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CIRCLE OF ALICE RUNS OCTOBER 2024-MARCH 2025

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WELCOME

TO

 

 

 

Where you will holistically internalize how music works 
through guided exploration and creation on piano. 
(It's all numbers.  It's not a secret.)

 

As you equally master ALL the chords in each and every Major and Minor Key

 

And your creative mind is unleashed and gets a day at the playground, every day

 

All as you traverse Wonderland with Alice and all the madness, mayhem, and mischief she encounters.

Oh, it's not just for you--everyone in your house can join in!

 

 

  

Hi, I'm Hollie.

I believe creative, everyday music making can belong to everyone, in everyone's
hands and home.

In every childhood, and, equally, in every adulthood.

I believe creative, everyday music making can belong to everyone, in everyone's
hands and home.

In every childhood, and, equally, in every adulthood.

 
From the Music Room of Hollie Thomas (Actually partially written at Epoch Coffee/Austin, Texas.)


I'm so glad you are here! I'm writing to introduce you to Circle of Alice, my music program which pairs the Circle of Fifths with the chapters from the two Alice in Wonderland books. You will find perhaps far too much information on this page (and no doubt some redundancy). Still, it's all actually quite simple, and I'm excited to get to do this!

Circle of Alice piloted for the first time during quarantine when I saw the possibilities of casting my net a little farther.  I was already planning this program for my studio students, and then had a thought... If everyone is home anyway, each isolated at night usually on their own devices, why can't they come together instead, and play music?  

Since I believe everyone can and should make music, why couldn't parents and siblings learn along with my studio students too, since they were all literally in the next room during our classes?

And my plan worked.  Not only did my students, all at once, across the board make tremendous leaps in their musical fluency,  families made music with each other for the first time, and now they still do.  Mission accomplished!

Meanwhile, friends from other cities in Texas and from other states, too, wanted to join in.

In Spring of 2023, I opened Circle of Alice up to people everywhere, with the purpose of helping others grow their understanding of music and chord fluency, and also to provide a model and framework for cultivating a more creative life, musically and otherwise.  

And, so this is why I am here!  And maybe why you are here, too!

Even if you live alone, or with just your cat (or dog or hedgehog--I wish!), this can also make your home a more musically creative space, and welcome others in (if that suits you!  I'm happy when alone myself!).

Learning music is a beautiful, artful, thoughtful, fulfilling lifelong pursuit.  When we make music with those we love, we can transform our home into a culture from which creativity easily emerges.  

Whether you feel you are a particularly creative person or not, it doesn't matter.  Consider this program, and all of the materials provided for you in it, as invitations to explore.  Like little doors you can peek into!

I am confident music is in you, waiting.  

Thank you for reading my note!

w/LOVE,

Hollie

What is Circle of Alice?

Circle of Alice is a 24-week Foundational Music Theory Course which pairs each Major and Minor Key around the Circle of Fifths with One Chapter of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.

NOTE: This is NOT a music literacy class. You will not learn to read and write music notation, but will develop clear foundational harmonic understanding and fluency on the piano. In fact, notation will never be used to learn and practice the chords and keys in this class.  Fluency First!  Literacy Later. 

Circle of Alice is a Live, Immersive, Integrative, Adaptive, Collaborative, Supplemental Program, which may seem like a whole lot of adjectives at this moment, but read below for a better description of how these come together to make a creative space for you to learn in.

 

 

WHO IS CIRCLE OF ALICE FOR?

Circle of Alice is open to your whole household--anyone who wants to join!   Mothers and Sons. Dads and daughters. People in Love.  People who are fond but not in love.  That's okay. 

Music making for everyone. 

I'm being silly (and quoting Radiohead), but I'm actually serious.  Anyone in your household can and is encouraged to join.  Age-wise, in my experience, children can participate, but they may not be quite at the piano level to play chords until, for some children, age 8-10.  But I've had exceptions in my studio in both directions.  

 

COMPENDIUM OF WHY CIRCLE OF ALICE MAY BE FOR YOU. 
In no particular order.


You are just starting in Music...
and have picked up a lot of cool stuff online, on apps or youtube, that made you realize that, wow, you can play the piano (or another instrument)!   But you're tired of relying on watching someone else to know what to play.

You've been playing Music for years...or decades, but never feel like you are seeing the big picture. You know all the scales and arpeggios, as most of your practice and study with a teacher has been focused on technique You can read music or chord charts, but your mind doesn't connect the dots automatically. 

You take or your children take piano lessons, but the focus is on how to play pieces for recitals. You practice scales, arpeggios and cadences to prepare you for playing classical music, but don’t think much about what chords are occurring in the music while you play.  You are mostly working on mastering the technique so you can perform well.

You just never can remember how key signatures work. And when is it called a sharp or a flat? Actually the whole music theory thing just isn't your cup of tea. You know you should study it more, and get determined and attempt it every once in a while, but it's just never clicked.

You know people who can just sit down and play what they hear, or can transpose things on the spot to another key...And you have no idea how they do it.   (It's numbers!).

You are a singer. You hear music naturally or have been trained to sing, but feel lost when other musicians talk about chords and structure and keys.   You dream also of being able to accompany yourself fluidly as you sing and feel a little envious of people who can do that.

You want to learn to improvise and try composing, but you feel silly...especially compared to the mighty masterworks you have learned in your life as a musician in your classical studies. 

You play music yourself, and your children also study an instrument...but you wish you could make time to make creative music together and not just technical practicing. 

You play in a band, or love creating music on your computer, using chords and making melodies and riffs, but you aren't sure why they all work together, and wouldn't be able to play them in any other key.

You are a music teacher. You might even be a piano teacher, but you want make time to explore improvising and creating music more without your inner critic shutting you down, comparing every melody you tinker with to Chopin's melodies.

You are a music teacher with children...and you would love to find a way to connect with your child or children meaningfully and creatively in music that isn't about you just reminding (coercing/cajoling) them to practice.  (Jk-- I know we music teachers never do that!)

You are a composer or arranger...but don't quite have fluency with chords and inversions in every key.  Yep.  You've gotta know this STAT.

You are just really into Alice in Wonderland...and heard about this and said--Oh yes, how can I get in on this awesomeness?  
(This was a real text I got).

(Keep scrolling, I'll show you how!)

LIVE/VIRTUAL

In this class, we meet live twice Monday & Thursday.  If you can’t make a class, it will be available streaming afterwards.

This is not a buy-and-stream-it-all today class that was prerecorded with other students.  This is your class, and you can ask questions in every single class.  You can even ask the same question in every class.  I will answer you!

You will know me, and I will know you!  We will meet each other's cats on Bring Your Cat to Alice Day!  You will also get to know the other students as we are creating this together.  

IMMERSIVE

Each week, Circle of Alice will be a creative journey down the rabbit-hole into the wonderland of one key as well as the fantastic adventures of Alice in each weekly chapter.  You and your family can creatively live inside these books, inside the key of the week, and you can relax, explore, experiment. 

There is a weekly playlist, Rebel Radio Rabbits, which will include music from across genres in the key of the week. The tinkering work we will do in each key will often come from music on the weekly playlist.  

Did I mention we will be tinkering a lot?!  Don't worry, I'll be doing it with you and the stories in the book will create the structure and subject of our tinkering!

 

INTEGRATIVE

Integrating the musical keys with the Wonderland book chapters creates a framework within which creativity occurs naturally.   Your creative mind can come out and play.   Anything goes, nothing is too weird, crazy, wacky, silly. 

If you haven't read the books before, you will be delighted.  So much wordplay and charm is waiting on every page, and opportunities for music. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland was the first book of children's literature written without the purpose of teaching children morality and how to behave.  It was written as pure entertainment, and it certainly does.  ALSO, FYI - Both of the Alice books and illustrations are in public domain.  We can create away!

ADAPTIVE

Circle of Alice is not a set-in-stone curriculum of activities.  Of course there are clear objectives of HOW deeply I hope you will be saturated in each key. But this does truly depend on how much time you have each week.  Because this is a creative collective as much as it is a class, everything will adapt and evolve as we go. Because for these SIX WHOLE MONTHS, I will get to know you, the students in the class.  Who you are, and also, what is happening in the world and during these months will affect the curriculum of the class.

 

COLLABORATIVE

Even though this is a virtual class, the spirit of Circle of Alice is collaborative.  Originally designed to lure family members away from their individual screens and into musical collaboration together, which it still can do, Circle of Alice also inspires other creative connections which may surprise us! 

In years past, household members not involved in the course suddenly started making rabbit pancakes, and other art inspired by the story.  And the first year--believe it or not--the New Yorker magazine joined us by secretly sneaking the White Rabbit into many of its iconic covers while Circle of Alice was in session.   So cool!  (See the art just above of him emerging from the subway on one of their clever covers!).

 

 

SUPPLEMENTAL

Although Circle of Alice is a 24-week commitment to exploring and creating in each of the musical keys, it is not meant to replace your or your child's regular course of study or the ongoing relationship you may have with your private music teacher. 

This class and the materials will in no way interfere with any method of study on piano or otherwise, traditional or modern. The fundamentals of chords and their functions in a key is universal.  At the same time, your chord work in this class will definitely make anything else you learn in music much, much easier.

 

How Does
CIRCLE OF ALICE work?

As you know by now, Circle of Alice is a live, class, which meets weekly in real time + real weather (phrase borrowed from a Mad Hatter I know). It can be accessed on any device (larger screen preferred) through the Circle of Alice portal, and should ideally occur at your piano, hopefully with everyone in your household joining in.  With a cup of dandelion tea.  And a cozy woodland creature with a British accent wearing a turban sleeping nearby.

What just happened? Exactly. Unexpected adventure awaits around every corner in Wonderland, and this class will follow suit. 

 

But there is still a core curriculum we will follow with a clear step-by-step practice protocol for learning each key and the chords that live inside of it. 

We will learn and practice this in each Monday key class, and then for the rest of the week, you will have clear paths you can take to expand it (with off-road excursions encouraged) in your daily piano time.

COURSE COMPONENTS

WEEKLY LIVE CLASSES

or stream when you want!

Everything meets in the same Circle of Alice Zoom Room, and will be recorded and available afterwards. All classes meet for ONE HOUR, roughly, and there is time in EVERY CLASS for questions and chat.

If you need to miss or leave early, it is totally fine!  Join for as much as you can! 

What happens if you get behind?  Life gets busy...
Once you get into the groove of how each key is practiced, it will be easy for you to jump in anywhere, even if you have missed a class or two.   You can also go back anytime and review what you missed.

Nighttime Tea Party and Chapter Chat

As I may have mentioned, we will be reading one chapter from the Alice in Wonderland books by Lewis Carroll, and Sundays are the day to begin reading this weekly Alice chapter.  To supplement this, every Sunday, you will receive a Chapter Chat Companion page with notes on the fun historical and literary references made in the chapter (there are many) and on occasion, I will host a zoom Sunday nighttime tea party and chapter chat for anyone who wants to drop in for a live chat of the chapter, like a book club.  But this isn't just a book club (although you will learn cool things about each chapter that are completely fascinating), we are reading the Alice books as musical opportunists, looking for places that music might occur, as if we were film composers. 

On occasion, special guests may drop by, a few friends of Alice's who have expressed curiosity in what we are up to:  The Mad Hatter, The Queen of Hearts (who contends she is totally misrepresented).  

Monday Key Class
Live On Zoom

Or Streaming Afterwards
Noon | 4:30 PM | 7:00 PM Central Time (Austin)

On Mondays, we begin our KEY PRACTICE PROTOCOL in the key of the week on piano and will create our key page (you will print this out weekly).  This class takes place at your piano/keyboard, on preferably the largest device you can place in front of you!  These are key practice classes, not lectures. I will guide you, but you will be playing and creating in every class.

WHAT WILL WE PLAY?

After we've got the chords down, in each class, we will play chord patterns and progressions extracted from real music in the key, often from the weekly playlist. These will be raw materials you can improvise/create from in the class and can further explore throughout the week.

Thursday Creativity & Curiosity Lab

Join Live on Zoom or Stream Later
Noon | 7:00 PM Central Time 

This is a guided online LAB on your piano in which we will improvise and create in the key of the week, sparked by what adventures and characters Alice has encountered in the book.  Each lab will begin with an improvisational prelude on your piano, and I will also reveal the weekly Music Brief and explore some ideas for it.  

Like the Key Class, this is a hands-on-piano lab, and will take place at your piano and through your computer with me.  This lab will also include open space throughout for you to tinker and try things with the chords, and to give you time to ask any questions you have as you do so.  (A little like a lab/office hour).

If you can't make these live, the recording will contain the same open space to try things in, and you can send me any questions you have and I'll answer right away! 

ADDITIONAL WEEKLY ACTIVITIES/RESOURCES

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass.

Twenty-Four Keys.
Twenty-Four Chapters.

Seriously?! 
Coincidence?  Or meant to be?!

We will be reading both of these books, and if you don't own them, I'll send a guide in your supplies list to let you know what to get. (Meaning--we will be writing, drawing, possibly coloring in the books as we go, so don't use your cool Aunt's Collectible 1st edition.)

The list of artists, writers, composers, filmmakers, photographers, and other creatives who have been inspired by these books to make art is forever long.  Add your name to the list.

 

 

Magic Music Briefs.

Make Musical Magic!
Each week, a MUSIC BRIEF will also be released: A musical challenge for you to tinker and create musically sparked by the weekly Alice Chapter.  These are quick, easy, not serious.  Fun!

You also don't have to notate these on staff paper, but you could if you wanted.  Nor do you have to share and post these anywhere. The objective is easy and free daily music creation. 

But you definitely want to document them and collect what you create. A phone video or recording works great! 

Speaking of which, you can also create anything you like to accompany it.  Artwork, a film, a puppet show?  

These will become a collection of musical moments you created in this class.  They belong to you, and can become a sketchbook from which you create larger pieces of music, or souvenirs, like postcards, as they are from this half year of your life.  You will be amazed at the end what you have made, week by week.

 

SNEAK DOWN AND TRY THE FIRST MAGIC BRIEF NOW.

Rebel Radio Rabbits Playlists.

These Rabbits are ALL EARS, sneaking up to our world above weekly, bravely evading capture, in order to bring Wonderland residents the best music they can find in EVERY KEY.  They believe listening is the best way to learn music, and they are VERY curious about that!

Even though the Queen of Hearts has forbidden any music to be transmitted over the Wonderland airwaves, they PERSIST.  They believe in RADIO FREE WONDERLAND.

Lucky for us, we have a secret source to their weekly transmissions and we can listen in to their collection and their insightful observations each week.

Black Cat Cafe
Open 24/7.

Online Circle of Alice Community.

Make friends.  Have Conversations about Alice, Music, Art, Coffee, Tea, whatever you like! Share your latest favorite song, symphony.

You can also share any music discoveries you make, and any music you make as well if you feel inclined.  

 

Games, Puzzles & More.

Since the first Wonderland book takes place in the crazy society governed by a pack of cards, and the SECOND book takes place traveling along a chessboard--YES.  Not to mention Lewis Carroll was the inventor of many of the word games we all grew up with.  (Not Wordle, but maybe Wordle's Great Great Grandfather). 



Creative Curiosity is the Curriculum.

Specifically, YOURS.  Not just in the Thursday Labs, but consider all of the course materials including chord progressions, piano patterns, and actually all of Wonderland as the raw materials for your creative exploration.  Your success in attaining fluency in your hands and understanding in your mind hinges on your willingness to work this way.  

Sound exciting?

I can't wait to hear what you create!

P.S.  Can you believe this art above is at my old neighborhood Starbucks @ 45th/Lamar in Austin?  Any such art at your coffeeshop? I'd love to see.

 

 Here are some ways my music theory/piano classes are different!

YOU CAN TRY THIS NOW AT YOUR PIANO!

MUSIC BRIEF #1: ALICE FALLS DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

Sneak a Peek!  Kind of like when Charlie and Grandpa Joe snuck the fizzy lifting drink in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  (But I won't be mad!  You are invited to try!).


In the music business, a music brief is a detailed description of a piece of music requested, usually for a film, commercial, or video game.  

In Circle of Alice, you will receive a music brief  weekly based on the characters and adventures Alice encounters.  These music briefs give you a creative spark for your tinkering and exploring in each key, and keep your imagination on the piano expanding!

You can do this at your piano or keyboard now.  Also, have everyone else in your house give it a try. 

Watch first and it will make sense.

You can use all of the piano keys for this--black, white or both.  You can go about it any way you like!  

Anyone at any age can do it.  No piano skills required. One of my favorites I've ever heard was made by a 6-year-old beginning pianist and composer. 

 

 

Don't miss the next Circle of Alice! 

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Let me know all about it!

Alice started to her feet,

for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

In another moment down went Alice after it,

never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.