Old Friends & New Acquaintances

Today as I unpacked my music room I found some old friends and new acquaintances. It was so good to see them and they sure inspired me to practice! Meet some of them....

Shostakovich Preludes & Fugues. LOVE these. I played the E minor ones in college and they are so gorgeous. Lots of good gems in this book!

Jeux d'Eau - ahhhh I love this piece. Sadly it has been a long, long time since I have played it. Time to get it back out, I believe!

Debussy! Reminds me of when I sight read this whole book for my Summer Sightreading Challenge. Some gorgeous pieces here.

CHOPIN - enough said!! Lots of favorites here, many I have studied and learned really well, others I have just begun or played for fun. My music room would not be complete without these guys...

One I haven't really played but takes me back to college. I'm thinking I need to play some Schumann again! He is one of my faves.

Well this looks fun! A fairly new volume that has not been played much.

Annnnnnnd...some jazz keyboard tunes. I was never super great at these but sure loved playing from this fakebook! It's fun to get it out again...

And for now many of our favorites (my husband plays, too!) will be living here next to the piano. Welcome, friends!


Teaching Tip Tuesday: Advice for New Teachers

I have often been asked what advice I have for new piano teachers just starting out. Today I'd like to share four basic suggestions that will help get your studio on its way!

Be Professional

When you present yourself and your studio more professionally, people take you more seriously. You are running a business! You are providing your expertise and knowledge to your students as a service; you have so much experience and knowledge to offer and you should present yourself as such. Here are some of the most important things your piano studio needs:

Have a studio policy!! 

I cannot emphasize this enough. In the very least, your students and their parents need to know what you expect as far as when tuition is due, if you require late fees, what your make-up policy is, and that you don't want them to show up at their lesson with a contagious illness. Type up all of your rules and policies, print it out on some colorful paper and distribute it to new students.

Studio contract

Along with my studio policy I always have my new students and their parents sign a studio contract. This basically states that they will abide by the rules and policies of the studio, and that when they sign up for lessons they are committing to that lesson time (including the payment of tuition for that lesson time) for the entire semester. This protects you and helps keep your income more reliable. Do it.

Learn to say "no" 

Ok, so I started teaching when I was fifteen. It's easy when you're young and inexperienced to let people sort of walk all over you, but you've got to just remember that this is a business and you need to run it as such. You will have students who don't show up to lessons, and they will want to not pay you for that no-show lesson. (Don't let them do that! Have them pay upfront each month.) You will have people who want make-up lesson after make-up lesson, taking up all your non-teaching time. You will have people who don't pay you on time. You will have people who want to argue your policies. Over the years I have come a long way in my dealings with students and parents. You just have to decide what your policies are going to be and stick to them.

Professional teaching environment

Keep your studio nice and clean and quiet! It's not fair to the student if your children are in the room demanding your attention, or if it's noisy and cluttered and hard to concentrate.

Dress the part

Admittedly I have taught many-a-lesson in jeans and bare feet. It's not a huge deal. But think of the respect you will have from your students as you make the effort to dress a little nicer. A professional appearance and attitude will go a long way in a lesson.

Be Creative

Piano teaching today isn't what you may remember from when you were a child. Piano teaching does not (or should not) consist merely of picking a piano method book and methodically going through each and every page and reading through and teaching each concept as it is presented. Use some creativity! Put some ingenuity and fresh ideas into your lessons to make your students want to come back! Pick and choose exciting and motivating challenge pieces for your students to learn to supplement whatever book they are using. Teach new concepts before they are introduced in the book if it is something that will excite their imagination and get them to love to play. Encourage creativity in your studio by having composition recitals and teaching students to play from a fakebook. Have a memorization or a sight reading competition. Allow more advanced students to mentor younger beginners in a class setting using creative games and songs. Create a star student wall in your studio and honor the best practicer of the week. Use your imagination!

Be Yourself

Use your strengths and individual background to enhance your piano teaching. Have a background in math teaching? Great! Use that knowledge to amp up your studio's music theory and rhythm skills. Love to dance? Perfect! Get those students moving to the music as you teach meter, beat, rhythm, expression. Got skills in gourmet cooking? Amazing. Your students and parents who attend your recitals, group classes or end-of-semester parties will thank you! Maybe you are classically-trained. Maybe your favorite tunes to play on the piano are show tunes or pop songs that you can sing along with. Use these strengths to your advantage as you find your niche in teaching and as you guide your students to be well-rounded musicians.

Be Encouraging

Last of all, I think that positivity and encouragement are super important. Don't forget to tell your students what they are doing amazing at! Of course you're going to critique and teach and guide them to fix their mistakes and to improve, but don't forget that a happy attitude and thoughtful compliments can go a long way in affecting the overall experience the student has with piano lessons - and that could have life-long consequences, good or bad!

What tips of advice would you give to new piano teachers?


My Evolving Studio

My life as a pianist and piano teacher has had many different seasons. One of the wonderful things about my job is that I can shape it to be the job I want; not only can I do it in my home and on my own time schedule, but I can use my creative ideas to change it, enhance it and sort of evolve it as my life changes, as my interests shift and as my own children grow. I am a piano teacher for life, but what that job description looks like at any given point in my life, at least up until now, has changed and gone through several different stages. And I love that! As I have taught piano through the years, I have constantly thought of things I would like to change and do differently. With each student and each passing semester I learn things. I hope that I am a better teacher than I was 1 or 3 or 5 years ago, and I hope that I will be better still in the coming years. I have found a fun little niche in my teaching with my preschool piano classes. But I still love working with adults and teenagers. I love teaching privately, but wonder about the possibilities of group lessons. I love my preschool classes, but lately have been exploring ideas in private preschool lessons. I love that there are so many possibilities!

I recently have been reading an excellent and sort of mind-blowing and thought-provoking book about changing up music lessons, about not sticking with the status quo of traditional lessons but constantly evolving your studio and your teaching by adding fresh ideas into your studio. The Dynamic Studio: How to keep students, dazzle parents, and build the music studio everyone wants to get into by Philip Johnston is worth a read by any teacher hoping to breathe some new life into their teaching, retain more students and become a better music teacher. More about that in a later post.

Lots of changes have happened for me in the past couple of months - my husband graduated from school in San Antonio, Texas. We packed up our house and our three children and drove 2,000 miles across the country to our new home in Farr West, Utah. We are starting a new season of life - it’s great to be done with school and to settle in a new place. I have yet to decide and discover what my piano teaching will look like in this stage of life. I will probably continue teaching my preschool classes once I get settled (my daughter is about to turn three, after all!). I will probably be teaching my children piano. I may accept a select few motivated private students. We shall see! One thing is certain - I have a lot of new things up my sleeve that I will be sharing on The Teaching Studio! Stay tuned!

For now, we are super excited about our new music room! What do you think?

I love it so much. It is actually kind of neat because it really reminds me of my high school piano teacher’s home. She had the same pink carpet, the same size/shape of room with her pianos at the end, on a sort of stage area. She had a chandelier hanging in the piano room above the teaching area. 

I can just picture a grand piano in this room....someday!

We obviously still need to do some unpacking, organizing of music books, and acquiring some new furniture, but so far we love it!

In the mean time, we are immensely enjoying a brand new addition to the music room….my kids think it is the neatest thing ever. My husband and I have to agree!

So what are some ways that your studio has evolved over time? Any thoughts on moving your studio and your teaching to a new city? Any amazing ideas for my new music room? :)


Now Available: Mountains & Hills - Mighty Musicians lesson plan!

Well, happy weekend everyone! I am super duper proud of myself for posting TWICE in one week (yay!), and excited to have yet another new lesson plan available! It is all thanks to the fact that we are MOVING in about three weeks, and I am trying to get things done before we pack up and go. My awesome husband is graduating from optometry school, and he got a job in Ogden, Utah. So, it seems all too appropriate that this next lesson plan to become available is all about mountains.

This lesson is part of our Mighty Musicians class, written especially for 5 and 6-year-olds. I really love these classes. It is a ton of fun, and this age group is amazing - they love to have fun and play and move to the music, they have a little bit better attention spans than those younger preschoolers, and they also are getting to that stage where they are ready for actual piano lessons! In fact, the Mighty Musicians class is a perfect introduction to piano lessons, and is a great way to determine which kids are actually ready for one-on-one lessons.

Each Mighty Musicians lesson includes a variety of activities to help teach the concepts in different fun ways. The format of each class is as follows:

Welcome - children sing the "Mighty Musicians" theme song and are introduced to the theme of the lesson!
Guided Listening - children are introduced to some great works of classical music and do various listening activities
Musical Concepts - musical concepts are taught in fun and hands-on ways
Sing & Move - children sing and move to classical music
Piano Primer - each child has an opportunity to play a pre-staff notation song on the piano
Creative Composition - children combine composition and art to use the concepts learned to write their own piece
Composition Performance - students have a chance to perform their composition for one another!

In this lesson plan, students learn that notes move up and down on the staff. Children will enjoy climbing their own “musical mountain” while learning how notes move up and down on the staff; will be introduced to Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” through fun listening and movement activities; will love singing and moving to “Simple Gifts;” will play a five-finger scale on the piano; will compose their own piece with notes moving up and down; and will have fun learning all about notes on the staff through song, play, movement, listening and art.

Here are a few previews of what this fun lesson plan includes:

Mountains & Hills is now available in The Teaching Studio Store under Lesson Plans For Sale. It may also be purchased in this post.

Mountains & Hills Lesson Plan:
Notes Move Up & Down
Digital download, includes student Take-Home book!
38 pages
Price: $10.00

Don't forget to check out our other Mighty Musicians lesson plans we have available! I am hoping to have the final lesson plan of the 5-day camp, "Birds of a Feather," up and available soon as well!


Now Available: Vivaldi's Four Seasons Preschool Piano Camp!

Well guys, I am very excited to announce that we finally have our Early Explorers: Vivaldi's Four Seasons Camp available for purchase! It's been a long time coming. Many of you have already purchased and taught our Spring, Autumn and Winter lesson plans and have probably been wondering when our Summer plan would be available. Well we finally have it up and ready to go, and we think you are going to love it! We are offering all four lesson plans, along with some camp-planning extras, in one nifty bundle.

If you are looking for a fun summer music camp for preschoolers, look no further. This Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Piano Camp will introduce your young students to a year of music, going through each season from Spring through Winter. It works perfectly as a week-long, four-day camp, or as a month-long once-a-week class. This camp includes the following lesson plans: Spectacular Spring, Sizzling Summer, Amazing Autumn and Wondrous Winter. 

Students will explore the four seasons through song, play, stories, movement, listening and art. Musical concepts covered in this four-lesson camp include: high and low, introduction to the keyboard, introduction to the musical staff, solfege, fast and slow, composition, beat, rhythm, one note versus many notes (chords), and more! Students will learn some music terminology (lento, largo, vivace, andante, tempo, staff, keyboard, etc.). They will make and take home several fun crafts (a springtime scene, paper flower hats, wearable fairy wings and turtle shells, a homemade drum and a snowman craft). 

Children will be introduced to several pieces of classical music, including Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons; To Spring by Edvard Grieg; Summertime by George Gershwin; Summer Fairy by Sergei Prokofiev; Tortoises from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens; Flying Leaves by Carl Kolling; and Troika by Sergei Prokofiev. 

Most importantly, students will play, jump, dance, sing, move, explore, listen, create, and have a blast as they experience and discover the joy of music!

The bundle includes a Vivaldi's Four Seasons Camp Planner packet, chock-full of forms and documents to help you plan and organize your class. It includes registration forms, participant rosters, flyers, certificates of completion and more. We've done all the work for you to make your summer preschool music camp planning a breeze.

For those who purchase the lesson plans separately, the Vivaldi's Four Seasons Camp Planner will also be available for separate purchase.

For more information on each individual lesson plan, please visit the Lesson Plans page of The Teaching Studio Store!

But first, can I tell you about our summer lesson plan? Because it is so much fun! We call it Sizzling Summer!

In this lesson, children learn all about fast and slow in music. We use Vivaldi's Summer to tell and act out a story about Tempo Forest and the fairies and forest animals who live there. We meet lots of fun animals that move fast and slow!

We do some fun summertime movement activities to help us learn about fast and slow in music. The children are introduced to Gershwin's Summertime and we learn and sing some new words that help us remember a musical word for slow!

We make and decorate some adorable fairy wings and turtle shells that students get to wear and take home! And if your students are anything like my daughter, they will not want to ever take them off.....

(The lesson plan includes printable templates with full instructions on how to assemble the fairy wings and turtle shells.)

And what is summertime without a lemonade stand? Our Musical Lemonade Stand activity teaches about fast and slow rhythms in music, composition and listening.

Here are a few sample pages from the lesson plan so you can get a better idea of what it includes:

I hope you enjoy our Sizzling Summer lesson plan, and the complete Vivaldi's Four Seasons Preschool Piano Camp! They would make an awesome addition to your summer teaching plans. Purchase below or in The Teaching Studio Store.

Early Explorers: Vivaldi's Four Seasons
Preschool Piano Camp
Includes: Vivaldi's Four Seasons Camp Planner
Spectacular Spring!
Sizzling Summer!
Amazing Autumn!
Wondrous Winter!
Price: $38.00
Digital download

Vivaldi's Four Seasons Camp Planner
19 pages of forms & documents
to help plan your Early Explorers camp
Includes: registration forms, participant rosters, flyers,
certificates of completion and more!
Price: $5.00
Digital download

Sizzling Summer! Lesson Plan

187 pages, Digital download
Price: $10.00

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