Happies, August 2017

August brings with it the last few weeks of summer vacation and the nervous excitement of back to school. Here are some things that made us smile in the studio this month:

  1. Student, age 11, after working on a difficult piece: “The good thing about me is that after trying something twice I get it.” That is a good thing!
  2. Quote from author Marisa de los Santos in her book Belong To Me concerning Bach’s fugues: “It’s music so complicated you can hear the math in it.”
  3. Flashcard challenge for younger students – a good review at the end of summer!20170808_093841
  4. Sibling completing puzzles while waiting in lessons20170721_073052
  5. Eight year old student: “I can play this song without looking!”20170821_170506
  6. Ten year old student practicing transposing a piece from C position to G position remarked “C position sounds dull like a dirty penny and G position sounds shiny like a bright penny!”
  7. Two high school students who decided to lengthen their lessons to 45 minutes so that we could have more time to learn longer, more complicated pieces

Fall Information Letter


“Communication is the real work of leadership.”

– Nitin Nohria

Because I teach throughout the year and have maintained the same students for several years, I sometimes forget that new families to the studio might not know how my particular studio functions. While I have a “Policy and Procedures” page on my studio website which also gets sent as a PDF to each family every August, I also like to walk families through the ins and outs of the studio so that they feel prepared when they come for their first lesson. I send this information in an email to each family in August whether they are new or returning.

Here are some of the things I think are important for each family to know:

  1. The day and time their lessons will be each week
  2. The date of the first lesson
  3. What happens when you come for a lesson. Questions I often hear from parents are “Should I wait in my car or sit in on the lesson?”, “What happens if I arrive early?”, “Can I drop off both kids for their lessons and come back later?”
  4. What to bring to a lesson. I remind students to bring their music, studio binder and also a recording device if they would like to record during the lesson.
  5. How to cancel a lesson/how to communicate with me
  6. Tuition costs
  7. Payment plans
  8. How to make a payment
  9. Where to find information on the studio website
  10. Permission to use pictures/videos of a piano lesson on social media sites

I have found that sending this information in advance of the first lesson has been key to starting lessons smoothly. Parents know what to expect, I know that they are informed, and we are able to start the first lesson with confidence and trust.


Now Is The Time To…

calendarI recently received an email from my local gardening store reminding me that now is the time to divide my irises. I love to garden, but I don’t always do the right things at the right times. For example, this summer my husband and I moved some shrubs around in our front garden on the hottest day in June and scorched those shrubs to within an inch of their lives. But happily, they seem to be coming back to life.

I have a file in my computer titled “Task Calendar”. This is very helpful as I go throughout the year to remind myself that I should send a note to parents about the upcoming recital, or order Christmas books, or remind parents about spring break, etc. Usually I remember these things on my own, but you never know when brain block will hit.

At the end of July I sent out an email regarding scheduling for the fall semester. So the past few weeks have been filled with working out scheduling for 35 students. It’s a rather daunting task. Thankfully I think I have everyone in place and I will even be able to have dinner with my family every night!

Next week is the first week of the fall semester in the studio. My task calendar tells me to send an email to each family with the following:

  1. Reminder of lesson day and time
  2. Date of the first lesson
  3. What to bring to the first lesson
  4. How to reach me if you are unable to come to a lesson
  5. The studio policy (sent as an attachment)
  6. The lesson calendar for the year (sent as an attachment)
  7. Tuition costs
  8. Payment plans
  9. A warm welcome to new and returning students

I have also been busy preparing a new reward system for the year, updating the weekly assignment page to support the goals of the new reward system, and updating the studio website.

The students’ studio binders will be given a new front cover insert and cleaned out at the first lesson.

So there are a few things to do!

I love the freshness that comes with a new school year – setting new goals and planning a year of recitals and activities that will hopefully motivate and inspire my young musicians.

Olga Kern and the Colorado Music Festival


Last month my hubby and I had the opportunity to hear Olga Kern play with the Colorado Music Festival. Every summer the festival presents a six-week program featuring innovative programs and world-class musicians.


Apart from the amazing music (which I will get to), my absolute favorite thing about the evening is that the Colorado Music Festival performs in the Chautauqua auditorium,  which is basically an old barn. The acoustics were amazing. Sections of the side walls slide open to allow the air to flow freely from the outside in. The moths that came in and flew around the stage actually added to the enchantment of the evening.


We had front row seats! And it was opening night of the festival! There was much excitement in the air. Look at the far right of the above picture – notice the music stands for the brass section were taped to milk crates. Love it!

The orchestra, led by director Jean-Marie Zeitouni, began the all-Russian program with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture. It was exhilarating.

Then Olga Kern took the stage to play Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto of 1911. She was flawless. This was followed by a short intermission to allow Ms. Kern to change dresses. She looked beautiful, by the way. It almost made me want to play another solo recital just to have a reason to buy a fabulous dress like that. Maybe I should just buy the dress and wear it while playing the piano in the comfort of my own home. 🙂

Then Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. Oh my goodness. It was fierce. The variation we pianists most like to play (Number 18) was simply rapturous.


Ms. Kern takes a bow. The audience was so appreciative. “Sir, could you step back so I can get a good picture? No? Okay.”

We went outside for intermission. On one side are the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. On the other side is a view of Boulder. We went back in for Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, played by the orchestra.

It was a memorable evening. The music filled my soul. The atmosphere was beautiful. It is well worth it to remember that support of the arts really is support of ourselves and those around us.