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#1263851 - 09/07/09 04:57 AM How to Memorize after 50
Ianopi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 46
This forum led me to purchase an L190 Estonia, now a year later I've been playing everything I can get my hands on. Reading music has never been difficult. Put the music in front of me give me a few minutes to look it over, and I pretty much have it down. But, yes practicing it for performance is the key - I know that.

Of late however, at 59 years, I want to memorize. As a kid it was a chore, but I did it. Even then I knew I could see the notes, learn to turn pages quickly, and play anything anywhere.

I have not had lessons since I was 21, I just keep playing and hanging with folks who are academically trained. My last teacher was from Julliard, she could play beautifully, I even bought her Steinway. But years later, a very self taught guy who performs locally for churches and schools with some nice responses.


I hate it that I can't just sit down and play (without music in front of me) so I've decided to do something about it. Now trying it seems to be most difficult. I hope to retire soon (local school administrator) and study keyboards at a local university. Another Master's degree, but... what are the techniques for memorizing. I want to develop a repertoire that will dazzle a review committee and me. And... I want to do it from memory. Currently for example, I give my self an 8 out of 10 with playing the Rhapsody in Blue. I have heard this piece played by several orchestras in the last 5 years, I keep it on my MP3, all kinds of versions. BUt... where do I begin and how do I begin practicing it or others, Shumann, Chopin, Beethoven...to have it memorized. What are your ideas?

I feel like I'm driving the finest convertible car, but have to use an automatic transmission even when in the mountains of France.

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#1263858 - 09/07/09 05:30 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: Ianopi]
NocturneLover Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/09
Posts: 149
Loc: Dantooine
Originally Posted By: Ianopi
My last teacher was from Julliard, she could play beautifully, I even bought her Steinway.


Whoa, any other piano teacher been offered a Steinway as a gift? You're too generous. I hope she gave you free lessons from that point on. wink
_________________________
"...music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." -Ludwig van Beethoven

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#1263864 - 09/07/09 05:46 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: NocturneLover]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5934
Loc: Down Under
I think you misread what Ianopi said. "I even bought her Steinway" = I bought her Steinway from her, not "I bought her a Steinway" smile Big difference!

Ianopi, while you're waiting for the answers to roll in, you might try doing a search on "memorizing". I think you'll find a fair amount to start with.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1263866 - 09/07/09 05:54 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: currawong]
NocturneLover Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/09
Posts: 149
Loc: Dantooine
Oh yes, that would make sense currawong, and the fact that he bought a Steinway for his peronal playing is amazing.

As for the memorizing, aren't there many books on that subject?
_________________________
"...music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." -Ludwig van Beethoven

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#1263867 - 09/07/09 05:56 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: NocturneLover]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5934
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Thomas Lau
As for the memorizing, aren't there many books on that subject?
I'm sure there are - but there have also been some pretty good threads on the subject here in the past.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1263870 - 09/07/09 06:07 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: currawong]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
You have to know your harmony otherwise you're just memorizing a dislocated jumble.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1263911 - 09/07/09 08:55 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: keyboardklutz]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
What's age got to do with it? What have you memorized? The Pledge of Allegiance? Sports facts? The names of your staff? Your daily schedule? The fact is, you memorize all sorts of stuff day in and day out. Why can't you memorize your music? Partly attitude, perhaps? Work in very small increments, analyze what is happening in the music. How is the piece divided up? Where is the music going, what are the high points? Where are the modulations? Analyze the various sections of the composition.

I had one adult student who had to memorize a measure at a time, but it worked for her. She used sticky notes to cover the measures, so she could peek quickly if she needed a reminder.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1263928 - 09/07/09 10:13 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: John v.d.Brook]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3160
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I had one adult student who had to memorize a measure at a time, but it worked for her. She used sticky notes to cover the measures, so she could peek quickly if she needed a reminder.


I do that also, but for the really problematical parts I use a manuscript book with blank staves (the five lines that make up each staff),
and write out in pencil the music notation that I have difficulty with, measure by measure, no more than a phrase at a time, playing it as I write it.

I don't have to do that all the time, but for difficult passages that just won't stick in my brain, it works great.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1264405 - 09/08/09 05:27 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: NocturneLover]
Ianopi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 46
It was bought for 3500.00, sold for 5000. No free lessons, either. And... she bought a Baldwin from a group buy at the University to replace her rebuilt Steinway M.

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#1264412 - 09/08/09 05:45 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: Ianopi]
Ianopi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 46
Keep the ideas coming, I have buckled down and memorized 2 pages of Gershin's Rhapsody so far. Had Labor Day vacation, and no responsibilities for a couple of days; driving my wife mad. I like the idea of writing it out. Many times, I found particular to my learning style, that writing something down creates ownership, more than just hearing it. But...hearing it adds to the ability to feel the notes where they should be. Then again, I've been playing with my eyes closed and "feeling" where the hand should be. There is a great deal of connectivity to the measures this way. This discovery lends itself to the tactile method of learning which appeals to my learning soul.

I had been trying to picture each note on the page, (I am a visual learner) but when I started looking at patterns and connections, and reworking the difficult passages, again with my eyes closed to "feel" the keys, the learning started to happen. And... the next day I still knew the music. Also I have seen different patterns in colors. Blues are one pattern unique to the piece, and reds are another, for instance. The coloring is borrowed from my visual learning approaches.

Someone said, learning is memorizing. I always felt memorizing was short term. I'm beginning to understand there is long and short term memorizing as there is long and short term learning. And there is a difference between the two, which I already knew as an educator. I potentially see a cube of learning patterns for memorizing piano sheet music.

There may be a truth in that which I had until now never known. Perhaps I wasn't ready to know, or would have very much disagreed to my own detriment at any other time. But, now I've started the journey. Yeah!

Last I knew, there were identified 122 ways we learn. Some documented some not. But finding the correct way is the key. And just like we are learning that children read differently for each of the content areas (Social Studies, Science, etc.) so too maybe I will find we memorize music differently for the author or style of music.

Again, thanks for the help. And... I've searched the internet. Now it was time to get with those who know. Please keep the ideas flowing. Who knows maybe I'll get to page3 this week.


Edited by Ianopi (09/08/09 05:48 AM)

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#1264413 - 09/08/09 05:50 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: rocket88]
Ianopi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 46
Playing it as I write it. I'm going to try that using color pencils. Thanks for the tip.

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#1264491 - 09/08/09 09:48 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: Ianopi]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
I appreciate these tips as well. I cannot memorize. As a child it was easier. I think a few blown recitals have given me a mental block of some sort. But it has definitely gotten worse as I age. I'm okay short-term, but getting it into long term memory has been nearly impossible.

My S had a teacher who wouldn't let him perform a piece (different instrument - not one that typically insists upon memorization) unless it was memorized. Said he didn't know it well enough if it wasn't memorized.
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piano teacher

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#1264502 - 09/08/09 10:10 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: Lollipop]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
I memorize everything..classics as written...non-classics as I choose. I figure one brain cell per song and shouldn't run out...right? I really think it is just like practice...the more you do it the better you get. Personally I wouldn't worry about trying to impress others. I think there is always someone out there that can play it better[ at least to my ear] but I know what I feel when I am playing is very personal and individualistic and hopefully that comes across in my playing.
rada

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#1264644 - 09/08/09 02:19 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: rada]
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 794
Loc: Northern, Northern California
I've always been a good memorizer and a bad sight-reader. However, I've recently worked very hard on my sight-reading (see blog), and guess what: I think my memorizing is getting worse!

I think I know what's going on. In the past, I'd struggle with reading a measure or two, then memorize it and go on. Now that I sight-read better, I'll do those measures and then go ahead and play more of the song by reading it. IOW, it's hard to resist playing more of the song now that it's not so hard to do, so less time is devoted to memorizing.

So now, if I want to memorize something, I force myself to work on a few measures, and get those memorized before I go any further.
_________________________
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My Book: Becoming a Great Sight-Reader -- or Not!
My Blog: The Year of Piano Sight-Reading

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#1265845 - 09/10/09 12:07 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: TromboneAl]
frida11 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/08
Posts: 231
Loc: Pacific Northwest
I wish I could memorize; in fact I know I could, but can't imagine the extra hours it would take. I'm doing an hour recital, including Liszt and later Debussy, none from memory. I've worked for almost 2 years to have enough music ready for the recital; if I had to memorize it would probably be 4 years!

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#1265861 - 09/10/09 12:32 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: frida11]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: frida11
I wish I could memorize; in fact I know I could, but can't imagine the extra hours it would take. I'm doing an hour recital, including Liszt and later Debussy, none from memory. I've worked for almost 2 years to have enough music ready for the recital; if I had to memorize it would probably be 4 years!


But just think how well you'd know your repertoire, and you could still use the music, though you'd probably never actually use it!
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1265876 - 09/10/09 12:55 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: John v.d.Brook]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3201
Loc: Virginia, USA
Age makes it harder but not impossible.

I was very encouraged at a recent concert. It was a barbershop choir, mostly mature men. Some mid 50's but many much older. All the repertoire for the entire concert was memorized.

This is my method. Put the music on a music stand to my left, where I can't see it at the keyboard. Pivot and read one measure-phrase-section (whatever I can) while counting, in strict time. Turn to the piano and play it without looking. Repeat as needed.

For me, the more visual the memory the more secure, but the more tactile the quicker to come. I try to do both.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#1265909 - 09/10/09 01:53 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: TimR]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Tim, I'm sure you're correct, although I'm not certain how quickly our memory deteriorates, or our ability to memorize. Mine isn't what it was as a teen, but in some ways, it's better!

Just for fun, I have a personal goal of memorizing 5-6 min a month, which is an hour worth of repertoire a year.

Now, there are a couple of rules about performing - never perform something which isn't totally under your control. I generally never have students perform in public recital anything close to their most difficult repertoire. There's no reason for stress on technical issues for one thing, and secondly, the slightly easier repertoire can be more polished, which makes everything sound better. I like my students to have had it memorized for at least two months, though for myself, I wouldn't risk a performance without six months of memory under my belt.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1266116 - 09/10/09 09:39 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: John v.d.Brook]
frida11 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/08
Posts: 231
Loc: Pacific Northwest
It's very true that performance is better when using pieces that are well within your grasp. I know I could memorize easier pieces, and in fact, I do memorize substantial parts of my pieces for performance. I have to be very careful that I know where I am in the music in case I get carried away and lose my place. If I didn't have a job and had 3-4 hours a day to play piano, I would love to memorize. Even though I'm 55, I also think it's possible using the methods described here--just time-consuming.

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#1267876 - 09/14/09 12:22 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: frida11]
abcdefg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/09
Posts: 67
Loc: midwest
I tell my students to memorize with their eyes, ears, hands and finally their heart. Then I tell them to take one of their senses away and still play through their music.

Close your eyes or play in the dark so you can't see the music or your hands. Play on a desk or tabletop where you cannot make sound but you are aware of what notes you are playing and listen in your head to the music. Write the music on staff paper. And finally memorize with your heart. I ask them to play from the heart to make music.

I am also over 50 and because I ask my students to memorize I have begun memorizing music again. I also think it is easier to memorize if you approach a piece of music with the intention of memorizing rather than learn a piece of music and then decide to memorize.

This could be another thread but what music do you all try to keep in your repertoire, memorized and ready to play? I try to have Fur Elise always ready for students. When a student is learning the simple version of Fur Elise I like to be able to play the whole piece and tell them that in just a few years they will be ready to learn the rest of the music.

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#1267986 - 09/14/09 09:50 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: abcdefg]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: abcdefg
I try to have Fur Elise always ready for students. When a student is learning the simple version of Fur Elise I like to be able to play the whole piece and tell them that in just a few years they will be ready to learn the rest of the music.


That's a really fantastic idea! I also do what Kreisler said in another thread, I've picked up (stolen) dozens of ideas from other teachers posting here, and this one sounds like a real winner.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1268510 - 09/15/09 03:32 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: John v.d.Brook]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Just a plea not to serve up half-baked Beethoven ... the idea of simplifying Fur Elise will have Ludwig turning over in his proverbial ... more than 60% of the miniature gem consists of a repeating theme of the simplest of right-over-left arpeggios and should be played as read ... the "difficult bits" (racy chords and chromatic runs) can be added later.

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#1268624 - 09/15/09 10:32 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: abcdefg]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: abcdefg
This could be another thread but what music do you all try to keep in your repertoire, memorized and ready to play?


I cannot practice repertoire daily, but do make it happen at least three times a week. I spend the first hour reviewing repertoire, and picking out what seems to be weakest for intense review.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1268688 - 09/15/09 12:08 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: John v.d.Brook]
frida11 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/08
Posts: 231
Loc: Pacific Northwest
You might like to know this conversation actually had an effect on someone! I decided to really try to memorize a couple pieces so I can play them at those odd times when someone asks me to play their piano. I just about have these 2 pieces memorized anyway, and they are fairly easy. Chopin posthumous nocturne in C#minor, and Debussy Arabesque #2. So we'll see how it goes.

On a related topic, last time I visited someone out of town, they said "Be sure to bring some music so you can play for us." It turned out that in the center of their piano it had 1 note that wouldn't sound at all and 1 black note with the ebony half broken off so that every time you played the key it moved away and had to be replaced. I find it's often the case that people have a piano that's almost impossible to play classical music on.

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#1268691 - 09/15/09 12:12 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: frida11]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
frida, those are great pieces to memorize and make part of your repertoire! Congratulations.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1268720 - 09/15/09 01:09 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
Just an FYI for any adult beginner who might be reading this. My teacher did not ask me to memorize and I did not find the need to do so. After a few years though, I felt I hit an impasse with my progress and decided among other things, to try memorization.

It was torture at first. I was not able to memorize any of the pieces I was currently playng.

My memory skills needed some practice, so with guidance, I went back and memorized a few very easy one pagers I did during the first year or so of lessons. And built up from there.

I am not saying that this is necessary for everyone, but if you try to memorize your current work and cannot, you might try dropping back to easier pieces to gain confidence and skill before deciding you can't memorize music.


Edited by Dorrie (09/15/09 03:16 PM)

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#1268738 - 09/15/09 01:59 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: Dorrie]
frida11 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/08
Posts: 231
Loc: Pacific Northwest
That's definitely the way to go--start with memorizing very easy pieces; esp. pieces that are not harmonically complex. I still don't think I'm going to be memorizing the more ambitious pieces I want to perform such as Beethoven sonatas, Debussy Estampes or Preludes, etc.

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#1270903 - 09/19/09 07:03 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: Ianopi]
Ianopi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 46
"How is the piece divided up? Where is the music going, what are the high points? Where are the modulations? Analyze the various sections of the composition."

This is working.

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#1271184 - 09/19/09 05:11 PM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: Ianopi]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Music with "form" to it (ie: repeatable parts/sections of new development/contrasting sections)

Practicing repetitiously in small sections really helps the learner. Then adding the learned sections together.

Finding the more difficult or longer sections and working on them more frequently with repetition will be an advantage.

Finding similar sections and learning for the repeated sections change is important.

Once practiced and learned well and memorized, the section can be ignored each time it reappears as you already know it.

Music that is "through" composed (no repeatable parts) is more difficult to learn in that you don't have the benefit of "recycling".

It helps to hum along with outer or inner voice so you can anticipate.

It also helps to to be able to audiate the music from just looking at the score before putting hands on the keyboard to play.

One of the "crimes" of my teaching is that I teach students to analyze what they are working on in "color codes" marking on their lesson materials. If one has only expensive texts of literature, this is not such a good idea in the book. One could make personal copies for the purpose of "diagramming graphically" what is happening on the page. Little colorful "memo's" to one's self. I call this "Picasso". If you do it you'll see why.

I have a whole process that I started doing in the 1980's about these markings in my "Piano Power" method. Other teachers now recommend it and they are calling it "music mapping".

Keep your enthusiasm for memorization up. The more you do the easier it gets, I think. And, yes, start with much easier pieces before taking on the masterworks.

Betty

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#1275462 - 09/26/09 09:03 AM Re: How to Memorize after 50 [Re: abcdefg]
Ianopi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 46
Great teaching methods, I'll do it. Thank you.

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