Games

Getting out my Trick-or-Treat rhythm game!

It’s that time of year — time to pull out my Trick-or-Treat! rhythm game! During the weeks leading up to Halloween, I like to use my Trick-or-Treat rhythm game at pretty much every student’s lesson. It’s a fun way to make students “earn” their treat, and it’s such a great game for building their rhythm skills. Best of all, they LOVE this game!

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Teaching Piano

How to Create a “MEET OUR PIANISTS” Student Photo Wall

Back in 2017, I shared my “About Me” Student Profile cards that I hung on the walls in my studio. Now that I am moved back to Michigan and am settled in my new studio, I figured it was time to do something similar again! I love for my students to feel part of a studio community and be able to see each other’s faces, even if only thanks to photos. 😉

And so, I started browsing Pinterest and Amazon to find ideas for various ways to display student photos. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the best ideas I found as well as the resulting photo wall I ended up with for my students. I’ll also share a couple of free printables I created in the process, which you are welcome to use for your own photo wall. Read on, friends!

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Motivation

An Update to my Incentive Program and Prize Box for Piano Students

In the past, I’ve shared about my easy, ongoing incentive program for my piano students. You can read a more complete blog post from 2009 about it here.

Basically, the summary is that for every 30 pages of music students learn (or theory pages completed), a prize is earned from the prize box. My goal was to have a simple program that was easy to track and that rewarded the kinds of things my students should be doing anyway. A simple incentive program can make things fun and help reinforce the kinds of things you wish students to be focused on. My students know that a given piece needs to reach a certain level of mastery before they can “pass” it and go on to the next.

I have maintained this simple incentive program consistently for years (although, I’ll admit I’ve taken a little time off from it recently due to pandemic online teaching and relocating to Michigan). However, I recently came up with a slight improvement to this method that I think will make it EVEN EASIER to maintain.

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Studio Business

Freebie: Lesson Attendance Sheet Updated for 2021-22

Just a quick post today! 

I just finished updating one of the studio business forms from my Printables page for the 2021-22 school year.  It is called the Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment PDF.  I do not currently use this form myself anymore, but every year I receive multiple requests from teachers asking if I would please update it for the upcoming school year! 

In case you haven’t seen this from before, here is how it works: Write your students’ names in the first column.  Each week, write the lesson date (in a month / date format) in the column for that week.  This is how you can track attendance.  The small circles in each cell are where you can write checkmarks indicating tuition payments.  Whether you charge by-the-week or by-the-month, you can place a checkmark by each paid lesson date.

Download it below or on the Printables > Studio Business page.

  Record of Lesson Attendance & Payment (2021-22) (177.6 KiB, 33,321 hits)

P.S.: Here is a link to where I explain an alternative system for tracking payments received. But nowadays, I enter everything into a Google Sheet! I explain my system and share the spreadsheet in my online course for piano teachers, Excellence for Piano Teachers. If you’re interested, you can learn more and join the email list to be notified when the next session is offered (usually in January).

Hope you are having a great week, everyone!

Reviews

Follow-up Review & Giveaway: Wendy Chan’s Teaching Resources from MusicEscapades.com

About a year ago (August 2020), I wrote a review and giveaway post about Wendy Chan’s wonderful Grand Staff Magnetic Dry-Erase board and a few other of her wonderful teaching resources. Well, today, I’m happy to share an update about her materials and offer a GIVEAWAY (keep reading)!

Wendy’s Grand Staff Magnetic Dry-Erase Board has been such a great resource in my teaching over the past year. I keep it within arm’s reach when I teach and find myself using it on a near-daily basis in my lessons, both online and in-person.

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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.

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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, 420 hits)

Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Transitioning Back to In-Person Lessons During/After the Covid-19 Pandemic

[Just for fun…here’s a selfie taken after chopping off 12 inches of pandemic-time hair and donating it to Wigs 4 Kids!]

Hello readers!

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.

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Words of Wisdom

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

“Whatever method is used, our experience so far makes it clear that when we use a child’s natural desire to explore the new and unknown, and to gain some control over it, without trying to force him faster or further than he feels ready to go, both pupil and teacher have the most fun and make the most progress.”

John Holt, in How Children Learn

Tapping into the child’s natural desire to explore the new and unknown makes all the difference!

Food for thought: What are examples of ways we can do this as teachers?

Interviews

TEACHER FEATURE: Chad Twedt, Pianist, Teacher, & Composer

In today’s post, please enjoy an interesting and insightful interview with pianist and teacher Chad Twedt (pronounced “tweed”). I’ve known Chad for a number years, having connected online thanks to blogging. Chad’s blog, Cerebroom, is where he posts occasional in-depth articles about topics relating to music and more. Below, I ask him to share about his recently released online course called The Art of Rubato, his teaching philosophy, and his compositions, among other things.


Hi, Chad! Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. Would you begin by telling us a little bit about you and how you got into teaching?

Thanks Joy, I’m honored!  

I have a master’s degree in piano performance and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. I love composing, performing, teaching, thinking/researching, watching movies, writing, coding, and playing tennis.

In high school, people used to ask me the dreaded question that almost no high schooler can answer: “What do you think you’ll be doing 10 years from now?”  I used to answer, “I don’t know… the only thing I know for sure is that I’m not going to be a teacher.”  I said this because the only people I saw teaching were public school teachers who, in my view, had a difficult job – sometimes horrifically difficult, dealing with kids in every class who didn’t really want to be there.  I also hadn’t met any male private piano teachers. Becoming a piano teacher wasn’t even on my radar.

I started teaching in 1997 reluctantly when a 10-year-old kid who sat in the front row in my undergraduate junior recital begged to take lessons from me.  I told his parents that I was a performer, not a teacher.  He apparently really wanted to study with me, because they called me back the next day and pleaded with me again to give it a try.  I agreed, and I was nervous I’d run out of things to say after the first 10 minutes.  The opposite happened – I felt like each 30-minute lesson was way too short.  Unfortunately, the kid never practiced.  His parents later told me he idolized me and just wanted to be around me, so he only lasted a month as a student, but it was enough for me to realize that teaching piano was something I was good at and deeply interested in.  I felt I owed it to myself to explore it some more.  Fast forward 20+ years, and here I am!

As a piano teacher, what are your goals for your students? 

In each lesson, I am obsessively focused on preparing students to practice effectively at home.  This obsession increased tenfold after I did a ton of research into metacognition, which is the idea of “thinking about thinking.”  It is what allows students to plan a practice/study strategy, monitor that strategy, and evaluate the success of that strategy, rather than just mindlessly seeking pleasure, producing minimal results.  Students of all ages, especially adults, naturally exhibit metacognitive knowledge and skill when they study for academic tests, but they tend to be far less mindful when practicing piano.

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Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”

John Holt (in How Children Learn)

This quote reminds us that learning does not automatically happen just because there is a teacher. Learning happens thanks to the activity of the learner. A healthy learning environment is learning-centered, not teaching-centered.

Points to ponder: As teachers, how can we facilitate and encourage environments that are conducive for learning? How can we help our learners be engaged in active learning during piano lessons? What can we do to set them up for success? And how can we support students with learning independently on their own during home practice?

Composition

TEACHER FEATURE: Andy Villemez on his Creative Commissions Project (CCP)

Last year when I blogged about my composition Where the Train Tracks End, I mentioned my Ohio-based colleague, Andy Villemez — the mastermind behind the Creative Commissions Project (CCP). In this blog post, I thought it would be fun to interview Andy and learn more about CCP!

In a nutshell, CCP seeks to bring working composers in direct conversation with music teachers and their students. Each student is paired with a composer who writes a piece based on the student’s current technical and musical abilities, personality, and interests. I was involved with CCP back in 2017 as a composer. I wrote two pieces — one for a student in Durham, NC and another for a student in Columbus, OH. 

Let’s have a conversation with Andy to learn more about this project!

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