Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Piano Teacher Webinar Bundle from Tracy Selle

It is well-known that great teachers make great leaders and because of this, I believe that professional development is extremely important to educators, especially piano teachers. Many private piano teachers work independently and, if the constant effort to network is not made, are at risk of becoming stagnant and experiencing burnout. We need support and mentoring from others, an awareness of new teaching/curriculum resources, information on relevant technology and how it can be applied to our individual teaching situations, and access to the latest research on how the upcoming generation learns best. 
Although it is evident that professional development is valuable to our mission as piano teachers, it can be difficult to carve out enough time to adequately pursue it, especially if it means traveling, lengthy workshops, and schedule or family conflicts. Limited finances can also prevent teachers from accomplishing their personal goals for professional development.
One of my goals for this year was to participate in at least one professional development opportunity. I found one that fit my needs perfectly from Tracy Selle called Piano Teacher Webinar. This two-part webinar is full of information that is relevant for both novice and veteran piano teachers. Outside of the video interviews conducted with successful piano teachers from around the world, these webinars include bonus materials such as sheet music, coupons to curriculum resources, teaching worksheets, and much more. 

So far, I have completed one half of the webinar and was amazed at how much information I was given! I'm planning to finish the webinar when my schedule slows down again in January. I really appreciate that I can fit completing this opportunity in around my schedule and that it was extremely affordable. 

I highly recommend this webinar to my colleagues who desire inspiration and growth in their professional and personal lives. 

You can register for the webinar here: http://tracyselle.com/?affcode=16250_1444607195c6d6

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fall 2015 Piano Recital

Our Fall Piano Recital was held over the past weekend at the Faith Lutheran Church in Upper Saint Clair. The church was incredibly helpful and allowed us to use their beautiful baby grand for this event. My husband graciously agreed to take pictures. 

Opening Notes
Pretty Programs in Autumn Colors
Five of my students participated in this recital. Each student worked hard to prepare for this performance, and I was extremely pleased with how well they played!'

Participating students each received a personalized piano trophy.

A light reception followed the recital. Students and their families enjoyed Smiley cookies, cheese, crackers, and cider.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Upcoming Piano Recital

The 2015 Fall Recital is coming up soon! All of my participating students have been working really hard on their pieces, and I've been busy creating programs, ordering special trophies, and planning the big event. 
Mark your calendars and make every effort to attend!

Saturday, October 10, 2015
2:00 pm

Please contact me for the recital location or more information.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thumbtack: Best of 2015

Woods Piano Studio was recently listed on Thumbtack as one of the Best of 2015! Thank you for your past and continued support of the studio! Check out the complete list here!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Vivaldi PDF Freebie!

Most of my grade school beginning piano students are using Jennifer Ecklund's Piano Pronto: Keyboard Kickoff as their primary method book. When we reach the pieces Spring Song and Mini Musette, both of which were originally written by Baroque composers, I enhance the lesson with a little music history.

I start with Antonio Vivaldi. After I wrote a very brief biography, I created a quiz/worksheet for my students to complete to ensure that they comprehended what they read. There are lines to write which pieces written by Vivaldi that the student has played or listened to. These pages are kept in their folders so we can add these titles as their studies progress. To make it fun, I included an appropriate coloring page that I found online.

View and download the Vivaldi PDF Freebie.

My next packet will be about J.S.Bach; keep checking back for that one!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Music's Lifelong Impact

It is easy as a teacher or a student to become consumed with the endless practice and study of music, whether it be with our voices or instruments. When difficulties such as mastering techniques, memorization to be completed in time for the next recital, and fingers that just will not do what we hope they will absorb most of our attention, we risk losing sight of the most meaningful aspect of music: its lifelong impact.

A few years ago, I attended a concert at a local church called Song of Survival. This concert featured baroque, classical, and romantic works that were arranged and notated completely from memory by two extraordinary women named Margaret Dryburgh and Norah Chambers during their internment in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. The hope that they demonstrated during a time of despair led them to create beautiful music that can continue to encourage and impact us today.
Norah Chambers

Margaret Dryburgh

The concert that I attended was memorable and beautifully performed, and led me to look deeper into the lives of these remarkable women. I learned that both attended or graduated from the Royal Academy of Music and were considered skilled musicians. It is interesting to think that, like us, they studied music and worked hard to become skilled musicians, but never lost sight of the impact music could have, even when they were in a desolate place.

I recommend reading more of their story; it is extremely inspiring and serves as an excellent reminder of what we are striving for as we engage in the study of music.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

FAQ: What does my monthly tuition cover?

There are several questions that I frequently receive when prospective students are inquiring about private piano lessons. Today, I am going to answer and explain one of the biggest ones: What does my tuition cover? 

There is no set-in-stone business standard for private piano teachers. Each teacher has his/her own approach, so it is important to clearly explain exactly what your tuition will cover in my studio.

1. Tuition covers time spent in preparation for the student.

Some of the preparation can easily be seen in your weekly private lesson. I take the time to scope and sequence a learning plan for the individual needs of each of my students, and that includes choosing and purchasing a piano method that meets their needs and will lead them to their personal goal. I spend time creating supplementary lesson materials to enhance the lesson's concepts, and selecting additional repertoire for performance or for further work on technique and artistry. It is important to me that my students love music, and specifically, the piano, and I work hard to ensure that they remain engaged and motivated.

There is also a lot of unseen preparation. This includes bookkeeping, responding to any messages I receive from students, parents/guardians, trips to the music store, and continuing education and/or professional development that enables me to teach to the best of my ability. I am constantly searching for new and improved ideas to implement into my studio to augment the time-tested ones.

2. Tuition covers exclusive time spent with the student. 

When a student schedules weekly lessons with me, I save that time slot exclusively for them; I respect that he/she chose me as their teacher, and I want to make certain that their lessons are a time of growth and enrichment. 

3. Tuition covers recital costs and any related preparation.

Recitals are offered at no additional fee as a reward for hard work of regular practicing and as an opportunity to perform in front of friends and family. Your tuition enables me to create recital programs, rent a facility, provide refreshments, and purchase special awards. All of my students are welcome to participate in the bi-annual recitals. 

4. Tuition covers studio expenses.

This includes:

  • Copying
  • Computer software
  • Prizes
  • Piano tuning and/or repair
  • Music books and other resources
  • Professional development 
  • Clearances
  • Memberships
  • Games

5. Tuition covers increased self-employment costs.

Being a professional piano teacher is an extremely rewarding occupation; I am able to see growth in my students from week to week and I have the opportunity on a daily basis to share one of the world's greatest gifts with others. I could not picture myself doing anything else! That being said, self-employment often means that a higher tax percentage needs to be withdrawn from my annual salary and higher personal health insurance costs. I do my best to set reasonable rates that enable me to meet these legal requirements AND continue to provide the best resources and personal knowledge possible to my students. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Middle C, I See!

When I was a teacher with a K-Plus enrichment program, there was a game that all the kindergartners loved to play over and over again: Spot-It. Spot-It is produced by Blue Orange Games and can be purchased on Amazon or at most retail stores.

The object of the game is simple: be the fastest player to spot the matching picture or symbol between two cards and call it out. Whoever calls out the matching picture first is able to keep the matching card. The winner of the game is the player with the most cards.

Spot-It comes in several variations, including Spot-It Sports, Spot-It Shapes, and so on. I have looked for a music variation as a theory activity in my private lessons, but it's not available yet. So, I decided to put my own game together!

I started by creating a list all of the symbols on the original Spot-It cards, and then I substituted them with musical symbols. Since I will be using this game with my younger students, I chose symbols that should be familiar to them, and also included the letters of the music alphabet and finger numbers. 

Then, I created the cards using the Paint program on my Microsoft Windows computer (low tech!). I compiled all of cards into a word document, and printed it on cardstock. My husband helped me cut them out, laminate them, and then cut them out again!
Sometime over the weekend, I'll go to my local Michaels and purchase a tin to hold the cards. We will play this game exactly as the original Spot-It is played. Based on the enthusiasm for this game that my kindergartners had, I'm sure that the intro to piano class and my younger private students will have a lot of fun with this game!

EDIT: After multiple requests via email and comments on this post, I've decided to sell a PDF on TpT. I hope this game is as useful in your classrooms and studios as it has been in mine: Middle C, I See!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: "What Praise Can I Play on Sunday?" arranged by Carol Tornquist

In addition to privately teaching piano, I also serve as a church music director.When my son and I were shopping yesterday, I found a book of arrangements in a bookstore called What Praise Can I Play on Sunday? Book 6: November and December Services  arranged by Carol Tornquist. My son was being cantankerous, so I briefly scanned the list of titles and the pieces inside, tossed it in the cart, and did not look at it again until much later that night. 

Later, as I played through the arrangements, I knew that I had found a wonderful resource for the upcoming months. Carol Tornquist has written tasteful interpretations of well-known contemporary pieces or praise songs, and, even though they are contemporary, they are written in such a way that traditional congregations (such as mine) will enjoy hearing them, as well. 

Here's the list of the songs that are in this collection:
  • 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
  • All the Earth Will sing Your Praises
  • Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)
  • Emmanuel
  • Find Us Faithful
  • Glory in the Highest
  • Immanuel (From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable)
  • Joy Has Dawned
  • Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)
  • Mary, Did You Know?
Each arrangement comes with details about its length (helpful in determining whether to use the piece for a prelude, offertory, or postlude), and suggestions on which Sunday the piece would work well. For example, All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises is recommended as a Christ the King Sunday piece.

For me, one of the challenges of being a part-time music director is finding enough time to practice, especially on top another job and learning all of the other music that is necessary for a church service. It is important that books of arrangements are easy to prepare and that most of the pieces within the book will be practical for Sunday morning. Some books look useful in the store, but when brought home, it becomes apparent that only one or two out of twelve pieces will be serviceable. It can be expensive to purchase book after book, only to use a few arrangements from them. 

As an example of how easily these arrangements can be learned, here is a partial video of my first play through of Mary, Did You Know? from this collection. It's certainly not perfect, and needs further work for it to be church-ready, but I have a good start with just sight-reading:

I know that I will be able to use every arrangement in What Praise Can I Play on Sunday? and I definitely plan to purchase the other books in the series to add to my library.  I highly recommend this book to any church pianist looking for a great service music resource.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's Summer!

Summer is my favorite season; I look forward to warm weather, cold drinks, and wearing flip-flops all year long! Due to vacations, weddings, and other important events that often take place at this time of year, my teaching schedule is a little lighter than usual, meaning I have time to plan new and exciting things for next year!

New Student Kits

Several new student interviews are coming up this month, and I've implemented a fun way to welcome them into my studio: 

 I purchased simple, yellow (because it's summer!!!) gift bags from the local Dollar Tree and decorated them with glittery musical notes. I filled each bag with several goodies that will give new students a great start in my studio:

1. Silly Putty

Each kit includes a container of Silly Putty. I have personally used Silly Putty as part of my finger warm-up routine for years, and decided to implement it as part of my students' lessons this year. I created bookmarks with the finger warm-up instructions on them, and laminated them (with my newest studio tool!!!). 

2. Metal Kazoo

Like Silly Putty, kazoos are considered classic toys. It is really important for aural development for students to try singing the melodies and parts that they are learning to play on the piano. Some of my students enjoy singing; others (especially my boys) feel a little self-conscious when they have to sing in front of others. I have used kazoos in the past to put my more timid singers at ease. They LOVE humming melodies into a kazoo!

3. Miniature Animals

Each kit contains 7 animals, one for each letter of the musical alphabet. I have my own set that I use in lessons, and many students have asked if they can keep the animals! Hopefully, my new students will enjoy having their own set at home to use as they explore music and the piano.

4. Small Notebook & Marker

Notebooks are useful for creating reminders and lists during the lesson. Markers are pretty and much more fun to use than a boring, old pencil!

5. Toys

In celebration of summer, I also included a sun-catcher craft kit, bubbles, music themed stickers, and googly-eyed finger puppets. 

I topped off each kit with one of my business cards. 

Other Studio Updates

Inspired by this wonderful season, I freshened up the studio, finished some much needed organizing, and finally hung some pictures and other decorations on the walls!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2015 Spring Piano Recital Photos and Notes

I held my studio's first piano recital jointly with Lewis Music Studio over the weekend. Every student played beautifully. The recital was held at a local church, where they have a lovely baby grand. Here are some of the pictures that my husband captured of the event:

Since it was the spring recital, I printed the programs on vibrantly colored paper. Inside, I presented the  musical program and short autobiographies about each student. They enjoyed telling me what to write about them! I put the programs on music stands at the recital.

After some brief opening comments, the recital began.

My husband took a photo of every student, which I emailed to the parents afterwards. I asked for each parent's permission before posting any pictures of their child.

Each student played one piece. Since only six of my students were able to participate that day, the recital was very short and sweet! It was a perfect length for the young children in the audience. The students collected their awards following the recital and went to the reception. 

This is the only picture that I have of the reception! I'm enjoying ginger ale and grape juice punch with my sister, who graciously helped me bake chocolate chip cookies and brownies for the big event earlier that morning!!!

I'm so proud of each student that participated! All of their hard work paid off! I'm looking forward to the next recital!