What an honor it was for Debbie and Friends to participate in Berklee’s Early Childhood Symposium on April 9, 2012. The symposium was sponsored by Berklee’s Music Education Dept, under the leadership of Dr. Cecil Adderley, and included presentations and performances by Paul Reisler, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, and Debbie and Friends. It was a very special day with Berklee students, faculty, staff, and lots of families from the greater Boston area all focused on making music together.

Here’s a picture of Berklee’s Music Ed Majors on stage with Debbie and Friends having a great time with the kids and families in attendance. This was particularly special to me being an alumna of that program.

Debbie and Friends with Berklee’s Music Ed Majors

Berklee constantly strives to be a great place to learn, teach, and work. Events like the Early Childhood Symposium are just one more example of this.

Happy Holidays!

I’m pleased to share a piano method booklet for children that I developed with my Grandfather, Marty Gold. Marty is a wonderful musician who has enjoyed an amazing career in music. In fact, he’s the reason I became a musician. Recently, he told me about a piano “tent” he created to help kids learn the names of notes on a music staff. The story goes that Nabisco was going to put one in every cereal box back in the 1950s, and then pulled the project for fear there were not enough pianos in US homes. We decided to do the project together and make it available to friends of “Debbie and Friends.”

The following widget has a download link for a free copy of the Learning to Play Piano book and piano tent PDF files. A printed version of the book will be available soon. In the meantime, please let me know how the tent and method book are for your children!

Special thanks to Robert Heath of Barkley Studios for designing the keyboard tent, Greg David of Planet Sunday for the cover art image, and Shawn Girsberger for the book layout and design. What a dream team!!!

And, for the adults out there interested in learning to play the piano, I highly recommend the Berklee Keyboard Method online. Classes start Jan. 8.

All the best,


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Hap Palmer

I’m thrilled to tell you about a wonderful educational resource for families and education professionals called BAM Radio Network.

Bam’s co-founder and renowned educator, Rae Pica, recently invited to be part of an interview on Bam with legendary music educator Hap Palmer. Hap is an innovator in the use of music and movement to teach skills and encourage the use of imagination for kids. His music has received numerous honors. Hap’s music was always a big part of my work as an elementary music educator years ago, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with him and the host of the show, Maryann Harmon!

Here’s a link to the show. I hope you enjoy it!


This summer, I attended a three-day intensive course entitled “How To Make A Great Preschool Series.” It was offered by Emmy Award-Winning Josh Selig’s company, Little Airplane Productions in NYC.

It was an incredible experience and I learned so much! The presenters were a never-ending A-list of truly accomplished and dedicated professionals. During the three day program, I learned about pitching, writing, curriculum development, directing, music, legal, and production aspects of both live-action and animated preschool programs.

The overarching message I came away with was “through education, anything is possible!” The presenters were incredibly informative and encouraging, and they all offered to help the attendees beyond the conclusion of the academy.

Much like Berkleemusic students, the attendees were an eclectic mix of diverse professionals with a common passion and a desire to learn more. Whether it’s music, preschool program development, or any professional pursuit, I’m constantly reminded that continuing education and lifelong learning is key to a successful and rewarding career.

Thanks Josh Selig, Tone Thyne, Jeffrey Lesser, and Melinda Richards and all of the Little Airplane Academy staff and Instructors for an amazing experience and a reminder that anything is possible through education!

As many of you know, I have a children/family music project called Debbie and Friends. It’s a fun, creative, musical project that allows me to try all of the wonderful things we teach online in music production, songwriting, arranging, and music business, while making connections with families through music.

For the past eight months, we’ve been recording our second CD, More Story Songs and Sing Alongs, and finding many teachable moments for families with young kids throughout the process. The following post takes apart a rhythm section recording of our new song “So So Happy,” and allows kids to listen to each track individually. I originally posted this on my kid’s and family music blog, Kids Music Matters. The response has been so positive that I thought I’d share it here as well, for those of you who may want to explore the recording process with your kids.

In the Recording Studio with Debbie and Friends!

First, let’s listen to the whole song. Then we’ll listen to the individual parts (or tracks) we recorded.
So So Happy – in production by Debbie and Friends

With our producer Mike Carrera guiding the way, we recorded the rhythm section tracks for “So, So, Happy” (drums, bass, guitar, and piano). Let’s listen to each individual rhythm section instrument we recorded for “So, So, Happy,” and meet the players. (Some you may recognize as your Berkleemusic instructors.)

Drums with Bill D’Agostino.

Bill D’Agostino on drums.

Drums – So, So Happy by Debbie and Friends

Bass with Danny “Mo” Morris.

Danny Mo
Danno Mo on bass.

Bass – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Guitar with Kevin Belz.

Kevin Belz on guitar.

Guitar – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Keyboard with Dave Limina.

Dave Limina on piano (also plays organ).

Keyboard – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Now that you’ve heard the different parts, challenge each other to listen for the individual instrument parts when they are all mixed together. I hope you and your family enjoyed exploring the recording process. It’s fun to do this with other recordings you listen to together as well.

“Get Schooled,” a five-year initiative funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is aimed at generating greater awareness and engagement in addressing the nation’s education crisis and offering practical resources and support to students.

The first episode of “Get Schooled” aired last night on MTV and featured Kelly Clarkson’s music producer, Jason Halbert, who is going “back to school” online with Berkleemusic. (see 7:48 of the following clip.)

Learn more about Jason’s story here.

“Get Schooled,” a five-year initiative funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is aimed at generating greater awareness and engagement in addressing the nation’s education crisis and offering practical resources and support to students.

The first episode of “Get Schooled” aired last night on MTV and featured Kelly Clarkson’s music producer, Jason Halbert, who is going “back to school” online with Berkleemusic. (see 7:48 of the following clip.)

Learn more about Jason’s story here.

Matt Marvuglio, Flautist, Prof. Performance Division Dean, Berklee College of Music

Memorizing music is an important function for all musicians. Matt Marvuglio, Berklee’s Dean of the Professional Performance Division, has developed a multi-modal approach to memorizing music that can be put into practice and applied immediately.

Below is an excerpt from his Artisthousemusic article entitled Memorizing Music. In addition to being a dean at Berklee, Matt is also a Berkleemusic online instructor and course author. Basic Ear Training and Basic Improvisation are two of his online courses.

The biggest fear of memorizing music is forgetting. Forgetting usually happens when a retrieval strategy breaks down. It happens to everyone if you don’t process the music in a number of different ways. We need to process music in a number of different ways so you will be confident that you will not forget. This way, if one system breaks down, the other one can take over. Maybe a better way of describing playing music without reading it would be “internalizing” the music. Let’s talk about the different ways that you can internalize a piece of music through different memory systems.

Visual is the most common memory system through which we all relate to the world. For some of us, this is the way we learn music. We read it. When you close your eyes, you can visualize the part and see the page in front of you.

Tactile is the memory system through which we can feel the music by fingering the instrument. You can remember how a passage feels and you can reach for it. Through this system you can recognize familiar patterns such as scales and arpeggios. Musicians who don’t read can rely upon this memory system.

Aural is the memory system through which we can hear the music. Solfege is a system of study that clearly identifies the pitches in a systematic way and helps us build our aural perception. Scale degrees are assigned numbers or syllables and you identify chromatic alterations and key changes.

You need to use all of these systems and be aware of what you are seeing, feeling, and hearing when you practice. Also, it is important to isolate each system to fully understand what’s happening. This is a great way that you can put your music theory and solfege to use. Everyone will have a different memory system that is stronger based upon how you practice and learn music. Click here to look at a passage from the J.S. Bach Minuet in G and put it through the different memory systems.

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As I finish grading the last of my Music Theory 101 assignments from the Fall 2008 term, I’m reminded of something John Mayer said to the Berklee College of Music undergrads at a recent clinic he conducted.

“The reason that you learn [music theory] is you’re taking something that began as impulse or sentiment, something very impalpable, and are learning to turn that into musical information, so that it can travel from person to person…take that math and turn it into color as fast as you possibly can.”

For those who apply themselves, Berkleemusic’s Music Theory 101 online course actually takes students from learning basic note names and rhythms to voice leading seventh chord inversions, creating accompaniments, and writing melodies… all in the span of just 12 weeks. The course is nothing short of incredible.

Every time I teach a section of Music Theory 101 online, I’m in awe of the solid music theory foundation the students build, and how quickly they are able to use their new tools to create art. That foundation will continue to serve them in all of their musical pursuits for many years to come.

Berkleemusic’s Music Theory 101, authored by Chair Emeritus Paul Schmeling, is a proven path to turning your inspiration into art with pragmatic tools of the trade. Check out a sample lesson to learn more.

The Art of Learning

Jan 02 2009

Happy New Year! I just read my first book in 2009, The Art of Learning: A journey in the pursuit of excellence, and wanted to share it with the Berkleemusic community.

Author, and eight-time National Chess champion, Josh Waitzkin chronicles his life through the lens of learning, focus, and achievement. The principles provided are solid and proven, and the real-life examples based on Waitzkin’s life experiences are intriguing and heart-warming.

The book is filled with information about how we learn, and is based on the findings of Dr. Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of developmental psychology. Dweck looks at entity and incremental theories of intelligence and the behaviors associated with them as applied to learning. The information is great for anyone interested in lifelong learning.

Waitzkin makes the point that a key component of high-level learning is cultivating a resilient awareness that is the older, conscious embodiment of a child’s playful obliviousness. The “balance beam,” for example, is wide for child who will readily try again after falling. However, for an adult, the beam becomes much more narrow as we grow keenly aware of the risks and dangers of falling/ failing.

Continuing education and lifelong learning are the keys to any successful career path or endeavor, and Waitzkin’s ideas presented in this book are applicable to all pursuits.

I highly recommend The Art of Learning.