Monday, September 20, 2021

What Administrative Tasks Slow Your Work Flow? Have You Narrowed Down The Reason?

The topic of Work Flow has come up quite a bit on professional boards. This past week FONS (Fons means "fountain" in Latin) founder, Eric Branner, asked what we all were planning for the weekend.  Like most of us, he shared that his studio/office was a disaster. He had a load to take to goodwill, tools and instruments everywhere, and a ton of administrative work to handle. AND, he still had family responsibilities that included taking the kids to soccer and basketball. But the administrative needs were the most abundant and unpleasant for him and for everyone else on the board - including me.

Therefore I decided to track down the exact area of administrative work that was stopping my flow. To do this, I had to separate the work into divisions: bookkeeping, social media, lesson preparation, advertising/marketing, reviewing meeting minutes, clearing out old files, scheduling, reading emails, periodicals, articles, and memos, et cetera, and then break down each task to see what was getting the least attention or what was being avoided.

I found that the task that I avoid, and that takes most of my time, is required reading. Periodicals stack up, and company or professional organization emails give me the shivers. Dealing with them is unpleasant and can usurp my weekend. I love to read books, but reading through my business memos, emails, and professional periodicals seems to challenge me the most. But why? Why do I procrastinate in that area? And why can I fly through a book but find myself crawling through business readings? Then one of the answers became obvious as I was going through guitar center company posts on my feed: I don't like Initialism and it seems to be abundant

When I did my graduate work in Arts Administration, our professors made it clear that the first time we mentioned a position, organization, function, or anything else in a memo, email, paper, or conversation - we should fully state the name with the initials that we would use as we continued. We were told it was good business etiquette to do this even within organizations where everyone may be familiar with the use of the initials. 

As I read through the electronic posts, and the hard copies this past weekend, I had to keep stopping and researching initials. In many instances, I couldn't find what the initials stood for, online or, within the company sites. This was bringing the task to a pause more than I would have liked. It was frustrating, and searching for the meaning of the initials was very time consuming. (I have to admit that some of those emails and memos that didn't impact me directly went right into the trash.)

In today's business world using initials indicates to others that you are an insider. But as the use of initialism (and acronyms) continues to rise, using them (without them being defined when first presented) may deter your audience, or worse, confuse them. 

Like everyone, I will still be confronted with initials that are not defined in company emails and professional articles. Knowing that initialism hinders my speed at task completion can help me decide which business readings get closure and which ones stay in the pile until the next weekend.

How do you feel about the use of initials, and new acronyms, when used without opening definitions? Do you flow easily with them, or do you feel that they cloud your ability to complete your required reading in a timely manner? 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Private Music Studios in Today's Climate

The daily email blasts from professional music organizations and music teaching studio employers, regarding the pandemic, is enough to keep any instructor scratching their head.

Everyone wants to know when in-person lessons will truly be safe again. Teachers are doing their best to make informed choices with guidelines set forth by the organizations that insure them and/or, the businesses that employ them. It can be overwhelming - especially for beginning teachers. Fortunately, there are a number of private music teacher boards that have popped up during the pandemic and have been a welcome help in sorting out the guidelines and regulations. The biggest message to teachers from all of the organizations around the World is this, "Don't let business owners, students, or parents bully you." Parents are beyond stressed and businesses want people coming through their doors. You have to remember that they are under a lot of pressure, too. 

You are responsible to all of your students, their families, yourself, and your family: Keep that in mind when deciding what the best choice is for your studio size and student load.

I have put all of the information that is current to me into bullet points for my colleagues. Keep in mind that all of this can change tomorrow. Keep in mind that there are teachers who flirt with regulations and will not be following the guidelines. And, keep in mind that it is wise to do your own research to decide what is comfortable for your studio's wellness. 

Guidelines and regulations for going back to in-person lessons in a public studio (This is for a multi-room facility where you may work for another party as an employee, or on a teaching commission):

  • The teacher will be in a studio large enough to accommodate two people (student and teacher), and two separate instruments, with a distance of 7 feet between the student and teacher. 
  • The scheduling gap time between students, for air circulation and disinfecting of common surfaces, is now 15 minutes. You will need to re-arrange your students' lesson times if you were on a 30 minute block schedule.
  • In the case of smaller instruments, teachers may alternate between two studios to avoid the 15 minute gap. When doing this, the studio that is empty needs to remain empty with the door open for circulation. 
  • Each studio room should have a filtration or air flow system out of the room.
  • The choice to wear, or not wear, a mask is under the supervision of the local government: Where there is no local government mandate, the business owner, and the private instructor, will set the guideline. 
  • The choice to request proof of vaccination for students 12 years of age and older is at the discretion of the public business owner and/or the instructor. Students younger than 12 years of age may be asked to present a negative covid test before each lesson.
  • Wind, Brass, and Voice instruments are heavily cautioned. Voice is completely restricted by the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and the American Choral Directors Society. Wind and Brass may continue with full instrument coverage and plexiglas separation between teacher and student. Again keeping the 7 feet separation.
  • No other siblings, students, or guardians should be in the room. The space is limited to two persons.
  • If a student becomes ill and tests positive within two days following a lesson, all students with following lesson times on that same day need to be contacted for testing and possible quarantine. Individuals can spread the infection up to two days before showing symptoms. The teacher will need to be tested and quarantine. (This may be problematic if the parent does not consider contacting the business or the instructor.)

Single, In Home, Teaching Studios:

All of the Comments and Guidelines for public studios apply.

  • Only the student should enter the home of the instructor. Siblings and parents/guardians are expected to wait outside, or in their vehicle.
  • Students are not allowed early entry. Instruct parents to park and wait with their child in their vehicle if they arrive early. (Texting the student when you are prepared for them is recommended.)
  • If the student appears ill or feverish they must not be admitted. Teachers  may need to meet students outside to assess each student before bringing the student inside. (For homes with a covered porch, a waiting area can be set up outside of the home on the porch.)
  • When a student's time is complete the student leaves the instructor's residence and waits outside for their parent/guardian to pick them up. 
  • The instructor will schedule a 15 minute block between students to clean common surfaces and air out the studio room. 
  • In transferring back to in person sessions it will become evident that there is less time for in person lessons than online lessons. Most 30 minute in-person lessons average 20 minutes of work. The remaining time is used for removing shoes and jackets, arranging books and supplies, washing hands, using the restroom, settling in, etc.  
  • You will need to close the student's lesson up to 5 minutes earlier to allow them to gather their belongings, put on shoes or jackets, etc., for timely exit so preparations can be made for the next student.
  • Remind parents to have their children use the restroom before arriving at your home studio to avoid extra time in disinfecting the restroom between students.
  • Payments should be taken through electronic means. Encourage parents to speak with you through emails or texts to allow for as much lesson time as possible for their child.  

Private music teachers in the U.S. appear to be the most unsure of the regulations that guide their profession at this time. Private music teachers from other countries are showing a more clear and more unified understanding of what their countries have directed. (This may also be due to the fact that other countries have heavier licensing and education requirements for private music teachers than the U.S.)

Everyone's decision process will be different. I am online to stay for a few reasons; 
  • I have had at least one student every month who has been exposed or has been ill. (If I had been teaching in-person I would have had to go through a number of quarantines myself and all of my local  students would have been exposed.) 
  • I have students that live too far outside of the area for in-person lessons. 
  • Expanding 30-6o minute blocks to teaching blocks with an additional 15 minute "clearing block", just won't work for many of my students who already have to shuffle times between extra curricular activities. 
Having said why I am staying online, and knowing that I will always have online students, I still really miss seeing my younger students in person. Like most of you, I keep watching the information that is coming out from specialists that our professional organizations consult, every day. And I know that tomorrow everything can change again. 
                                                        *  *  *

Stay centered and keep in touch. I would be interested in knowing if you have; discontinued teaching and are considering returning at a later time, are staying online, or have found a safe way to return to in person teaching. Send your comments and questions to:

Here is more info from Guitar Center and Music & Arts:

At the Guitar Center Company, we are learning and doing our part together to protect our Associates, customers, and communities from the spread of COVID-19.


If you have felt scared, angry, overwhelmed, confused, or all of the above as a result of the virus, you are not alone. Your health and safety are our top priority, and we want to equip you with tools and resources to help keep you informed.


How Do Viruses Spread Between People?


Viruses rely on living things to survive, and their goal is to spread. While they can live a very brief time on surfaces without living cells, they will die quickly if they do not have a live host to latch onto.


Imagine a house guest that comes over uninvited, never leaves, dirties up your house, and gets really comfy on your clean furniture. That is what the virus does to your cells.

Once a virus is in a host cell, its mission is to reproduce as much as possible until the living host’s immune system kicks in and stops it. When you are sick, your body goes through a cycle of symptoms that get progressively worse before (hopefully) getting better. That is because when a virus invades, it easily spreads, causing anything from minor colds to serious diseases. When finally stopped, it—along with its copies—packs its bags and moves to attack another unsuspecting host.


Viruses travel from one live host cell to another through infectious droplets (from sneezing, coughing, or talking) on surfaces or in the air. When someone encounters the droplets, they can get infected. If that happens, the virus can easily pass from one person to the next through close proximity or being indoors with other people.


After the first sign of symptoms, viruses can be contagious for up to two weeks. They can also start to spread before people realize they are sick. For those who are asymptomatic, they never develop any symptoms of illness and are often unaware that they are carrying a contagious virus. And, for those with weakened immune systems, they can spread viruses for even longer because they may not have the capacity to fight the virus in the same way as someone with a stronger immune system.

What is a Variant?


Delta or Lambda – what does it mean? There are times during virus reproduction when the copy made is not a perfect replicate. This is normal and expected virus behavior. What happens, though, is that the virus changes and then proceeds to make additional copies of this now “new” virus. The changed virus is what is referred to as a variant, and in the case of the Delta variant, it is more infectious than other coronavirus strains, spreading faster with the potential for differing symptoms.


6 Ways to Protect Your Loved Ones from Viruses


Viruses can be devastating for communities, and deadly. It is up to us to do what we can to protect those around us and prevent viruses from creating a destructive, domino effect or outbreak, as in the case of COVID-19.


Here are a few measures that each of us can start or continue doing:


  1. Get vaccinated – Get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect you and others.
  2. Wash your hands – Throughout the day, frequently wash your hands with soap and water – 20 seconds is the magic number. If soap and water is not available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is the next best option.
  3. Don’t touch your face – Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, especially with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces.
  4. Clean and disinfect – Using a disinfectant, clean high traffic surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, tables or desks, faucets, handles, etc.
  5. Keep a distance – Maintain social distancing while in public and avoid close contact with those who are sick.
  6. Wear a mask – It is the easiest thing we can do to ensure that our communities are safe.

Why Are Vaccines Important?


In a vaccinated community, a virus has little to no chance of survival. Vaccines have played a significant role in eliminating deadly and highly contagious viral infections, such as measles and polio. They not only stop them from spreading but can prevent the replication that causes variants. When you get vaccinated, you are protecting yourself, your family, and everyone else.

*Not everyone can be vaccinated, age, and medical history, may prohibit vaccination. If you are well and can vaccinate but still have questions, talk with your physician about your concerns. 


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Keeping A Rehearsal Journal : Journaling for Music Progress


How Organized Am I?

If I compare how organized I am in my mind to how organized I am in daily life there is a pretty big chasm. As music instructors, coaches, and performers our work can overwhelm us at times, and we often put more effort into progressing others musically through teaching, while making our rehearsal time an afterthought. I have found that consistent journal entries have improved the quality of my rehearsal time and I want to encourage you to do the same to help you see improvement, too. 

As instructors, we start each student with an assignment book, or email assignments to students/parents at each lesson, to inspire them to a daily  practice habit. But when it comes to our own time with our instruments some of us are not as consistent for ourselves. Studio teaching schedules, family obligations, and day to day survival itself is difficult for adult musicians because our schedules are rarely consistent. And not keeping a daily music journal for ourselves can result in; loss of time in performance preparation, forgotten scores, loss of technical agility, anxiety, and other stumbling blocks to continued growth. 

When Do We Start Using Practice Journals? 

By the time we are in college we are expected to keep our own music journals - but I think it is safe to say that not all college students maintain this practice. And once we are out on our own we forget all about rehearsal journals because we mistakenly relate them with lesson assignments from instructors and not with professional growth. We start relying on coaches, conductors, producers, and others to keep us on task with professional rehearsals. And, if we are soloists, we often fool ourselves into believing that we can remember what we accomplished in our last practice session. But, how many times have you found a selection that you started working on months ago, in a stack of books, and wondered how you forgot about that sheet music when it is one of your favorites that you have always wanted in your repertoire? Am I right?

The item we ask all new students to bring to their first lesson is a blank notebook, binder with paper, or commercial assignment book. It is the place to hold goals, it helps them and their teacher to assess where weaknesses may be, provides a path to follow, and is a clear history to look back on so the teacher and the student can visually follow their progress. We are training our students in how to stay the path with a practice journal. But how many of our students read and follow their assignment sheets? How many of them have parents that help them fulfill their assignments? And how many students "lose" their assignments? As much as we might try to stress the importance of this practice log for future reference, its importance is not well received by professional or amateur musicians.

When we are young we need to exercise a task, over and over, on our musical instrument until it becomes easier. We are learning new movements, in playing a musical instrument, that are not typical daily motions for the non-musician. Some of my students who take part in sports or dance have sessions with their coaches and teams 4-5 mornings, or nights, every week throughout the year. Because athletes are seeing their coaches on such a frequent basis, the need for a practice journal is not necessary. However, a young musician will only see their instructor once a week. And children need help in repetitive practice. I recently started a child in lessons. Neither parent had  purchased an assignment book for the child, so I asked the child to write the date on each page so they knew what to practice for the next week and emailed the family an assignment. You probably guessed that the books were not opened over the week.  Making practice a daily habit is one of the biggest hurdles for teachers to instill. An appropriately used assignment book, or rehearsal journal, can help establish a habit that will help move the beginner and the professional musician forward at a faster pace.

How Can Professionals Use A Rehearsal Journal?

How can we best make use of a rehearsal journal when we are at the professional level? First determine what type of rehearsal journal would be best for you. I use art journals because I buy them in bulk for sketching and always have extras on hand. I have colleagues that maintain a file for themselves on Excel, Word, or other computer platforms. Others like to use something like a Franklin Planner. You can also use inexpensive composition books from the Dollar Store. Cut out photos of your favorite composers or performers and paste them to the front of your journal. Whatever makes you smile when you look at the cover will help you remember to use your journal.

How you enter your daily schedule is also a personal preference. You can write your notes as a dated paragraph entry, subdivide your pages into warm-ups, repertoire pieces, research pieces, ensemble work, solo work, etc. Making notes that are clear, easy, and logical to you, is the important factor. Make sketches or paste articles about the pieces you are working on in your journal. I like to make notes about favorite performances of a piece. For example, next to Chopin's Waltz in a minor, B. 150 Op. posthumous I would write Grigory Sokolov because his performance of this piece is the one that inspires me.  This is a tool that should enrich your relationship with the pieces you are rehearsing.

Because I perform on more than one instrument I also use a highlighter over the instrument name so I can quickly see my rehearsal flow for that instrument. Here are some details that I personally find helpful on entries:

  • Date, Time, Instrument 
  • Selection(s)/Final tempo(s) (BPM used during rehearsal session)
  • Goals (Along with how I would categorize each piece: jazz ensemble, folk, church, personal project, genre building, etc.)
  • Insight (How I felt about the work - do I like this arrangement or need to look for one I feel more connected to - do I want to work it into my repertoire - is it a piece that I should retire for now and return to at a later date - do I want to use this for an ensemble performance only or do I want it as a solo piece - am I making reasonable progress on the piece - do I need to do isolation work and if so which measures need more work - do I need to research a passage for correct ornamentation...)
  • Other (Did I use a different pick that works better for this style - Did I use a capo - Do I need a different chair - Did I change the height of any stand - Did I change to a music stand that I like better - Did I use any percussive additions that I want to remember and add here  - What was my amplification setup - Does anything need to be repaired or looked at by a technician...)
  • In the back of the book I enter new repertoire that I feel I have completed so I can continually review those pieces. 
It may seem like a lot of writing but I can often sum up everything in just a few lines and it keeps me on track. I keep the journal open in my rehearsal space as well so I can easily reach it when I want to make a note. 

Do you use a practice journal for yourself? What type of entries might be helpful for your rehearsal entries? What system have you used to help you have productive times with your instruments? I would love to hear your thoughts on journaling as a musician for yourself and for your students. 
Happy practicing! Miss Dolly 🎵

Sunday, June 6, 2021

It's Time To Get This Slow Jam Cooking! Trad (Irish) & Old Time

Those who know me....know. 🎵 It's about time for me to get a Slow Jam cooking!

I have been looking for a slow jam gathering for Traditional (Irish) and Old Time Music in Charleston since 2004.  I have met some wonderful folks outside of Charleston SC with OT, but traveling to find connections isn't easy. 

Slow Trad and Old Time gatherings with friends is always a good time.  If you are local to West Ashley in Charleston SC and have an acoustic (no electric) guitar, bass, banjo, mountain dulcimer, fiddle, mandolin, etc. - then  let's learn some tunes together in a slow, easy, and friendly setting. This is not a performance focused gathering - just a fun gathering. We will find places to meet up once a month. Send an email with your instrument, and contact info. All ages welcome - under 18 must have a parent with them. 😁🪕

Thursday, May 13, 2021

How Did Complimentary Time and Materials Impact Your Students this Year? What Worked and What Didn't Work?

Like many teachers, I dove in head first to find a way to keep my students on track during our pandemic year. I think it is safe to say that most teachers whole-heartedly invested extra time, materials, and sought out new opportunities for their students this past year. And we found that this may not have been as constructive for our students as we had hoped. Now, I am not saying our efforts were a total loss: Personally, I had a few students who took full advantage of the opportunities and made significant progress...but not as many as I expected.  

My complementary online music class was conducted as a show-and-tell for students to bring scales, exercises, or pieces they were working on to share. It was a "safe" environment because it was a student only atmosphere with a large age range. (It helps students to hear what others are working on, even if it is a simple scale or one line of a work that interests them.) But the students only brought finished pieces which limited the discussions about the challenges and hurdles presented by the music. This was not the learning experience that I had planned for them. Soon students stopped attending if they didn't have a completed work to present. I tried to redirect the class back to its intended purpose, I failed.  

My "Pando-Vibe Special" was open to my private studio students as well as my students who come to me through a commercial studio.  The only difference was in private lesson fee. I chose to reduce my private studio fee during the year to help those parents and adult students who had lost work hours. While the commercial studio increased the fee to their customers (I have no control over the commercial studio fees.) Any student working with me was welcome to join the once-a-month online class without an additional charge. 

Some of you have shared opportunities and materials that you extended to students on your blogs and in facebook groups and it seems we all followed the same path: purchasing studio licenses for music so students could access music that was out of publication this year, gaining membership into organizations that offered online assessments to students, adding new devices and upgrading technology in our private studios, downloading online music games for students, purchasing music magazines for students with music history supplements, and so much more - all while experiencing a drop in student enrollment. 

As teachers we would all do it again, without hesitation, for our students. But there was a lot of unexpected energy that went into this year that we never could have imagined. I would love to hear your thoughts as private tutors and instructors. What worked, and what didn't work with students this past year in your classrooms and studios? Send your comments to 


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It's St. Paddy's Day & Music Circles

Happy St. Paddy's Day to you! 🍀 This is a day I celebrate with joy because it reminds me of good times sharing music with other musicians in music circles throughout the years, both in the States and abroad. 

I love Trad and Old Time music because they are historically music genres that bring people together to learn and share tunes without performance pressure. 

Trad tunes are traditional Irish tunes that are well recognized and shared. Old Time music is music that came out of the Appalachian area and is often reminiscent of tunes brought over from the British Isles. I spent a lot of time in Kentucky with my grandmother when I was young and met my passion in this music when I received my first dulcimer made in Berea Kentucky by Warren Mays. Soon I started attending workshops and learned from elders who shared their music. 

Since moving to Charleston South Carolina in 2004 I have been placing ads to attract other folks who would like to gather for slow jams. Slow jams are music circles where people come together purely for enjoyment and learning tunes. I haven't found momentum for Irish music or Old Time music here in the Lowcountry, but there are groups up near North Carolina where I have had opportunities to share.  

I have faith in this town and keep stirring the pot to find other like minded folk who want to share the music. With its history, Charleston should be rich in string music circles. But drum circles are what you find here on the beaches and the string music circles continue to be further North toward Asheville NC or further South into Georgia. 

If you would like to be part of a music circle here in Charleston, learning Trad or Old Time music in a slow jam session, please reach out to me. Acoustic instruments (guitars, mandolins, fiddles, dulcimers, bodhrans, tin whistles and pipes) are most welcome. For now I will continue to share through the internet. 


These are photos are from my days in Connemara near Clifden where I stayed with my friends, the Krandalls. Norman Krandall owned Peter O'Toole's old family home near the cliffs and was very generous to me on my musical visits. 

 I met Junior Davey and Joe Kennedy in Tubbercurry, South Sligo. They are Bodhran champions and shared their technique in playing the instrument with me. I will always be grateful for their time and mentoring. 

When I lived in Detroit I would often visit the Irish-Canadian club in Windsor, Ontario. It's a small world when you find Canadian friends to jam with a thousand miles away. 

Norman Krandall's generosity will never be forgotten. He owned Peter O'Toole's old family home outside of Clifden in Connemara by the sea and opened his doors and his wallet to me whenever I visited. Norman fought for fair Salmon fishing in Ireland and was well liked by all.

A small pub music circle in Clifden. On the far left is Rollande Krandall, Norman's daughter. She performed on ocarina, mandolin, and bodhran. With Rollande are the King Sisters. The Guiness and Harp on tap are far better than what you find in the States - and I never saw a red head all the days of my time in Ireland.

The stone house above and the stone house below belonged to the Krandalls. It was known around Clifden as the O'Toole house. I am not sharing pictures of the inside for privacy but it was quite lovely with whitewashed walls and a fireplace that you could walk into. Peat, or turf, was burned in the fire to warm the house and the smell was lovely. A small staircase led to a bath and bedroom fitted with two twin beds where I shared a room with Rollande. Norman would climb a ladder to get to his bedroom in an upper loft. It was a short walk to the cliffs over the Atlantic. And sitting on the cliffs I could feel sorrow lifting up out of the rock, from generations past, all around me. Truly this would be a place to live for writers of verse and song. 

This last photo is of a house just a short distance up from Norman's home. It was a round house with a thatched roof owned by a friend of the Krandalls. (Just in case you have never seen a house with a thatched roof.) 

Body Awareness as a Musician

Few musicians pay attention to the body alignment and technique approaches taught to them in their youth. And fortunately young bodies are made to handle this struggle. But as musicians age they will often start to notice aches and limitations. Flute players develop tendonitis, others develop hip pain, etc. That is when they return to a professional coach for alignment help with their instrument. The Alexander Technique has helped many musicians and was often taught to us in University classes. But the popularity of that technique has waned and now musicians often turn to other specialists for help. I have had the privilege of working with artists as a bodywork professional for musicians when I lived in metropolitan areas: I am still called upon for virtual help by musicians who live in other areas. I know the challenges are still out there. So, I want to share a link here that I have shared with my private clients. I think it will help you to be more aware of your body, and movement, while rehearsing, performing.  

Here is the link to the website:  avoid injury 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

What Kind of Metronome Should I Buy?

When I was a child I had two metronomes that I used to practice my music. The oldest was an electric box with a lightbulb on top. It was very impressive and had to be from the 40s or 50s. When it stopped working I acquired the traditional triangle shaped metronome with a pendulum. You would wind it up like a clock. If you had a cat that liked to sit on the piano while you played, the cat would be batting at the pendulum when it went back and forth making for a lot of missed beats. (And a lot of fun!) Today, choosing a metronome is a more complex task.

For budget minded individuals, you can use your phone's search bar and simply put in the word "metronome." A simple metronome will appear with a slider bar that allows you to increase or decrease the beats per minute (bpm), and a start/stop button. The sound you will hear is a clean consistent tick.

For those who own keyboards, you may have a metronome built into the unit. However, the sounds of the metronome vary with keyboards: some are clicks, but simpler models have beeps.

If you go to a music store and request a metronome, you will be faced with many choices. And this is where students get lost. Many of the metronomes produced today contain beeps that are irritating to some students. Others are not as simple as turning off and turning on a beat. Some devices make you choose the time signature and note breakdown. New students are simply not able to understand how to figure out and enter this information into the metronome - so they give up on using a metronome altogether. 

I realized recently that I need to tell my students which metronome to purchase because a customer service representative in a store will often have them over-purchase. I felt especially bad when I sent an elderly student to purchase a metronome and he was talked into buying a $200 unit that he never could understand how to use.

So here is my suggestion. It is a Wittner MT-50 metronome that produces one sound - a click. It is run by a single battery and can be found for under $25. If you are a student of mine and the music store does not carry this model, or tells you they can not order it for you, you can order it online, or I will be happy to order it for you. In my book, a simple metronome, with a toneless click, will always be a student's best choice. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

My Patreon Page, Online Gatherings, PLUS A Welcome Hand from Columbia SC

Since I last posted a lot has been happening in the music studio. I have been donating time every month to hold an online music class so that children and adults can have the opportunity to play music for one another. Without the space or opportunity to come together for recitals (due to the pandemic restrictions) this has been a positive and fun experience for everyone. The children get to see one another and everyone is so supportive. 

I am excited to tell you that I am building a Patreon site. You know my passion for making music a part of everyone's life: Well, I am hoping this site will be a key to that manifestation. When I lived in other areas I had Angels that would give financial scholarships to my studio so families experiencing financial challenges could have 6 - 12 months of music lessons at low to no cost. I am searching for those Angels in this Holy City. I believe there are people here that would love to help - I simply haven't met them yet.

If you would like to become an Angel and donate a dollar a month or more to my Patreon project you can join my Patreon page at

Another step in a positive direction, for this music studio, was made in 2020. We were blessed to be welcomed into a Columbia chapter of the National Federation of Music Clubs. Their kindness in welcoming me and my students, and allowing me to form a Junior Music Club here in Charleston, has given my students the opportunity to take part in these yearly National Music Festivals. The  NFMC requires each student to perform a piece of music by an American composer in addition to a foreign composer. So many children can name Bach, Beethoven and Mozart - but are not aware of our rich heritage of American composers. Nine of my students are taking part in this event next month. Charleston has never had opportunities for private music students through this well respected organization. I am so very grateful to have been given the opportunity to open this door for music students. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020


2020 has insisted on changing everyone's routine.

Now, as teachers and providers of music, we are working every day to discover new ways to encourage and educate our students. At the same time, we are researching new ways to bring live art and music to our audiences. 

As instructors and creatives, we will not give up. We know how important access to the arts is to individuals of all ages, especially in challenging times. 

Fortunately, we have a means of continuing to educate our students through the internet. And we have found that it has been a special blessing for some. 

For students who have sensory perception struggles, online lessons have been a wonderful thing. Those students remain in a surrounding where nothing is changing. The space is in their home and is consistent. The piano is theirs.  The lighting, sound, and surfaces are all familiar to them. They can focus on a screen that is a small part of the world that surrounds them. They can look into this screen to learn and they feel safe and have more control of their learning environment. And that is a positive. 

Students working with Dolly Paul are now learning music in new ways:
  • over the phone with only audio access 
  • through the mail for those who are continuing exclusively with theoretical work, and 
  • through the internet with live time one-to-one lessons.
We want you to grow musically in a safe way. So lessons will be continuing on alternative teaching platforms, including online lessons, even when it is safe to come back together. There are more choices now. 

I care about you. Keep practicing. Keep sharing. Be kind to yourself and others. 🎵Dolly.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Natural Amber Resin or Imitation?

It happened again. Another show where customers told me my Lithuanian Amber pieces were too expensive because the guy a few booths down sold them a beautiful piece of amber for just $ xx.xx. When I lightly mention it to the other seller they always say, "Hey, it is a 'buyer beware' market and I expect that all my customers are educated individuals. Anyway, the color is amber (turquoise, jade, etc.) so I am not lying about the piece." 

Now let me take a minute here to tell you that a number of jewelers use a play on words when selling their goods because the US does not have a standard assaying process for jewelers. So, you really do have to trust your jeweler if you don't do your own research. Baltic Amber is a natural resin : However, the imitation resin that is sold as amber is a chemical mixture which is poured and fixed. So you see how they can use the word resin and not be lying to the customer. There are natural resins that form in nature, and there are chemical man made resins. Also, just as with any stone or metal jewelry, a piece of jewelry can be sold by its color and not its material. (Amber, Turquoise, Gold, Ruby, Silver...)  Do you understand this?

It does bother me that customers think they can get Baltic Amber, old Jade, and solid American Turquoise pieces for a low pricetag. And it also bothers me that customers think I am gouging them when I ask over $100.00 for pieces of true Natural Amber or Solid Natural Stone. So I am doing a little educational post today just to make myself feel better. 

Today's post will be on Natural Amber Resin vs. Imitation Resin. After this, if a customer wants to pay for imitation amber from a store or festival vendor, perhaps I will feel a little less upset. I am doing my part to aide the customer who chooses to be an educated buyer.

I am starting with Amber because of all the baby necklaces I see on children. I can usually spot an imitation resin or plastic necklace a mile away. And the parent will always announce how proud they are that they got such a good price on the necklace. Inside, I cry for the baby who would benefit if it were true Amber. 

What follows are photos I took this morning. I made a mixture of saltwater using a lot of table salt and warm tap water. 

The first photos are from a piece that a "reputable" dealer sold me which had already been set. I didn't have the privacy or the ability to clean the item so I could "taste test" it for a bitter imitation resin taste. And I have purchased stones from this person before that were true - so I trusted him. But when I got home and had the opportunity to look closer at the piece, I realized it was not natural amber resin. I took a hammer to it and broke it out of its setting for this example.

You will notice in all of these photos that the imitation resin sinks to the bottom of the container when placed in salt water. Fake resins and plastics are heavy and will always sink to the bottom of a saltwater mixture. 

Next, I strained the same water into an identical container, removing most of the imitation resin particles.

Here you can see the strained resin and the original salt water in a new container.

Next I added my true Natural Baltic Amber beads to the saltwater.

And this is the proof. AMBER FLOATS. This is usually how Amber is found on the Baltic seashore. It floats to the top of the ocean when it breaks off from its host. And then it is washed ashore. Amber is a light naturally formed resin and it floats on saltwater. It will not sink to the bottom of a saltwater mixture like heavier commercial resins or plastics. 

So, without taking your baby's necklace apart, simply break off one of the stones and see if it floats in saltwater. This will not work if the amber is attached to anything. The weight of string, etc. will pull the amber down. It has to be a free piece of amber. 

You are welcome.