Friday Finds #191

Happy Birthday

The theme “Happy Birthday” seems to be playing around in my life this week.

First, the new post that went up on Piano Pantry this week was about a
tweak I made this year with my student birthday cards.

Second, this was the first week since our fall lessons started that I had a student with a birthday, so I just sent out my first card!

Third, I’ve corresponded with several of you recently about student birthday-card-related things.

Fourth, today is my baby brother’s birthday so I’ll give him a shout-out (although I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog! Ha!).  Just for fun, here are a couple of pictures from a family photo session last year that I think sums up our relationship

So BOOM, we have our weekly theme!



Thanks to reader Karen Shuart for sharing two student birthday ideas with me (and now, I with you!).

First, here’s what she had to say about this Etsy shop which has super cute cards you could use for your student birthdays:

I don’t know the owner personally, but have purchased several items and they arrive on time and the recipient often comments on how creative the cards have been. I also purchased some sticker pages, clipped them apart and gave them as fellow piano teacher gifts along with some of post-it flags from the Dollar Tree. It seemed to be well received.

Second, she reminded me of Leila Viss’s resource Perry’s Party Piano Camp for teaching students to play Happy Birthday!



That, in turn, made me remember a free resource from Jennifer Fink at Pianimation. It’s a Harmonization sheet for Happy Birthday using the primary chords.



This isn’t a find, but just a little teaser that I have my own “Happy Birthday” resource I’m working on to share in the near future. My students have already seen four or five versions of it over the last two years but I’m getting closer to my end product. Stay tuned!



Recommended recipes:

Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash | Closet Cooking
Sometimes I just used jarred enchilada sauce rather than making my own.

Slow Cooker Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Potatoes | Damn Delicious



I’ve been listening to fellow teacher/colleague Marlowe Carruth’s channel on Spotify while working and it has been so soothing!

She also has a beautiful rendition of the Downton Abbey theme.



Use a Bowl of Vinegar to Get Rid of Food Smells | The Kitchn

I’m trying this – I filled a pint-sized ball jar with white vinegar, put a thin layer of cheesecloth on top, and crimped it down with a metal jar ring. I plan on keeping it out in my kitchen, next to the stovetop at all times, and am excited to see the results!



Using Screen Mirroring Wirelessly with Your iPad | Deborah Rambo Sinn



Piano Pouches: Something Fun for New Online Students | Joy Morin, Color in My Piano



Nebraska: Images of the Cornhusker State | Alan Taylor, The Atlantic

Now that I know about this collection, you may be getting the link to the new one each week. I just think it’s such a fabulous series! My favorites this week include #1, 3, 6, 10, 15.



This time in Piano Pantry history:

2016 – Friday Finds: Unlocking Creativity, Unfurling Jolene

2016 – Announcing Piano Pantry’s first Big Resource!

2017 – Friday Finds: PawPaw and Money-Making Tips




Student Birthday Cards with a Surprise Twist!

Ever since I opened my full-time studio, I’ve been sending a birthday postcard to students every year – you know, kind of like when you get birthday postcards from your dentist, eye doctor, or auto-dealership? Not all businesses do this of course, but it’s a nice gesture and a great way to keep in touch with customers.

Prior to doing postcards, I would give them their favorite candy bar but I got tired of having to go out and buy individual candy bars and remember to do so throughout the year.

My reason for sending postcards has actually been more intentional than just doing something nice for students (not that that isn’t a good reason in and of itself, of course! 🙂 )

To me, it’s a way of creating great rapport with your families and I wrote a little more details on this in this post: Marketing with Postcards, It’s Not What You Think!

Each year I find a new postcard with the goal of sending something unique, fun, and visually inspiring. (Get some ideas here: Fun Postcards for Marketing Your Studio and 2019-2020 Birthday Postcards.)

Today I want to share how my (almost) burnout on this annual studio project propelled me to take a fresh approach with a little twist this year.

This will also include details on how to organize this project so you don’t have to continually attend to it throughout the year.

Sneak-peak! If you happen to use My Music Staff to manage your studio, I’ll show you a tool they offer that will display your student’s birthdays on your Google, iCloud or similar digital calendar!


A Simple (but Real) Burnout

For years I’ve had the same routine.

  1. Purchase a set of postcards.
  2. Print out address labels, and pre-label and stamp all the cards.
  3. Every Monday morning, look at the calendar and see if anyone has a birthday the following week, then write a little note on the postcard and drop it in the mail.

After nine years of this routine, while it was still fairly streamlined, I’ve gotten burnt out on hand-writing notes – especially when Spring comes around and I have multiple students in a week with birthdays.

I really didn’t want to stop my birthday mailing though because I think it’s important (I mean, what kid doesn’t feel special getting something in the
US Mail these days?! LOL)


small Tweaks to Keep it Fresh

Amidst pondering my dilemma, I realized that many of the birthday cards that come from businesses are usually pre-printed. Aha! While not the most personal approach, it was the perfect answer to give me a little break and a change of pace.

Tweak #1: Pre-print the cards

I also wanted to change it up and do a little something more for students.
A gift card to DQ was an easy idea but $5 is usually the minimum amount most places will do on a gift card, making it a pricy option. Plus, the statistics show a lot of people never end up using them and I hated the thought of wasting that money!

Over the last two years, I’ve been implementing a big push for students to always be able to play Happy Birthday. So, I began wondering how could I tie this into the birthday gift?


Continue reading

Friday Finds #190

Using forScore with Online Students



Creating a video in forScore for your online students
(Deborah Rambo Sinn)

Using forScore to give written feedback from online lessons
(Deborah Rambo Sinn)



New Piano Studio Layout for COVID-19 Social Distancing
(Rebekah Maxner)



Piano on the Patio! Quarantine Teaching Adventures Continued
(Joy Morin | ColorInMyPiano)



How COVID Led My Students to Amazing Creative Music Endeavours
(LouAnn Pope |



Lots going on in our profession!

Last week I gave a shout-out of congratulations to Sara Campbell on her rebranding.

This week we’re giving three more shout-outs:

Nicola Cantan from Vibrant Music Teaching just opened a shop with some fun t-shirt and coffee mug swag.

Beginning today and running through September 27th, Jennifer Foxx is celebrating her 10-year blog-aversary with 10 days of freebies and giveaways!

Tim Topham officially launched the new Top Music Marketplace.
(P.S. You can find some of my top-selling music lab resources there!)
(P.S.S. I was tickled to get a little shout-out on the podcast announcement at around the 2:55 marker. 🙂 )



Washington: Images of the Evergreen State (The Atlantic)



Christmas Music Round-Up, 2020 Edition (Chrissy Ricker)



“Because” vs. “And” (Seth Godin)



This Spinach and Feta Frittata made for a lovely lunch this past week! Now that my husband works from home full time – we both do – some days our lunches are a little more special than just leftovers!

P.S. I added 8oz. sliced mushrooms in and sautéed them with the onions before adding in the egg mixture. 


Friday Finds #189

Condolences and Congratulations



The piano pedagogy world has experienced a great loss in the passing of Nancy Bachus.

You may be most familiar with some of her publications including Exploring Piano Classics, Beyond the (Baroque/Classical/Romantic) Spirit, and Alfred’s Great Music & Musicians: An Overview of Music History.



Bluegrass music makes it into my playlist often. One group I have been especially fond of is The Arcadian Wild. Some of my favorite pieces include (links to the songs will open in Spotify):

Blue Eyed Girl
The Food Truck Blues
Wander. Wonder.
The Ballad of Donnie Gene



Everyone is going bonkers for Rock out Loud, but here’s some great information on how Zoom is stepping up from Davis Dorough over at Creative Piano Teacher – High-Fidelity Music Mode in Zoom.



Life is Too Short (Joshua Becker | Becoming Minimalist)



Louisiana: Images of the Pelican State (The Atlantic)



How one kid can destroy the performance of John Cage solo for sliding trombone.

This is hilarious and, bless his heart, the performer was a trooper! The title is wrong though in my opinion. The kid didn’t destroy the solo – the solo brought the child great joy! 🙂 I’m with the kid – it’s a hilarious solo! LOL.

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, the highlight starts around 3-min in.



Send piano tuning reminders to your studio families. (Sara Campbell | Saras Music Studio)



Congrats to Sara, by the way on her rebranding from Sara Campbell-Biz Coach to Savvy Music Studio.



Load up on some great Halloween sheet music to give out over the next few weeks! Favorite Sheet Music Piano Solos for Halloween.



Here are some ideas for easy meals as you’re getting back into the swing of teaching.




Favorite Sheet Music Piano Solos for Halloween

This is the first of three posts highlighting some of my favorite sheet music piano solos for students.

These favorites lists are the result of a year-long focus in my studio, exploring the wide range of sheet music solos in publication. If you would like to read about the 9 things I learned from that project, check out this post.

Since I have quite a few to mention, I decided to divide the list into three posts. Today I’ll be sharing favorite Halloween-themed sheet music piano solos including the reason I love it and a link where you can purchase. I’m doing it first because Halloween will be here before we know it!

(Stay tuned for two more posts. The first will include favorite pieces at the Early Elementary, Elementary, and Late Elementary levels and the second post on Early Intermediate, Intermediate, and Later Intermediate pieces.)

Please note I am an affiliate in the Sheet Music Plus Easy Rebates program which simply means if you purchase any of these pieces using the links I provide, I will get a small percentage back without it costing you any extra.

P.S. I just saw that if you’re a member of MTNA, you can get an additional 10% off your order at Sheet Music Plus on top of their 8% Easy Rebates program!


Early Elementary

Halloween Costumes by Tom Gerou

Why I love it: The piece includes both the leading tone and subtonic in Am (G and G#) giving it a little more interesting flair.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus  


Zoom, Zoom, Witch’s Broom by Nancy Faber

Why I love it: Its fast-moving tempo is a nice challenge for students. The piece also gives them a chance to experience the fermata, pedal, octave leaps.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

Continue reading

Friday Finds #188

These are a few of my favorite things

For our first week of finds in September, I’m going to change it up a bit and bring you a list of “a few of my favorite things!”

*Please note that I am an affiliate for many of these products which simply means if you sign up using the link I give, I will get a small percentage back at no extra cost to you.


1 – Online Lesson Assignments

Are you considering getting on the TONARA bandwagon? If you decide to subscribe beyond the free trial, use this code to get 20% off your first year: PIANOPANTRY.


2 – Monthly Automatic Payments

Save time and money using COINHOP. With a minimalist interface and ease of use, you can turn the work over to them and collect monthly payments for only a 1% fee. So much cheaper than PayPal, Stripe, or many other options out there!

Read more about Coinhop here.



LASTPASS will be your last stop for password management. You can use it on your mobile phone, tablet devices, and desktop. It’s easy to use, will help you generate secure passwords, and will remember them so you don’t have to!



PAPRIKA. I love this app for managing all my recipes for many reasons. First, it has a built-in browser so you can easily import recipes from any site. Second, there is a desktop version so I can manage recipes from my desktop and not just the app which I find to be much more efficient.


5 – email scheduling

Write an email but schedule it to be sent at a later date. Even cooler yet, tell it to “boomerang” an email you sent back into your inbox if someone doesn’t respond to it by a certain date! A great email tool for any working professional – BOOMERANG FOR GMAIL.



Using GRAMMARLY is like having a personal proof-reader in your back pocket.

Let me convince you!



You can literally organize your entire life in EVERNOTE. Imagine a digital filing cabinet where you can save basic text notes, PDF files, screenshots, text selections off a web page, clip images from the web, and more. Pull up all saved information easily with simple keyboard searches.

Get more of my tips on using Evernote here.



GOOGLE PHOTOS. Switching to Google Photos was one of the best things I did for managing my studio photos.

5 Reasons Why Google Photos Might be the Perfect Solution for Your Studio!



FEEDLYUsing an RSS Reader is, in my opinion, the only way to properly manage content in today’s world. An RSS Reader is like a personalized digital newspaper. You tell it the website you want to follow and it will stream all the newsfeeds into one location so you can keep up on new content in one place.

Read more about how I use Feedly: Managing Internet Content the Easy Way



I hate shopping for hair and face products. With BIRCHBOX, every month you get a small box of samples. You can even opt for some months to trade in your box for points you can spend to buy full-size products in their shop!

Try it out!






Sheet Music Piano Solos:

9 lessons-learned from a 1-year project

This year marks the start of my 10th year of full-time piano teaching. While I’ve been teaching for 20 years, the first 10 were part-time (alongside other careers) with generally no more than 6-10 students at a time.

Ever since I started teaching full time, I’ve found myself focusing on one or two major things each year (not always intentionally, but quite recognizably in hind-sight).

Examples include learning to use a new program, improving my teaching in a particular way or area, trying a new method with as many students as possible at once, and so forth.

Last year I suddenly felt inspired to explore and become better acquainted with the gamut of sheet music solos.


Clueless and Curious

If you ever attend an MTNA National Conference or NCKP (The Piano Conference, you know that these single sheets (priced at $2-$3) are often handed out in exchange for submitting “coupons” with contact information in the exhibit halls.

Like many teachers, I’ve never used them continuously with students. Not only are they more expensive than a book, but their intent is more to supplement than supply a student’s repertoire.

Even though I’ve been teaching for 20 years, infrequent use of sheet music solos meant I was feeling a little clueless as to what was really out there and what my favorites were.

So, last year I vowed to use them more frequently. Basically, (almost) every student had one sheet music solo in progress at all times (almost). 🙂

In future posts, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorites but first, I want to share with you 9 things I learned from this project along the way.

Continue reading

Favorite Elementary-Level Sheet Music Piano Solos

This is the second of three posts that will highlight some of my favorite sheet music piano solos for students.

These favorites lists are the result of a year-long focus in my studio, exploring the wide range of sheet music solos in publication. If you would like to read about the 9 things I learned from that project, check out this post.

Since I have quite a few to mention, I decided to divide the list into three posts. Today I’ll be sharing favorite pieces at the Early Elementary, Elementary, and Late Elementary levels including the reason I love it and a link where you can purchase.

The first post featured Halloween-themed music and the next one will introduce Early Intermediate, Intermediate, and Later Intermediate pieces.

Please note I am an affiliate in the Sheet Music Plus Easy Rebates program which simply means if you purchase any of these pieces using the links I provide, I will get a small percentage back without it costing you any extra.


Early Elementary

Dancing Drums by Joyce Grill

Why I love it: It’s in Aeolian (Natural Minor) tonality and has a really catchy beat.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus


I Like Bananas by Julie Knerr

Why I love it: A fun and silly piece that helps beginning students explore the range of the piano.

Buy it at


I Love Coffee from Piano Safari

Why I love it: A rote solo piece, I Love Coffee is a theme with six variations. There is a multitude of fun ways to use this piece both as a student solo and even in a small group.

Buy it at



Why I love it: It has a beautiful melody that seems to plays around the tonic to start then moves into a lovely contrasting B section.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus


Start Your Engines by Kevin Olson

Why I love it: Most early elementary pieces are catered to young children, but this one appeals to older students. I even had a 14-year old boy who played and love this piece.

It includes a B section where the student works on slowly accelerating (like a car) until the final three measures where they play “as fast as they can” culminating in a note cluster “crash” of the car.

Buy it at Sheet Music Plus

Continue reading

Friday Finds #187




Looking for an alternative to Zoom for your online lessons? Here’s a really detailed review comparing Muzie and Rock Out Loud Live (Clinton Pratt | Piano Sensei)



A friend recently told me about a book of short pieces she’s going to use this year called “Doodles” by Alison Mathews. I immediately checked them out and have already purchased the digital download myself!

While researching it, I came across a really excellent review that will give you a close look at the product. Read the review at

It was actually a bit of a struggle to find where to purchase the digital download so I’m going make your life a whole lot easier:

Doodles (Digital Download)

Doodles (Physical Book)



Ever since my studio moved into our new home last year, I started asking students to remove their shoes. It’s not always a pleasant thing, so I decided to buy shoe covers and small “announcement” holder to place in my entryway. That way, students can choose which they prefer – shoes or no shoes (and I will just hope the stinky feet ones chose the former ha! 🙂 )

Foldable Shoe Cover Holder

Disposable Shoe Covers

P.S. A shout-out to Jennifer Foxx who I saw mention this somewhere online!



Baring my soul with a ginormous list of my favorite all-around technology tools, studio marketing and social media tools and programs, software and apps, recording equipment, website hosting, and more. Check out this page on Piano Pantry: Recommended Resources.



Guaranteed successful recipes for your September menu – tried, tested, and loved by me 🙂 :

Cheesy Garlic Zucchini Rice (Damn Delicious)

Creamy Avocado Corn Salad (Clean Food Crush)

Sriracha Orange-Glazed Green Beans (Simply Recipes)

Stir-Fried Zucchini and Shiitakes (Williams Sonoma)

Tilapia “Clubs” (Rachel Ray)



Teaching Piano Students During Challenging Times (Lauren Lewandowski | Piano with Lauren)



Who loves Amazon? I do, I do! 🙂

My Top 6 “But It Again” Office Products from Amazon (Amy Chaplin | Piano Pantry)




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Best-Selling Music Labs and the new “Top Music Marketplace”

As we’re just getting started with the start of the 2020-2021 school year I just wanted to highlight four of the best-selling Music Labs here on Piano Pantry as well as mention the kickoff of Tim Topham’s new Top Music Marketplace.

There are 15 different music lab sheets for sale here on Piano Pantry. They include:

  1. Essentials of Music Theory
  2. Fun Music Videos
  3. Halloween Lab
  4. Music Theory Videos
  5. Piano Explorer Magazine
  6. RCM Theory App Prep
  7. RCM Theory App Level 1
  8. RCM Theory App Level 2
  9. RCM Theory App Level 3
  10. RCM Theory App Level 4
  11. RCM Theory App Bundle
  12. Rhythm Cat HD
  13. Rhythm Lab
  14. Staff Wars App
  15. Waay App

(Clicking on the links will take you to the blog post that tells you more about each one!)

Not surprisingly, the four bestsellers have been:

  1. Fun Music Videos
  2. RCM Theory App Bundle
  3. Music Theory Videos
  4. Rhythm Lab


Visit the Music Labs Shop here on Piano Pantry



Top Music Marketplace

All of these labs are still available here on Piano Pantry, but will select ones will also now be available on Tim Topham’s new Top Music Marketplace.

While I have the ability to sell products right here on Piano Pantry (and will continue to do so), Top Music Marketplace is one of the first websites (at least that I’m aware of) to set up one location for music teachers to sell their products.

While it’s a great opportunity for teachers who don’t have their own online platform to sell products (sign up here), it’s also an opportunity for those like myself that have a platform to reach an even bigger audience – and for that, I’m in! 🙂

Of course, it also makes it convenient for you as well to be able to search out a multitude of products in one location – some of which you might not otherwise have had exposure!

Hop on over and check out

View the Piano Pantry shop on TopMusicMarkepace.