Friday Finds #123

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner! From what I understand of the holiday, it is not only to commemorate the arrival of the Christian faith in Ireland, but also a celebration of the Irish culture. Since it’s during the Lenten season, the ban on alcohol was lifted for the day, hence the history of it being a “drinking” holiday.

It’s not a holiday I normally remember (or celebrate). Truth be told, the main reason I’m making a point of it here is that I’ve been enjoying customizing my Friday Finds image for each holiday, and it was one more chance to have a little fun.
*(Insert crying, smiley emoji.)

If you like to pull out holiday-themed activities with your students, this coming week is the time for St. Patty’s!



If you order them today (and have Amazon Prime), there’s a good chance you’ll have your St. Patrick’s Day stickers just in time for Monday or Tuesday lessons this week. If you want a closer peek at the St. Patty’s day ones in this pack, check out my Facebook Video I made last week.



Here’s a round-up of lots of St. Patty’s Day activities for your piano students this week!

St. Patrick’s Day Improv from Teach Piano Today
St. Patrick’s Day Game from
St. Patrick’s Day Games and Activities from Susan Paradis|
St. Patrick’s Day Rhythm Game from Sara’s Music Studio
St. Patrick’s Day Worksheets from



40 By 40. I really love this idea of having a list of 40 things I would like to do by the time I’m 40. Time is ticking though so I better get started. I have less than two years.

Now you know how old I am.



Staying Organized with Silicone Cupcake Liners. In my studio, we use them during group classes for students to hold their own game markers. I also use them to organize my teaching tools drawer next to the piano. They are especially perfect for housing Japanese erasers sets. My jewelry drawer at home is next!



Another Marie-Kondo style decluttering tips for piano teachers. This one from Teacher Piano Today.



How to Translate Music Scores with Your Phone Camera.



When we lived in Australia (from 2006-2009), one of my favorite shows was McLeod’s Daughters. This week, I came across it on Amazon Prime! Happy girl dance!



What Seth Godin Teaches Us About Piano Studio Marketing.



When I need technology help or tips, one of my first go-to’s is DottoTech. I love his YouTube Videos! I’ve learned a lot about Google Chrome, Gmail, and even Evernote from his videos.


Friday Finds #122



If you haven’t checked our Rosemarie Penner’s blog, you should. The Unfinished Lesson has been one of my favorite piano blogs to follow over the past year or two. Rosemarie always seems to have unique blog posts, is tech-savvy, and student-focused.

Her two most recent posts were both worthy of my clipping and saving in Evernote. One tagged under “lesson planning” and the other under “evaluations.” Check them out:

“How do you know my child is progressing?” I’m glad you asked!

Student-Led Conferences



3 Myths (and 1 Truth) About Grain-Fed Beef. | The Nutrition Diva



A fellow teacher recently asked me about a recommendation for a beginner hymn book. Within the same time frame, one of my new adult students and I determined that although she wants to improve at reading hymns, they were a bit too challenging for where she is at the moment. I told her I had the perfect book for her. I’m sure I’ve shared this book in the past but since it’s come up again recently, here it is again.

The Piano Student’s Hymnal published by Alfred



“What shall we do next?” is one phrase that I try to be conscious of using regularly in my teaching.



A new toy in my kitchen.

GIR: Get It Right Premium Silicone Ultimate Spatula, 11 Inches, Lime



Every once in a while my husband will send me something that he thinks I would enjoy sharing in Friday Finds. (Is that cute or what?). This is one of Drew’s finds. 🙂 Watch and be amazed.



Don’t Tell Me How Lucky I Am To Have A Good Husband



If you’re making plans for some fun recital ideas for your Spring Recital this year, check out:



Here are some great suggestions for beautiful modern piano music for teens.

I have a student currently playing the very first song in the list above, The River Flows in You from Yiruma. It felt like she was needing something beautiful and a boost in energy for piano. This piece did the trick. She absolutely loved it so much, she almost mastered it in the first week.


Friday Finds #121

Last week, first the first time in awhile, I started a new student. In this photo we were exploring the highs and lows of the piano by placing the animals in order of where he thought their sound matched on the piano.

We then listened to several tracks from Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey Book 1 and guessed what animal(s) the song could be about. Tracks included. “Porcupine” by D. Kabalevsky, “The Bear” by V. Rebikov, and “The Sparrow” by A. Rubbakh. Lastly, we choose a couple of animals we wanted to create songs for and improvised for each of those animals.

(If you’re interested in where I found all these stuffed animals, visit this post.)



Playing the Piano Naturally for Children, a video by Vicki King.



The newest sticker addition to my studio.  Creative Teaching Press Emoji Rewards Stickers. These are even better than the first batch of emoji stickers I bought. (That set had too many useless emoji’s for piano student rewards).



Make a Hot Date with Bach: Daily practice for playful renewal.



My Wife Was Dying, and We Didn’t Tell Our Children: The choice was unusual, but loving: We wanted them to live without the shadow of their mother’s mortality hanging over them.” (from The Atlantic)



I remember reading the now famous book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” on my flight to the 2016 MTNA Conference in San Antonio.

I’ve always been a continual tidier, cleaning out areas of our home at least once a year.  The most life-changing tip I gleaned from Marie Kondo though, was the idea of folding clothes in small squares and storing them upright rather than stacking.

Check out what piano teacher and blogger Jennifer Foxx learned not just about her own home, but about tidying her studio:

Tidying Up the the Music Studio: 3 Things I Learned from Marie Kondo



Classical Classroom Podcast Episode 192: The Hilarious History of Classical Music with Igudesman and Joo



One of the most useful pieces of technology I have is a 10-ft. Lightning Cable for charging my iPhone and iPad. I would have never thought it was necessary but now I wonder how I ever got by without one!



13 Kitchen Tools You Should Own By the Time You’re 30. Boom! I hit all but one. I don’t own a wok.



Styling Your Bed Like a Cozy Minimalist.


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!