Music Theory, Reviews

Review: Celebrate Theory Series from The Royal Conservatory

celebrate-theoryI’m so excited to tell you today about a fantastic series of theory workbooks called Celebrate Theory (Canada | U.S.), just released from Frederick Harris Music publishers. If you happen to already enjoy – as I do – using the wonderful Celebration Series (Canada | U.S. | with your piano students, you will be especially interested in learning about Celebrate Theory.

Before talking about the specifics of the Celebrate Theory books, allow me to first briefly cover some background information about The Royal Conservatory and the revisions to the RCM Theory Syllabus, 2016 Edition.

The Royal Conservatory (RCM) is a music education institution in Toronto that has been in existence since 1886 and is responsible for a curriculum for music study that is considered by many to be the foremost music education system in Canada, the United States, and many other countries around the world. Exam centers for RCM (also known as the Music Development Program [MDP] in the U.S.) are available in many major cities a few times each year. RCM offers quality publications for music study through their non-profit publisher, Frederick Harris Music.

I have entered a few students in the RCM/MDP practical exams over the past few years and I consider the program to be absolutely top notch. (Check out my printable charts for helping students prepare for the technical requirements portion of the assessment.)

Whether or not your students participate in RCM/MDP exams, you will find the Celebrate Theory books worth your attention. Continue reading “Review: Celebrate Theory Series from The Royal Conservatory”

Studio Business

The Possibility of Making a Healthy Income Doing What You Love as a Piano Teacher


“I don’t do this for the money. I just love teaching kids/music.”

How often have you said or thought this? And how often have you heard this sentiment from fellow teachers?

Problem: There is a huge, rather unhealthy assumption implied in this narrative. The false assumption is that teaching kids/music is at odds with the desire or need to generate income.

Is doing what we love as a teacher actually at odds with making a good living? Let’s explore this further.

Is there something wrong or unethical about earning money doing something that you are passionate about? Is there something wrong with earning money being a teacher, arguably one of the most important professions in the world as it so directly impacts the next generation? Especially as piano teachers, artists, seeking the particularly challenging aim of nurturing the minds and spirits of learners? Is there something wrong with earning money from our art, our musical ability? Is there something about generating an income that nullifies, dilutes, or contaminates our art or our dedication to teaching?

While it may be true that our passion for teaching impels us more than does our practical need to make a living, it does not diminish – nor is it necessarily at odds with – the legitimate priority of generating an income. It is a prevalent but mistaken notion that we must choose one or the other, or prioritize one over the other: making a living versus doing what we love.

Not only artists tend to fall into this trap. Most people view their career goals through a false dichotomy consisting of two general categories: Job A, which pays well but isn’t a job I would much enjoy – or Job B, which doesn’t pay well but would allow me to do what I love.

When I was growing up, my pastor used to say: “If you ask the wrong question, you are sure to get the wrong answer.”

Because here’s the thing: Why should we necessarily have to settle between either doing what we love or making a healthy income? Those aren’t the only two options. Why can’t we aim for a third option – Job C, having both?

I was reading a post ( – and realized this false narrative is prevalent in society. Despite the importance of teachers, society tends to believe teachers deserve a low income (at least, here in America it is often the case). And every artist must come to terms with generating an income with his/her art. Including us piano teachers.

We need to recognize and address the false narrative and replace it with a better one. We must advocate for the possibility of both; we must argue for the rationale of and embrace the propriety of doing what we love while making a good income.

Making a living and doing what we love isn’t an “either or”. Let’s stop believing that, and know that we can have both.

Let’s move forward together with a shared commitment to the pursuit of generating a healthy income doing what we love.

Call To Action

Have you found yourself assuming that doing what you love and making a regular and reliable income seem at odds? Please post in the comments below.

If you liked this article, check out my online course offered through Piano Teacher Institute with Joy Morin. My course teaches you how to make a regular and reliable income doing what you love: teaching piano. The next 6-week session is starting up soon. Join the email list at this link to receive the details.

[As a brief, somewhat related aside: Many in society tend towards an unexamined, counter-productive notion that non-profits are inherently unethical if/when they are successful, and strategic; that is, for example, compensating their employees sufficiently to attract competent executives, etc. Watch this eye-opening TED talk for more on how we tend to punish and handicap charities.]

Studio Business

What I Learned From My Recent Survey

Recently, I sent out a questionnaire in hope of learning a bit more about my readership and the general outlook within the piano teaching profession. As promised, I want to share with you a little bit about what I’ve learned from all of your wonderful responses.

It was very revealing to hear common issues described by teachers. The most frequently cited problems for piano teachers fell into one of three general topic areas:

1. Feeling as if students do not prioritize piano study enough or do not practice effectively.

2. The challenges of running a business; including finding clients, advertising, marketing, policies, taxes, etc.

3. Dissatisfaction with the rate – or with particular aspects – of student progress.

Do these responses surprise you? Do you feel less alone, knowing that so many of us deal with the same issues?

Thanks so much for sharing your input. I hope here at we can continue to address together and share about these issues that matter.

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.


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.”


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”


2016 Survey So Far

Last week, I sent out a link to a questionnaire in hope of learning a bit more about my readership and the general outlook within the piano teaching profession.

So far, I’ve received 109 responses. How exciting!

In reading the responses so far, I’m finding that some of my beliefs about our profession are confirmed — but there have been a few things that surprised me. Later this week, I plan to share a bit more about what I’ve learned from the survey responses. Stay tuned.

PS — If you haven’t already completed the questionnaire, it’s not too late to submit your input in the meantime. I appreciate your response. Fill it in now: click here.


Will you help with my survey?

Hello, friends!

I am, as always, looking for more ways to continue updating and improving my online course offered through Piano Teacher Institute with Joy Morin. As I prepare for the next Winter session, I would love to have your thoughts. If you wouldn’t mind taking the time to fill out my questionnaire, your input will help shape the direction of the course — as well as the Color In My Piano blog — in 2017.

The survey has 10 questions. Please participate now. I plan to start incorporating your input at the end of this week.

Please click here to fill out the questionnaire: SURVEY.

Many thanks,