Christmas Gift Round-Up!

A couple of years ago I shared quite a few ideas for great Christmas gifts to give to your music students.

Since not much time has passed since that post, I only have one new idea to add to my original list, so I thought it might be fun to also give you links to everyone else’s ideas too!

 

First, a Tip!

Before I give you my round-up, I do have one new BIG TIP to share:

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!). Here’s my list:

  • 2018 Metal treble clef bookmark
  • 2017 Ceramic snowman ornament with music notes
  • 2016 White Mess Puppy chow with Japanese Piano Eraser attached
  • 2015 Black sparkly music ornament
  • 2014 Bag of puppy chow
  • 2013 Hot chocolate mix
  • 2012 Hershey symphony bar

All of these items (except 2018) were shared in my original gift-giving post. 

 

More Ideas

Last year I gave my students these Metal Treble Clef Bookmarks

At $13.00 for a pack of 10, you can’t go wrong for such a cute but economical gift! 

BONUS: The tassel almost makes them feel like an ornament and they come in a cute little box!

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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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2019-2020 Birthday Postcards

I’ve shared here on Piano Pantry before how I send birthday postcards to all my students. If you’ve not caught that post, check it out here.

Each year I like to purchase a new set of postcards that are fun and unique and not just a boring “Happy Birthday” postcard.

Last year I shared a post full of several fun postcard choices (including last year’s) and today I wanted to share with you the ones I chose for this year.

The past two year’s I’ve purchased them from Etsy and have a feeling this may be my go-to place for several years to come.

As long as I get them for under $1 per postcard, I consider that worth it.

Aren’t they cool?

Find them at Brian Moss Art on Etsy.

 

Instagram for Piano Teachers

5 Fun Accounts to Follow

This is a post I’ve been excited to write for a long time. I don’t know why exactly.  I think it’s just because it’s a fun and light post that doesn’t require any of us to revamp our piano-teaching or extend our to-do list. LOL.

If you’re not already on Instagram, you might want to check out this post first on the #1 Reason Why You Should Be On Instagram as in Independent Music Teacher.

Whether you’re just creating your Instagram account for the first time, or if you’ve been on there since the day it launched in 2010, there are five Instagram accounts I’ve really enjoyed recently you might want to consider following if you’re not already.

Before I give you my list, I wanted to let you know exactly what I was looking for in this particular list.

 

The Criterion

While there are a TON of piano teachers, bloggers, etc. on Instagram, this post is focused on accounts that spark a little “fun” in the piano studio world.

They can include a little (but not too much) of:

  • Marketing for their website or product.
  • Videos of their own playing or their students playing.

They should include:

  • Student / studio-related photos (but not too many).
  • A few personal photos – keep yourself real and relatable!
  • A lot of fun, beautiful piano-related eye candy.

In other words, I was looking for accounts that balanced life and studio, that didn’t seem focused on marketing their self or products, and that included a lot of piano beauty, fun, and even humor.

Here’s are my recommendations in no particular order. (Except the last one which is definitely my favorite!)

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Instagram for Independent Music Teachers

The #1 Reason You Should Be There

With so many social media apps out there, many teachers are hesitant to put the time and effort into trying a new platform. Believe it or not, though, Instagram isn’t new – it’s been out for almost 10 years!

As a fellow skeptic, I want to share with you today the biggest reason why any music teacher who is running an independent music studio needs to be on Instagram.

My own personal journey to Instagram is a big part of this story, so let me start there.

 

Entering Instagram

In July 2015, I opened my account and posted my first photo.

Since it was August, the month for fresh produce and canning (and you all know I love food), I had a little fun posting a lot of food photos.

Then it was pretty much crickets until October 2016 – more than a year later. Eek!

Bam!!

I’m suddenly back in and using Instagram even more than Facebook.

 

What happened?

Inspiration finally set in from a session I attended earlier that year at the 2016 MTNA Conference in San Antonio. The session was actually put on by a friend and colleague of mine and was called The Varsity Musician’s Playbook.: Commitment-Building Strategies from Team Sports to the Studio.

I was so inspired by her session, that I asked her to write a 3-part series here on Piano Pantry.

Part 1: Studio Interdependence
Part 2: Studio “Locker Room”
Part 3: Community Presence

Part 3 is where the conviction to start using Instagram again set in. Granted, it took me almost 7 months to gear up to start using Instagram again, but once I did, I haven’t looked back and there’s one big reason why.

 

Student-Studio Connection

Instagram is (one place) where my students go to connect. Every single one of my high school students is on Instagram as well as a few younger students.

Students can see what’s going on in the studio outside of just their lesson. Most of my students go to different schools, so it’s fun for them to see the life of their piano peer’s outside of piano studio life as well as inside our piano studio life.

They can celebrate each other’s achievements and connect with each other outside of group classes. I witness students “loving” (as it goes on Instagram) and commenting on each other’s photos as well as the studio.

I always like to imagine that if I had social media like this growing up, and I saw a photo of a fellow student who has finished a book that I was struggling through, it would have been great motivation to work hard to also complete the book.

 

My Instagram Focus

Instagram is such an important part of my studio that I try to keep it focused on just that – my studio. Do I share personal things? Of course. Do I share a few Piano Pantry things once in a while? Yep.

If you follow me on Instagram though, you’ll see that I am 95% focused on my students.

Can we use Instagram as a way to market our studios? Absolutely! My mindset, however, is less on “outward” marketing and more “inward” marketing. That is, developing a community within your studio which then seems to radiate outward on its own.

P.S. Just a tip that in order to actually allow outward marketing to also occur, don’t keep your Instagram account private. That is, when you create an account, don’t set it up so people have to “request” to follow you. Let it be a public account anyone can follow. You want the public to see all the wonderful things you do in your studio!

 

Fun Accounts to Follow

Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to get on the Instagram bandwagon, here are 5 really fun accounts for piano teachers to follow.

 

Find me on Instagram!

Follow me on Instagram @amystudio88

Hope to see you there!

 

Studio Awards Update (Including Some Awesome Trophies!)

This year marked the eighth year of my full-time piano studio. Suddenly, this spring, it just felt like it was the year to go through a revision of the studio awards I give every year at our year-end Spring Recital.

I’ve already written a detailed post on how I track my studio awards using an Awards Policies and Procedures Manual. This post (which I just updated), also includes details on the types of awards I give each year as well as the specific trophies, etc.

This year I went through a pretty good overhaul. Not only have I changed what awards students get for their years of study as part of the MTNA Music Study Award (again, see the first post), but I changed trophy companies and I am very happy with the results.

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Improve Your Audience’s Recital Experience with these Simple Signs

Organizing a studio recital involves lots of different aspects beyond student repertoire preparation. Many of us, I’m sure, have stories we can tell of the lessons learned in our first few years of recital-planning.

One of my first lessons-learned was to put up some kind of signage, especially when the recital is not in the same location every year.

Is it a necessity? No. Can people generally find their way to the recital hall or auditorium eventually? Yes.

So why use direction signs?

If you’ve ever attended a graduation party, baby shower, or conference, I’m sure you will agree that the minute you see a sign indicating you are in the correct location, you breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s comforting to not have to wonder if you’re in the right location or to have to search for where you’re going. Relieving this small anxiety for your audience will not only make a great first impression but will add a professional touch with little effort. All it takes is a few signs posted around the building where the recital is being held.

The signs are very simple – no frills. I kept them pretty plain rather than with a design so they can be used at any kind of recital, no matter what your program looks like.

They’re being made available to you in Microsoft Word format so you can download the document and make tweaks to your heart’s content or print only the signs you’ll use.

I like to include my logo at the top of the page.  Feel free to import your own!

Signs include:

  • Arrows pointing to the correct direction to find the recital location/room.
  • Asking the audience to wait in the foyer until the doors open.
  • Reminding attendees food and drink should be taken into the recital hall. (Unless you’re having a special recital like a picnic of course! 🙂
  • Asking the audience to sit toward the front half of the room. (I use these when we’re in a large sanctuary so it doesn’t feel like they’re all spread out. I set them on either end of the row/pew encouraging people to keep moving forward.

 

Consider taking your signage a step further and purchase a yard sign you can reuse from year to year that has your studio logo and says “Recital Here” or something generic that could be used for any kind of performance(s) you organize in your studio.

What was one of the first things you learned when planning a recital that helped it go smoother the following year and each year since?

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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Managing Internet Content the Easy Way

Let's stop for a minute and think about how many people we "follow" online. To keep it even more specific and focused, only think about those you follow who create content for piano teachers.

Can you count them all on one hand or do you lose track after listing more than a dozen?

I stopped counting after 50. Yes, 50.  I'm pretty sure my number is actually closer to 90.

Let's crank that jaw back shut - it's not as scary as it seems!

Next to email, managing the influx of content from all our favorite blogs and websites seems to be the one area that teachers struggle with the most - and for good reason. The last five years especially have seen an explosion of new content creators - I'm one of them!

Believe it or not, it is possible to follow a large number of sites online in a manageable way without it feeling overwhelming. More importantly, you can do it without clogging your email Inbox or Facebook Newsfeed with articles. Curious?

 

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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.

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