By Katherine Fisher

Among my favorite Rote Pieces from Piano Safari Level 2 is the dynamic “African Safari” by Wendy Stevens. I am currently teaching my daughter piano (teaching your own children is another blog post for another time!) and she recently learned this piece. We both enjoyed working on it together because there are so many ways to use animal imagery in the learning process. Julie told me she uses the word “elephant” for the RH opening measures:


I like using this animal because it is a reminder for students that the starting note is “E,” and also that they should play the RH with vigorous tone. After three “elephants,” I add the lyrics “calling on the telephone, telephone” to the next two measures:


My favorite part is the somewhat tricky RH theme that follows. This is the elephant’s telephone number: 441-4311.


Before we play through the piece, I always ask students to practice the telephone number first. I usually don’t need to ask twice; they all think it is hilarious and never forget.

From there, I usually ask, “Who the elephant is calling?” This takes care of the lyrics at the start of the second line. The elephant can call Tall Giraffe, Buffalo, or any other three syllable animal the student may choose.


These are just a few ideas to energize how you think about teaching Rote Pieces. Feel free to have fun, add lyrics, and be creative!

African Safari can be found in Piano Safari Repertoire Book 2 and the Technical Exercises & Rote Pieces Book. Wendy Stevens also just published a sheet music version of this piece. You can purchase this at