Hymn Playing Workshop

May 1–9, 2022

Workshop Overview

Hands-on training for musicians.

Do you desire to serve as a church pianist, but you lack confidence in your ability? Or maybe you want to develop the skill to improvise on hymns for yourself, family, or friends? The purpose of this course is to equip pianists for excellence in music ministry—whether you’re accompanying a congregation of 3,000 people or playing for some residents in a retirement center.

At this workshop, offered classes will give you the practical skills for hymn playing: modulations, fill-ins, accompaniment patterns, and more. More importantly, you will have the opportunity to participate in lectures and discussions on how our theology of corporate worship can and should direct our music. As we pursue excellence in our musical skill and doctrine, our ultimate goal will be to glorify Christ and edify His Bride, the Church.


May 1, 2022

May 9, 2022


International ALERT Academy Campus

1 Academy Blvd.
Big Sandy TX, 75755

View Venue Website






Course Content

Expect a pace of study throughout the week that includes lecture and discussion time, personal practice time, and small-group coaching sessions with instructors.

Musical Topics:

  • Building proficiency in foundational keyboard techniques: scales, arpeggios, octaves, and various combinations of these
  • Assembling basic and advanced tools for hymn improvisation: introductions, endings, runs, fill-ins, modulations, transposition
  • Working with a variety of conducting styles
  • Navigating a variety of cultures in church music
  • Preparing solos for preludes, interludes, and postludes

Church Music Topics:

  • “Foundational Matters: Who Is God and How Should We Worship Him?”
  • “The Theology of Corporate Worship: How Doctrine Directs Musicians”
  • “The Church Pianist’s Balance Points: Doctrine, Heart, and Skill”
  • “Igniting Your Rehearsal Time: Making the Practice Room Count”
  • “Beyond the Bench: Exploring Essential Leadership Qualities”

Workshop projects include:

  • Monday: Technique 
    • Project: Lay out a personal technique practice chart
  • Tuesday: Improvisation tools 
    • Project: Assemble your top ten tools
  • Wednesday: Conducting Practice 
    • Project: Role-play with classmates
  • Thursday: Various church music styles 
    • Project: Select a style outside your comfort zone to focus on
  • Friday: Prepare to solo 
    • Project: Sketch 1) a hymn solo and 2) a congregational accompaniment
      • Practice the pieces and prepare for performance



Who Can Enroll?

The course is designed for music students ages 15 and upward. 

What is the recommended skill level?

  • 2+ years of study on the piano 
  • Ability to comfortably read a hymn written in four parts
  • Basic knowledge of music theory, including understanding key signatures, primary chords, and basic musical notation 
  • Ability to play 2-4 octave major and minor scales with up to three sharps/flats
  • Attending Sound Foundations before this workshop is not required but it is strongly recommended


Anna Ferraro

From her background as a church pianist, award-winning classical performer, and educator for pianists in her home studio and across the nation, Anna Ferraro loves equipping students with musical skills to serve Christ and make His truth known.

Anna holds her BA in music from Thomas Edison State University and has participated in multiple masterclasses, including classes under Brenna Berman (Golandsky Institute), Dr. Victor Shkylar (International Academy of Music), and Dr. Michael Coonrod (Interlochen Academy of Performing Arts). She studied music theory with Dr. M. Dean Kincaid of the American Conservatory of Music and piano performance with Maryna Meshcherska, from the Moscow Conservatory.

The producer of multiple solo albums, including Haven of Rest (2016), Where Glory Dwells (2017), and Redemption Dawns (2018), she can be found teaching writing, and making music at www.annaferraromusic.com.

When Anna’s not at the piano, she enjoys reading, cooking for a full table of guests, and at the end of the day… reading C.H. Spurgeon with a steaming teacup in hand.

Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Piano Workshop run by a particular church or denomination?

Family Conferences is a non-denominational evangelical Christian ministry, governed by a board of directors and is not run by any particular church or denomination.

Is there much personal time to practice on my instrument?

Yes! Since the goal of this course is to build your technical and interpretative skills on your instrument as much as we can in one week, expect lots of practicing every day!  Also expect some friendly competition as students log their times on their own charts… there just might be a prize for the best practice log at the end of the course!

How does the course conclude?

The course will culminate with a Sunday afternoon concert formatted as a hymn sing. This event will take place on Sunday, May 8 at 3:00 p.m. Reception to follow.

What’s the dress code?

We encourage you to lead the way in the classroom by wearing clothing that is traditional, classic, and professional, inviting your peers to take you and your skills seriously. As we focus on equipping students for excellence, our choice of clothing can drive us towards, or distract us from that goal. 

  • Classroom: Business/Professional – classically styled skirts/dresses for girls, slacks/collared shirts for guys
  • Performances: Dress/Formal (Solid black – long dresses for girls, suits for guys, black shoes)
  • Recreation: Casual (keep it modest-fitting: nothing stretchy, clingy, or revealing)

For more details on the dress code, check out the Orientation Manual.

What should I bring and how can I prepare?

In addition to your instrument, some study items, and clothing that adheres to the course guidelines, we’ve compiled a full packing list for you. Please check it out in our Orientation Manual.

Can family members stay on campus before, during, or after the course?

While we welcome family visits, due to the intense class schedule, students need to communicate these visits with their team leaders or the course coordinators. Families are welcome to come and stay on campus if they’d like, however, how much visiting time is actually available is subject to the class schedule. Family members are welcome to stay on campus before or after the course. For details on room and meal reservations, please contact the International ALERT Academy Events Department.

What is the setup for meals?

All meals, including a continental breakfast, and full lunch and dinner are served in the campus dining hall. Our dining hall features a full cafeteria line, so there are always plenty of options. Please let us know about any dietary restrictions on your application, or within one month of the course start date, so we can plan appropriately.

The weekend meal schedule is as follows: 

  • Saturday, Brunch @ 10:30am, and Dinner @ 4:30pm
  • Sunday, Bag lunch (Pick up at Sat. Dinner) Dinner @ 4:30pm

Prior to the weekends, snacks and drinks will be available for purchase in the campus bookstore, or you can bring your own.

What can I do during my free time?

The Family Conference venue has many areas for recreation, including a track, disc golf course, basketball and volleyball courts, walking areas, and more. Scheduled volleyball games on the weekend are a highlight for many students!

Is this course accredited?

While the majority of the material in this course is equivalent to college 100–400 level courses, and students receive a certificate of completion, there is no accreditation granted for this specific course. In the past, many individual students have used experience from this class to compile portfolios which are recognized by their school, or used the skills they garnered here to test their way out of college courses.

What is the class size?

Class size is limited to 25 students.

Are there scholarship options available?
Yes! If you have prayerfully confirmed that the Lord is leading you to participate in one of these music courses, and finances restrict your enrollment, we want to help. We have a limited amount of scholarships available. Please contact us so we can find a good fit for you.
For all other questions, see the Orientation Manual.

Also, feel free to contact the Music Office at [email protected].

Travel Details

Arrival & Departure

For Those Driving

Please arrive at the International ALERT Academy (One Academy Blvd, Big Sandy, TX, 75755) by 3:30pm on Sunday, May 1. Dinner is provided in the dining room from 4:30-5:00pm. Please plan to leave by 12:00pm on Monday, May 9.

Flight Arrivals

For flights into Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) or Dallas Love Field (DAL), plan to arrive before 2:00pm on Sunday, May 1. 

Flight Departures

For flights out of DFW or DAL, plan to depart after 1:00pm on Monday, May 9.

International ALERT Academy Campus

1 Academy Blvd.
Big Sandy TX, 75755

View Venue Website




Individual Registration $795 


Tuition includes:

  • All lodging and meals May 1–9
  • All on-site classroom materials


Registration closes April 17, 2022.

$25 non-refundable application fee.
Full course payment is due no later than April 17.

Learn about our other Music Courses