One of the perks of having my own blog is that I can sit at my computer and ramble on about anything. Today, I’m going to tell you about a little out-of-print piano book I found on the internet.

I’m not sure what sent me to a site on Etsy that sold vintage ephemera, which is a fancy word for old printed collectables.  Somehow I found myself looking through a selection of used vintage piano books the shop was selling to cut up and use for crafts. How sad, I thought, that these old books, once lovingly handed to young children and toted back and forth to piano lessons with the hope that the children would fall in love with piano, are now reduced to being cut up for who knows what.

As I was looking and reminiscing, I came upon a 1953 piano book that looked so charming I had to take a close up look. It was named The Berry Basket, and it had the cutest vintage art on the cover. The seller had some pictures of the inside art (with no mention of the music), and I knew I had to get it.  The price was only $3.00 so I clicked the buy button. In a few days, there it was in the mail, saved from destruction and in the hands of someone who could appreciate it!

The book is written for beginners, and the first pieces are only 8 measures long, with sweet, vintage drawings on every page. Each little piece has simple, child-like lyrics.

I was happy to discover the music is in different 5-finger positions and keys. There are no C position pieces in the entire book!  The lyrics are very simple and childlike, back when young children were more innocent and didn’t know the questionable lyrics of today’s popular music.

Since this is a previously used book, there are markings from the teacher.

“Work out notes H.S. Don’t Guess.”  



Some things never change in piano!

According to the preface, the music and words were written by the Sisters of the Holy Cross attending a music workshop in Salt Lake City, conducted by Bernice Frost, a well-known composer of piano teaching music last century.

I wonder what Bernice Frost said in her workshop that inspired the Sisters of the Holy Cross to compose this music? The preface says the book offers, “… development in the basic requirements of elementary musical training. Foremost among these are ear-training, singing, keyboard range and feel, essential points of technic, and pianistic style.”  Maybe Bernice Frost gave them ideas of all the many things that can be done at a piano lesson besides just playing the music. I like to think so.

Maybe the child who used this book is now a piano teacher in his or her golden years, with hundreds of former students who love piano music! I like to think that, too!

The Berry Basket Published by J. Fischer Bros
The Berry Basket
Published by J. Fischer Bros


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22 thoughts to “The Berry Basket: The Story of a Rescued Piano Book

  • Stephanie

    Hello Miss Susan, I’m so new in piano teaching and your site helps me a lot for younger student that I have. I have 3 years old students and I have no idea what should I them (Private piano lesson). Can you please help me? Thank you so much

    • Susan Paradis

      Stephanie, I would do a general music program with them. If they are like the average 3 year old, they will struggle trying to play the keys! But there are many things you can teach them. I would get a book on early childhood music education and engage them with age appropriate musical activities, with a focus on the piano! I’m sorry I don’t have names of books I can give you, but maybe go to the library or do an internet search. Music education teachers spend several years learning how to teach young children general music, so it is too involved for me to try to help you here.I wish you the best of luck! With your desire to learn, I know you will do great!

    • Heidi

      I’ve taught a three-year-old with the Wunderkeys program which you can find on Amazon. I highly recommend looking up the website first. Andrea and Trevor Dow, the creators of the program, are amazingly helpful and will guide you through. They always answer any questions I have! The Wunderkeys program teaches basic music skills such as high/low sounds, fast/slow, individual finger motions, etc. in a very fun and easy program! Kids really love it, and never lose interest with the 5 different activities in each lesson. Check it out, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed! Have fun!!!

  • Kathy Williamson

    Susan! This is such a delightful post! Thank you! In fact I immediately went to Amazon and found a copy of “The Berry Basket” to order. Elizabeth Gutierrez also turned me on to “Pixie Piano Playbook”, “A First Book for Jack and Jills”, and “Songs and Silhouettes for the Piano Forte”. I love these old piano methods, still in print, as fun supplemental music!

  • Leticia

    I have some old one’s I’d love to look up…what is the name of the site?
    I recently received all of my mother in laws old music when she passed away, so much fun to go through. She was a singer besides a pianist so she even had some old barber shop quartet stuff for women. That was fun. Hope to use it someday my self.
    I will have to keep my eye out for the ones you’ve mentioned.

  • Emily

    I love this! I have an old method book called “The Rhyme Road to Music Land” that I found at a used music sale. It was published in 1911 and all the instruction in the book is written in rhyming verse. I can’t imagine actually teaching with this, but it has some good points, and some of the rhymes are just very funny. A couple of examples…

    “When notes are found upon a line,
    Like beads upon a thread,
    That is: when line goes thru them
    They’re ‘On a line,’ ’tis said.”

    “From Middle C two octaves go,
    Just seven notes up or seven below;
    And two more C’s you’ll surely find,
    Unless to spaces you are blind.”

    • Susan Paradis

      Oh, I love that! Thanks for sending. I sure wish I had a copy of that book!

  • Sandy Sullivan

    I love this post, and the fact that the music was in different 5-finger patterns and keys! Hard to find these days!
    As for myself, I was lovingly reunited with my “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” a couple of years ago after 50 years of separation! A cousin in Colorado discovered it in her stash and kindly sent it to me, thus allowing me to use it with my own grandchildren. They are just puzzled by all of the “stickers”…….!

    • Susan Paradis

      I loved Teaching Little Fingers to Play, because the music was so appealing. It’s a lot of fun to re-visit those books! The only problem with that series is that there are so many finger numbers. A lot of teachers white them out. It also progresses very quickly, but the many of us from that generation loved the music, no doubt!

  • Mary Jane Turnbow

    I started in 1960 “Off We Go” and “Off We Go Again”. I still have those books. My favorite though was “Masters and Their Melodies” which you can still get on-line.

    • Ann Allott

      When I read Mary’s post it reminded me that my first book in 1964 was also “Off We Go” which I still have but I lost track of “Scenes at a Farm”. I have just looked it up and found it is still available. I remember playing the duets at the back of this book. I wonder if our pupils will remember their first (or favourite) book 50 years later (maybe it will be a Susan Paradis one), but just hope that some of them will still be enjoying playing the piano.

      • Elizabeth Gutierrez

        Walter Carroll was a master at composing for children ( composed “Scenes at a Farm”). I loved playing his “Forest Fantasies” over and over again. Maybe for the next Piano Play-Along I’ll do a retrospective look at Walter Carroll’s fabulous contributions.

        • Susan Paradis

          Elizabeth and Ann,
          Thanks for telling me about this. I will have to get Scenes at a Farm. I have a thing for farms because I spent so many happy hours at my grandmother’s farm.
          Ann, Elizabeth Gutierrez has written some wonderful children’s music. If your students haven’t played any of it, check it out.

  • Alice

    Your post warms my heart, Susan. What a delightful find. I know I have some “old” books but have never heard of this one. Thank you for sharing, and again, for your creativity and dedication!

    • Susan Paradis

      Thanks, Alice. What a nice comment and I really appreciate it.

  • Elizabeth Gutierrez

    OMG! I used this book as child and just LOVED it! I need to dig around for my copy. I recall a cute little “Kitten” piece that I played for a children’s TV show and another piece I played over and over — “Silver Bells?” This book was so motivating and I’m sure it was due to the imaginative B&W artwork, the titles, lyrics, etc. I WISH it was still in print. I’ll investigate the copyright holder. Thanks, Susan, for bringing back great memories for me!

    • Susan Paradis

      Elizabeth, I just can’t believe that! I knew we thought alike!

  • Dana

    Adorable find and such a delightful post! I too love old things. It would be so fun to share your treasure with students. I am inspired to be on the look out for such things. Thank you for sharing Susan!

  • Lori Williams

    I love this story! People talk about rescuing pets…which I have done myself. But I’m soo glad you rescued “The Berry Basket” 🙂

    • Susan Paradis

      Yes, I’ve rescued pets, too! Piano books are a lot less expensive!

  • Cherie Norquay

    Very charming! I love vintage stuff…. This is definitely a treasure!

    • Susan Paradis

      Glad to know there are some like-minded readers!

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