Teaching Piano

Piano on the Patio! Quarantine Teaching Adventures Continued…

Hello, friends!

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!

My little “treble maker” is 7 months old now!

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!

My “piano on the patio” setup!
Continue reading “Piano on the Patio! Quarantine Teaching Adventures Continued…”
Sheet Music

NEW SHEET MUSIC: Where the Train Tracks End

Hi there!

I’m pleased to announce that a new piano piece is now available in my shop! If you’re looking for something jazzy and fun for mid-intermediate level students, you might be interested in checking out this piece.

It’s called Where the Train Tracks End. This piece is in rondo form (ABACA) and the key of B minor. It opens with finger snaps over a descending bass line, which leads into the syncopation and laidback vibe of the main theme. The B section consists of flashy-sounding patterns that race up the piano, while the C section is upbeat with a walking bass line. There is an opportunity to improvise towards the end of the piece. This three-page piece is perfect for recitals as well as for personal pleasure.

Watch the video to take a listen!

I composed this piece a few years back as part of a “Pedagogical Commissioning Project” organized by my Ohio-based colleague, Andy Villemez. The project brings 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 wrote the piece Where the Train Tracks End specifically for a student named Brielle in Durham, NC.

Interested in purchasing the sheet music? It’s available in my shop as a PDF download. There are both Single User and Studio License options available, both of which come with an MP3 audio recording. View Where the Train Tracks End in my shop here. I hope it’s a piece your students would enjoy!

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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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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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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!

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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Sheet Music

Just Released: “Simplicité”, a Mid-Intermediate Solo

Today, I’m pleased to share with you a composition I wrote a couple of years ago called Simplicite.

I’d been long intending to finish notating Simplicite and create a video recording for the piece. I’m never at a lack of exciting projects to work on, but now in the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic I found myself looking for a specific kind of thing to focus my energy on. I felt somewhat at a loss until I pulled out this project. It’s been a good project in the practical sense because it’s something I can easily start and stop, working in tandem with my baby daughter’s napping schedule. But more importantly, working on Simplicité has felt…comforting, somehow. This is a testament to the power of music, perhaps!

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Performances

TEACHER FEATURE: Jonathan Roberts on Virtual Recitals for Students

This post is a follow-up, of sorts, to my post last week about how to get started teaching remote piano lessons. As we navigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we face opportunities to not only adapt our teaching, but also our recital organizing!

Today, I bring you a bit of inspiration for how YOU could consider offering a recital opportunity to your students during these unprecedented times. My friend, Jonathan Roberts (organizer of the South Shore Piano Camp for which I’ve instructed the past two summers), recently organized a “virtual recital” featuring videos made by his students and then posted to YouTube. I have been considering doing something similar next month with my students. Seeing how Jon’s virtual recital turned out earlier this week has made me more inspired and motivated to take on this project!

Before you read on, check out Jon’s playlist here. I hope you enjoy Jon’s sense of humor in his opening/closing remarks video, as well as seeing his students play their prepared pieces in their own home environments.

Upon being asked, Jon was kind enough to agree to being interviewed about how he went about organizing and publishing his virtual recital. So, now that you’ve seen for yourself how it turned out, let’s have a conversation with Jon to learn more about this project!


Hi, Jon! Could you tell us a little bit about your studio and your students’ recent virtual recital?

Hi, Joy! Thank you so much for having me.

This past September, I expanded my home studio into a multi-teacher organization, the South Shore Piano School, in Quincy, MA (just south of Boston). We have doubled in size since then, with an enrollment of about 70 students right now, ranging in age from 4 to 67. In addition to weekly lessons, we run monthly student recitals and regular community “field trips” to hear world-class pianists, both solo and with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Our first-ever virtual recital was a project I put together shortly after school classes, after-school activities, and most public gatherings were suspended, seemingly overnight. On about 24 hours notice, we had to move over to online lessons pretty quickly, and we were actually supposed to have an in-person recital on Sunday, March 22nd.

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Reviews

Review: Irina Gorin’s Online Course – Teach “Tales of a Musical Journey”

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile now, you know that a method book I frequently use in my piano teaching is Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey. I became a fan of Irina’s work first through subscribing to her YouTube channel, which contains hundreds of teaching videos. Then, in 2015, I attended her first-ever summer workshop for teachers. (If you’d like to read my full review of Irina’s Tales of a Musical Journey method, click here.)

Irina and I, at her home studio in Carmel, Indiana.

As Irina’s method books have continued to grow in popularity, she began touring internationally to give workshops about her method. Currently, she lives in Asia and is a faculty member at Chengdu College of Chinese and ASEAN Arts.

Today, I’m writing a review of Irina’s online course for piano teachers. If you’ve heard about her course and wondered what it was like, this review is for you. Read on!

Irina Gorin’s Online Course for Piano Teachers

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