Piano Pantry’s Top Posts of 2017

Your Favorite Topics All in One Place

The older we get it seems life tends to move more quickly every year. When you’re young it feels like life will go on forever. The next thing you know, you realize your high school graduation was 20 years ago (or 30-40 for that matter).

As I understand more and more how fast life passes by, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of reflection. We’re always working to do more, learn more, and be better. The result though is that it’s easy to forget where we’ve come from, hard to see all we’ve accomplished, and not realize all life has given us.

This yearly re-cap post is about putting all of your favorite topics from the past year (and from all-time) in one place. It’s also a chance for me to reflect on all that’s happened in my own life as a piano teacher at Studio 88 and blogger at Piano Pantry.

Before I wrote this post, I loved reading the recap post from last year. Here is Piano Pantry’s Best of 2016 recap.

In this post you will find:

  • A Month-by-Month Recap of 2017
  • The All-Time Top 5 Posts/Pages
  • The Top 5 Posts/Pages from 2017
  • The Top Friday Finds Post from 2017
  • My Personal Favorite Posts from 2017

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Christmas Gift Ideas for Music Students

Who Couldn’t Use Another Idea?

When it comes to this time of year, I usually whine a little. Not because I don’t love Christmas or giving gifts, but because I have to figure out something different to do for my students once again.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE giving gifts to my students. It’s just the process of making my brain think about what to do this year that makes me often procrastinate.

After cutting it a little too close a few years ago, I vowed to stop waiting until the last minute. (Year-ahead purchases have even become normal.) Bye-bye stress!

Crafts are not my strong suit so my kiddos will most likely never get a hand-made craft from me. Since I love to cook, however, homemade goodies have made it into the mix frequently.

The gifts I do each year often have to do with where life is in the moment. Don’t you agree? Some years money may be tight so gifts may be bulk-homemade and lest costly. On the flip side, if time is more of the commodity, I just purchase an item – even if I end up spending more.

My comfort zone is anywhere between $1 – $5 per student with $3 being my sweet spot. With a full studio, the cost can add up quickly!

 

Candy

Symphony Extra Large Creamy Milk Chocolate Bar.

 

 

Music Notes and Treble Clef Ornaments

Decorate your studio Christmas Tree with student Christmas-gift ornaments. Let them choose their ornament off the tree at their last lesson before Christmas Break.

I really like these black ones from Amazon. Hobby Lobby has some gold sparkly versions of this same ornament as well.

These Music Snowman Christmas Tree Ornaments are my choice for this particular year.

Sara over at Sara’s Music Studio made a fun suggestion to add a ribbon around the neck like a scarf. How cute would that be? I’m not crafty, but that I can handle.

*Note: At the time of this post, the price on Amazon is $22.99 for a dozen. You can get these at Oriental Trading for $15.99 but with shipping at $6.99, it makes a total of $24.36 with tax. If you have Amazon Prime it’s actually cheaper to order from Amazon!

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Trusty Christmas Favorites

Repertoire I Return to Year After Year

We all have our favorites. Our favorite Christmas songs, our favorite composers, our favorite arrangements. Each year when it comes time to pull out the Christmas books for students, while I try new ones each year, it seems I always return to the sturdy few.

Today I’m going to share with you my favorite Christmas books for students from beginner through late intermediate levels. The repertoire in this post to me is what I consider good solid arrangements. While several pieces I’ll highlight are jazzy, I’m not including any books that are specifically labeled with specific styles like “jazzy” or “Romantic Christmas” etc. (those are for another post another time).

Today is just about good old trusty Christmas music.

After so many years, you begin to see not only which books seem to appeal most to students, but which pieces within those books are the best. So, I’m also going to also highlight some of the arrangments I return to again and again.

I always ask my students if they have any requests for Christmas pieces, so hopefully seeing specific piece names within books will help you as you do your Christmas book shopping.

 

Faber Supplemental Christmas

I often give my students a Christmas book that is below their current method level, so if they’re playing in Faber 2B, I may choose to give them 2A Christmas. I want them just to be able to have fun playing Christmas music and to be able to play as many pieces as they can.

Level 4 is my favorite especially because of the jazzy arrangements of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Winder Wonderland that use lots of 7th chords. Continue reading

Favorite Hymn and Praise Piano Books

(and a Church Music Recital)

Have you ever done a themed-recital?

Two years ago I decided I wanted to start doing themed recitals on occasion.  My Spring recital sometimes has a partial theme, but I wanted something that was a 100% all-in theme. Participation is optional for students, but both times I have had nearly 75% of my students participate. Mid-October seems to be a good time, right before Fall break.

My first one was a “color” theme. That recital happened prior to Piano Pantry so I don’t have a post about it  – maybe someday. 🙂 This year, since so many of my students are already using their skills in church, it felt like the right time to do a “church-music” theme.

Today I’m going to share with you a few highlights from our recital as well as some of my favorite resources for church music repertoire for students. Be sure and share your favorites in the comments!

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Lesson Planning

A king-size master spreadsheet

When I started teaching piano full time, one of the biggest challenges for me personally was finding a method for lesson planning, tracking student progress, and materials.

The latter item I’ve mastered using Evernote (see Evernote Part 1: Studio Management), but the first two I struggled with for several years (I’ll avoid sharing the details of my failed attempts!)

We all know the best way to learn is to make mistakes and find a better way on our own, and that’s what I did.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is I’m a very visual person. I don’t do well simply making a note or two here or there for items I need to remember for students for their next lesson. I need to see the big picture. For one semester I even tried somewhat “winging it,” without writing down anything before the lesson and I felt kind of out of control and disorganized.

Finally, in 2014 I was inspired by an article in the September/October 2014 Issue of Clavier Companion written by Arlene Steffen, Stephen Hughes, and Craig Sale called “Lesson Plans: A teaching essential?” (I would highly recommend you read it!)

Thanks to their detailed article, my king spreadsheet was born. 

Because a spreadsheet like this will be completely customized to your teaching style (and studio calendar), it doesn’t do me any good to give you a copy of mine. So, in this post, not only do I walk you through the details of what I include, but I’ve also created a video showing you through how to create your version.  I’ll show you tips and tricks for using Excel like a pro! Continue reading

Organizing Piano Games with Evernote

This is a guest post by Missouri teacher, Anita Byers. After Anita commented on one of my posts here on Piano Pantry on how she organized her music games in Evernote, I quickly asked her to share. Many thanks to Anita!


Anita Byers is the owner of Anita’s Piano Studio located in Nevada, Missouri.  She currently has a full studio of 27 students. She recently retired from Nevada High School after ten years as the choir accompanist.

 

 

As my collection of piano games has grown the past several years, I have needed to organize them in a way that I can find a game that reinforces a certain concept without physically searching through a huge stack!

My goal for this summer was to attack the game monster and make it easy to find and use games during lessons.

I use Evernote in my studio to keep track of weekly lesson plans for each student.  I am not sure why it took me so long to realize that Evernote could help organize my game inventory!

I set up a notebook in Evernote and named it “Games.”  Then for each game, I added a note.

The information I typed on the note included:

  1. Name of the game
  2. Where I found or purchased the game
  3. Objectives of the game

I took a photo or screenshot of the game board, instructions, and cards. (This was super easy to do with my iPad).

*Note that the next three photos are all a part of the same note (just taken in 3 screenshots).

 

I used tags to make categories for each game.  For example, tags I used for the Ladybug game were: grand staff, keyboard topography, music alphabet and staff notation.  This will help me as I search for games in my Evernote notebook.

For more on the benefit and power of using tags in Evernote, see Amy’s video post, Evernote: Account Features, Tagging, and More.

 

 

The image below shows a search I did for “keyboard topography.” As you can see, the list of games that I have is shown on the left.  I really like that it brings up the photos!

 

 

I also took this opportunity to set up a file cabinet to physically store my games, and I added the drawer number right after the name of the game when I entered each note.  My games are easy to look up in Evernote and easy to find in their file cabinet.

This system is working great for me so far.  Now, I just need to keep up with it as I add new games.  It feels so good to have the pile of games organized and the game monster conquered.  Thanks, Evernote!

Bonus tip from Amy: since Evernote can also house Microsoft Word, Excel, and Google Drive documents, you could even attach the digital file directly into the note or link directly to the webpage from which you found the game.

 

From AMy: Bonus for Signing Up

If I’ve convinced you that Evernote can change your productivity, then at least try the basic level for FREE!  Please know though that I use the Premium subscription and find it’s completely worth the yearly fee.

If you use this link (see affiliate disclosure below) as a new sign-up or to upgrade the subscription you already have, I will give you free access to a shared notebook in Evernote where I have compiled some note templates you may find useful as an independent music teacher including:

  1. Student Evaluation Form
  2. Student Information Forms
  3. What to Include in Your Newsletter
  4. Action Lists for Conferences and Board Meetings
  5. Grocery List and To-Do List

Please note that due to processing time, it may take up to a week to grant access to the notebook.


Affiliate Disclosure: Please note that Piano Pantry is part of the Evernote Community affiliate program which simply means I get a very small percentage from Evernote sign-ups (or upgrades) that come via my website (at no extra cost to you). Since I provide free content, this small amount means a lot. Thank you for your support!

Logo Disclosure:  The Evernote logo is used under the Evernote Community Leader license from Evernote Corporation.


Did you find this post helpful? Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list where 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, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that. 

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The Varsity Musician’s Playbook

Part 1: Studio Interdependence

Once my piano students hit middle school, I often lose them to sports.

If this is a statement you’ve either said at least once in your career or heard a colleague say, raise your hand.

Me, me, me!

Yes, you over there, with your hand up – this post is for you!

At every conference I attend, while there are many excellent sessions, there are always one or two whose message sticks with me for good. At this past MTNA Conference (2016 San Antonio), my “sticky” session was by far:

The Varsity Musician’s Playbook: Commitment Building Strategies from Team Sports to the Studio.

Bam! Wow, the title hooked me. As someone who enjoys the business side of running my piano studio – this was my type of session.

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Piano Pantry’s Best of 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, I’m looking back at this past year and can’t believe what a whirlwind and blessing it has been. It’s been a year of opportunity, growth, challenges, and firsts.

Today I would like to share with you a personal reflection as well as the best posts from Piano Pantry in its first year.

 

Goal-Setting

This past year, I decided not to make any “New Years Resolutions” but to instead, sit down and set specific goals for myself. Evernote guru Michael Hyatt wrote a post How Evernote Can Help You Achieve Your Goals in 2015 that I used as inspiration.

Speaking of Evernote if you missed it, check out my post on using Evernote as an independent music teacher.

One of those goals was to start this blog and my studio website by March 1 (the latter of which I accomplished this summer). This site’s first post,  “Welcome to My Studio”, was published on March 20, 2016. Check!

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Evernote: An Independent Music Teacher’s Handbook 

Part 1 – Studio Organization [Video]

When I first started teaching piano as an independent music teacher, I learned quickly there was more to the profession than being a pianist and pedagogue. I was managing a business and, in a way, people. Tasks like tracking student information, lesson plans, overall student progress, music to be ordered, recital participation and repertoire lists, became a big part of the job.

Before Evernote…

I would find myself unable to recall materials I needed to purchase when I happened by the music store unplanned.

Oodles of information and ideas in which I intently made notes during sessions at local, state, or national conferences found themselves in paper stacks, with never a second glance.

Valuable and detailed advice regarding iPad to midi capabilities I read in a Facebook thread were later fuzzy in my mind when I needed it most. When I tried to find it, the conversation found itself lost in a sea of never-ending social-media posts.

If you’re like me, you long for anything that will streamline the business side of what you do. While today’s digital world offers many tools and applications to help us manage and organize the tasks we juggle on a daily basis, there’s one that stands out: Evernote.

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Piano Safari 

Stuffed Animal Shopping Guide

Piano Safari has been a method on my radar since the first version of the books came out. I've known about it since (I'm guessing) 2008. Julie Knerr, one of the authors, went to grad school with a girl I did my undergrad studies with (they may have even been roommates-I can't remember for sure). My friend told me about the method, and I haven't looked back.

I was drawn to Piano Safari due to my disappointment with the technique books on the market. I hated them to be quite frank. I didn't feel they were effective and they were...well, what they were - exercises - and boring to boot. Even though most technique books do correlate with what the students are learning in the lesson book, I never felt the transfer of learning happened.

It wasn't until 2013 that I started using the method heavily. With the increased use came the desire to maximize on the "fun" of the safari theme more with stuffed animals.

Building up my safari-theme animal collection was a bit of a chore! I remember asking the authors where they got theirs but mostly I was on my own finding them. Today, I hope to help YOUR search a little easier than mine.

I'll be sharing not only where I purchased the animals but why they're a good investment, how I use and even store them.

piano-safari-tree-frog

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