April 2017 Newsletter

Our dinner recital on March 10th was the easiest, least stressful recital I can ever remember having. When I arrived the tables and chairs were already set up and there was next to nothing for me to do. I got my few things ready and enjoyed a peaceful time by the golf course until everyone else started arriving. People worked together to set the food up like a buffet, and we got under way. Students played wonderfully and each person was quiet and respectful as they went to get their food. Several mentioned later that being able to eat during the performance was really great, as they (like me) always ended up being to busy to eat before recitals. I really liked how the big tables encouraged students and their families to meet each other and chat before the music started. The size of the event was perfect, too, as T
he Property Owners Club fit the number of people that came perfectly and the music portion lasted about 45 minutes, which was ideal for the younger performers. Many thanks to Marybeth Tita for hosting this event! I can't express just how easy and peaceful this recital was for me, and while I have no plans to quit doing our more ambitious shows, I'd love to have an event like this every year.

The next performance opportunity is 6:30 April 6th at the Patio Place. This is an open mic night for students, so anything they'd like to play will be great. There will also be a couple of group "jam sessions" where people can play together. Guitar students, please plan to bring an amp if you have one, that way I can leave the keyboard plugged into my amp. The entry fee is $15 per person (yes, that means $15 for the student, $15 for Mom, $15 for Dad, and $15 for anyone else that comes), which includes light munchies and drinks. Children 5 and under are $6. This was a great event last time, and I hope even more of you can enjoy it this time around! Please respond by April 1st, and please plan to reimburse me the cover charge ahead of time. (Checks or PayPal preferred.)

Eben is our Most Valuable Player for March, congratulations Eben! The next MVP t-shirt winner will be drawn on April 6th. Last month, 11 girls and 6 boys had completed an MVP challenge, with the girls completing 20 weeks between them and the boys 25. This month we're up to 13 girls and 9 boys, with the girls getting up to 39 weeks between them and the boys staying ahead with 45 weeks of practice every day! Wow!

Shout-outs for April:
Congratulations to Katie and Finn who have played piano for one year!
Happy 11th birthday to Bella!
Happy 15th Birthday to Connor!

A history of drums at Poirier Studio of Music:

Back in April of 2013, Skyler (a piano student at the time) had a 5-year-old brother that wanted to take drum lessons "from Miss Abigail." Slight problem: "Miss Abigail" didn't know how to play drums. So I called up our local drum maestro, Frank Basile, and began learning. It turned out drums were a lot more fun than I'd ever imagined, and a lot of the skills I'd learned from other instruments applied to drums as well. Since Poirier Studio of Music was between houses at the time (I was staying in a small apartment and teaching out of my sister Lydia's living room), a drum set was not an option. Still, I was able to help Zach, and gained a life-long appreciation for the drums, as well as an intention to have my own set someday. Well, October of 2013 brought the first piece of the puzzle: a studio. Of course, buying a fixer-upper meant there was so much to do, drums weren't a priority. Fast-forward to the beginning of 2016, and the Lord provided a free set of electronic drums. We all had a lot of fun playing those drums, and several students were even inspired to get drums of their own.

As fun and practical as electronic drums are, they just can't do everything real drums can, something that became a problem when Harrison needed to create a "sizzle" for his drum part in the Battle of the Bands last November. I knew I needed to get "real" drums before the next Battle of the Bands, and maybe even before the spring recital. So the Lord provided a free set of real drums. Once again, we all had fun playing with/on them, and getting them forced me to create space for a real kit. Of course, free drums are free for a reason, and these had some issues. For one thing, the cymbals sounded like cookie pans. The toms and kick drums were ok after we tweaked them, but it was impossible to get the wires tight enough for the snare drum to sound like a snare. Plus, it had a loud ring. A quick Google search showed that the time-honored solution for a ringing snare drum was to lay a wallet on it. Sure enough, applying my wallet topically helped, but I could tell that opening my wallet would work much better. So the Craigslist search began in earnest. After a few weeks, the Lord provided the last piece of the puzzle: a kit that came recommended by my drum teacher, at a price I could afford, with a lot of upgrades. Oh, and the drums turned out to be the most beautiful sparkly deep red, which matches nicely with the baby grand. My favorite part, though, is that our new kit came with extra cymbals and a snare, exactly the parts that were lacking in the free kit.  It was almost like getting two set of drums for the price of one and meant I could pass along the free kit in much better shape than I'd received it.

One final note: the man that sold me the new kit sold them because he was losing his hearing from playing drums. We will wear hearing protection at the studio when playing drums for any length of time, and I recommend that students wear it at home, too. So now you know why and how we got the studio's sets of drums. I'm looking forward to hearing them at the spring recital! Speaking of...

May 20th is our Spring Recital, which will be held at the Fernandina Beach Middle School auditorium. We already have some amazing songs lined up (All Star! Viva la Vida! Eine Klein Nachtmusik! Bohemian Rhapsody!) and it will be the nicest venue we've ever had, so I really hope everyone can come!

If you listen to country music, you may have heard of Josh Turner ("Long Black Train") but I bet you've never heard of "the other" Josh Turner.  Don't let the baby face fool you, this guy plays better than many musicians much older than he is. I've been listening to him all week (he's been posting on YouTube for nearly a decade) and I
can't get over how versatile and and just really, really good he is. If you want to give Josh a listen, this playlist is a good place to start.

Newsletter December 2016

In case anyone enjoys reading as much as I enjoy writing, here is the newsletter I typed very shortly after the recital.

As I mentioned at the event, these recitals are a learning process. To me, the event was a huge success as far as the students' performances went, but somewhat of a failure from an organizational standpoint. I spent a lot of time before the recital thinking and planning, looking for ways to get things to flow smoothly. It seemed like everything was covered until I got to recital and nothing went to plan. So what can I learn from this experience?

1. Things never go to plan. You'd think I'd know this by now, but I kinda forgot and got a bit frustrated. This event went very smoothly compared to the ones where the building was locked, the ac didn't work, the alarm went off, the piano was locked...you name it, we have had to deal with it. Basically, if I hadn't had unrealistic expectations of how smoothly the event would flow, I wouldn't have been disappointed. What we just did was extremely ambitious: we had 17 different bands with completely different instruments play one right after another. Of course it was going to be challenging to do the sound!

2. For an event like this, one day isn't enough.We really need to reserve the hall for 2 days and make sure everything is 100% dialed in with the sound before we let bands rehearse.

3. I need more help.
You guys already do so much, I hate to ask for anything more, but for an event like this we'll need to build an audio team that doesn't need anything from me. That way I can be free to field questions from students, solve all the little problems that arise at a recital, and even (gasp!) greet the parents and family members I rarely see.

4. Time change weekendis a great time to have an event like this, because we all get an extra hour of sleep the next day! I will plan to have "Battle of the Bands" on this weekend from here on out, unless something interferes.

5. We have officially outgrown the Peck Auditorium,even for a recital which only a fraction of the students attend. The seating didn't look too bad, but the backstage area was very, very crowded. The reason I have kept coming back to the Peck is because it is inexpensive and because we can pretty much take over the place and do whatever we want. I am considering the Atlantic Rec Center for next time, because it seems to be similar, just a lot bigger. Sadly, not as pretty.

6. We need a better voting system.Political jokes aside, there's got to be a better way to determine winners. Maybe keep the boxes and ballots, just make the tabs all look the same. That way all we have to do is count the total number of tabs in a box. Or maybe we should have impartial judges? Only problem is that I don't know where we'd find them. I thought I could be impartial, but then Saturday I realized I'm probably the most biased of all. I know which students worked super hard and which ones were half-hearted, and since I had heard the songs so many times, I recognized mistakes others might not. And I wasn't able to give each song my full attention, since I was often helping the next band prepare. Plus, I would tend to be vote for my personal favorite songs, regardless of how well they were played! So I am not a good candidate for judging, and I am very open to suggestions for how to decide winners.

7. Between-act entertainment would be nice. I could certainly fill the time- it would be fun to tell you guys some more about each band or song- but it would also be pretty cool to give students the opportunity to be a stand-up comedian or tell a story, or anything else they wanted to do with a mic and about two minutes.

Now, in case y'all are interested, here is my "behind the scenes" look at the program. First of all, the program itself looks much better than usual. That's because Avni Dutta (who is going to Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and majoring in visual arts) designed the artwork and the Burbos (who have access to a top-of-the-line copier) made the copies. How pretty did they turn out??

1. The Shark Kittens are two sisters that are both fairly new to music, and when they first started trying to play together, a lot of frustration ensued. It is one thing to play with a new musician if you are experienced, it is quite another to ask two new musicians to be able to not only play their own parts, but listen to the other person and adjust accordingly. So Zoe and Laney did a wonderful job. And "that other guy," Harrison, had not played bass before he filled in for this song. Kudos to him.

2. The Three and the Keys (what a great name, by the way) played a song that a friend of mine wrote. She, another friend and I were all members of North East Youth Symphony Orchestra, and at a retreat that included a talent show, Autumn taught Erica and me this song. We never had a name for it, so I just called it Autumn's Song. As you heard, Aaron, Caleb, and Anna did a great job performing it. 

3. 4-5-6 Strings was one of my favorite performances. The girls played together nearly flawlessly, and did this without any help from me. At recital was the first time I heard them play.

4. Samantha and the Wicked Pickles- what an imaginative band name. My sister and I loved the green shirts and cleverly designed box. This wasn't an easy song to put together, but they nailed it.

5. Super Mario Sisters. Another tough song to play together, what with the syncopated rhythms and accidentals. Playing it made us all improve as musicians, and we had fun besides.

6. The Pioneers. This is another band I didn't really hear ahead of time. Mr. Andersen and Ethan played for me one day, but I didn't have the pleasure of hearing Emilia sing until y'all did. Though I was aware of some timing difficulties, they did an amazing job smoothing them over during the performance. Plus, the outfits were top notch. I was glad to see them win.

7. The Dung Beetles. Since DJ was playing a Beatles song, I asked him to name a specific beetle. Of course, this is what he came up with! Avni and I thought it was pretty funny (and sort of appropriate, because compared with the actual Beatles, we're not very good) so we went with it. Zane is DJ's brother-in-law, and he made the whole piece sound 10x more professional.

8. More Riches. Three-fourths of this band live on Moriches Drive, hence the name. And yet, it sounds deep and meaningful, especially for the song they played: Before the Throne of God Above. Another one of my favorite performances.

9. Dragon Riders. Ok, so first of all, Emma did an amazing job arranging this. Secondly, whether it was your favorite piece or not, this was by far the most advanced piece on the program. Each player had to grow considerably in order to be able to play such a complex piece, and I'm proud of all of them. Special thanks to Emily for learning the flute part on such short notice and being such a cheery and friendly addition to the group. I hope we get to hear more of her playing in the future!

10. Field Stone. I've mentioned several pieces that I really enjoyed, but this was definitely my favorite of the acoustic performances (and maybe the whole event). First off, I have loved this song since my father purchased the album in the year 2000. Then I got to see it come together over weeks of diligent practice. Everyone had to learn a lot in order to perform. Brooks started it all off by learning the intricate guitar picking in one week. Paige learned how to keep singing melody when all around her were singing harmony parts. (At recital she had help from Becca, but she sang alone at each rehearsal.) Ms. Allison learned how to sing a very difficult harmony part when she was the only one singing harmony. Adam learned to play mandolin instead of his beloved piano. Mr. Vanderhoff learned how to play bass when he'd never played an instrument before. I'm looking forward to hearing their performance again and again.

11. The Blindsiders. James had never played with other people, Lucas had never played drums. With some help from Becca, they were able to stick together and finish their epic-sounding song.

12. 12 Flight Attendants. What are you going to call your band when you're covering a 21 Pilots song? Now you know. Though both Brooks and Rachel did an amazing job learning their parts and playing together, I was (and remain) most impressed by Harrison's work. This is a musician who had never played drums before. This is a song is by a band known for their heavy and creative drum grooves, not at all a good choice for a beginning drummer. And yet...he nailed it. Congratulations to y'all! I look forward to hearing your next single!

13. NorthWestSouthEasterlans. "We aren't just One Direction, we're all four!" Jessica rehearsed tirelessly for this, and it was apparent in her smooth performance.

14. Mavericks. Personally, I was a bit disappointed in how this one turned out. The boys had rehearsed together many times, and had started learning their song long before many other bands. So what went wrong? If we can figure that out, their next performance will be able to showcase their formidable talents.

15. 5 Term Polynomials. Thanks to the listening and adapting skills of each member, this piece sounded pretty much perfect the very first time they played it. I'm looking forward to hearing more from this band, and I bet you are, too!

16. Wings of Amelia. This was the performance I was most excited about. We had a full band, backing vocals, and an awesome song. The recording shows that it didn't go as well in performance as it did in rehearsals, but c'est la vie. I'm still really impressed that we were able to cover this song and still blown away by all our bandleader, Marybeth, was able to do. Plus, didn't the matching shirts look cool?

17. Poirier STRINGS. As is usually the case with the string students, the performance on stage was the first time every player had played together. Each musician had been to multiple rehearsals, we'd just never managed to get everyone in the same room. Sounds like we don't really need to!

As always, huge thanks to Ben for amplifying and recording the event. And if that wasn't enough, he spent a month afterwards editing the tracks! Special thanks also to the Duttas, who supplied the lion's share of food and drink for the reception, and to UD who was our stage manager. I didn't know what a stage manager does, but luckily he did and things flowed much more smoothly because of it.

Overall, I'm super impressed by all our group of students and parents were able to do. We have come a long way since our first recitals and l Iook forward to lots more exciting events in the future!

Letter from the editor...

To recap, the “Battle of the Bands” recital was an event at which the students were required to perform with at least two other people. We had a total of 17 bands, the smallest group being a trio and the largest being...an undecet? (There were 11 people and the Latin prefix for 11 is “undec.”)

The entire event was recorded, and the winning numbers have been uploaded to, well, everywhere. Links are on the right and will be added as stores accept and publish the singles. As you'll hear me mention if you listen to the
main recording, producing an event as large as this one was quite the learning experience.

Here's Ben's take on the event:
As an amateur audio engineer, recording this year's Battle of the Bands recital taught me some great lessons:

  1. Amplifiers can make some noise: Electric guitars and drum machines connected to amplifiers can put out so much volume that we can't just turn up all the other instruments to compensate. The solution, it turns out, is to have the amp face the rear of the stage. Not only does this make it easier for the musician to hear his amp, but we can mic the amp and have better control over what the audience hears.
  2. It's possible to capture applause better next time: All the songs sounded great on the recording but the applause was underwhelming. It turns out one should setup a shotgun mic on stage aming at the audience to really capture the applause!
  3. Remixing after the recital finds hidden gems: For example, a flute had low volume during the original recording, but because she was on her own mic, we could raise the volume afterwards. Can you find the song with the flute?

And here's the short version of what I learned:

  1. One day is not enough time to allow for sound set-up and rehearsals.
  2. Drums are far less forgiving of tempo changes than other instruments are.
  3. The sound crew needs to rehearse and practice, too.
  4. Each band needs to provide their own artwork. Surprisingly, the hardest part about uploading the singles was getting the stores to accept the album covers.
  5.  These events are incredibly fun and we need to do more than one a year!

Follow up newsletter

"Battle of the Bands"

Further reading

private music lessons in Fernandina Beach, FL

(904) 415-1844


Note: this is from November 2015, but it's still true, so I'm leaving it up. -Miss A.

Happy November!

This month contains my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving Day. More than any other holiday Thanksgiving Day has a message: be grateful and happy for what you have. One of the things I am most thankful for is the job the Lord has given me. I enjoy working with many different students, on many different instruments, in many different situations. I may be biased, but I think I have exceptionally talented students, so many of them engage in creative pursuits besides the instrument they play with me. Students write award-winning speeches, play in bands, dance, draw, write poetry, and excel academically. They play soccer, run track, swim, engage in martial arts, speak more than one language, and volunteer to help others.

I don't generally talk about numbers, but recently I decided to count students: as of the first week of November, I have well over 70! Not everyone comes every week of course. Someone is always out of town, or sick, or just too busy to come, but I still work with over 60 people each week. When I first began teaching professionally, back in April 2005, I never dreamed I would get to work with so many talented people. I remember getting to 30 students and thinking that was a lot, I probably couldn't fit any more students in. And then when I got to 50, that was a lot and I was sure the studio was full! And here I am at nearly both those numbers added together and I still find time to work with more people. Thank you all for recommending me to your friends and family. Word of mouth is far better than any advertising campaign, and results in more dedicated and interested students. It also builds a real sense of community when so many of you know each other.

With over 70 appointments on the schedule, it is inevitable that I should have to deal with cancellations on an almost daily basis. I've never charged people for missed lessons as long as they cancel ahead of time, but I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to make even more of an effort to let me know ahead of time if you will have to miss a lesson. Very often, the time that doesn't work for you is providential for someone else, and allows them to make up a lesson, or have a less stressful day / week. Thank you!


First off, THANK YOU for an amazing "Battle of the Bands." Everyone worked really hard to bring it off, and I'm super proud of all you were able to accomplish.
Secondly, in case you weren't able to attend the recital stay the whole time Saturday, here are our winners:

3rd place Electric: NorthWestSouthEasterlans, "I Want"
Audio file

3rd place Acoustic: Field Stone, "The Hand Song"

Editor's note: the 3rd place band wasn't originally intended to have a single uploaded, but since this recording came out so nicely, I went ahead and submitted it.
iTunes/Apple Music

Google Play



2nd place Acoustic: Dragon Riders, "Undertale Medley"

iTunes/Apple Music

Google Play




2nd place Electric: 5 Term Polynomials, "Free to be Me"

Google Play

iTunes/Apple Music 



Most Valuable Parent: Kathryn Bryant

As I mentioned at the recital, every parent was extremely helpful and patient to put up with my innumerable emails and texts, not to mention all the extra driving and waiting for students to rehearse. All of y'all deserved an award, but since I couldn't afford that, I chose a parent who was consistently quick to reply and communicate with others. Since her son Harrison was in multiple groups, she also had to do a bit more of that than some others.

Most Valuable Player: Brooks Vanderhoff
This was another hard one. I knew it needed to be a student that played in multiple bands and a student that was a solid player, but that didn't narrow it down much. So I went with the student that needed the least help from me, and that stayed more on topic during rehearsals. Brooks' experience as a soccer player probably helps him to be the good team player that he is.

Medal of Bravery: Marybeth Tita

Playing in front of an audience is scary. Especially if you're an adult. Especially if you're also singing. Especially if you're doing it from memory. Especially if you've never done any of that before. Especially if you've also never played with a band before. I thought it was really courageous of Marybeth to do this, and seeing her get so enthusiastic about the event inspired me, too!

Audience Favorite: Poirier STRINGS, "Electric Sinfonia"

Grand prize Acoustic: The Pioneers, "The Best Life Ever"

Google Play 

iTunes/Apple Music  



Grand prize Electric: 12 Flight Attendants, "The Judge"

Google Play

iTunes/Apple Music



Last year, each participant in Battle of the Bands received a T-shirt, but this year there were too many performers for me to give away that many shirts. The winners will all receive an "I Play Well With Others" shirt, and any other Battle of the Bands performer may purchase a T-shirt at cost, which is $10.