Friday Finds #246



Piano student motivation: How ‘Vacation Lessons’ work for summer and for kids who struggle (Rebekah Maxner)



The famous note-naming game NoteSpeed, is now being distributed through Piano Pronto!



Apparently, I have a thing about sharing favorite shoes. Last week it was the Sanuk Yoga Joy flip-flop. This week it’s the Chaco Zcloud Sandal. Good shoes are tricky, so I don’t regret talking shoes!



Piano Camp for Piano Teachers: Sorting Out the Piano Classics Live Virtual Conference



Congratulations to Midnight Music on the new website!



It’s always sad to hear of the passing of influential pedagogies of our time. In recent years ones that quickly come to mind include Dr. Edwin E. Gordon and Forrest Kinney.

This past week, the profession lost Elvina Truman Pearce.

She was particularly known for her book The Success Factor in Piano Teaching, which is an especially good book for teachers just getting started.



Two recent podcast episode favorites:

How to Think about Feedback (Kelly Corrigan Wonders)

Episode 82: Cheers to the Creative Life (Beyond Measure Podcast)



Two Kinds of Cooks (Seth Godin)



Incredible art…Nature and Architecture Merge in Mexico.



The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do to Simplify Your Summer (Becoming Minimalist)



What’s Your Teaching Specialty? (Samantha Coates)


Start the School Year More Organized Than Ever!

Did you make a pact with yourself to get better organized this summer?

Since I know my teacher friends pretty well, I would bet that this isn’t the first year you’ve tried to make this same pact. The hard part is that IT’S SUMMERTIME! We want to spend time doing fun things with family and friends (as it should be)!

I get it. I know you have a strong need to get yourself in order before the school year returns full force and I’m here to help!

No matter how great our intentions are, the thing we really need is for someone to be right there with us to walk us step by step.

So, in the month of July, I’m offering a series of eight 75-minute power-hour sessions.

By committing yourself to dedicated time with other teachers and working through the digital landscape in a progressive manner, you will walk away feeling ready to tackle the new year.

While each session will have a focus area, there are no rules to how you spend your time! The main goal is that we power through and get some things done.

I will be there to kick off each theme focus with a few tips and tricks. After that, it will be heads down and off to work. We’ll finish with a quick check-in at the end and be on our way.

  • 10-15 minutes of Amy talking through some things for you to consider
  • 50-60 minutes with microphones off, task-focused (Amy available for questions).
  • 5-10 minute check-in at the end

We will meet for eight sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays 11:45 am – 1:00 pm EDT.

  • Session 1 – Devices (Smartphones & Tablets)
  • Session 2 – Computers (Desktop/Laptop)
  • Session 3 – Daily Capture and Save (Notes apps)
  • Session 4 – Blog Content
  • Session 5 – Documents (File Explorer / Cloud Drives)
  • Session 6 – Media (Photos & Videos)
  • Session 7 – Email
  • Session 8 – Social Media

Click here to check out more details.


Favorite Quotes Desktop Backgrounds (Free Download)

Thanks to summer, I finally had a chance to sit down and put together a little creative project I’ve had on my mind for a while!

I’m always looking for fresh, uncluttered, and visually appealing images to use on my computer desktop background or wallpaper.

Years ago, one of the food websites I was following offered a new set each year. Unfortunately, she no longer does this and ever since I’ve never really put any effort into finding something new – I just rotate through her old ones along with a few others.

If you’re interested, she has a live set you can still get your hands on. Visit the blog post: Free Backgrounds for Food Enthusiasts from Chocolate and Zucchini.

Back in those days I would have had no idea how to create my own but it occurred to me last year I could easily do so with Canva (which I swear I use almost every day! LOL).

So, I’ve created a set of 12 images featuring 12 of my favorite quotes (one for each month of the year – which is about how often I try to rotate). I tried using a combination of both educational quotes, life quotes, and productivity quotes. I hope you find the choices well-balanced and inspiring.

My goal was to keep it simple and visually appealing. I think the Piano Pantry dark blue color looks amazing as a desktop background and makes for a really sleek and clean feel.

Here is a slideshow preview. Click on the arrows on the bottom left or hoover along the right or left sides to go forward or back.


When coaching teachers on digital organization, it’s always my recommendation to keep your desktop free of shortcuts and to use your taskbar to pin quick links to your most used programs. This allows your screen to be clutter-free and more aesthetically pleasing.

For any links you do keep on the desktop background, try and relegate them to the side as much as possible. As you scroll through the images you will notice I tried to keep the quotes especially free of the left margin which is my preferred location for anything on the desktop.



Sign up here to get the download delivered to your inbox. It will send you a link and when you click on the link, you will receive access to a ZIP file. From there you will want to download the file to your computer and extract the file.

Be sure and save it in a location you will remember to access. Dare I say perhaps just link to the folder from your desktop? 🙂 LOL

If you really do want to do that, right-click on the folder, then select “send>desktop(create shortcut)”.


One Last Tip

While I think it’s fun to change my desktop background each month, I would never remember if it didn’t place a recurring reminder/task in my calendar. For more tips like this, listen in on episode #006 of The Piano Pantry Podcast –  Tasks: They’re Not All Created Equal


If you would like to see more of these in the future, let me know in the comments!



Friday Finds #245

This week’s goodies list calls of summer. Who doesn’t love strawberry season? Let’s kick the first few items off this week’s list with some of my favorite strawberry recipes!



Ina’s Easy Strawberry Jam is absolutely AMAZING. Including a few blueberries and chopped apple gives it a gorgeous color and texture.



You almost can’t call this recipe a recipe, but Almond Butter Strawberry-Toast is a lovely and simple combination. I first discovered this combination from Giada de Laurentii’s book Feel Good Food which I blogged about years about here.

I see some people online sprinkling over things like coconut, julienned basil, chia seeds, or toasted nuts. Toasted shaved almonds or pistachios would be my topper of choice but I usually just like it simple!



Perfect Summer Fruit Salad (All Recipes)

Nice for a small crowd. I love the variety of fruit as well as the inclusion of bananas. Just don’t put the bananas in until you’re ready almost to serve.  A little sweet sauce mixture pulls it all together and gives it a nice gloss.



My favorite flip-flop for at least 5 years has been the Sanuk Yoga Joy.

They’re made of yoga material and even though there’s not necessarily built-in arch support, I can walk in these shoes almost all day with no problems. I buy a new pair almost every summer and own both metallic colors: Pewter and Champagne.

I’ve tried the Sanuk “Yoga Spree” and they are not nearly as comfortable as the “Yoga Joy.”



Summer is a great time to overhaul your studio website. Here are 3 Ways to Look at Your Studio Site with Fresh Eyes.



Do you have any exciting summer reads lined up? I decided to go on a kick covering all the books from one of my newest favorite psychological-thriller authors, Ruth Ware.

She only has 7 books, and I had read two previously, so my plan is to binge the rest this summer and am already two more down. Are any other psychological-thriller fans out there? If so, let me know some recommendations below!



Break into the summer tunes with my Summer playlist on Spotify. Use it as a starting point for starting your own seasonal playlist!



Do you ever great tired of buying chicken broth? The cost can really add up if you use it a lot – especially in the winter months. I love making my own homemade stock but it’s a bit labor-intensive. Recently I discovered homemade bouillon powder. Brilliant! I’ve only made it once and used it in one recipe, but I’m excited to keep trying it out.



I’ll admit I almost tried the online hack of storing avocados in water in the fridge but never got around to it. According to this article, it sounds like it was a good thing as the FDA is warning against it.



My newest piano buddy, Janna, is killing it online with her wonderful teaching videos. Here’s one on Lesson Planning. She always has great advice and insight.



Speaking of piano buddies, be sure you don’t miss out on two of the most popular episodes of the Piano Pantry Podcast so far

#13 How to Make Music Teacher Friends

#15 Teacher Talk with Joy, Janna, and Christina

Speaking of the podcast, I’ve updated the podcast page here on Piano Pantry. It includes some screenshots showing you how to subscribe on desktop or mobile, or how to rate and review on Apple Podcasts. It’s not always intuitive!


Friday Finds #244 Best of May



Oh my goodness, this was probably one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever heard Tim Topham give. He almost had me crying!

The Interview That Made Me Cry with Gloria St. Germaine (Topcast TC278



Why Student-Led Conferences Work So Great in the Music Studio (Rosemarie Penner | The Unfinished Lesson)



A Simple, Effective, and Magical Element for Student Evaluations (Amy Chaplin | The Piano Pantry Podcast)



This video is a few years old but I just so happened to come across it recently. What a fun idea from Piano Sensei Clinton Pratt!


Rosemarie Trapp, whose family inspired ‘The Sound of Music,’ dies at age 93 (NPR)



How to Create a QR Code for Your Recital Program (Melody Payne)



How German Wine Makers Turned Disaster into a Good Year (CBS Sunday Morning)



Flat Tuition Payments for Private Music Lessons (Chad Twedt | Cerebroom)



7 Quotes that Forever Changed My View of Money (Joshua Becker | Becoming Minimalist)



My favorite new desk organizer caddy.



You Can Now Ask Google to Take Your Personal Data out of Search Results (NPR)



If you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan like me, you might get a kick out of this video: Life-Changing Homemaking Secrets from Anne of Green Gables.



A couple of new favorite recipes that have made it into my rotation recently:

Lemon Asparagus Couscous Salad with Tomatoes (Skinny Taste)

Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza Stuffed Peppers (Kalyn’s Kitchen)



I’ve been watching YouTube a lot lately, can you tell? LOL Here’s one more video I can’t resist sharing – Jeremy Siskind’s version of “Girl from Ipanema.”


A Tour of Amy’s Kitchen and Pantry

If you’ve been around here for a while, you may already know that in recent years my husband and I built a new house which included moving my piano studio into the basement and out of commercial space.

My husband did a lot of the work while still working a 40-hour workweek, so the bulk of the build took around three years.

Since cooking is my other mojo, I’ve been wanting to share photos of the kitchen and pantry for a good two years now but it kept getting put off.

After finally taking the time to capture some good photos for our cabinet builders to display, I had no more excuses. It’s finally time for a tour!



Considering it was new construction, sharing photos of the empty “before” construction space isn’t much fun. What is interesting though is to see what we went through leading up to completion.

Since our deadline to move out of our rental house was 6 months prior to our kitchen cabinets being ready (or the upstairs being complete in general), we lived in an unfinished basement (my future studio space) with no carpet or kitchen.

Here’s my make-shift kitchen.

Continue reading

Organizing Piano Games and Teaching Resources

Teaching areas can be hard places to organize. Not only do we like to keep items close at hand, but if you teach a variety of levels, the number of teaching resources can easily double.

There are games, scale books, sight-reading materials, pedal extenders, dry-erase boards, game markers, technique tools, highlighters, and much more.

The great thing about organization (like many things in life), is that there’s no right or wrong way.

What we DO need in order to make it happen though is:

  1. Intention
  2. Action
  3. Some kind of (consistent) system
  4. Regular upkeep
  5. Ability to recognize when your “system” needs an update/refresh

In this post, I want to share a few different ways I have stored my own teaching games and resources over the years as well as links to loads of other teachers’ ideas.

As you’re considering a system that works well for your space, keep these things in mind:

  1. Make it easily accessible – Store items in a way that will help you to both use and remember what you have
  2. Categorize – Group your items according to level, concept, game style (such as group games vs. solo games), and more.
  3. Contain – Use a variety of storage formats including magazine holders, containers, drawers, files, and more.

I hope this post gives you lots of fresh ideas as you freshen up your own teaching space!

For more on that, listen in on episode #19 of The Piano Pantry Podcast – Spring Cleaning: It’s Time.

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Friday Finds #243 Best of April


Since Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, here are some of my favorite Mexican-style dishes:

Game-winning Guac (very classic)
Guacamole Salad (fresh and healthy)
Ground Beef Taco Casserole (good as a dip for chips or as the base for taco salads instead of just seasoned ground beef!)
Skillet Chicken with Mexican Green Rice (super easy and great for feeding a family)
Taco Torte (a fun twist and pretty presentation – but easy!)
Churro Brownies (sooo good)



RCM Piano Syllabus 2022 (6th Edition) – a great rundown from Rebekah Maxner



Spring is in the air: here are some good Spring Cleaning tips from the special Saturday edition of my favorite news podcast.



A fun unboxing video from Janna for her new hydraulic bench!



Looking for a fresh idea for fun little student prizes/incentives?

From Lauren Lewandowski: How I Use Music Money in My Studio
From me: A Simple Incentive Program and Prize Box Items Students Love



Five Statements Your Kids Need to Hear Today (Forward Progress)



Helping students at performance time:

Piano Performance Checklists (Piano Pantry)
Preparing Students to Perform Their Best (podcast w/ Leila Viss & Samantha Coates)



Studio Awards: Policies and Procedures(Piano Pantry)



Yeah, I’m pretty sure I have almost all of these items, so I agree 100%! 🙂


Friday Finds #242



As this first Friday Finds post following the MTNA 2022 conference, here are a few recaps you might enjoy:

Reflections on MTNA 2022  (Janna Williamson)

2022 MTNA Virtual Conference Recap (Joy Morin)

Music Teacher Eats: MTNA 2022 Edition (Amy Chaplin)



After staying at my house (and sleeping in my studio space – ha!) during the MTNA 2022 conference, Janna was inspired to do a tour of her studio!



Teacher Anna Haugen has a website called “Midlife Creative.” She recently did an artist feature post on a woman who makes incredible homemade pizza every Friday night for her family. The kind of pizza she makes is the kind of pizza of I love but don’t take enough effort to make regularly. I’m thinking it’s time for that to change…



Jennifer Foxx hit a tender spot in my heart when she recently shared a new playlist on Spotify she’s been developing called “Feel Good Songs.” Follow her and give it a listen!



Interest in choral singing is not declining in America, so why are church choirs disappearing? (Baptist News Global)



This short 5-minute video taught me some really amazing keyboard shortcuts! Even if you don’t use Evernote, many of these are applicable in other programs.




A great post on using devices for music reading and hands-free page-turning. (Creative Piano Teacher)



Food Prices are Going Up at Levels Americans Haven’t Seen in Decades (NPR)



Over the last few weeks, I have found myself incredibly addicted to a YouTube channel called Honeyjubu. She is a Korean woman who Vlogs about home life and food. I’ll just say there has been some serious binge-watching going on.

In the process, I also discovered a similar one called Hamimommy.

Do you have any favorite Vlog channels you follow on YouTube? Let me know in the comments!



Thanks to Leila Viss for telling me about the “Everything Happens” podcast by Kate Bowler. Recently, I really enjoyed the episode with novelist Ann Patchett.



14 Food Logos With Sneaky Hidden Messages (Taste of Home)

Oh my goodness, you have to take 5 minutes to actually read and process each of these 14 logos. So fun!



For Easter each year, we drive 50 minutes immediately following church to an extended family pitch-in lunch for my husband’s side of the family. Due to having to pack up food prior to church and have it sit for 3 hours in our car before the meal, I always do easy things that can survive without heat or refrigeration (or be OK with a simple ice pack).

This year’s picks:

Scotcheroos (made with Special K cereal)

Dill Pickle Dip with crackers


Preschool Piano Classes

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions from readers just like you. If you have a question you would like to submit, you can do so here.


Hi, Amy!

I absolutely LOVED reading your most recent post offering your reflections on what you’ve learned as you celebrate your teaching milestone. So much of it truly spoke to me!

I am gearing up to launch a preschool piano class this fall and was wondering if you’d share with me how you structured your class – number of weeks, length of class, number of students, lesson plan structure, etc.

(I am currently thinking 8-week sessions, 45-minute classes, 3-4 students, ages 4-6.)

I’ve been learning a lot about MLT, audiation, and MMfP, but I feel like I’m stalling the preschool class launch because I am still so new at all of it. I have been teaching using Piano Safari, as well as several other methods for several years now, and recently ordered the new Piano Safari Friends materials. I also have several years of experience teaching the Music Together program (early childhood family music classes). However, I have felt like until I could teach as an MLT “purist,” I should wait.

Your thoughts on combining methods and doing what works for you and your students has encouraged me to consider another way without worrying about doing it “wrong.” I’d love to hear more about your experience with this age group and the bird and bolts of how you structure your classes!

Marissa L.


Hi, Marissa!

Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog post. It is SO NICE to hear directly from people impacted! So thank YOU! 🙂

As far as the preschool piano class goes, your email made me realize that the photo I shared in the blog post was perhaps deceiving! The photo I posted was from a free one-off summer class I did with our local parks department for a few years. I used that photo because I was pulling from a multitude of curriculums with those kiddos.

I have yet to run a full preschool piano class. While I offer the group class, it seems I’ve never had enough students timed just right for it to be a go. I’ve only ended up doing private preschool lessons. Here’s how I advertise my preschool lessons though:

“Lessons are paid for and attended in 8-week sessions. Students come once a week for a private lesson or group class of 2-3 students (depending on availability). Private lessons will be 30 minutes and group classes 40 minutes”

So, whether it was a private lesson or a group class, parents were only committed for a short period.

I think what you’re planning as far as length, time, and students are perfect!

As far as curriculum goes, for the most part, I now pretty well use Music Moves Keyboard Games books 100% for this age. I’ll tell you what I’ve done in the past though (as far as combining resources) that worked well for quite a while:

I didn’t necessarily use all of these at once but did combine many of them at one point.

As far as the Music Moves for Piano series goes, let me say this: just do it – don’t feel like you have to know or understand it all to try using it! Keep pressing on and learning a little more at a time.

The Keyboard Games Books are in my opinion the absolute best piano book for preschoolers out there as the songs are short, encourage exploration all over the piano, and especially support the audition of basic rhythm patterns in duple and triple meters.

It’s worth it!

Good luck and I would love to hear how things pan out!