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 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!


Celebrating My 30th Piano Studio Anniversary: a Reflection

July 1, 1991, was the day I opened my independent piano studio.  It was a quiet event but I was so excited to usher my first student into the living room of our tiny first home.  This July 1, 2021, was similar because I’m still welcoming students to the studio one at a time, though in a different home and larger space, thankfully.

Each year, as I have come to July 1, I would smile to myself and be grateful for another year as a piano teacher.

When I reached 25 years (perhaps because of all the social media webinars I’ve attended) I thought I’d be more public about it.  I wrote a post on Facebook and got lots of nice comments and congratulations.  I then thought, when I get to 30 years, I’m going to celebrate even more.  I’m going to do something BIG, or at least big-GER than 5 years ago.  After all, it’s THIRTY this time, and that’s a big deal, right?  Of course, it is, and if you are an independent piano teacher, you know it is.

That being said, I learned an important lesson this past year—

The UNIQUENESS of our very personal profession is why it’s kind of hard to throw an outward public anniversary.  Our business space is someone else’s life and heart.

Larger companies celebrate with their employees and their clients, but we don’t have that many clients at one time, and the current students don’t share a bond with the students who came years before them.  You can post photos but very few people will recognize them but you and them and their parents.  I don’t think I understood that until I was going through old paper photos and planning our recital this spring.

I was thinking originally that this year’s spring studio recital would be the culmination of my anniversary celebration, but it wasn’t; because really, the recital is for the kids, not me.  And that’s as it should be!  I just produce and put it together.

I did plan a special performance for the program (read more on that below) but ultimately kept it short.

People can appreciate that you’re a long-term business and all, and see how cool it is that you’ve touched the lives of many students, and so forth.  But how can they really celebrate WITH you?  

That part was weird for me.  In January, I contacted some former students on Facebook and told them about my anniversary coming up.  It was great to connect, but that was about it.  After that…crickets.

I invited the parents of some former students to our recital and one attended and gave me a really cool card in which she had written a note.  It was really sweet, but I can’t turn around and publish that on social media; it’s personal. I realized that a very public anniversary doesn’t seem to fit such a personal business as piano teaching.  And that’s okay, because our profession is not cookie-cutter, and only you can celebrate in your own way.


A Special Commission

Last July 2020, I contacted Kevin Olson I commissioned him to write a duet in honor of my 30th anniversary of piano teaching.

The special performance at our recital was a good idea.  It was a duet I got to perform with my daughter, Joyanna, who has since graduated from high school.  I love collaborating with others, and we have a long tradition at Studio J of performing duets at our recitals.

In my opinion, he nailed it!  It is called Joie de Vivre, and the name means “happy enjoyment of life”.  The duet is so rhythmic and fun to play and helps me express my joy to be a teacher.

(Click here or on the image to listen to this premier performance!)

The other way I celebrated was unplanned.


New Piano!

For years, I had been keeping my ear and heart open for a new piano.  When one caught my attention back in February, I tried to ignore it. I had been on a committee for my church to purchase a new grand piano for the sanctuary.  We were only playing new instruments, but nearby was a lovely 2009 Yamaha grand on consignment. I played it too and went back to play it in April because it was still there. It had been owned by a gentleman who had to give it up when he moved to assisted living and was in near-mint condition.

I was not piano shopping for myself when it found me 🙂, much like a new pup finds its person.

With the anniversary coming up, it seemed like the perfect time.  In May, it came home to live with me. Piano Solutions in Carmel, Indiana made this possible, and I’m so thankful to them and for the opportunity to own a piano like this.

Most of us are all things to our students and our studios – teacher, curriculum designer, administrator, marketing, and social media specialist – for starters.  So, when it comes to anniversaries, we are likely to have to come up with ideas ourselves, or craft our version from an idea we’ve heard somewhere.

There aren’t many resources about this online, but Amy Chaplin and others like myself are trying to change that.

Define “big celebration” however you’d like.  Just celebrate, because you are IMPORTANT in numerous children and adult learner’s lives.

My advice:  Do NOT grade your celebration against the final scene in the 1995 movie, “Mr. Holland’s Opus”. 🙂


Stay Tuned!

Check out the final post in this 3 part series on ways we can mark time by acknowledging, reflecting on, and celebrating special teaching anniversaries/milestones.

Have you ever commissioned a piece of music in your studio? What are some ways you’ve celebrated your own teaching milestones? Share in the comments!


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