The Varsity Musician’s Playbook Part 2: Studio “Locker Room”

This post second in a three-part series written by my good friend and colleague, Christina Whitlock, NCTM. I asked her to write this series for you since, of all the conference sessions I attended last year,  it was the one that impacted me the most.

If you missed the first posts in this series, I would recommend reading it first.

Part 1 – Studio Interdependence


In part 1, we looked at a few ways to incorporate a sense of interdependence in your studio.  Today’s post is going to focus on your studio environment, or, in keeping with the theme of this series, your Studio “Locker Room!”

I realize we all have varying degrees of control over the physical space we teach in, but I hope this post will inspire you to seek out similar applications that work for you.


Creating Studio Legacy – Tradition

Let’s consider this picture of the Hofstra Ladies’ Lacrosse Team locker room.

The first thing I notice is the statement, “Tradition Never Graduates.”  Friends, we all know, sports are ALL about legacy!  Why should your studio be any different?

Students get excited when they realize they all play an important role in your studio legacy.  Fortunately for us, it is easy to incorporate subtle visual cues to remind them of this fact!

Some simple suggestions:

  • Display photos/autographs of your teachers. This helps students appreciate the depth of YOUR history!
Nelita True was the teacher of a former professor of mine. I enjoy being able to reference this photo when I use her ideas. It’s also fun to know she’s part of my musical “family tree.”


Example from Amy:

My graduate teacher, Dr. Lori Rhoden from Ball State, gave each of her students a printed “piano teacher family tree.” I took her version, added myself, and now slip this into the back cover of my student’s binders. At their first lesson, I point out how special their history is.


  • Likewise, display pictures of high school seniors who have graduated from your studio. Tradition never graduates, right?
  • Post a current Studio Photo. I recommend taking a group photo at least once per year, then using that image as much as possible (think, Studio Christmas cards, social media, general publicity, etc.).  The more you use it, the more students will hate it if they are left out!  It may take a year or two, but the studio photo op will become a must-attend event.  Parents already go to extremes to make sure their child doesn’t miss a sports team photo.  Give it time (build the culture!), and your studio photo will be no different!
  • Institute a Legacy Award. My students receive a personal plaque when they complete five years of study.  After the completion of 8 years, I add their names to my Legacy Plaque, prominently displayed in the studio.  If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this:  do not underestimate the power of the Legacy Plaque! You’d better believe I have students DETERMINED to hang around long enough to get their names on that plaque.  It’s one of the very best investments I’ve ever made (plus, my Awards guy is amazing, and cuts me excellent deals).  My only mistake was not opting for the bigger size.  I’ll be upgrading this year, but what a lovely problem to have!  (The photo is an old photo of my Legacy Plaque.  FYI: “Founding Member” was a distinction I added to the first two ladies on the plaque.  These were my first two students when I moved to Muncie, and each ended up completing at least eight years of study.)


From Amy:

After hearing Christina’s legacy plaque idea, I announced at my Spring Recital last year I was instituting the new award. After announcing my intentions with the award, one of my students told me it made them excited, and while they had toyed with the idea of dropping piano, it helped them make the final decision to stick it out for at least the eight years. Win!


Creating Studio Legacy – Who’s the Team?

Let’s look at the locker room photo again.

Notice the jerseys hanging for each player.

My question for you is this:  Are your students’ names displayed anywhere in your studio?

Regardless of how simple the display, this is a way to remind students they are part of something more than a 30-minute check-in each week.  Consider the following options:

  • Post a weekly schedule. This may prove to be a helpful reference for you, too, but there is something students love about finding their friends’ names on ANYTHING in your studio.  The more collaborative activities you incorporate (see Post #1), the more students get to know one another, and the more powerful these visual cues will be.
  • Display names on a bulletin board. The Dollar Tree is an excellent resource for cute bulletin board ideas!

Amy’s current student bulletin board.

  • Post challenge results and/or memory goals. My students are currently prepping for NFMC.  They get to sign a whiteboard in my studio when their pieces are fully memorized.
  • Student Artwork: I have a small desktop easel where I offer to display any artwork my students bring to me.  It adds variety to my studio and lets them know I’m invested in their lives.  I’d call that a win-win!
  • Studio Shout-Out Boards: This is a place to celebrate relevant accomplishments (sometimes musical, sometimes not).  I like to start with a smaller board, so I can challenge students to make me get a larger one.  It works.  We are on track to sprout a second Shout-Out Board by mid-March or so.  I like to use recycled materials here (the board below is simply the back of an old desk calendar), so there is no cost.  All gain!


Creating Studio Legacy – Clean and Pristine

Lastly, I’d like to point out how clean and organized the Hofstra locker room is, but I’m afraid I’m not too much help in that department these days!

From Amy: Find ideas on keeping an inviting and clean studio space from my post: Icing Your Studio.

Once again, I hope these ideas have your creative juices flowing.  Please feel free to contribute your Studio Lock Room applications below and we’ll see you in post #3!


Update (October 2022)

Do you want more of where this came from? Listen in on episode #95 of The Beyond Measure Podcast: Cheers to Rethinking Team Sports:

christina-whitlock-headshotChristina Whitlock, M.M., N.C.T.M., operates a vibrant independent studio in Muncie, Indiana.  Celebrating twenty years of teaching at age 34, Christina serves as President of Indiana Music Teachers Association (IMTA) and enjoys a lively assortment of performance, instructional, and volunteer commitments throughout the state.   Christina is a grateful wife and mother of two daughters.  


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