40 Interview Questions for Prospective Piano Students

Years ago I started conducting and interview and evaluation/assessment with every prospective piano student and their parents. This is so helpful in getting to know the families, the individual student, and their musical expectations and aptitude. I’ve recently been coming up with some new questions that I’d like to add to the forms I use, and just came across a list of 40 questions from Yellow Cat Music Education that has some possibilities I’ve never even thought of! These are very thought-provoking and so helpful in establishing clear expectations regarding practice right off the bat. This would actually be a great list to send to parents even before the initial interview so that they have a chance to look over it and think through their level of commitment to their child’s musical studies.

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!

Creativity on the Cutting Edge

Last Friday I presented a session to two of our local music teachers associations. It was titled “Creativity on the Cutting Edge” and dealt with the philosophy and use of mobile technology in the studio. I had a lot of fun putting ideas together for the presentation, and gleaned a lot of inspiration from a book I’ve been reading: Color Outside the Lines by Howard Hendricks.

I’m hoping to share more in detail about the content of the sessions, but I thought I would post some of my favorite quotes from the book thus far…

“Creative behavior begins in the brain of a thinking individual with a desire to cause constructive change.”

“The ability to discover alternatives to a given idea is another capability of the right side of our creative brains.” [Howard Hendricks refers to this as divergent thinking – a fascinating concept!]

“Most people want a guarantee of success. But truly creative individuals will tolerate temporary disorder for the eventual satisfaction of an uncommon result. So be willing to risk and make mistakes. Start on a journey without any control or knowledge of the possible outcome.”

“Never did [Jesus] approach any two evangelistic or educational situations in quite the same way. Creativity was His hallmark.”

Howard Hendricks references Silvano Arieti’s book, The Magic Synthesis, in which he identifies nine socio-cultural ingredients in the “creativogenic” society. One of these is described as “Stress on becoming, not just on being.”

Ever Thought About Adopting a Piano?

Yes, that’s right. Thanks to PianoAdoption.com you can now find a good home for your used piano or search for just the right match for yourself. There is a listing for every state, so you can look for pianos close to you. Obviously it would still be wise to have the piano checked over by a good piano technician (for about $25 my piano technician will give a piano a good look and see how much work and money it will need to get it in good working condition) before hauling it to your house, but this looks like a great resource for families who really need a piano but may not be in a financial position to afford it.

Take Note of this New Blog

Sheet Music Plus has recently launched a new blog called, Take Note. I’m always interested in finding out about new music blogs, but their special Music in Community series especially caught my attention. The first one highlights music teacher Candace Love and the free music school that she runs in San Jose, CA. A fascinating concept!

Take Note is looking for stories about other teachers who are helping the communities around them, and offers a $75 gift certificate to those who are featured in a post. I know there are tons of amazing stories out there, so thought I would pass this on for those interested in submitting a story!

It’s Live!

It’s done! Hooray! My new studio website is now live! (If for some reason your browser shows my old site, just refresh the page.) I still have some areas that I want to improve a bit, but everything appears to be in working order and ready to go. I am so excited and look forward to keeping it updated throughout the year, especially with new videos and photos from our studio happenings. If you look over it and have any input or suggestions, please feel free to let me know!

A Peek Into My New Studio Website

One of my big projects this summer has been developing a new studio website. The old one has served me well, and was the impetus for me getting into web design in the first place. But it’s been sadly out-dated for quite a few years now, and I’ve been wanting to get a new one up and running. After a lot of thought, planning, and work, it’s exciting to be almost done with the new site!

Old Studio Website

I started the process by jotting down ideas in a blank notebook that I use for all sorts of random thinking and planning. My primary objectives were to make it inviting, informative, and inspiring. To make it inviting, I chose a color scheme that correlates with my business cards and also with the color scheme here on Music Matters Blog. To make it informative, I organized my studio policy into a collection of drop-down menus phrased as questions and also included a lot more pictures and aspects of what to expect as part of Natalie’s Piano Studio. To make it inspiring, I used a quote at the top of every page that has been instrumental in shaping my philosophy of life, music, and teaching. I also included more about my students and their various projects and pursuits.

New Studio Website

It was very helpful to refer to the following two web design-related posts by David Cutler on The Savvy Musician blog:

9 Reasons Most Websites Fail

Powerhouse Website Suggestions

Hopefully the whole site will be ready to launch next week! Remember, if you have a studio website you’d like to include on our studio website listing, just contact our Community Manager, Julia, to have your site added.

The Ultimate Music Classroom: Must-Haves for Every Music Educator – Guest Post by Claire Hines

If you’re planning to spend some time this summer revamping your studio and looking for fresh and fun ideas for the fall, you should be able to find some inspiration and helpful resources from this guest post by Claire Hines, of the Fun Music Company.

What does the 21st music classroom need? From music posters and kid-sized instruments to fun music albums, find out how to create the ultimate music experience for students in your classroom.

The Primary Classroom

When you teach young children on a day-to-day basis, your classroom reflects the vibrancy, energy, and life of the young child with colorful music posters on the wall with simple diagrams of music notation to the fun music props and instruments that you use during music time. Classroom materials, from music flash cards to recorded music, need to reflect a fun educational atmosphere.

The primary music classroom centers on kinetic music activities. Line the walls with colorful trunks or bookshelves stocked with essentials like a large rainbow parachute, colorful beanbags, rainbow scarves, puppets, and small percussion instruments like Toca egg shakers. Depending on space available, you may want to invest in child size mats or bright colorful towels for musical movement activities involving dance or yoga.

Stickers, Posters, and More

Posters in every music classroom can change thematically throughout the year. For example, during a jazz unit, posters about jazz instruments like the saxophone or artists like Charlie Parker can help students learn about jazz history. Classical music timelines are helpful for older students learning Western classical music while simple colorful diagrams of the treble clef and basic music theory will help young ones learn their note values.

Stickers and rewards remain an important part of every music classroom. Check out our printable Music Practice Charts and Stickers, meant to inspire and motivate young students to practice. For fun music rewards and toys, check out sites like The Music Stand (http://www.themusicstand.com/) and the Oriental Trading Company (http://www.orientaltrading.com/) or sites like Zazzle (http://www.zazzle.com/), where you can purchase music stickers and posters and upload your own music designs.

Fun music games are instrumental in teaching students new concepts. Flashcards are excellent memory tools for young students and should be a part of any classroom. Fun interactive computer music games and printable music games employ tested techniques, fun graphics, and enjoyable play to help students learn valuable concepts.

Music, Books, and Media

Excellent music books and media abound for youngsters. Enjoy this short list of must-have music titles and recordings.


  • The Wee Sing Songbook Series
  • I make music by Eloise Greenfield
  • Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss
  • Story of the Orchestra (Book/CD) by Robert Levine
  • Lives of the Musicians by Kathleen Krull
  • The Animal Boogie (Book/CD) by Debbie Harter
  • Creepy Crawly Calypso (Book/CD) by Tony Langham
  • Carnival of the Animals: Classical Music for Kids (Book/CD) from Henry Holt and Co.


  • Putumayo Kids Presents: Dreamland – World Lullabies (CD) by Putumayo
  • Putumayo Kids Presents: Kids World Party (CD) by Putumayo
  • Ella Jenkins “Songs Children Love to Sing” (CD) by Ella Jenkins
  • Ella Jenkins “This is Rhythm” (CD) by Ella Jenkins
  • Beethoven’s Wig: Sing Along Piano Classics (CD) by Richard Perlmutter
  • Raffi  “The Singable Songs Collection” (CD) by Raffi
  • Sweet Honey in the Rock “Experience 101” (CD) by Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • Eebee’s Adventures “Music & Sound” (DVD) by Eebee’s Adventures

Musical Instruments

For the primary classroom, classic Orff instruments and fun kid-size drums from Remo and LP give your students a chance to practice simple rhythms, melody, and harmony. The Remo Kids Make Music Too Kit provides small percussion instruments like finger cymbals and a guiro.

Many music educators use the recorder to teach students basics about melody and performance. Finding the right type of recorder for the classroom depends on your use. For schools on a budget, you can find inexpensive (and easily replaced) recorders at an affordable price online like the Yamaha Yrs-20 soprano, or you can opt for more durable versions like the Yamaha YRN-302B.

Yamaha instruments remain an excellent instrument brand for beginning instrumentalists and includes a wide array of brass, woodwind, string, and percussion instruments at affordable prices for most music programs. Yamaha instruments can be purchased directly from Yamaha or from secondary companies worldwide.


Putting together your own music classroom involves some time, preparation, and resources. Create a fun musical zone full of colorful posters and exciting games, flashcards, and music activities.

This is a guest post by Claire Hines from The Fun Music Company. The Fun Music Company creates Music Lesson Plans for music teachers worldwide.

Monday Mailbag – How to Raise Tuition Fees

I have not raised my rates since I began teaching in 2007.  I charge a flat monthly rate, and am considering increasing each month’s payment by $5 starting in Sept.  I find myself worrying about how my families will react to this change, and how I’ll prepare to answer.  I am very involved with MTNA and my local chapter, which I was not 5 years ago, I have more resources at my finger tips, I attend conferences and workshops, and I earned NCTM… not to mention inflation, and the fact that I recently got married and have a hungry husband to feed every day!  I don’t want to go into too many details, but want to stay professional.  Would it be easier if I just increased monthly tuition by a dollar every year?  How do you handle this?  Any advice?

Continuing in the same vein as the last two weeks with a business-related question, I though this one seemed particularly apropos for this time of year as we evaluate and implement changes in our policies for next fall. I’m sure there are lots of different ways to go about raising rates, but I personally think that a brief statement with a reminder of the studio benefits is probably sufficient.

As much as it’s tempting to want to give long-winded explanations (a.k.a. apologies) for rate increases, as you alluded to, the professional approach is to assume that families will understand the rising costs and place enough value on the services and education they are receiving from you to be completely fine with it. A $5/month increase per month seems very reasonable in light of what you are providing for your students. You might want to read this post on Three Simple Questions to Help You Figure Out What to Charge For Lessons for additional ideas. I also encourage you to read the comments on Do Independent Music Teachers Get Sick Days? and Determining Monthly Tuition for some fabulous perspectives from other teachers!

In case it’s helpful, here’s some sample verbiage that I’m using in my studio update this week to inform families about the new studio rates:

The rate for lessons will be increasing from $__/month to $__/month effective September 1, 2012. This will continue to include weekly private 45-minute lessons as scheduled, participation in all studio group classes, recitals, and creative projects, access to the studio lending library, use of studio technology, and opportunity for involvement in many other community festivals and competitions.

If anyone else has input on how to raise tuition rates in your studio, please feel free to offer suggestions!

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!