Giveaways

GIVEAWAY: Music Note Face Masks

Hi there!

How are you all? I’ve been quiet here on the blog, but keeping myself busy as usual! Baby Aria keeps me busy, and I also have a couple of projects coming down the pipeline that you’ll hear about sooner or later. 🙂

I’m still teaching my piano lessons online during these Covid times and practicing physical distancing as appropriate. Here in Michigan, our quarantine measures have loosened somewhat compared to be before, but there are guidelines still in place to keep us safe. I know the specific guidelines vary greatly state-by-state and country-by-country according to the current risk in each area. I hope we can agree it’s important to be smart and cautious during these times.

I’d really love to hear from you all about how you are faring and what life during Covid-19 is like currently in your neck of the woods. You’ll have a chance to do so — more on that in just a moment!

But first, let me back up and introduce you to my sister, Heather. We are teaming up to offer you a giveaway.

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Worksheets

Just Added: Two New Digital Game/Worksheet sets

As promised, here are two brand game/worksheet sets. I created them with groups in mind, but these would also work well in one-on-one settings.

I’m releasing these worksheets in two formats: (1) a black-and-white, print-friendly version and (2) a version with the colored background. The colored version is perfect for having students complete it digitally on the iPad in an annotation app such as GoodNotes, OR to screen share in Zoom during online lessons. Check out this post for more about screen sharing and the GoodNotes app.

What Do YOU Hear? – Rhythm Patterns game set

This set contains two pages: rhythm patterns in duple meter and rhythm patterns in triple meter. The teacher chants a rhythm pattern as students listen. Students echo it back and then identify which rhythm pattern they heard from the sheet.

If you have a group of students in a Zoom call, you can ask them to each choose a different “stamp” from the stamp tool (stars, hearts, checkmark, etc.) so they can visually mark which rhythm pattern they heard. Or, it also works to ask them to use hand signs (for example, if they heard rhythm pattern C, they will make a “C” shape with their hands).

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Technology

5 Reasons Why I Still Love the GoodNotes App

This post is an update to a 2013 blog post where I shared a review of the GoodNotes app and how I use it in my teaching. Back then, I tested over a dozen apps to figure out which one I felt worked best for annotating PDF worksheets and taking notes. GoodNotes ($7.99) was the app that turned out to be my favorite.

Fast forward to the present, and guess what: I’m still a GoodNotes fan. I have it loaded on my iPhone, iPad, AND my MacBook. It works with my Apple Pencil, and I use it for all sorts of purposes: taking notes during conferences, hashing out or capturing ideas, composing, as well as storing teaching resources.

In this post, we’ll discuss 5 reasons I am still loving the GoodNotes app. Read on! You won’t want to miss the final reason, especially if you’re doing some online teaching these days (due to Covid-19).

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Studio Business, Technology

4 Tips For Using Gmail for Studio Emails

Do you use Gmail for email? Today, I’m sharing a few tips that might prove useful for your studio emails. We’ll talk about how to maintain email lists, use BCC, add an email signature (or two!), and create a simple-but-awesome template for your studio emails. Let’s streamline our emails and make our studio communication look great!

Some of these tips might still apply even if you don’t use Gmail, but you’ll have to search out the how-to instructions yourself. A quick Google search will hopefully help you out.

Without further ado…here’s my four tips for using Gmail for your studio emails!

1. Maintain a Student Email List in Google Contacts

In your Google Contacts, you can maintain a email list for your current students, which makes it easy to quickly send out announcements or reminders.

How to set this up? Visit contacts.google.com and click on “Create label.” Call it “Piano Students – Active” and then, if you like, make another for “Piano Students – Inactive.” Then, start adding your students’ email addresses to the list.

When students begin or stop lessons, be sure to return to contacts.google.com to update your lists to keep things current.

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Games

This Thursday: Webinar Appearance about Games for Online Teaching

Hi there!

Just wanted to let you know that I will be making an appearance as part of a upcoming panel for the Frances Clark Center’s “Teaching in the Time of Covid-19” webinar series. You might like to consider watching this free webinar!

The topic is Games for Online Teaching, and the panel includes Nicola Cantan, Amy Chaplin, Christina Whitlock, Melissa Willis, and myself. In this webinar, we’ll be covering a variety of ways you can use games and activities in your online lessons. You won’t want to miss it!

The webinar will take place Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 11am EDT. Be sure to mark your calendar. Click here to register for the webinar or to afterwards watch the replay video!


P.S.: Are you involved in the programming for your local music teachers association chapter? Are you looking for speakers? I’d be honored if you’d consider my sessions. I can travel to deliver them in person or present online via Zoom. Check out my presentation topics here.

Studio Business

Studio Communication: Printouts, Newsletters, Emails, Oh my!

Let’s talk studio communication! In this blog post, I’ll share about how my studio communication has evolved over time since I began teaching and some examples of studio communication I’ve sent to my students. At the end of the post, please consider sharing with us about your own studio communication. I hope you’ll pick up some fresh ideas or inspiration!

1. Hardcopy Newsletters

Do you remember the days of hardcopy studio newsletters? 🙂 I bet many of us have gone digital nowadays. But there’s certainly a time and place for hardcopies.

When I first started teaching piano back in the 2000s, my newsletters and notes to parents were all hardcopy printouts. My newsletter was published monthly. I spent a decent amount of time creating them, but I enjoyed it.

Below is an example newsletter I made for my students back in 2011. Click the images to enlarge.

I switched from hardcopy newsletters to email around 2012. But, I do still find it useful to send home hardcopies of certain things. Perhaps you agree!

For example, I like to send home hardcopy flyers about certain local event opportunities for students. Another example is for important communication — such as when I informed students of my planned move from Ohio to Michigan. In these cases, I use both email and hardcopy.

2. Email Marketing Services

When I decided to make the switch to email newsletters, I researched the popular email marketing platforms and ended up choosing MailChimp. I liked their user interface and the attractive email templates. The plans are reasonable; in fact, many piano teachers will be able to get by just fine using the free plan.

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Performances

My Students’ 2020 Virtual Piano Recital: How-To Steps and How it Turned Out

My student recital this year was canceled, as I’m sure is the case for many of you due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. In place of our in-person event, my students and I moved forward with “Plan B” — organizing a “virtual recital”. I went about this process similar to the way my friend Jonathan Roberts did, as discussed in this recent Teacher Feature post.

I pretty pleased with how it turned out, and I’d actually like to use this recital format again sometime in the future! In this long-form blog post, I’ll share specific steps for how I went about organizing and publishing my studio’s virtual recital, and what I learned along the way.

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Announcements

News: Studio License Update, and MTNA’s 2020 Virtual Conference

Studio License Wording Update

Hello readers! I’ve had a few teachers ask me about the terms of the Studio License for items in my shop (my composer lapbooks, for example), now that we’re all teaching online. When I originally wrote the terms of use, I can’t say I had online teaching on my radar yet! 🙂 So, I’ve recently adjusted the wording. In case more of you are wondering about this issue, I’ve pasted the new terms below. These licensing details can be referenced anytime on the Terms of Use page here on my website.

STUDIO LICENSE
Permission is granted for the purchasing teacher to make unlimited printouts and use the digital files for the purpose of teaching their own students. Sharing printouts or the digital files beyond that purpose is not permitted. The purchaser is not permitted to resell the item(s), or alter, modify, or create derivative works.

Basically, I want you to be able to freely use your purchased files with your students, but I also appreciate that you don’t aid others in avoiding purchasing the items for themselves. (For example, don’t email out the files to all your fellow teachers!) 😉


MTNA’s 2020 Virtual Conference

In other news… Did you know that MTNA’s 2020 National Conference went virtual this year, and that they’ve made all the sessions available to ANY music teacher worldwide? Check out the MTNA Virtual Conference here! So far, I’ve watched a handful of the sessions and am planning to gradually make my way through them all.

It certainly was disappointing for MTNA to have to cancel their plans to hold the national conference in Chicago last month, but how generous of them to pivot and move everything online. As usual, I’m proud to be an MTNA member!

Composition

Just Released: Composition & Improvisation Prompts for Piano, Set #2!

I’m pleased today to announce the release of a sequel — Set #2 of Composition & Improvisation Prompts for Piano! Below, I’ll tell you more about it and share a free sample page for you to try out with your students.


It was early on in my teaching career when I began helping my students compose their own pieces. It was fun, and I could see how my students were benefitting from experiencing the compositional process.

Still today, I enjoy being able to help students compose on demand throughout the year. I also love offering composition camps during the summer — it’s my favorite camp theme! (Some years we use this curriculum, and other years not).

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Sometimes, students have a hard time getting started with a composition project. There are two main challenges I’ve observed in students:

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Sheet Music

Just Released: “Grace”, a Late-Intermediate Solo

Today, I’m pleased to share with you a piece of music called Grace that I composed some years ago, as an undergraduate student.

My first two years of college studies were spent as a piano performance major at Grand Rapids Community College, near my hometown in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have such good memories of my time there. It was a time of great growth for me, both personally and as a musician. I was meeting and making friends with people wonderfully different from those in the “bubble” I had grown up in up to that point. I adored my piano professor. And I felt like my musical senses were becoming more alive every day, thanks to the Aural Comprehension and Music Theory classes I was taking. I was experiencing immersion in a vibrant, diverse, and musical environment.

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Teaching Piano

Simple Upgrades for Your Teaching Setup During Covid-19

How are you doing, fellow teachers? How are you finding your physical and emotional well-being during this Covid-19 pandemic? And how is your teaching going? Remote teaching certainly carries its joys and challenges, does it not?

This is intended as a followup to my previous article, Teaching Piano During the Covid-19 Pandemic. Many of us now have a few weeks’ worth of remote lessons under our belts. Hopefully, you are feeling fairly comfortable with your teaching setup (Are you keeping it simple, as I suggested in my article?), and perhaps you might even be feeling ready to make a few incremental improvements to your arrangement! It’s not looking like we will be back to in-person teaching very soon, so why not experiment a little, right? 🙂

And, of course, let’s make sure we are taking care of ourselves. There are small tweaks we can make to ensure our comfort and well-being during long stretches of teaching.

As before in my previous article, I am again not necessarily recommending purchasing expensive new equipment at this time. Instead, I’d like to share some ideas for simple, easy ways to upgrade your setup using mostly items you probably already have around the house.

The suggestions in this article range from the simple to the more involved, and they are addressed in that order. Don’t try them all, and certainly not all at once. Instead, select an idea here and there, and see where that takes you.

Please join me in taking care of ourselves first, so that we can then take care of our families and students well!

1. Sit Comfortably

Are you sitting on a backless piano bench while you teach over the internet? Why not swap it out for a more comfortable chair?

[My cat, Kira, demonstrates how comfortable a computer chair can be at the piano when you’re teaching.]

Using a chair with back support will help prevent soreness. If you use a computer chair, you’ll have the benefit of being able to swivel between the piano keyboard and your nearby resources — saving your neck!

2. Prevent Vocal Fatigue

Are you finding yourself talking louder than usual when teaching via the internet, and suffering from a sore throat by the end of the day? Here’s a few suggestions to help alleviate this issue.

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Teaching Piano

Just Added: BINGO Sheet for Piano Students

As I was perusing Instagram recently, I saw a BINGO sheet a piano teacher had created for her students. I thought it was particularly well done; the activities she came up with were so great! I was inspired to create my own version for my students, so I reached out to her to ask if she minded if I used many of the same activities. She generously responded “yes”! (Thank you, Lynnette!)

So, today I’m sharing with you my own take on a BINGO sheet for piano students. I think this printable is perfect for use with piano students anytime, but especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

The activities on the sheet encourage students to complete activities on their own that are creative, fun, and often involve a family member/friend. Here are a few examples:

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