Blog Post

Music and Nature for all Ages – Free Pop-Up Class

May 15, 2020

The Center for Young Musicians staff is busy creating a memorable family music and nature day! Please join us for a free, online, pop-up music class Saturday, June 6 that will incorporate nature, singing, listening, make-at-home instruments and more! When you sign up, we will send you details for how you can have fun preparing for the class. Scavenger hunt, anyone? And since this is online, please invite family and friends to join from their homes across the country.

Nature and music really do go hand in hand. Read on to get the big picture on the nature and music connection:

Have you ever noticed how naturally connected children are to nature? Have you stopped to think about how much nature exposure our kiddos are actually getting? Studies have shown the benefits to our well-being. For all of us, time in nature provides measurable improvement in mental health, heart health, and even sleep habits! Especially interesting are the recent findings that show a decrease in ADD/ADHD symptoms when children spend quality time in nature!

So, knowing the importance of nature, you might not be surprised to find an emphasis on it in early childhood music programs, such as Musikgarten at the Center for Young Musicians. How does music tie in to nature? Well, start with that quote up there. Listening is the cornerstone of all learning. When we listen in the woods, we are attuning our ability to focus our listening, as we are surrounded by such a variety of sounds: wind in the trees, birds calling out to one another, rustling leaves, a babbling brook, a Bull Frog bellowing…how many can you name? You might hear deep, bellowing bullfrog sounds, and also higher-pitched tree frog sounds. It’s a veritable chorus of frogs out there! Try singling out sounds with your child and comparing what you hear. Are insect sounds long and sustained, such as a buzz from a bee, and other times rhythmic expressions such as the percussive chirps of a cricket, or a katydid?

But still you say, What is the benefit of exploring and experiencing nature for music study? Look at it this way. Do we want children to be able to express emotions in music? When we find tickly things in nature, and explore them through touch, we will have a better sense of producing light, delicate sounds on an instrument! Or, what does it feel like to trudge through snow? Heavy, slow, steps, with bended knee and swinging arms? When it comes time to perform music that is full-bodied and requires a depth of tone and a full sound, your child will have that sensation inside of them, ready to emerge through the music! How about the skills gained through purposeful listening and distinguishing sounds? That ability is preparing a child to listen acutely to their own playing, as well as taking in music of others while playing in an ensemble. If we were just teaching typing, we wouldn’t need those experiences, because our goal would not be to convey joy through our musical expression. But we do share music with others to enrich our world and bring beauty to it in a meaningful way. Music is in our senses, and how we experience the natural world around us indeed shapes how well we tell our story through music. 

“Play on!” is a familiar Shakespeare quote, and you and your children can do just that through a free Nature’s Music class designed for you, your family, and friends across the globe!

Saturday, June 6, 2020, at 10:00 am – 10:45 am

Click here to register for this free Pop-Up Nature’s Music class!

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Present Your Piece to Faculty Panel on Achievement Day

April 24, 2020

Achievement Day has been rescheduled for April 25th at 2:00 p.m. online. Check your email for your invitation!

What is Achievement Day? It is an opportunity for students to present their work to faculty and receive feedback that can be integrated immediately into the performer’s goal planning, lesson practice, technique, and outlook as a musician.

This is a perfect event for teacher and student to use to set specific performance objectives. Setting a goal helps students work more intentionally in their practice time. It lifts them up to strive for better technique and better musicality. Practicing performing is crucial for all students so that they gain poise and control when playing for others. Receiving feedback that can be applied immediately can bring about turning points in a student’s studies.

Talk to your teacher to see if Achievement Day is a good choice for you right now.

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CYM Faculty Teaches Webinar on the Purpose of Movement in Musikgarten

April 24, 2020

Teachers from around the country have signed up to take an online webinar with CYM faculty, Ms. Amy. This presentation was originally made during a Musikgarten Festival in Charlotte, NC, in 2019, and is now open to any teachers who have interest in learning more about movement and the important role it plays in the Musikgarten curriculum.

If you have ever had a student in our Suzuki Readiness group lessons or in a Musikgarten class, you have experienced, first hand, the emphasis on large muscle movements, dances, and moving to the beat. Or maybe you have walked by the group room in Sewickley and casually wondered what was happening in there!

Movement in these classes is a means to embody musical concepts. The very young babies and toddlers are feeling the beat, while hearing the music. They swing with an adult, or move around the room, changing direction and actions with the change in the music. These young children are internalizing form, pitch, and beat – so that when they do move to an instrument, they have a connection to the elements music. Older students learn complex dances, and create unique pathways that internalize style, tone, and emotional character of many styles of music. Later, when they learn to play an instrument, the sound is IN them, and they figure out how to bring that sound out of their instrument!

Sometimes it just feels like fun and free dancing – but in every movement activity in Musikgarten there is an underlying purpose. This purpose is what will be examined next week in Ms. Amy’s webinar.

“Moving Through the Musikgarten” is happening online Wednesday, April 29, 10:00 am – 11:30 am

For more information about attending this teacher training webinar, contact Musikgarten. To find a class for your young ones ages birth to 8, please visit CYM. Online classes are happening now, and we would love to help your children lay the foundation for a lifetime of music making!

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Students Learn Performance Tip at Mr. Mark’s Serenade

April 24, 2020

Three guitarists attended the Saturday Serenade last week: Ayan, Carson, and Aarnav. Everyone had family watching them. They each shared a polished piece, then I played Waltz Espanol by Ferrer to demonstrate how to end a piece and where to keep your eyes when you perform. Everyone then played another piece to demonstrate that they understood and had integrated this technique. The results were that the performers improved their overall focus and could offer a smoother presentation, and the audience listened with less visual distraction. We had extra time, so each student played another two or three pieces after that, and everyone gave feedback on what they liked about each student’s performance. Great job everyone!

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Joyful Benefits: Teachers’ Reflections on the Exciting Surprises in Online Teaching

April 24, 2020

We are several weeks into this journey of making music across the miles. Students and teachers have settled into routines, having their tech abilities stretched to new heights. Along the way, our students are the ones surprising us- they are making it work, with great attitudes, steady progress, and joyful music making.

This is the word coming from our teachers, who were asked recently to reflect on the things that surprised them the most in their online teaching. And the benefits have been numerous, helping us all to see the value of the virtual lesson. We can honestly say it gives certain benefits that are unique to the venue of delivery.

Teachers were asked to reflect on at least one thing that has been a positive, a surprise, or an unanticipated benefit as they teach online.

The responses came in quickly, and with enthusiasm. There was a sense of happiness and gratitude as they related the numerous unexpected benefits.

Overall, teachers are pleased with the afforded possibilities and intentionality that are present in the online lessons. Working together, the teacher-student-parent team is creating beneficial and enjoyable moments of learning. Read on for some of the faculty musings on this question, and click through on any faculty to read more on their teacher page.

Mr. Chris is seeing a greater engagement from both teacher and student. He notices that both must listen with intent in order to hear directions, music, and each other. “Both teacher and student are strengthening their listening skills, attention, focus, and mindfulness of what is around them in their environment.”

Some teachers reported that a non-musical benefit of online teaching is less time spent commuting! But within the lesson teachers are finding online resources that truly enhance their teaching, such as one that Mr. Dan uses, He also stated that an unexpected benefit he has seen from online guitar lessons is hand position modeling: “…sometimes being able to see things in 2D is actually a plus – I can sometimes model a hand position more clearly on a screen….their screen view of themselves makes a handy mirror for evaluating position.”

Mr. Erich is finding that he is spending more time creating practice aids for his students in preparation for their lessons, and enjoying being able to send new assignments or pieces throughout the week. He shared that he is “making many more recordings of melodies and accompaniments for their reference”. His students surely feel supported and connected with that level of attention!

Maximizing lesson time is a common theme throughout. Ms. Simmi has found that her students are really using their time well, and with intention. An added benefit for pianists is that they seem “much more at ease playing their assignments on the piano that they are accustomed to (at home) as opposed to having to adjust to a different piano for their lesson time.” Great perspective!

Additional benefits spring to mind for Mr Ryan. Being in one place means his teaching resources are always within reach. In thinking about his students and their lessons, he is echoing what others are saying: improved focus! “On the whole, my students actually focus better!”

Having Zoom lessons is also creating resourcefulness on the part of families. Students and parents are getting set up ahead of the lesson – in order to make use of every minute. Ms. Leah commented: “One of the biggest surprises to me about online lessons is how, for the most part, I’m able to get a lot of teaching done!  When the lesson starts, the student is already waiting, has his or her violin tuned, and is ready to go! “ After four or five weeks of lessons, many students must now process new concepts or skills on their own, after initial coaching from the teacher during the online lesson. Students are applying themselves to be independent learners as they approach new skills. “I have had to teach some of my students how to tune their violins before I normally would have, so those students have had a steep learning curve, but everyone has risen to the occasion.”

Similar stories are coming from the piano faculty. Ms. Grace echoes the idea that we are seeing more independent thinkers. Students apply their knowledge in real time, which stretches their understanding of the concepts. “I’m not there to lean over and write in their music, so they are learning how to find measure numbers, identify notation, etc., much faster than they do in in-person lessons!”

Mr. Mark is seeing benefits in the variety of teaching techniques and pedagogical content that online lessons allow. “For me the ability to share screen and use technology in new ways to keep lessons engaging has been the most pleasant surprise. We have been using Finale Notepad to write out rhythms and melodies, we are starting to do ensemble arrangements together, and are trying to do some recording sessions together online. Plus some online games during lessons.

Insight into home practice and how music rooms are arranged has been a plus for Mr. Jake Nathanson. He also appreciates the ease of sharing resources with a student during the lesson. Mr. Jake says it is “easy to pull up performances of music that students are working on, and listen together, and convenient to share sheet music quickly and brainstorm new pieces.”

Ms. Rochelle sums up the most meaningful benefit very well by simply stating that it is the best way to “stay connected to families when we are unable to be together in person.” Well said!

And as for myself, Ms. Amy: I concur with all of these observations, and have thoroughly appreciated the collaboration of ideas between teachers. Now that I am teaching a fifth week of lessons, I feel the students have found their groove and are showing significant progress. The lessons are more and more about learning, now that we are used to the format. It has stretched us all in good ways. For Musikgarten classes, I am delighted with the pure joy in the little ones’ participation, musical growth, purposeful listening, and the amazing parent involvement!

Deep, lasting, and valuable learning is happening in this teaching format. Let’s continue to glean the joyful benefits and the boundless creativity that are taking place through CYM online. And please share this if you know of someone who might like to start an online trial! Most of all, thank you, families, for your dedication and perseverance. We are all in this together – and growing, musically, in every way!

To sign up for online lessons, please visit our CYM registration page!

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Share Your Favorite Practice Photo With Fellow Students

April 24, 2020
First Songs on Guitar

Do you have a snapshot of yourself playing on the front step or in the yard for your neighbors, the postal person, the birds? Have a picture of yourself sitting on the bench of your home piano visualizing how to successfully untangle a tricky passage? Have a photo of the big smile on your face as you sing and/or play a well-known piece for your family? Email the photo to and we will close post it on the music school’s website. You are not alone in sticking to the daily regimen: your music friends continue to practice, enjoy, and advance as well, and your teachers are proud each one of you for your continued efforts! A parent who answered our survey suggested this thoughtful idea (share practice photos) as a means to connect students to one another. Thank you! We look forward to building your “Practice Gallery”.

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The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust- Looking Ahead

April 17, 2020

Everything is shifting during these weeks, and we all feel it. Center for Young Musicians is here to help keep you connected so students grow and take advantage of all the arts resources around them – no matter what!

Some changes to our plans can’t be avoided, and some events must be postponed, or sometimes even cancelled. But it is all for the sake of keeping everyone safe and healthy! The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has made difficult decisions about upcoming events, like cancelling the Three Rivers Arts Festival and the EQT Children’s Theater Festival. All events through June 14 have been suspended. We will surely miss gathering with one another for events like these that have become a tradition in the Pittsburgh arts scene.

Accolades to our friends at the Cultural Trust who are thinking creatively and diligently to bring continued arts activities and resources to Pittsburgh families. They inspire us to keep working to bring even more options to the families and faculty of CYM.

For now, let’s look forward to the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh Series, just announced:

2020-2021 Season

Ain't Too Proud
Ain’t Too Proud

Tue, Aug 25 – Sun, Aug 30, 2020 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh


Tue, Oct 27 – Sun, Nov 1, 2020 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird

Tue, Nov 24 – Sun, Nov 29, 2020 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh


Tue, Jan 5 – Sun, Feb 7, 2021 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

The Cher Show
The Cher Show

Tue, Feb 23 – Sun, Feb 28, 2021 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh


Tue, Mar 9 – Sun, Mar 14, 2021 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

Pretty Woman: The Musical
Pretty Woman: The Musical

Tue, Mar 30 – Sun, Apr 4, 2021 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady

Tue, Apr 13 – Sun, Apr 18, 2021 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

2020-2021 Season Specials

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

Tue, Nov 17 – Sun, Nov 22, 2020 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

Blue Man Group
Blue Man Group

Tue, Apr 27 – Sun, May 2, 2021 Benedum Center PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

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RSVP for Achievement Day

April 11, 2020

Achievement Day is this Saturday, April 25th at 2:00 p.m. online. Check your email for the invitation!

What is Achievement Day? It is an opportunity for students to perform for CYM Faculty and receive immediate feedback.

Achievement Day is forum in which students can demonstrate a specific performance goal. Setting a goal helps students work deliberately in their practice time; they more readily focus on improving technique and deepening musicality. Practicing performing is crucial for all students so that they gain poise and control when playing for others. Receiving feedback that can be applied immediately can bring about turning points in a student’s studies. Make sure to RSVP to the invitation to participate!

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April’s Upcoming Events

April 10, 2020

We look forward to being together virtually and hearing you play!

  • April 18th, 10:00 a.m. Guitar Department Group with Mr. Mark
  • April 18th, 10:35 a.m. Saturday Light Brigade with Ms. Simmi
  • April 18th, 11:30 a.m. Saturday Serenade with Mr. Mark
  • April 19th, 2:00 p.m. Sunday Serenade with Mr. Chris
  • April 25th, 2:00 p.m. Achievement Day with Ms. Grace, Ms. Rochelle, and Mr. Mark
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Survey Coming Your Way…

April 10, 2020

Please fill out the survey to communicate what you would like to see taking place at CYM. Have feedback to share about your virtual lesson? Have an idea for an outreach concert? Want to take part in a new 30 minute class? Let us know! CYM is dedicated to developing musical skills and inspiring your family.

Check your email for a link to the survey. We appreciate you taking 3-4 minutes out of your day to fill it out.

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