Last week I put two and two together:
- A thirteen year old student who is really into zentangle
- My need for a new studio binder cover
I asked the student to design a new binder cover and her response blew me away. It took her only a week to design the zentangled piano shown above. Can you believe it? The hard copy is even better because you can see all the intricate shading she used.
A few of my favorite things in the piano:
- the flower design on the piano lid is taken from a rug in the studio with the same flower design
- on the front leg is written “ICEICEICE” etc. for Ice Piano Studio
- there is a treble clef woven into the design near the back of the piano
The student was thrilled to be asked to design the cover, and I was stunned and touched by the time and quality of work she put into the project.
Our September has been mainly warm and summer-y, but these last few days have definitely turned into fall. Inside the studio my students and I have returned to weekly lessons with enthusiasm and joy. Here are some things that made me smile this month:
- Young student who had been away returning to studio with enthusiasm
- New resources and ideas for the new school year
- New curtains!
- Eleven year old student transposing music just for the fun of it
- Nine year old student improvising on jazz scale
- Six year old student’s invitation to come stay at his house if our house ever burned down. 🙂 “You can teach us on our piano!”
- New binder cover designed by student
- After complimenting a student on her fine performance, she replies: “I learned a lot from my teacher.” 🙂
What made you smile this month?
This fall I have had a lot of luck in finding great new resources to use in teaching. It’s been so invigorating to incorporate new ideas and materials. This post is part two and deals more with repertoire, organization, and finds around the web. You can read part one of this post here, which deals primarily with celebrating successes, marketing and a terrific hands-on manipulative.
Wunderkeys is a piano program designed for one-on-one lessons with preschoolers. This is another great offering by Andrea and Trevor Dow at Teach Piano Today. In my studio I have started teaching children as young as four years of age and have bemoaned the fact that there aren’t many choices in piano teaching materials for younger children taking individual lessons. Wunderkeys is a great addition to the field in that it teaches math concepts right along with musical concepts. I wish I had this great resource years ago! You can buy the books on amazon (super convenient). The website (linked above) includes tons of free printables for games to practice note reading, sight reading, etc. My younger students are especially loving the games!
Piano Pronto Keyboard Kickoff and Power Pages
The Keyboard Kickoff books from Piano Pronto are helpful when needing to review notes with younger beginners or teaching note-reading quickly to older beginners. The book moves students quickly through basic note-reading and rhythm skills. You can buy the digital download (which is what I did) or order the book to be sent through the mail.
A site for downloading piano (and other instruments) sheet music at multiple levels. The pieces are arranged pianistically and layed out beautifully. The website is very user-friendly, and they are constantly adding songs to the collection. I especially like the fact that you can purchase the arrangements at different skill levels. I just found this site, but I have a feeling I will be coming here often.
Wow – so many great ideas. Looking forward to spending more time deep-diving into his blog. This is where I found out about Noviscore. I’m also very interested in his posts about pop music and group teaching.
I have been seeing Evernote everywhere lately – conversation, blogs, people using it during meetings. When something pops up in your life on a continual basis, you kind of feel like you should investigate a little. Then I read this blog at Piano Pantry. Amy clearly and effectively articulates how to use Evernote in the studio. Last week I thought I would give it a try and start organizing some student information on Evernote. While I am a lover of the hand-written, I have to say I am super excited about this system. I can already tell that my organization is much more clear and refined, and therefore my thinking has been more clear and refined as well. So far Evernote has helped me to organize repertoire more effectively, identify holes in a student’s repertoire or technical skills, collect and organize notes from various meetings and conferences, and clip ideas from around the web. I am excited to see where the possibilities will take me!
One of the greatest aspects of taking piano lessons is knowing how to play a song on the piano! You can sit down and play a piece for your own enjoyment, show off to friends, satisfy Grandma’s desire to hear you play when she comes to visit, and have something cool to post on your social media site.
It’s so important for our piano students to have completed pieces they can sit down and play. It’s easy to keep track of these pieces by simply printing off a sheet of paper labeled “Playlist”. I include a new Playlist paper in every student’s studio binder at the beginning of each school year, and it’s fun to see the playlist grow and expand throughout the year.
Once the Playlist gets filled in with a few favorite pieces, this is how I use it:
- Have the student play one or two pieces at the end or beginning of each lesson. This gives the student a mental break from working on new pieces or technique. It also reminds the student that playing the piano is fun and they already know how to play some cool pieces.
- Make a video recording of some of the playlist pieces. Video recording is a great way to practice playing under pressure. These video recordings make a great gift for parents and are fabulous marketing tools for your studio’s social media site.
- Use the playlist to quickly identify the pieces your student likes the best. The list will help to make future repertoire choices you know they will love.
“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:
- The day and time their lessons will be each week
- The date of the first lesson
- 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?”
- 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.
- How to cancel a lesson/how to communicate with me
- Tuition costs
- Payment plans
- How to make a payment
- Where to find information on the studio website
- 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.
I 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:
- Reminder of lesson day and time
- Date of the first lesson
- What to bring to the first lesson
- How to reach me if you are unable to come to a lesson
- The studio policy (sent as an attachment)
- The lesson calendar for the year (sent as an attachment)
- Tuition costs
- Payment plans
- 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.