Announcements, Professional Development

Announcing: My 2024 Piano Teacher Retreat

Hello friends,

Recently, I have received a handful of email inquiries asking for updates about my 2024 Piano Teacher Retreat. So I thought I should at least send out a quick blog post here now that the details are finally coming together! 

(By the way, in case you want to learn more about my past retreats, here’s a recap post about the 2023 Piano Teacher Retreat you can check out!)

I’m pleased to announce the dates for my 2024 retreat: 

Both retreat offerings will be held here in the Southeast Michigan area – just outside the wonderful town of Ann Arbor and about a 30- to 45-minute-drive from the Detroit Airport. 

Every year, I choose a theme for my retreat — something I’m interested and passionate about and think would make a great topic for us to explore in large and small group discussions and activities. Here is this year’s theme:


2024 Piano Teacher Retreat Theme:

EXPLORING IMPROVISATION AND COMPOSITION IN PIANO LESSONS

Together, let’s strive to expand the role of creativity in the piano lessons we teach. During this retreat, we’ll explore ways to guide young pianists to compose their own pieces, make their own improvisational changes to existing pieces, and create new music using what they know — including rhythm patterns, tonal patterns, and/or harmonic progressions. During group discussion and activities with fellow piano teachers, you can expect to engage in important conversations about creativity and MLT (Music Learning Theory), discover composition/improvisation resources your students will enjoy, and experience the joy of creativity in a variety of forms for yourself!


If you are looking for a professional development opportunity for this summer, I hope you’ll consider my retreat. This unique, small-group getaway experience is designed in every way to rejuvenate you and your teaching.

I will be sending out the event details to my separate “retreat” email list (so that I don’t spam everyone here). If you’d like to learn more, please join with your email address HERE. I’m very excited to share the full details with you very soon!

Would love to spend time with YOU this summer! 

Games

Trick-or-Treat! Rhythm Game – Newly Revised

It’s that time of year! I have a recurring event in my calendar that reminds me at the end of September each year to get out my Trick-or-Treat Rhythm Game for my piano students. I use this game at the start of almost every lesson I teach throughout the month of October.

This game has been a classic in my studio since I created it back in 2018. I made it available for purchase in my shop a year later in 2019.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on making some revisions to the game and am pleased to announce the new version now available. I’ve smoothed out the progression of difficulty a bit and created 5 levels of cards instead of 4, but the game is essentially the same. In this post, I’ll tell you a bit more about it plus share some insights into how rhythm is taught from a Music Learning Theory perspective.

(PS: If you purchased the game in the past, you are eligible to receive an updated PDF at no cost. In fact, past purchasers of the game will receive an email from me later today containing a download link to the revised version. If you don’t see it, please contact me here and let me know!)

Continue reading “Trick-or-Treat! Rhythm Game – Newly Revised”
Worksheets

New Worksheet: Primary Chords in Major & Minor

Do you like to have your piano students analyze and label the chords in their pieces? I do!

I recently had the idea to create this pair of worksheets specifically for a couple of my students to assist with process of analyzing a piece. The worksheet is to be completed in the same key as their piece, before commencing their analyzation. The idea is to help students think ahead of time about what chords they can expect to see/hear in their piece — which can help make the analysis process easier.

This is a two-page set of worksheets: one for working in major keys and one for minor keys. The worksheets are basically identical other than the fact that the minor page reminds students they need to raise the leading tone.

The steps on the worksheet lead the student through thinking about the key signature, the notes of the scale, the primary chords (I, IV, and V) in that key, and then finally all the diatonic chords in that key.

Continue reading “New Worksheet: Primary Chords in Major & Minor”
Studio Business

5 Steps for Successful Interview Lessons with Music Students

Interview lesson, meet-and-greet, intro lesson, trial lesson, consultation—whatever you choose to call them, introductory sessions are a great way to jumpstart your potentials students’ success in music lessons. This article presents five steps to help you make the most of your interview lessons with new music students.

Step 1: Define Your Goals for the Interview Lesson

Before conducting an interview lesson, it is important to determine your goals for an interview lesson. For many music teachers, these sessions are useful for setting expectations for their music studio and determining if a student-teacher fit is possible. They allow you to build rapport, communicate your expectations for practice, behavior, payments and other studio policies and procedures, and assess the student’s goals, needs and level of interest.

Additionally, an interview lesson can also be an opportunity to:

Continue reading “5 Steps for Successful Interview Lessons with Music Students”
Teaching Piano

Embracing Life as Parent & Piano Teacher 

In recent months, I’ve conversed with a few readers seeking thoughts or advice relating to navigating roles as both parents and piano teachers. As I talked to these fellow parent-teachers and started drafting this article, I realized I have a lot to say on this topic. Becoming “Mom” to two sweet little girls in 2020 and 2022 has given me a perspective I’d love to share — particularly for anyone who might be in the same stage of life.

Without further ado, here’s my article with thoughts related to being both parents and piano teachers. Read on for advice regarding purpose, work-life “blend,” childcare, maternity/paternity leave, managing your time, and designing a life you love. Whatever your current family situation, I hope this article has something for you.

Continue reading “Embracing Life as Parent & Piano Teacher “
seasonal / holiday

Christmas Gifts for Piano Students, 2011-present

Hello, teacher friends! Today, I thought I would make an update this flashback post sharing ideas for piano student gift ideas. Read on to see what ideas I’ve done in the past…and stay tuned for tomorrow, when I’ll share what I’ve planned for this year!

I don’t think it’s necessary to give your piano students gifts at Christmastime, but it’s a nice gesture if you feel so inspired! Some years, I’ve kept it pretty simple while other years I have felt inspired to take on a more time-intensive project. I hope you’ll enjoy browsing this post and perhaps gaining an idea or two to tuck away for the future!

Continue reading “Christmas Gifts for Piano Students, 2011-present”
Early Childhood Music

Early Childhood Music with my 17mo Daughter

In my last post, I mentioned I am delivering a presentation for NCKP 2021’s Virtual Conference tomorrow. My presentation shares about a personal research project conducting early childhood music (ECM) activities with my daughter throughout her first year of life. It’s been fun and rewarding to see Aria’s musical development up close, and I am learning so much from the process. I have hundreds of videos I’ve been collecting, logging, and analyzing!

I thought it might be fun to share a video of Aria here on my blog, for my readers as well as for any NCKP conference attendees interested in seeing a more recent video clip. The video below was taken a few days ago, with Aria at 17 months old.

The ECM activities I do with Aria are based on Edwin E. Gordon’s Music Learning Theory (MLT). I took a two-week summer certification training Early Childhood Music Level 1 offered through the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (see GIML.org) back in 2017, and have been putting my training to good use since Aria was born in February of 2020. I took the Piano Level 1 certification the summer prior to that, which I blogged about here.

Here is the video, as well as a short description of what you’ll observe in the video.

Continue reading “Early Childhood Music with my 17mo Daughter”
Studio Business

Printable: Welcome Poster for Piano Studio

In yesterday’s post, I talked about my gradual transition from online lessons to in-person for my Michigan-based students (my Ohio-based students from before my move will remain online). As promised, in today’s post I am sharing a free printable poster you can use to welcome students and help remind them of your protocols when they first arrive.

Any time students come for their first lesson at my studio, I find it’s important to “train” them, so to speak, with my expectations such as removing shoes, washing hands, etc.. After welcoming students at the door, this involves stating something like: “Whenever you arrive in the future, I’d like you to remove your shoes here, wash your hands here, and then head to the piano!”

I thought it might be useful to post a friendly poster with these reminders, in case it helps students remember what to do the first few times they arrive until it becomes a habit. I laminated it and use poster putty to hang it where it will be easily seen.

I created a few different variations of the poster, in case you might like to use it! I’ve included versions with and without masks (for pandemic times and non-pandemic times). And there are versions included for using hand sanitizer versus washing hands in a sink.

To download this PDF, visit the Printables > Studio Business page and scroll down to “Welcome Poster for Piano Studio.” Enjoy!

  Welcome Poster for Piano Studio (158.9 KiB, 1,246 hits)

Composition

Roundup: Composition/Improvisation Resources for Piano Teachers

In today’s post, I’d like to round up a few of my favorite resources (both free and paid) on my blog relating to composition and improvisation.

Composition and improvisation are skills I love integrating into my teaching. When students show an interest in creating their own pieces, I always foster this and coach them through the process of formulating and notating their compositions. To help expose all of my students to composition, I offer a composition-themed summer camp at least every-other-year. I use improvisation, in simple but natural ways, in my teaching too — although I’d like to get better at doing more!

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In this blog post, there are three main sections: (1) First, I will first round up my free printables related to composition and improvisation. (2) Then, I’ll list some blog post links to some articles that discuss how to integrate improvisation and composition into your teaching. (3) Finally, I will tell you about two paid resources from my shop you might find useful for teaching composition and improvisation to your piano students.

I hope you’ll discover — or rediscover — some fun resources you can use in your teaching!

Continue reading “Roundup: Composition/Improvisation Resources for Piano Teachers”
Teaching Piano

My 6 Favorite Office Supply Items as a Piano Teacher

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!

Continue reading “My 6 Favorite Office Supply Items as a Piano Teacher”
Performances, Technology, Videos

Tutorial: Combining Videos to Create an “Piano Duet” Video

Back in May, I shared about how I organized a virtual recital for my students. In that post, I briefly mentioned how I combined two videos to create “duet” videos for a couple of my students. Today, I’d like to share how I accomplished this “duet” video magic, so you can try it for yourself if you’d like!

First of all, here’s an example of what I’m talking about. In this video, you’ll see a beginner student playing the rote piece “I Love Coffee” (from the Shaaks and of Piano Safari method fame), accompanied by me playing the teacher duet.

Below, I will share the steps for how to create and combine a student video and a teacher video to create a “piano duet” video. This technique is similar to that used by many YouTube musicians — you’ve probably seen the type. Even if you already know how to do this, I hope perhaps you’ll gain at least a helpful tip or two from this post!

Step 1: Acquire Student Video

The basic process is that one person records their video first, so that the other person can use it as a guide (using earbuds) while recording the second video. The first person’s video determines the tempo throughout the piece, which the second person must follow and match.

Continue reading “Tutorial: Combining Videos to Create an “Piano Duet” Video”
Announcements

In The Shop: “Notes To Self” Wall Art

It’s here! I’ve been hinting about this on instagram all week. I’m so excited to today share with you a project I’ve been working for the past few months.

Inspired by a project I saw at my town’s local university campus, I decided to create something similar for my piano students. I call it the “Notes To Self” wall art.

Those who approach the “Notes To Self” wall art are encouraged by the sign to “Take one to-go, for you or somebody else!”

The quotes and sayings were chosen with positivity and encouragement in mind. They’re fun to admire, and it’s fun to pick out one to take with you. My students are enjoying this!

I drew all of the quotes and sayings myself by hand — but the designs have been digitized so they can be printed out directly onto the sticky notes using the template shown below. Easy! (Learn more about the template here.)

These “Notes To Self” sticky notes are a great way to promote positivity and camaraderie among your students. Continue reading “In The Shop: “Notes To Self” Wall Art”