7/30/14

Mighty Musicians Piano Camp!


Our Mighty Musicians Piano Camp is now available in its entirety to purchase in The Teaching Studio Store! If you're not familiar with these lesson plans, let me tell you a little bit about it!

Nichole and I wrote this class following the success of our Early Explorers preschool class. We wanted a similarly hands-on, creative class for children who were a little bit older than our preschool crowd, something that could involve a little more time on the actual piano. That is how Mighty Musicians came to be! We took a lot of elements from Early Explorers, added in some basic piano technique and simple pieces the students could play, and added in a composition element that is so, so great. This class is so much fun - it really captures the children's imaginations and it is so fun to see them singing and moving and playing to all this great classical music. We have found that the music really leaves an impression on them!

This class is an AWESOME way to see if a child is ready for private piano lessons.

Some of my favorite highlights from this class:

  • Dancing with sunrise scarves to Grieg's Morning Mood in Night and Day

  • Watching the students move like nocturnal animals to Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King as the music gets faster and faster and louder in Night and Day
  • The short and long composition craft that goes with Beethoven's 5th Symphony in Traffic Jam
  • Clapping traffic rhythms in Traffic Jam
  • Successfully having each child learn some basic piano techniques and be able to go home with songs to play!

  • Singing our new lyrics to Simple Gifts and climbing up a mountain to Copland's Appalachian Spring in Mountains and Hills



  • Playing our quacking ducks and singing along to Strauss' The Blue Danube Waltz in Birds of a Feather
  • Seeing the children's creative compositions!

  • The journey we act out to get to the musical fireworks show to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture in Forte Fireworks! Seriously that is my favorite part of this class, the music is so, so powerful and the kids get SO into it. 
  • Just seeing the joy in the children's faces as they experienced music!


I hope you will try out the Mighty Musicians Piano Camp for your next piano class, camp or event with your young students!

Included in this camp are the following lesson plans: Night and Day, Traffic Jam, Mountains and Hills, Birds of a Feather and Forte Fireworks. It also includes the Mighty Musicians Camp Planner, which includes 20 pages of camp planning forms and materials.

Includes sheet music, craft templates, 5 student take-home books, clipart and printable teaching resources, and much more! More information available here. 312 pages. Digital download. Available in The Teaching Studio Store or here in this post.

Mighty Musicians Piano Camp
Price: $46.00

Birds of a Feather Lesson Plan Now Available!

Now available for purchase in The Teaching Studio Store is the last lesson plan in the Mighty Musicians Piano Camp - Birds of a Feather!


For those not familiar with the Mighty Musicians class, it is written specifically for children ages 5 and 6 - they are a little bit older than the preschoolers, so they have a little bit longer attention spans but oodles of energy and creativity! This class is perfect for them because it is a nice introduction to piano lessons in a fun and active group setting. At each class, students learn to play a simple pre-staff notation piece on the piano. We also focus a lot on creative composition in this class, and at each lesson children will compose their own song! It is tons of fun.


I love this lesson! Using seven feathered friends, students are introduced to the musical alphabet and the names of the white keys on the piano.


Children will enjoy a creative listening activity and movement and dancing to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake;” will sing a song, and learn a poem all about birds to help remember the notes on the piano; will be introduced to Johann Strauss’s famous “Blue Danube Waltz” and will learn some fun lyrics about our feathered friends; will decorate their own duck craft and have fun making it “quack” to the music; will play a pre-staff notation piece on the piano using the newly-learned notes on the keyboard; will compose their own creative piano piece; and will have fun learning all about the musical alphabet through song, play, movement, listening and art.


As always, it includes a printable take-home book to send home with each student. I love these take-home books! They include full-color graphics, overviews of concepts covered, lyrics to songs learned at class (so parents can sing along at home!), a pre-staff notation piece for the students to play on the piano, and more!


Here are a few little sneak peeks of what is included:


It is a fun class, that's for sure! I hope you enjoy it! As always, you can purchase it in The Teaching Studio Store, or at the bottom of this post.


Includes a student Take-Home Book! 70 pages. Book is in downloadable e-book format.

This lesson plan is number 4 and the final lesson in our five-week Mighty Musicians piano class (or Day 4 in a week-long camp).

Birds of a Feather Lesson Plan
Price: $10.00

7/23/14

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!


7/22/14

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?

7/17/14

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? :)
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