Germ-Alert Season

A Studio Teachers Guide to Staying Healthy

Getting sick.  Ugh. The only good part of being sick is you can watch endless episodes of your favorite show while wallowing in your misery on the couch at home.

Otherwise, it’s the nemesis of every teacher. Why? Because it’s more of a pain to catch up on life than it is to simply have a normal day.

The flu is running rampant this year. Twenty percent of my students canceled last week from either being sick or having a family member sick (in which case they didn’t want to spread it around-thank you!).

Yes, getting sick as a teacher is often the result of exposure to so many students every week. More so than that, though, I’m more likely to get sick when I’ve not been taking care of myself. That could be lack of sleep, stress, or getting out of the habit of physical activity and/or taking daily supplements.

Today I want to share a few ways we can be proactive in our studios and with our personal health – especially during the winter months when we’re on high “germ-alert.”

*Disclaimer: All advice and opinions posted here are simply from my own experiences. I am not a health professional nor do I claim to be.


Clean Environment

Keep your studio and teaching area clean. Regularly clean areas touched by students including door handles, computer keyboards and mice, and of course the bathroom.

Clean Piano

I’ve never had luck with remembering to enforce this, but having students wash their hands with soap and water before coming to the piano would be ideal.

Avoid hand sanitizer as it has been proven to be less effective than good old soap. I’ve also been told (by my piano tuner) that hands covered in hand sanitizer could possibly cause cracks in the piano key surface. The same goes for antibacterial wipes.

Keep it simple. Stash a cloth nearby and regularly wipe down the piano keys. A cotton cloth very lightly sprayed with a vinegar-water mixture would suffice or try a cleaning cloth such as the Guardsman dusting cloth. 

The Guardsman cloth is a wonderful, gentle cloth that won’t scratch your piano and has a very lightly tacky surface that is brilliant at collecting the dust. Find them at your local hardware.

You could even consider using the Norwex Antimicrobial Window Polishing Cloth for the keys but I would not recommend using it or any of the other Norwex rags on the body of the piano as I would be afraid their material might scratch the surface.

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Friday Finds

Umami Chicken and a Bloggers Plea to Google


1 – MLT Explanations

Curious about what Music Learning Theory (MLT) really is? Did you know that “MLT” differs from “music learning theory?” My friend Joy Morin has just posted an eloquently-written article over at explaining just that.


2 – Sad News

Did you hear about this in the news this past week? Simply horrifying! A couple was arrested after their children were found shackledHere’s the kicker. They had 13 children even as old as in their late 20’s. So, so, so, sad.


3 – Music Lesson Notes

How to Make Effective and Efficient Lesson Notes in Google Docs. | 88 Piano Keys.

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Favorite Podcasts Under 20 Minutes

When I first discovered podcasts years ago, I went bananas. Every free moment I was listening to one – working out, driving, making the bed, cooking dinner, laminating and cutting out teaching aids – you name it.  I couldn’t get enough. 

It almost got to the point where it felt like a to-do list. I didn’t want to miss an episode of any of the podcasts I was following (the list was much shorter then).

Then one day it hit me. I’m burnt out. I simply have not had the motivation to listen to any-more, especially those that are more than 30 minutes.

Keep in mind I’m talking about on a weekly basis. There are those times on long drives or when I’m mowing the yard in the summer when I’m happy to plug in and listen to a long show, but in general, I am now reaching only for those that are 30 minutes or less and even more frequently 20 minutes or less.

So, today I wanted to share with you my favorite podcasts under 20 minutes.


Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast

Host: Andy Stanley
(Also known for: Pastor at Atlanta-based North Point Ministries)

Description: “A conversation designed to help leaders go further.”

Episodes worth mentioning:
03.02.2017 Creating a Culture of Continual Improvement
05.05.2017 Doing What Only You Can Do
07.07.2017 How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge

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Friday Finds

Fascinating MLT Moment and Movements in Rhythm


1 – For White Chocolate Lovers

If you’re a white chocolate lover like me, Cadbury is releasing 371 white chocolate Cadbury eggs this season. The mean part? They’re “hidden” in shipments for “surprises”, you can’t outright buy them buy them unless you buy a case. I’ll pass.


2 – Review of Award-Winning Book

A great review of Paul Sheftel’s “Modules” book which was awarded the 2017 Francis Clark Keyboard Pedagogy Award.


3 – Extra Hot and Extra Cold

We’ve experience sub-zero temperatures recently. Meanwhile, in Australia, the roads are melting…

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Inspiration for the 12 Days of Christmas (Day 11):

Eleven Finds for the New Year

Welcome to the first Friday Finds for 2018! This is the 79th Friday Finds since Piano Pantry kicked off in 2016. Yowsuh – that’s a lot of finds! Here’s the very first one if you’re curious.

I’m using the first one as part of the 12 Days of Inspiration series you may have seen going around the piano blogosphere world.

This is day 11 of the series and thus you’ll find 11 great finds for the new year. Links to days 1 – 10 of the series can be found at the end of the post.


1 – Security

It’s important now more than ever to have strong passwords on the internet. A reader recently shared with me a website she uses and really likes for generating passwords by VPN Mentor. Check out this password generator. You can also use a program such as LastPass like I do to generate strong passwords.


2 – Games First

Tracy Selle has a really good idea that I’m going to try for awhile – starting lessons with an activity/game rather than ending with one. This would certainly be a good way to shake things up as you start back to lessons.


3 – MLT book made FREE

GIA Publications has made available a PDF download of Dr. Edwin E. Gordon’s booklet Quick and Easy Introductions. This is the best book out there for getting your feet wet with Music Learning Theory.  

Quick and Easy Introductions by Edwin E. Gordon

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Piano Teacher World

A Year in Recap: News, Happenings, and Impact

Dear Piano Teacher,

OK, OK, I’m a total copycat! I admit it. This is not an original idea. Last year, Leila Viss wrote a post called 40 Trendsetting Piano Teaching Resources that she compiled along with her friend Marie Lee (which included Friday Finds B.T.W. 🙂 and I absolutely loved it.

So, I started making a list of items that impacted me this past year and the list just started flowing. As the list evolved, it started to include not just specific events, items, and products that impacted me, or that I “discovered,” but items and happenings that I would consider “big news” in piano teacher world.

In alphabetical order…


In Piano Teacher News

Big changes at The Francis Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy

There’s lots going on at The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy! Not only did they hire a new Full-Time Executive Director in October 2017 (Dr. Jennifer Snow), but in December 2017 they appointed Ryan Greene as the new Director of NCKP (National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy).


Carol Matz’s inter@ctive Piano Method

Composer Carol Matz wrote and published a new method that has online interactive materials.


Colourful Keys Quick Clips

After attending NCKP this summer and seeing all the wonderful teaching demonstrations, Irish piano teacher Nicola Canton began posting short clips of her own teaching on her blog

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Recommended Reads

My 2017 Reading List

Although I am an avid reader, several years ago, amidst grad school and the early years of opening my piano studio, I found myself reading very little (except what was assigned in school, of course). A few years following, I still found myself continually saying how much I missed reading so I finally set my foot down for myself and said – no more.

Each year I now set a goal for how many books I want to read and increase it by 1-2 books per year. In 2017 the goal was 20 and I hit it spot on. Next year the goal will be 21. See? Baby steps are manageable. Before I know it, I’ll be reading 30 books a year.

After being inspired by the following quotes…

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ~Oscar Wilde

“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” ~C.S. Lewis

…I vowed this year, to begin including re-reads in my list. The goal was to re-read 5 books (25%) but unfortunately, I only ended up re-reading one (Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert). That’s OK though, I just reminded myself that it’s about baby steps. So, my goal for 2018 my goal will be that 2 of the 21 books will be re-reads.

I hope you can find some inspiration for your own personal book list below. Let me know what you’re reading and some of your top recommendations from this past year in the comments!



Business / Professional

The Savvy Musician by David Cutler

Beware, this book is more of a manual than a pleasure read. 🙂 It is absolutely chock full of ideas for thinking outside the box as an independent music teacher. New teachers and those looking to build their business or explore new income streams will find this book extremely useful.

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Piano Pantry’s Top Posts from 2017

Your Favorite Topics All in One Place

The older we get it seems life tends to move more quickly every year. When you’re young it feels like life will go on forever. The next thing you know, you realize your high school graduation was 20 years ago (or 30-40 for that matter).

As I understand more and more how fast life passes by, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of reflection. We’re always working to do more, learn more, and be better. The result though is that it’s easy to forget where we’ve come from, hard to see all we’ve accomplished, and not realize all life has given us.

This yearly re-cap post is about putting all of your favorite topics from the past year (and from all time) in one place. It’s also a chance for me to reflect on all that’s happened in my own life as a piano teacher at Studio 88 and blogger at Piano Pantry.

Before I wrote this post, I loved reading the recap post from last year. Here is Piano Pantry’s Best of 2016 recap.

In this post you will find:

  • A Month-by-Month Recap of 2017
  • The All-Time Top 5 Posts/Pages
  • The Top 5 Posts/Pages from 2017
  • The Top Friday Finds Post from 2017
  • My Personal Favorite Posts from 2017

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Tidy Teacher Tips

End-of-Semester Reset

As we roll into the end of a semester of teaching, students and teachers alike are itching for a much-needed break from the past months. It’s time to breathe and reset our mind, body, and spirit by walking away from our day to day tasks and celebrating the season with friends and family.

Part of my daily routine in our home is that every evening before we go to bed, the dishes are done, the dishwasher is running, coffee is made, and lunches are packed so the morning goes smoothly.

I prep and reset the house for a clean and easy start to the day.

After the morning gets moving and my husband is off to work, I clean up breakfast dishes, tidy up blankets and such from the night before, make the bed, and prep dinner so when we arrive home from work the evening goes smoothly.

I prep and reset the house for a clean and easy end to the day.

When we go on vacation we like to make sure the house is clean and picked up, trash is taken out, dishes are completely done and put away, the refrigerator is as empty as possible, and there’s something frozen in the freezer to eat if needed when we return.

We prep and reset the house for a welcome and relaxing return.

Before you close the door to your studio to reset the teacher in you, I would like to encourage you to take a little time to reset your workspace so when you return, you can hit the ground running in a fresh environment. It feels so good!

Here are a few areas to pay attention to before you hang up your teacher hat.


Tidy Up Your Teaching area

  • Put everything back in its place. You may even play around with rearranging items to see if you can find a better workflow.
  • Take inventory of and order stickers, post-its, refills of pens, pencils, erasers, etc.
  • Sharpen up any pencils you have, be sure all the pens are closed.
  • Close all piano lids and push in the benches.
  • Download new assignment sheets or update your old ones for the new semester. Have a fresh set printed and ready to go. (I find using new sheets each semester refreshing. There are plenty to pick from on Assignment Sheet Central!)



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A Great Game for Reviewing Major Chords and 5-finger Patterns

Don’t you just love it when you come up with an activity or game that turns out to be a real winner making you wish you had thought of it sooner? I had one of those moments recently and wanted to share the activity with you right away as it was such a hit.

I was looking for a fun way to do a big review of all the 5-finger patterns and chords in preparation for a festival in which a few students will be participating.

The only game I really have for that concept is one of my favorite TCW card games (that’s Three Cranky Women if you’re not familiar) – Flashy Fingers.

Most of the TCW card games though are not made for students just learning, or even in the early-mid stages of mastering any particular concepts. They really have to know their stuff to play most of the games. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of their games with students who didn’t know the information like the back of their hand and it makes the game a lot harder and not nearly as much fun if they have to sit there for a minute to even figure out the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, they are high quality, wonderful games (I own every card deck in the series), they’re just more useful once the student really knows what they’re doing. The games really help students learn to think faster about concepts they already know and understand well.

Just because particular games are made to be played one way doesn’t mean we can’t utilize them in another, so that’s what I did!

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