How to Create Student Birthday Postcards in Canva [Video]

Sending students birthday postcards is something I’ve been doing for years and have posted about several times in the past:

After ten years of mailing postcards, I’ll admit, I needed a break last year. (While it’s wonderful to do little “extras” for our students, it’s OK to need a break.) A year off was just the breather I needed, and I’m excited to do it again this year.

Part of my excitement is that one of my favorite digital tools, Canva, now offers printing services. I wanted to try designing my birthday postcards this year using the new studio logo I had redesigned last year.

In this video post, I will show you how to design and order postcards in Canva. At $18 for 25 cards, I thought their prices were very reasonable!

 

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.

 

Download

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

Enjoy!

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

 

 

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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Listening Playlists to Accompany Music-Themed Children’s Books

Recently, I shared a couple of blog posts related to building a lending library in your studio of music-themed children’s books and comics.

After purchasing a few more books from some of your recommendations, I noticed I had quite a few books that had suggested listening lists in the back of the book. Thus was born the idea to create listening playlists to accompany some of these books!

I’ve been using Spotify for years to create playlists of my own. It’s a wonderful place to create public playlists anyone can listen to.

In this post, I will share brief synopses of each of these 9 books as well as the direct link to each playlist.

For quick access to them all in one location, simply click on the link to my public playlists.

As a bonus, as a way of sharing these playlists with your students, I’ve created a free printable of bookmarks you can print on heavy paper or cardstock and stick inside each book when it’s checked out.

This will be an easy way to give parents the link to listen to these playlists at home when reading these books with their children.

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Build a Lending Library of Piano-Themed Children’s Books

(Note: This photo is missing a couple of my recommendations you’ll read about below.)

Thanks to reader Emily Suszko for this post suggestion!

Ever since I opened my studio, I have been building a collection of piano-themed children’s books in my lending library. I’m not sure if I got the idea from someone else or it just seemed the natural thing to do. In any case, a lending library can be a fun and valuable addition to your music studio.

Today I want to share with you 15 of my favorite books thus far so you can begin building your own library! Since it can be an expensive endeavor if you’re not careful, I’ll also share a couple of tips on how to do so without breaking the bank as well as how to track check-outs.

 

Why Keep A Lending Library

First of all, let’s talk about some of the benefits of keeping a lending library in your music studio.

#1 Reinforcement

Many books will support what we do in the lesson as well as teach valuable life lessons including the joy of creating at the piano, the importance of practice, the joy of music-making, and more.

#2 Added Value 

Anything we can do in our music studios to take it to the next level shows potential clients they’re getting added value. It also conveys to families that we care about students in a multitude of ways outside of just their time at the piano.

#3 Ease of Access

Families may not have ever considered looking for books at the library for their children that are music-themed. Having a collection right in your studio makes it easy for them to utilize and enjoy.

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Big Discounts on My Favorite Recipe and Password Manager Apps

I recommend many resources and tools here on Piano Pantry to help you be more organized and productive in your personal and studio life. Find a list of those resources here: Recommended Resources.

Two of those are LastPass, my favorite password manager, and Paprika, my favorite recipe app.

Both of them have big sales going on this week.

 

All four versions of Paprika are on sale from now until the end of November.

Sale prices will vary by country but the currently displayed prices on their website, the App Store, and the Play Store are indeed the correct prices.

Some of my favorite features of this app are:

  1. You can purchase a desktop version
  2. It has a built-in browser so you can browse the internet directly in the app and download recipes directly from there
  3. You can download a browser bookmarklet so you can download recipes from the browser you use on a daily basis.

iOS and Android apps are currently 40% off:
Paprika 3 for iOS
Paprika 3 for Android

MacOS and Windows apps are currently 50% off:
Get Paprika 3 for macOS
Get Paprika 3 for Windows

 

Gone are the days of repeating the same password over and over or using the same one but changing one number every month, or, like my dad, writing it down on a half-dozen index cards (oh my!).

Some of my favorite features of the premium version of Last Pass are:

  1. Get access to all devices.
  2. Generate passwords that are secure and customizable
  3. It’s more than just for passwords! Save:
    • Health Insurance Informaiton
    • Drivers Licenses
    • Credit Cards
    • Bank Accounts
    • Wi-Fi Passwords

Save and secure personal information in one location.

 

Get 25%

On November 23-29th, 2021, Lastpass is running a 25% off sale for annual plans.

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Signup here.

 


P.S. Please note that Piano Pantry is an affiliate with LastPass. All this means is that if you purchase using my link I will get a small percentage back without it costing you extra. This helps offset the fee of running this blog. Thank you in advance for using my link!

 

Contributor to MTNA’s *NEW* Quarterly Business Digest

Are you a member of MTNA (Music Teacher’s National Association)? If so, you may or may not have caught their most recent venture – a quarterly Business Digest!

 

The growth of MTNA’s business resources has been an important focus and implementation for current president Karen Thickstun.

One of the first projects (that I know of) was developing the Business Resources section of the MTNA website.

 

After Karen started her MTNA Presidency this past March, she passed the reigns on the new Email Business Digest to Beth Klingenstein.

You all likely know me well enough that piano teacher resources are the name of my game as I’ve been writing the weekly Friday Finds series since the blog started!

Thus, I have joined a team of several other teachers led by Beth to bring you this quarterly digest! 

I’m working on two sections: “Resource Gems” (along with fellow teacher Jennifer Walschap), and  “Technology Tips and Tools” (along with fellow teacher Jennifer Stadler)

I hope you will find these resources to be invaluable for running your own independent music studio!

If you’re not a member of MTNA, consider joining today!

Sync Student Birthdays to your Calendar with My Music Staff

If you subscribe to and use My Music Staff for your music studio, they have a feature in the calendar that, with one click, will add your studio calendar from My Music Staff to your personal cloud calendar (such as Google or iCloud).

I have found this especially useful when tracking my student’s birthdays since I send students cards in the mail.

I don’t utilize the MMS calendar for my studio schedule, so all that shows up there is the student’s birthdays. You may still like this feature, even if you have your entire studio schedule!

My Music Staff has a help article available to show you how to set this up, but I thought it might be helpful to highlight the feature here and include some screenshots for an easy visual. (Click on the image to enlarge if needed.)

Remember that I use Google Calendar, so yours may feel slightly different.

 

1) Navigate to the Calendar from the sidebar in My Music Staff, then clear to the right, click on the purple “Set up Sync” button.

 

2) Select which calendar you use.

 

3) It will automatically open your calendar with the proper link. Click “Add”

 

4) In Google Calendar, it will show up under “Other calendars.” Click on the three dots on the right to rename the calendar or change the calendar color.

It may take 24 hours for them to sync, but they will show up!

Here, I’ve toggled all my other calendars off just to show the student birthdays.

 

More on Student Birthday Cards

If you would like to read more about doing student birthday cards/postcards, check out these posts:

Marketing with Postcards (it’s not what you think!)

Fun Postcards for Student Birthdays

Unique Student Birthday Cards on Etsy

Student Birthday Cards with a Surprise Twist

 


Do you have something you do in your studio every year for birthdays?
I would love to hear your ideas – please share in the comments!

 

Keep Your Studio Marketing Fresh with New Branding

This past month, we’ve been talking about celebrating teaching milestones – or teaching “anniversaries”.

If you missed any of the previous posts you can find them here:

Teaching Anniversaries: Celebrating on Social Media and Beyond

Teaching Anniversaries: An Important but Hard Celebration

Teaching Anniversaries: A Time for Reflection

In this fourth and final post in the series, I’ll share how I’m keeping my studio fresh by re-branding and why this is something you should consider for your own studio!

 

Out With the Old – In With the New

When I first opened my studio, like many teachers, money was tight. I knew branding was important though and I wanted to have a logo right away.

Luckily, we had a friend who was artistic and was gracious enough to do one as a favor. I remember sitting at her kitchen table looking over her laptop as we tweaked the shape and style.

I wanted something simple, subtle, and sophisticated. I kind of hate to use that last term because it wasn’t that I wanted to portray my studio as “snooty” or anything, just professional. More specifically, I didn’t want it to be too kiddie-looking with lots of music notes and colors.

I have absolutely adored this logo. It was perfect.

Change is something I thrive on personally so with the move to my new studio two years ago and the turnover of a new decade of running my full-time studio this year, it felt like the perfect time to freshen up my branding for a new start.

This time, I worked with a designer a self-employed small-business owner whom I connected with when I spearheaded a new logo for our state MTACarson Sprunger with Sprunger Design.

 

 

For social media purposes, I also requested that whatever logo we came up with was easy to translate into a small favicon-size version.

 

 

I absolutely love both of them and am thrilled with the results.

Interestingly enough, my goals were the same as the first time around: simple, subtle, and not kiddie-music looking. A few things that I particularly love about it this new logo:

  1. It was a complete font change feel from the previous logo.
  2. The design went from flowy and elegant to a little edgier.
  3. The new splash of color.
  4. The fresh take on using the piano lid rather than the profile from above.

 

Is Re-Branding Really That Important?

Now, you may be thinking this is a nice idea but is it really necessary?

I would say it depends.

What does your logo say about your business? Does it portray it properly? Are you having a hard time attracting adult students? Does your logo look like it’s geared toward preschool children or any type of student?

It’s important that our branding match how we want people to see us and our studios.

Most clients in your studio may not think much about a change in your logo (similar to what Janelle was talking about in the second post on how it’s hard for them to celebrate teaching anniversaries with you).

What they will notice though is your attention to detail in how you present yourself and your business. Consider investing in branding that represents what you want your customers to know about you before they ever meet you.

 

How to Use Your Branding

Logos and branding aren’t just about the logo that goes on your policies document, social media header, or website. Our branding should be part of everything we put out there, most especially on social media.

As soon as I got my new logo, I created a series of social media images in Canva highlighting student and parent testimonials. These will be posted using a scheduling tool for the whole year (I’m currently using Tailwind).

Would you believe me when I say I’m not looking for any new students? I’m full with a waiting list but I still continue to market. Why?

Building a thriving business is not something you do once a year when you need students, it’s something that should be continuous so your brand is at the forefront of your community’s minds.

I’m pretty excited about how these social media testimonials turned out this year. Here are a few examples:

 

 

Every year, in my year-end parent/student questionnaires, I always request (but don’t require) testimonials so I have fresh ones from current students and families every year.

I have to brag a little that my students and parents rocked the testimonials this year!

(If you want to see all of them, they’re in a slide format on my studio’s testimonials page.)

If anything, it can definitely give you a little mental boost once a year. 🙂