Friday Finds. Amy with Paul Badura-Skoda.


As I was rifling through some old files of my graduate years, I came across this photo I had completely forgotten. Austrian pianist and recording artist Paul Badura-Skoda is by my side after he performed a concert in 2009 at the local arts center (called Arts Place) in my hometown here in Indiana.  I also had the privilege of being the designated transport for him, to and from the Indianapolis airport.

(I’ll admit I had never heard of him previously as I’m not completely in the know-how of famous classical pianists. Still, I think it was pretty cool I had that opportunity.)

The fact that I had completely forgotten about this makes me realize how beautiful photos are at capturing moments of our lives.

Can I tell you quickly how I got to this place? (Feel free to jump down to this week’s finds below but if you have a few minutes, I promise it’s a good and short story)!

After having returned home from 3 years in Melbourne, I was unsure where life was going to take me. I knew I wanted to move on from my first career as a choral director but my husband had lost his job, as we returned home in the middle of the financial collapse in early 2009. Before we became expats, I applied to Ball State University to pursue a Masters in General Music Education – however with the move, the application was left dormant.

Shortly after we returned home two years and eight months later to be exact, I received a random phone call from BSU asking if I was still interested in pursuing the application. After explaining our unexpected unemployment situation, I mentioned that if I were to pursue a Masters, it would more likely be in the Piano Pedagogy degree rather than the general ed. as originally intended.

Being true to who I am, I have to get a tiny religious in this next statement. At that moment, I knew the Lord had his hand in this, as the next thing the director of graduate studies asked is if I would be interested in a graduate assistantship they had yet to fill teaching piano in Portland, Indiana 50 minutes from BSU. What!? My heart skipped a beat. You have got to be kidding me…that’s my hometown we’ve just returned to – are you serious? I couldn’t have planned it any better.

Thus, I was an instructor there the year they brought in Paul Badura-Skoda. The rest is history!

Now onto this week’s goodies…

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Piano Safari: Stuffed Animal Shopping Guide and Book Giveaway



Piano Safari has been a method on my radar since the first version of the books came out. I’ve known about it since (I’m guessing) 2008. Julie Knerr, one of the authors, went to grad school with a girl I did my undergrad studies with (they may have even been roommates-I can’t remember for sure). My friend told me about the method, and I haven’t looked back.

I was drawn to Piano Safari due to my disappointment with the technique books on the market. I hated them to be quite frank. I didn’t feel they were effective and they were…well, what they were – exercises – and boring to boot. Even though most technique books do correlate with what the students are learning in the lesson book, I never felt the transfer of learning happened.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I started using the method heavily. With the increased use came the desire to maximize on the “fun” of the safari theme more with stuffed animals.

Building up my safari-theme animal collection was a bit of a chore! I remember asking the authors where they got theirs but mostly I was on my own finding them. Today, I hope to help YOUR search a little easier than mine.

I’ll be sharing not only where I purchased the animals but why they’re a good investment, how I use and even store them.

If you stick around to the end, there’s a bonus giveaway! It’s my first giveaway here on Piano Pantry so I’m pretty excited about that!

Now, onto the nitty-gritty of this post.

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Friday Finds. Bubble Wrap Voicing and Triscuits.


Brought to you by “Amy’s lunch on Tuesday.”

My intrigue with the limited edition Pumpkin Spice Triscuit was rewarded when I found they were quite tasty! They have just the right amount of seasoning, and while they held their own all alone, they would be awesome with a cranberry cheese ball or some sharp cheddar. Well, everything goes with sharp cheddar in my opinion!

This recommendation is of my accord. Triscuits is not paying me to proclaim their goodness.


Creative practice trackers. The piano key layout is a nice touch too.


Bubble wrap to teach voicing – brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, Christopher Fisher!


While I believe in letting students “take a break” over the holidays if they want, encouraging holiday practice by having students get autographs from those for whom they performed is a fun idea. Even if they don’t “practice,” keeping them playing is the most important thing, and our students can never get enough performance opportunities.


pe-2-pedal-extenderThe PE-2 Pedal Extender from DPH Music Arts is put to a lot of work in my studio. I would buy it over and over again.

They are having a Thanksgiving Promotion -20% off until 11/27/2016.  Order online at  to get the discount.

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Friday Finds. Lego Mania.

Friday Finds (1)


I first became aware of The Alexander Technique in my undergraduate days. Most of what I remember is laying on the floor in the practice room. While I appreciated it and understood its importance, as time went on, it got left behind in my day-to-day life. Thanks, to Joy Morin for reminding us of why it’s useful and valuable for piano teachers.



I’ve been checking out the podcast The Entrepreneurial Musician with Andrew Hitz. While I don’t foresee listening on a regular basis, he did have a few past podcasts I enjoyed and thought you might as well including one with motivational speaker and entrepreneur Dr. Tim Lautzenheiserone with David Cutler of the Savvy Musician, and for all you entrepreneurs and bloggers 1,000 True Fans



Do you need to travel a long distance to get home for the holidays? Enter this giveaway on Real Girls Kitchen to be one of 10 people who win a trip home.



I’m sure all of you are mourning with me the tragic loss of Jon Schmidt’s daughter. (He’s a member of the Piano Guys). Heartbreaking…



An Ode to Joy piano ensemble for multiple levels.


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Amy’s Holiday Favorites


Who else is a sucker for “favorites” lists? For years I used to love reading Oprah’s favorites. It was usually the first page in the magazine I would read.

I’m ready to share some of my holiday favorites with you today including favorite holiday recipes from all over the web and my tradition of purchasing a new Christmas album every year.

Since I start listening to Christmas music the first of November – the same time I start Christmas pieces with my students, I figured it’s the perfect time to bring you my favorites. We’re planning our biggest holiday meal of the year – Thanksgiving, and simultaneously setting the mood for the Christmas season to come.

I’m not one to make the same recipes over and over so anytime you get a recommended recipe from me, it means it’s a keeper!


Favorite Holiday Recipes and Cooking Equipment


Cranberry Feta Pinwheels

cranberry-pinwheelsMy family goes CRAZY over these Cranberry Feta Pinwheels from

A couple of tips. First, when I used a regular soft taco shell size, I needed six tortillas. If you use the large burrito shells, you might be okay. Second, I found adding 1/2 cup of sour cream to the mixture helped make it more spreadable.

A nice variation is to add thin slices of ham on top of the spread before rolling.


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Friday Finds. The Friday After.

The Friday after the U.S. Presidential election is the perfect opportunity to show this adorable photo. Four years ago, who would’ve known!

My nephew four years ago with Vice President-Elect Mike Pence.


Want to train your brain? Forget apps, learn a musical instrument.

This 3-part arrangement is on my list to download for my Christmas group classes.

: My new OXO Good Grips 14.5″ x 21″ cutting board is “amaAAAAzing” that’s me singing the word amazing. Why, oh why have I relegated myself to such small cutting boards the last 15 years?

Practice stickers for Avery labels.

: I love when teachers write reflections on their piano teaching years. See Laura Lowe’s 8-points of advice from her three decades of teaching.

Chocolate lovers are not happy about Toblerone’s new shape.

December is always a little crazy. I always hold a group class the week before break, which is a perfect time to give students the opportunity to perform their Christmas pieces for each other since I don’t do a Christmas recital. I also love Jennifer’s idea of holding a Christmas camp in December instead of private lessons.

: If, however, you do a Christmas recital, check out Melody Payne’s Christmas Recital Kit with beautiful invitations, and program templates.

: I’m really enjoying my first issue of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Magazine. The article on Carbon Steel pans has me especially intrigued. I see a purchase coming in the future. Maybe I’ll add one to my Christmas list!

: Behind the scenes, an interesting look at America’s Test Kitchen’s lawsuit against Kimball. I still love A.T.K. they’re both going to have great things to offer!

A Dalcroze-based focus activity. I’ve not really heard of these but I hope Karen shares some more videos!


About Friday Finds

Each Friday on this blog, I share some of my favorite finds from the past week. You’ll find anything from directly piano-related resources, articles, podcasts, and music, to recipes, world-happenings, fun finds and more.

I look forward to helping you as busy teachers see what’s worth checking out and promise to try and keep it under 10 items each week!

Student Practice Schedule Cards


At the first lesson in August every year, my students are asked to fill out a practice schedule card and return to me the following week. It’s quite simple. I tell them this is an exercise in thinking through their day and the time they’ve been given to use wisely. It’s not that it has to be set in stone or that it can’t change, it’s simply good practice to go through the act of writing out their weekly schedule.

All my students, whether they’re in 1st grade of a senior in high school, are asked to fill out the card.

I was inspired by a similar card we were given in college that mapped out the day in 30-minute increments. I lived by that card found it to be very beneficial.

Why not use it for my piano students?

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Friday Finds. Halloween Activities and Creative Rote Teaching.


Hello to all the Piano Pantry readers from a local group of teachers in Terre Haute, Indiana I had the privilege of sharing with this week. What a delightful bunch!

Margy, one of my colleagues pictured above told everyone that they would make it onto my blog. Boy, does she know me or what?!

This week you’re going to want to check out…


Some of my favorite Halloween-themed activities:

Candy Corn Note Names and Trick-or-Treat Pumpkin Rhythm Cards from Layton Music.

Jennifer Fink’s Build-A-Skeleton Interval Challenge and 12 Days of Halloween dictation cards.

True Bat Facts note name worksheet and Bats and Cats Rhythm Game from Susan Paradis.

Joy Morin’s Halloween Rhythm Dictation Slides and Classical Music to Attract or Scare your Trick-or-Treater’s.

Halloween Improv from Teach Piano Today.



An incredibly full and organized list of The Apps I Just Can’t Live Without.



For all you Piano Safari users…

Thanks to a creative and generous teacher on the Piano Safari Facebook page, one of my students and I had a fun time learning the rote piece Rainbow Colors in a much more “colorful” way. This printable visual aid is PERFECT! It worked beautifully. This couldn’t have come at a better time as the student had forgotten her book at home the same day I was planning on teaching her this piece. Teaching rote pieces always seem to take longer to teach so the extra time this day couldn’t have been more perfect.

Teaching the rote piece African Safari using story-telling. Absolutely brilliant.



Sheet pan suppers are all the rage. Last night I made Sausage, Potato, and Green Bean Foil Packets, except I spread all the ingredients out over two half sheet pans. I didn’t start dinner until 7:45 when I got home from teaching and we were eating by 8:30. Fast, easy, and delicious.

*Note: This one is a tiny bit spicy but you could easily adapt by substituting the andouille sausage for any kind of sausage like a simple Eckrich smoked sausage or Kielbasa and changing out the seasoning or simply just using salt and pepper. Also, I diced the potatoes really small so they would cook faster and roasted at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes.



Set a goal to spend 15 minutes a day over the next week sprucing up your studio. Some ideas to get you started 10 Presentation Strategies for a Professional Studio and Icing Your Studio.

Tiny habits add up. Do you have a goal that seems impossible to accomplish? Commit yourself to just 15 minutes a day and be prepared to be amazed at where you’re at 3 months from now!



About Friday Finds

Each Friday on this blog, I share some of my favorite finds from the past week. You’ll find anything from directly piano-related resources, articles, podcasts, and music, to recipes, world-happenings, fun finds and more.

I look forward to helping you as busy teachers see what’s worth checking out and promise to try and keep it under 10 items each week!

Student Art Books

Before I opened my studio, I always knew I wanted to have a student art book in the waiting room. Where the idea came from, I’m not sure. I know it wasn’t my original idea. The way I read blogs, I know someone else must have inspired me.

I bought a blank canvas sketchbook similar to this one at Michaels and had an artist friend decorate the cover. I didn’t have enough students at the time to hold a contest otherwise that would be fun. She asked what I wanted and I told her I trusted her to be creative. Isn’t she amazing?




This one has been full for a couple of years now. I sat down and had a look as I was planning to finally put out a new one.

I thought I would share some of my favorite entries as well as my new art book and individual art books I now use for inspiring and fostering creativity.

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Friday Finds. Resources and Millet.

This Friday morning, just after this post goes up, I will be giving a presentation to one of our Indiana MTA Local Associations in Terre Haute. I’ll be giving this same session the first week of November at the Ohio MTA State Conference.

In the session, Taming the Jungle: Strategies for Pursuing Professional Development in the Information Age, I share 137 resources for professional development. More importantly, I walk through strategies for managing ourselves and the content that’s being thrown at us on a day-to-day basis.

I thought I might share some of those resources and tips with you all today.



I’ve been experimenting with an add-on for Gmail called Inbox PauseI don’t think it’s something I’ll use on a regular basis but there will definitely be instances where it would be nice to have no incoming email for a short period of time.



The next big thing in our online world – membership sites. There are two that I know of in P.T. world: The Curious Piano Teachers Community which I believe is seasonal, and Tim Topham’s Inner Circle.



Recently I came across two new blogs – both of which I heard about in Tim Topham’s Inner Circle. I’ve been enjoying following Eliza Says and Colourful Keys.



Three of my top YouTube channels include:

Anne Crosby Gaudet for her awesome theory videos I use during my student lab time.
Irin Gorin for her excellent examples on teaching healthy technique to beginners.
UIPianoPed for their plethora of quality videos of the beginning and intermediate repertoire.



My life is made easier with two of the best tools out there for managing content: Evernote and Feedly RSS Reader

and in other news….

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