Sunday, June 16, 2013

Now blogging at

I am now blogging at Please check it out! I have made the switch to a self hosted blog and to WordPress. I am still learning WordPress, but came to the conclusion that it is okay to release it without it being 100% perfect. I can still make changes as I continue to learn it.

For those of you that are subscribed to receive posts via email, you will still be subscribed at the new site. Thank you for your continued support!

Heidi Bender

Monday, May 20, 2013


I have decided to move my blog to a self hosted site. I have been thinking about this for quite some time. Last week, one of my posts received over 30 spam comments. Google caught most, but not all of them. This was the final push I needed to move to self hosted and Word Press where I should have more control over preventing spam comments from appearing on the site (so I've read anyway).

You may have noticed that I haven't made a new post in a few weeks. That was not really intentional. It was more of an accidental break as I had good intentions of posting but I just didn't do it. I will spare you the excuses! 

I am hoping to have the new site ready in a week or two. Then I will announce the new address (URL). For those of you that are currently subscribed to receive emails, I don't think you will need to resubscribe.

I hope you are enjoying the spring weather!


Monday, April 29, 2013

Confidence and practice technique - April 2013 Lesson

Last Saturday at my lesson two themes emerged: confidence and practice technique.

I have been learning the hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King" for several months. I choose to start my lesson with this piece. I was nervous as it had been 6 weeks since my last lesson. Also, I had lost a week of practice time due to illness. When I am nervous, my playing sounds nervous. My first couple of attempts did not go so well. Finally, Michael told me to focus. He knew I could do it. Then I played the hymn much better. I need to learn to have confidence going into to a lesson as eventually as I will need confidence once I am ready for public performances. 

Practice Technique:
We ended the lesson with Fugue from Prelude and Fugue in C Major (BWV 553) which I have been working on for over a year. I am still having issues with holding a consistent tempo (speed). I slow down for harder sections and speed up for easier sections. This is not a new problem and has been discussed at many lessons. The problem is with how I practice. I keep doing the same things over and over again which ingrain the wrong habits into my brain. 

Albert Einstein described insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". 

To combat this insanity Michael suggested I practice in small sections, only 3 or 4 measures at a time, alternating with and without the metronome. I should also record myself so that I can get better at critiquing myself and hearing my problems on my own. 

Overall, the lesson went well and it was a joy to play the pipe organ. The picture below was taken from the balcony just before my lesson began. As you may remember, the organ at Trinity Episcopal Church is in the balcony. This is the organist's view of the nave from the balcony.
Organist's view from balcony at Trinity Episcopal Church


Monday, April 8, 2013

Would you stop for a free concert?

Would you stop for a free concert? Probably not. Does that answer surprise you?

During Lent this year, I attended all but one of the noon organ recitals at First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor
This sign was placed on the sidewalk advertising the free organ concert. The church is in downtown Ann Arbor and there is plenty of foot traffic. I don't know if any pedestrians stopped in because of this sign but at least they were aware of the opportunity. 

A few months ago through organist Katherine Crosier's blog, I learned of Joshua Bell and the subway experiment. Joshua Bell is a talented violinist who plays to sold out concert halls. The experiment occurred at a subway station in Washington, D.C. in 2007 in coordination with the Washington Post. One morning he played his violin for about 45 minutes. Very few people actually stopped to listen. The article states "In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look. " I encourage you to read the Washington Post article. Also, check out this video which has over 4 million views. It is less than 3 minutes and shows Joshua at the subway.

Would I have stopped? Probably not. But now, after reading about this experiment, I will be more likely to stop and listen to the music. How about you?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 2013 Lesson - A lesson in multitasking

A couple of Saturdays ago, I traveled to Toledo for an organ lesson. The theme of the lesson became multitasking as I had trouble learning the new hymns and Bach piece assigned at my previous lesson. What do you think of first when you here "multitasking"? I think of my job where I often have several tasks going at once. 

How does this apply to an organist?  

Organists need to be very good at multitasking to be successful. Each hand and foot usually has it's own "task" to handle. The notes for the left hand will not be the same as the right. The feet are playing the pedals. The tempo must remain consistent. Registration (stops) may need to be changed throughout a piece. Pages may need to be turned. Some organists also direct a choir while they play! 

I've learned that playing the organ is harder than it looks! To improve more quickly, I need to practice each "task" independently. For example, learning the part for each hand separately before playing them together. 

What could you learn more quickly if you broke it down into smaller pieces?