Circle of 5ths Worksheets

Aha! Several years ago a friend gave me a copy of a Circle of 5ths worksheet that she found somewhere on the Internet. I searched for it several times and never found it. Until today! Hot off the web from

This is one of the best Circle of 5ths worksheets I’ve seen and I’ve used it numerous times with my students. There are two separate worksheets – one for treble clef and one for bass clef. Check them out here:

Treble Clef Circle of 5ths

Bass Clef Circle of 5ths

OWP Guide

Several years ago, I spent the whole summer working at an out-of-state camp, so I was unable to give lessons to my students. I put together little packets for them with a bunch of things they could work on on their own. I included four of these little OWP Guide cards (copied onto brightly colored paper) and they were suppose to fill them out and turn them in at their first lesson in the fall. The OWP stands for One Week Piece. They could pick any weeks during the summer, but I wanted them to learn at least four pieces on their own. This was a practical way to help them think through the details of each piece they chose to learn.

I also keep a collection of these in my “Extra Credit Notebook” for students who want to do something on their own in addition to the assignments I give them. It’s been a great little tool to have on hand in my studio!

Click here or on the above image to download the file with these OWP Guides (there are four on each sheet of 8.5 x 11″ paper).

Fun Practice Incentive!

Climbing the Ladder to Success!

Each year I develop a unique practice incentive for my studio. I spend the month of August, among other things, working out the details of the incentive so that we’re ready to roll when I start teaching again in September. While a structured incentive program isn’t the sure-fire cure for lack of practicing, I have found it to be incredibly motivational to many of my students. It gives them a goal to shoot for and keeps them enthusiastic about progressing in their musical abilities. Plus, I love having something new to do each year! It helps keep me enthusiastic! 🙂

Over the years, I’ve had a number of people request that I make these practice incentive programs available for purchase, so I’ve decided to give it a try. Last year’s practice incentive – Climbing the Ladder to Success – was one of my students’ favorites, so I’ve compiled all of my materials into one packet that will be easy to implement in any music studio.

Here’s a brief overview of the Climbing the Ladder to Success Practice Incentive Packet (this is what I included in my summer newsletter last year to announce the new practice incentive for the year):


* A ladder with ten rungs is displayed on the studio wall.
* For every ten pieces a student learns, they will advance to the next rung of the ladder.
* In order to qualify, each piece must be played excellently: note and rhythm accuracy, continuity, dynamics, articulation, phrasing, balance, voicing, etc. as appropriate for the student’s level of ability.
* Out of the ten pieces, at least two must be memorized.
* Out of the ten pieces, up to one is allowed to be an original composition.
* Out of the ten pieces, up to one is allowed to be a lead line/fake book arrangement.
* Out of the ten pieces, up to two are allowed to be an improvised hymn accompaniment.
* Out of the ten pieces, the student may select two to three to be recorded and burned onto a CD.


All of this practicing, perfecting and recording experience will pay off next May when students have the opportunity to take a trip with me to a professional recording studio! In order to be part of the group that is invited to participate in this special event, each student will have to demonstrate a commitment to work diligently throughout the year. To measure this in a tangible way, students will have the opportunity to earn DILIGENCE DOLLARS (DD) at each lesson. (see below for specific ways to earn DD.) It will cost each student $250 DD to participate in the recording studio trip. DD will be tracked each week on the assignment page in a checkbook register format (this way no one has to worry about losing anything!).
Once at the recording studio, each student may play and record one piece of their choosing. These will then be compiled and burned onto a CD. Each student will receive their own copy of the CD.


Students may earn DILIGENCE DOLLARS each week at their lesson as indicated below:
1. All books present at the lesson=$1
2. Practice record filled out and signed=$1
3. Each assignment from the previous week that is completed=$1
4. Practicing at least 5 days in one week=$1
5. Practicing all 7 days in one week=$4
6. Learning a new piece on your own and playing it excellently=$3
7. Participating in a group class, recital, festival or other qualifying music event=$5

The details of the practice incentive are easy to adapt to each studio. I’ve included in my packet the wall display materials and all the custom designed pages that were compiled into each student’s Assignment Book so that they could track their progress from week to week. The packet includes 13 files and 2 pictures and is available for immediate download following payment. Purchase of the packet includes the right to make as many copies of each document as you need for your studio. The total cost of the packet is $12. This is the first time I’ve tried this and I’ve attempted to include everything necessary so that individual teachers have a ready-made, practice-inspiring program that can be implemented in their studios. I am more than happy to offer additional support or help in any way I can to make this program a success in your studio. If you have questions, feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment below.

Climbing the Ladder to Success Practice Incentive Packet

Retirement…or Not?

You know you’re in the right profession when, instead of people retiring from it, people are retiring and getting into it. 🙂

This thought just came to me again as I read an e-mail from another teacher who has been teaching piano for 43 years. In the course of the e-mail she said, “I am not quite ready to retire as I have great students who don’t want me to quit.

Last year, a friend of mine in the financial industry asked me if I would be interested in using her services to get a retirement account set up. It sounded like a great idea, but then I realized that I’d never heard of a piano teacher retiring. As far as I knew, piano teachers just taught right up until the day they died. Now, I have known a number of piano teachers who retired from other jobs and started a studio, but retiring from piano teaching…unheard of!

Not to worry, I still got my retirement account set up…just in case I need it someday. Hey, then I’ll have even more money to fund all of my [very essential] studio expenses! 😉

MTNA Certification Moment

[Below is the text of a short article I wrote for the May issue of our local Music Teachers Association (MTA) newsletter. I just received it in my inbox from MTNA as their July Certification Moment. If you are not a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM), I definitely encourage you to pursue becoming one!]

The call came after I’d already arrived in Austin for the 2006 MTNA Conference. The timing couldn’t have been better! Years of hard work had paid off – I was officially a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music! Or, as my sister’s message declared, I was now qualified to put initials after my name. And you better believe I didn’t waste any time adding those long anticipated initials (NCTM) to my official studio information and correspondence!

My journey toward certification began several years ago under the mentorship of Sylvia Coats. With no college credits to my name, I was determined, nonetheless, to do whatever it took to become an NCTM. The benefits to myself would be numerous, and the overflow to my students even greater, as I embarked on my course and devoted myself to the goal set before me and clearly outlined by MTNA. The process itself has helped me grow immensely as a musician and as a teacher.

The longest part of the process was meeting the performance requirements. In the course of my private study with Dr. Coats, she helped me prepare for numerous “mini-recitals” as I completed the requirements specified in the MTNA repertoire list.

Once my performance requirements were met, I was ready to send in my application, along with three letters of reference.

The next step was taking proficiency exams in Music History/Literature, Music Theory and Piano Pedagogy. Utilizing the study guide provided by MTNA, I prepared for and passed these exams last fall.

The final step was to either submit a portfolio or take the final exam. I opted to go the portfolio route, as it also gave me a chance to document my experiences, evaluate my teaching practices and revise some of my studio materials.

I finished compiling my portfolio in early March and sent it off to MTNA with a sigh of relief and a prayer that it would be accepted!

Before the expected eight weeks had elapsed, my letter of acceptance arrived in the mail, along with a beautiful certificate declaring me a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music.

Of course the initials after my name don’t automatically make me a better teacher, but I have no doubt that I am a better teacher today because of the process I went through to get those initials after my name! I am so grateful to the Lord for enabling me to reach this milestone and to the many teachers who have invested in me and encouraged me along the way.

For more information about the MTNA Professional Certification Program, visit the website at

Student Interviews

One of the best things I started doing several years ago is conducting interviews with all prospective students before accepting them into my studio. When people contact me with an interest in studying piano with me, I always refer them first to my website. I tell them to read over all my policies and if they are still interested in lessons to contact me again, either by e-mail or phone, so that we can set up an interview.

The interview gives me a chance to get to know the student and parents better and helps me assess their musical aptitude and/or current abilities and determine what books might be most appropriate for them. I also have the parents fill out a Parent Questionnaire for each student and this has helped immensely. I have found that the interview process helps me communicate the expectations I have for my students and also gives me a chance to understand the goals parents have for their children in the area of music.

Here are free downloadable files of the questionnaire forms I’ve developed to use in my interviews. (The images are of my own personal forms; the downloadable forms are blank at the top so that you can insert your own studio name and/or logo.)

Interview and Evaluation Forms – Beginning Student

Interview and Evaluation Forms – Transfer Student

This Parent Questionnaire (also blank so that you can customize it for your studio) is included in each of the above files.

Music Teacher’s Helper – A Review

Ask any Independent Music Teacher what they love most about their job and you will get a wide variety of responses, but ask those same teachers what they dislike the most about their job and, almost without exception, you’ll get the same reply: Bookkeeping!

Wouldn’t it be great to have a way to organize all your bookkeeping and student and event info so that it’s easy to maintain and find when you need it? And wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way for your students to access their schedule and payment information? And wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to streamline your communication process so that you could send e-mails to, say all your Tuesday students, or all your students participating in a particular event? Well…look no further! There is a way! Music Teacher’s Helper is the Easiest Way to Manage Your Studio!

Developed by Brandon Pearce, Music Teacher’s Helper was designed with the Independent Music Teacher in mind. I signed up for the free plan so I could test it out and see what I thought. I am very impressed! Here are just a few of the incredible features that I immediately liked:

* The site layout is very clean and user-friendly. It was easy to sign-up and get started right away with the free subscription. A very easy-to-understand tutorial walked me through each step and I had things set-up and running in less than 30 minutes!

* There are many report options and every organizational area of the site can be exported to an Excel file and saved on your computer for easy access and reference.

* The site is very customizable. Those who don’t have much experience with computers will find everything clearly explained and easy to navigate. Those with more experience often have the option of entering the HTML code themselves to allow for greater customization.

* Notes can easily be entered into the student files following each lesson and can even be sent directly to the student’s e-mail.

* All the birthdays for the month are listed on the teachers homepage and serve as a great reminder to send off an e-mail wishing the student a happy birthday.

One of the key things I look for in such applications is the level of Customer Service. In that respect, Music Teacher’s Helper is unbeatable! After exploring the site for a while, I e-mailed Brandon with a couple of suggestions. I received a response the next day and found the suggestions implemented almost immediately. Music Teacher’s Helper is committed to making their product the best it can be and is working on constantly developing it and incorporating new ideas.

This short review has not even touched on the student/parent features included in the teacher subscription. And, while Music Teacher’s Helper has some great student features incorporated into it, Brandon notes that “Music Teacher’s Helper is made first for the teacher, then for the student. We want Music Teacher’s Helper to be useful for teachers whether their students want to participate or not.

With subscription plans ranging from Free to $24.95/month depending on the size of your studio, Music Teacher’s Helper is considerably less expensive that similar web-based applications. I encourage you to check it out – experiment with the Free subscription and see what you think. The time-saving features and excellent service are well worth the up to $24.95/monthly fee for a full subscription, but the peace of mind that will come from a well-organized, professionally run business – that’s priceless!