My 2023 Piano Studio Recitals

Yes, you read that title correctly! Recitals, plural. ūüôā My piano studio is currently comprised of about half-and-half Michigan and Ohio students — the former being longtime students I began teaching online since relocating to Ann Arbor at the end of 2019. So, I held two Spring Recitals this month — one in my backyard, and one at a park in Ohio (an hour’s drive away for me).

Until last year, I had never held a studio recital outdoors. Now that I’ve done it, I want to keep doing more!

Our Program

I called our recital “Keys in the Breeze.” Most of the piece titles on the program were centered around a nature theme. It’s the first time I’ve attempted a themed recital, so I wanted to choose an easy theme. My students and I discovered that most method books or repertoire collections tend to have at least one piece that fits a nature theme, whether it be a piece related to weather, an animal, a flower, the seasons, or the outdoors.

Continue reading “My 2023 Piano Studio Recitals”
Group Classes, improving as a teacher

2017 Masterclass Exchange

On Saturday, my students and I held a masterclass event, as is our annual tradition in preparation for our upcoming studio recital.

This year, I invited Loretta Cetkovic, my friend from grad school who now operates a music school in Lansing, Michigan. She was so wonderful in helping my group of students polish and perfect their pieces!

In exchange, I drove to Lansing the following day and gave a masterclass for a group of Loretta’s students. So fun.

Now here is a blast from the past! This photo is from 2014, which was the first year Loretta and I did a masterclass exchange. Here is the related blog post.

Have you ever considered doing a masterclass exchange?

P.S.: Follow me on Instagram! 


Sending Students to Outside Events

On Saturday, seven of my students played their recital pieces for a local Ribbon Festival held by my local MTNA/OhioMTA chapter. So proud of them!


I’ve been sending students to this festival¬†since I moved to¬†Ohio three years ago. This is¬†a non-competitive event — meaning, there are no winners. Students perform one piece by memory and are given a ribbon, a certificate, and a comment sheet from an adjudicator. The comments are always written in a positive, encouraging way, even if¬†there are many suggestions for improvement.¬†At this particular festival, students are awarded a certain color ribbon according to how many years they have participated in the festival.¬†This¬†certainly¬†motivates students to come back each year!

I find it so valuable for students to participate in community events outside of my studio. It is good for students to have a goal to prepare for and become accustomed to performing in various settings. And it is always beneficial for students to hear other students play and get exposed to more music. When we prepare for outside events, we talk about hearing the performance through the ears of the audience/judges.

I always look forward to reading¬†what the adjudicators write on the comment sheets. Usually, the comments either (1) confirm my thoughts¬†about the piece or the student’s playing, or (2) give me ideas that I hadn’t considered before (which is great!). When the¬†judges’ comments reinforce what¬†I am trying to develop in¬†my student, this¬†is helpful to¬†both of us!

Other benefits: It is good for students to learn to be open to feedback coming from sources other than the teacher. And when students receive positive feedback from an outside source, they are assured that the teacher is providing good instruction.

To sum it up: Sending my students to outside events has helped me become a better teacher.

There are many different types of community events and as I mentioned earlier, they are not necessarily competitive. If you do not currently send your students to outside events, I would encourage you to research what might be happening right in your own town!  I recommend checking if there is a local MTNA chapter in your area.  Other options in the U.S. include: National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC), Piano Guild, and the Royal Conservatory of Music testing. Each of these programs offer unique benefits, so there is bound to be something that is right for you and your students!

Performances, seasonal / holiday

Christmas Events

I finally started my Christmas shopping this past weekend, and this morning I sightread some Christmas duets with a piano teacher friend of mine. ūüôā Now I’m really starting to feel in the Christmas spirit!

This December, I’m planning a studio Christmas Party for my students. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I am excited about it. My goal is to plan some music games, make some desserts with cheese and crackers, and hold an informal recital portion too. Each student will play one or two Christmas pieces for each other. I’m hoping to include some piano duets too, and I will probably play a Christmas arrangement myself at the end. Another idea I had was to have each student research the history of their carol and verbally introduce their piece.

I’m so excited for the Christmas season!

Photo Credit: allison.hare | CC 2.0

Games, Performances, Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature | Diane Heath

The new month brings us a new teacher feature!  Say hello to Diane, everyone!

Please tell us about your piano and/or teaching background.

I teach part-time, with a studio of 20 – 25 students, and am also a church musician in Washington, DC.¬† For over¬†twenty years I’ve taught piano and organ, as well as K – 12¬†class-room music, and worked extensively with children and adults¬†in church choirs.¬†¬†¬†Additionally, there was a stretch as a creative home-schooling mom, but now I’m the parent of a college student.¬†¬† My education was at¬† Hartt School of Music, ¬†Indiana University, and¬†The Levine School where I earned a certificate in Piano Pedagogy.¬† I’ve been privileged to study with wonderful piano teachers, including Jeffrey Chappell and Alexander Farkas. Continue reading “Teacher Feature | Diane Heath”

improving as a teacher, Performances, Professional Development

Tips for a Successful First Studio Recital

A couple of weeks ago, I¬†received¬†an email from a reader asking advice regarding planning a studio recital for the first time. ¬†For the sake of others who might be in the same situation,¬†I decided to create a whole post about this topic — read on.

Q: How do I decide what kind of music to have students play? 

I would suggest buying separate sheet music rather than the usual pieces in their method books. ¬†There’s something special about having a separate sheet music for the recital. ¬†I even like to write on the sheet music something like: “Johnny’s 1st Recital – May 1, 2011.” ¬†It is an extra expense for students which I personally feel is worth it.¬† Continue reading “Tips for a Successful First Studio Recital”

Announcements, Performances

Recital Roses and an Update on Life

Today I wanted to share a photo from my university’s Community Music School recital a few weeks ago! ¬†This is one of my wonderful students who I unfortunately must leave behind now that we are moving. ¬†ūüôĀ ¬†I will miss all my students!

My fellow teachers and I bought roses to give out to all the students who performed that evening.  It was so fun to watch the students faces as they each received their rose and gave it a big sniff.  They felt like real performers!

In other news, my husband and I finally have living arrangements in Ohio! ¬†We will be renting a cute little three-bedroom house. ¬†It will be so exciting to set up my piano studio……but first we have to deal with the great fun of packing and moving. ¬†We will be staying with family for a few weeks until the landlords finish a few last-minute projects inside the house. ¬†By the middle of June, we hope to be totally moved into the new place.

Meanwhile, I have a feeling that my blog posts may become few and far between over the next few weeks. ¬†Bear with me! ¬†I’ll be back eventually with plenty to share, I’m sure. ¬†ūüôā

Stay tuned — I’ll be announcing the winner of the Fearless Fortissimo giveaway momentarily…


Performances, Printables

Just Added: Recital Program Template #3

It’s recital season!

Have you held your spring recital yet? ¬†If you haven’t, here’s a new recital program template you are free to use if you like!

I currently have two recital templates on my Printables page and they are very popular downloads.  This one is in color, although it still looks pretty good in black and white if you plan to print it that way.

To download: Visit the Printables > Other Resources page and scroll down to “Piano Recital Program Template #3.” ¬†I saved it as a “docx” this time, and I hope you all are still able to open it even if you don’t have the latest version of Microsoft Word. ¬†Please let me know if you run into problems.

If your spring recital has already occurred, how did it go? ¬†I’d love to hear all about it!

Performances, Practicing, Teaching Piano

Practice Performing

Perhaps you are wondering why there is a picture of a bunch of stuffed animals for this post. ¬†Haha, I’ll get to that in a moment!

My private students are preparing to play for the university’s Community Music School recital tomorrow! ¬†There will be about 12 students performing, 4 of which are my students. ¬†For last few weeks, we’ve been taking time during lessons to “practice performing.” ¬†After all, what better way to prepare for a performance than to practice performing? ¬†=)

For my students, this means we imagine being at the recital during the lesson. ¬†The student “walks onstage” while the audience (me) is¬†applauding¬†wildly. ¬†The student gives a deep bow and sits down. ¬†Once the bench is checked, they take a deep breath and play. ¬†Wild applause ensues once again at the end of the piece, and the student beams, bows, and trots “off stage.”

I also encourage my students to put on recitals at home for their parents or friends, or even to create an audience of stuffed animals. ¬†The point is for the student to be mentally putting him-/her-self through the performance, imagining what it’s going to be like and imagining him-/her-self succeeding. ¬†Students really enjoy using their imagination and pretending they are onstage, and I think it is really beneficial for them to have gone through the process mentally before the real thing! ¬†(Especially when there is no dress rehearsal, as in this case.)

What kind of activities do you do with your students to help them “practice performing?”

Photo Credit: Jess1820 | CC 2.0

improving as a teacher, Memorization, Performances, Questions

Forum Q&A | Memorization for Performances: Required or Optional?

Last week we discussed how to teach legato pedaling to students, and we got a few great responses Рclick here to check them out!  As always, feel free to add your thoughts to the discussion!

This week, we are considering the topic of memorization. ¬†I’ve seen great discussions about this topic on many websites and forums, and thought we’d explore it here too (hopefully with a different twist)! ¬†Here goes:

First, do you consider memorization to be an integral part of piano playing?  Meaning, would you say that a concert pianist should or must perform by memory?  And do you therefore also require your students to perform by memory, or are you more flexible with your students depending on their goals?  What kind of memorization policy have you found works best for your studio?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Photo Credit: hsingy | CC 2.0


As Promised: Master’s Recital Video Recordings

As promised, here are a few selections from my Master’s Recital in January! ¬† I would have loved to be able to post the Gwyneth Walker piece for you to hear, but it is not old enough to be in the public domain yet so posting a recording online would not be legal (if I have my facts straight). ¬†All the clips were edited with iMovie, a free video editing software that comes on all Apple computers.

Click here to view the post with the program notes for each piece.  Enjoy!

Haydn: Sonata No. 52 in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:52 L. 62, Allegro.

httpv:// Continue reading “As Promised: Master’s Recital Video Recordings”

Music Theory, Performances, Questions

Q&A Forum | Do your students undergo standardized testing?

Last week we had some great replies to the question about what level of recital music to assign.¬†Here’s our new forum question for this week! ¬†I have really enjoyed hearing you responses the last few weeks. ¬†Keep it up!

Do your students undergo standardized testing? ¬†Why or why not? ¬†If you do, which testing(s) do you use (MTNA testing for your state in the U.S., RCM/NMCP, Piano Guild, etc.)? ¬†Do you require it of all your students or is it optional? ¬†What benefits do you see in doing testing –not doing testing, as the case may be?

I’m looking forward to hearing your responses on this one (as usual)!! ¬†Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: vanz | CC 2.0

Have an idea for a Q&A Forum question?  Please send me an email admin[at]