Using Evernote for Student Evaluations

Change. I need thrive on it. I love the seasons, re-arranging my studio annually, and re-doing my student schedule each summer and fall. The latter of course takes time but for me, the idea of never changing my lesson schedule is suffocating! LOL.

Clear start and endpoints to me, give a sense of relief and rest and in a way, a mental break. When I used to be a choral director I would frequently get sick the week following school being out as my body was letting go of the stress!

The end of the school year for many independent studios is the time take a step back and celebrate the culmination of student’s work and progress through recitals. Not only that, but it’s the perfect time to turn our heads and reflect on the last 30 to 40 lessons and 4,000 plus hours of practice. Did we use our time wisely? Did the student make progress? Did they participate in studio events? Does the student feel they put in their best effort? There are so many questions that can be pondered and progress assessed, that conducting student evaluations has become a part of my annual schedule.

My recital is always the Sunday before Memorial Day. It does get a little crazy having it that time of year, but I love the feeling of having that culminating event where the whole studio comes together to celebrate and make music. The week following the recital, students and parents come to the student’s normal lesson time, but there is no formal lesson. We sit down and hash out the past and the future of the student’s piano studies together. (The last week of May my studio is closed for a semester break then we return for summer lessons the first week of June).

My part of that meeting time is giving the student a formal evaluation and the parent and student’s part is filling out questionnaires I give to them ahead of time. Today we’re focusing on the former.

Many teachers, after seeing my extensive tutorial on how Evernote can help you organize your studio, got a peek at my evaluation form and have been asking if I would be willing to share. Not only am I going to share the form, but I’m going to explain in detail how I use Evernote to organize and track evaluations from year to year.

Seeing how far we’ve come is only possible if we remember where we started!

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Recital Preparation Timeline and Checklist

Today, as I was looking over my Recital Preparation Timeline and Checklist, I thought “hey, my readers might find this useful!” So, today I have a free download for you!

It’s that time of year when preparations for my year-end spring recital are in full-force. Here’s what I have accomplished thus far:

1. Found, booked and confirmed location
2. Presented students with several piece options
3. Confirmed the student’s choice piece
4. Determined plans for the second half of the recital

(Each year the first half is everyone playing their solo then following a 10-minute intermission we do something different. Two years ago everyone did a jazzy style piece, last year we did collaborative pieces, and this year we’re doing a studio collaboration on The Musical Forest: A Narrative Suite for Piano by Nancy Lau. I’ll share details after the recital!)

5. Announced recital location and details in my newsletter
6. Organized and assigned roles for the narrative suite

Next, I have to get all my awards figured out so I can order what I need! Continue reading

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook 

Part 3: Community Presence

This post is the third and final installment of The Varsity Musician’s Playbook written by my good friend and colleague, Christina Whitlock, NCTM. I asked her to write this series for you since, of all the conference sessions I attended last year,  it was the one that impacted me the most.

If you missed the first two posts in this series, I would recommend reading them first.

Part 1 – Studio Interdependence
Part 2 – Studio “Locker Room”



Be “The Piano Teacher.”

Consider this:  If a young man introduces himself and says he plays football, the next question is almost guaranteed to be, “for what team?”.

When I mention the fact that my daughter takes gymnastics, I can almost always count on the next question to be, “at which gym?”.

Why should our studios be any different?  Our communities should know us by name!

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The Varsity Musician’s Playbook 

Part 2: Studio “Locker Room”

This post second in a three-part series written by my good friend and colleague, Christina Whitlock, NCTM. I asked her to write this series for you since, of all the conference sessions I attended last year,  it was the one that impacted me the most.

If you missed the first posts in this series, I would recommend reading it first.

Part 1 – Studio Interdependence


In Post #1, we looked at a few ways to incorporate a sense of interdependence in your studio.  Today’s post is going to focus on your studio environment, or, in keeping with the theme of this series, your Studio “Locker Room!”

I realize we all have varying degrees of control over the physical space we teach in, but I hope this post will inspire you to seek out similar applications that work for you.


Creating Studio Legacy – Tradition

Let’s consider this picture of the Hofstra Ladies’ Lacrosse Team locker room.

The first thing I notice is the statement, “Tradition Never Graduates.”  Friends, we all know, sports are ALL about legacy!  Why should your studio be any different?

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The Varsity Musician’s Playbook 

Part 1: Studio Interdependence

Once my piano students hit middle school, I often lose them to sports.

If this is a statement you’ve either said at least once in your career or heard a colleague say, raise your hand.

Me, me, me!

Yes, you over there, with your hand up – this post is for you!

At every conference I attend, while there are many excellent sessions, there are always one or two whose message sticks with me for good. At this past MTNA Conference (2016 San Antonio), my “sticky” session was by far:

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook: Commitment Building Strategies from Team Sports to the Studio.

Bam! Wow, the title hooked me. As someone who enjoys the business side of running my piano studio – this was my type of session.

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File Fever

Organizing Student Files

I have a fever, a fever that never breaks. It’s a sickness really.

It’s called organizational fever; more specifically to this post – file fever – and I don’t know how to stop! Being organized is fuel to my body. It gives me clarity and peace of mind.

My studio gets organized and reorganized every few months and rearranged to some degree once to twice a year. I’m getting to the point where I’ve nearly perfected the arrangement, but rearranging and organizing to me are like a breath of fresh air. I’m a better teacher when everything is in its place. I have my moments – we all do – but I strive to keep my studio and workspace continually tidy for mine and my student’s sake!

In this post, I’m going to share how I organize my (physical) student files.

(To see how I organize student information using Evernote, see the post Evernote: An Independent Music Teacher’s Handbook.)

First, a quick note on what inspired me to improve my organization even more.


Getting Things Done

Ever since reading the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David AllenI have been working to streamline the way I work. Some of the topics he covers include cleaning up the space you work in, setting up the right tools, corralling your “stuff”, and keeping things fresh and functional.

One of the first things I did was purchase a label maker. After several months of using it, I wondered how I’ve gotten by as a supposedly “organized” person without a label maker my whole life. I’ve been label-making like crazy!


Student Files

My file drawer is one place where my label maker has been put to work. I love 4-drawer lateral files. All my student files are kept in one drawer. Every student gets a hanging folder. Monday students names are labeled, and the label situated in the slot clear to the left. Tuesday students are in the second space, Wednesday students in the third space and well, I think you get the idea. I love seeing the files laid out this way!


(In case you’re wondering, I used the app “Blur it” to blur out the last names in this photo.) 
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School Music Teachers

A Marketing Gem

Recently a colleague, after hearing me share how I built my studio to 45 students in less than two years, sent me a message on Facebook inquiring about one of the specific tactics I mentioned which was marketing to music teachers in the schools.

I thought her questions were ones that many of you might enjoy hearing my answers to but first here was her inquiry:

I’ve heard you mention before that you had good luck meeting with school music teachers, letting them know about your services and asking them to refer students to you.

How did you find out which teachers to contact?
Did you call or email?
Did you meet with them in person?
What did you say to make them more likely to agree to the meeting, and what things did you bring up during the meeting?

One of the many marketing tactics I took in the first two years I was open for business included contacting and preferably meeting in person all the school teachers in the county and surrounding counties.

Psst…there’s a freebie at the end to help you organize your new marketing strategy so stick with me!


Why This is So Important

Who is it that parents go to when they look for lessons? They ask the kid’s music teacher. You should know who they are and what they look like so if you see them around town, especially if you’re in a small town, you can at least put a face with a name.

Building rapport with school music teachers is building your referral network.

Since I keep detailed records of every inquiry, conversation, and contact I have with potential students, I can announce for a fact, that 6% of my total inquiries thus far have come from school music teacher. This includes those who only inquired as well as those who ultimately registered. Even better, 8.7% of my total registrations have come from this marketing effort – nearly one in eleven.

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New Studio Website

It’s finally finished – my studio has a website!

One of my biggest goals and projects for this summer was to develop my studio website. I am proud to say I designed and did all the work myself on WordPress.

I have a lot I want to share with you today about my site including why I waited until 5 years into my business to do it.

This post is NOT a tutorial on what your site needs because, good grief, there are already plenty of wonderful posts out there for piano teachers on what elements are needed for a good studio site. I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel!

What I am going to give you are the best resources I’ve found and used for inspiration to guide me through the planning and design of the site.

First of all, let’s take a peek!


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Icing Your Studio

This past week I had 13 students from Taylor University observe my studio over the course of three days. These students were taking a beginning piano pedagogy course as undergraduate students as the university offers a minor in Piano Pedagogy. How lucky are they?!

One of my students loves to create at the piano. The pedagogy students were amazed at our improv activity using Forrest Kinney’s Pattern Play – a series which they were not yet familiar. After revealing one of their fellow students in the room as a talented jazz improviser, my student got the privilege to hear him do a quick lick on the keys.  Thank you to that university student for inspiring my budding musician!



Over the course of their time with me and after reading follow-up emails from several of the students, a couple of things occurred to me.

  1. While I always try to give my best to my students, having someone right there observing me certainly made me button-up even more! Although it wasn’t obvious to them, I was more energized, focused, and was working to show them what’s possible in a lesson. Let’s always try to teach as if someone were watching.
  2. A lot of the comments and feedback they gave me had nothing to do with pedagogical materials or tactics but with how I related to my students and the environment I created for them. This second point is what this post will focus on.

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The Compliment Any Teacher Would Love to Receive

Right on the tail of my lost-a-student-out-of-the-blue email, the very next day, I received possibly one of the best compliments you could hope to hear from a parent that was completely off-cuff.


This mom almost always sits in on lessons and is very engaged with her children’s practice and learning. As I took a step back from the piano to my bookshelf next to her chair to switch out sightreading cards, she said (and I paraphrase):

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