative Director Sean Mee

Then we were into it. Shaun Dorney had a quick discussion with Jay about the rhythm, then he was conducting! Downstroke, “Two, three, four…”

Are you serious? Just like that? Does everyone know their bits already?

We have compositions written by Morganics, and Jay Turner, with arrangements by Erin Thomson and Shaun Dorney.

I’ve never played in an orchestra before, and I expected that the conductor would sort of point at me and wave me in.

I looked at my music… 2 bars of not playing. Then another 15 bars, maybe we’re here now? Then 13 bars, 12, 13, 8… then my first phrase…

“Melodica! I didn’t hear you!”

Of course not, I haven’t a clue where we are. Yikes! I got the hang of it fast enough, pressing my fingers against my thigh to keep count!

“Sometimes the hardest bit is when you’re NOT playing,” Tara said later when I expressed my new insight. No relaxing and listening to the other musicians then!

Next rehearsal in two weeks. :-)