Descriptive and Imaginative

A review of music by Lynette Sawatsky (and a free download offer)

Today I want to share with you a review of the music of Canadian teacher, composer, and adjudicator Lynette Sawatsky. She has quite a few collections available, but I’ll be focusing on Seasons Change and Once Upon a Time.


Once Upon a Time


One of the things I like most about the Once Upon a Time collection is Lynette’s attention to connecting the music to the imagination. She encourages the student to paint a picture in their mind of the piece and the story it is conveying.

For example, in the piece “Spicy Burrito,” she makes the connection between spicing up our snacks or mealtime with different flavors and textures and encouraging the student to customize the piece on the repeat by changing one or more RH quarter notes into double eighth notes in certain measures in order to “spice it up.”

There are 11 pieces included in the book that are perfect for captivating and encouraging students imaginations. I mean, how often do you see a piece with the title “Discombobulated Pigeon”? I would love to hear all the conversations that go on regarding the story that piece is telling! Continue reading

Friday Finds

Emoji Modes and an MLT Overview



Piano Puzzle Card & Pocket Chart for Preschoolers | Karen Lien.



Entropy: Why Life Always Seems to Get More Complicated | James Clear



McDonald’s Asks: Do You Want Sriracha and Kale with that? Hmmm…



Canadian teacher Anne Crosby Gaudet always puts out unique and high-quality products. Her latest item, Emoji Modes is great. Continue reading

Lesson Planning

A king-size master spreadsheet


When I started teaching piano full time, one of the biggest challenges for me personally was finding a method for lesson planning, tracking student progress, and materials.

The latter item I’ve mastered using Evernote (see Evernote Part 1: Studio Mangement), but the first two I struggled with for several years (I’ll avoid sharing the details of my failed attempts!)

We all know the best way to learn is to make mistakes and find a better way on our own, and that’s what I did.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is I’m a very visual person. I don’t do well simply making a note or two here or there for items I need to remember for students for their next lesson. I need to see the big picture. For one semester I even tried somewhat “winging it,” without writing down anything before the lesson and I felt kind of out of control and disorganized.

Finally, in 2014 I was inspired by an article in the September/October 2014 Issue of Clavier Companion written by Arlene Steffen, Stephen Hughes, and Craig Sale called “Lesson Plans: A teaching essential?” (I would highly recommend you read it!)

Thanks to their detailed article, my king spreadsheet was born. 

Because a spreadsheet like this will be completely customized to your teaching style (and studio calendar), it doesn’t do me any good to give you a copy of mine. So, in this post, not only do I walk you through the details of what I include, but I’ve also created a video showing you through how to create your version.  I’ll show you tips and tricks for using Excel like a pro! Continue reading

Friday Finds

Passwords and Pianos for People



The 1 Percent Rule: Why a Few People Get Most of the Rewards | James Clear



Students, did you know you can get 50% off a full year of Evernote Premium? I’m telling you, my life would have been changed if I had a program like Evernote through grad school for all the research and papers. Believe me, the Premium version is the best for students because you can search the text of pdf files, your own handwritten notes, Microsoft documents, and you can annotate on pdf’s. It’s gold.



If you want to hear a fabulous jazz/pop one-man band listen to Jacob Collier. His harmonic progressions and voicing are extremely innovative.  Gershwin Fascinating Rhythm (his piano playing occurs at 3:00 minutes).

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Catch me if you can

2017-2018 Presenting Schedule

This year is going to be chock-full of opportunities for me to share with teachers at both the local, state, and national levels.

Let me know if you’ll be attending any of these and we can be sure and meet up. Feel free to contact me if you need details. I’m excited to connect with more of you in person and learn together!

I’ve also created a permanent page here on Piano Pantry listing all these upcoming events as well as my previous events and topics. Find it here.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Teaching the Way We Learn: Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory for Piano Teachers (with co-presenter Joy Morin)

Location: Wood-Ottawa Counties MTA (Bowling Green, OH)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Teaching the Way We Learn: First Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory (with co-presenter Joy Morin)

Evernote for the Independent Music Teacher (Lightning Talk)

Location: Indiana MTA state conference (Marion, IN) Continue reading

Friday Finds

Grit and Google Gadgetry



Last week my first find was a James Clear article and this week is another. I just love his posts. They’re always well researched and thought out. The Paradox of Behavior Change.



How Reading Old Books Gives Us New Perspective | Michael Hyatt. This is one of my goals this year  – to include re-reads in my reading list. C.S. Lewis is also known for encouraging the re-reading of books, stating something along the lines of:

I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once… To me, re-reading my favorite books is like spending time with my best friends. I’d never be satisfied to limit myself to just one experience each with my favorite people.

The first book (and if we’re being honest, thus far the only book) I’ve re-read this year was Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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2017 GIML Conference

and two piano teachers in Chicago

Following the 2017 NCKP Conference in Chicago, my travel buddy, Joy Morin and I had a few days to explore Chicago. It was great having a little brain break anyway!

I’m going to first share with you a little of our 3-day P.T. vacay followed by some of the great things I attended at the GIML (Gordon Institute for Music Learning) Conference. If you’re not familiar, the conference focuses on teaching inspired by Music Learning Theory (MLT).

Joy and I did a two-week training course in MLT and its practical application for piano in Boston, August 2016 so this was the perfect follow-up.


Chicago Food and Fun

In Laverne and Shirley style, we took to bikes and did the 10 mile(ish) lake shore bike track – we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.

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Friday Finds

Electric Kettle and Musical Coloring Pages



All Models are Wrong, Some are Useful: How to Make Decisions in an Imperfect World | James Clear.



When we lived in Australia, one of the things that were new to us was the lack of drip coffee makers in homes. Instead, many have electric kettles for boiling water. This was something I had never seen! We’ve had one ever since and now I can’t imagine not having one. It even made an amazing graduation present this past May for our friend’s daughter and she is absolutely loving it. It’s perfect for heating water in a dorm room for ramen noodles, tea, hot chocolate, oatmeal, you name it. I won the best-present award! LOL. This is our favorite kettle. Continue reading

Colors of the Rainbow

A review of Ready for Theory

Recently a teacher-friend told me that I “dress my type.” Of course, this made me crane my neck a bit and look at her with a quizzical expression wondering if this were a good or bad thing.

“I’m pretty sure you’re a Type 4 which means you wear a lot of bold solid colors,” she explained.

At the time I had a bright red dress on. Hmmm…maybe she’s onto something.

“Perhaps,” I said, “but I also wear a LOT of blacks.”

“Actually,” she countered, “type 4 also wears a lot of blacks!”

Well there you go, apparently, I’m a type 4, and I’m doing pretty good on my wardrobe – she wins! LOL.


Bright, Bold, Clean, and Beautiful

What does this short story have to do with my review? Not a whole lot except that solid, bright colors are what first drew me to this beautiful theory course. Maybe my friend WAS onto something. 🙂

Calling a theory course “beautiful” may be stretching it I know, but when it comes to theory books (or any sheet music/method books for that matter), appearance goes a long way with me.

In fact, in a Friday Finds last year, I called Lauren Lewandowski’s Ready for Theory books “the prettiest theory books I had ever seen.”

Don’t you agree?

They’re the colors of the rainbow – what student wouldn’t be drawn to that?!

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Friday Finds

Music Teacher Animations

This week I thought it would be fun to share a bunch of videos that are animations of piano/music teaching. I decided to exclude actual cartoons and include only animations.


Do you Need a Piano to Start Lesson?



Diane Hidy | Profoundly Gifted 

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