Christmas Gifts for Music Students: Who Couldn’t Use Another Idea?

When it comes to this time of year, I usually whine a little. Not because I don’t love Christmas or giving gifts, but because I have to figure out something different to do for my students once again.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE giving gifts to my students. It’s just the process of making my brain think about what to do this year that makes me often procrastinate.

After cutting it a little too close a few years ago, I vowed to stop waiting until the last minute. (Year-ahead purchases have even become normal.) Bye-bye stress!

Crafts are not my strong suit so my kiddos will most likely never get a hand-made craft from me. Since I love to cook, however, homemade goodies have made it into the mix frequently.

The gifts I do each year often have to do with where life is in the moment. Don’t you agree? Some year’s money may be tight so gifts may be bulk-homemade and less costly. On the flip side, if time is more of a commodity, I just purchase an item – even if I end up spending more.

My comfort zone is anywhere between $1 – $5 per student with $3 being my sweet spot. With a full studio, the cost can add up quickly!



Hershey’s Symphony Creamy Milk Chocolate Bar is a really great and easy option. Depending on your budget, there are two sizes:

The XL size is about $1.50 apiece and can be found on Amazon 12 for $18.

The GIANT version is also fun to give and is around $2.50 a piece. (At the time of this post, they were not available in bulk on Amazon but can likely be found in your nearest grocery store.)



Decorate your studio Christmas Tree with student Christmas-gift ornaments. Let them choose their ornament off the tree at their last lesson before Christmas Break.

One of my favorites from over the years is these Resin Sheet Music Snowman Ornaments.

At the time of this post, the price on Amazon is $22.99 for a dozen. You can get these at Oriental Trading for $15.99 but may end up paying more depending on shipping.

P.S. Sara’s Music Studio made a fun suggestion to add a ribbon around the neck like a scarf. How cute would that be? 


Homemade Hot Cocoa

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix is a perfect gift. What kid doesn’t love hot chocolate?

Ball jars are so easy to make look decorated with something as simple as a colorful ribbon. Be sure and include the directions!

Consider recipes that are made with powdered milk so students only have to add hot water.  Along those same lines, don’t do the layered-type cocoa mix where you have to dump the whole container into a pot to mix.

My favorite recipe is from Cook’s Country, but since it’s a paid recipe service, here are some other versions you could try from Pioneer Woman and AllRecipes. 


Japanese Erasers

Will the Japanese Eraser craze ever go away? I would be surprised if it did – they’re just too cute! Students will love these grand piano erasers.

Purchase a mixture of black and red and let students choose. Based on what my students chose, I would suggest purchasing 30% red and 60% black. Or if you want to keep it simple, just go for the black!


Puppy Chow

To me, just handing them a small Japanese eraser didn’t seem like quite enough, so the years I did that as my gift, I also made Puppy chow and attached the eraser to the bow.

I don’t even remember what specific recipe I used at that time but it was definitely a white chocolate one.

A couple of my other favorite puppy chow recipes are Cookie Butter Muddy Buddies and Peanut Butter Brownie Puppy Chow




Lastly, an Organization Tip!

Before we go, let me give you one organizational tip regarding student Christmas gifts:

Keep a list of what you give your students each year!

The first year I opened my studio, I didn’t record the gift I gave and I regretted it because it is SOOOO nice to be able to look back and see what you’ve done recently.

Keeping a list means that you can easily repeat gifts with confidence.

This year, I’m cycling back and giving a gift that I did six years ago which means I’m confident a large majority of my students haven’t received this gift from me!

It’s a simple as writing it down in your favorite note-taking app (like Evernote, of course!).

  • 2017 Resin Sheet Music Snowman Ornament
  • 2016 Grand Piano Japanese Eraser and Puppy Chow
  • 2015 Black sparkly music ornament (no longer available)
  • 2014 Bag of puppy chow
  • 2013 Homemade hot chocolate mix
  • 2012 Hershey’s Symphony chocolate bar


What are you giving your students this year? Share together in the comments!

Summit for MTNA Leadership: A Class Act

A couple of weekends ago, I made quite a loop-de-loo around Indiana and Ohio. It started out with a 2-hour drive up to Bowling Green Ohio to present with Joy Morin to her local MTA chapter. It was our first time out (and our first session together!), Teaching the Way We Learn: First Applications of Gordon’s Music Learning Theory. We will be presenting the same session for Indiana and Kentucky MTA conferences this Fall. For details visit my speaking page.

After enjoying lunch with several Ohio teachers and one of Joy’s adult students who came to the session, I made the 3-hour trek down I-75 to Cincinnati where I attended my first Summit for MTNA Leadership.

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Retreat at Piano Manor: Food, Photos, and Recipes

Several weeks ago, I was lucky to get to participate in playing hostess to a wonderful group of piano teachers during Joy Morin’s Piano Teacher Retreat, “Retreat at Piano Manor, where I got to play the role of foodie/caterer!

I thought it would be fun to share the weekend with you from my perspective including meals and recipes I used (links to those available online).


Keepin’ it Healthy

Knowing that we had a gluten-free guest, I decided it was easier to keep that in mind for the whole shebang. Needless to say, I think we ate pretty healthy! Now THAT’S the kind of grocery cart I could aspire to every week. Color and real food.

(Two) Breakfasts Included

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Raspberry Orange Almond Muffins with Sprouted  Wheat Flour

Maple Candied Bacon

Honey Vanilla Yogurt

Fresh fruit

Scrambled eggs

Unfortunately, I missed getting photos of my breakfast tables!

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5-Days of Giveaways | 03: Milk Street Magazine


It’s day three of the one-year anniversary celebration of Piano Pantry!

Thank you to everyone who entered yesterday’s (day 2) giveaway. The winner of Day 2: John Feierabend’s “Move It!” DVD was Christie Ventura who has been notified via email). Congratulations!

I’m only giving away items that I currently use and love. We have two more days to go. Monday and Tuesday of next week, (March 13, 14) will be high price prizes!

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Game Day Roundup for your Studio and Kitchen

Soon, many Americans will be gathering for one of the biggest annual sporting events – Super Bowl Sunday.

In honor of the upcoming festivities, in this post, I’ll share some:

(1) Favorite football-themed lessons worksheets, games, and music

(2) Favorite game-day recipes

(3) A couple of personal memories of years past

First, the memories.


Football, “Footy,” and I

As a non-sports fan, Super Bowl Sunday for me is a day where I get to have fun making all kinds of fun food and spending time with people I love. I’m that person: the commercial-watching, appetizer-eating, half-time show critic. The only time I’m ever interested in the game itself is when the Indianapolis Colts are playing.

If you’re like me when it comes to the Super Bowl, you may check out the podcast An Egghead’s Guide to the Super Bowl by Freakonomics.

My biggest Super Bowl memory was Super Bowl XLI (2007) between the Colts and the Chicago Bears. At the time, we were living in Melbourne, Australia. We kept a blog of our adventures back then called Aussie Chaps. Here’s what I said at the time:

Did you think we’d actually miss seeing the Colts play in the Super Bowl just because we live 12,000 miles away? Of course not! We ordered the sports channel for a month just so we could catch the game!

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Healthy Go-To Recipes from All-Over the Web

Today I want to share with you some of my favorite “healthy” recipes from all over the web.

Like many, I’m guilty in January of redirecting my attention to healthier living. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Even when extra conscious of maintaining healthy living over the holidays, a reboot/refresh feels good in the weeks following. I’m usually sick of the sweets and crave vegetables more than ever.

This year more than anything, rather than focusing on what I “shouldn’t” eat to be healthy, I want to shift my attention more simply to what I SHOULD be eating. How can I get one more serving of veggies into my day? Did I eat at least one piece of fruit?

In the first couple of months of the year, my husband and I eat at home more than ever. Last year I recall eating at home every meal in January, literally – not even takeout. I think it was more about the challenge than anything, but we did, and it was great! In doing so, I discovered some of the recipes I’m about to share with you today.

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Amy’s Holiday Favorites: Recipes, Gadgets, and Music

Who else is a sucker for "favorites" lists?

Oprah's favorites lists were always the first page I turned to when I used to get the magazine. Today we're not getting Oprah's list, but Amy's list!

This list includes the recipes and gadgets I arm myself with year after year for holiday cooking and the Christmas albums that create the most nostalgia in my ear during the season.

For years (until I started using Spotify Premium), I had a personal tradition of purchasing a new Christmas album each Christmas season. I love listening to the same albums each year with one new one thrown in.

Since I start listening to Christmas music on the first of November (about the same time I start Christmas pieces with my students), it's the perfect time of year for a holiday favorites list as we're planning our biggest holiday meal of the year (Thanksgiving), and while simultaneously setting the mood for the upcoming Christmas season through music.

(Just a heads up that this post does not include my favorite Christmas repertoire for students. You can find a list of those in Trust Christmas Favorites: Repertoire I Return to Year After Year and Christmas Collaborations: Recommended Piano Ensembles Music.)


Favorite Holiday Recipes

Appetizers and Side Dishes

Cranberry Feta Pinwheels

cranberry-pinwheelsMy family goes CRAZY over these Cranberry Feta Pinwheels from

A couple of tips: First, when I used a regular soft taco shell size, I needed six tortillas. If you use the large burrito shells, you might be okay. Second, I found adding 1/2 cup of sour cream to the mixture helped make it more spreadable.

A nice variation is to add thin slices of ham on top of the spread before rolling.


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