Happy Birthday By Ear

The Ultimate Teaching Resource

Can you think of any moments when, as a young piano student, you were
put on the spot or caught off guard being asked to play something for people and feeling the heat rise to your face because you weren’t able to do so “because you didn’t have any “music”?

I myself have had many experiences in this situation – sadly, even into my early adult years. Often, the request was a simple one – “Happy Birthday” – and yet to me, it was crippling and made me feel ashamed.

These people know me as THE pianist in their life. That’s what I’m known for! Why can’t I just sit down and play this simple tune without music?

Without a doubt, life experiences make up who we are today.

As a teacher, I’m now determined to help my students feel
ENABLED and CONFIDENT that, as pianists, they can sit down and play something anywhere and at any time – starting with the tune “Happy Birthday.”

Today I am excited to release the ultimate teaching resource for playing “Happy Birthday” by ear and am confident this is the only download you will ever need!

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One Registration Question Not to be Missed!

A month or two leading up to the turn of a calendar year, school term, or school year is always the height of new student inquiries.

Before that time comes, we as teachers should always take a moment to make sure our registration process is updated, refreshed, and ready to go. I’m always making tiny tweaks and improvements!

Today I want to share one question you don’t want to miss asking on your registration form.

This question is my absolute FAVORITE to read and I know will become yours as well.

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A Simple Incentive Program

and Prize Box Items Students Love!

On March 12, 2020, I wrote a post called Implementing Incentives: The Struggle Is Was Real where I shared my struggle with implementing incentive programs in my studio.

I had intended to follow up that post immediately with a second one sharing what I had ultimately found as a super simple and successful solution to implementing an incentive, more specifics on the program, and a list of popular prize box items, and some free downloads from my own programs.


Then COVID-19 hit.


Suddenly, all we could think about was how to transform our studios overnight to online instruction.

The need for hearing about an in-person incentive program and physical prize boxes suddenly felt completely useless at the time, so I decided to put the post on hold in order to do my part to help which included these posts:

A Simple (and Free) Video Supplement to Support Your Online Teaching

Musings on Keeping a Positive Perspective During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Save Time and Money Taking Online Payments with Coinhop

10 Products to Make Your Online Teaching More Comfortable

Healthy Snacks for Long Teaching Days

I haven’t forgotten you though, and so here I am, back on the topic of incentives in the studio!

Each of our situations looks quite different at the moment in our studios with some remaining online, others going back to in-person or some version thereof, and some having to close down their businesses (our hearts go out to you!)

Before we dive in, if you didn’t catch the first post, be sure and read it first!


Implementing Incentives: The Struggle Is Was Real


 

My “Winning” Incentive Program

All in all, my struggles with implementing an incentive program helped me realize what I really needed out of a program. It had to be:

  1. Simple
  2. Flexible
  3. Consistent
  4. Easy to implement
  5. Work for all ages

Not only that, but the program I ultimately landed on also gives students a bonus life skill.

What is it?

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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.

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10 Products to Make Your Online Teaching More Comfortable

If you’re not already teaching lessons online, many of us will be this week following Spring Break.

I think we can all agree that online teaching can take a little bit (or even a lot) more energy than in-person. Hopefully, the more we do it, the easier it will get!

To help you along the way, here are 10 products I love that can help make your next few weeks feel a little less stressful and a little more comfortable.

Remember, it’s the small things that can bring us joy in stressful times!

Here’s a quick reference guide – descriptions follow!

 

#1-4 Hydrate and Moisturize

Staying well-hydrated is always important for good health, but we may need to be even more conscious of it now. If we’re not intentionally conscious of it, we may tend to find ourselves talking a little louder than normal which leads to dry mouth and dehydration.

Consider keeping an electric kettle next to you for cups of tea or even warm lemon water. Chef’s Choice Electric Glass Kettle is good quality and well-priced.

 

One of my favorite teas is The Republic of Tea’s Spring Cherry Green Tea

 

The individual bags are convenient for on-the-go teaching.

Excess talking can also easily dry out the lips. Don’t forget a stash of chapstick! SW Basics Organic Beeswax Lip Balm

 

With everyone being more conscious of handwashing perhaps longer and more frequently than before, the skin on your hands may be suffering.

Keep this lovely-smelling EO Body Lotion, Coconut and Vanilla on your desk to enjoy after each hand-washing.

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Musings on Keeping a Positive Perspective During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Is you Inbox overloaded with emails titled “Person/company name’s response to COVID-19″?

Are you feeling a little bit like you’re in the Twilight Zone?

Do you just want to make it all go away and get back to normal?

Is one side of you glad to know that “we’re all in this together,” and another part of you tired of hearing the phrase already?

Yeah, me too.

 

Strong Declarations

Over the past week as posts on Facebook have ramped up regarding online lessons, we’re seeing success, generosity, and encouragement, but also escalating anxiety and even negativity.

Several posts popped up of people expressing their frustration with online lessons and in the heat of those frustrations, they declared them to be “worthless.”

Really?, I wondered…

Worthless? Continue reading

Implementing Incentives

The Struggle Is Was Real

To incentivize or not to incentivize. That is the question.

(Or maybe you’re simply wondering at the moment whether or not “incentivize” is actually a word? It is, by the way. 🙂 )

Do you struggle with implementing an incentive program?

Is it because you’re torn between the philosophy of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation or is it because it’s a struggle to be consistent in implementing something? (Or maybe a little of both?)

While there’s plenty of research supporting both sides of this age-old question of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, today I’ll be sharing my journey with (and support of) implementing incentives. Specifically:

  1. Why I struggled for years with implementing incentive programs.
  2. Four things I found an incentive program (and I) needed for long-term success.
  3. How others in the field helped inspire and develop my own philosophy regarding extrinsic rewards along the way.
  4. How short term rewards can turn into long-term joy including a specific example from my studio.

In a later post, I’ll get more specific with the incentive program I’ve been using with success for several years, and a list of popular prize box items.

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Books for Piano Teachers

Including My Top 3 Recommendations

Hey there!

I just wanted to mention something you may or may not know about.

Did you know there was a whole page devoted to books for piano teachers on Piano Pantry?

Check it out!

The page has been published for a couple of years but I'm not sure if I ever actually told you about it! Whoops!

You may have come across it, but if not, now you know! 🙂

It includes more than 30 books that can help you in your career as an independent music teacher.

I've divided them into seven categories to make your browsing easier:

  • Music Education and Teaching Inspiration
  • Music Business / Entrepreneurship for Independent Music Teachers
  • Elementary-Intermediate Piano Pedagogy & Repertoire Guides/References
  • Intermediate-Advanced Piano Technique & Repertoire Guides/References
  • Music Learning Theory (Introductions)
  • Music Learning Theory (In-Depth)
  • Faith and the Arts

 

Top Recommendations

In this post, besides letting you know about the Books for Piano Teachers page, I thought I would share more details on the three books I love the most.

Basically, if you were to only read three books on music teaching in your lifetime, I would recommend these three.

Read them. You won't regret it!

If you would like to read more details on each of these top books, read on!


If you just want to jump right to the page with 30 books, click here.


For the three books I'm highlighting in this post, I've included three things.

1. The book descriptions directly from Amazon. (Yes, I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will earn a small percentage if you purchase through the link but it won't cost you any more.)

2.  A statement on why I love the book.

3.  A listing of 6-7 of my favorite quotes/excerpts that I feel best define the content of the book.

 

#1 Intelligent Music Teaching

Intelligent Music Teaching:  Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction by Robert Duke

Description: In this collection of insightful essays, the author describes fundamental principles of human learning in the context of teaching music. Written in an engaging, conversational style, the individual essays outline the elements of intelligent, creative teaching. Duke effectively explains how teachers can meet the needs of individual students from a wide range of abilities by understanding more deeply how people learn. Teachers and interested parents alike will benefit from this informative and highly readable book.

Why I love it: The first sentence to the preface of this book says it all. "This collection of essays is not about how to each. It's about how to think about teaching and learning."

Favorite Quotes:

Teaching is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning. People can learn without being deliberately taught and a teacher can inform, instruct, explain, and demonstrate in the presence of students without the students' learning what the teacher intends to teach. (Page 10)

Learning to play or sing any scale, any exercise or any piece is never the real goal of music instruction...The real goal... is for students to become superb musicians, doing all of the things that superb musicians do, irrespective of what is being played or sung at the moment... The far-reaching goal remains the same from the first day of instruction to the time when the student reaches the highest levels of artistic musicianship. In this sense, the goals of the lesson plan never change, regardless of the skills or experience level of the students you're teaching. Only the contexts in which the goals are taught (i.e. the activities, the music) change over time. (Page 29)

Students need to learn to study effectively, to practice effectively, to think effectively. So, when and where will they learn that? In class, with us. Not by our telling them what to do when they're alone in a practice room or in a carrel in the library, but by our leading them through the very activities that we expect them to do on their own in our absence. (Page 61)

...the decisions of what to teach when are central to artistic teaching. (Page 103)

In order to become independent thinkers and doers, learners must eventually use information and skills in situations in which they have had little or no prior experience. (Page 141)

All of this suggests a redefinition of what it means to learn something. Much of what we learn as part of formal education is presented to us in very limited contexts, and we have few opportunities to practice applying what we know and can do in contexts beyond those in which the knowledge and skills are initially taught. But if the goal of educaton is that students learn to use knowledge and skills effectively in the future, even in unfamiliar circumstances, then transfer must be definited as the goal of instruction. The goal is no longer the acqusition of knowledge and skills but the application of knowledge and skills in situations that have not been taught explicitly. For the developing musician, the goal is no longer to play a given piece beautifully, but to play beautifully (period). (Page 157)

 

#2 The Ways Children Learn Music

The Ways Children Learn Music: An Introduction and Practical Guide to Music Learning Theory by Eric Bluestine

Description (from GIA):  The perfect introduction to Edwin E. Gordon's music learning theory!

With clear and compelling language, Eric Bluestine sheds light on the most vexing issues in music education—all the while drawing from the contributions of perhaps the most influential thinker in the field today, Edwin E. Gordon. In the process, Bluestine unlocks the mystery that frees a child’s mind to think on its own musical terms.

Why I love this book: Please don't let the fact that it's an "introduction to Music Learning Theory" deter you in any way! Even if you weren't necessarily looking to learn more about MLT, music teachers of every instrument and philosophy will get great value from and depth of understanding on how to teach music from this book.

In all my years of music education, this is the first book I read that really addressed how to teach "music." That is, how to understand the sound that music is and not just the symbols (a.k.a. music "notation") that we often define as teaching music.

Favorite Quotes:

I hold the elegantly simple belief that learning to understand music is its own reward. (Page xiv)

One of the basic tenets of Music Learning Theory is that children do not audiate intervals; they audiate functional tonal patterns made of intervals...In short, we don't audiate pitches, or even intervals. We audiate structured pitches, pitches that we organize into functional patterns that relate to a tonal center. (Page 42)

Music education could be separated into four topics. They are 1) the musical and pedagogical principles that give rise to Music Learning Theory "irrefutable truths about music and music education"; 2) Music Learning Theory itself; 3) learning methods; and 4) classroom teaching (techniques, musical examples, and materials).  Now, think about these in a pyramid shape with #1 as the larger foundation and #4 as the top of the pyramid. (Page 60)

The nature of Music Learning Theory is that one cannot use it directly. To use it, a music teacher must design a method based on it, and then use techniques, materials, and musical examples to get the method off the ground. (Page 75)

A child is not a miniature adult! (Page 88)

If we are to help our students to become independent musicians and musical thinkders - our most important task - then we must encourage them to generalize what they hear. (Page 149)

 

#3 Coffee with Ray

Coffee with Ray: A Simple Story with a Life Changing Message for Teachers and Parents by Nick Ambrosino

Description: Through the eyes of a simple piano teacher, learn the strategies to remove any self-made learning obstacles so that you can achieve all you put your mind too.

After ten years of teaching piano, Matt had become completely disillusioned with his career choice. Teaching was increasingly more frustrating, students were more difficult to motivate and coping with the stress had become much more challenging. He was on the verge of quitting until he decided to have a cup of coffee at a café suggested by his GPS. That’s where he met Ray and that’s when everything started to change.

An engaging, funny and thought-provoking parable, written as creative non-fiction, Coffee With Ray will introduce readers to revolutionary ways of communicating that will help make students become more accountable and teachers more skilled at facilitating learning.

Why I love the book: I especially love that this book is an easy read. It's simply a direct peek into the life of one teacher and is a beautiful example of how we can learn to be better at our profession by learning from others not in our profession. This would be a great summer read. It feels casual but is still directed toward being a better teacher.

Favorite Quotes:

Teachers tend to think about teaching a subject. When you redefine yourself as a facilitator, you become responsible for facilitating your student through the learning of how to teach himself. (Page 61)

Instead of telling my students what they should do, I offered suggestions and asked them to take responsibility for choosing goals that felt best for them. (Page 102)

I asked her what she had accomplished this week that she felt proud of (I found that to be a better and more effective way of starting the lesson than asking them if they had practiced.) (Page 102)

[The last four excerpts are focused on using "but" vs. "and".]

I like the way you made contact with that pitch, Mike, and now you’re ready to turn your back foot. (Page 74)

The point is that if you validate someone’s performance, as Dominic did, and then you use the word ‘but’ to create a change in the performance, the student never remembers what came before the ‘but.’ “If, however, you use the word ‘and’ as the invitation for change after the validation, the student feels he has earned the right to go onto the next part of his training and he will both remember the validation AND create the change. (Page 75)

You feel as though there is always something to fix. While that may be true, the word ‘but’ creates a feeling of ‘less than.’ It creates a closed condition for learning as well as an ‘undesirable’ feeling. The word ‘and,’ however, creates a feeling of greatness, of progress. It creates an opening for learning and that is a much more desirable feeling. (Page 76)

Everything you have ever accomplished was at one time outside of your comfort zone. Yet, by labeling it as hard you put a question mark on your ability to learn or accomplish it. By labeling it as new you never question your ability but, instead, actually acknowledge that you are capable. (Page 78)

 


Those are my three favorite books! Do you have any favorites? Share them in the comments!

 

My Reading Lists

If you would like to check out some of my posts on books I've read in previous years, check out these posts.

Recommended Reads: My 2016 Reading List
Recommended Reads: My 2017 Reading List

As you can see, I haven't kept up very well with publishing my annual reading list. However, I do include books I'm currently reading in my monthly "secret letter" which goes out at the end of every month.

If you would like to be on my mailing list so you can receive that monthly communication, you can sign up here.

Friday Finds

Teaching Tactics and Eye Tracking

 

1 – Spotify Playlist

Even if I didn’t play music at the beginning of my recital, I would still enjoy Sara’s recital mix playlists on Spotify. There’s a new one posted for 2018!

 

2 – It’s In the Sauce…or Not

Why yes, there is a difference between pizza sauce and pasta sauce and it’s a simple one.

 

3 – Teaching Tactics

Add these two to your teaching toolbox: Decorating the Cake: Helping Piano Students Play With Expression and Heart and We’re Not Robots: Helping Young Piano Students Get “Beyond The Notes”

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Friday Finds

Andragogy, Pedagogy, and a 19′ Piano

 

1

Anytime I tell someone I have a Masters of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Performance everyone always looks at me with their head slightly cocked, and their eyes conveying their puzzlement. “Peda-what?” They say.

Do you ever get this? My husband and I always get a good chuckle. Awhile back he messaged me while he was at a conference excited that someone in the session he was attending had just clarified perfectly the term and he thought I might like to share with you:

“Andragogy” refers to methods and principles used in adult education. The word comes from the Greek ἀνδρ- andr-, meaning “man”, and ἀγωγός agogos, meaning “leader of”; it literally means “leader of man”, whereas “pedagogy” literally means “leading children”.

Interesting!

 

2

Super stinking cool. Check out this 19-foot piano.

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