Sample Lesson Note Template

Leila Veiss has written a wonderful post about the “Apps I Use at Every Lesson” that relate to the business side of studio operations. One of the listed apps is Evernote, but she also includes with it a Sample Lesson Note Template that is fabulous!

I love the Glossary of Terms section, especially the brief explanation of what “Learn” and “Master” mean (I guess my students aren’t the only ones that seem confused by what I really meant when I told them to learn a particular piece or portion thereof… :-)). I also really like her Progress Score numbers and explanations. What a great tool for maintaining consistency and providing tangible instruction and feedback for each lesson!

Skype and Three Other Solutions for Snow Days!

Our area has received an inordinate amount of snow in the last week so we’ve had a couple of snow days. Whenever my students ask if I’ll be teaching I tell them that my philosophy is that I don’t have to go anywhere so I’ll gladly teach anyone who wants to come for a lesson. 🙂 However, I know that sometimes it’s not safe or desirable to traverse the icy roads to make it to a piano lesson, so it’s nice to have some other options in place. Plus, I have a number of rural students who were literally snowed into their homes and couldn’t make it out the driveway. Since I don’t offer refunds or make-up lessons, it’s nice for families to know that our studio has other possibilities available to them for these types of situations. Here are some possibilities:

1. Skype (or Facetime for those who have Apple products) – This is definitely the most ideal alternative for those who can’t make it to the studio. I usually use the Skype app on my iPod Touch, but you can also download a free desktop/laptop version which makes this a great option for almost any family!

2. Phone Call – Yeah, this feels pretty 20th Century now, but I actually did give a lesson over the phone yesterday. The internet went out for one of my families, so the kids put their cordless on the speaker phone setting and then propped it on the piano.

3. Instant Messaging -Yes, we’ve actually resorted to this a few times for lessons when we were having sound issues with the video chat. Obviously it doesn’t work for listening to the student play, but you can at least touch base with them, go over assignments, and answer questions. Plus, this is a fun way to invest in your relationship with students and get to know them better!

4. E-mail – Sometimes just putting together an e-mail with some specific suggestions and assignments for the student for the following week can be helpful so they have some direction for their practicing. Even a little bit of accountability and focus like this can help students maintain a regular practice routine.

The bottom line is that I want to be available for my students in any way I can during their lesson time. How do you handle snow days? Any other creative ways you’ve found to teach lessons?

Giveaway of New Moosic Studio Management App – a $39.99 Value!

Check out the latest studio management app – Moosic Studio! Compatible with iPad ios 5.0 and later, this app is designed to make student information, billing, and other studio management issues a breeze. Check out the full list of features at the iTunes store.

Now for the best news…you can win a free download of this brand new app! Just leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing to win a coupon code for a free download. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Thursday, March 7, 2013.

Off to the Slopes!

It will be another quiet week here on Music Matters Blog because the studio is closed while I’m in Colorado enjoying the snowy slopes! In the meantime you might be interested in checking out a series of posts I wrote last year on Teaching Tips from Snowboard School:


Part 1 – Be a Pro

Part 2 – Give Students a Vision of Success

Part 3 – Plan a Systematic Approach

Part 4 – Build Confidence By Teaching Mastery of Fundamental Skills

Part 5 – Provide Ample Time for Individual Practice

A Picture and a Video and a Quote (or Two)

After our fabulous weekend in Kansas City, my students and I thoroughly enjoyed our first experience participating in the Multi-Piano Concert! We got back late Sunday evening, so I’ve been scrambling to get everything done this week and thus the blog has been a bit quiet. However, I thought I would share with you a picture from the weekend and a couple of quotes I came across in a TED video I watched last night.

Aren’t they a great-looking bunch of students?!

One of the organizations that I follow is Character First.They send out a monthly e-newsletter that always has great articles and insights into how to address character in your own life and in your work with others. One of their leaders, Dr. Nathan Mellor, recently spoke at TEDxOU in a presentation called, Listen Up, Corporate America: Less Rules, More Character.

One of my aims as a piano teacher is to provide an environment where good character is promoted and praised. I’ve mentioned this before, particularly in the post, “Teaching Students to Play Beautifully,” but it’s a constant challenge to determine the best way to teach students with this in mind. Videos like the following one provide lots of thought-provoking insights and illustrations:

Here are a couple of the quotes that I really like:

“Your job should not define you, but the way you do your job reveals who you are.”

“Actions reveal beliefs. If you desire to change actions, you must challenge beliefs.”

In particular, a realization of the first quote was the impetus behind the character evaluation that students are required to complete at the beginning of each lesson as part of our Project 28 studio practice incentive theme this year. This has been a very helpful tool, but I still want to do a better job of encouraging students to view their piano practicing and lessons as an opportunity to develop good character that will transfer into every area of their lives!

4 Reasons to Choose Music Courses in London – Guest Post by Jenny Pilley

“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” ~Lao Tzu

Many of us choose a university based on a few factors; the course, the potential for job success and the location. If further education is something you are considering this year then start looking now at what is available and what can give you the best start in a career. If location plays a big factor for you then London may well be the ideal place for you to start looking at continuing your education. So, what has London got to offer that many other places don’t?

1. Location: London offers so much more than other major cities due to its infrastructure. With a social buzz at every corner, channeling this in the right way can open doors and provide you with a major advantage.

2. Music Scene: Without a doubt, London is one of the world’s music capitals. It’s the ideal place to start your music career, to network, play and get into the industry. London is also where many of the top labels, studios, and management companies are housed. As well as hosting all the major stars, London has an incredibly vibrant and diverse music scene. On any given night you can check out acts from the four corners of the globe in every style imaginable. Whether that be the newest grime act in East London, legendary Jazzers at Ronnie Scotts, cutting edge alternative bands in Camden or some delectable soul in a super cool club.

3. Population: London is known for being a bustling city with so much diversity in terms of culture, food and style, but this makes it all the more exciting to be part of. University is about meeting people and interacting with a whole range of groups and there is no better city to do this than London. Also, the more people there are the more chance you have of meeting someone who can help you get a head start in your career. Yes there is also more competition, but the endless opportunities to learn about the industry, network and perform, are the reasons why aspiring musicians choose the capital city.

4. Work Potential: We all know that people are still struggling to find work in the current climate, but whilst in education why not take advantage of the opportunity to undertake work experience if it becomes available. With the various places that may be willing to take on undergraduates for short spells, it may mean you get a taste of the music industry whilst still at university, helping you decide which area of the sector you want to work in when you graduate. There are so many different things to consider, but for this industry you need to be in the heart of the action and there you have it, 4 reasons to choose London as the place for learning about and becoming part of the music industry.

This post was written by Jenny Pilley on behalf of Tech Music School – an established music college ( based in the heart of London.

Tech Music School is our newest advertiser here on Music Matters Blog and we are grateful for their support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send me an e-mail and I’ll let you know about our advertising packages.

Countdown to California!

…because that’s where I’ll be headed in a month for the 2013 MTNA Conference!

Thanks to MTNA, I’ll be live-blogging the conference again this year so that anyone who can’t attend in person will still be able to catch a glimpse of all the wonderful presentations virtually.

Also, if you are planning to attend the conference and are interested in being part of a group meetup, please send me an e-mail and I’ll make sure you’re in the loop as we make plans to get together!

It’s always fun to start looking over the conference sessions and start selecting the ones I’d like to attend. There’s such a variety of different topics; I try to be diverse in my choices so I can learn and grow as a musician and teacher as much as possible. Here are the ones I have starred so far:

  • Advanced Piano Master Class by Peter Mack, NCTM
  • Piano Technique/Young Artists “Right From The Start” by Nancy Bachus, NCTM
  • Ten Steps to Parnassus: The Works of J.S. Bach by Erin K. Bennett, NCTM; Siok Lian Tan, NCTM; and Richard G. VanDyke, NCTM
  • Intermediate Piano Masterclass by Ingrid Clarfield, NCTM
  • Keyboard Improvisation: Creating A Flow In Worship Music by Mark Hayes
  • Music Pathways In The Brain: From Sound To Movement To Learning by Kay S. Hooper; Lois Svard, NCTM
  • Inspired Uses Of The iPad In Your Studio by Mario Ajero, NCTM; Shana Kirk; George F. Litterst; Stella Branzburg Sick, NCTM
  • Developing A Sense For Rhythm And Timing With Latin American Piano Pieces by Alejandro Cremaschi, NCTM
  • Northern (De)Lights: Introducing The Intermediate Piano Music Of Carl Nielsen by Stephen Thomas, NCTM

Learning from Great Teachers of the Past

Reading about the great pedagogues of years gone by is one of my favorite aspects of the music education magazines I receive. In the February/March 2013 issue of the American Music Teacher magazine, there is an interesting article by Arjola Miruku about Tobias Matthay. Here are just a few of the insights that inspired me about his teaching:

“His teaching approach can be described as one of analysis with the idea that playing the piano does not have to be a struggle.”

“According to Matthay, good teaching makes students think, not just imitate the musical interpretation of the instructor.”

“Many accounts by his students have agreed to state that he never let the student work it out on his own in practice. He was an immediate problem solver, and with endless patience, made sure the student could demonstrate a passage the correct way in the lesson and show an understanding of the problem, so that he could then correctly practice.”

“Good teaching will help all students attain musical goals that they thought they never could reach.”

Great Composers and Their Music: Lapbook and Biography Sets

Have you seen the collection of composer lapbook and biography sets that Joy Morin, of the Color in My Piano blog, has created and made available in her store? What a fabulous and memorable way to teach music history to students and/or children! Growing up, I loved to create my own lapbooks to document and share the things I had learned in various subject areas, so the prospect of using this approach to teach about composers and their music is very appealing to me.

Joy uses these as the curriculum for her homeschool music appreciation class – a fabulous approach that I think any homeschool family would love! I can also see using them for a summer piano/music camp or even as an ongoing group class theme throughout the year. There are lots of possibilities!