Happy Memorial Day

Well, I didn’t exactly intend to take last week off of blogging, but with Year-End Evaluations, prepping for summer, and working on several other big projects, it fell to the back burner. I am looking forward to sharing about some of my summer plans and another project soon, but I am taking this week off of teaching to do final preparations for the Adventures In Character children’s program. In light of that, I may not get much blogging in, but I hope to be back posting regularly again next week.

A happy start of summer to each of you!

Monday Mailbag – Year-End Evaluations

A number of people have commented and/or asked questions about the Year-End Evaluations that I hold in my studio. I started doing this ten years ago and it has been so helpful for me and the families! The last lesson of the year one or both parents attend the lesson with their child. The week before this, I send home a Parent Questionnaire and a Student Questionnaire, and I complete a Year-End Student Evaluation. I tweak the questionnaires a bit each year so that I get input and feedback from the parents and students on specific issues. (You can click the above links to download copies of this year’s forms.)

Conducting these evaluations does take a considerable amount of time as I consider each student’s progress and evaluate where they are in different musical areas. But the results of my own time spent doing this and recommending specific goals and ideas for the future, along with the responses on the questionnaires from the parents and students, has proved to be invaluable as I work on a theme and lesson plans for the following year. I highly recommend giving this a try in your studio if you haven’t already! If you conduct Year-End Evaluations in your studio, I’d love to hear what you include and what’s been most helpful to you.

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!

Inspiration and Practical Tips for Parents and Teachers Working with Young Children at the Piano

I “saved” this post on my browser as soon as I saw the title, but just finally got around to watching Mario Ajero’s video clip on How to Start Piano Lessons for Pre-School Aged Children. If you are a parent or teacher of young children and need a little inspiration and practical advice, you have to check this out! It’s so neat to watch Mario work with his daughter and see the excitement in her face as she learns to play simple songs on the piano. I really love his suggestion of making time at the piano a part of your daily routine so that it becomes a normal and expected part of life.

These are great ideas that could also easily be incorporated into a Pre-Piano Camp for young students who are considering starting formal piano lessons.

Create Your Own Music Worksheets Using Music Fonts

Have you ever wished you could just whip up a quick worksheet to use with one of your students that would address a particular concept? Joy, of the Color in My Piano blog, has put together a wonderful guide to using music fonts to create your own music worksheets! Like Joy, I use Finale to create and export graphics into worksheets, but I have rarely used music fonts for this purpose. I am thrilled to have this handy step-by-step guide and will definitely be referring back to it often!

Two Years of Masterclasses at Your Fingertips!

Thanks to Music Matters Blog reader Brooke for alerting me to a fabulous resource! Visit the Sonatina Enterprises website for archives of two years’ worth of masterclass videos taken at their summer music programs. Just click on the 2011 Masterclass Archives or 2012 Masterclass Archives buttons on the home page to view a list of repertoire and select videos to watch. I’m already enjoying watching these great video recordings and picking up helpful teaching tips!

A Simple But Fun Note Identification Game for Students

Collin Wade, of the PianoTeacherNOLA blog recently posted a simple, but fun note identification game that could easily be used with students either in a private lesson or group class setting. It’s called Learning Space Notes, but the idea could be adapted for use with specific notes and both treble and bass clefs. You can download the game files for free on the For Teachers page of the website.

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!

Interval Ear Training Without an App!

Those of you who have been around here for a while know that I probably couldn’t function as a teacher anymore without my amazing little iPod Touch. However, I realize that there are still holdouts among us who prefer to dwell in the Dark Ages. 🙂 It’s getting harder to find non-app resources these days, but the folks at EasyEarTraining.com have a soft spot in their heart for the afore-mentioned teachers, and have put together a Free Interval Ear Training Pack that contains mp3 files.

According to their post, “The downloadable pack includes 5 MP3 files, each of which is about 3 minutes long. Each focuses on a different interval. Once you’ve downloaded the tracks and added them to your favourite music player, listen to them regularly. Ear training is a skill which you want to practise every day to see real improvement…”

Even though this is a great resource for any musician, I can especially see my highly aural learning students getting into something like this!

Music Videos in 1900?!

In doing some research for a curriculum I’m working on for Adventures In Character, I came across this fascinating history of music videos on the PBS Kids website. Sheet music publishers often used music videos (a.k.a. illustrated songs) to boost sheet music sales. It was highly effective. The Little Lost Child, one of the first illustrated songs, sold millions of copies!

This is great information to share with students! And I could see even using it as inspiration for a special project, maybe as part of a composition project where they create a music video to promote their newly composed work…