Submitted by Tatyana Roytshteyn
A few years ago, I was working with a young student on his first piece requiring opposing articulation between the hands. We worked through tiny sections of the music painstakingly tracking every movement of the fingers and carefully making sure that one hand held the note down to connect while the other lifted the note for non-legato. We repeated these movements in slow motion, moving slightly forward, retreating and trying to move ahead again. At this stage I usually tell my students that their fingers are like unruly children that need direction from the teacher, parent or conductor (the brain) in order to work well together. The student’s mom, a neurologist, was watching the whole process and at some point, exclaimed, “He’s building neural pathways right now that didn’t exist before!” As the neural pathway is developed, the instructions from the brain travel to the hands faster, and the action becomes easier, more automated. I had, of course, witnessed this development often in my teaching over the years, but hadn’t realized how much brain plasticity came into play. We focus much of our teaching attention on repetition of tasks, developing hand independence, speed and strength, but what is happening in our brains to produce these complex actions? Can that knowledge be used to aid our teaching?
The brain and music connection is a topic for some fascinating reading. Some scientists believe that our language abilities developed from a so called “proto language, a musi-language which stemmed from primate calls and was used by the Neanderthals; it was emotional but without words as we know them” (Mithen, 2005). The evidence for this theory stems partially from the brain development of Homo sapiens. The visual cortex of our species is smaller than that of the great apes, while the areas of the brain responsible for auditory processing are larger. This variation in brain development “heralded a shift to an aesthetic based on sound, and abilities to entrain to external rhythmic inputs” (Trimble and Hesdorffer 2017).
Studies have shown that music has a profound effect on the brain, not only emotionally but physically as well. The rhythmic entrainment of motor function can aid in the recovery of patients with stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury (Thaut 2005). There is also evidence to suggest that music can decrease the frequency of seizures in children with epilepsy (Bodner et al, 2012).
Over the course of the last year I’ve continued reading, researching and veering off on various tangents. One article or research paper would spawn multiple offshoots, each interesting and worth pursuing. Finally, I arrived at research focused on the neuroscience of metacognition and the role that tip of tongue states (TOTs) play. Metacognition is “thinking about thinking” and TOTs are commonly used in metacognitive research. That feeling of not being able to remember a word even though you’re certain you know it? That’s a TOT. It turns out that TOTs aren’t simply memory blocks. They are more likely metacognitive triggers, activating the brain’s monitoring system and spurring us to action. Current research shows that TOTs happen with greater frequency in instances where retrieval is more likely, thus prompting us to try harder.
Metacognitive strategies are not new in the world of music education, many teachers report using them and much research has been written on the topic. However, when students are interviewed on the success of these strategies, many report a feeling that they weren’t instructed on them sufficiently. A multiple case study from 2017 by Barbara Colombo and Alessandro Antonietti concluded: “Data supported the notion that teachers use metacognitive strategies during their teaching practice, but students are not aware of this because a metacognitive focus on strategies, as well as a strong emphasis on monitoring, appears to be lacking.” What are we to make of this? If teachers are employing metacognitive strategies, then why aren’t students retaining these skills and what is “monitoring”?
The brain areas involved in metacognitive thinking are the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The ACC “is activated during mismatched conditions, such as during feedback to high confidence errors and low confidence corrects.” In other words, this brain area alerts us to a mismatch between expectation or confidence and actual performance. The result is a metacognitive experience that “leaps into consciousness" and allows us to correct course. The authors of this study (Butler, Karpicke and Roediger 2008) also found a “hyper-correction effect”. They observed a “greater recall of correct answers to questions that were initially answered incorrectly with high confidence. So, the greater the discrepancy between what we think we know, and what we actually know, the better we can retain the correct information once it is discovered. The DLPFC, on the other hand, is associated with error suppression. The ACC activates the “ghost in the machine” monitoring system and in turn propels the DLPFC to suppress future errors. TOTs therefore are “metacognitive feelings” that monitor what we potentially know and drive us to keep attempting retrieval in the face of frustration.
In scientific literature, TOTs are generally presented in terms of language recall, but could they be applied to music as well? Could we harness this natural human monitoring ability to aid independent learning? I sifted through my teaching ideas and approaches to solving various common difficulties and one example stood out. When teaching similar sections or phrases with different endings, I often use contrast practice (practicing the sections back-to-back to identify where the similarities end, and differences begin). Nearly every time the students are surprised at their fingers strong desire to automatically jump to the section they know best, even when they are attempting to play the contrasting one. If a piece is larger in scope and has multiple similar sections, I ask the student to label them (1,2,3,4 etc.) and jump to each out of order. This usually works quite well for untangling the structure (provided they follow through and practice like this at home, but we’ll get back to that later).
After combing through multiple TOT studies, I began to wonder, I began to wonder, what if we were in essence forcing a TOT to happen? Students felt certain that they knew the individual sections and couldn’t figure out why the errors kept occurring (high confidence). They were surprised to learn that as a result of knowing one section better, their fingers were automatically leading them astray (mismatch between expectation and ability). This forced them to analyze the piece deeper (monitoring) and pay attention to those particular sections in future performances (error suppression as a result of monitoring). When this approach is applied consistently with every piece, year after year, the students do eventually learn to recognize potential trouble spots independently.
The ACC and DLPFC correlations were further explored by a study involving music students at the University of Hanover. The authors (Maria Herrojo Ruiz, Hans-Christian Jabusch and Eckhart Altenmuller) found that highly trained student pianists were able to continuously monitor an ongoing performance, predict mistakes before they occurred and adjust accordingly. They concluded that the ACC functioned as the monitor, sending signals to the DLPFC to initiate corrective action when necessary. They also found that pianists with a higher degree of synchronization between these two brain regions were able to suppress the volume of an incorrect note more efficiently thus making it less noticeable.
It seems that the key to successful learning strategies and performance lies in the development of a strong connection between the two brain areas involved in metacognition, the ACC and the DLPFC. The difficulty lies in helping students develop this skill to the point of self-driven monitoring, analysis and correction. At this point in my teaching I try to encourage these habits by asking lots of targeted questions to nudge my students toward analyzing their practice and involve the parents to continue at home in the same vein (this is where we come back to quality of practice outside the lesson). However, I also look forward to exploring this topic further and hopefully applying more neurologically-based strategies that take advantage of our natural metacognitive abilities.
This year is the celebration of Clara Wieck Schumann’s 200th birthday. When I was a teenager I began reading about the lives of Clara and her husband Robert. I was always inspired when I read about their love for each other and the music they created and shared with each other and audiences all over the world. With the celebration of Clara's birthday, I am once again inspired as I read about the various celebrations taking place this year.
There is an amazing amount of information on the Schumann Network website. To access this site, go to www.schumann-portal.de. Click on “news” for continually updated information about events happening this year. Click on “200th anniversary of Clara Schumann's birthday in 2019” and it reads, “On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Clara Schumann, not only the Schumann towns are making their plans but planning of all kinds is going on elsewhere, too, and new recordings are released with a view to the anniversary year 2019.”
In Leipzig they are already celebrating The CLARA19 Festival. The English translation website for this festival is https://english.leipzig.de/detailansicht-news/news/clara19-an-entire-year-dedicated-to-clara-schumanns-200th-birthday/. Leipzig is Clara's town of birth, the town of the beginning of her childhood prodigy career, the starting point of her international pianistic career, the place where she met Robert, the place where she got married and of the first years of marriage with the birth of the two oldest daughters. On this website you can learn about Clara's early childhood, see concert dates, see pictures and dates for tours of the Schumann house and see a picture of the beautiful Clara bouquet stamp.
In St. John's Smith Square in London, England they are beginning their Clara Schumann Festival with a weekend of music and discussion celebrating Clara, pianist, composer, wife, mother, friend and muse. The festival opens with a rare opportunity to hear Clara’s complete published songs, 29 settings in total. February 22nd to February 24th are the dates of this opening celebration. One can find all the information about this festival at sjss.org.uk.
For other listening opportunities, on Amazon you can purchase “Clara Schumann: Complete Songs” on the Naxos label. The songs are performed by soprano, Dorothea Craxton and pianist, Hedayet Djeddikar. At http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk, you can hear extracts from the CD, “The Songs of Clara Schumann.” The songs are performed by soprano, Susan Gritton, baritone, Stephen Loges, and pianist, Eugene Asti. There is also a wonderful two-page booklet that is included with this CD. In this booklet there is an explanation of the songs by Nancy Reich. She writes, “Except for Walzer, all Clara Schumann’s songs published during her lifetime were written after her marriage to Robert Schumann, and almost every song was intended as a Christmas or birthday present for her husband.”
I decided to do some exploring myself this past November. I had already read the book “Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman” by Nancy Reich many years ago and found it fascinating. Now, living in New Jersey, I took a trip to Hastings-on-Hudson to visit a bookstore in the town Mrs. Reich resided. I had read an article that Mrs. Reich had a book signing a while ago at this quaint bookstore. I learned when visiting this book store that Susanna Reich, Nancy’s daughter has written a book entitled, “Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso.” This book is aimed for children ages 7 to 10. After reading the reviews online, I can't wait to purchase it! From reading the reviews I think people of all ages will enjoy reading it.
Here are a few of the reviews:
While exploring the Schumann Network website early this month I was saddened to learn about the passing of Nancy Reich just recently on January 31st. I learned from reading an article on this site that in 1996, Mrs. Reich received the Robert Schumann Prize from the city of Zwickau, Germany. Clara Schumann’s Youth diaries written by Nancy Reich will be published in March. There is also a most interesting article written in the New York Times on February 11th, “Nancy B. Reich Scholarly Champion of Clara Schumann dies at 94”. Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes in this article, “Throughout her career, Nancy Reich fought to redress the belittling portraits of Clara Schumann by earlier authors and to have her recognized as a significant composer, pianist and educator, as well as a central figure of German Romanticism. Decades after “Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman” was published, there have been many doctoral dissertations, anthologies and histories of music by women. Clara died in 1896 and left behind compositions, including songs, works for solo piano, chamber music and a piano concerto.”
When reflecting on why Clara is so easy to relate to, I can see many similarities to a woman in today's world. Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes in her article, “Mrs. Reich said in an interview with the NY Times in 1996, “It’s a modern story. Here was a girl growing up with a working mother who was taken care of by a maid, a child of divorced parents. She was left a widow at 36 but was very independent and refused any loans. When Robert was sick, she went back to the concert stage to pay for his medical bills. She was a working woman. She worked with her hands. In the NY Times article from 1996 Nancy Reich also states, “She lived a life that's very familiar today. She was her own manager and agent doing her own publicity and giving the premiers of Robert’s piano works. She was a close friend of Chopin, Mendelssohn and Brahms. Liszt respected her highly. I know what it takes to balance a life as a woman and as a professional person. I see her as a contemporary. If Clara Schumann were alive today, she would be a world-class star, traveling, touring and performing. Her success did not depend on beauty, youth or a brilliant personality. She was simply devoted to her art for her whole life. Her nickname was the “Priestess.”
While I won't be able to travel to Germany or England to experience the Clara Schumann Festivals (there is actually a concert celebrating Clara at Carnegie Hall as I write this blog), I am thankful to share this information about celebrating Clara and I welcome your comments.
Submitted by Kathy Panek
When I reached the age of eight, mom decided it was time for me to begin piano lessons. I’m not sure whether I asked to learn or the decision was made for me, but there was a big, old Schultz Upright Grand taking up prime real estate in our small living room and apparently begging to be played. Mom asked around about possible teachers and finally decided to enlist the help of the elementary school band director. Mr. Burney was fresh out of college, could play the piano, and he was willing to come to our house to instruct me, a big plus. I don’t think he had ever taught anyone else to play, which I guess made me his first guinea pig. My lessons went smoothly for the first year until he introduced “stride” piano—an accompaniment style that incorporates alternating bass octaves and chords. It was a challenging skill for a young student to learn, but I suspect mom had put a bug in Mr. Burney’s ear about the possibility of me learning a couple of her favorites—The Missouri Waltz and the Tennessee Waltz. Soon, his hand written, mimeographed copies appeared on the piano along with chord charts and other music theory materials. I think it was at about this time that I began to balk about practicing. I enjoyed playing the piano but I was not allowed to go outside to play with my friends after school until I had finished 30 minutes of practicing. How could I concentrate while a gang of kids played games and rode their bikes up and down the road in front of our house? It was absolute torture. I pleaded with mom to understand but she stood her ground while I cried and kicked the old Schultz.
Mr. Burney left our school a couple of years later making it necessary for mom to find me a new teacher. There were two piano teachers in town and I don’t remember why she settled on Madame Renee Lidge. Hungarian by birth, and educated at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest, she had studied with composer/pianist Bela Bartok. During the day she taught students at the Chicago Conservatory College, then caught the commuter train to Libertyville and spent evenings and Saturdays teaching half the students in our town. At the age of ten I became one of those students. When I appeared for my first lesson, knees knocking, I noticed that Madame Lidge’s home was decorated in a very different style than that of most people I knew. The upholstery was done in red velvet and every last chair leg and arm rest had been covered in gilt paint—even her grand piano! (Years later on our first trip to Europe, Larry and I toured the royal palace in Vienna and found every room decorated with velvet and gilt. It was then that I realized Mme. Lidge had tried to create a bit of imperial splendor for herself on this side of the Atlantic.) Apparently, she had no time for filing cabinets because the closed lid of her grand piano was piled high with stacks of sheet music and lesson books. When the kitchen door swung open, we caught a glimpse of a wild color scheme that convinced us Mme. must have been color blind—blue walls, purple ceiling, and red woodwork!
Both my sister Becky and I studied with Mme. Lidge for several years. It didn’t take us long to discover that this woman, like her décor, was like no one else we knew. Her broken English was challenging to understand and her handwriting in our assignment books was difficult to decipher. When she received cash or checks they were immediately stuffed into the bodice of her dress. Her mantra was “count out loud” and she frequently reminded us that we were fortunate to be studying with her instead of the other teacher in town who didn’t make her students count. We were also informed that our pedagogical genealogy included some very famous teachers and that we were great, great grandstudents of Franz Liszt! We had him to thank for the finger exercises we despised.
She insisted on being addressed as Madame Lidge, but for some reason we could not fathom she called me Marguerite for the first two years I was with her. Mom labeled my piano assignment book “Kathleen” and put the monthly tuition check in an envelope labeled, “For Kathleen,” but I continued to be “Marguerite” in Mme.’s studio. Exasperated, mom finally confronted her and after that I became “Katty.”
Because her schedule was so full, Mme. Lidge rarely sat down for a meal. Instead, she would disappear from a lesson for a few minutes and then reappear, still chewing a mouthful of something or nibbling on a chicken drumstick. During one of Mme.’s absences, Becky was warming up with scales when she noticed one of the piano keys sticking. She peered into the piano and was surprised to see an old chicken bone that must have succumbed to the vibrations of the piano and fallen inside! Mom could only shake her head and roll her eyes when we described these occurrences.
Quirkiness aside, Madame Lidge was a wonderful teacher. She helped me establish a practice regimen, taught me not only to play with accuracy, but with expression. I coveted the composer busts that we earned for demonstrating good practice habits and I soon learned that Mme. Lidge was absolutely right about the counting aloud. She also broadened my musical horizons by escorting me to a recital by pianist Rosalyn Tureck at the college where she taught, presumably to encourage me to consider the school as my future destination. The solid musical grounding I received from her helped me find my niche in high school. As a freshman, I began my training as choral accompanist, a position I retained throughout my high school years, but to Mme. Lidge’s dismay, I was spending more time practicing choral accompaniments than learning the repertoire that was necessary for me to gain admission to a music college. Believing that the high school music teachers were using me, during my senior year she boldly marched into the school music department and presented her case. As a result of her advocacy on my behalf, I was given the opportunity to play a solo at one of the concerts and a piano concerto with the band.
My days with Mme. Lidge ended when I left for college in Wisconsin. She had tried in vain to persuade my parents to send me to the conservatory in Chicago, but mom and dad were adamantly opposed to their 18-year-old daughter commuting to the city every day. Before we all left for college, Mme. invited her senior students and even our friends from the other teacher to have dinner at her house. Having no idea what to expect, because cooking was not known to be on her list of accomplishments, we had a hilarious evening and saw a fun-loving side of our teacher that we hadn’t experienced before. As “insiders” we enjoyed introducing our friends, students of the other teacher, to the eccentricities of our beloved Madame Lidge.
I’ve had other teachers since Madame Lidge, but she remains for me the most influential and highly regarded. If even one of my students feels the same about me, I will consider my life’s work worthwhile.
Submitted by Carol Angus
In a moment of trying to reorganize my piano studio (a little) over the cathos left after holiday preparation and the inability to not have “stacks” of music everywhere, I ran across a couple of old friends. One of these was the word “unique."
What is unique? Webster’s Dictionary defines unique as “being the only one"!!! Exactly!!! One of a kind. In our music environment, each student who presents themselves to you – a “unique teacher," is one of a kind. It becomes out responsibility to nurture that uniqueness into a musician capable of thinking, reading, and breathing music to their best abilities. It's all about helping them to discover the passion of recreating music as presented on the page.
Think about it, would you really want all students to be the same—as if someone took a cookie cutter and created multiples of the same kind? Heaven forbid no! How very boring it would be for the teacher to have everyone be the same. Discovering the uniqueness of each student and helping them find the magic musical key that will unlock the musical world is why we as teachers are unique and continue to take on new students. No two students work on the same musical time table nor can we expect the same result with each student.
In what ways are you unique?
Submitted by Carol C. Angus
How many times have you wished you had taken piano lessons or worked harder when you did? Creating music is a wonderful adventure that can last a lifetime. Is learning to play piano easy? For some, yes; for others, a challenge; and for a few, impossible. Besides giving ones self and others pleasure through the reproduction of music, the student appreciation is nurtured with the works of fellow students and their quest to learn an instrument. Consider the following positive by-products of playing the piano.
Carol C. Angus Piano Studio
303 Baywood Road, West Chester, PA 19382
Submitted by Susan Koenig
As teachers, we all know that bad practice habits easily steer our students away from practicing more efficiently. While it is a large part of our job to teach students “how” to practice, we cannot be with them at home when they are practicing, yet the wise student who practices effectively will reap much greater benefits and achieve quicker results.
Part of our role as teachers is to educate parents so that they can be involved as partners and coaches. If you are reading this blog, feel free to share it with your students’ parents to encourage them to be vigilant about their role in encouraging efficient practice at home. Students can easily fool themselves as well as their parents into thinking they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Much time is wasted when this happens. Even if parents are not musicians, they can still be very effective “practice detectives.”
Below, I’ve listed my top 10 practice concerns along with some suggestions for helping students to use their practice time more efficiently.
While much of this advice seems perfectly logical, often we inherently do not pay as much attention to the “how” of practicing as we should. The result is that our practice time is less efficient. Awareness of the above details, and imparting the discipline to follow them, is paramount to making the most of practice time.
Submitted by John Kline
Something young children do more than almost any other age group is create. They master new skills very frequently, integrate the skills into their everyday lives, and are soon creating things of striking originality. Something I try to do in each of my lessons is have a student create something new, something to express their musical thoughts.
I mostly do this through improvisation at the piano. Even at the first lesson, the student and I discover high sounds, low sounds, how they differ from each other, and how they make us feel. This is all the information we need to create our own original piece of music! It is usually a duet, but sometimes the student cannot wait to be the sole performer of their new song.
Exploiting high and low sounds, the groups of 2 and 3 black keys, fast and slow, loud and soft are all great for beginning improvisations. But this strategy also works for more advanced concepts like scales, chord progressions, and interval recognition. Just last week, a student and I took some time in a lesson to improvise a piece in an unfamiliar key (B Major) to help facilitate the learning of her next piece. Seeing the notes of that scale on the keyboard and hearing how they functioned and interacted with each other really helped her confidence once she started practicing her piece.
Try some improvising with your students (and maybe yourself as well) and see what you can create!
Submitted by Joy Thiessen
I am sitting at a red light in my car—my home away from home—and I’m desperately trying to eat a few last bites of soup before I drive on. It is not easy to eat soup while driving, though it is decidedly more glamorous than eating pizza behind the wheel.
The thing is, if I don’t eat dinner now, I won’t eat, because I am working from the afternoon into the night, driving around and delivering piano lessons. I have been doing this for almost 20 startling years, and it’s the only way I know how to be a piano teacher.
What makes me like this style of teaching so much, that I’ve stubbornly refused to give it up and “settle down” with my own studio? A few things. I love having an honest break between lessons, in which I can clear my head (and my ears!), and get ready for the next student. I love that families are less likely to cancel, because all they have to do is just be home—easy! I love the feeling of being more like a part of the family, if only for 45 minutes per week. I get to pet the dog, say hello to the younger siblings, and sometimes get offered a snack.
Getting to see a student’s home setup is a bonus, too—is the piano bench the right height? Is the piano tuned? Are there any immediate distractions in the room that need to be eliminated? Which style of music does the family pet bird really respond to?
Part of the reason I like traveling for lessons has to do with my own space as well: I just don’t have enough of it to offer lessons in my house. One day, I dream, I will have a whole room devoted to piano lessons! I will have fewer baby toys for everyone to trip over, and I will teach all of my lessons during the daytime hours, so I can enjoy dinner with my family every night. Hey, if I’m going to dream, why not dream big?
But you see, it’s actually not the dinner thing that makes me rethink my love for being an itinerant piano teacher. I am a piano teacher, after all, and working through the evening is often just part of the deal. The thing that is really starting to get to me lately is the weight of my teaching bag. I love to keep it full of books and binders and flashcards and other fun things—but I’m not getting any younger, you know!
In the end, at least for now, the bag that is breaking my back is not actually a deal-breaker. I could just invest in a rolling suitcase, after all. Right now, there’s too much I love about my current situation, so I can’t switch things up this school year. But you can be sure that if you pull up next to me at a red light, there’s a good chance that I will be enjoying my dinner, which yes, may very well be soup.
Submitted by Jane Heintzelman, October 2017
Every year I write a Halloween story and incorporate the pieces the students are playing into a story. This is the format I use for a Halloween party for my younger students, usually grades from 1 to about 6. I don't make the story very scary so that no one is upset. I usually find a story from the internet or the children's library and adapt it to the pieces. Sometimes this makes the story a little ridiculous but the students don't seem to care.
One reason I think this works well is that it takes the focus off any nervousness about playing and makes it a non-threatening performance opportunity. Also, they never know when their name will come up in the story so they listen pretty well and are then happy to play their pieces and be a part of the story. For some students this is the first time they have played for others, and for everyone it is the first performance opportunity of the year. This is usually their favorite piano party of the year.
I got this idea from Nancy Gottshall more than 20 years ago. The only downside has been that the students love it so much that I now have to make up a story for every year!
THE SCARE (SAMPLE HALLOWEEN STORY FROM 2015)
One crisp, fall afternoon, a week before Halloween, an invitation arrived in Simon's mailbox. He was invited to a Halloween party at Jim's house. The invitation said no mean tricks or scary costumes. The year before, Simon had had a Halloween party at his house and there were a lot of scary costumes and some mean tricks. Jim had served a Witches' Brew made with monster eyeballs from a big black cauldron. WITCHES' BREW-MAEVE HINTON. There was a scary HALLOWEEN WITCH-SPENCER CHARPENTIER, and that witch was doing a tarantella dance to scare away the big spider on the floor. TARANTELLA SCARANTELLA-TEAGAN POSEY. There were also scary looking things that went BUMP IN THE NIGHT-MARIN PARK. And there was scary music playing, BALLADE-JESSICA MULLIN. Jim had been very scared and had gone home early. This year he told Simon the party was at his house so nothing scary would happen. Now Simon was upset about this because, what was Halloween without a little scare??? Although Simon loved all the candy, what he loved most was the scaring.
The next day, Simon went out to find a costume. On his way, he passed by Jim's house and decided to stop in to see how things were coming along for the party.
Inside, he looked around for signs of scary decorations but all he found were a bunch of jack-o-lanterns-JACK-O-LANTERN JAMBOREE- SAMANTHA EILL. True, there were a few black cats prancing around. BLACK CATS DANCE-JESSICA LI. There was also a picture of Merlin doing a MAGIC SHOW-BRYNNE MUSHLIN, but nothing looked very scary.
So, Simon knew he had to find a really scary costume to liven the party up a little. After all, it was Halloween! He decided to be a scary ghoul with blood dripping from his mouth. COOL GHOUL-HAN TANG.
Wearing his scary costume, Simon arrived at Jim's house for the party. All the lights were out. Simon knocked on the door but there was no answer. He pushed the door and it opened but creaked shut after him. It was totally dark! Then Simon thought he heard some SPOOKY FOOTSTEPS-BRYNNE MUSHLIN. A big shape started toward him. Simon said to himself, I'M NOT AFRAID-KYLE WU. But, the shape came closer and Simon screamed, he was so frightened. Maybe scaring people wasn't such a good idea after all!
Suddenly the lights went on. The room was filled with all his friends in costumes. The dark shape was really just his friend Jim in a CREEPY CROCODILE costume-KYLE WU. And, there was his friend, Dayna, dressed up like a Gypsy. GYPSY EARRINGS-DAYNA MUSHLIN.
Jim was afraid Simon would be mad at him, but after thinking about it, Simon realized Jim had just turned the tables on him from last year. He realized it was all in fun and enjoyed the rest of the party. People did a jazz dance-SLIDE EASY-HAN TANG and a POLONAISE-JAMIE MUSHLIN and enjoyed listening to a SONATINA IN G- JESSICA MULLIN. Halloween was still Simon's favorite holiday. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!