Professional Development

What We Can Learn From Considering One’s Ideal Piano Teacher Life

Last week, I asked: If you could somehow magically have the life of your dreams, what would your piano teacher life look like?

(Read the entire prompt here.)

Thank you for the responses you posted, both here on the blog as well as on facebook. I enjoyed reading them.

I pondered the questions myself, and even did a little bit of journaling on the topic. I found it very beneficial, and want to share some of my realizations with you. If you found it fun to ponder the previous set of questions, I’d like to invite you to join me in exploring the additional questions below.


As I journaled about my ideal piano teacher life, I realized I’m already doing many of the things that I would consider part of my dream life as a piano teacher. What a wonderful reminder: I’m already living the dream! At times, I need reminders to count my blessings and take nothing for granted.

As you consider your own ideal piano teacher life, ask yourself: Which of these things am I already doing? 

I’m happy with my current teaching schedule. There isn’t much I’d want to change about my teaching space. I’m happy to have a career I enjoy so much. I have much to be thankful for.


As you recall, the original prompt encouraged us to think big: If you could somehow magically have the piano teacher life of your dream, what would it look like?

I hope you journaled at least one thing that was completely outrageous. :) Continue reading “What We Can Learn From Considering One’s Ideal Piano Teacher Life”

Professional Development

Question: What would your dream piano teacher life look like?

Today, I have a thought experiment to present to you. If you could somehow magically have the life of your dreams, what would your piano teacher life look like?

Let’s get really specific. Feel free to dream big here, folks!

  • What would your schedule look like? On which days would you teach lessons? What time would you start and end your teaching day?
  • What would your teaching space look like? Where would you teach: in-home, or at another location? What would your studio space look like? What piano would you have?
  • How much money would you make? What would you do MORE of and what would you do LESS of, for yourself as a professional and for your clients as your students? Be extravagant!
  • What would your students be like? What skills would they develop under your tutelage? What pitfalls would they avoid under your tutelage? Would you teach one-on-one, partner lessons, or group lessons? How often would you see your students?

Please share in the comment section below. I can’t wait to read your responses and talk about them further with you.

Conferences, Professional Development

2017 NCKP and Other Upcoming Events

Hello, friends!

Any of you heading to the 2017 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy in Lombard, IL? I’m heading out tomorrow and am looking forward to long weekend full of fun and learning.

I will be participating during a session as one of the panelists on a session called “Carving Out Your Career Path” at 2:30pm during the Young Professionals Track tomorrow (Wednesday). Maybe I’ll see you there!

After NCKP is over, my conference buddy Amy Chaplin and I are staying in the Chicago area to attend the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML) conference a few days later. This is the first time either of us have attended this conference, so we are looking forward to seeing what it’s like.

In other news, I thought I’d also list some upcoming presentations I’ve been adding to my calendar recently. If you happen to live in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, or Kentucky, I’d like to invite you to join me. I’d be happy to send you more details about these events upon request.

  • F, September 8, 2017: “Teaching the Way We Learn: Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory for Piano Teachers.” Wood-Ottawa Counties MTA (Bowling Green, OH).
  • F, September 29, 2017: “Teaching the Way We Learn: First Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory” with co-presenter Amy Chaplin. IndianaMTA state conference (Marion, IN).
  • Th, October 12, 2017: “Grounded in the Beat: Cultivating the Seeds of Rhythmic Fluency.” OhioMTA State Conference (Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert, OH).
  • M, November 6, 2017: “Teaching the Way We Learn: First Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory” with co-presenter Amy Chaplin. KentuckyMTA state conference (Lexington, KY).
  • F, November 10, 2017: “Alexander Technique for Piano Teachers & Students.” Northeast Indiana MTA (Fort Wayne, IN).
  • F, December 8, 2017: “App-Laudable Uses of Apps in Music Lessons.” Grand Rapids Piano Teachers Forum (Grand Rapids, MI).
  • F, April 6, 2018: “Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom in Method Books.” Western Reserve MTA (Cleveland, OH).

You can find my full calendar here, and my list of workshop topics here.

Professional Development, repertoire / methods, Retreat

Video: Let’s Talk about John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers To Play”

Hi there!

Earlier today, I went live on Facebook to talk about one of my favorite old piano method books: the classic John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano. I have to admit certain bias for the “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” book. It was my first piano book when I was all of age 5. :)

Here is the Facebook Live video.

Let's talk about this classic piano method: John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano. I have to admit certain bias for the "Teaching Little Fingers" book because it was my first piano book when I was age 5. ??

Posted by Color In My Piano blog on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Here is what’s covered in the video:

  • 0:50  Get a peek inside an OLD copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers To Play” book by John Thompson.
  • 2:10  Why I like using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book sometimes today as a supplement.
  • 3:05  Get a peek inside a NEW copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book. The illustrations have been updated, but the version is otherwise pretty true to the original.
  • 3:35  How to address one of the potential pitfalls of using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book: the overabundance of finger numbers.
  • 4:47  How John Thompson was ahead of his time as a pedagogue. Or, perhaps there is really just “nothing new under the sun.” :) Hint: See the note on the cover of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book.
  • 7:04  Learn more about other music and resources John Thompson authored.

Questions for you: Have you ever used the John Thompson series? What do you appreciate about it?

Thanks for watching!

P.S.: Why am I looking through old piano method books? It’s because I’m in the midst of preparations for Retreat at Piano Manor which I will be hosting later this summer, August 17-19, 2017! During the retreat, we will be looking through piano method books from across the decades, uncovering pedagogical wisdom relevant for us today. Registration is now open and a few teachers have already registered. Be sure to watch the facebook page and here on the blog for future videos about piano methods.

Announcements, Professional Development, Retreat

Announcing: Piano Teacher Retreat, August 17-19, 2017

Hello, friends!

I’m very excited to invite you to attend a retreat for piano teachers taking place at my home studio this summer.

Retreat at Piano Manor is a three-day getaway for piano teachers to connect, recharge, share, and learn from each another. During this unique experience, you will have opportunity to contribute and benefit from collective wisdom during group discussions, projects, and even relaxing downtime. While at “Piano Manor,” you’ll also enjoy deliciously healthy food planned by my foodie friend, Amy Chaplin of PianoPantry.com. Retreat at Piano Manor will leave you feeling inspired and connected, with newly formed friendships and fresh ideas for your teaching.

Our topic of focus is Piano Method Mining: Uncovering Nuggets of Wisdom From Method Books. I’ll be sharing more details very soon about what we will do during our group retreat experience.

Retreat at Piano Manor is happening August 17-19, 2017, at my home studio in northwest Ohio. I hope you’ll consider being a part of this!

More details are available at: pianoteacherretreat.com. The full schedule and registration will be posted soon. In the meantime, be sure to join the email list to receive details in your inbox as they become available. 

Thanks for reading!

Professional Development, Technique

Why I Take Lessons in the Alexander Technique as a Piano Teacher

In Spring of 2015, a fellow piano teacher and I were having a conversation during which she told me how much she has benefited from taking Alexander Technique lessons in the past. She spoke so highly of the experience, stating that everyone — not just musicians — should consider taking at least three months of Alexander lessons. In fact, she told me I was lucky in that there is an Alexander Technique teacher in my area, because there isn’t one in the major city where she currently lives.

Her enthusiasm intrigued me, as did her bold statement regarding the benefits of the Alexander Technique. So, I decided to follow her suggestion to take lessons for three months, just to satisfy my curiosity.

As of this writing, I’ve been taking Alexander Technique lessons for over a year-and-a-half. I’m completely hooked, and I have no intentions of stopping lessons anytime soon.

The Alexander Technique’s way of looking at all movement in life — not just “posture”, and not just one’s physical approach to the piano — has been revolutionary for me. It changes the way I move and the way I think about moving as I go about each day. I see things differently in other people, too — I recognize unique tendencies and movement patterns in others, including my piano students.

In this blog post, I’m going to share with you:

  • What the Alexander Technique is.
  • What a typical lesson in the Alexander Technique is like.
  • How users of the Alexander Technique think differently about movement.
  • The potential the Alexander Technique has to help pianists and piano teachers.
  • Takeaways for piano teachers reading this article.

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is sometimes referred to as “the AT” or “the Technique”.

alexander-headshot“The Alexander Technique is a subtle method of integrating mind and body in such a way that each functions with maximum efficiency and ease and minimum stress and tension. The Technique is an educational process, which provides an individual with the means to identify and change habits and attitudes interfering with ‘the proper use of oneself.’

“The Technique was developed in the late 19th century by F.M. Alexander [1869-1955], a Shakespearean orator. Having lost his voice, Alexander undertook an intensive program of self-observation that lasted for nearly a decade in order to discover the source of his problem. In the process, he not only regained his voice but also laid the foundation for the Alexander Technique” (source).

The Alexander Technique is useful not only for musicians. Nor is it useful only for individuals experiencing carpal tunnel, back pain, or other difficulties. It is sought out by speakers, athletes, actors, dancers, public speakers, and — in short — anyone interested in personal development and improving performance ability.

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Individuals who use the AT pay increased attention to their bodies as they move in their everyday lives. They learn to recognize less-than-optimal habitual patterns and strive to “not do” them. This activity of “not doing” is referred to as “inhibition.”

alexander-quote-not-doing

Perhaps most importantly:

Practitioners of the AT recognize that there is no existence of a “correct position”; there is only the possibility of “good use” in activity. The goal is ease, freedom, and efficiency.

AT teachers are highly trained and skilled. An AT teacher observes the whole body, looking to determine what unnecessary muscle tension is present as an individual carries themselves — whether in movement or sitting in a chair. Through verbal directives paired with skilled physical contact for feedback, an AT teacher coaches the individual towards increased kinesthetic awareness and ability to “think in activity”. The “basic directions” practitioners of the AT remind themselves of are: “Let the neck be free, allow the head to go forward and up, and allow the back to lengthen and widen.” An AT teacher helps the individual recognize his/her habitual patterns and learn to inhibit them.

Over time, as experience with inhibiting is built, the student can increasingly reproduce the same “not doing” experience into daily life activities.

Meet my Alexander teacher, Nancy Crego. Nancy has a great interest in helping piano teachers explore the useful applications of the Alexander Technique to piano playing.

20161031_14-03-21-alexander-w Continue reading “Why I Take Lessons in the Alexander Technique as a Piano Teacher”

Music Learning Theory, Professional Development

Joy and Amy Talk About Music Learning Theory

Greetings!

Back from our Boston trip for GIML training, Amy and I thought it would be fun and constructive to have a conversation to debrief, and at the same time create a video to share, about Music Learning Theory (MLT).

Here’s what is covered in our video:

  • 3:00 Who was Edwin Gordon.
  • 9:45 Who is Marilyn Lowe.
  • 13:25 What is audiation and how is it developed.
  • 22:00 How we each plan to start incorporating elements of MLT into our lessons.
  • 25:45 What resources are available for teachers who want to learn more about MLT.

Books mentioned in the video:

Just for kicks, here’s one more video. Amy and I had a bit of fun in the car on the drive back home from Boston playing the alphabet car game using MLT terms that we learned during the course. :)

Update: Read What Is Audiation, Exactly?

Music Learning Theory, Professional Development

2016 GIML Training (3): Wrap-Up Post

[See previous post: 2015 GIML Training (2): A Great First Week]

On Saturday, I returned from a fruitful and enjoyable two-week stay in Brookline, Massachusetts, receiving Piano Certification training through the Gordon Institute for Music Learning. I am still processing everything I learned, but am excited to begin sharing about the experience with you all.

As I mentioned in the last post, we were in class from 9:00am-4:30pm each day. It was like being back in school!

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Our teachers for this course were Marilyn Lowe, Jennifer Fisher, and intern Janna Olson.

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Marilyn is the author of the Music Moves for Piano method, the only piano method to-date that is based on Edwin Gordon’s work.

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We spent class time listening to lectures, discussing learning theories, and participating in movement and singing activities.

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In the evenings, we studied and read from Dr. Gordon’s tome, “Learning Sequences in Music.” Eating cannoli made the studying even sweeter.

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Each day, we were assigned to compose a melody in a particular mode (major, harmonic minor, dorian, phrygian, etc.). The following day, we shared our melodies with the group.

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Between the two weeks of training, we found time to explore Boston.

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Here we are exploring the Harvard campus in Cambridge.

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And here is a group of us enjoying dinner at a classmate’s home nearby. (Thanks for hosting, Rachel!)

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Here I am with Marilyn, after receiving certification.

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And here I am with my travel buddy, Amy Chaplin of PianoPantry.com.

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By the way, Amy and I used Airbnb.com to find a place to stay during the course. This was our first experience using Airbnb, and I can happily say it was a positive one. We stayed in a third story of an old Victorian home. Our apartment was absolutely perfect for us. I definitely intend to use airbnb for future trips. (Want to check it out? Use this link to receive a $30 travel credit.)

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Here is a group photo of our entire class.

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In upcoming weeks and months, I look forward to incorporating what I learned into my teaching. Stay tuned for more on this.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the blog post that Amy just posted with her own summary of our experience in Boston.

Happy weekend, friends!

Update: Read more about Music Learning Theory (MLT) here

Conferences, Music Learning Theory, Professional Development

2016 GIML Training (1): The Adventure Begins

edwin gordonToday, an adventure begins: I am heading to Boston for two weeks to receive training in the Piano Certification Course sponsored by the Gordon Institute of Music Learning (GIML). The training is being given by Marilyn Lowe, author of the Music Moves For Piano method, and Jennifer Fisher.

This trip is possible thanks to an MTNA Teacher Enrichment Grant. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you might know that I am a huge fan of Edwin Gordon’s work. Having the opportunity to experience this training means a great deal to me.

My adventure buddy is Amy Chaplin (of PianoPantry.com). We are driving well over 10 hours today from our respective homes in Indiana and Ohio.


I definitely plan to blog about our experience, but I am unsure whether I will keep up with blogging during the trip or if I’ll catch up after I return. However, I will definitely be posting some tidbits throughout the two weeks on Instagram or Facebook.

Interesting in learning more about Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory (MLT)? Check out this blog post or Tim Topham’s podcast episode with Marilyn Lowe.

[See next post: 2016 GIML Training (2): A Great First Week]

Piano Teacher Institute, Professional Development

Fall 2016 Online Course – Piano Teacher Institute

2014-Piano-Teacher-Institute-logo-2

Just sending out a quick email today to announce that registration for the upcoming Fall 2016 session of my Piano Pedagogy 101 online course will be available this Friday (July 29) at 9am Eastern time.

Are you wondering if this online course is right for you?


“Joy Morin’s pedagogy course is an excellent learning tool for new piano teachers or teachers wanting to refresh their pedagogy knowledge.”

–piano teacher in Canada


Here is our calendar for the upcoming session.

  • Week 1: August 29-September 4
  • Week 2: September 5-11
  • Week 3: September 12-18
  • Week 4: September 19-25
  • Week 5: September 26-October 2
  • Week 6: October 3-9

Continue reading “Fall 2016 Online Course – Piano Teacher Institute”

Conferences, improving as a teacher, Professional Development

Piano Pedagogy Seminar with Carolyn Miller

On Saturday, my local MTNA/OhioMTA chapter — the Northwest District OhioMTA — sponsored a piano pedagogy seminar with composer and teacher Carolyn Miller!

It was an honor to have her present for us. Her first session was entitled: “Matching Music to Inspire and Challenge Students.” She shared with us some helpful thoughts about choosing repertoire to suit students and demonstrated for us a variety of her compositions for students. Carolyn’s compositions are published with Willis Music, F.J.H., and others.

20160130_105452 NW OMTA seminar

Next, Carolyn led group discussion on “Why We Teach Music.” This session was particularly encouraging and rejuvenating to us as teachers!

My friend, Susan West, and I helped Carolyn demonstrate a number of her piano duet compositions.

20160130_113440 NW OMTA seminar copy

Partway through the day, we went to a local restaurant and enjoyed fellowship and conversation over lunch. Here is our group photo with Carolyn before lunch.

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During the third session, we learned about Carolyn’s series of books called: “Sportacular Warmups“. The Sportacular Warmups books were created after the example of the A Dozen A Day books (also published by Willis Music), but have a sports theme integrated throughout the exercises in a clever way.

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We wrapped up the day with a masterclass. Four student participants performed pieces written by Carolyn.

20160130_145917 NW OMTA seminar

It was a wonderful day. Carolyn was a gracious and engaging speaker. Teachers who attended remarked that they enjoyed the sessions, the information, and the fellowship with other teachers.

Thanks goes to Carolyn Miller and my fellow members of the Northwest District OhioMTA for a successful day!

Professional Development, Technology

Podcasts and Audiobooks for Piano Teachers

Earlier this week, I mentioned my guest appearance on Tim Topham’s podcast for piano teachers. Today, I wanted to tell you about a few other great podcasts and also talk about my latest indulgence: audiobooks!

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First, what is a podcast?

A podcast is a audio channel of sorts, often created by bloggers, with regular new episode updates. There are podcasts available on every topic imaginable, including piano teaching! Continue reading “Podcasts and Audiobooks for Piano Teachers”