December Fun

Christmas Games and Activities for Your Studio

Are you looking for ideas on fun “off bench” activities to use in this Christmas season? Look no further! Today I’m going to share some of my favorite games and resources that I return to year after year along with tips for each one.

First, let me briefly share how I store my holiday games. We have to stay organized, right?

 

Storing Games (Both Hard-Copy and Digital)

Inspired by Nicola Canton I’ve started storing my holiday-themed games in these clear plastic document folders.

(P.S. The A4 size is nice because if you laminate a letter size-sheet, the lamination makes it larger.)

It’s not a cheap way to store games as they’re almost $1 a piece, so I’m currently only storing my holiday-themed games in these. The rest of my games are stored in hanging files in a file drawer. (I’ll write a post on that another day!)

The digital files are stored in my cloud file manager.

From there, I name files for what they are. This allows me to see how many games, for example, I have, how many worksheets, etc.

 

Favorite Christmas-Themed Activities

In no particular order…

Holiday Rhythm Cups from Wendy Stevens at Compose Create.

This is a great way to have fun with rhythm in a unique and collaborative way. The set includes three songs in three levels: Deck the Halls, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and Joy to the World.

Check out a clip of my students having fun with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

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Giving Tuesday

10 Music-Based Organizations to Consider

In light of the upcoming global cause called #GivingTuesday, I thought I would share with you a list of 10 organizations that we as music teachers could consider supporting as we approach the end of the year.

First of all, I was curious and did a little research on this initiative and wanted to share some fun facts:

  • It is held the Tuesday following the U.S. Thanksgiving.
  • Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation.
  • The movement was a response to the rise in commercialization and consumerism during the post-Thanksgiving season (a.k.a. Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
  • The hash-tag (#) makes it empowering via social media.
  • There’s a whole website dedicated to #GivingTuesday!
  • It’s not just about donating money but about encouraging people to find a way to give back – whether that’s monetarily or simply of your time.

 

Presented in alphabetical order, here are ten organizations working for the betterment of our musical world. (In order to give you the most accurate description of each of these organizations, the descriptions have been taken directly from their website.)

Disclaimer: This list is simply based on research. I am not being paid by any of these organizations nor do not have experience donating to all of these organizations. Always do further research so you know where your investment is going!

 

#1 Give A Note Foundation

Give A Note Foundation was created to bring awareness to the importance of music education and to nurture, grow, and strengthen music education opportunities—for every student, every school, and every community. Because music not only offers students the chance to develop creativity and self-expression, but also builds skills such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking that are necessary for success.

#MusicEdMatters

Visit: giveanote.org

 

#2 Hungry for Music

At Hungry for Music, our mission is putting quality musical instruments into hungry hands. We serve children who demonstrate a desire to learn music, as well as teachers who have students willing to learn.

In 25 years, we’ve delivered more than 13,000 instruments to children in 49 states and 30 countries.

Visit: HungryforMusic.org

 

#3 MTNA Foundation Fund

The Music Teachers National Association uses the Foundation Fund to expand its mission through a variety of grants and awards to deserving music teachers and their students.

More than $150,000 in grants and awards each year for:

  • Competition Prizes for the winners of the MTNA Student Competitions
  • Collegiate Grants for the professional development of Collegiate members
  • Program Development Grants for music organizations to use as seed money in their quest for larger-scale funding
  • Community Engagement Grants for programs and projects designed to be used by affiliates to engage the local community in musical events
  • Teacher Enrichment Grants for MTNA members to pursue needed professional development opportunities
  • Affiliate Enrichment Grants for local and state MTNA affiliates to develop educational and professional development projects and programs
  • Composer Commissioning Program for MTNA state affiliates to commission new music to be featured at the state conferences

Visit: mtnafoundation.org

 

#4 Music Link Foundation

Our Mission:Any child who has musical potential deserves the opportunity to nurture this talent to its full extent. Many children lack the chance to receive music lessons due to financial need. The MusicLink Foundation reaches out to low-income families by linking these students with professional music teachers willing to reduce their fees to make the lessons more affordable for the child.

Note: The MusicLink Foundation does not reimburse teachers for this scholarship donation, but supports them in a variety of ways.

Visit: www.musiclinkfoundation.org

 

#5 Music Unites

Music Unites is the leading non-profit charity organization supporting music education around the world. Music Unites partners with music stars, celebrity ambassadors and music sponsors to promote music projects and events at local schools – educating kids through music. Music Unites is a music foundation that empowers children through donations from individuals, foundation partners, organization events and music education projects. Along with our music partners, musicunites.org features news, events, video and press of the organization. Special charity partners have supported the Music Unites Foundation while guiding youth towards planning achievable goals for the future. Music Unites feature workshops with ambassadors such as Swizz Beats, John Forte, Sting, Gary Clark Jr., and more.

Visit: www.musicunites.org

 

#6 The NAMM Foundation

The NAMM Foundation advances active participation in music-making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving, and public service programs.

#7 National Association for Music Education

National Association for Music Education (NAfME), among the world’s largest arts education organizations, is the only association that addresses all aspects of music education. NAfME advocates at the local, state, and national levels; provides resources for teachers, parents, and administrators; hosts professional development events; and offers a variety of opportunities for students and teachers. The Association orchestrates success for millions of students nationwide and has supported music educators at all teaching levels for more than a century

Visit: nafme.org/

 

#8 Pianos For Education

Pianos for Education supports piano education by loaning quality pianos to institutions…

…In pursuit of that goal, we have over time expanded our programs to seek out deserving institutions and organizations that lack the financial resources to acquire and maintain adequate inventories of quality pianos for their music-education curriculums. We also accept applications from private piano teachers and studios in need of piano loans for their students’ studies. All of our loan programs include regular service and maintenance throughout the term of the loan.

Visit: pianosforeducation.org

 

#9 Pianos for Peace

This program gives talented but disadvantaged young people the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge to actively contribute to the development of their communities…

…We encourage and support students to become “Ambassadors for Peace” to build bridges and heal communities through creative, educational and cultural exchange programs. Target groups include children, students, refugees, and deserving academic institutions.

At Pianos For Peace, we are achieving peace starting with the individual, to the community and the world.

Visit: pianosforpeace.org

 

#10 Pianos for People

Pianos for People inspires successful futures by providing free access to the transformational power of the piano.   For families and individuals with limited resources, we break down financial barriers and leverage the piano as a gateway to empowerment, community, and self-esteem. In an environment of support, inclusiveness, and equality, we do this four ways:

Inspiration:  Free Pianos
Education:  Free Lessons and Workshops
Community:  Free Special Events
Enrichment:  Free Summer Music Camps

Visit: pianosforpeople.org

 


I’m sure there are many, many more organizations out there that would benefit from our generosity on #GivingTuesday. If you know of any other organizations that work to support music education, please feel free to share in the comments!

 

147 Tunes to Harmonize Updated

Just a quick note to let you guys know that I recently did a small update to the free download 147 Tunes to Harmonize: Traditional, Popular, and Christmas.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw how many hundreds of you have downloaded this freebie!

Here are a few quick ideas on how you could use it:

  1. Pull it out when students forget their materials or haven’t practiced enough on their pieces.
  2. Use it for a month-long focus on harmonization.
  3. Practice harmonizing these tunes on your own to develop your own ear!
  4. At Christmas time, have students choose one piece off the list that they’re not learning as part of their Christmas repertoire and have them play that Christmas tune with chords while they sing!

 

P.S. I would definitely recommend printing it out and keeping it next to the piano at all times!

Happy harmonizing!

Halloween Favorites

Games, Resources, Graphics, and More

Halloween may be one of my least favorite holidays of the year, but since it’s tied up smack-dab in the middle of my favorite season of the year, it’s doesn’t go completely missed in my studio.

Here is a quick round-up of some of the best Halloween-themed activities and resources I’ve come across over the years.

13 “Spooky” Classical Music Videos
(Amy Chaplin | Piano Pantry)

Classical Music to Attract or Scare your Trick-or-Treater’s
(Joy Morin | Color in My Piano)

Fall and Halloween-Themed Social Media Graphics
(Leila Viss | 88 Piano Keys)

Halloween Candy = Opportunity For Free Marketing
(Joy Morin | Color in My Piano)

Halloween Music Lab
(Amy Chaplin | Piano Pantry)

Shades of Sound Listening & Coloring Book: Halloween
(Jenny Boster | The Playful Piano)

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Music Labs in the Independent Studio: A Brief History

(and a big announcement!)

Do you remember when you first started hearing about the idea of including music labs as part of private music instruction in the independent studio? Is the idea something you’ve always been aware of or do you recall a certain point in time when you noticed the idea emerging?

Depending on how long you’ve been teaching, I’m sure each of us will have a different answer to this question.

From my own recollection, my piano lessons growing up were fairly traditional. When I first started teaching piano right out of high school (ca. 1998-2001; I can’t remember what year I took my first student! 🙁 ), I had never heard of music labs.

Since my first degree and career was in choral education, not piano pedagogy, I’m not aware of the exact point in history when music labs became popular to include in the independent music studio. I recall being vaguely aware that it was a “thing” around 2005.

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What I Learned in my 11 months as a Worship Team-Leader

I’ll never forget that day. I was at the 2017 MTNA Conference in Baltimore, Maryland when I got a text from a good friend letting us know that a big announcement would be made at our church that Sunday. It sounded really, really serious.

Since I wouldn’t be there, I called him immediately and was shocked to hear that our Senior Minister, who had been with nearly 30 years, was being let go. (The nitty-gritty of the reason why, of course, is not pertinent to this story, so we’ll skip over those details.)

After hanging up the phone, my next outing at the conference was brunch with my good friend (and author of The Varsity Musician’s Playbook), Christina Whitlock, and Wendy Stevens.  Bless their hearts, they were very sympathetic to my blubbering shock at the information I had just received.

That is one of my life moments I will never forget.

Fast-forward just over a year. It’s now the summer of 2018.

Our church was going through a formal “transition” process with a company called Interim Pastor Ministries. It was a long process, but the results were well worth it in the end.

During this time, a person in our congregation who had been a worship leader in a previous career had been filling in as our worship leader. After a year he was ready to step down, but our church still had not hired a new pastor and wanted to wait until the new pastor came before hiring other staff.

Thus, I was next in line as the most obvious person to ask to lead the worship team.

This is another one of those life-moments where it throws you a complete curveball.

MY plans for 2018-2019 were to vamp up my work here on Piano Pantry, open up a shop, etc. His plans were otherwise, however, and I am so glad I took the fork in the road.

 

The Job Situation

Since this was a temporary situation and I already had a job playing for a small Lutheran church in our town, the elders wanted to ensure I did not have to quit my job to take on this role. Thus, it was set up that I was the “coordinator” of the team, not necessarily the weekly “up-front” worship leader.

My duties included scheduling the team, choosing music, putting together all the chord charts and sound files, and rehearsing the band and vocalists every Thursday night and Sunday morning. (Plus all the other little things that get wrapped up into it that you can’t really articulate).

On Sunday mornings, I would arrive at our church at 7:00 am to prep, rehearsed the worship team from 8:00-9:15, left to play at the Lutheran Church at 9:30 (while our worship team led the 9:30 service), then came back and attended our 11:00 service with my husband.

Every 6 weeks or so, I would take a week off from the Lutheran Church (I just recorded the music for them on a Yamaha Clavinova) and would lead worship at my church. Otherwise, we had 3-5 team members we rotated as worship leaders from week to week.

It’s been a whirlwind, but the past 11 months has taught me a lot as it’s been a new and unique experience for me. The only other time I’ve been in charge of music in a church was for two summers after I graduated high school. I moved out of my parent’s house and lived with my aunt and uncle so I could lead music at my uncle’s small church. That was 20 years ago though, and things have changed quite a bit!

This week is my last week in this role and I thought it might be nice to share with you some of the things I learned not only so you might glean some tips, but as kind of a final recap for myself mentally.

It’s that whole “putting a period on the end of a sentence” thing in life where you mark the end of one venture before moving onto another.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past year:

 

1) Appreciate the person who is leading.

Just like a lot of things in life, it’s easy to nit-pick and finds fault if things aren’t exactly the way you would like them. We tend to like things catered to our exact tastes.

There is so much more that goes into the role of worship leader – I had no idea. I learned that I need to appreciate the person who is in that role more and be positive and supportive of that person, even if their “style” or the way they operate things is not exactly the way I would do things.

 

2) Plan with Planning Center Services

Planning Center is a website for churches focused on managing different areas of the church such as member databases, check-ins for child programs, church event management, and so much more.

One of those areas is Planning Center Services which is designed to organize all things worship-team including team schedules, weekly planning, and file-sharing. We have our own song database, can organize our songs with tags and can see a history of when and how often we’ve done each song. I don’t know what I would have done without it!

Planning Center Services also has a sheet music app called Music Stand that links to your P.C.S. account and syncs your Order of Service playlist so it will create a set list from your service order. The best part is that if you make any updates to the files, it will automatically update in Music Stand as well.

It even has the ability to connect everyone’s iPad on the team to one “session” so one person can turn everyone’s page at the same time. (This feature never worked for us quite the way we wanted but it’s still a cool feature!)

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Giveaway!

Piano Lessons: Music, Love & True Adventures

Today I have a giveaway for you!

A few years ago I read the book “Piano Lessons: Music, Love, & True Adventures” by Noah Adams. In my quest to always minimize “things” in my possession, I was looking over a few books I owned and asking myself whether they were ones I would want to read again and take with me into my future.

This book, while I recall enjoying it, is not one that I necessarily would need to read more than once.

It’s a memoir by Noah Adams, long-time co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered. He writes of his journey with learning to play the piano over the course of a year.

I’m not a big reader of memoirs and biographies, but if you are, I’m sure you will find this book delightful!

Please keep in mind, what I’m giving away is my used copy. It’s paperback with slight wear on the outside and a few highlights throughout.

Rather than just donate it to a bookstore, I thought one of my readers might enjoy it. (It will be mailed within two business days of the giveaway ending via media mail at no cost to you.)

In order to enter this giveaway, please comment on this post and answer the simple question: Do you enjoy memoirs? (Even if you don’t, you can still win! 🙂 )

You can gain an extra entry by visiting the Piano Pantry page on Facebook.

Only those with a U.S. mailing address can win.

The drawing opens at 12:00 am on Tuesday, April 23 and ends at 12:00 am on Tuesday, April 30. The winner will be randomly selected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Are you a reader? Check out more recommended resources on Piano Pantry!

Books for Piano Teachers

Books for Piano Teachers interested in Music Learning Theory (MLT)

 

147 Tunes to Harmonize

Traditional, Popular, and Christmas

Over my years of teaching, I’ve come across several lists of tunes to harmonize using primary chords. Often, however, they’re either not very comprehensive, or they include a lot of tunes that students these days have never heard because they only include folk tunes and a couple of Christmas songs.

Last summer I started a studio-wide harmonization focus that lasted through the summer and fall. After continually having students look at the song list and shake their head that they didn’t know many of the songs, I finally decided it was time to compile my own list.

This comprehensive list includes 147 tunes (traditional, popular, and Christmas). The list progresses from tunes you can harmonize using only the tonic chord, to tunes that use four chords (I, IV, V, vi).

The tunes are, of course, mostly in major (because, well, we live in the Western World), but there are some minor tunes as well.

Keep in mind, these are not tunes tied to any particular chord progression such as I-IV-V-I or I-vi-IV-V. It’s up to the person harmonizing to figure out what chords to use and when.

First, let’s talk a little about what it means to harmonize and how to teach harmonization.

 

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Top Posts from 2018

The Best of the Best

 

It’s that time of year! Yep, it’s time for a recap of life, including the life of Piano Pantry! In this post you will find:
  • Most popular posts written in 2018
  • Most popular posts/pages of all time
  • Most read Friday Finds of 2018
  • My personal favorite from 2018
  • A month-by-month recap of posts from 2018

 

Most Popular Posts Written in 2018

#1 Piano Teacher Must-Have’s: A Minimalist’s List

#2 Candy Jar Contest Printable

#3 Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons: A Master List

#4 One-Click Calendar: Your Annual Studio Calendar Simplified [Video]

#5 Back-to-Teaching: Six Easy Recipes for the Week Ahead

 

Most Popular Posts/Pages of All Time

#1 Assignment Sheet Central

#2 Piano Safari Stuffed Animal Shopping Guide

#3 Piano Teacher Must-Have’s: A Minimalist’s List

#4 Candy Jar Contest Printable

#5 Evernote: An Independent Piano Teacher’s Handbook, Part 1

 

Most-Read Friday Find of 2018

#1 = Friday Find #100 (of course, it was the big recap and giveaway winner announcement! 🙂 )

 

My Personal Favorite From 2018

While this was not one of the top posts, the addition of the monthly “Secret Letter” was the biggest addition to Piano Pantry this year and the one thing that has excited me (and still excites me) the most.

Writing them is a highlight of my month (and hopefully it’s a highlight for readers as well!). They feel like a special piece of me delivered right into your hands.

If you would like to subscribe, you can do so here.

 

Month-by-Month Recap of Posts from 2018

January
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
  • Piano Teacher World: A Year in Recap: 2018
  • This “Top Posts from 2018: The Best of the Best”  🙂

 


If you want to check out the recap posts from previous years check out:

Piano Pantry’s Best of 2016.

Piano Pantry’s Top Posts from 2017

 

Piano Teacher World

A Year in Recap: 2018

 

Last year (2017), after being inspired by a post written by Leila Viss in 2016, I decided to sit down and think through everything that happened not only in my world as an independent piano teacher but just in general in what I would call “Piano Teacher World”.

Writing posts like these the last couple of years have been very enlightening, encouraging and really just a healthy exercise in gratitude in general.

The idea behind the “Piano Teacher World” recap is to take a look back at significant news, happenings, and impact in the world of independent piano teachers. The final part of this post also includes resources that have made a direct impact on my own teaching.

I tried to be as thorough as I could and will admit that the list is much smaller than it was last year. Be sure and share in the comments if there was anything you would add to the list!

For the sake of being thorough, I asked for recommendations on multiple Facebook groups and received a lot of excellent feedback on The Art of Piano Pedagogy group regarding overall trends – all of which I agree with. Let’s start with those. (If you’re interested in reading all the comments, which are much more specific, check out the full post here.)

 

2018 Trends

1 | Declining or leveled-off interest in iPads and apps. Better balance and understanding in the role they play in lessons.

2 | Teaching and learning piano online is becoming more and more viable and easily available.

3 | A shift in attitude and growing excitement toward rote teaching/learning.

4 | Increased curiosity and interest in Music Learning Theory and how it can impact piano teaching, not just Early Childhood Music.

5 | Continually improved quality and ease-of-availability in regards to self-published material.

6 | Rising interested in quality blogs, podcasts, and online communities.

7|  Continual professionalization of the field.

8 | A renewed interest in pedagogy outside of academia.

9 | Ongoing concerns with declining membership in professional organizations such as MTNA.

Also mentioned in the list, while not a “trend,” was Brenda Wristen and Lora Deahl’s book Adaptive Strategies for Small-Handed Pianists (Published November 2017).

 

In Piano Teacher News

ELISA MILNE opened a shop on her website.


Launch of CYBER CONSERVATORY that accompanies the app Super Score.

A teacher friend shared this one specifically with me. She has always loved Marvin Blickenstaff’s method “Music Pathways” and Paul Sheftel’s MIDI accompaniment for the series. She says there are lots of good compositions by Lynn Freeman Olson. 


THE FRANCIS CLARK CENTER is continuing to see changes as Dr. Pamela Pike was named the new Editor in Chief/Chief Content Director and Dr. Andrea McAlister was appointed as the new Director of Content Curation and Senior Editor for Clavier Companion. 

They also launched a Facebook group for subscribers called Piano Teach Learn.

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