Teaching Anniversaries

An Important but Hard Celebration

In a series of posts this month, we’re talking about marking time by acknowledging, reflecting on, and celebrating special teaching anniversaries/milestones.

In the first post, I shared how I used social media to celebrate special moments and students of the past.

Today’s post is a guest post by a teacher friend of mine who really inspired me with her perspective on celebrating teaching anniversaries as well as what she did for her own celebration.

Janelle Bracken is a collaborative pianist and owner of Studio J, an independent piano studio in Indianapolis since 1991. 

She believes that music is transformative and treasures the long-term relationships she develops with her families. 

In the third post, I’ll share seven ways my teaching and studio have evolved over the past decade and encourage you to find new ways to continue evolving your own teaching and studios.

In the final and shortest post, I’ll reveal how I’m starting a new decade in my studio with new branding. That is, a new logo!

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YQA: What Do You Use After Piano Safari 3?

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me. If you have a question feel free to contact me here


Hi Amy,

I’m really enjoying your posts, especially Friday Finds!

Regarding method books, my question is: what do you use after Piano Safari, level 3? Or do you design your own curriculum?

Many thanks, as always for your help.

Warmly,

-MJP


Hi, MJP!

As far as method books go, I am definitely a zigzagger. Rarely do I put a student in one method book series covering books 1-2-3 back-to-back.

Sometimes that works just fine and can certainly give the student a feeling of progress by “moving to the next level.”

I find many students, however, transition better through levels if I either supplement between each one for a few weeks (or months) or even cover the same “level” in two different book series. For example, I might have a student finish Piano Safari Level 1 then do Piano Adventures Level 1 before moving into Piano Safari Level 2.

One thing to keep in mind is that (with the Piano Adventures series in particular), I’m not one to give students both the Lesson and Performance books. I usually just do one or the other, especially if I’m weaving it between levels of another series.

In answering your more specific question on what I would do after Piano Safari 3, I often go to Piano Adventures 3B or into a repertoire series such as Celebration Series Repertoire Level 2.

(The authors of Piano Safari say that book 3 transitions nicely into Celebration Series Repertoire Level 3 but I always find doing a little in C.S. book 2 first a nice transition.)

Piano Safari 3 covers Major and Minor keys and technical skills in the keys of C/Am, G/Em, F/Dm. Piano Adventures 3B focus on the minor keys only.

Here’s an example scenario.

  1. Piano Safari 2 (5-finger patterns)
  2. Piano Adventures 2B (Chords)
  3. Piano Adventures 3A (One-Octave major scales/keys of C, G, F)
  4. Piano Safari 3 (Two-Octave scales/keys of C/Am, G/Em, F/Dm)
  5. Piano Adventures 3B (Two-Octave scales/keys of Am, Em, Dm)

This may be a little excessive example overlapping however, something like this might work for a student who is professing a little slower. Also, as I said previously, keep in mind this would just include one book in the P.A. series (such as lesson or performance)

I hope this gives you some ideas. Good luck!

~Amy

 


Reader friends, do you have any suggestions?

MJP and I would love to hear where you take your students when they finish Piano Safari Level 3. Please share in the comments!

 


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You’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, books I’m reading, and more. You will also have the option to have new posts delivered to your inbox weekly.

 

YQA: Summer Lessons and Curriculum

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me over the last few years. 

 


What curriculum do you teach in the summer?  Do you keep the student going in their regular curriculum or do you use something different to give them a break?

I love your idea of 6 lessons in 7 weeks and I would love more info on how you set it up.

Thanks,

PM

 

Dear P,

Those are some great questions and I would be happy to share a little more info!

I don’t have a set curriculum I teach in the Summer. For the most part, I just keep going with whatever students are working on but it’s always quite relaxed and there is no Classical repertoire involved unless the student specifically wants it.

Usually, I try to do a lot of pop tunes, Disney, chord charts, really anything the student is interested in. For several years I held a studio-wide outdoor picnic performance and it was fun to play that kind of music in that environment.

The 6 lessons in 7 weeks have worked perfectly for me ever since I’ve opened my studio. Depending on how my late July looks, I’ve even done 6 lessons over 8 weeks or 7 lessons over 8 weeks (you get the idea).

It’s nice to give flexibility to families in the Summer and I prefer to have a lighter schedule myself. Because of my preference for a light summer, I also do not require students to take summer lessons. I strongly recommend it for the first 3 years but don’t require it.

If they opt not to take summer lessons, however, I do have a $30 non-refundable holding fee in order to keep their spot for fall lessons. I can’t replace my income for those two months if they don’t take lessons because I can’t take on new students that I don’t have space for in the fall.

This is a great way to still have a little extra income while maintaining a lighter summer schedule.

The summer tuition fee is paid for in one payment (due by the first lesson) however, on occasion, if a family requests, I will let them make it in two payments. My fee is the same “per lesson” rate as the school term although I don’t advertise “per lesson” rates – that’s just how I calculate my fees.

I only advertise an all-encompassing rate – so an annual rate for the school term and a summer rate. From there, they have payment options of annual, semester, or monthly. I think it’s good to keep the focus on the big picture fee and not on the per month (and especially not a per lesson) fee.

If you would like to see an example of my most recent announcement to my studio regarding Summer lessons, you can download the PDF here. I write it out in a document basically for my own historical archives but copied and pasted the text into an email.

I hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions!

 

~Amy

 

 


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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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