Thanks for coming to visit the Family and Friends Music Club!

I teach piano and group music classes in and around Bristol, UK. Please click on the Piano Lessons or  Group Music Classes tabs for more information.

I also blog about musical ideas and activities, please scroll down the home page, or pick a category to the right to have a look around.


Summer Camp 2015: What did we learn?

The summer break already seems a long time ago here. Those last couple of weeks of the holiday seemed to fly by and so it is only now that I’m spending a little time to reflect on what we learnt during our unofficial family and friends music summer camp.

I was frustrated that life seemed to be speeding by without me making time to share my experience and love of music with the children so I set myself the challenge of doing a musical activity with the kids every day (and documenting as many as possible) throughout the summer break.

Some activities sparked a lot of fun and creativity, some failed to live up to my expectations, but there were definitely a few valuable lessons along the way…

  1. Make time for music
    This was my biggest challenge during term-time, but once the kids were out of school/kindergarten/preschool and all the other scheduled and unscheduled activities I found time to realise that music doesn’t always need too much time anyway. Sure, I’m still struggling with making time and enforcing a regular piano lesson (and practice!) for L, but we found plenty of fun and learning in simply drawing attention to the musical moments in everyday life.
  2. Keep the instruments accessible
    Like many families, we had plenty of musical instruments around the house, but most of them had been hidden away in frustration when the noise got too much! We rescued all our maracas, harmonicas, recorders, drums etc. and stored them all in one, accessible place and suddenly making music became a viable alternative to watching TV (admittedly TV still won more often than I’d like!). Yes, there are still times when the last thing I want to hear is the children blowing into their recorders, but now the instruments are all together I find it easier to accept and enjoy the noise as a musical activity rather than just TOO MUCH NOISE!
  3. Involve the children in the challenge
    There were definitely some days when the children didn’t want to be coerced into another musical activity, but they are all of an age when they definitely want to ‘help’. As soon as I told them about what I was trying to do (introduce more music into our everyday lives, get back to teaching, blog about our exploits, etc.) their ideas and enthusiasm added immeasurably to the experience.
  4. It’s not just about the kids
    As we did more and more musical activities as a family and as I thought more and more about music I found my own passion for playing and teaching flourishing to an extent I hadn’t necessarily anticipated. I now find myself prioritising my own musical development to a greater extent. I’m rediscovering the pieces I used to play, learning new repertoire, and my current personal challenge is to work on memorisation, as skill I never mastered (or even really attempted) when I was learning to play.
  5. When in doubt, sing a silly song…
    If any of this sounds remotely ‘worthy’, please be assured that a lot of our musical activities involved parroting each other, singing nonsense songs and dancing around to Shake It Off. It’s supposed to be fun, after all!

If you’ve already dipped into any of the Summer Camp posts I hope you found something fun there to inspire you. If not, well, it’s not too late, just click on the Summer Camp category to find all the posts about songs we listened to, games we played, instruments we tried and all the other musical bits and bobs that kept us busy over the summer.

The blog has been having a bit of a break while I set up my real-life music classes here in Calgary (very exciting!), but I’ll be back with plenty more musical thoughts and ideas in the next few weeks – please stay tuned! 🙂

The Real-Life Family and Friends Music Club

The Family and Friends Music Club is venturing into the real world!

I’m launching group music classes for young children next week and will be adding private piano lessons later in the month. Please take a look at the Group Music Classes page for more information and, if you’re in NW Calgary, please consider signing up for some musical fun!


Summer Camp: So far…

We’re halfway through the summer break here so I thought I’d take a break from posting new activities this week to give us time to play around more with some of the ideas we’ve already tried.

If you’re looking for a quick musical activity, please do take a look at what we’ve been up to so far…




It’s been a fun few weeks! Hope to see you back here for more next week…

Summer Camp Week Two: Tuesday

Today’s activity can be seen displayed as the new banner across the top of this blog.

I printed out a blank piano keyboard for the children to colour. So far E (my 4-year-old) is the only one who has completed hers, so it is her version you see at the top of the page. I gave her suggestions for which colours she should colour each note and showed her where to find them.

Six-year-old L is already working on finding her way around the keyboard, so I’ll be asking her to find all the Cs herself and colour them a certain colour, and so on with D, E, F…

Summer Camp Week One: Follow-up Friday

Here we are at the end of our first week of summer camp. Just being accountable for prioritising a musical activity each day has been such a positive thing for our family and I’m so excited to share these ideas with… well, whoever might be reading.

On Monday we collected together our instruments and just made some noise! I’m delighted to say that the ‘Family and Friends Music Club’ was created in this session and continues to jam together regularly. Just keeping the instruments together and easily accessible has made an instant difference to the amount of music-making going on in our house. Follow up activities so far have included crafting band posters and sign-up sheets. Maybe we’ll sell some tickets next…

Tuesday was turn-taking day. When I originally wrote the post I included the Pete Seeger version of Let Everyone Clap Hands Like Me – partly because I enjoy it, and partly in case anyone wasn’t familiar with the melody. However, as we already knew the song, I only played that version to my kids a day or so later when I was showing them what I’d been up to with the blog. They loved it! We’ll follow up that activity with a visit to the library for more Pete Seeger CDs for sure!

Wednesday was a day for talking about working musicians and what they do. We continue to discuss that as we listen to music and consider how it was produced. On a personal note, the kids are enthused about helping me set up my music studio; they are busy making plans for teaching younger siblings while I’m working!

Yesterday we made a rhythm chooser, and there have already been requests to follow that up with many more choosers/fortune tellers for everything from jumping-jack challenges to gaining control of the TV remote.

Did you join in with any of the activities this week? If so, did they lead you in any interesting directions? Please let me know in the comments.

I’m not planning to blog at the weekends on the whole, but I might have a bonus post for tomorrow if I get time…

Summer Camp Week One: Working Wednesday

Yesterday’s turn-taking Tuesday activity sparked some interesting discussion in the Andrews household.

When I’m leading a song, am I:

  • a singer
  • a teacher
  • a conductor
  • ‘just’ Mama?

We talked about doing music for fun, and people who have jobs helping us to enjoy music. We also discussed the jobs I have done so far and what musical projects I have planned for the future. It was so interesting and encouraging to hear the thoughts of my small cheerleaders.

So, today’s musical idea – let’s talk about musical jobs.

Here are a few some discussion ideas I’m going to raise with my little lot.

  • Who is in charge of an orchestra?
  • What is your favourite music to listen to, and how did you get to hear it?
  • How do you think musicians make money?
  • Do grown-ups still make music even when it’s not their job?
  • Would you like to do musical job? If so, what would it be and what do you think it would involve?

Hopefully this will be an opportunity to do a little bit of education about how music comes together and reaches the public, but I’m hoping it will also reinforce our enthusiasm for music as a skill/interest/hobby for everyone.

More broadly, I’m hoping to pass on the lesson that I’ve only recently learnt for myself: that our passion, our life’s calling, might not always (or ever!) be our paying job – but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the urge to work, play and share our valuable talents and enthusiasm.  (But who am I kidding? I suspect this grand aim will be greeted with blank faces and a cry of, ‘Can we watch Spongebob now?’)

What’s in a name (and a tagline?)

Day two of my blog and I’m already tinkering with the title.

What was ‘Julia Andrews Music’ yesterday is now ‘Family and Friends Music Club’, at least for the time being.

My original choice to use my own name was an attempt to be more recognisable to anyone considering taking music lessons with me. However, for now, this blog is more about sharing musical ideas and having fun; hopefully the new name will match the content a bit more closely.

I’m intending to post about a musical activity/idea most days during the summer break. Today’s musical activity developed into my three children forming a band which my eldest named ‘Family and Friends Music Club’ – and thus the blog was reborn. Let’s see if I can let it grow a little before the next name change…

Getting started

Thanks for stopping by!

I’m a piano teacher and editor of children’s reference books.  Please stick around for musical ideas and discussion particularly focusing on music for young children and early piano/keyboard skills.

In the short term I’ll be here teaching a virtual summer camp – sharing a short post to add a little music to each day.

And in the longer term I’ll be uploading details of my teaching schedule and availability along with material to supplement lessons and more musical miscellany.