I think it's high time I posted an update!! It's been an extremely busy year, so I thought I'd choose one thing to highlight, (and hopefully post more frequently moving forward).
Every summer, I work with my students on the one thing that we never get enough time for during the school year - composing! Last year, we learned about scoring movies. Each student chose a 1-2 minute scene from a movie, we turned off the sound, and they had to write a piano solo to accompany the scene. It was incredibly fun - I've posted a video below for you to watch or skim through if you like. At the very beginning are my very very little students, (we're talking 3-5 year-olds here) moving all the way up to high school and adult ages near the end of the video.
Also a HUGE thanks to my amazing husband who helped me edit this together and even added some graphics - you're the best honey!
I hope you enjoy!
Christmas Sightreading Puzzles
Comment below if you can name the tune!!!
Last week and this week, my students and I had some fun with these wonderful Christmas piano sightreading puzzles, created by Andrea and Trevor Dow from Wunderkeys. First you put the picture together, then you play the notes from left to right for some good sightreading practice. My students were delighted to find that it actually creates a Christmas song! Can you guess the song?
Digital Christmas Cards
Since we had such a great chance to perform in October, this year for Christmas my awesome husband helped me put together some cute graphics for each student to create their own digital Christmas cards to send out!
We took just a couple of weeks to put together some fun Christmas carols, I staged the piano for Christmas a little early, and we recorded during one of their lessons. Most recorded before Thanksgiving so that their parents could have plenty of time to send the cards to family and friends.
They turned out so cute! I wish so badly that I could remember the teacher who gave me this idea, (I subscribe to more teacher bloggers than I can count).
2021 Composer Recital
Last month we had an incredible recital where each student got to perform a piece that they composed during their 2021 summer lessons! Families in my studio know that I handle summer a little differently - instead of having weekly lessons or taking all three months off, (talk about a great way to atrophy!) Each student schedules six, one-hour lessons throughout the summer at a time that works for them. So each family can schedule around their vacations, camps, and other summer activities. During those lessons, the students and I dive into music theory by learning to write our own pieces! By no means do I consider myself much of a composer, but each year I have challenged myself to follow the exact same steps as my students in order to write a piece myself.
By the end of the summer, each student gets a copy of their own printed piece with either their original artwork on the front, or, (for kids like me who do not enjoy drawing!) they can choose a free-domain image that they feel fits the theme of their piece.
Once we begin lessons in the fall, it's time to learn our own compositions! This may seem like an unnecessary step from the outside looking in - but trust me! Even when you write the song yourself - you're going to need time to learn it. Many of my students and I figured out quickly this year that it is often easier to write a piece than it is to play it proficiently! Some students wrote well beyond their own lesson book level.
After taking the time in September to learn each of our pieces, it was time to put on a recital! Each student had the chance to perform their own compositions in front of family and friends, see the others who worked on the same thing, and even enjoy a cupcake afterwards. It was my favorite recital so far!
Below are some pictures that I got of our setup before the recital, as well as a pdf image showing a few of the student compositions! We had eighteen performers in all, and I wish I had gotten more pictures!
November 19th, 2021
Piano lessons really do reach beyond just learning how to play music! There are so many valuable life-lessons and skills that we learn along the way as a result of the work that we do. For example, in this game by Nicola Cantan with Colourful Keys, one of my students and I this week learned about developing a "Grit-and-Growth" mindset where it's ok to make mistakes and we don't have to be too hard on ourselves when something goes wrong. Thing go wrong all of the time in piano and in life, and it's all about improving our recovery time and using mistakes as positive learning opportunities:)
It's a fresh new school year! This year my studio has experienced a lot of little updates and upgrades, and it only gets better every year. I'm also so grateful to my students and families for sticking with me while we made the transition to a new location in town!
Over the summer, my students took their composing game to a whole new level by each writing their very own compositions, designing their covers, and titling each piece. This year, (for those students like me who have zero interest in drawing or painting) we also had the option of choosing a free-domain photo or artwork to place on the front. Each composition is on their way into the printer and will be out and ready for pictures shortly! In addition to spending more time on music composition this summer, everyone will also have the chance to perform their piece this fall for a recital! I can't wait to see them show off their stuff! Since composing was such an incredible experience this year, I'll be making it a tradition in my studio that students will compose every summer with me. It was an incredible way to limit their needed practice time at home, keep them all brushed up on their music theory, AND have a little more room for creativity during lessons.
Last year we also introduced a new program in my studio called Piano Maestro by JoyTunes. Within the program, students can learn songs by following digital sheet music with technology that can give them real-time feedback with what notes or rhythms they missed, etc. It's truly an incredible program, and quite a few of my students are absolutely hooked. We've used it as a supplemental learning system in my studio so far, and it's been a phenomenal addition.
One of my favorite things about starting a new season are incentive programs! This quarter I'll be separating into three month-long separate incentive programs in order to theme them to each holiday. For the month of September, we're using Teach Piano Today's Western-Themed incentive program where each student has a wanted poster up in my studio, specified tasks to do during practice time at home each week, and if they make it through each task before the end of September then I owe them their favorite candy bar! It's simple, but a lot of fun so far. The kids seem really motivated to earn those candy bars, and having a short-term practice goal seems to have put it into a bite-sized piece for them to handle more successfully. I'm excited to see how they do with it in the coming weeks.
The last thing incorporated in my private piano studio this year has been our Colourful Keys Piano Practice Kits. Each piano family receives one bag with all of the materials for six different practice-time games for them to keep and use at home. After listening to her podcast, Nicola Cantan really sold me on her ideas to gamify practice time, and I can't wait to hear back from each family on this idea. I hope that it both takes the "bore" out of practice, and maybe even makes it a little less of a struggle at home when parents try to get their kids to sit at the piano.
Last but not least - I got to start group preschool piano lessons! A big shout-out to Evanston Alliance Church for allowing me to use a room for classes, and to the wonderful Music for Little Mozarts and The Playful Piano's Vivaldi Music Camp curriculum. There's still a lot of room for more enrollment in these classes, but this summer we got a great start and the ball is rolling!
Stay tuned for more fun posts about this year's goings-on in my studio, and be sure to check out the recital post after October.
Best Laid Plans at Christmastime
What a wonderful time of year! As I've mentioned during previous holiday seasons, I think piano lessons and Christmas go together like peanut butter and jelly. I love organizing content that my students can enjoy every year, and this year was no exception.
While we did get to some of the fun holiday-themed activities, and every student learned a Christmas song or two, the plans I was most excited for were thwarted, (including cute pics of students playing Christmas-themed games - my favorite!) My husband tested positive for COVID-19, and we were immediately put on quarantine. That was Monday afternoon of this week, and next week is Christmas.
Really though, we're very lucky. My hubby and I are in good shape, he's handling the virus just fine, and after the new year I will see my students again.
To share the happier things - I have got to show you guys these beautiful books I had planned to gift my students with this week. Created by Jennifer Boster from The Playful Piano, the Shades of Sound Christmas book is a beautiful and festive way to enjoy the best parts of the season by listening to Classical Christmas Music and coloring a picture that is themed with each song! I was able to get a steal of a deal on printing these at my local print shop, and they turned out beautifully! Now they'll be getting a Christmas-themed book...in January. Really wishing I had purchased the New Years' themed ones instead now... ah well. The best laid plans and all that.
Moving forward and trying not to think about the holiday fun that we missed, I also started a new incentive program for my students this quarter that has been a huge hit so far. (And apparently this is my piano quarter featuring Jennifer Boster because she was the creator of this next thing as well!)
This quarter, each student is on a treasure hunt! Each week, if they made their practice goals then they get to progress to the next location on the treasure map up in my studio. They also get a couple of coins from a treasure chest and get to choose a prize! At the end of the quarter, if they have made it to the red 'X' on the treasure map, they get to have one whole piano lesson filled with only piano games! I'll be lesson planning a lot to make sure that each student will be choosing from games that are appropriate for their particular needs. So far, the kids are having a lot of fun with the map and the coins, and their consistency with practice has gone up considerably! It's an all-around "win!" for everyone! Ok, I'm sure that's about enough exclamation points to convey my excitement in one paragraph:)
With a great incentive program in place and a lot of hope for 2021, here's to the new year and new beginnings!
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What an amazing start to a fall quarter! I was honestly concerned that it would be a difficult year for piano due to Covid-19, but I’ve been blessed in Evanston, Wyoming to be able to stay open and offer a combination of in-person and online lessons as needed for families who feel more comfortable with that option. And after a summer of massive professional development, I’ve actually gained three out-of-state students who will now have a permanent spot in my online studio. What an exciting time to teach piano! I know that not everyone has been able to have such a positive year, and I hope to do whatever I can to help raise our spirits a little amidst all of this difficulty. I really believe that music and playing music can help us get through the most difficult of times, and I hope that teaching piano to these kids can provide them with a good emotional outlet and a little bit of enjoyment while navigating all of the restrictions at school and during extracurriculars.
Here’s a little update about what we’ve been doing lately in my studio! Pictured below is my new practice incentive board. The charts at the top are for my studio-wide Note Speed competitions, which includes both my online and in-person students. Below that are each of my in-studio student’s ice cream cones. For every week that they accomplish their practice goal, the student gets another scoop on their cone. By the end of fall quarter, if they’ve made their goal of at least seven ice cream scoops on top of the original scoop, we’ll have a little in-studio icecream party during their last lesson of the quarter! I got this idea and cute printable ice cream cones off of laytonmusic.wordpress.com, and it’s genius!
Another thing I’ve worked hard to incorporate this year is engaging materials for my online piano students. With a great music theory computer game found online at topmusic.co, here is one of my kiddos in Utah getting to work on his ledger lines during the last few minutes of his lesson:
In addition to great online materials this year, I’ve made a huge effort to map out the year by creating individualized lesson plans. One blanket characteristic of these lessons is that they all tie into the season and appropriate holidays! September may not have very many “big” holidays, but I was able to find some fantastic materials on wunderkeys.com to tie our lessons into “Talk Like A Pirate” day! Pictured below are some of the fun materials we got to use for that. This week we’ve been doing many Fall themed activities, (all chosen at appropriate learning levels for each student) and next week we’ll be diving into Halloween themed lessons all month! (Can you tell I’m a Halloween fan?)
If you read this post and you’re interested in signing your child up for piano lessons, please contact me through this website, or visit the “schedule” tab where you can click to schedule your free trial lesson!
Hello, and welcome back! As promised, I do have some pictures and commentary on some of the student compositions from this summer.
Just as a quick recap, I read about a wonderful idea on laytonmusic.wordpress.com where she had her students write their own songs, design their own cover art, then take the music to the local print shop where they were able to create beautiful pieces of sheet music. This project turned out absolutely beautifully in my studio this summer, and was by far my favorite summer piano project we’ve ever done. It was such a hit that I’ve decided we’ll definitely be doing it again next summer, and I already have plans in the works to make it an even better experience for the students.
Since I teach students of many different ability levels, each composition lesson turned out extremely unique, and as a result the lesson planning for this project turned out to be pretty varied and nuanced. I learned a lot along the way, and hope to do even better next summer when I have my students sit down to write a song.
I just have to say that each student really tapped into their creativity here. One student who composed a song entitled Wizards included a measure where five consecutive notes are played simultaneously, (which to me sounds like a wizard casting a spell!) Another student decided that after writing one line of melody, he wanted the next section to be the same thing - but backwards! This led to the song Topsy Turvy. Each created their own beautiful artwork for the front, and I couldn't be more proud!
Summer 2020 Update
If What a fantastic summer it has been! We still have a couple of lessons to go before my students begin the typical piano year, (starting in September) but I thought I would post a few pics of the fun we have had so far.
For those of you who have seen my policies, you'll notice that I do things a little differently during the summer. Instead of the typical, weekly 30 minute lessons, every piano student schedules five, one-hour long lessons at any time throughout the months of June, July and August. This way, families can schedule around vacations, and students still have some consistency with their lessons - so we're not playing catch-up in the fall. One hour may seem like a long time for piano, but in fact these lessons are structured differently, and most of the time I hear my students saying, "Wow! That's it? That was a whole hour?"
If you recall from my last post, this summer I allowed my students to choose a "focus" for their summer studies, including options such as music composition and music history.
I also chose a theme for each of their five lessons, each being tailored to the student's specific needs:
Lesson 1: Music History, (we learned about Vivaldi using classicsforkids.com)
Lesson 2: Irish Piano Pack, (found on theplayfulpiano.com)
Lesson 3: Music composition, (each student wrote their own piece and drew/colored a cover page to have printed into a professional looking piece of sheet music
Lesson 4: Reading Lead Sheet, (using resources from teachpianotoday.com)
Lesson 5: Music Theory, (we'll be putting together a recipe using music theory - and at the end get to make orange Julius out of it!)
For about 20-30 minutes, the student and I work on their chosen "focus." I spend a lot of time planning each lesson specifically for that child. For the remaining 30-40 minutes, we spend time on the theme for that lesson.
So far, most of my students are approaching lesson #4. I currently have their compositions and pictures from lesson #3 at the print shop, (pictures to come).
In the meantime, here are a few pictures of our lessons so far!
Lesson #1 - Music History. During the lesson pictured, my preschool-aged, (and will be in kindergarten this year) student learned about Vivaldi's four seasons and got to read a story about the fairies of "Tempo Forrest" where we learned about tempo phrases and other pieces of music theory. When she was finished, she got to decorate her own fairy wings!
Vivaldi's Four Seasons lesson plan found on: www.theplayfulpiano.com/?product=vivaldis-four-seasons-preschool-piano-camp
Below is a picture of one of the pieces of artwork a student did for the cover page of the song he wrote during Lesson #3: