Piano Teacher Must-Have’s

A Minimalist’s List

As the time gets closer and closer for us to move into our new home and eventually my new studio, I’ve come to realize just how much STUFF I have in my studio that will have to be moved.

While dreading the thought of relocating all these things, I began to ponder what it would be like to have a “minimalist” studio.

If I were a brand new teacher or if I had to start all over again in a very small space, what are the items that would be “must-haves”?

Thus was born this “minamalist’s list.” Keep in mind that we’re talking bare bones. This list does not include equipment (like a piano),  office equipment like computers and printers, or pedagogical books.

I look forward to hearing some of your “must-haves” in the comments!


A Copy of Your Favorite Method Book

This is my first recommendation because it’s one of the most basic and important in my opinion.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either wanted to have a look at a students method book while lesson planning, needed a copy so I could make a video lesson for a student or simply need an extra copy when a student forgets their book. Whatever method you use the most, keep one extra copy on hand at all times!



Office Supply Must-Have

Post-its are kind of a “must-have” in any teacher’s world. I couldn’t go without these 1/2″ x 1 3/4″ Post-its for marking assigned pages. I like the paper ones because I can also write on them if needed as opposed to the plastic-type tabs.

Erasable pens, markers, and colored pencils are God’s gift to teachers. I have four specific recommendations in this area.

Frixion Erasable Colors 12-pack.

Continue reading

Friday Finds #110

This past week must have been a pretty dull week because I couldn’t find a photo worthwhile to share, so I’m jumping back just a bit.

This photo is from our Indiana State Conference in early October where we had Dr. Christopher and Katherine Fisher (Piano Safari) as our Pedagogy Clinicians. They were absolutely fabulous.

Dr. Fisher conducted an elementary/intermediate masterclass. Generally, we only have an advanced masterclass, so this was a treat. I’ve seen a lot of masterclasses in my career and Dr. Fisher certainly comes out on top for excellent ones. I especially loved how he engaged all the students directly in the class together as a group. (The one at the piano is my student!) I would highly recommend him (them) for your next state conference!



As I was finally resetting my mini date/time clock in my studio this week (a little late) following the daylight savings time change, I realized I don’t think I’ve ever shared the awesome little clock I keep next to the piano. (Forgive me if I have!)

It’s perfect because it’s really small – so I can keep it out of the eye line of students and it can alternate the date with the time! (Optional)



Lauren has put together a nice list of resources for those of you who teach using the Piano Safari Method.



These binder dividers are what I use in my student binders. They are incredibly durable and reusable.

We keep our assignment sheets in the very front on top of the dividers, then label the dividers: Mastered Pieces (that’s where we keep our 40-piece challenge lists), Memorized Pieces (again, a list) and then from there, it varies depending on the student.



Sandi Patty has one of the biggest voices I’ve ever heard. She was especially popular when I was growing up. Here’s an interview with her: Listening to God’s Voice and Finding Your Own: An Interview with Sandi Patty.



Joy Wilson, the baker extraordinaire and woman behind one of the most famous cooking blogs, Joy the Baker, shows us how she hosts friendsgiving.

I can’t wait to have a “friendsgiving” someday (gotta finish the house first)!



It’s gotten chilly around here this week – the perfect week to break out the first round of chili this season. 🙂

Chili, like meatloaf, is one of those foods for me that I like, but I’m really picky about and have never quite found a recipe that I absolutely love. Until now.

This Simple & Tasty Slow Cooker Chili was SO GOOD. I used fire roasted diced tomatoes, and our homemade venison stock in it which I’m sure added to the goodness. We like to top it with a dollop of our homemade plain greek yogurt, shredded sharp cheddar, and some kind of crunchy (I like Fritos! :-/)



Want To Keep Your Brain Sharp? Take Care Of Your Eyes And Ears



For a limited time, anyone can get free shipping on anything from Amazon with no minimum purchase. Wow, that’s a pretty amazing deal.



This side-by-side trailer video of Aladdin from 1992 and 2019 is kind of cool! It’s amazing how far the animation world has come.



Finally, How to Trim Your Own Bangs at Home Like a Pro



Creating a Studio Legacy with Student Photo Boards

A Canva Tutorial [Video]

This is my current student photo board.

Students are not displayed from oldest to youngest, but by how long they’ve been studying with me – moving from left to right and top to bottom.

Every photo includes the student’s picture, their first name, and the month and year they started taking piano lessons at Studio 88.

The white spaces are inspiring quotes. I could have filled them all up individually if I had included my adults, but I assumed they would want anonymity. (After one of them asked why they weren’t on the photo board, I realized next time I should just ask if I could include them rather than assume!)

Today I want to show you how you can create a photo board like this using an online design studio called Canva.

First, I want to briefly share what got me started on having a student photo board.


Who’s the Team?

One of the hottest series here on Piano Pantry is called the Varsity Musician’s Playbook. Written by a good friend of mine, the series focuses on how we can develop thriving studios and students who are deeply committed using principles from team sports.

Continue reading

Friday Finds #109

Has anyone been to New Orleans? If so, you may have visited Cafe Du Monde. My husband was there last week for a big conference/training with Tableau Software.

He and his colleagues visited the cafe three times for Beignets over the week! LOL. Luckily he knows me well and brought home a box of the mix as well as their famous coffee with Chicory. Fun!



Nice and simple sticker charts for reviewing technique exercises in the keys of C/Am, G/Em, and F/Dm from Piano Safari.



Practice Strategy: Video-Game Start-Overs from Color In My Piano. P.S. My best memories of childhood video games is on Atari! I also loved the old computer game Oregon Trail. I’m really dating myself now…



Music Learning Theory basics brought to you in a fun and easy way from one of the best in the business. I absolutely love RG’s style!



Drew and I got on the Magic Eraser bandwagon last year when we bought our Quadra-Fire fireplace as they’re brilliant for cleaning the glass. Here are a few more Magic Eraser products that exist if you’re a fan.



How to Market Childhood Music Programs to Millennial Parents.



We’re approaching the gift-giving season. I know I’ve mentioned this product before on Piano Pantry, but I love it so much, I wanted to share it again as we go into this season.

Birchbox is a subscription box that sends you five product samples each month. The 3-month subscription is an awesome gift for a teenage daughter, or mom, or even a guy you know who likes those kinds of things – they have Birchbox for men!



How to Minimize Jet Lag and Perform Your Best When Crossing Multiple Time Zones.



You CAN Afford an Adjustable Bench from The Piano Studio.



Chocolate-Covered Chai Tea Bars. Sold.



What’s in Season in November.


Happy weekend, everyone! ~Amy



Teaching Syncopation with Rocket Man

On the assignment sheet I’m currently using with students there is a practice reflection that also includes a space for students to write down a piece they would like to learn.

“What piece would you like to learn?” is one of my favorite questions on the practice diary. Not only is it an opportunity for the student to communicate their musical interests with me, but it’s opened my eyes to new music. It’s amazing to see how many students push themselves to learn to play repertoire much harder than their “level” – especially when it’s a song they really want to play.

Giving students some autonomy and choice in music is also important for retention. For more on that, check out the post: A Picture Number is Worth a Thousand Words: Studio Retention-Rate Marketing.

One of my students who plays around the late-intermediate level recently wanted to play Rocket Man. Musicnotes.com is my go-to place for all individual song requests. The arrangement I found for her has proven to be an excellent study in syncopation and is challenging her rhythm skills.

Perhaps you have a student who may enjoy it as well?

Here is the arrangement of Rocketman on Musicnotes.com.

Just for fun, here’s the Offical Music Video for Rocket Man.


Assignment Sheet with *that* Emoji Updated

A reader contacted me and asked if I would consider tweaking her favorite assignment sheet – #15 – on Assignment Sheet Central. Why?

Well, the “practice cake” graphic that shows students the steps for good practice kind of looked like *that* emoji. Yeah, you know which one I’m talking about. Don’t make me say it.

Well, OK…it is what it’s is.

It looks like the poop emoji. There. I said it. Do you agree?

In my defense, I’m pretty sure the poop emoji did not even exist when I created this assignment sheet.

That being said, I had to agree with her and thus, created a new design. Since the assignment sheet is titled “Practice Steps,” I thought it would be more fitting to use the visual of actual stair steps rather than a cake.

Like what you see? See more where that came from on Assignment Sheet Central.


Friday Finds #108

This past week was one of those weeks where I finally had a chance to work on a bunch of projects that always get cast aside due to the busyness of life. My husband has been gone since Sunday on a work-related training and I’m playing it solo.

Amongst my to-do list was updating my student photo board – a project I would normally like to have done by the first of September…

Despite the fact that my amateur photography skills had a hard time catching a good photo without reflections, I’m thrilled with how it looks this year.

Stay tuned for a “how-to” post in the next few weeks!



Catching up on Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast recently, there were two, in particular, I found fascinating. One is somewhat music related and one not.

Anthems, Pledges, and Change: Where does change come from?

The Deletionists: Who decides what we know?



Reflections on the story of how Julie Andrews lost her voice and then found a new one on Becoming Minimalist.



Throat Coat is one of the best teas to have on hand for the winter months when colds and sore throats are prevalent.

It will become your new best friend, especially if you’re a voice teacher. We even keep it on hand on our breakfast food cart for the music worship team at church.



Speaking of being sick…we all know chicken soup has been dubbed the best thing to eat when you’re sick, but I have a problem with that. What if you don’t like chicken noodle soup?!

In all my 38 years I have never found chicken noodle soup recipe I really like – until now (and I am so relieved!). I mean, who doesn’t like chicken noodle soup?!

The best thing about this recipe is that it is chock full of other good nutrient-rich ingredients for when you’re feeling under the weather. Perfect. Here it is!

The Best Chicken Soup You’ll Ever Eat from The Ambitious Kitchen.

Besides the goodies like ginger, turmeric, garlic, rosemary, and thyme, it uses pearled couscous instead of noodles! Love it.



My most advanced student just choose her Christmas book this week and we were both mesmerized. It was the first time I had discovered and used Kevin Olson’s Advanced Jazzed Up Christmas. If she wasn’t going to play from it this season, I was!


It was a strong contender with Phillip Keveren’s Jingle Jazz which just became MY new Christmas book to play from for this season!




If you’re still on the search for Christmas repertoire, definitely check out Leila’s new arrangement of O Come, O Come, Emmanual which she has woven with “Pavane” by Faure´.



There are a couple of professional opportunities and deadlines approaching if you’re interested:

Apply for MTNA Studio Teacher Fellowship – Deadline November 1.   The winner gets a $3,000 cash award! I wish I had known about this award in my early years of opening my studio…

Proposals for the 2019 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy are also due November 1.


Friday Finds #107

I have a new favorite habit. Last week after suffering through a cold, I started drinking hot water with lemon juice and honey first thing in the morning. (6-8 oz. boiling water with 1-1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice and 1/2 tsp. honey).

Drinking hot water with lemon juice and honey is nothing new under the sun for most people, but for me, it’s a big deal because I used to not be able to stand drinking any kind of hot tea or even the water and honey thing. For some reason, that suddenly changed and I am so glad! It’s a great healthy habit as both lemon and honey have wonderful health-giving properties.

Since I have an aunt named Sue who loves to cook as I do, I had to take a photo of my new bottle of honey and send to her. 🙂



Who wouldn’t love to have access to an office space like this? Amazing. Check out Michael Hyatt & Co.’s new [optional] workspace.



Mom is in charge of the turkey this year for Thanksgiving. I’m hoping I can convince her to try this Buttermilk-Brined Turkey from William’s Sonoma.



MTNA is giving a pretty sweet package away to one lucky winner. You must be registered for the national conference by November 15 and the winner will be chosen at the end of the month. Check out the details here.



This assortment of year-round holiday stickers made it into my Amazon shopping cart yesterday. I was only looking for Christmas stickers, but why have only one holiday on hand when you can have them all!



Why are you still afraid of MSG? Hmmm…I’m still not 100% sure on this one, but the mantra I try to keep for much of everything in life is “everything in moderation.”



How RSS Feeds Will Give You More Efficiency and Control.

If you love to follow a lot of website and bloggers online and you’re not using an RSS reader, you’re doing yourself a disservice! Feedly is one of my top all-around favorite tools I recommend on the Recommend Resources page.



O my goodness, I absolutely love opening the windows to the house when it’s nice out, airing out the house and yes, letting in some sunshine!

Grandma Was Right: Sunshine Helps Kill Germs Indoors



James Clear is one of my favorite (non-piano/music) websites to follow these days. Every article he writes is thought-provoking and that, to me, is worth my time. This article, The Habits Scorecard: Use This Simple Exercise to Discover Which Habits You Should Change is an excerpt from his book Atomic Habits. It’s in my Amazon shopping cart.



Two recent winning recipes I would recommend are Creamy Beef and Shells from Damn Delicious and One-Pot Chili Mac from The Kitchn.

Surprising they’re both pasta recipes and we almost never eat pasta dishes at home. Once in a while, they are definitely nice and comforting, though!



American Cheese Is the Latest Victim of Millennial Murder (and That’s Okay)


Have a great weekend!



Friday Finds #106

This past weekend was an absolute whirlwind! Why? It was the weekend of our Indiana state conference and not only was I on the conference committee but it was my first conference as state President!

For the first time ever, it wasn’t held at a University, but at Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne. Sweetwater headquarters is a pretty amazing complex and is a destination in and of itself!

I had a hard time choosing which photo displayed this weekend the best so I narrowed it down to four. They include, our IMTA Board of Directors hard at work during our luncheon meeting, my two former piano teachers, Dr. Lori Rhoden of Ball State (grad school teacher) and Kathy Grile from Taylor University (high school teacher), my piano teacher buddies Joy Morin, Daniel Patterson, and DJ Smith, and a photo of me doing Presidential duties at the banquet.

Needless to say I’ve taken naps every day this week following, but it was totally worth it!

And now onward to this weeks finds!



Any time I have a “let-down” per say after a very busy time, my body tends to react. I’ve been running for the past six weeks like crazy between conference planning, attending the MTNA National Summit, being on a weekly committee at my church searching for our next pastor, presenting on two instances, once at the Kentucky MTA Conference and to the Indianapolis Piano Teachers Guild. It’s been non-stop, I’m telling you. Until now. Boom.

My let-down cold has erupted. It’s the time of year you may want to check out my guide for “Germ-Alert Season: A Studio Teachers Guide to Staying Healthy.”



Getting started with rotating lessons 20/20/20.



Do your policies need a facelift? Sometimes the middle of the semester is a good time to think about these kinds of things because you just got done going through the process and your mind is fresh with the improvements you want to make for the next time. Check out When Policies Get too Long for a little extra help.



Sorry, but There’s No Such Thing as the “Clean Part” of Moldy Bread. Yeah, I’m one of those people who thought they could just cut away the moldy parts… :-/



10 games you can play with students using those cute Iwako erasers.



How to Become an Indispensable Piano Teacher. 



Check out this teacher’s “BenchMark Program” for their students. Impressive video, Clinton!



Using a paper towel tube to help you vacuum?? Genius!



Consider baking one of these this week:

Applesauce Spice Bars | Simple but Delicious

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread | Joy the Baker

Simple Zucchini Bread | King Arthur Flour

Raspberry Orange Almond Muffins with Sprouted Wheat Flour |  Amy Chaplin (the other one)

Healthy Pumpkin Oatmeal Bake | Food Network 


Friday Finds #105

Last weekend we got together with a group of 10 friends. One of the couples had spent a month this summer traveling out west in their new camper. Originally from Arizona, he was sure to bring back some of his favorite beers from their trip – several which he shared with us that evening. Drew and I absolutely loved this Orange Blossom Beer from Papago Brewery in Scottsdale Arizona.

Our Indiana State MTA Conference is being held today and tomorrow (October 5-6, 2018) at the headquarters of Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne. We have an amazing line-up including Frederic Chiu, Dr. Christopher and Katherine Fisher as our Pedagogy Clinicians, a premier of MTNA/IMTA Commissioned Composition Taxonomies of Pulse for Two Pianos a by Benjamin Krause, and much more.

Have a great weekend – I know I will! ~Amy



Many of us are gearing up to make our Christmas music purchases for our studios. If you still need some ideas, you may find a few refreshing options in Trusty Christmas Favorites: Repertoire I Return to Year After Year or Christmas Collaborations: Recommended Piano Ensemble Music



Cyber scams seem to have increased drastically over the last few years in a way that they’re becoming harder and harder to pinpoint. Emails especially are being designed so they are almost indistinguishable from our daily emails.  Check out this article on How to Spot Common Cyber Scams. If anything, be hyper-aware before you do anything online.



An excellent Guide to Balsamic Vinegar.



Do you struggle with adult students? Maybe you love adult students! Whichever way you lean, this six-part series on Adult RMM Lessons (not just group RMM), is a great peek into the psyche of those older learners students. Brief video testimonials by various adult students make me relate to my own students.



Alton Brown is bringing back his cooking show Good Eats! I used to love this show. The new one is called Good Eats Reloaded. Check out the trailer here. Now if I only had cable… :-/



Joy Morin’s course “Excellence in Piano Teaching is gearing up soon!



10 Essential Cleaning Tools Every Home Should Have.



If you’re not already aware, I wanted to let you know the Piano Pantry Secret Letter that goes out at the end of every month now includes a teaching tip based on the principals of how we learn music influenced by Music Learning Theory. That last two letters have included video clips to go along with the tip! If you would like to stay in touch with Piano Pantry and also receive this monthy letter (it’s secret because it’s not shared anywhere else – even on social media). You can subscribe here.