And the winner is…

Sylvia! Congrats, Sylvia, you are the winner of the complete studio theme decor package for the Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme!

As a special thanks to all who participated in the drawing, I’m offering all Music Matters Blog readers a $10 off coupon for any item in the Music Matters Blog store. The code is good through the remainder of June. Just select the item of your choice before July 1 and enter the code: SUMMER17

Last Day to Enter to Win the Studio Display Package for the Vanishing Voices Practice Incentive Theme

If you’re still looking for something fresh and inspirational to use with your students this fall, tomorrow is the last day to enter the drawing to win the complete studio display package for the new Vanishing Voices studio practice incentive theme. Everyone who purchases the theme by tomorrow at 12:00 noon (CST) will be entered in the drawing!

Whack-It!

You should see students’ faces light up when I pull out our mini whackers and tell them that we are going to play Whack-It! at their lesson! This is by far one of the studio favorites! There are a lot of variations (several of which are included in 5 for Fun! Games and Activities for the Private Piano Lesson), but Alyssa and I came up with a new version that we’ve been having a blast playing the last couple of weeks.

Instead of me calling out the note name and her whacking the correct flashcard, I let her look over the cards and call out a note name, then I try to whack it before she does. We’ve done this several times now and she gets faster and faster at figuring out the note names. And of course she loves beating me to the flashcard!


Even though I don’t do a lot of summer lessons, this is such a great time to have fun focusing on mastering note names and any other theory concepts without the same pressure we often have during the year of learning and preparing repertoire for performances.

Piano Camp in Pictures, Part Two

As I continue my summer cleaning process here on Music Matters Blog, it’s been fun coming across these old post drafts. I have no idea why this one never got posted, but here are some [nostalgic for me!] pictures of one of our first summer piano camps! We used the simple Piano Camp Lesson Plans, but had a ton of fun learning and making music together!

View part 1 of the pictures from our summer piano camp here.







Piano – The Book

This beautiful, interactive ebook has accomplished what no other iPad game or resource has yet been able to accomplish – it has gotten me excited about using the iPad with my students in their lessons! As much as I love technology, I confess that although I’ve wanted to figure out ways to incorporate it effectively in my teaching, there just hasn’t been anything compelling enough to motivate me to make it happen yet.

Piano – Evolution Design & Performance by David Crombie has changed all that! From the minute I downloaded and opened the ebook on my iPad, I was drawn in by the gorgeous images, accompanied by related audio files. Students always seems astonished when I first inform them that the piano didn’t always exist. 🙂 I love introducing them to the piano’s predecessors, showing them pictures of ornate harpsichords, explaining the contrasting action, and letting them listen to a demo of a harpsichord sound on the studio Clavinova. Now, I’m super excited to be able to open up this ebook on my iPad, show them the full color images and listen to quality audio recordings as we discuss the history of the piano.

You can also explore the evolution of electric pianos, peruse myriad styles of pianos (ever heard of the rocking piano?!), learn how the action works in upright and grand pianos, find out about the history of dozens of piano houses, and even discover some of the science behind how sound is generated. So fun!

Can you tell I love this ebook? I don’t receive a penny for any sales from it, but highly recommend it to every piano teacher, student, and enthusiast as a go-to resource for information about this magnificent instrument. You can view additional screenshots and download it from the iTunes website.

You may also want to check out David Crombie’s World Piano News website for all-things piano:

What incredible resources we piano teachers have at our fingertips!

Activate the Brain!

I love to attend workshops or participate in courses that really make me think. You know, ones where the presenter shares fascinating research or information, and then you have to process it yourself and figure out what to do with that information, or how to apply it to your situation. Sometimes it’s also nice to have people who have thought through the information for you and are willing to share how they’ve implemented it effectively in a variety of scenarios. Well, in her “Activate the Brain!” online course, Jennifer Foxx does both!

The course includes 11 modules and several sets of bonus resources, including a fillable pdf so you can take notes as you watch each video. Here are some highlights from the first few modules:

Module 1: Introduction
This has a hilarious video clip that will resonate with every teacher and parent!

Module 2: Activate the Brain!
Drawing on the research of several neurological specialists and educators, Jennifer gives an overview of the different parts and functions of the brain. She reveals how the reticular activating system may be the culprit when you attempt to review something with a student only to have them respond, “you never taught me that.” [Sound familiar to anyone else?? :-)]

She goes on to share how stress impacts a student’s ability to learn and then gives many practical tips that teachers can use in piano lessons. I appreciated the reminder of the importance of review for making neurological connections in the brain. Jennifer ends Module 2 with a “Recipe for an Engaged Brain” that provides lots of great food for thought!

Module 3: Bloom’s Taxonomy and the National Core Music Standards
Developed in 1956, Bloom’s Taxonomy laid the foundation for future educational philosophies and standards. Jennifer gave an overview of the triangle, explaining each part in more detail:

  • Remembering – Can the student recall the information?
  • Understanding – Can the student explain concepts?
  • Applying – Can the student use the information in a useful way?
  • Analyzing – Can the student distinguish between different parts?
  • Evaluating – Can the student justify a decision?
  • Creating – Can the student make something new?

Jennifer emphasized that while these are arranged as a triangle, there is no hierarchy in the relationships of each aspect of learning. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a theory, and as music teachers we should experiment and consider our own findings. After this, Jennifer went through the National Common Core Music Standards, sharing ideas and examples for each one.

As you can see, this Activate the Brain course is a wonderful combination of both learning philosophy and practical ideas to implement in your teaching. Just to whet your appetite, here are the remaining module topics:

  • Module 4: What is Engaged Learning?
  • Module 5: Teacher and Student Roles
  • Module 6: Learning Styles
  • Module 7: Teaching Styles, Strategies, and Techniques
  • Module 8: Create An Invitation to Learn
  • Module 9: Characteristics of Age Groups
  • Module 10: Over 30 Ways to Check for Understanding and Engagement
  • Module 11: Recap and Conclusion

If you’re looking for a way to continue your own education (from the comfort of your home!) and get the “wheels” spinning to come up with new ideas and approaches to try with your students, Activate the Brain would be a great course to take over the summer! And to make it an even sweeter deal, Jennifer is offering a special coupon code for all Music Matters Blog readers. Use the code ENGAGEDLEARNING to receive 15% off the course between now and June 30, 2017.

Playground Time!

Have you seen Kristin’s Piano Teacher’s Playground?

This is one of my favorite stops for fun, colorful, yet clean-looking free worksheets to use with my piano students. In fact, since our Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme incorporated doing a theory worksheet every three weeks to earn Mental Miles, I used her Scale Detective, Identifying Half and Whole Steps, and Spot the Note worksheets with multiple students throughout the year. I am always so grateful for the creativity and generosity of the music education community and the devoted teachers who make resources like this available for everyone!

Vanishing Voices is Here and You Could Win a Complete Studio Display Package!

Every year around this time I release our latest studio Practice Incentive Theme, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as I am this year! Vanishing Voices: a musical race against time! is one of the most successful themes we’ve ever done in our studio.

I have seen every student grow so much both in musical skills and in their awareness and appreciation of the rich musical heritage we’ve been given by dedicated composers throughout history. We incorporated several principles of Classical education into the theme and experienced great results; namely, memorization and repetition. Have you ever asked your student what a scale is only to have them fumble for the words to express what you thought was clear to them? Or what about rhythm? Or an interval? In the Vanishing Voices theme, every three weeks students are given (or select) a new set of musical terms to memorize and/or review so that by the end of the year they can clearly articulate the definitions of dozens of musical concepts. It is so vital for them to have a good working vocabulary as a foundation for building a stronger understanding of music and the ability to play well.

At the same time, students are developing rhythm and sight-reading skills while earning Meter Miles, becoming fluent in scales while earning Muscle Miles, learning to put their knowledge in writing while earning Mental Miles, and practicing every day to earn Music Miles. To top it off, students can rack up hundreds of Bonus Miles with a variety of additional options that they can have fun accomplishing on their own. It has been a blast to watch the students excitedly calculate their mileage in order to travel to various countries and collect composers to add to their Composer Portfolio, trying to make it to each one before they…vanish!

I am indebted to cartoonist, Ben Lansing, author of the fabulous book, Bigwigs of Classical Music, for generously allowing me to use his composer caricatures for the Vanishing Voices theme. Aren’t these such fun drawings?!

Now…for the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Everyone who purchases the Vanishing Voices studio practice incentive theme between now and 12:00 noon (CST) Saturday, June 24, will be entered in a drawing to win a free complete set of all the studio display materials (that includes a 54″x36″ world map, 35 composer portraits for the wall gallery, timeline and marker, extra laminated student airplane markers, wall verses, and laminated composer and mileage charts!). If you’re looking for something new and fresh to start this fall that will keep your students excited and motivated throughout year, this may be just what you need!