The Varsity Musician’s Playbook, Part 1

Studio Interdependence

Once my piano students hit middle school, I often lose them to sports.

If this is a statement you’ve either said at least once in your career or heard a colleague say, raise your hand.

Me, me, me!

Yes, you over there, with your hand up – this post is for you!

At every conference I attend, while there are many excellent sessions, there are always one or two whose message sticks with me for good. At this past MTNA Conference (2016 San Antonio), my “sticky” session was by far:

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook: Commitment Building Strategies from Team Sports to the Studio.

Bam! Wow, the title hooked me. As someone who enjoys the business side of running my piano studio – this was my type of session.

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Friday Finds: Have You Taught #3?



This is one of those things that make you go “Oh, duh, why did I never think of that?!” Curious?



Setting Up Your Browser to Increase Your Productivity. It’s the little things that make a difference!



 I had a freshman beginning student who’s been with me a year and a half. She’s currently playing around Faber 2B level but is ready for a good challenge piece.

Paul Sheftel’s “Nocturne” was perfect. This is one of those pieces I will always keep a copy of on hand.



Popular right now is the “Sheet Pan” supper. Have you tried one yet? I love the simplicity of getting three items into your meal, all cooked at the same time without having to be a casserole. Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook too, so it’s a double-win. So far, I love Sheet Pan Bratwursts, Beets and Chard and Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes. Want to check out a few more recipes? This website has lots of beautiful sheet pan dinner recipes.



My studio lending library grew last week when I threw onto an Amazon order the beautiful book The Bear and the Piano. Gorgeous.



10 Food Movies and Shows to Stream on Netflix Right NowWe’ve already seen #5 which I really enjoyed. I mean, it’s Michael Pollan. I might also add to that Chef’s Table and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown


Do you have any Netflix food or music-related show favorites? Share!

Also, stay tuned in the upcoming week as I’ll be adding more assignment sheets to Assignment Sheet Central and posting a series on how to incorporate commitment-building strategies from team sports in your studio!


Professional Development Scholarship

Gordon Institute for Music Learning

Are you interested in learning more about Music Learning Theory (MLT)?

Are you faculty at a college/university and teaching general music, instrumental, or choral methods courses within a music education program?

If so, you may be eligible to apply for the Carol Gordon Professional Development Scholarship of The Gordon Institute for Music Learning.

Download the application and read more here.

This past August I attended a two-week training in Boston through GIML.

If you’re interested in reading about my experiences check out my posts:

Joy and Amy on Music Learning Theory

Piano Teacher Adventure: MLT in Boston

I haven’t written a lot about how I use MLT in lessons yet but I’m sure I will share more in the future. In the meantime, I’m planning on attending the GIML Conference this summer following NCKP.  It will be a week of learning in Chicago!


Friday Finds: Dead Space, The Circular Piano, and Tim Tams



Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who noticed the Circular Piano during the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Totally-radically-cool-dude.



Dear, Forrest, while I already knew that we don’t play piano with our fingers, you still somehow make the concept fresh and new with your words – always well written.



While we’re on the topic of Forrest Kinney’s posts, I also loved his recent post “A Favorite Story on Mozart’s Birthday.” Unlike Mozart, however, I would have opted for dinner rather than improv time. :-S



How do you use “dead space” during lesson time?



My students are getting Valentines from me for the first time thanks to Wendy Steven’s new Valentine cards. I printed them out and attached an individual heart-shaped Hershey’s milk chocolate to each one. It’s the little things.



How Ryan Gosling learned to play the piano in three months.



10 Ways to Set a Good Vibe at the Coffee Shop.



“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!! Australian Tim Tam Biscuits Are Finally Available in America!!!!!!” I say to my husband one evening while reading this article.

“That is sooo going on your Friday Finds, isn’t it?” he says.

Yep, he knows me too well…

For all of you Americans, “biscuits” is Aussie slang for “cookies.” Gotta love the Tim Tam and yes, while living there we were cultured in the “Tim Tam Slam.” Of course, my favorite ones, the mint, aren’t coming. 🙁 I’ve seen Tim Tam’s in the U.S. but not without driving to a big city and going to a specialty international grocery of some kind like Cincinnati’s Jungle Jim’s. Now if only they’ll come to my local small town Walmart. Think I’ll get lucky?


MTNA Elections 2017

A Personal Connection

Are you a current member of MTNA (Music Teachers National Association)? If so, this month, we have the privilege of voting in the National Elections for the Board of Directors.

When I first joined MTNA, like many, I was guilty of not voting due to the feeling of not knowing any of the candidates. Making a decision based on a short printed bio is hard. Each one has solid credentials, and is a highly qualified and capable candidate, or else they wouldn’t be on the ballot of a national organization. It’s true.

My non-voting didn’t last for long though because I consider the ability to vote for anything a privilege and duty.

On this year’s ballot, Indiana is proud to have one of our own – someone I literally sat next to at our last state board meeting, and I hope I can give you a bit more personal insight into one of the candidates for President-Elect, Karen Thickstun.

In the photo below, Karen is second from the left, and I’m third from the left.  On a side note, can I just say I serve on the best state board ever?! I just love these people…

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Game Day Roundup for your Studio and Kitchen

This coming weekend much of America revels in Super Bowl Sunday. In honor of the upcoming festivities, today’s post is a round-up of ideas for the upcoming week.

I’ll be sharing some football-themed resources from around the web for this week’s lessons, a few of my favorite game-day eats to spark your taste buds before you hit the grocery, and a couple of personal memories of years past.

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Friday Finds

An Activity, A Printable, A Discovery

1 – An Activity

Decorating the piano is a fun visual and tactile activity that I do with every new student.


2 – A Printable

Free download of rhythm variations on the 4-chord pattern. This will be a great reference for my students who are playing worship chord charts. I always walk them through a process that slowly expands the rhythm patterns they use but have never written anything out concrete. I imagine it would look like something similar to what Heather’s done.


3 – A Discovery

I have a student who is ready to move on to a new book and level. She just finished RCM level 4 repertoire and is ready for a little more challenge.

As teachers, I think it’s important to enjoy the repertoire we assign. So, when deciding on material, my process is to play through all the music in the books I’m considering and mark my opinion of each piece next to the piece in the table of content; a plus (+) for ones I love, a check mark for ones that are fine, and a minus symbol (-) for those I don’t care for.  This gives me a good overview of the contents.

I decided she was ready to skip a level but after playing through RCM’s level 6 I was a little disappointed. Normally, I love the fact that the RCM books contain a large selection of contemporary repertoire but I was underwhelmed with the contents. I also considered Keith Snell’s level 6 and while there were a few more I was happy with, neither one came close to the Journey Through the Classics book.

This book has been sitting in my file for a few years as I received it as a freebie at a conference. I’m officially purchasing the whole set and can’t wait to check them out and use them with other students.

3 – On a Personal Note…

My in-laws bought me this bottle of perfume for Christmas and it is DIVINE. I rarely wear perfume, but this one is totally worth it. Makes me feel like a woman. Hehe.

The description:

Stella is infused with the slightly sweet, never bitter, and always fresh scent of blood orange. Notes: Bitter Orange, Blood Orange, Watery Accord, White Freesia, Wild Diamond Orchids, Spicy Lily, Sheer Musk, Sandalwood


4 – What I’m reading

I first heard of David Cutler from Natalie Weber of Music Matters Blog back in 2010 as I recall her being a big fan of his first book The Savvy Musician.

While I’ve not read the first book, I decided it was time to get on the David Cutler “Savvy” bandwagon and read his most recent, The Savvy Music Teacher. 30% of the way through the book, I’m finding it inspiring, confirming, and refreshing. He will be giving the Keynote Address at the upcoming MTNA Conference in Baltimore.

Will you be at MTNA? If so, keep THIS on the backburner. I would like to host my first Piano Pantry readers dinner! Yea! It can be tricky finding places to host groups so stay tuned for details to come.



Evernote: An Independent Music Teacher’s Handbook

Part 3 - Account Features, Tagging & More! [Video]

I’m back for my third and final installment on how to implement Evernote into your daily life as an independent music teacher.

While I say this is the “final” video in the series, I’m sure there will be much more on Evernote to come here on Piano Pantry as it’s a program for which I’m quite passionate. Can you tell?

This 3-part video series together is less than 40 minutes. If you’re like me, you listen to single podcasts that are longer than that! Most of us likely spend 30-40 minutes each evening watching a show or video to chill-out. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of us also spend that much time daily reading blogs or posts on Facebook piano teacher groups.

I can promise that if you give those 30-40 minutes just one day to watching the series, it could potentially change the way you handle and organize your studio forever. A strong statement, I know, but I believe it with my whole heart and well, if you know me, you know that for the most part, I say what I feel!

Check out part ONE on using Evernote to organize your studio.

Check out part TWO a short 3-minute video here on the powerful web clipper.


Evernote Part 3:
Account Features, Tagging & More!

The following is a breakdown of what you will see in part 3.

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Friday Finds

Engaging, Doodling, and Parenting (...or Teaching) Tomorrow's Leaders



Brilliant recital idea. Engaging students directly in their own experience and learning process is so important but can be hard. This is a perfect way to do so.



Unstructured Practice: Giving Students Time to Doodle. Agree 100%.



Whaaaat?! Sweet!

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Friday Finds

Productivity Tools and Simple Songs



I often struggle with finding off-bench music lab activities for my youngest students (ages 5-7). Since I have one student doing lab and one in a lesson simultaneously, they have to, for the most part, be able to function on their own. If a student doesn’t read well yet, that makes it even harder.

In comes MLT and the idea of acculturation – being absorbed in and hearing music in a variety of styles, meters, timbres, instruments, and modes. Viola! One lab I rotate now is purely listening (15-20 minutes). It’s simple – they listen to music while drawing freely in their personal art book and they love it!

What Great Music! Classical Selections to Hear and to See is wonderful for this. Not only is the music of high caliber, but there are beautiful images to accompany each piece.

If you’re interested in reading a little more on how I use “art books” with students check out this post.



Sort by Price167 words by Seth that will kick your “commodity” marketing mindset in the pants.

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