Summertime, when I was a child, meant lots of trips to the library and many, many books to read. Anytime that I can combine a story element to creating music, my interest is peaked. Combining those two elements together is something that I love to do with my students with their compositions, so when I found out about Sarah and the Magic Piano, you can bet I was interested in what it was all about.
In the story, Sarah discovers a magic piano in her grandmother’s basement which transports her through time and space. Sarah and the Magic Piano is the first of an upcoming series that goes beyond a book itself. It is a hybrid of a children’s story, artwork, a music book that includes 18 solo piano pieces that serve as a soundtrack to the story, but here is the cool factor… What makes this book really unique and super fun is the animated video where students create the soundtrack in real time by playing on the piano while watching the video on an electronic device.
Here is a quick video example of one of my students using the music in action… (music shown in the video was from a free sample copy)
Now before I dive more into the book, I thought I would introduce you to Kurt Erickson and Mike Biskup. Kurt, an award-winning composer, and pianist and Mike, famed artist, musician, and author started a company together called SoundTracksYouPlay.
What is SoundTracksYouPlay? Here is what they share…
Digital storytelling where you create the soundtrack in real time!
- You play the soundtrack to create your own personalized cinematic experience. Play the pieces differently each time and create a new experience with each performance.
- A fresh new approach to music education by combining music study with the very best elements of children’s literature, online gaming, and interactive fiction.
- SoundtracksYouPlay uses digital storytelling as an alternative to rote learning. Music users become active and equal participants in the creative process.
Kurt explained, “By using our You Create the Soundtrack!™ method, we offer the only music experience that allows music students to watch a video and create a soundtrack in real time (we’re at patent pending status at the US Patent Office).”
How does this video component work?
When students are playing using the video you will hear the narration, there will be a 5-second countdown shown on the screen telling them when to begin the piece.
The title will turn green which means they should play. You will see the progress bar get darker moving across the screen as it progresses.
When the title turns yellow (and will start flashing) that gives a warning that there are just a few seconds left and to start ending the piece.
The title will then turn red and slowly fade away when it’s time to completely stop.
It does take a bit getting used to and a little practice getting it just right. When I first heard about Sarah and the Magic Piano my first thought was, how cool of a recital this would be! Not to mention camps and group activities aside from regular lessons. There are so many possibilities. In fact, Kurt and Mike share some of those possibilities below…
- Read it as a traditional children’s story with the advantage of exposing young ones to written music in an informal way
- Play the pieces as a traditional piano book
- Play the piano while reading the story for a completely immersive storytelling experience
- Watch the complete video and enjoy the story while you familiarize yourself with the music
- Play the piano and watch the video to create the soundtrack in real time
- Listen to a recording of the audiobook
- In a piano recital setting, play the pieces and create a live soundtrack while the video is screened for the audience
- Perform the work with one student playing the pieces and another reading the story
Kurt shared with me, “Our Number One goal is to provide more creative and artistically immersive experiences for music students that integrate all of the arts. Multi-sensory learning experiences stimulate different regions of the brain and provide deeper and more lasting learning connections. Many teachers both in the US and abroad are scheduling Sarah and the Magic Piano recitals where the videos will be streamed live while the students play the pieces in real time. Keeping students interested and inspired is what we’re all about.”
While the music from Sarah and the Magic Piano says it is a late elementary- early intermediate, I personally found the pieces to be more appropriate for my early intermediate to intermediate students. There is some good news for beginners, however as new books are coming out soon. Look for beginning books aimed at Level I students to be launched Spring 2018. I for one cannot wait!
Be sure to like and follow their Facebook page so you can stay updated when new books are released!
You can purchase Sarah and the Magic Piano for your students here. Kurt changed the price to $16.00 until February. This is 20% off from the original price if you want to take advantage. (Normally $19.95)
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