Conferences, Early Childhood Music, Group Classes, Music Camps, Resources

MiniMusic Kit for Early Childhood Music Classes

In my last post, I mentioned the MiniMusic kit by Paula Manwaring (Kjos Publishing) that I purchased while I was at the NCKP conference.  The photos and description of this curriculum on the Kjos Publishing website do not do it justice!  So I decided to show you some photos I took myself.  I think many of the materials included in the kit are great resources for group lessons and games with students of ANY age.

Here’s a list of what is included:  Continue reading “MiniMusic Kit for Early Childhood Music Classes”


NCKP 2011 | (11) Publisher Showcases

Each morning and afternoon at the NCKP, there are publisher showcases to choose from where you can learn about method books or supplementary materials.  Often, you will receive free books at these showcases, as you’ve already seen in my first NCKP post showing off my “loot!”

Below is more about four of the showcases I attended:

1. FJH Music Publishing Company: Succeeding at the Piano — a Method for Everyone!, by Helen Marlais.

Dr. Marlais is a professor at Grand Valley State University, a college near my hometown.  In fact, I auditioned to be a music major at GVSU after I completed my first two years at Grand Rapids Community College (but decided to go to Hope College instead)!  🙂  The two colleagues who accompanied me to the NCKP have had Dr. Marlais as their teachers at GVSU.  Small world.

Dr. Marlais has such a vibrant personality.  In this session, she led us through levels 2A and 2B of her new method called “Succeeding at the Piano.”  I just love the illustrations used in this method.  I also really like the “composer friends” characters who learn with the student throughout the books.  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (11) Publisher Showcases”


NCKP 2011 | (10) The Unknown Horowitz, by Sherrill Martin

More conference notes!  This was a fascinating session about Horowitz.  During this session, we also had the privilege of hearing the World Premiere of a Ballade that Horowitz wrote, performed by Louis Nagel!

The Unknown Horowitz: New Insights into the Man & his Music, by Sherrill Martin.  Th @ 3:30pm.

Horowitz studied piano with his mother and then later at the Kiev Conservatory.  In 1914, he played for Scriabin (just a year before Scriabin died), and Scriabin’s advice to Horowitz’ father was to be sure he gets exposed to lots of music, and knows literature and art.  Horowitz was very introverted and terrified of performing at this point.  He wanted to be a composer and had no idea that he was a better-than-average pianist.  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (10) The Unknown Horowitz, by Sherrill Martin”

Conferences, Performances, Technology

NCKP 2011 | (9) Your Student Recitals, Live on the Internet!

Your Student Recitals, Live on the Internet!  by Mario Ajero, Shana Kirk, George Litterst, and Stella Sick.  Th @ 2:15pm.

During this session, the presenters told us all about the benefits, feasibility, and equipment needed to broadcast your student recitals live on the internet.

Streaming your student recitals online can allow you to reach distant friends and relatives, publicize your studio, and help find an audience for your niche.

Streaming means you are broadcasting a live video feed online for people to view.  Streaming = one way (but you can reach unlimited amounts of people), while video conferencing = two way conversation (can reach a limited amount of people).  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (9) Your Student Recitals, Live on the Internet!”


NCKP 2011 | (8) Why Didn’t I Think of That? by Dennis Alexander

Why Didn’t I Think of That? by Dennis Alexander.  Th @ 11:15am.

This session covered a variety of commonly asked questions from teachers that Mr. Alexander has received over the years.  There is a lot of good information here for teachers!

Q: Is it dangerous to play new pieces for beginners?  Won’t they learn the piece by ear instead of learning how to read?

A:  No.  It’s good to learn to play by ear!  We just need to expect reading to occur too.  Modeling (whether from a CD or from the teacher) helps students not come back each week with mistakes learned.  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (8) Why Didn’t I Think of That? by Dennis Alexander”


NCKP 2011 | (7) Liszt & the Keyboard, by Alan Walker

Liszt and the Keyboard: The Wizard Casts his Spells, by Alan Walker. Th @ 9:30am.

On Thursday morning, we heard a wonderful session by Alan Walker, an author of many books and is a specialist on Romantic Era composers and music.  Mr. Walker is a highly intelligent man and a gifted speaker — it was wonderful to hear him speak about Liszt.  He spoke almost as if he knew Liszt personally!

Here is a brief list of fast facts I jotted down during the speech:

Liszt was very interested in hearing/communicating human expression — and not just music.

Liszt’s philosophy on practicing was to practice less and get a life!  Without a social life, you cannot know what kind of human emotions to communicate through your music.  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (7) Liszt & the Keyboard, by Alan Walker”


NCKP 2011 | (6) The Entrepreneurial Musician: YOU, Inc., by Angela Beeching

The pre-conference seminar track “Students & Young Professionals” finished with this session:

The Entrepreneurial Musician: YOU, Inc., by Angela Beeching. W @ 8:00pm.

Angela Beeching is the author of a book called Beyond Talent. She provides counseling to musicians to help them succeed in their careers.  She gave us a wonderful session about being an entrepreneurial musician.

Angela proferred that we as musicians often tend to keep the art and business aspects of what we do separate.  She suggested, however, that it really should all be together.

Then she asked, what’s the purpose of any business?  It is not just to make money.  It is to make a profit. Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (6) The Entrepreneurial Musician: YOU, Inc., by Angela Beeching”


NCKP 2011 | (5) Got Money? by Kathleen Theisen and Kristin K. Yost

Next up during the pre-conference seminar called “Students and Young Professionals,” we heard a dynamic session about writing a business plan for your studio business!

Got Money? How to Write a Business Plan that Gets You Thousands! by Kathleen Theisen & Kristin K. Yost.  W @ 5:15pm.

You may recognize Kathleen and Kristin’s names from the online Piano Teacher School they have recently started!  The handout for this session is currently available on their website (click here and click where it mentions the handout).

Kathleen and Kristin stressed the importance of “helppoa rahaa” – which means, running your studio like a business — because it is a business!  You are the CEO of your business and need to act like one.

To think like a business, start by writing down what is important to you.  People who are successful have passion, focus, and goals — these are all traits which musicians usually have, so we are fortunate!

Then think about finding a niche.  What are you known for?  What do you want to be remembered for?

To determine your salary, you need to think long-term by the year.  Know what to charge, and never charge by the month or lesson.

Then Kathleen and Kristin talked at length about writing a business plan — see the handout mentioned earlier.  Even if you never have to use the business plan to get a loan from the bank, it’s important and beneficial to have written down your plan and have thought things through in such terms and in such detail.

Running a successful business is very much about having an entrepreneurial spririt: be fabulous in what you do, give, and be a great colleague.


NCKP 2011 | (4) Community Music Schools, by Melissa Falb

In continuation of my notes from the pre-conference track “Students & Young Professionals:”

Community Music Schools: Finding Your Niche in a Vibrant Arts Community, by Melissa Falb. W @ 4:30pm.

Melissa Falb is a piano instructor and Director of Group Instruction at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis.  After graduation, students with an interest in private teaching have two options: opening a private studio, or working at a community music school (CMS).  Melissa today discussed the many benefits of working at a CMS.

Sometimes people think CMS’s are just for elite, child prodigies or only for classical music study.  The reality is that most CMS’s teach many genres and offer a variety of programs for many ages and levels (including rock, jazz, early childhood music classes, music therapy classes, etc.).

There are two common models for CMS’s:

  1. A prep department – a CMS affiliated with a college or university.
  2. A non-profit (501c3).

Melissa then talked about her experience with the MacPhail Center for Music.  McPhail was begun in 1907 and currently has 170 teaching artists and over 8400 students.  They have a large, beautiful building.   Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (4) Community Music Schools, by Melissa Falb”


NCKP 2011 | (3) Viable Video, by Pete Jutras

Here’s some notes from another session during the pre-conference seminar track “Student & Young Professionals:”

Viable Video: Basic Principles of an Effective Portfolio, by Pete Jutras.  W @ 4:00pm

Dr. Jutras divided his session into two sections: Content & Technique.


Some tips:

  • The quality of the teaching shown in the video trumps all.  Video editing does NOT mask: a lack of planning, poor communication, failure to diagnose problems, or poor sequencing of pieces.
  • When applying for a job, the kind of teaching videos taken for college pedagogy classes are generally not sufficient.  Those are equivalent to a “rough draft” or a “practice session,” while the video submitted to a job should be a well-polished video — the equivalent to a “recital performance.”  Practice teaching in front of the camera for many weeks before you start collecting for the real thing.  Then showcase your best moments.
  • When possible, tailor your video portfolio specifically to the job description and to your personal strengths as a teacher.  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (3) Viable Video, by Pete Jutras”
Conferences, Professional Development

NCKP 2011 | (2) Developing from Student to Professional (Panel Discussion)

After attending the mass Keynote Address, I headed to the sessions for the pre-conference track called, “Students and Young Professionals.”  It began with a panel discussion moderated by Martha Hilley.

Developing from Student to Professional: A Practical Overview, moderated by Martha Hilley.

The were 4 contributors, who each spoke on a topic.

1. Practical Networking: I know why, when, and where — now tell me how, by Courtney Crappell.

Dr. Crappell discussed practical networking.  The key to successful networking is to be genuinely interested in other people!  We sometimes tend to be self-centered, especially in places with new people like conferences.

Another key to successful networking is in the preparation.  This requires some thought in advance: how do you want to market yourself?  Create an elevator pitch that talkes about your goal as a piano teacher.  It should be something short but intriguing that could start a conversation.  An elevator speech contains a problem, solution, and a personal role.

Presentation is also important, but perhaps even more so is the follow-through.  Make sure you have business cards with you at all times so you can easily exchange information with others.  As you meet new people, you can even write things on their business cards afterwards to help you remember who’s who.  And send people an email after you meet them.  You never know what kind of opportunities may arise in the future just from having some connections with other people.  Networking is important!  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (2) Developing from Student to Professional (Panel Discussion)”

Conferences, Professional Development

NCKP 2011 | (1) Keynote: The Future of Pedagogy, by Pete Jutras

The 2011 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy opened with a keynote speech during the Pre-Conference Seminar.  It was such an inspiring speech!

The Future of Pedagogy: Training the Teachers of Tomorrow, by Pete Jutras (W @ 2:30pm)

Pete Jutras began his speech with an diagram showing a pyramid that represented music makers.  The most educated and successful teachers/musicians are those at the top of the pyramid.  The amateur music makings are all those that create the wide base of the pyramid.


  • Concert attendance is down.
  • Recording sales are down.
  • Acoustic piano sales are down.

We need to worry about these issues, because even those of us at the top of the pyramid will be affected.  The very value of music is at stake here.  And so, Dr. Jutras gave us a call to action: we need to think about how we can increase the value of music!  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (1) Keynote: The Future of Pedagogy, by Pete Jutras”