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!
If your child likes learning instruments the fun way, (now available online and in-person) click below to schedule a free trial lesson:
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!
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:
I'm sure we are all feeling pretty done with reading about the COVID-19, so I'm going to skim past this in about one paragraph! Beginning in March, piano lessons had to take quite a turn as I transitioned into teaching online lessons. Luckily for me, I have some truly incredible piano families who supported me along the way by being very patient with my lack of talent in the "technology" arena. I learned a lot about online piano teaching, have some goals to perfect it further, and somehow even got two out-of-state piano students out of it! Phew! Talk about forced professional development:)
Moving into the summer months, some adjustments will still need to be made due to Covid-19. Luckily, I have been able to proceed with summer lessons somewhat normally, and very cautiously. This is my second summer quarter with the adjusted piano lesson format, (five one-hour lessons scheduled whenever each family would like from June-August instead of weekly 30-minute lessons) and it has been so much fun! This summer, I set up a "Summer Lesson Template" for each lesson, and each is adapted to my individual students. In addition, each student chose a "focus" for us to spend half of the lesson on each time we meet. Here's a quick outline of what we're doing this summer:
Lesson 1: Music History, (learning about Vivaldi's "Spring" from The Four Seasons - lesson found on www.classicsforkids.com)
Lesson 2: Irish Piano Pack, (found on www.theplayfulpiano.com)
Lesson 3: Composition
Lesson 4: Learning to read Lead Sheet
Lesson 5: Music Theory
Each student chose a favorite focus from these four options:
1: Composing Music
2: Music History
3: Learning to play Pop music and lead sheet
4: Learning a challenging song, (choose a piece that is a bit more difficult than what we do during the standard piano year).
Each lesson so far has really taken on its own flavor, and it has been so much fun!
Stay tuned for pics of some of the new and fun online lessons taking place, as well as pics from Summer lesson #5 where we'll be using a little music theory to make Orange Julius!
Hello there! Thanks for stopping by. Today I wanted to share a super quick blog post outlining my process as a teacher during piano lessons and lesson planning.
When I first started teaching piano, I relied heavily upon the lesson books. They are extremely important and not only provide the information that each student needs, but does so in an organized and timely manner. That being said, since then I’ve made a lot of discoveries, and have come to the conclusion that the lesson book should not create the lesson plan for each student. The teacher should.
When I got to about thirty students in Salt Lake City, this became pretty difficult. Even with my much smaller studio of twelve in Evanston, I can tell you that keeping track of everyone and what they need has proven to be a challenge. I want to make sure that each student’s individual personality is being catered to, that I’m effective at getting them the information they need, and that they’re having a good time along the way!
I am not a person that can remember everything about each individual lesson, and that’s why this next resource I’m going to share has been a lifesaver in a lot of ways! Since implementing this into my studio, my lessons have been far more effective and organized, and my brain doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall out.
So if you’re a parent wondering what goes on for me on the “teacher-side” during lessons, or a teacher looking to improve their own studio – this information might be interesting to you.
Found on the following link: https://www.theplayfulpiano.com/?p=113 is a great “Teacher Tracker” that has changed my life! This resource allows me to track the dates each student attended their lessons, (and when they missed if any) keep lesson notes about what I’m working on with that student, list materials needed for the following week, and track tuition owed/payed. I have a separate sheet in a small folder for each student, so I can keep all of their information in one accessible place, and get their printouts or handouts ready for their next lesson.
This resource has helped my lesson planning to come a long ways since I began as a teacher. Instead of just taking things as they came up during the lesson, I’m able to review my notes on each student at the end of the week and make a plan for what we need to cover during the next lesson. Whereas before I may have had a vague idea that “so-and-so” needs to practice their note-reading, I now have a way to plan ahead for that, and a huge library of physical and online resources to support each of these plans. I’m also able to look ahead and notate that, (for instance) during lessons on the week of February 14, each student will have level-appropriate and personalized Valentines Day-themed music activities.
So for those piano parents who sit-in during lessons – that’s what I’m always writing on during the lesson! Outside of the student’s assignment notebook that is.
Thanks for stopping by! Hop on next week to read for information about the Young Musician’s Festival – taking place in Evanston on March 28, and for some helpful information about how to prepare your student for music competitions and adjudications!
Hello! Welcome back. This week I’ll be doing a quick studio news update, reviewing some useful information for my current piano families, and chat a bit about plans for the New Year. I hope you all had a great holiday season, and I’m excited to get these new things up and going!
Student Goal-Setting Binder Insert:
My first thing to show off is a wonderful resource I picked up from the blog The Playful Piano, (https://www.theplayfulpiano.com/?product=piano-goals-worksheet ). Those who take lessons from me quickly learn that this is one of my favorite resources. This month, she shared a Piano Goals worksheet that I’m inserting into each of my student’s binders, (with the exception of my preschool students, since I think this might be a bit mature for them.) It’s a great printable that teaches the importance of setting goals and mapping out an action plan. To some, this is a somewhat new concept, so we’ll be working on it together over the next couple of weeks. Not only does this help the students set their goals and map out a plan, but it also includes space to record what they are already good at. I still have more students to do this activity with, but so far it’s been a really positive thing to spend a few minutes on. I find that, if I’m not careful, it becomes easy to only focus on the elements the student needs to improve upon in their music. This activity has allowed us to press pause on that and identify the things they’re doing right already, which is a positive catalyst into work on their new goals.
I love how piano teaches us more than how to read notes! We learn about goal-setting, time-management, and so much more!
For anyone interested, (or piano parents who's students may have misplaced their goal sheet) here is a copy ;)
If you have missed or know that you will be missing a piano lesson, I have a calendar linked to my website which shows exactly the times at which I’m available to teach. This is also available to you should you wish to reschedule your weekly lesson time and day. If you do not want to go online for either of these reasons, that is completely fine and I’m happy to take a call from you. This is just a nice shortcut to where you can see my schedule right away.
To view the calendar, click the tab above that says “schedule.” Scroll to the button that says “click to schedule a lesson” and click it.
Also, if you’re concerned about scheduling a make-up too close to the standard lesson – let me put your mind at ease. These are my favorite lessons to teach because we get time to do the supplemental material that I feel like I never have time to get to! If I have just a little bit of notice, I will create a lesson plan that will be catered specifically to your child. I have access to several music packs with different themes, fun websites where I can get the student on an activity specific to concepts they’re working on, a TON of music history resources, and other nerdy music teacher stuff.
Piano Facebook Page and Website
My second bit of business is two-fold, and it’s about helping with my online presence. If you’re on Facebook, I have a business page called Piano with Mindee K. If you have not yet liked or shared this page, I would love it if you could! There is also a space to write reviews on my teaching. I often post music jokes, pics and videos of activities we’re doing in my studio, and information I find that can be helpful for parents who want to know how to best help their kids with practice at home. The second half of this is: if you would like to follow my piano teacher blog, I will continue posting supplemental music information that can be fun for the students such as music history, online music theory sites that are fun for kids, things we’re doing in our studio for the month, etc. You can hop on occasionally to read the blog or subscribe. I post once a week.
2020 Spring Recital
Third and final bit of information for now – there is a recital in the works for Spring quarter. So far I have looked into the Presbyterian and Catholic churches in Downtown, Evanston and Mountain Music – just waiting to hear back from a couple of those. I also heard that if we have a small crowd, the library might be able to host. As of right now, we may have as many as ten students for the first recital. I’m open to learning about good recital venues in town if you have any ideas. I’m also a little snobby about recital venues. In the end, we’ll go with what we can get – but it makes a big difference in the whole recital experience for the kids if it can be a somewhat formal, special dealJ. More news on that to come – once I know the venue I’ll send out a poll about which dates and times work best and I’ll be surprised if I can’t find one that works for everyone since there’s so few of us for this first oneJ. After that, I’ll make sure you’re informed of the date and time, what to wear, what to expect, and I will also make sure your kids feel so ready with their songs they could play them in their sleep.
Thanks for reading! Hop on next week to see the quarterly personal assessment sheet and teacher-tracker I’ll be using for 2020. This can give you a good idea for what you’re student is doing in lessons that goes a bit beyond the scope of your typical piano lesson. Talk to you soon!
Below are a few more pictures of some of the goings-on around here over the last week. The baby Yoda pics are courtesy of a sweet set of sisters I teach – one sister and their mom took these while I taught the younger sibling and I couldn’t help but share! Baby Yoda had designs on those muffins I had out for my piano families today, but don't worry - he didn't get away with it:)
The piano popsicle sticks are an activity I tried with one of my preschool piano students to help her identify where all of the ‘C’s’ were on the piano – and it was a huge success! Once she identified the patterns of the keys with the groups of two, she could find each ‘C’ in no time! It also helps that she’s pretty brilliant.
Welcome back! In this blog post, I’ll do a quick recap on December, a tiny preview of my plans for the new year, and shamelessly plug my piano teaching services and encourage you to help me spread the word:D
To start off, December was a great month for piano. This year, I finally added some of the holiday cheer into my teaching that is ever so available through amazing online resources, and had an absolute blast doing it. Some of these turned into such big hits that I’ll be using them again next December, while others will be tweaked and personalized according to the flavor of the students in my studio.
The first thing from this year that I absolutely loved was our Piano Practice Elf, found through the following link:
After an introduction to their practice elf through an adorable short Christmas story, each of my students went home with their very own Piano Practice Elf. The elf, (a cute bookmark with a picture of either Melody or Forte – Santa’s music elves) showed up in a new place in their piano books every day. If the student found their elf and practiced the page, Melody or Forte could then report back to Santa that the student was doing their piano practice! I was so excited to find this idea, and I think the kids really liked it. Before introducing this idea to the kids, I checked with each of my piano parents to make sure this would be something they enjoyed in their homes. What with everyone having an Elf on the Shelf these days, (plus everything else you have to do around Christmas) I didn’t want to stress anyone out. And, at the moment, none of my piano students really know each other – so there was no concern about some families not receiving a practice elf while others did.
I am absolutely kicking myself about the second December treat because I didn’t take a picture of what I did with it! But through the following link: https://www.theplayfulpiano.com/?product=a-merry-musical-christmas-piano-advent-calendar I found a Piano Practice Advent Calendar that added some extra incentive to practice. This project could be adapted in a few ways, but in my studio everyone received small Christmas buckets with chocolate kisses and the days to the advent calendar inside. Each day listed had a different task associated with their practice routine in order to make things a little more interesting and offer some variation in their standard practice routine. (Not to mention, the added incentive to get some chocolate if they practiced that day). While I didn’t get a picture of the cute little buckets before sending them out, I do have a pic of the free printable advent calendar from the website The Playful Piano.
Our third and final bit of piano Christmas cheer comes from the wonderful Susan Paradis. Through her website, (https://susanparadis.com/product/pre-reading-christmas-music/ ) and for only $7.99, I was able to purchase unlimited prints of fun, pre-reading Christmas music for my beginning piano students. At the moment, I have only absolute beginners who are not yet able to read the music on the staff. For these students in particular, being able to play songs they recognize is key in keeping them interested in piano. Finding the appropriate level of said songs can prove to be very difficult, but Ms. Paradis makes it easy! Thanks to her, each of my students were able to take home more Christmas music than we had time to learn, at a level that was very attainable for them to play.
This was, by far, the most successful Christmas season I’ve ever had in my studio, and I honestly can’t wait for next year! So much so that I already have plans in the works for 2020. Seriously. I’m a total nut-job for piano and Christmas.
In addition to planning WAY too far in advance, I’ve also begun the preliminaries for New Year’s songs and activities, Valentines, and a Spring Recital. Stay tuned for more info to come, and, if you like what you read here – jump on board and click below for you or your child's New Year of piano lessons:D
Time to start up again with my piano teacher blog and updates! It’s pretty overdue to be honest, but better late than never.
After a whirlwind of an August, (my husband got a sports announcer job working for My Local Radio in Wyoming and we had to find a place and move within about two weeks!) October came and gave us our first lesson on just how cold it gets here, (a couple of weeks into the month, we actually reached negative seventeen degrees Fahrenheit. Welcome to Wyoming).
Sadly, I had to finish things out with my students in Salt Lake, (that part was hard!) head to Evanston, and establish our new home base. So far, we absolutely love it here and hope to stay for a very long time! We’ve been looking for a place to call a permanent home, and (crossing our fingers!) I think we found it! Ok, I really need to cool it with the exclamation points and parenthesis.
Since moving here, I’ve been able to get a handful of new piano students, and they are absolutely perfect. I’ve been blessed to get some very hard-working and dedicated kids who come to lessons with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn that I believe is largely a credit to their great parents. I’m so excited to keep teaching these amazing kids, growing my studio, and hopefully become a better teacher with every lesson.
This week, as I ease back into my teacher blogging, I thought I’d share a pic of my piano all decorated for Christmas. Hope you’re having a very Merry season and if you haven’t already – make sure to hop onto my Scheduling calendar and sign up for your free trial lesson!
Welcome back! Last time I covered a lot of information regarding the relationship between emotion and music. In the post, I talked about how music can be a wonderful outlet and coping mechanism for musicians and listeners alike. This week, I’m covering the less common topic of: music and its relationship with our memories.
If you think about it, you’ve likely experienced music’s effect on memory every day of your life without really realizing it. For instance, if I said to you: “Charmin Ultra, less is more.” You just might sing it;). People in advertising are very familiar with the concept that music has a remarkable way of helping people remember things. If you ever had to memorize something in school, you may have had a teacher use this technique. (Shout out to the Animaniacs for their songs about the countries, states and capitals when I was in school).
In addition, the brain is essentially a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger its abilities. When someone listens to or plays music, the memory center of the brain lights up completely, (and more so for the musician than for the listener). I taught seven piano lessons today, and I can tell you that this is clearly evident during the lesson. Let me explain:
During a lesson, one of the first things your piano teacher will do with the student is have them “sight-read” the song. This simply means playing at first sight. In my lessons and depending on the student, we generally spend a lot of time looking over the music and determining what to prepare for throughout the song. Once they begin to play, the first time through the piece is generally pretty rough. (As it is for me the first time I play a difficult piece.) Throughout the sight-reading process, the student is absorbing as much information about the piece as they possibly can. The notes, counts, dynamics, articulations, fingering, and tempo are just a few of the things on a student’s mind when they’re doing their first run-through. There’s a lot to absorb. After the first painful time through the piece, I can see the exhaustion manifest itself in each student. In some, they check out and want to do something else, (sometimes halfway through the piece or less) others physically sigh and slump over, announcing “PHEW!”
The truth is, learning a piece takes a lot of brain power, and most of us feel the brain fry! This kind of mental exhaustion is largely due to the fact that the memory center of the brain is working at full capacity. But here’s the cool part: after playing through the piece for the first time, I have my students play it just one more time, (sometimes with a break in-between). From the first time to the second time through, I cannot express just how drastically their ability to play the song increases. It is honestly so much fun to watch. Afterwards, the student always seems much less intimidated by the song and much more ready to go for the week.
Exercising this portion of the brain so efficiently spills into a number of other subjects. In fact, reputable experiments have shown that musicians demonstrate more advanced abilities when it comes to the memorization involved in several academic subjects. Feel free to read my main reference below for this blog post – it goes into further detail with some fascinating examples. To keep this short and sweet, I’ll just let you know that it’s absolutely real and so stinking cool.
Thank you so much for reading this week! Join me next time where I’ll delve into the relationship between music and its effect on, believe it or not, our physical movements! (That is, beyond making us want to dance).
Talk to you soon!