Achievement Day, 2017

May is busy, busy! Our local chapter of Music Teachers National Association, the Boulder Area Music Teachers Association held their annual Achievement Day festival this past weekend. This year there were sixteen teachers and 108 students participating in the event.

I am a big fan of having some sort of outside evaluation for students at the end of the school year. While there are many festivals and competitions in which to participate, I tend to choose evaluations which are nurturing and instructional in nature. Of my 35 students, I entered eight in the Achievement Day evaluations this year.

Each student played two pieces, one of which was memorized. They all also entered to play scales and arpeggios, and took a Terms and Signs test at their individual level. Six of the students entered art projects:


Aren’t they lovely?

One student played a second instrument, the banjo – which was adorable, by the way. And another student improvised for a minute in the style of a nocturne.

I spent the day in the testing room.


All eight students passed with flying colors and earned the Super Achiever status. They earned medals and certificates for their achievements. It was a fun day to visit with other teachers and “talk shop”.



Spring Piano Recital 2017


Our annual spring recital was a success! This year I divided the students into two recitals, with sixteen students performing in each recital. The recital had that fun, nervous and exciting feel at the beginning, then transitioned to jubilant relief at the end! We celebrated with ice cream for everyone in the lobby. ūüôā


I must say, the students played really well! Sometimes you don’t know how the nerves will hit. There was only one student who was visibly sick to her stomach because of nerves, but she mustered the courage to go on stage, and she played perfectly! What a little sweetheart.

We heard works from Bach, Rachmaninoff, Haydn, Imagine Dragons, Grieg, Henry Mancini, Martha Mier, Robert Vandall, Jennifer Eklund, Scott Joplin, Christos Tsitsaros, and Emily Elizabeth Black, to name a few. ūüôā


This year we started something new called the Recital Compliment Exchange. I found this idea on the ComposeCreate website (where I also purchased the beautiful recital template!)

The audience was given the compliment page with spaces to compliment nine students. Parent and grandparents did an excellent job of encouraging the students! Each student received from 4-8 compliments each, which I distributed at the next week’s lesson. The students were very happy to read their compliments. I think it really meant a lot to them.20170507_165718

This is the stack of compliments ready to be distributed to students.


A sweet family wrote a compliment to me as well!

Another recital in the books.

And one step closer to summer!!!

Happies, April 2017

These are a few things that made me smile this month:

  1. Autumn, age 9: “I’m getting really good at this!”
  2. The aspen trees outside my window in full leafy bloom
  3. Preparing for theory testing – students learning and comprehending new theoretical concepts and applying them to their music
  4. With only a few weeks left until the recital, finding a quick-learn recital piece for a student who had been ill for four weeks. Thank you, Robert Vandall!
  5. Siblings of current students beginning lessons
  6. Laughing with students after finding a fly in my tea during a lesson!20170419_160759What are the things bringing you joy in your teaching? I’d love to hear about them!

Favorite Repertoire Spring 2017


As a piano teacher, it is so important to find good repertoire that suits the technical abilities of your student yet motivates their inner rock star. In the years I have been writing this blog, I have written several posts on the repertoire I have used which fits the criteria mentioned above. You can find these posts under the category “Great Student Pieces”.

I was very excited to find some new pieces to incorporate into our spring recitals this year. Here’s some of my current favorites:


I was thrilled to find simple arrangements of popular songs in a compilation book. For years I would search for each individual piece I wanted to teach then simplify the songs with the use of Finale. The skill level in this book has been perfect for a number of students in the studio. The recital this year will include Demons and Counting Stars from this collection.


The Piano Recital Showcase series from Hal Leonard has been a great addition. The pieces are fresh, attractive and great teaching pieces. My¬†students were able to learn pieces from this collection fairly quickly and have enjoyed playing the pieces because they like how they sound. That’s always a bonus! Students liking how they sound = more practice time!

Here are some of the pieces chosen from this collection:

  1. From Book 1:¬†B.B.’s Boogie, Monster March
  2. From Book 1 (Festival Favorites):¬†Candlelight Prelude, I’ve Gotta Toccata, Toccata Festivo
  3. From Book 2 (Festival Favorites): Sounds of the Rain
  4. From Book 2: The Happy Walrus, Shifty-Eyed Blues
  5. From Book 3: Jump Around Rag

20170427_135734As always,¬†Ocean Spray¬†from Anne Crosby’s book “Fuzzy Beluga” is always an excellent choice for an older beginning student. The piece is played on only black keys and can be taught by rote.

I have also really enjoyed using many of Jennifer Eklund’s pieces found at Piano Pronto. Her piece End Game has been widely enjoyed throughout the studio.


Some of the¬†pieces from “The Kingdom Series” I keep coming back to. The Dawn,¬†especially. It has two attractive themes which are repeated and used in different ways. A 7th grade boy is playing this piece for the spring recital and has really been motivated to learn this piece. An 8th grade girl is playing¬†The Final Call,¬†which is also a terrific recital piece.

Robert Vandall’s Celebrated Piano Solos series is¬†still a go-to collection.

It seems as though good piano music is more easily available now more than ever. I am very thankful for that! With just the help of a good search engine, we can find the next great motivational recital piece for all our budding stars.

What pieces are your favorites?