Friday Finds #120



The photo above is a little blurry because it’s a screenshot from a video I came across on the Check it out!



I’ve been enjoying Ina Garten’s Favorite Love Songs playlist on Spotify this past couple of weeks.



Congratulations to my friend, Joy Morin, on the 10-year blogiversary of! She’s celebrating with sales through the month of February so keep your eye out.



It was also fun seeing Joy’s meet-up with a teacher and a student in Puerto Rico.



More big news in piano-teacher world… Piano Safari has launched a Spanish Edition



The best way to keep guacamoleNow I just have to remember this tip…



The Best Graphic Design Options for Piano Teachers.



I thought this was a great idea for a blog post from Sara Campbell.  “A Thoughtful Answer to FB’s “Very Responsive” Badge”.



Chili Cheese Fritos made it into my grocery cart for the first time this past week, and I am in love. They don’t taste greasy at all like regular Fritos and were a nice crunchy topping for one of my favorite chili recipes: Tex-Mex Corn Chip Chili.



Randall Faber Receives Lifetime Achievement Award in Education from Roland Corporation.



Joy Morin has posted a couple of videos recently that follow up on her Wednesday Words of Wisdom posts.  Here’s the first one.

Free Printable: My Hands

Watch them Grow

Over the years I’ve come across several different printables for young students to trace their hands. Many method books also include a page for this activity.

None of these, however, include one little thing I really wanted, so I decided to make my own sheet. I’ll tell you what it is, but first, the backstory.

It’s very easy when attending professional development conferences, to hear great ideas but then forget to put some of those ideas into place.

When I attended the 2017 MTNA Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, I gleaned a fun idea from a session given by Amy Immerman on tracing students hands.

She suggested that with young beginner students we not only trace their hands but retrace them every so often so students can see how much they’re growing. (Kind of like the typical height-growth chart found in a lot of homes, but for piano 🙂 )

Children love to learn and see how they are growing.  Just last night I had a group class for tweens. When I asked each of them to remind me how old they were, none of them responded with their actual age. They stated how old they would be and in how long, such as “I’ll be 13 in two months.”

Growth, in whatever form it is, feels good.

The reason none of the other printables I’ve ever found have worked for me is that they don’t remind me to re-trace their hands. It’s easy to forget to do things unless they’re right in front of us (a perfect example of why so many teachers love method books).

Plus, I don’t use method books with beginners and even if I did, once you start progressing forward, how many of us would remember to go back and do that? No one.

This printable includes instructions for students to trace their hands multiple times over the course of their first year of lessons.

I would recommend keeping it in the front of their piano binder or better yet, in their student file folder. (Check out my student files here.)

My Personal Recommendation for Karen Thickstun for MTNA President-Elect

Voting is open for the 2019 – 2021 MTNA National Officer Slate.

Will you indulge me for a moment and allow me to share my personal recommendation for one of the nominees for President-Elect?

Let me introduce you to Karen Thickstun, a face you may recognize! If you’re a member of MTNA, you may know her as:

  • Author of the tri-annual business column “It’s None of all Your Business” in MTNA’s American Music Teacher Magazine.
  • Member of MTNA’s Board of Directors, most recently as Vice President of Membership (2015-2017) and Secretary-Treasurer (2013–2015).
  • A frequent presenter at MTNA National Conferences on topics related to business and teaching.

Karen is a friend and fellow colleague on the Indiana MTA Board of Directors. She has served our state in a plethora of roles including as state president, trustee chair, and her current role on Arts Advocacy and Awareness, to name only a few.

In 2002, she was honored with our state’s Distinguished Service Award, (given infrequently), and in 2008 was awarded Teacher of the Year.

I don’t want to simply state all of her qualifications, as you can read more on her and the other candidates here.

Let me just make this statement:

Karen is the kind of person that creates impact. She has been a wonderful mentor and trusted advisor not only to her students but to all my fellow colleagues who have taken on the role of state President. She’s our go-to girl.

If we’re unsure of something, we go to Karen.

If we need advice for a situation, we go to Karen.

If we need a second opinion, we go to Karen.

If we need a history of the association, we go to Karen.

Karen Thickstun embodies everything you would want to see in an MTNA President and more.

I wrote about her in a post here on Piano Pantry back in 2017. Check it out

If you haven’t yet exercised your right to vote, it will take place through 3:00 pm, EST, on March 1st.  You may cast your vote here.

*Disclaimer: Please know that this post is of my own free will. All statements and opinions are mine only. Every nominee placed on the slate is of high quality and would serve MTNA with excellence. This is simply my personal plug for a friend and colleague.

MTNA 2019 and Other News

The time is nearing quickly for MTNA 2019 in Spokane! The schedule is out and I’m looking forward to another great conference.

Joy Morin and I will be co-presenting a session on Wednesday, March 20 @ 8:00 am “Teaching the Way We Learn: Applications of Edwin E. Gordon’s Music Learning Theory (MLT)”.

Following that session, at 9:15 am, we will both be participating in a Panel Discussion called “Creativity Throughout: A Panel Discussion on the Business Side of Teaching.” 

Both sessions are unfortunately late in the conference, but I hope you can arrange to attend!

If you’re attending, I would love to meet up. Drop me an email and maybe we can arrange to have a coffee or meal sometime during the conference!

Early registration is also now open for NCKP – a semi-annual conference held in Lombard, Illinois (Chicago).

I’m excited to be making my first appearance as a presenter at NCKP giving a lightning session “Evernote for the Independent Music Teacher.”

Are you from Raleigh, Kansas  City, or Northeastern Ohio?

If so, you can catch presentations of my session “Taming the Jungle: Digital Management Strategies for the Independent Music Teacher” in one of these locations:

  • February 20 – Raleigh Piano Teachers Association (via Zoom)
  • April 5th – Kansas City Music Teachers Association
  • May 3rd – Western Reserve Music Teachers Association


Looking at your local group’s 2019-2020 scheduling? Check out my list of available sessions here. I would love to come and speak to your group!



Friday Finds #119

It’s Superbowl Sunday weekend!

If you’re looking for last minute ideas for game-day food, check out my favorite appetizer-type recipes in the post “Game Day Round-up for Your Studio and Kitchen“.



Another great piano teacher blog I just came across this week! One of the writers, Davis Dorrough actually announced my session last year at the MTNA Conference in Orlando. Hi, Davis!



MTNA just announced a new conference for advanced teaching. This is very, very cool!



The MTNA e-Festival has taken a drastic drop in price from $60 to $25 per entry! Another incredible announcement from MTNA!



I’m feeling really tempted to buy this piano bench after reading the review on 4-D Piano Teaching. Does anyone else use this bench and have feedback? If so, please comment below!



GIML (Gordon Institute for Music Learning) has given their website a much-needed update. It is so much more user-friendly and visually appealing!



We hit record low temperatures this week in Indiana with one day at -15 and windchills at -40. Chili was on the menu for dinner that night. Here’s my current favorite chili recipe. 

Other favorites through the years have included Tex-Mex Corn Chip ChiliOne-Pot Chili Mac, and Instant pot White Chicken Black Bean Chili (we prefer the chicken cubed rather than shredded).



Good intentions (how to be on time).



The story that Emily P. Freeman tells in episode 65 of The Next Right Thing podcast had me rolling with laughter. It’s exactly the sort of thing I could see happening to me. I found it so funny, I made my husband listen to it that night.

It’s about having a green thumb…or maybe not having a green thumb… (we’re talking caring for living plants here in case you’re lost).

It’s a 2-minute story and will add a smile to your day. (It starts at 1:30 in case you only want to listen to the story.)


A Visual Guide for Formula Pattern Scales

Contrary motion scales are awesome. Not only are they fun to play and sound cool, but they’re a wonderful way to teach scale fingerings – especially when students are first learning to play scales. Students seem to love them as well.

A step up from a simple contrary motion scale is playing scales using what’s called a “formula pattern.” (I’ve always wondered why it’s called a “formula pattern” so if you know, please educate me! It’s such a boring name for such a fun scale pattern.)

I think we should call them zig-zag scales instead!

The first time I tried to teach a student the formula pattern was a struggle. I try to avoid using formal “scale books” for students to have to read every note and fingering, so I needed to find an easy way to explain the pattern.

Since I’m a visual person, I came up with this simple Formal Pattern Visual Guide for my students. Every student I’ve used this with has found it very helpful and so I realized it was time I shared it with you!

After my students finish Piano Safari Technique Level 3, which covers the keys of C/Am, G/Em, and F/Dm, I’ve been moving them into the RCM technique leveling. Even though I don’t send my students to RCM, I like having a step-by-step leveling system.

Joy Morin has a free downloadable PDF of the Technical Requirements for the 2015 RCM Program we use.

As far as formula pattern goes, here are the requirements RCM has:

Level 1 = C Major
Level 2 = C, G Major
Level 3 = D Major
Level 4 = C minor
Level 5 = A Major, A minor
Level 6 = E Major, E minor
Level 7 = D Major, D minor
Level 8 = Eb Major, Eb minor
Level 9 = Db Major, F Major, C# minor, F minor

My downloadable PDF has two pages. One includes no fingerings and is the one I originally made.

Since the first seven levels all use the same fingering, however, my students found it even more helpful to have the starting and ending finger numbers written in at each octave point.

Once they hit level 7, I wouldn’t be too worried about needing a visual. Once students have used this for even just a couple of levels, they catch on and don’t really need it anymore.

I hope your students find it helpful! Click on the image to download.


Friday Finds #118

Two weeks ago I told you that I would share a photo of the make-shift kitchen we set up after we moved into the basement of our new house. It wasn’t photo-worthy last week but this week it was.

To be honest, I can’t believe I’m even showing you this! You must think I’m crazy, but I don’t care! We’re finally living in our new home and that to me is amazing.

The top left photo is my “cooking area” with a toaster oven, George Foreman Grill, Induction cooktop, basic oils and seasonings, Ultimate Cutco knife set (I used to sell them in college), cutting boards, and hot pads. The crates below house some of my basic bowls, storage containers, and frequently used utensils.

In the bottom right photo, we see the microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and water kettle. The tubs and bags below the table are holding the paper serve-wear we’re using to minimize dishes, plastic wraps, and baggies, etc. I just try to think of it as camping on steroids.

The best part is yet to come when, later this year (sometime between April and July), our kitchen cabinets will be done and then I can show you the pretty kitchen!

Now that you feel better about the kitchen you have – go cook something wonderful!



One of my favorite “under 20-minute” podcasts is the Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips. As with the majority of podcasts I listen to on a daily basis, I only listen to the ones that interest me the most (or you eventually go on podcast overload). Here’s one of my recent Nutrition Diva listens:

3 Myths (and 1 Truth) About Grain-Fed Beef



What’s In Season: January Produce Guide. I always seem to find myself craving orange juice in the winter. Unfortunately, I don’t like eating oranges because I hate the membrane, but citrus is definitely a big one this time of year!



“Frustrations” by Piano Addict. I love the opening quote on this post…



How to be Honorable.



Hands Separately Practice – Useful or Not?



Recently I’ve determined I really want to try and incorporate more fish into our diet. So, last week we had this super-simple and really delicious Cod Sautéed in Olive Oil with Fresh Tomatoes

On my recipe list for this week is another super simple Poached Cod in Tomato Sauce, and bookmarked in my recipes tag in Evernote for the future when I have a better setup is a this a-little-heavier-on-the-ingredients recipe Macadamia-Crusted Sriracha Ranch Salmon.

After seeing my kitchen you understand why my recipe list includes only recipes with minimal ingredients!




Friday Finds #117

My piano was long overdue for a tuning. The start to the semester is always a good time to give a little extra care to our instruments. This time around, my sostenuto pedal needed to be adjusted. In order to fix it, my tuner had to pull the key bed out which was a perfect time to give it a little cleaning!

Besides dust, other items that had found a home below included a sticker and a key letter-name manipulative that students set on top of the keys when they’re learning key names. All in all, I would say we weren’t doing too bad!

While we’re on the topic of piano care…



My Local Music Teachers group met last Friday at a local piano shop for a program on piano care. One of the items they recommended was the Cory products for cleaning your piano keys and polishing the body of the piano. Pay attention to the finish of your piano before choosing the polishing product.

You can get a kit on Amazon that includes the Key cleaner and polish for super high-gloss piano finishes.



“Naked Piano Week”. Exploring the piano and understanding how it works is something I’m sure we all think is important but likely forget to do. Ideally, I think it would be nice once a year to set aside one lesson to refresh with students how their instrument works!



This blog post on using multiple computer screens by Rosemarie Penner was an excellent idea to share on productivity for teachers. I’ve been using two screens for a couple of years and should have done it sooner. My husband has been using 2-3 screens at work for even longer. It’s not hard to set up and it saves a lot of time flipping between screens.



Speaking of flipping between computer screens/windows, if you’re not using some of the basic keyboard shortcuts (like “Alt-Tab” for switching between windows), you will save yourself a lot of time by learning some of those shortcuts. Here are shortcuts for Windows users and shortcuts for Mac users.



Several of you have emailed me after I write the post on how I manage internet content. Part of managing internet content is also managing your email inbox. Here’s a podcast I listened to a couple of years ago that helped me improve how I manage my inbox.



Oxo products are amazing. See what items Oxo employees love.

My absolute favorite Oxo product is the cutting boards. I would recommend owning all three sizes (especially the 14.5″x 21″)




Like Nicola, I started using My Music Staff this year. One of the biggest things I like about it at the moment is having professional-looking invoices emailed to families. Check out Nicola’s review.



What a lovely thing. See how this woman transformed a rotting tree into a useable space for her neighborhood.



One Teacher’s “King-Sized Master Spreadsheet”

It’s always nice to see and hear how teachers are using the tools, tips, and tricks they hear about here on Piano Pantry. I was delighted to see Lauren Lewandoski share on her website this week her version of the King-Sized Master Spreadsheet.

Check out Lauren’s spreadsheet!

Have you created your own master spreadsheet as well? If so, I would love to feature a post that highlights how several teachers are customizing their own. Drop me an email!


Friday Finds #116

This is my photo of the week because mostly because it encompasses what I’ve been meditating on these last few days. James is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Plus, since we’re just back to lessons this week, I didn’t take any photos of studio happenings.

If you’re on the Piano Pantry email list and read December’s Secret Letter, then you’ve heard the news that we moved! (Hence no Friday Finds the last two weeks). We’re finally living in the basement (future studio) of our new house while we finish the upstairs. Next week, if I remember, my photo of the week will be my crazy makeshift kitchen!



How to Handle Sentimental Clutter – whether you’re moving or just de-cluttering after the holidays, this is good advice.



WunderKeys now has a Level 1A – this is big news!



One of my students started playing Tum-Balalaika from Faber 3B Performance this week, so we Googled “Balalaika” and came across this amazing video.



SETH GODIN | The thing about arguments…



8 Easy Ways to Create Work-Life Balance (using self-care habits) from piano blogger Rosemarie Penner.



A 7-pound bucket of Nutella. Tempting.



The Best Guide on How to Buy, Care For, or Sell a Piano



A new collaborative project by Jennifer Foxx.



Types of posts that have to stop in 2019. I can’t say I disagree.



A few podcast ideas from one piano teacher to another.