Friday Finds #114

I’ve finally learned my lesson over the years that I should not wait until the last week of lessons to give my students their Christmas presents. Why? There have been plenty of years where students didn’t come to the last week of lessons and thus I had a handful of gifts left. It just felt strange giving it to them in January.

Next week is our last week of lessons so this week was the gift-giving week. The ornaments I gave out this year were a breeze as they came pre-wrapped in cute little gift boxes with ribbons around them. Easy! That’s my cup of tea.

The other lesson I’ve learned is that I try to purchase next year’s gift the year prior, then I don’t have to worry about what to get my students when Christmas comes around next year. There have been plenty of years where I was down to the last wire getting an order in time. It was such as relief this year to find this box of ornaments all ready to go!

You can find the ornaments pictured above on Amazon.

(As always a reminder that anything linked to Amazon is an affiliate link which simply means that if you happen to purchase using that link, I receive a small percentage back at no extra cost to you which helps me maintain this website).

We’re in the long-stretch to Christmas break. Keep it up!



Ear infection. Yuck! I haven’t had one of those since I was a kid and yet here I am, fighting one this week (along with other cold symptoms). Consequently, I’m using a lot of my go-to tips shared in Germ-Alert: A Studio Teachers Guide to Staying Healthy. (Or maybe telling you I’m sick isn’t a way to get you to read my tips to staying healthy…hmmm…I think I have that backward. 🙂 )



THAT person is more important than your phone. Yes, Amen. I try to always keep this in mind when going through a drive-through. More than once I’ve found myself driving away and realizing I never even really looked the people in the eye that took me money or handed me food.

Be intentional at acknowledging people.



The best pack of stickers I’ve ever spent money on. I tell my students even I want to earn one of these stickers! 🙂

Koobar Year-Round Holiday Stickers Variety Pack (400+ stickers)



I’m always up for a good list of recommended podcastsThanks, Leila.



While we’re on the topic of lists, Rosemarie Penner at has created a couple of lists on her Top Must-Have Teaching Apps and Top Must-Have Business Apps for the Studio.



If you need some help organizing those apps, watch my video on how I organize my devices in App-land Madness.



One of my students who has been with me for more than 5 years has always had TERRIBLE posture.  It is a continual battle to get him to sit up and not slouch.

This past week I finally had a revelation to have him sit on one of the vestibular wedges I purchased this summer after being at Joy Morin’s Piano Retreat where we talked about technique/posture, etc. The instant effect was astounding and he even said that he noticed himself sitting taller at school (even without it). I wish I would have thought about this years ago

Personally, I’ve been using this one on my teaching chair this entire semester and absolutely love it.

Friday Finds #113

Happy Friday!

In this weeks featured photo, my sweet little student was using some of our favorite winter-themed Japanese erasers to lay out the notes of the E minor scale(s). (I would suggest buying two sets since it only comes with 7.)

Recently, I shared my love for these erasers in the post Piano Teacher Must-Haves: A Minimalist’s List.

I love teaching all three forms of the scale at one time. We always start with the natural minor so they understand the relationship between the relative major and minor. This is also the reason why I use moveable DO with
LA-based minor. It makes not only the “theory” but the audiation of major and minor keys so much easier to understand! To execute the minor all you do is start on a different note of the scale (LA).

Enjoy this week’s links!



Here’s what your resume should look like in 2019.



My senses are enjoying the gentle and tantalizing scent of this Coconut, Vanilla, and Tangerine Essential Oils Body Lotion. Diane Hidy’s first shared it a few years ago in one of her Christmas lists. It’s a bit of a splurge, so I’m using it sparingly, but it might make a great gift for someone you’re not sure what to get!



One concept I don’t have a game for in my Master List of Manipulatives is for Crescendo and Decrescendo. There are plenty of piano games out there for dynamics in general, but I like how this one from Teach Piano Today is specifically for crescendo and decrescendo only.



It’s about that time: 3 Gentle Ways to Review Your Life in the New Year.



Washing the Dishes May Help Relieve StressThis past year I’ve been hand -washing most of our dishes because the dishwasher in our rental is old and doesn’t do a great job anymore. I’ve actually been enjoying the somewhat liturgical practice and motion of hand-washing the dishes and even when I have a good dishwasher someday will likely continue to hand wash as much as possible. Not only that, but dishes just fare better with the gentle hand-washing.

One small downside to hand-washing is the skin on my fingertips tends to get really dry and annoyingly catches on things like my clothes. So, I finally started using dishwashing gloves and my hands are thanking me. These Playtext Living gloves ones are the best I’ve found. Plus, each season there’s a fun new color.



Congratulations to Tim Topham on the release of his new Inner Circle Piano Teachers App and to Elisa Milne for her new Shop!



Thoughts on making time stand still.



In past Friday finds, I’ve shared this fun lego piano.

Piano Street recently posted a video of a complex concert grand piano in Lego form that hopes to someday make it into retail production. Would this be amazing or what?



A fascinating video on how real Parmigiano Reggiano is made in Italy.



Managing Internet Content the Easy Way

Let's stop for a minute and think about how many people we "follow" online. To keep it even more specific and focused, only think about those you follow who create content for piano teachers.

Can you count them all on one hand or do you lose track after listing more than a dozen?

I stopped counting after 50. Yes, 50.  I'm pretty sure my number is actually closer to 90.

Let's crank that jaw back shut - it's not as scary as it seems!

Next to email, managing the influx of content from all our favorite blogs and websites seems to be the one area that teachers struggle with the most - and for good reason. The last five years especially have seen an explosion of new content creators - I'm one of them!

Believe it or not, it is possible to follow a large number of sites online in a manageable way without it feeling overwhelming. More importantly, you can do it without clogging your email Inbox or Facebook Newsfeed with articles. Curious?


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Friday Finds #112

Now that our bellies are full of turkey, we can fix our eyes to the Christmas Season! I hope you had a joyful time with your family around the Thanksgiving table making memories and sharing joy and laughter.

(Due to the holidays, I took last week off from FF so if you missed the Thanksgiving Edition posted two weeks ago, you can catch it here.)

The turn from Thanksgiving to Christmas is practically a phenomenon as we seemingly go to sleep on Thursday and wake up Friday to the world transformed.  ‘Tis the season! Are you ready?



The photo above is at our City Hall. I follow a fun Instagram account that posts a lot around the holidays. The owner of the account even shares photos sent to them, so I passed this one on. If you follow the account you may catch it sometime!



As you prepare for the upcoming season, you may consider: Is it Time for Us to Rethink How We Give Gifts?



For all you Chai fans – Caffeine-Free Chai Mix.



If you’re struggling to come up with another gift idea for your students, have no fear, help is here! Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Music Students: Who Couldn’t Use Another Idea?



What you may not have known about IKEA.



Some great suggestions for the Advent season on The Art of Simple.



I am absolutely loving this Peppermint Chapstick by S.W. Basics. It’s made with beeswax, cocoa butter, olive oil, and of course, peppermint! A tiny touch of the season on my lips.



A gift guide for new cooks.



If you don’t have an Advent calendar yet, you can get a CHEESE one at Target!



Group classes don’t have to be stressful  – sometimes it’s nice to just keep it simple.



Winter is fighting with Fall here in Indiana. We’re not sure what season we’re in. It’s been colder than usual though and last Sunday I appreciated the opportunity to keep my oven on for an extended period of time making  Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

The way the slow roasting completely permeates the flesh of the potatoes is incredible. The potato stood on its own two feet with absolutely no butter, brown sugar, or maple syrup added. Just beautiful orange-fleshy sweet potato.

Listening Guide Updated

Yesterday I posted a Visual Listening Guide to use with students during group classes. I accidentally included “Lydian” twice in the tonality section and forgot Locrian. The sheet has been updated. Thanks to the reader who pointed it out!

View the post here.

A Visual Listening Guide for Group Class Performances

Listening guides are like a collector’s item in my studio. The file drawers hold no less than six different forms obtained over the years from other wonderful teaching sites. Unfortunately, none of them have hit it spot on for me, so last year I finally came up with my own.

Inspired by the Listening Card Race from Pianimation, this listening guide uses small visual cues and descriptors. This sheet is wonderful to use for student performances during group class to keep students engaged in listening to the music (and performance) actively.

My recommendation would be to go over the sheet first as a class and even do some demonstrations. With younger students, I sometimes even like to have them pronounce the words together to make sure they feel comfortable with the terms.

Laminating the sheets will keep them in good shape for repeated use. Sometimes we use dry-erase markers, but I prefer to simply have students use game markers such as pennies, Japanese erasers, or the clear flat marbles that you see.

Note: I don’t necessarily expect students to write down answers to the question of for “Mood,” etc. They can simply be prepared with a verbal answer.





Friday Finds #111

Thanksgiving Edition

For some reason, the month of November feels like it’s gone faster than any other month this year. Every time I think about the fact that Thanksgiving is next week I feel like reenacting the face made by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

Enjoy this week’s finds and I’ll see you in two weeks! ~Amy



Some of my favorite recipes, gadgets, and music for the holiday season can be found in Amy’s Holiday Favorites.



Chasing the Turkey board game from Susan Paradis.



Melodic dictation of Thanksgiving tunes for intermediate levels and Pumpkin pie listening thermometers from  Compose Create.



When we lived in Australia, one of my favorite chefs to watch on TV was the Canadian show French Food at Home hosted by Laura Calder. As we’re coming into a season of having our homes full of family, food, and friends, it’s the perfect time to share her book The Inviting Life: An Inspirational Guide to Homemaking, Hosting and Opening the Door to Happiness.

“The Inviting Life” what a beautiful idea!



#GivingTuesday is a large part of the upcoming season. As an independent teacher, if you’re looking for ways to give back to the profession, consider the MTNA Foundation Fund.



Speaking of giving…

If you use Amazon for shopping at all, consider connecting with a non-profit through before doing all your holiday shopping. For example, our local creative arts organization and the church camp Drew and I support both have an organizational account. Simply do your shopping at rather than on and 0.5% of your purchases will go back to your organization of choice without costing you any extra!



Lauren just shared a great little challenge she gave to her piano students. Maybe you’ll find the December Studio Challenge a great fit for your student next month!



Journals and diaries have never worked for me – I’ve tried over the years and it never lasts. The idea of the “One-line-a-day” journal is very appealing to me though and I’m thinking of doing this in 2019. It seems like a simple and yet beautiful way to reflect on life. Does anyone do this and if so what do you think? Do you have a particular journal you like? This is the one I’m looking at purchasing. Share in the comments!



Have you seen Natalie’s new website? It looks amazing  – so simple and fresh. Check it out!



Thanksgiving often is focused on the blessings of health, position, family, friends, home, and belonging – all good things, but perhaps we should consider also giving thanks for spiritual blessings – the kind that has value beyond life on earth.

This beautiful song written by Keith and Kristy Getty focus on the spiritual blessings. They state:

In “My heart is filled with thankfulness” we give thanks to God for spiritual blessings – past, present and future:  what Christ has done for us – for forgiveness and new life, which only He could bring by coming here to earth and suffering for us…for how He walks beside us each day and having lived, breathed and walked here on earth…for how He promises to be with us whatever our future holds.



Piano Teacher Must-Have’s

A Minimalist’s List

As the time gets closer and closer for us to move into our new home and eventually my new studio, I’ve come to realize just how much STUFF I have in my studio that will have to be moved.

While dreading the thought of relocating all these things, I began to ponder what it would be like to have a “minimalist” studio.

If I were a brand new teacher or if I had to start all over again in a very small space, what are the items that would be “must-haves”?

Thus was born this “minamalist’s list.” Keep in mind that we’re talking bare bones. This list does not include equipment (like a piano),  office equipment like computers and printers, or pedagogical books.

I look forward to hearing some of your “must-haves” in the comments!


A Copy of Your Favorite Method Book

This is my first recommendation because it’s one of the most basic and important in my opinion.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either wanted to have a look at a students method book while lesson planning, needed a copy so I could make a video lesson for a student or simply need an extra copy when a student forgets their book. Whatever method you use the most, keep one extra copy on hand at all times!



Office Supply Must-Have

Post-its are kind of a “must-have” in any teacher’s world. I couldn’t go without these 1/2″ x 1 3/4″ Post-its for marking assigned pages. I like the paper ones because I can also write on them if needed as opposed to the plastic-type tabs.

Erasable pens, markers, and colored pencils are God’s gift to teachers. I have four specific recommendations in this area.

Frixion Erasable Colors 12-pack.

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Friday Finds #110

This past week must have been a pretty dull week because I couldn’t find a photo worthwhile to share, so I’m jumping back just a bit.

This photo is from our Indiana State Conference in early October where we had Dr. Christopher and Katherine Fisher (Piano Safari) as our Pedagogy Clinicians. They were absolutely fabulous.

Dr. Fisher conducted an elementary/intermediate masterclass. Generally, we only have an advanced masterclass, so this was a treat. I’ve seen a lot of masterclasses in my career and Dr. Fisher certainly comes out on top for excellent ones. I especially loved how he engaged all the students directly in the class together as a group. (The one at the piano is my student!) I would highly recommend him (them) for your next state conference!



As I was finally resetting my mini date/time clock in my studio this week (a little late) following the daylight savings time change, I realized I don’t think I’ve ever shared the awesome little clock I keep next to the piano. (Forgive me if I have!)

It’s perfect because it’s really small – so I can keep it out of the eye line of students and it can alternate the date with the time! (Optional)



Lauren has put together a nice list of resources for those of you who teach using the Piano Safari Method.



These binder dividers are what I use in my student binders. They are incredibly durable and reusable.

We keep our assignment sheets in the very front on top of the dividers, then label the dividers: Mastered Pieces (that’s where we keep our 40-piece challenge lists), Memorized Pieces (again, a list) and then from there, it varies depending on the student.



Sandi Patty has one of the biggest voices I’ve ever heard. She was especially popular when I was growing up. Here’s an interview with her: Listening to God’s Voice and Finding Your Own: An Interview with Sandi Patty.



Joy Wilson, the baker extraordinaire and woman behind one of the most famous cooking blogs, Joy the Baker, shows us how she hosts friendsgiving.

I can’t wait to have a “friendsgiving” someday (gotta finish the house first)!



It’s gotten chilly around here this week – the perfect week to break out the first round of chili this season. 🙂

Chili, like meatloaf, is one of those foods for me that I like, but I’m really picky about and have never quite found a recipe that I absolutely love. Until now.

This Simple & Tasty Slow Cooker Chili was SO GOOD. I used fire roasted diced tomatoes, and our homemade venison stock in it which I’m sure added to the goodness. We like to top it with a dollop of our homemade plain greek yogurt, shredded sharp cheddar, and some kind of crunchy (I like Fritos! :-/)



Want To Keep Your Brain Sharp? Take Care Of Your Eyes And Ears



For a limited time, anyone can get free shipping on anything from Amazon with no minimum purchase. Wow, that’s a pretty amazing deal.



This side-by-side trailer video of Aladdin from 1992 and 2019 is kind of cool! It’s amazing how far the animation world has come.



Finally, How to Trim Your Own Bangs at Home Like a Pro



Creating a Studio Legacy with Student Photo Boards

A Canva Tutorial [Video]

This is my current student photo board.

Students are not displayed from oldest to youngest, but by how long they’ve been studying with me – moving from left to right and top to bottom.

Every photo includes the student’s picture, their first name, and the month and year they started taking piano lessons at Studio 88.

The white spaces are inspiring quotes. I could have filled them all up individually if I had included my adults, but I assumed they would want anonymity. (After one of them asked why they weren’t on the photo board, I realized next time I should just ask if I could include them rather than assume!)

Today I want to show you how you can create a photo board like this using an online design studio called Canva.

First, I want to briefly share what got me started on having a student photo board.


Who’s the Team?

One of the hottest series here on Piano Pantry is called the Varsity Musician’s Playbook. Written by a good friend of mine, the series focuses on how we can develop thriving studios and students who are deeply committed using principles from team sports.

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