Book Review: The Mind’s Ear, by Bruce Adolphe

Note: This article is an edited “reprint” (with a new addendum) of a recent email I sent out to my special email list for those interested in my summer piano teacher retreats. I thought this book review and discussion might be of interest to all of my readers!

As I’ve been preparing for the 2024 Retreat at Piano Manor and designing our schedule of discussion topics and creative activities, I’ve been immersing myself in finding and ordering resources for us to look at together. Since settling on this year’s theme, Exploring Improvisation and Composition in Piano Lessons, I’ve been keeping my eyes open in particular for books and resources related to creativity.  

A recent rabbit hole has been to discover an interesting book called The Mind’s Ear, by Bruce Adolphe. Adolphe is the pianist behind the Piano Puzzler show from American Public Media. (Have you heard of it?)

Piano Puzzler is a radio show involving callers who guess which tune and composer Adolphe is mimicking in each piano puzzler. As an example, a piano puzzler might involve a folk tune such as London Bridge is Falling Down merged with Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor.

It’s fun to listen to, and Adolphe’s creative genius is amazing! 

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Professional Development

2024 Piano Level 2 Certification through the Gordon Institute for Music Learning

Two days ago was the wrap-up of a Piano Level 2 Professional Development Levels Course (PDLC) through the Gordon Institute for Music Learning held at Eastern Michigan University, just 20 minutes from my home. It was such a great experience, and my heart is full.

We started each morning with Musicianship Time with Natasha Sigmund, GIML faculty member in Early Childhood Music.

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Announcements, Professional Development

Announcing: My 2024 Piano Teacher Retreat

Hello friends,

Recently, I have received a handful of email inquiries asking for updates about my 2024 Piano Teacher Retreat. So I thought I should at least send out a quick blog post here now that the details are finally coming together! 

(By the way, in case you want to learn more about my past retreats, here’s a recap post about the 2023 Piano Teacher Retreat you can check out!)

I’m pleased to announce the dates for my 2024 retreat: 

Both retreat offerings will be held here in the Southeast Michigan area – just outside the wonderful town of Ann Arbor and about a 30- to 45-minute-drive from the Detroit Airport. 

Every year, I choose a theme for my retreat — something I’m interested and passionate about and think would make a great topic for us to explore in large and small group discussions and activities. Here is this year’s theme:

2024 Piano Teacher Retreat Theme:


Together, let’s strive to expand the role of creativity in the piano lessons we teach. During this retreat, we’ll explore ways to guide young pianists to compose their own pieces, make their own improvisational changes to existing pieces, and create new music using what they know — including rhythm patterns, tonal patterns, and/or harmonic progressions. During group discussion and activities with fellow piano teachers, you can expect to engage in important conversations about creativity and MLT (Music Learning Theory), discover composition/improvisation resources your students will enjoy, and experience the joy of creativity in a variety of forms for yourself!

If you are looking for a professional development opportunity for this summer, I hope you’ll consider my retreat. This unique, small-group getaway experience is designed in every way to rejuvenate you and your teaching.

I will be sending out the event details to my separate “retreat” email list (so that I don’t spam everyone here). If you’d like to learn more, please join with your email address HERE. I’m very excited to share the full details with you very soon!

Would love to spend time with YOU this summer! 


Color In My Piano Blog Turns 15!

Hard to believe, but just turned 15 years old! Hooray! Let’s celebrate with our annual 20% off sale — details below.

I started this blog back when I was a graduate student anticipating my upcoming graduation. My goals were to give back to the piano teacher blog community I benefitted so much from and to become a better teacher, writer, and thinker through blogging.

Here we are, 15 years later, and I find myself staying true to those same goals. I love being part of the piano teaching community online, and I find writing and sharing to be a worthwhile pursuit — even when the demands of life make it hard to find the time. 🙂 I appreciate you, dear readers, for sticking with me. Thank you for being part of this journey with me.

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Studio Business

Your Qs Answered, and How I Use Notion to Manage My Piano Studio

As my friend Amy Chaplin and I prepare for our upcoming online workshop about how to use Notion (a productivity/note-taking app we are both fans of), we’ve been receiving great questions from piano teachers about Notion. Today, I thought I would answer some of those questions and also share more specifics about how I use Notion to manage my piano studio.

An aside: I hope I’m not bombarding you with too much info about Notion! I think you’ll find this blog post interesting, but if not, rest assured I have content on other topics coming down the pipeline soon. 🙂

Q: Is Notion specifically for music teachers/professionals?
A: No, Notion is not music-specific. It’s a general productivity/note-taking app that is taking the world by storm right now. Tons of people are getting into it and are finding great ways to use it.

Notion is part of the “no-code movement” — an effort to make it possible to build your own interactive pages, systems, or software without having to know computer programming. The basics of Notion are easy to learn. And over time, you can continue to learn and “grow into” it. It’s kind of like building with Legos: once you know what building blocks you have, you can build whatever you desire.

During our workshop, Amy and I are excited to share our enthusiasm for Notion and help other piano teachers find ways it can support our unique work as independent teachers and business owners.

Q: Can Notion take the place of studio management software?
A: Yes and no. Notion can do a lot of things, but it cannot do things like invoicing or collecting tuition payments, for example. You would need other platforms for those functions.

Personally, I have never used an all-in-one program such as My Music Staff or Duet Partner (although I do think they are good services). Instead, I use a variety of services for managing my studio business. For example, my students pay a flat rate tuition payment automatically each month using Coinhop. This eliminates the task of manual invoicing. For keeping track of my teaching schedule, I use Google Calendar. To keep track of student information and much more, I use Notion (more on this shortly).

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Register Now: Organize Your Life With Notion

Hello friends!

I’m so pleased to announce that registration is now open for the online workshop Amy Chaplin and I are hosting next month.

Amy and I have been working behind-the-scenes every week to plan a very special event for you and pass along our systems and methodologies for using Notion to make our lives easier as a piano teachers and music professionals. If you like the idea of getting the various areas of YOUR personal and professional life together into a centralized dashboard and digital workspace, please consider joining us!

To learn more about our online workshop and register, view our page with the details HERE.

(Pssst… Just so you know, a special early-bird discount is going on now. So, don’t delay! We hope to see you online March 8-9!)


Check out Amy’s Podcast for a Deep-Dive on Evernote vs. Notion

Just a brief note from me today — I wanted to point you a Piano Pantry podcast episode that just dropped from my pal, Amy Chaplin. In this episode, Amy goes on a deep-dive comparing the two productivity apps, Evernote and Notion.

If you know Amy at all, you know that organization is a strength and passion of hers. She’s been a longtime user of Evernote as a tool to capture notes, ideas, and documents. As she describes in her podcast episode, when Notion came on her radar, however, she moved the majority of her Evernote content over to the Notion. In this episode, she also points out the main differences between Evernote and Notion and WHY she decided to make the switch. She also lists examples of how she uses Notion in her daily life.

Take a listen to Amy’s Evernote vs Notion episode (or read the transcript) HERE. And feel free to check out more episodes from her Piano Pantry podcast HERE.

Have a great weekend, friends!

PS: In case you missed it — I published my in-depth Introduction to Notion blog post last week. And Amy and I are working hard right now to prepare a special event: a two-day, online workshop where we help you build your own centralized digital workspace in Notion as a piano teacher. It’ll be held Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, 2024, from 10:30am to 1:30pm Eastern each day. We are planning an AWESOME event with lots of bonus materials and Notion templates that you won’t want to miss. Please mark your calendar, and stay tuned for registration info soon!

Studio Business

An Introduction to Notion — A Customizable Digital Workspace to Organize Everything in Your Life

Do you find yourself using paper LESS and using apps MORE when managing your to-dos and projects?

I know I do! Although there are a few areas of life where I prefer paper, most of the time I prefer keeping things digital.

In fact, I’ll admit I’m a little bit of a nerd when it comes to following what new apps or platforms are available in the productivity and note-taking space. I find it fun to see what each one has to offer, and if it looks interesting enough I might even take it for a test drive.

In 2021, I revisited a platform called Notion and was blown away with its capabilities. I downloaded a few of their free page templates and started customizing them to my own needs, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Notion has become my go-to hub for keeping track of almost anything in my life, both personal and professional. For me, it has replaced other tools such as Apple Notes, Evernote, Trello, Airtable databases, and even Google Docs/Sheets/Forms in many cases. Notion is simple to use, yet can be incredibly powerful, flexible, and customizable.

In this blog post, I’ll tell you why you might want to give Notion a try, what it can do for you, and how you can get started with it. Perhaps Notion will become an all-in-one place for you to keep your life organized, as it has for me!

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Workshop Announcement: Organize Your Life With Notion, with Amy & Joy

Hello friends,

Just wanted to let you know about an online workshop by pal Amy Chaplin of and I are offering in a couple of months. We’ve both really gotten into using a program/app called Notion as a digital workspace to organize our lives and get things done. And we’re really excited to share all about it and help YOU get started with Notion, too!

We’ll have more details for you soon, but for now we wanted you to save these dates in your calendar. The online workshop will take place over two days, Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, 2024, from 10:30am to 1:30pm Eastern each day. There will also be a bonus follow-up Q&A session a week later, on Friday, March 22. We are planning an awesome event, and you won’t want to miss this!

Stay tuned for more details, as well as my upcoming blog post sharing why I love Notion and how I use it in both personal and professional aspects of my life.

Happy Wednesday to you!


Announcing “Incidental Music for Piano: 12 Extendable Pieces for the Young Silent-Film Pianist,” by Joy Morin

In a couple of my recent posts about silent film recitals for piano students, I mentioned my latest publication — a set of easy pieces for young silent-film pianists. But I didn’t give it the full announcement it deserved. So, here it is! Today, I’m pleased to tell you more about this collection of pieces I composed during the second half of 2023.

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NEW: Printables for Your Silent Film Recital

As promised in my recent blog post about organizing a Silent Film Recital for your piano students, today I’m sharing a few printables/templates I created for my Silent Film Recital.

Here’s what I’ll share:

  1. A silent film recital program AND a multiple choice quiz featuring facts about Buster Keaton and silent films
  2. The “welcome” image I showed on the TV/projector screen before the recital started
  3. The recital invitation I created for students to invite their friends and family to the event.

Before I get into it, I should let you know that these templates were all created using — my favorite resource for creating graphics or documents (e.g., worksheets, images for blog/social media, and much more). To access the templates linked below and edit them for your own use, you will need to create a free account with Canva.

If you haven’t used Canva before, you might be thanking me later for introducing you to it. It’s a fantastic resource for creating attractive documents and images for whatever purpose you might have in mind. Many of the graphic elements at your fingertips in Canva are free to use, but you can also purchase premium elements very affordably (think, ~$1 each) if you want to. (BTW, if you use my referral link to set up your free Canva account, you’ll earn a Canva Credit to get one premium item for free!)

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

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How to Organize a Silent Film Recital for Piano Students

As mentioned previously, my students and I successfully presented a Silent Film Recital a couple of months ago. (Highlights and photos here!)

As promised, I’d like to share the details of how we did it and give you a guide on how to plan your own Silent Film Recital. The process was so much fun from beginning to end, and I definitely recommend it to other piano teachers looking to spice things up with a unique recital format that is memorable and fun.

In this article, I’ll first share how I became interested in organizing a silent film recital. Then, we’ll discuss the following steps for organizing a silent film recital for your piano students: (1) Selecting a Film, (2) Sourcing the Music, (3) Matching Music to the Film, (4) Preparing Students, and (5) Hosting a Silent Film Recital.

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