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by Anne Ku

There is evidence that early music training helps children in various ways: coordination, multi-tasking ability, discipline, stimulation of different parts of the brain such as pattern recognition and mathematical prowess.  This section will be populated with useful educational tools such as the circle of fifths.

A Personal Note

My father bought us a brand new Yamaha upright after we moved to Okinawa, Japan.  Since he enjoyed playing by ear the familiar Chinese tunes on the black keys, he got the three of us to learn.  So my mother, my six year old sister, and I began taking piano lessons from our Japanese neighbour.  My mother progressed the fastest.  My sister has trouble understanding our Japanese teacher who did not speak Chinese. Fortunately I could read and write Chinese, so we communicated by kanji characters.  After learning to speak English, we studied under Filipino teachers at the local music school.  Later we found an American teacher who had received her Bachelor's in music from Indiana University in Pennsylvania.  By then, my mother had stopped taking lessons, but she willingly drove an hour each way to take us to Mrs Hermann. I learned music theory from her hand-written assignments, while mom napped in the hot and humid car.

My first public performance came in fifth grade, when I was asked to play background music at our neighbourhood's annual Christmas party.  That's when I discovered sightreading.   My music career began as a humble page-turner for my music teacher who accompanied our school choir.  The following year, I became the choir accompanist.  Soon people were asking me to accompany them in talent shows, play the keyboards in their bands, and music just took off for me.

My brother started taking lessons as soon as he was able to. It was not easy teaching my brother, as he could get away with not playing by being deliberately rebellious. By then many parents were asking me to teach their kids.  Thus in my junior and senior years in high school, I started taking on private students.  The youngest was only four.  The oldest was my classmate who wanted to learn the Goodbye Girl song.  I also inherited several students from my neighbour who left the island. 


  • arrange: to transcribe or transpose
  • compose: to write from scratch
  • improvise: to change the original music while playing or to create new music from scratch
  • accompany: to play the background to support the main instrument/voice
  • memorise: to play from memory, i.e. without the music score
  • play by ear: to play upon/after listening or with the music
  • sightreading: the ability to play the music the first time reading it
  • transcribe: to write for another instrument(s)
  • transpose:  to write/play the music in a different key

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