The backstory: My grand piano has ivory keys I don’t want to use sanitizers on, so I’ve been using my digital pianos since transitioning my Michigan students to in-person lessons. (Fortunately, I can still use my grand for online lessons!) My current digital pianos are old and in need of update, so I started researching and looking at models at a couple of local stores.
I hope you all are well. Here in Michigan, we are in the midst of BEAUTIFUL summer weather and it feels as if the worst of the pandemic is behind us (which I would certainly like to believe is true!). The current full vaccination rate in the state of Michigan is 46%, which is also the current rate in the U.S. as a whole (as of June 2021). In my local county, the full vaccination rate is even higher at 60% and the rate of reported Covid-19 cases per day is down to low single digits.
With these facts in mind, I have started transitioning a few of my students from online lessons to in-person lessons at my home studio. (You might recall — 75% of my students are in Ohio from before I moved and they will remain online.) I am taking a number of precautions, because I would much prefer to err on the side of caution and keep everyone healthy if I can help it!
In case you happen to be in the same position and might find this useful, below is the wording I used to communicate my precautions and expectations to parents via email.
Office supplies are always a teacher’s joy! I thought it would be fun to put together a post compiling my go-to pens, pencils, and other office items. Below, you’ll find a handy list with photos and links of the supplies I like to have near my fingertips while teaching piano lessons. (I’m currently still teaching my lessons online for now due to Covid-19 pandemic, but I keep these items on hand regardless and I bet you might like them, too!)
Please enjoy, and share your own favorite office supplies in the comments at the end of this post!
After moving from Northwest Ohio to Southeast Michigan in December of 2020, I had promised to give you a tour of my new studio space. Somehow, a year has already passed…but I’m finally delivering on that promise! Below is a photo tour as well as a video tour (scroll down to the end). I think it’s always fun to see other teachers’ piano studios, so I hope you’ll enjoy!
What happens when you are teaching lessons online and your student needs a new music book? My tuition fee includes the cost of books/materials, so I am accustomed to handling the acquisition of books for students as needed. Since we’ve been online, it’s not quite as simple as handing the book to the student!
So, here’s what my approach has been. (1) If the student lives nearby, I can do a porch drop-off. (2) I can mail the books to them. Or, (3) I can order the books online and have them shipped directly to the student’s address.
When mailing a package or doing a porch drop-off, it’s fun to include some kind of surprise for the student along with books! I’ve been raiding my studio prize box to find some fun, mailable items.
How are your lessons going? I imagine many of you are continuing to teach online, while some of you have returned to in-person lessons — depending upon where you live, among other factors.
Currently, my lessons are still online, using FaceTime/Zoom. I have 15 students who are based in Northwest Ohio (where I lived before moving last December). I am teaching them online until I feel it is safe to resume teaching at the small studio space I was renting.
I also have two Michigan-based students, so far. When the quarantine arrived, my husband and I changed our original plans in terms of marketing my piano studio after our move and childcare for our baby daughter, Aria. When things become more “normal” (whatever that means!), I will at some point begin more actively seeking new students. For now, I’m okay with the change in plans and am content with my current home life and teaching life!
Earlier this summer, I saw a few Instagram posts from piano teachers who thought to offer “porch recitals” or “patio lessons.” Inspired by this out-of-the-box thinking, I decided I’d like teach lessons for my two Michigan students outside on my back patio for a time or two, just for fun. So, I started closely watching the weather forecasts.
It’s been a hot summer, but last week I finally saw an opportunity. The weekend weather was supposed comfortably in the 70s. So, I emailed my two Michigan students. They loved the idea!
And so, last Saturday, we had in-person outdoor lessons on my back patio. And it was wonderful! It was nice to be face-to-face and enjoy the beautiful weather as well. I hope to do this again a time or two before the winter weather hits.
Do you have a portable instrument and an outdoor space for something like this? In this blog post, I’ll share some ideas and a to-do list in case you’d like to try something similar yourself!
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?
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.
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:
At the time of this publishing, the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in the U.S., the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is recommending no gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks, so most events are being canceled. Many of us (depending on which state you live) are experiencing canceled school classes, university classes, and work. The local grocery stores keep running out of basic staples, because everyone is stocking up. The pandemic’s effect is deep and wide, and our response is important. The recommendations call for us to regularly wash our hands and practice “social distancing” to avoid possible spread or exposure to the virus. The goal is to slow the spread of the outbreak (i.e., “flatten the curve“) to avoid overwhelming the medical facilities in this country for the sake of those of us who will require medical care when the virus is contracted. This is a time for us to pull together and be community-minded.
What does this mean for our piano teaching? For me, as it so happens, I’ve been on maternity leave from teaching for the past six weeks. My student base is currently comprised of a handful (due to having recently relocated here) of students in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a day’s worth of students back in Northwest Ohio — an hour’s drive commute to the studio where I rent a room. I had planned to resume lessons soon, but due to the pandemic situation I’ve put all in-person lessons on hold.
Instead, I’ve reached out to my students and suggested that we continue lessons via FaceTime/Skype/Zoom. School may be canceled, but there’s no reason piano can’t continue! Perhaps for us and our students, continuing piano practice and lessons with us all feel a small bit of stability and normalcy during these intense times. And certainly, for many piano teachers there is a natural concern about finding a way to maintain a level of income during these difficult times.
And so, many of us are moving our piano lessons online. In this blog post, I’d like to share some tips and advice for doing so — things I’ve learned from experience teaching online lessons occasionally over the past few years.
Do you have a chalkboard or whiteboard in your piano studio space?
I found this chalkboard at a thrift store a couple of years ago for something like $12. I’ve been experimenting with different things to put on it for my students, and thought I’d share a few ideas today!
1. Studio Name
I always put the studio name somewhere near the top. I’m no professional artist, but I like to experiment with different styles of lettering.
2. Upcoming Dates
Remind your students of upcoming dates and deadlines. This can help parents and students stay in touch with what’s going on!
I enjoy using a butterfly band prop — credit to Irina Gorin — to help my beginner students develop a physical approach to the instrument that is comfortable and effective for ideal sound production. In Irina’s words, the butterfly exercise helps students experience “relaxation of the hand/wrist, a floating arm, and a gentle touch”.
Today, I thought I’d share how I make these bands for my students — including an improvement I came up with during the most recent round of butterfly-band-making. 🙂
Quick backstory: Lucia attended Irina Gorin’s workshop back in May and is familiarizing herself with Irina’s method, Tales of a Musical Journey. I took Irina’s workshop back in 2015, and have been an enthusiast ever since. Lucia and I connected via Irina’s Facebook group, and decided to get together in person while I was vacationing in Puerto Rico. Using Lucia’s daughter as a guinea pig, we explored certain aspects of Irina’s techniques together. Today, I’m sharing a few of the video clips Lucia took during our time together!
A few things I want you to know before we dive into the videos:
Irina’s method is designed around developing a beautiful sound and a healthy technique from the beginning. That is the focus of these activities, as you will see.
Ana isn’t a total beginner — she has been taking lessons with her mom for over a year. They’ve been using other books in addition to recent explorations into Irina’s book. Ana is seven years old.
Although I did take Irina’s workshop and have been using her materials for a few years now, my teaching isn’t as amazing as Irina’s. 🙂 I encourage you to learn from the master! Check out Irina’s extensive YouTube channel here.