Playing Piano Keeps 105-Year-Old Woman Happy and Healthy

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 - No Comments

“When I first started there, I thought they’d hand me sheet music. But they just said ‘Watch the movie and play to what you see,’” she said. “So, I did.”

Rhea Hornyak is an extraordinary woman. The former Portage, PA, elementary school teacher recently marked her 105th birthday and was the pianist at her own party entertaining a hometown crowd of more than 200 friends and family members.

At a time many Americans were celebrating the decadence of the Roaring ’20s, she recalled walking to the Harris Hotel to fumble at the keys of its piano because her family couldn’t afford one.

“From the first moment I started playing, it made me feel happy inside. Playing music just elevated my whole being,” Hornyak said. “I just had to play.”

By 1922, at age 8, she made up her mind to teach herself the craft because private lessons were too expensive, she said.

By that point, Hornyak was already the Sunday School pianist at Portage’s Bethany United Methodist Church, where she still plays today.

By age 12, she found work inside Portage Borough’s Pastime Theatre on Gilllespie Avenue. While friends or neighbors were spending their dimes to see the motion pictures of the moment, Hornyak was down in the front at the piano, playing the accompaniment.

During the silent-film era, musicians played inside theater pits to bring life and emotion to the moving pictures that illuminated the silver screen.

“When I first started there, I thought they’d hand me sheet music. But they just said ‘Watch the movie and play to what you see,’” she said. “So, I did.”

She estimated she “probably made 50 cents” a day at the job. But it was valuable experience, Hornyak added.

Thanks to a scholarship, she attended Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio – and later Indiana University of Pennsylvania – for an elementary education degree. Hornyak recalled practicing chords for hours by tapping her fingers on a wooden desk as a young college student because she had no other way to play outside of class. She said she never complained about it.

These days, Hornyak said she still feels “wonderful” physically. But she has to use a magnifier to memorize her Sunday hymns and acknowledged her vision has deteriorated to the point that she’s nearly blind.

“At the rate it’s going, it could be a month,” she said. “But no matter what happens, I’m going to keep playing as long as I can.”

We want to give a huge Piano in a Flash shout out to Rhea whose amazing story can inspire new players from all over to take up the joy and benefits of playing the piano.  It could be you, too.  The kids are grown, career is done and it’s YOUR time now.  It’s YOUR turn to play!

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New Study Says Smart People Learn Music Faster

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019 - No Comments

We’ve all heard that playing music makes people smarter, but a new study published in the scientific journal, Intelligence, shows that high intellect may be far more common among new musicians than previously thought.

After analyzing how a group of beginning pianists honed their craft, researchers say that intelligence may play a role in how quickly an individual can learn how to play music.

“The strongest predictor of skill acquisition was intelligence, followed by music aptitude,” explains study author Alexander Burgoyne, a doctoral candidate in cognition and cognitive neuroscience at Michigan State University, in a release. “By contrast, the correlation between the growth mindset and piano performance was about as close to zero as possible.”

For the research, 161 undergraduate students were taught how to play “Happy Birthday” on piano via an instructional video. Each student was then given some time to practice, before performing the song for a group of three judges. The judges gave each student a score based off of their melodic and rhythmic accuracy. Predictably, the musical skills of the participating students varied greatly. Some were able to pick up the song and play it well quickly, while others struggled initially before improving over time. Certain participants started strong but seemed to lose interest in the task, and another group of students was never able to get the hang of it, struggling mightily throughout the activity.

Hey, we know that YOU are smart and you know it too! And you should use that awesome, amazing brainpower to learn to play the piano using Piano in a Flash. It’s really fun and easier than you think!

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Taiwanese Hospital Installs Musical Piano Key Staircase

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 - No Comments

A hospital in Taiwan has installed a ‘piano staircase’, encouraging patients and staff to take the stairs and get more exercise. According to news sources, the staircase, found at Kaohsiung Municipal Ta-Tung Hospital in Taiwan, stretches 11 stories and each individual stair plays a note as people go up and down.

“The idea comes from a similar staircase that was installed in Stockholm’s subway system in 2009,” Radio Taiwan International (RTI) reports. “Suddenly, a routine activity became an opportunity for musical expression, and 66 percent of the people who walked past decided to take the stairs instead of an escalator.”

And if playing notes with your feet while walking up and down the stairs is kinda fun, imagine the fun YOU’LL have when you learn to play the piano for real!  It’s easier than you think and Scott “The Piano Guy” Houston is waiting to teach you!  Come on, the kids are grown, the career is wrapped up and it’s YOUR time now. It’s YOUR turn to play!

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93-Year-Old Veteran Loves Playing the Piano for “Old People”

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 - No Comments

The Mahoney House retirement community in York, Nebraska is a bit more musical around lunchtime thanks to the efforts of 93-year-old veteran Art Frederickson. For the past decade, almost every day, Art has played fun and familiar tunes on his electronic piano for the facility’s residents.

“Most of them like old music, so that’s what I usually play – old hymns and old ballads,” he said.

“He is here at least 45 minutes before noon,” said Tammy Coffey, Mahoney House Executive Director.

Mahoney House residents – and staff – look forward to hearing him play, Coffey said. “All of the residents love his music, and our employees look forward to seeing Art every week.”

The feeling is mutual. “I enjoy doing it. I love old people because I am one myself,” Fredrickson, said. He added that he also does it for the love of music itself. “I like to play music the way I would like to have it played,” Fredrickson said. “To say I’m an expert in music – oh no!”

Piano in a Flash salutes Art Frederickson for his service to our country and his continued service to the “old people” at The Mahoney House. And if YOU want to learn to play the piano, you can be just like Art! The kids are grown, career is all done and it’s YOUR time now. It’s YOUR turn to play!

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Piano in a Flash Student Profile: Sharon Hubbard Graessle

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 - 1 Comment

Like so many people, Sharon Hubbard Grassele (65) always wanted to learn how to play the piano. She took piano lessons as a child, but wasn’t able to stick with it, then life got in the way and she wasn’t able to find the time to fulfill her dream. Until now.

Recently, Sharon enrolled in Scott “The Piano Guy” Houston’s Piano in a Flash online method and she’s now learning, playing and having a lot of fun doing it.

Q: Why did you want to learn to play the piano?

Sharon: “Well, I had some piano lessons in my life, but I wasn’t good. Then I happened to see the little presentation from Scott Houston online. I thought that would be awesome to do. So I decided to give it a try. I was a little leary at first, but I gave it my best.”

Q: How did Piano in a Flash help you?

Sharon “Wow, I’ve learned so much and it’s brought me so much joy. It’s great the way you have it set up so I can do it any time of day I want to. Now I can sit down and play the piano! I love it! I play every day and Scott’s program makes practicing so fun! I give it a 10+ on 1-10 scale.”

And there you have it. Sharon’s not alone and YOU can join all of these new piano players out there too! The kids are grown, career’s done and it’s YOUR time now. It’s YOUR turn to play!

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The Human Brain Can Recognize Familiar Music in Milliseconds

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 - 1 Comment

Did you know that your brain can recognize a familiar song within 100 to 300 milliseconds? A new study from University College London reports that our favorite tunes are deeply held in our minds.

For this study, researchers at the UCL Ear Institute wanted to find out exactly how fast the brain responded to familiar music, as well as the temporal profile of processes in the brain which allow for this.

“These findings point to very fast temporal circuitry and are consistent with the deep hold that highly familiar pieces of music have on our memory,” said senior author Professor Maria Chait.

Scott Houston adds, “I’ve always been greatly intrigued with that incredible feeling you get when you are listening to a radio, scanning from station to station, and you can stop almost immediately when you sense some tune you recognize, yet you’ve possibly not heard it in years. (fast as in 100 milliseconds! see below…) Similarly amazing to me is the way that you can remember verse after verse of lyrics in tunes that you haven’t heard, again, in YEARS once you start to sing along with it. I’m just fascinated by the depth (or maybe “stickiness” or robustness are more descriptive words to use) of memories when they are attached to music. There is clearly something profound and unique about music as it affects our brain when it comes to the way it affects us, makes us feel emotionally, and locks in memories like nothing else. It’s almost overwhelming to me when I think about it all, and makes me so incredibly proud to be able to bring making music into a lot of people’s lives for the first time.”

Participants in the UK study passively listened to 100 snippets (each less than a second) of both the familiar and unfamiliar song, presented in random order. Around 400 seconds was listened to in total. Researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) imaging, which records electrical activity in the brain, and pupillometry (a technique that measures pupil diameter—considered a measure of arousal).

The study found the human brain recognized ‘familiar’ tunes from 100 milliseconds (0.1 of a second) of sound onset, with the average recognition time between 100ms and 300ms. This was first revealed by rapid pupil dilation, likely linked to increased arousal associated with the familiar sound, followed by cortical activation related to memory retrieval.

Houston adds, “This issue of learning to play piano using well-known tunes versus some dumb original tunes I could have written is a basic tenet of my online method and I firmly believe it is one of the keys to the incredible success we see with our adult students. If you are going to have to spend some effort learning to play, why not spend that time and effort learning tunes YOU want to play as opposed to tunes you’ve never heard of and would never get caught dead playing in front of friends and family, right? It seems so logical …”

Well, we all LOVE our favorite songs and that’s why Scott “The Piano Guy” Houston’s Piano in a Flash Online Method uses those songs to teach anyone to play the piano! It’s fun and easier than you might think. Hey, the kids are grown, career’s all wrapped up and it’s YOUR time now! It’s YOUR turn to play!

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Common Questions for Scott Houston: Chord Jumping

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 - No Comments

Thousands of people are having fun learning how to play their favorite songs on the piano with Scott Houston’s Piano in a Flash online method. One question Scott gets frequently involves chord movements or jumps. Here’s the question and Scott’s answer to help everyone along as we learn.

Student: How do I decide to move up or down from the current chord I am playing when I get to the next chord symbol?

Scott Houston: “For fear of sounding like a cop-out answer, there is no “right” or “wrong” decision there. It’s just what you think sounds the best, or maybe is the easiest for you to play (or maybe the closest to each other just to make the jumps not so jarring maybe?) In the tunes we are working on here near the beginning of the whole method, we usually just kind of jump back and forth, so it is probably about the same difficulty in either direction. However, as we progress into tunes with more complicated chord progressions, a lot of the time it will be logical to decide to go up or down to a chord based on the following chord after that being close to one or another. Just make your movements as smooth as possible for your own sake. No need to be jumping all over the place unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I also think a big part of it is just noticing the difference in sound when you play a chord in one octave or another. Chords tend to sound the best right around the middle of a piano, say from the C one octave below middle C to the F, four notes above middle C. When you start getting a lot higher, or a lot lower than that from a placement standpoint, you’ll start hearing the chords sounding a little “muddy” down low, or just a little “toy piano-like” when you get into the higher octaves.

My advice is to stay near one another when jumping from chord to chord and that will probably be a good guide. Past that—use your ears. What you think sounds the best is probably correct!”

And there you have it. Learning to play the piano is fun—and easier than you probably think. 6x Emmy winner Scott “The Piano Guy” Houston is here to help you. The kids are grown, career is done and it’s YOUR time now. It’s YOUR turn to play!  

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Painted Pianos Show Up in Knoxville

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019 - No Comments

Yay for Knoxville!

Some very cool painted and playable pianos have popped up around the city in Knoxville, Tenn. Apparently, The Piano Project of Knoxville, founded by jazz pianist Brian Clay, placed the pianos.

According to news sources, the launch party included Clay, the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, Dogwood Arts, the City of Knoxville Public Arts Committee and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. There are just three now, but they hope to install more in the city.

You’re walking down the street in Knoxville and boom — there’s a perfectly good piano sitting there WAITING for YOU to play it. Just another reason why you should get connected with 6X Emmy winner Scott Houston’s Piano in a Flash program. YOU could be having fun PLAYING those pianos (or any piano) in no time!

So what’s stopping you? The kids are grown, the career is done and it’s YOUR time now. It’s YOUR turn to play!

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Piano Playing, Singing Beagle Rocks Out in Viral Video

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 - No Comments

We know that people play music for fun. But did you know that some dogs do as well?

Buddy Mercury, a lovable Beagle, is quickly generating massive online fame (almost 5.7 million views on YouTube) as a video showing him playing the piano and “singing” appears in countless social media feeds.  Also in the video Buddy’s “human,” a small child, is dancing up a storm!

Scott “The Piano Guy” Houston encourages learning to play piano for fun and there’s a LOT of fun happening here. He says “Hey – if a dog can give that cute little kid so much enjoyment, just think what YOU could do for some of YOUR humans if you just sat down and learned to play some of your favorite tunes for fun! Ha! ”

The good news is that Scott has been successfully helping people do just that for over 20 years … Hey, don’t let the dogs have ALL the fun. 🙂 The kids are grown, career is done and it’s YOUR time now. It’s YOUR turn to play!

Enjoy the video!

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Buddy Mercury the piano playing and singing beagle performs while his human dances

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