Meet Keri and Carolyn. They are two cousins and piano teachers out of Canada who teamed up to establish their successful piano studio, Piano Stars. They also sell some unique and original piano teaching materials on their website (click here) and on Etsy. When I stumbled across their Etsy shop one day, I just had to order a couple of their wonderful music spinners (pictured below)! Once I contacted Keri and Carolyn, they kindly agreed to be interviewed and featured here at Color In My Piano. Read on!
* * * * *
Joy: Please tell us about your piano backgrounds!
Keri & Carolyn: We both started piano lessons when we were 7, but due to our age difference Carolyn was actually my (Keri’s) piano teacher growing up! Carolyn has her ARCT in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music and I am working on my Grade 10 with the Royal Conservatory of Music.
How long have you been running your piano studio together?
We have been working together since 2003 for our summer camps, composing and creating games & teacher resources. However, we both have our own home studios for private lessons and teach about 60 students each.
Even though we teach out of our own homes we plan all of our piano events together. We have the same incentive programs and we combine our students together for recitals, halloween parties, pizza parties, pool parties, etc…
What is the best part about about running a studio with someone else rather than by yourself?
Being able to share ideas with each other. One of us will come up with an idea and then the other one thinks of something else we could do to add to that thought, so bouncing ideas off of each other is great. It’s basically like having a co-worker. You always have somebody there to share thoughts and resources with. Luckily we both have the same work ethic and goals so it makes working together fun and easy.
What is the toughest thing about running a studio together?
Probably just having certain items in two different places. Because we both have our own home studios we don’t have an actual building that students come to, or that we keep all of our resources in. So, if one of us ever needs something that is at the other house, we have to make a small 5 minute drive to pick it up. (Fortunately, we live very close to each other.) Sometimes we have different opinions on certain things, but we both want to be successful so always find a way to agree on what we think is the best decision.
The fact that we’re cousins always seems to surprise people, but teaching-wise, we do a lot of extra things in our studio. We have created many games and resources that we use in our studios to make lessons more fun. We have summer music camps to boost our students’ skills. We have an annual halloween party where students dress in their costumes and play halloween music. After the recital they get to tour though a haunted house we set up in Carolyn’s basement. We are constantly thinking of motivational contests & prizes to keep our students practicing. We like to keep things fun while always incorporating piano.
How do you come up with the inspiration the games and teaching materials you sell in your store?
Whenever a student is struggling with something we always say “we need a game to teach _____”. Then we start talking about it & the ideas start pouring in.
The Piano Stars Game (pictured at right; click here to see more) because it is so flexible. You can choose to use only the cards with the topics you would like to focus on, you can adapt the game for as many players as you have, you can make the game as short or long as you like & the students LOVE being able to create the board game pattern on their own.
Tell us about your summer music camps.
We take popular video games & TV game shows & add music elements to create games & activities for our students. One game we play is “The Amazing Music Race” where teams of students have to run around from room to room & back yard to front yard to search for their next location where there is a musical game or activity waiting to be completed. It is a race to see which team can finish all 10 stations first. We have the students try some composing, playing by ear, ensemble playing & performing.
Wow, it was great to hear all about your studio and your teaching materials! I especially love the way you two collaborate for recitals, parties, and summer camps. It’s not easy planning large events alone — collaborating with another teacher is a great idea. Thanks, Keri & Carolyn!
* * * * *
If anyone has further questions for Keri & Carolyn, they would love to hear from you! Click here to contact them. You can also read more about Piano Stars at their website. Please also a moment to browse through the shop on their website and their shop on Etsy.com.
Just a note: many of the items in their shop use Canadian terminology such as C+ and C~ to refer to major and minor. If any of you U.S. teachers are interested in their items, just contact them and ask if they can customize the item for you (like they did it for me and my spinners!). =)
Stay tuned for a giveaway to be announced soon — you could win a piano teaching item from the Piano Stars shop!