Reviews

Book Review – Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

You might be wondering why I’m reviewing a non-piano-related book here on my blog. Bear with me – the reasons will become clear in a moment!

I remember hearing about this New York Times Bestseller when it came out in 2014. Although it sounded interesting to me at the time, I’m reading it for the first time recently. After finding out we were pregnant last summer and soon afterwards experiencing the woes of first trimester nausea and occasional midnight insomnia, I was suddenly on the hunt for an ebook I could read in bed on my phone without disturbing my sleeping husband. I liked the idea of reading something related to our new adventure as soon-to-be-parents, but was looking for something less information-driven than classics such as “What To Expect When You’re Expecting“. After seeing a recommendation for “Bringing Up Bébé” and reading its reviews on Amazon, I felt this book was just what I was looking for.

In this book, the author, journalist Pamela Druckerman, recounts her experience as an American raising a baby (and later, two more) in France. Soon after moving to Paris, she began noticing certain stark differences in child-rearing approaches in France compared to those typical in the United States. She started paying attention to this and asking questions — even stashing a notebook in her diaper bag — and investigating to see if she could learn more about how the French parent their children.

Druckerman noticed French children are generally well-behaved in public, waiting calmly for meals to arrive and waiting their turn to speak. French children enjoy a diversity of prepared vegetables, proteins, and salads and are accustomed to eating meals served in courses alongside their parents at designated times (8am, noon, 4pm snacktime, and 8pm), while American parents often expect their children might refuse to eat much else besides “kid food” (such as mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and snack food). French children are encouraged to be autonomous and independent in their play, being allowed more room to become absorbed and find pleasure in an activity for its own sake. In contrast, American parents might follow their children around the playground, delivering praise for mundanities such as going down the slide or tying their shoes. While French babies learn to “do their nights” around three months of age, American parents expect to function (or perhaps, not function) in a sleep-deprived manner for a year or more until baby begins to sleep through the night.

Continue reading “Book Review – Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting”
Studio Business

Inviting Piano Students to Remove Their Shoes

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_ecc0.jpgAs shared in this post, my husband and I recently relocated from Bowling Green, Ohio to Saline, Michigan (outside Ann Arbor). I’m sure I’ll share a full tour of my new piano room, but for today, I wanted to share a simple solution I found to help remind my students to remove their shoes when they arrive.

My new piano room is carpeted, and it’s a light color. I didn’t always enforce the “shoes off” rule in my previous home, but I decided I wanted to be more consistent about that here.

The main way to achieve that is to train students from the first time they are at the studio. However, I thought it might be nice to also add a friendly reminder for them to see when they arrive.

This is the entryway area to my studio. Continue reading “Inviting Piano Students to Remove Their Shoes”

Announcements

Moving from Ohio to Michigan!

I’ve been a bit slow with updates here the blog recently…and there’s been lots of big life changes over recent months! If you happen to follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might have seen some of these updates. But for those of you who haven’t, here’s what’s new in my world…

My husband and I are expecting a baby! It won’t be long now before she’ll be making her debut. :) 2wS1FMxXTnCd0XFqd6zx%w_thumb_e4d4.jpg

Knowing that Baby was on the way, my husband and I decided it was finally time to make work of relocating closer to family. We’ve been living in Ohio for about eight years now, ever since he began a Masters Degree program in English here. After graduation, my husband found employment in marketing and communications in Toledo, Ohio before landing a marketing position at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan — an hour’s drive from home. We decided he’s been making the long daily commute long enough!

My husband’s family lives in the Ann Arbor area. Moving to Ann Arbor would also bring us a bit closer to my side of the family, on the other side of the state, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hopefully, this will be a longterm home for us!

So, we began house hunting.

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In November, we finally found the right house. It was important to us to find a suitable floor plan that would allow space for my piano studio operations to run smoothly while allowing living spaces for family life.

We are happy to be just outside Ann Arbor, in a super family-friendly town called Saline. I’m excited to enjoy the small town feel, while also benefitting from the amenities and events that an artsy town like Ann Arbor has to offer.

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I decided I wanted to continue teaching my students in Ohio as usual through the end of the year. And so, we set our moving date as the Saturday before Christmas.

[Here’s a sneak peek at my new piano studio space!]

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It’s official: we are Michiganders once again!

Yes, this means building my piano studio again in a new town. Yes, this means adjusting to motherhood and experiencing how that impacts my other roles. I’m sure I’ll be talking more about these topics here on the blog in upcoming months!

As for the present, we are excitedly awaiting Baby’s arrival. :)

Happy New Year to you, my dear readers!

seasonal / holiday

2019 Christmas Gift for Students

Just a quick follow-up to the student Christmas gift post from some few weeks ago

Here’s what I ended up gifting my students last month:

  • Gloves for pianists :)
  • Treat sacks with brownies

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I ordered the black gloves from eBay (here). I used white 3D fabric paint to add the treble clef on the RH glove, and allowed it to dry. I came back later to flip it over and draw a bass clef on the LH glove. They turned out pretty cute!

I can’t take credit for the idea. I saw a piano teacher share the idea in one of the Facebook groups for piano teachers, quite some time ago. I saved the idea, thinking I’d probably use it some year. And here we are!

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I baked the brownies myself and placed two pieces in each treat sack, separated by a square of parchment paper. A quick piece of ribbon makes them look a bit festive.

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If you’re looking for a good brownie recipe, here’s the link to the one I used: Best Fudgiest Brownies. My husband is a better cook than I am; he’s able to bake them just right so they are wonderfully fudgey, plus achieve that lovely cracked look on the top. Fortunately, they still taste pretty great even when I bake them. :)

Just thought I’d share. I always appreciate getting ideas from other teachers, and bet you do too!

Happy Wednesday to you!

General, seasonal / holiday

Christmas Gifts for Students, From 2011-2018

I know, I know…it’s barely November, and here I am already talking about Christmas gifts! But in my opinion, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead and brainstorming. I tend to enjoy the holidays more when I’ve managed to get an early start on my to-dos. :)

I don’t think it’s necessary to give your piano students gifts at Christmastime, but it’s a nice gesture if you feel so inspired!

And so, I thought it’d be fun to do a flashback post today, taking a look at the Christmas gifts I’ve done over the years for my students. Some of these gifts were pretty time intensive (certain years, apparently I was inspired enough to be willing to take on a big project!), and other years were simple, but thoughtful gifts. I hope perhaps these photos will give you a useful idea or two, if you’re looking for ideas for something to do for your own students!

2011: Personalized Glass Sheet Music Ornaments

Back in 2011, I created personalized glass sheet music ornaments for each student, with their name and the year written with a gold paint pen. They turned out so pretty! I love how they turned out, and would like to use this idea again in the future. Each student also received a chocolate Symphony bar. Read more here.

That year, I gave my adult students something else: a copy of the book “The A to Z of Foreign Musical Terms” by Christine Ammer. I learned about this book during grad school, when one of my professors recommended it as a music dictionary that actually contains all the words we commonly see in our music. (Have you ever looked up a word in your music dictinary, only to find it wasn’t included?!) This book is a nice slim volume, and a great price — I’d recommend it to any piano teacher or student! I use it not infrequently during lessons, to have students look up the terms in their pieces.

Continue reading “Christmas Gifts for Students, From 2011-2018”
Rhythm

VIDEO: Playing the Trick-or-Treat! Rhythm Game with a Piano Student

Yesterday, my student Robbie and I made a quick video for you, demonstrating how to play my new Trick-or-Treat! Rhythm Game.

Here’s what you’ll find in the video:

  • 0:12 | What to do if a student happens to draw a TREAT card first thing! (This is a rare occurance.)
  • 0:33 | How to teach a student how to perform the rhythm patterns on the TRICK cards accurately. They need to be able to (1) identify the meter, (2) count in before speaking/counting the rhythm pattern, and (3) maintain the meter as they speak/tap the rhythm pattern. (More tips on this below.)
  • 1:00, 1:20, and 1:42 | Watch Robbie chant more rhythm cards.
  • 2:00 | Robbie draws a TREAT card, ending the game.

>>> Watch the video >>>

Below is more elaboration and tips on how to guide your students to perform rhythm patterns accurately. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing my thoughts on this, whether or not you plan to use my Trick-or-Treat! Rhythm Game!

1. Identify the meter as either duple meter or triple meter.

Ask students: “Is this is duple meter or triple meter?” Sometimes I follow up with: “How do you know?”

With these rhythm cards, it’s easy: just look at the way the eighth note beams are grouped!

To make sure it’s not only a visual thing, though, I teach my students to listen to and feel the meter as well.

Continue reading “VIDEO: Playing the Trick-or-Treat! Rhythm Game with a Piano Student”
Games

NEW in Shop: Trick-or-Treat! Rhythm Game

I’m so excited to announce today a brand new printable game now available in my shop. This is the Trick-or-Treat! rhythm game!

I first started testing this game around this time a year ago. My students were thrilled when I pulled it out again this year!

How does the game work?

This is a fun way to spend the first few minutes of your lessons around Halloween time, to improve your students’ rhythm skills. Playfully inform your student that you have a bowl of treats — but that they must EARN their treat by playing a rhythm game. :)

Choose the appropriate deck for your student (Levels 1-4). Explain to your student: There are TRICK cards and there are TREAT cards. When a TREAT card is drawn, the game is over and it’s time to choose a treat. When a TRICK card is drawn, the student performs the rhythm on the card and then draws again. To begin playing, fan out the cards for the student and ask them to randomly choose a card.

Continue reading “NEW in Shop: Trick-or-Treat! Rhythm Game”
Teaching Piano

9 Ideas for Your Piano Studio Chalkboard/Whiteboard

Do you have a chalkboard or whiteboard in your piano studio space?

I found this chalkboard at a thrift store a couple of years ago for something like $12. I’ve been experimenting with different things to put on it for my students, and thought I’d share a few ideas today!

1. Studio Name

I always put the studio name somewhere near the top. I’m no professional artist, but I like to experiment with different styles of lettering.

2. Upcoming Dates

Remind your students of upcoming dates and deadlines. This can help parents and students stay in touch with what’s going on!

Continue reading “9 Ideas for Your Piano Studio Chalkboard/Whiteboard”
Announcements

Session Starting Soon! – My EXCELLENCE IN PIANO TEACHING Online Course

Hi there! Just a quick post today…

How would you like to take a piano pedagogy course from the comfort of your own home?

The next offering of my six-week course, EXCELLENCE IN PIANO TEACHING starts up very soon! It will run October 7 – November 18, 2019. Here’s a peek at what you’ll learn each week:

  1. Business Sense. We’ll get your finances organized so you can focus on the part we all love most: teaching!
  2. On Teaching and Learning. You’ll learn how to maximize student learning through teaching strategies that are research-based and time-tested.
  3. Conducting the Piano Lesson. You’ll learn how to plan for and use in-lesson time in a way most conducive to student success.
  4. All About Piano Methods. You’ll learn the purpose, benefits, and limitations of piano method books and become familiar with the today’s most popular method books.
  5. Piano Technique for Beginners. You’ll learn how to nurture your students towards playing the piano healthily, efficiently, and – most importantly – expressively.
  6. The Student’s Repertoire. You’ll learn how to choose piano literature for your students that is appropriate and suitable so they are happily advancing in their piano studies!

Here’s a video overview and a peek inside the course, so you can see if the [Excellence in Piano Teaching] course is right for you.

Intrigued? Visit the Piano Teacher Institute with Joy Morin website and be sure to join the email list there! Registration links will be emailed out soon.

Thanks for reading!

Reading Notation

Note Rush App — Studio-Wide Challenge!

Three years and counting…Note Rush is still my favorite app for piano teaching! (Hearing about it for the first time? It’s a note recognition app. Check out my original review here!)

Back in 2016, I shared a free printable of a Note Rush chart I made (pictured below) for tracking students’ best times for each of the built-in five levels. (Thanks goes to Note Rush’s developer, Thomas Grayston, for providing the images I needed to create these printables.)

To kick off the new 2019 school year, I decided to hold a studio-wide Note Rush challenge for my students for the month of September. To help facilitate this challenge, I created a few new printables. Below, I’m going to share those printables and tell you all about the challenge. Perhaps you’ll want to consider holding your own Note Rush challenge for your studio!

Continue reading “Note Rush App — Studio-Wide Challenge!”
Conferences

Summer 2019: NCKP, South Shore Piano Camp, OregonMTA, and More

Hello, readers! Summer is gone, and we’re now into the groove of the new school year. My last blog post shared the details of my recent Piano Teacher Retreat, held August 1-3, 2019. The rest of August went like a blur, due to a variety of travel. Here’s a little bit of a catch-up post!

NCKP 2019: July 24-27

Backing up just a step… The week before the retreat, I attended NCKP 2019. It was a phenomenal conference, as always!

I attended so many great sessions. My favorite was a session given by Louis Svard, presenting on “The Musical World of Infants: What It Can Tell Us About How Children Actually Learn Music.” She has a blog called The Musician’s Brain you can check out here.

I had the privilege of presenting two sessions during NCKP, both on Wednesday as part of the Pre-Conference Seminars. First, I gave a session for the Wellness Track called “Lessons for Piano Teachers from the Alexander Technique.” In this session, I share my experience as a student of the Alexander Technique and how taking AT lessons has impacted me as a musician and piano teacher.

Later that afternoon, I also presented one of my favorite talks: “Piano Method Mining: Gems from Past and Present.” In this session, I provide a survey of piano methods from past to present, highlighting the ones consider most notable and still useful today. The room was full, and I received such wonderful feedback afterwards!

Continue reading “Summer 2019: NCKP, South Shore Piano Camp, OregonMTA, and More”