Record Wall Art in My Studio

During my two-week break from teaching last month, I finished a project I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now. I initially saw the idea on Pinterest and was thrilled to finally find the materials I needed!

20150903_083710 wm-2

It’s wall art created using old 45 records! At a thrift store back home in Michigan, I found 45’s for sale priced at 6 for $1. I selected the ones with the most colorful labels.

20150903_083530 wm-2

You could also use standard-sized vinyl records for this project, but you would need a much larger wall space.

I hung the records using small Command hooks. Have you used them before for your walls? They are wonderful! No need to pound holes into your walls. I bought a package of the smallest sized clips, which are only appropriate for hanging light-weight things. They were perfect for this project.

command hooks

The clips allow the records to easily slip into place, and I can even rearrange the order of the records if I want to. Using pencil and a tape measure, I marked out the places where I wanted to the hooks to go. I measured and re-measured and RE-measured to make sure that the clips were evenly spaced. :)

20150903_083621 wm-2

I love how it turned out! It adds color to my wall that I can enjoy every day from my teaching chair.

20150903_083740 wm-2

It was an inexpensive, fun project — and perfect for a music-themed room!

Posted in what I'm up to | Tagged , , | 1 Response

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

mercier quote

“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”

— Alfred Mercier

Feel free to download and share this quote or image.

Posted in Words of Wisdom | Tagged | 1 Response

Drawers for Organizing Music Games

Last year, I blogged about the drawer system I use for organizing my music games. It so important to be able to easily find the needed teaching materials during lessons!

Since moving last summer, I ended up updating my drawer categories somewhat. This drawer unit is from IKEA, by the way.

20150407_083736 and _ 084050 diptych watermarked

I’m always tweaking my organization system, but as of now, the six drawer categories are:

  1. Props/Improv — Japanese puzzle erasers, various props for teaching hand shape, Rory’s Story CubesFlashcards for Composition/Improvisation, etc.
  2. Rhythmrhythm cards, Rhythm Train Game, Rhythmic Value Cards, etc.
  3. Alphabet — this includes piano key identification cards, Scrabble tiles (A-G only), alphabet spinners, alphabet dice, etc.
  4. Notes — musical alphabet word cards, note-naming flashcards, etc.
  5. Intervals — Ice Cream Interval game, interval cards, etc.
  6. Keys — key signature flashcards/dice, key props and printables, and anything related to chords.

In another room, I keep a few drawers of games that only work for groups of students. I pull those games out when I hold my Piano Parties (monthly group classes).

Whatever your system, the most important thing is to be able to find what you need, when you need it! :)

Posted in games | Tagged , , | 4 Responses

Printables Inspired by Irina Gorin’s Workshop

After attending Irina Gorin’s 2015 workshop in Fishers, Indiana, I was inspired to create a series of free printables relating to her ideas and teaching approach. Here they are!

On p. 20 of Irina’s method, Tales of a Musical Journey, there is a neat activity where the student learns to play the “EIEIO” part from the familiar Old McDonald tune by rote, using the three black keys and finger three. Irina usually improvises the rest of the song on the piano or uses the accompanying CD track. I decided to write out the teacher duet part and share it here, in case you, like me, prefer having the sheet music on hand as a reference!

Download it here or at the Printables > Sheet Music page:

  Old McDonald Teacher Duet Part (48.1 KiB, 594 hits)

The next printable is a set of poetry cards. Irina likes to use short, easy poetry to teach students to speak clearly and expressively with words — a skill they will later use with music. My thought was that it would be convenient to print these little poems as a set of cards for use both at home and during the lesson.

Download it here or on the Printables > Other Resources page:

  Poetry for Rhythmic Expression (380.7 KiB, 540 hits)

Read More »

Posted in 2015 Workshop with Irina Gorin, printables | Tagged , | 3 Responses

Freebie: Lesson Attendance Sheet Updated for 2015-16

I have just finished updating one of the studio business forms from the Printables page for the 2015-16 school year.  It is called the Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment pdf.  I do not currently use this form myself anymore, but I have received quite a few requests from teachers who used it last year so I was happy to update it again this year!

In case you haven’t seen this, here is how the form works: Write your students’ names in the first column.  Each week, write the lesson date (in a month / date format) in the column for that week.  This is how you can track attendance.  The small circles in each cell are where you can write checkmarks indicating tuition payments.  Whether you charge by-the-week or by-the-month, you can place a checkmark by each paid lesson date.


Download it here or on the Printables > Studio Business page.

  Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment (2015-16) (87.3 KiB, 14,892 hits)

P.S.: Here is a link to where I explain my current system for tracking payments received.

Posted in printables, studio business | Tagged | 9 Responses

2015 Workshop with Irina Gorin of Tales of a Musical Journey

Irina Gorin - Tales of a Musical JourneyLast week, I attended a three-day workshop given by Irina Gorin in Fishers, Indiana (outside of Indianapolis) for her self-published piano method, Tales of a Musical Journey. If you aren’t already familiar with Irina’s work, you can read a bit about her in this written interview I conducted with her back in 2011. I’ve been an enthusiastic follower of Irina’s YouTube channel for a few years now and have learned so much from her teaching videos. I highly recommend subscribing to her channel.

When I heard that Irina was going to offer this workshop for the first time, I knew I had to try to attend because it is so rare to have the opportunity to learn about teaching beginner piano students and I am a huge fan of Irina’s teaching approach. Most conferences and workshops tend to focus on intermediate or advanced students. I am SO glad I went, because I learned so much that I can apply to every lesson that I teach in the future. And I will definitely be using her books with more of my beginners in the future!

Irina’s piano method, Tales of a Musical Journey, is different from mainstream piano methods in many ways. I have experimented with her books only a little bit over the past year, but I am intrigued and I can see that Irina is really onto something with her approach. Irina’s books are an attempt to combine the best pedagogy from Russian piano methods and American piano methods. The Russian Piano School is much older than the American and there are definitely many time-tested principles that we American teachers can learn from.

Irina was kind enough to connect me with another piano teacher from Ohio who I could carpool and room with. Tamara and I become good friends during the workshop!

20150808_161249 Irina Gorin workshop

I have lots of photos to share. Irina was wonderful. She is a gracious host and we learned so much from her. The workshop took place at a music academy in Fishers, Indiana that had a large room with a piano and projector screen.  Read More »

Posted in 2015 Workshop with Irina Gorin | Tagged , | 10 Responses

Just a quick note…

For some reason, my blog post of notes for final Day 4 of the 2015 NCKP did not come through for email subscribers yesterday, so I’m posting this little note to let you know that I did indeed publish it and you can read it by clicking here. :) Hope you are having a wonderful week!

Posted in other | Leave a comment

2015 FJH Workshop with Helen Marlais

Just a few quick photos today…

There was a free piano teacher workshop with Helen Marlais at my local music store yesterday. She talked about FJH Publishing’s new All-In-One version of the Succeeding at the Piano method, among other things. Fun!

Helen grew up here in the Toledo area. Here, she plays a duet with her childhood piano teacher!

Helen currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan…which is where I grew up. Such a small world!

In other news, a fancy new Office Depot discount card arrived in the mail yesterday. As far as I can tell, these cards are automatically being sent out to all MTNA members. The back of the card specifies a discount on printing and copying costs. Thanks, MTNA!


Posted in improving as a teacher, what I'm up to | Tagged , | 1 Response

NCKP 2015 (4): Saturday, August 1

In continuation of my summaries of the happenings at the 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, below are my notes from Friday, July 31.

[In case you missed them, here are links to previous three days:]

8:00 Publisher Showcase: Willis Music

The Willis Music publisher showcase, called Recital Repertoire for Rave Reviews, was led by Carolyn Miller. She played a huge variety of music, including many recent publications, that would be particularly effective performed at recitals.

We also ducked into the Faber Piano Adventures showcase and took a picture with Randall Faber afterwards!

Read More »

Posted in 2015 NCKP | Tagged | Leave a comment

NCKP 2015 (3): Friday, July 31

[In case you missed them, here are links to previous two days:]

In continuation of my summaries of the happenings at the 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, below are my notes from Friday, July 31.

On Friday morning at 5:45am, we were awakened from our sleep by the fire alarm going off in our hotel room! Apparently, someone’s hair dryer malfunctioned and set off the fire alarms in certain floors of the hotel. We went down eleven flights of stairs and stood outside until they cleared us to return to our rooms. It was an interesting way to start the morning! :)

8:00 Publisher Showcase: Piano Safari by Katherine Fisher and Julie Knerr

For the first morning session, I attended the publisher showcase for the Piano Safari piano method, which is authored by Katherine Fisher and Julie Knerr. Piano Safari is a piano method for ages 5-11, but it has been used successfully with 4-year-olds. It uses an intervalic reading approach and uses both “reading pieces” and “rote pieces” to create strong readers in students. In their session, Julie and Katie walked us through Level 1 of Piano Safari, demonstrating the pieces and discussing the logic and pedagogy behind their piano method. It was a fun and informative session.

I’ve blogged about Piano Safari before, but in case you haven’t heard of it, you can learn more about it and order it through their website: There are a variety of pedagogical essays available for free download there, as well as new pieces of solo sheet music available for order.

Read More »

Posted in 2015 NCKP | Tagged | Leave a comment

NCKP 2015 (2): Thursday, July 30

Yesterday’s pre-conference sessions at 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy were outstanding, and the sessions on the official first day of the conference were just as great! Here is a summary of some of the events.

8:00 Publisher Showcase by Sekwang Music Publishing Company – Smart 8: An Integrated Art Program that Develops Multiple Intelligence and Musicianship

First thing in the morning, I attended a publisher showcase by Korean publisher Sekwang Music Publishing Company. Lea Kang led us through a wonderful demonstration of the arts and movement activities of her new books called “Smart 8.” The book is completely unique from anything I’ve seen before. To be clear, it is not a piano method; rather, it is an integrated arts book that I think would be very fun and wonderful to use for offering group pre-piano or arts appreciation courses to young children. The beautiful book is filled with artwork to admire, think critically about, and experience through movement and music activities. The author enthusiastically led us through a series of the movement activities, some of them involving props such as scarves, ribbon wands, and hand-held music instruments.

[Note: So far, I haven’t been able to find where this book is available for order online. I’ll update this post with a link if I am successful in finding out that information.] The Smart 8 books can be ordered at In addition, you can watch a video of the entire NCKP session on YouTube hereRead More »

Posted in 2015 NCKP, conferences | Tagged | 6 Responses

NCKP 2015 (1): Wednesday PreConference Seminars

Today, I traveled with my good friend Susan West to Lombard, Illinois to attend the 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. When we arrived, we met up with our other roommate, Amy Chaplin.

We attended the Independent Music Teachers track of the Pre Conference Seminars.

1:30: Marvin Blickenstaff – Keynote Address: The Many Faces of Music

In his wonderful and inspiring keynote for the day, Marvin discussed the many faces of music. Read More »

Posted in 2015 NCKP | Tagged | 9 Responses