Rendezvous at the Zoo

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Jennifer Linn is one of America’s most respected educational composers, authors and arrangers, with dozens of titles to her name. These include several collections of her own compositions, arrangements of music from popular shows, the Hal Leonard Piano for Teens method, and several award-winning classical editions in the Schirmer Performance library.

Many of Linn’s publications are best-sellers in the US, but most are less well-known here in the UK. Her latest publication is Rendezvous at the Zoo, and will certainly be of interest to anyone teaching children at early elementary level, regardless where in the world they are based… so let’s take a look!

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Piano Grades Are Go!

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Compared to the large quantity of music reviewed here for intermediate and advanced players, relatively few publications for elementary players make an appearance. This is perhaps in part because so much of the music written for beginning players is swallowed whole into lucrative method book series and exam resources. But there’s also no denying that it’s particularly difficult to write standout, imaginative music at this level.

Pianodao features reviews for relatively few of the publications received, in the hope of offering the clearest, well-informed and most helpful recommendations, thus saving readers time. Nothing makes it onto the site unless I would very happily use in my own teaching studio.

How wonderful, then, to introduce a brand new collection of “20 Characterful Solos” by Victoria Proudler. Piano Grades Are Go! has just appeared from EVC Music and is that rarest of beasts: a genuinely stunning music book for elementary players. I will be adopting it with my students, and believe other teachers should consider doing so too. Let’s find out why…

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Jason Sifford’s KEYBOP

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New from the Willis Music Company, Jason Sifford’s two books of Keybop each offer “11 jazzy solos for the young pianist”.

Not another set of jazzy books for young pianists, I hear you say. But stay with me, because these ones are really worth a look…

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June Armstrong: Take Ten

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June Armstrong is not only one of the UK’s most creative composers, but one of the most prolific. Having only reviewed her Dreams and Dragons last December, she’s already now back with her next publication, Take Ten.

Capitalising on the immense popularity of her piece Dusty Blue, recently a Grade 2 favourite here, Armstrong’s new book delivers 14 brand new ‘Jazz Miniatures for piano solo, suitable for elementary players.


With so many competing publications in this territory, and the prevalence of jazzy pastiche, it’s inevitable that Take Ten is a less musically distinctive collection than some Armstrong publications.

But I have no doubt that it will be a best-seller, and deservedly so, because it’s excellent and has some cool twists…

So read on for my detailed review…

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Jazz Piano for Kids

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While there’s a growing number of good published resources for the keen jazz student these days, most are aimed at the serious adult player, and in many cases too-quickly get embroiled in complicated jazz theory. Meanwhile, for young players who enjoy “jazzy pieces” and want to explore the style, there’s long been a gap in the market.

Jazz Piano for Kids, new from ace jazz educator Richard Michael and published by Hal Leonard, aims to fill that gap. Introducing his book, Michael writes,

“Welcome to Jazz Piano for Kids and your very first steps in making up your own solos. What do you need? Apart from a piano or keyboard, just two hands, two wide-open ears, and the ability to have a go without fear of making mistakes. This beginner’s course will give you the building blocks of playing jazz on the piano… Before you know it, you will be improvising your own solos and starting a lifetime’s discovery in the wonderful world of jazz.”

Let’s get started right away…

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Bacewicz: Children’s Suite


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MUSIC FROM CHOPIN’S LAND
In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing piano music by Polish composers. Captivated by new musical discoveries, I have continued to independently explore and review this repertoire…


Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) is at last gaining the recognition she deserves as one of the great composers of the mid-twentieth century, her towering Second Sonata rightly applauded as one of the significant piano masterpieces of the last century.

Among the composer’s many smaller-scale piano works the Suita dziecięca or Children’s Suite is a delightful highlight, its eight charming miniatures for the late-intermediate pianist a fascinating progression from the educational piano music of Bartók, Kabalevsky and Prokofiev (whose popular Musiques d’enfants appeared just one year after Bacewicz’s Suite).

Poland’s major publishing house Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, PWM Edition, have recently delivered a delightful new edition of the work, edited by Monika Dziurawiec and with a gorgeous cover design by Joanna Rusinek.


Let’s look at this new publication and delve into the imaginative pianism of Bacewicz, not least because this important work surely deserves a place within the core pedagogic repertoire that every piano teacher should try to be aware of…

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ABRSM: ‘Piano Star’ Duets

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ABRSM’s popular Piano Star series, which originally aimed at bridging the gap between the pupil’s first tutor book and ABRSM Grade 1 piano, continues to grow. The seventh and latest book is Piano Star Duets, which offers 26 newly composed or arranged piano duets for ‘early beginners to Grade 2’, compiled and edited by David Blackwell and Karen Marshall.

With five of these pieces also selected as duet alternatives in the 2021-2 ABRSM Piano Syllabus, which I recently reviewed here, the book is likely to tempt teachers and students looking for a one-stop collection of duets that they can dip into over a couple of years of lessons. That the pieces have been commissioned from some of our leading pedagogic composers further adds to the attraction.

Before taking a look, full disclosure. I contributed a single piece each to four previous titles in the series. However, I receive no ongoing royalty income from those, have absolutely no vested interest in the series, and chose not to contribute to the Piano Star Duets collection. I write here with full independence.

So, with that out of the way, let’s jump in with all four feet…

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Piano Playground

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Hans-Günter Heumann is nothing if not prolific. Only a few weeks ago I was reviewing his excellent Mystery Piano collection (read my review here) collection, follow-up to his popular Fantasy Piano which I have previously reviewed. And let’s not forget that in the meantime he has published the 16 books that make up the Piano Junior method series!

Somehow he has also now found the time to write Piano Playground, two new books of “playful pieces” brought to us by Heumann’s regular publishers, Schott Music.

Let’s take a look…

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