Category - Camps

How two teachers created a dynamic Baroque Bash and guess what’s coming soon!

How do you invite 21st-century digital natives into the culture and music of powdered-wig times? You hold a Baroque Bash! I did last year and blogged about it. It never dawned on me that other teachers would follow suit and amplify my ideas into something bigger and much better!

Here’s Hannah Greiner to tell us more about the Baroque Bash she produced with fellow teacher, Susan Hamblin-Dennis.

Make sure to watch the video at the end of the post…there’s something coming soon that will help your studio GO Baroque!


For most piano teachers, their personal experience with piano lessons as a child probably revolved around learning technique (scales, chords, arpeggios, etc.), repertoire, sight reading, and ear training. These lessons would be at a teacher’s studio, and these activities would occur on the piano bench.

In my lessons, a teacher would sometimes offer stickers for playing a piece well. One of my teachers even offered a “treasure chest” with goodies from the dollar store if I earned enough “A’s” on my assignments (this was such a highlight for me!).

Any historical information was generally taught from a textbook or from the teacher explaining the background behind a piece.

As a piano teacher now, there are SO many resources and ideas from creative teachers around the world, and many activities can happen “off-the-bench.”

My colleague, Susan Hamblin-Dennis, had an idea to implement Leila Viss’s “Going Baroque” idea for our piano students.

We loved Leila’s idea of exposing students to what is typically a “boring” era in music. We wanted to find ways to immerse our students in the Baroque environment and make it fresh and relevant to them.

There were several important aspects we wanted our students to experience: Read More

Feeling the BEET with Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory

Edwin Gordon’s highly recognized and esteemed research leading to the Music Learning Theory (MLT) is defined as

“An explanation and description of appropriate ways students learn one or more styles of music.” p5 of Quick and Easy Introductions by Edwin Gordon

It is not a teaching method that you purchase and follow exclusively. YOU can apply and integrate MLT into your current teaching method, NOW. This is great news! You don’t need to reinvent your approach to enhance it with the MLT philosophy. Keep reading and I’ll explain how. Read More

Marie’s Secret Sauce for Getting New Students

NEWSFLASH! Marie Lee (good friend and featured here at is writing a happy-music-camp-01group teaching resource for the Piano Teacher Planning Center! I, along with many others, can’t wait to learn from this long-time expert in group teaching.

In this post, Marie gives us a taste of what’s to come.

Even if you are not interested in teaching piano in groups, you will want to read Marie’s article for great tips on how to grow your studio during the summer. She shares her “secret sauce” –a brilliant way of getting more students in the door during the summer months. Also, keep reading so you learn how to market this “secret sauce.”

Take it away, Marie… Read More

Share your sizzling hot summer studio plans in STYLE

Andrea West has just rolled out irresistible graphics for your summer programs. With all the options and variety I believe you’ll find it difficult to choose just one! In addition, she’s created a free template to help you produce a professional looking summer brochure. 

Here’s Andrea with all the details.

Many of us are still planning our spring recitals, while some are basking in the afterglow of another successful event.

Regardless, we all know that looming just around the corner is…SUMMER.piano-is-a-journey-01

It’s that laid back time of year when parents try to find a balance between a flexible care-free schedule and just enough structure to keep their kiddos from getting bored. That’s why so many parents look to camps: vacation Bible school, sports camps, and of course, your Piano Camp (or at least lessons!)

It’s definitely time to promote your summer music program to interested parents if you haven’t already.

Begin by sharing the fun and exciting things you’ll be offering with your current student families. If you are looking to add new students, remember that enthusiastic referrals from your current students who adore you is your TOP marketing strategy. Providing your families a colorful brochure, flyer or email showcasing your summer program will make it easy for them to share the news with others.

In addition, you’ll want to generate excitement through your website and social media outlets like Facebook.

To help with these tasks, I’ve created some special cover art for your summer camp brochures. They are formatted so they can also be used on your website and on Facebook.

There are a variety of eye-catching designs to choose from that will grab the attention of your students and their families. All you have to do is add your studio branding with a title and your personalized content.

If you want help on how to do this, enter your first name and email address below to get a template you can use with the design of your choice.

Check out all the designs in the slide show below

Read More

Essentials for the Worship Team Pianist

Equipping a student with reading and memorizing skills may develop a capable pianist but, nowadays those limited skills aren’t going to cut it. Most pianists are or will be called upon to play beyond the score and read chord charts and play with bands or worship teams. Preparing for this position requires good ears, knowledge of chords and a willingness to collaborate.


Drew Collins

In our next 88 Creative Keys Webinar, we (Bradley Sowash and me, Leila Viss) are excited to have Drew Collins join us. He’s spent over twenty years leading worship and training worship leaders and musicians. This past summer, I invited Drew to a worship team workshop for my students and found Drew’s ideas so worthwhile that we decided to feature him in our next webinar: “Essentials for the Worship Team Pianist.”


Drew sharing words of wisdom at my summer studio workshop.

Drew Collins has spent twenty years leading worship and training worship leaders and musicians. He earned his B.A. in Music from the University of Northern Colorado and his M.A. in Ministry Leadership from Crown College. A singer, songwriter, and liturgist, he lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, CO. I have the pleasure of being on staff  with Drew at South Suburban Christian Church, in Littleton, Colorado.

In the first portion of the webinar, Drew and I will discuss:

  • The three roles of a worship team pianist.
  • The latest tech tools used by most worship teams.
  • Tips on how to build required skills.
  • What worship leaders expect of a pianist.
  • Common mistakes pianists make when playing with a band.
  • Characteristics of a strong worship team pianist.
  • Some tricks of the trade.

Bradley Sowash

In the next portion, Bradley will cover:

  • What to play when unrehearsed background music is needed.
  • Heighten your awareness of thinking and playing in musical layers.
  • Tips for pianists about feeling the groove in a band.
  • Improvising and/or arranging a traditional hymn for contemporary worship.

Don’t miss this workshop! Even if your students don’t play in a worship band, with this webinar you’ll be able to coach those who may wish to play in a “garage band.” You’ll find all the ideas we feature in the webinar will crossover to any band experience. Your students will thank you. Bonus: it may give you the skills you need to play in a band yourself!




A Look Back at Trendsetting Piano Teaching Resources in 2016

Grab a cup of coffee–here’s 40 resources worth your time!

My friend and colleague Marie Lee and I compiled a list of winning resources that worked for us in 2016, and we can’t wait to share them with you. They are organized according to topic.

What did we forget? We didn’t include everything we intended–we had to stop some where.

What would you add to the list?

Professional and Creative Development


Piano Teacher Planning Center is a brand new component of I’m so excited to piano teacherplanning centerhave a store–no, a center–where teachers will find a growing collection of free and for-purchase teaching aids, some created by me but others created by fellow teachers who have great ideas.

In celebration of the new year, there’s a store-wide sale until January 15, 2017. By the way, if you have a cool game or product that you want to sell, contact me at and let’s plan to make it part of the PTPC in 2017. -Leila


I attended my first 88 Creative Keys Workshop in Denver this past summer. I waited almost an entire year and 88 CK was well worth it! It was one of the best things I could do for my continuing education as a teacher.  You can read reviews from 2016 attendees here and learn more about 2017’s workshop here. -Marie
Here’s a video of Leila leading a body beat activity with teachers.


Tim Topham’s podcasts keep me happily occupied on my Sunday afternoon walks. I look forward to them each week. Tim finds the best guests who discuss–you guessed it–trendsetting topics! Here are seven of my favorite podcasts because they deal with creativity at the keys. -Leila


I look forward to Amy Chaplin’s Piano Pantry Friday Finds. Amy is one of my new, favorite bloggers. -Marie


Even though I didn’t practice like I should have, I learned so much from Bradley’s online lesson session that I can use with my students. Bradley Sowash is encouraging and informative. It has opened up a whole new world of piano playing for me. -Marie


ForScore, Turbo Scan, the Air Turn Pedal and the iPad Pro is a combo I’ve used every Sunday since writing my December 2015 blog post. I’m not sure how I survived without this set up. In the post you’ll learn how I move hard copy sheet music to ForScore so I can enjoy hands-free page turns. This is the wave of the future for reading scores. -Leila Read More

Drumming Cards 9-12 and Three Reasons to Stick Around

We fast forwarded the 12 days of drumming into 7 and now the final round of holiday bucket drumming cards are included below. Thanks for your patience as we drummed up ideas for your holiday fun! Pun intended.

Another thank you to SO many of you who purchased Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers. Remember, it’s still on sale through December so share the news with your friends! Order it here.

And the credit goes to…

This flurry of upbeat ideas for the holidays could not have happened without thefunkeylogo-web-e1412370119928 efforts of my good friends and colleagues Marie Lee and Heather Nanney. Marie and Heather are to be credited as the imagineers for most of the cards. As they came up with the ideas, I produced the cards and delivered them to you. I could have never done this series of posts without their creative minds!

FYI: Heather is extremely creative and offers fabulous teaching ideas at her blog with the best name ever: FunKey Music! She posted a must-have freebie called The Ultimate Chord Bundle to help categorize, color code and spell chords. Follow this link to get yours now–the bundle is brilliant.13528831_263815857314918_5066482634924078563_n

FYI: Marie has forged into a new, exciting studio expansion and never seems to run out of ideas or energy. Check out her Musicality Schools website here and be inspired by its attractive organization and content. If you recall, Marie was featured in an article at around a year ago. Her studio and business has skyrocketed since then! Look for the article here and learn why she never wanted to be a piano teacher. Really?

The three of us were on fire to get these cards out to you ASAP so we do hope you will include them AND enjoy them in your holiday lesson plans. We’d love to hear how it goes for you.

What does bucket drumming look like?

Below is a sneak peek at bucket drumming to the Tchaikovsky’s Russian Dance. I had drummed with the students through this piece and guided them in a “choreography” to go with the soundtrack. Then I asked if they would do it again so I could take a video.

If you notice, the 4th grade young man took charge and led the others in the “dance.” The gal in the pink was wondering why we were drumming in piano lessons. You may ask the same thing.

What I see in this video: active listening skills, large muscle and memorable responses to the music, ensemble work, conducting and smiles. All with some buckets, sticks and a few giggles. If you can’t see the video below, follow this link.

We wish you a merry and musical December!

Some reasons to stick around…

#1 If you signed up for any of the drumming cards or any of the products in The Piano Teacher Planning Center, you will automatically receive my newsletter. I send it out about twice a month and catch you up on things going on at the blog and usually announce or offer something new.

In next week’s newsletter, I’ll include a link to all 12 cards–4 per sheet–that you can easily print off or better yet, access on your iPad via iBooks or Notability.

#2 Speaking of the Piano Teacher Planning Center, you do not want to miss the latest addition provided by Andrea West. Andrea is a graphic designer and a piano teacher who has created images that are ideal for your upcoming holiday recital program covers, party invitations and/or camp binders.

Click on the image below to order Andrea’s covers and get them on sale for $4.97! It’s a bargain and you’ll have images for many years to come! Free bonus: she includes instructions on how to create your program in Word and offers images for Facebook props to congratulate your students. Get ’em here.


#3 I can’t wait to share a new rhythm game called Rhythm on a Roll that helps students of all levels understand adding and dividing note values. It’s something that works well in groups or during Off-Bench Time and correlates nicely with my off-bench resource called Rhythm Make it Count. It’s been tested all week long in my group lessons and has been met with strong approval. They didn’t want to stop playing! Stay tuned for a free printable coming your way soon.

Get your last four Holiday Bucket Drumming cards by clicking here or on the image below and thanks again for your support!


Remember, happy students STICK around!


12 Days of Drumming: Cards 5-8: Make Rhythms Relevant


How is rhythm connected to these cute holiday books? Read on…

As promised, we are putting a rush on the 12 Days of Drumming cards so you can make your plans for your upcoming holiday parties, groups lessons and camps.

If you haven’t been following this series of posts, Heather Nanney and Marie Lee and I are creating 12 supplemental cards to coincide with our resource we created called Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers.

Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers is on sale for $29 and it is definitely worth every penny as you’ll be able to use the ideas for your summer camps and now with these new cards, tailor bucket drumming activities to suit your holiday studio plans.

The buckets and creative activities make playing and reading rhythms fun! That was our collective goal as understanding rhythms is complex and difficult for most young musicians. We’ve come up with 80+ engaging ideas that boost strong rhythm skills.

Be honest, how many kids do you know, jump up and down with glee when asked to count out loud? Our plans connect with kids and will get them counting because they UNDERSTAND WHY they need to count!

Before you download Cards 5-8 (available below) I want to share why I believe these activities featured on the holiday cards and those in our resource are so important to the process of learning rhythm.

With drums, common words and phrases and other off bench activities, we are making rhythm notation relevant by matching note values and rhythms with familiar patterns. Let me explain with an example outside of the music field.

Last evening I was enjoying the company of a 2-1/2-year-old girl and her younger 1-1/2-year-old brother. We were celebrating the arrival of their younger sister (yes this is a BUSY household) and so I brought the Chunky Pack: Christmas  by Roger Priddy as a gift for them.

They could not get enough of the books. They loved holding the small but chunky books and gazing at the brightly colored pictures inside.

The idea of each perfectly-sized-for-little-hands book is simple: while one page shows a colorful graphic of a holiday image like a Christmas tree, the other side identifies the image with letters forming the words: CHRISTMAS TREE.

Since the 1 -1/2 year old didn’t own very many words yet and was quite content with his pacifier, he happily pointed at the objects while sitting on my lap. But, I guided his older sister to say the words on the page. Of course, she said “Christmas tree” because she quickly identified the object from the picture.  Soon, I covered up the image and she recognized the words without needing the picture.

Was she recognizing the letters, putting them together and reading the words? Maybe, maybe not, but she was making a connection that letters hooked together make symbols for Christmas stuff like Christmas trees and reindeer.

In a way, this is what the cards in our 12 Days of Drumming Cards feature. They encourage drummers to relate the names of favorite holiday items, toys and the phrases of well-known carols to note values and rhythm patterns.

Examples of matching words with rhythm notation:
please don't make me count out loud!

  • Elf = quarter note
  • Santa = two eighth notes
  • Jingle bells, jingle bells = two 8ths quarter, two 8ths quarter.

By relating familiar words and phrases to rhythm notation, drummers begin to make connections and lock in the vocabulary of what we call rhythm.

With the help of the tissue rhythm boxes as seen in the picture above, drummers notice that groups of smaller note values will share one beat AND that each beat still lasts for one box–the same amount of time.

One supplemental card in this next bunch includes a great idea for teaching tempi and dynamic contrasts.

ALL the activities require physical action, dictation, listening, notation and/or team work which guarantee solid comprehension.

Click on the drumming reindeer below to get your next 4 cards.

Still need the first four cards? Follow this link.


12 Days of Drumming Cards 1-4 and Tips on Finding Drums


All containers are potential drums. Start saving!

You asked for it and you got it!

Some of you have wanted all the holiday bucket drumming cards in a rush to make plans for upcoming group lessons, parties and camps. I get it, I feel the same way.

Also, I’d like to take a break from posting on Sunday.

In case you’ve missed the latest news about bucket drumming for the holidays, read this post.

That means that you have access to cards 1-4 today! I think you’ll like all of them.

By the way, if you have an aversion to purchasing big buckets because of the price tag or storage limitations, get creative. Save ANY container from now on (and forever!)

Chop sticks work well for drumsticks if your drums are too small for bigger sticks.

My good friend, Amy Watt, scored some great bongo drums at a flea market.

Home Depot buckets ($55 for a pack of 20 or around $4 a bucket) work well but are NOT required in order to make Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers a hit in your studio.

Remember, you’ll want to purchase our drumming resource here (if you haven’t yet) since all the holiday cards refer to specific ideas found in it.

Click on the drumming reindeer to get the cards and start making your plans!


12 Days of Drumming Ideas for Holiday Lessons and Camps

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Five    ___ ___

Four   ___ ___

Three ___ ___

Two    ___ ___

and a partridge in a pear tree.

Did you easily “sing in” the blanks? If so, good for you.

What if you started with the number 12 and sang your way down to the pear tree?

Confession, I couldn’t do it. If you’re like me and a need a refresher, here ya go.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me

a partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me

two turtle doves

and a partridge in a pear tree.

and it continues…

3 French hens
4 Calling Birds
5 Golden rings
6 Geese a-laying
7 Swans a-swimming
8 Maids a-milking
9 Ladies dancing
10 Lords a-leaping
11 Pipers piping
12 Drummers drumming

Whoa, did you notice the 12th day? Twelve drummers drumming!

The perfect segue into a reminder of a resource that is available here at the Piano Teacher Piano Center: Bucket DRUMMING for Teachers compiled by Marie Lee, Heather Nanney and yours truly.

In honor of the upcoming holidays and the old English carol’s tribute to drumming, Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers will be on sale through the month of December.

If you haven’t purchased your copy (yet), you’ll find that this customizable resource is THE perfect solution for camps, groups and private lessons. You’ll have access to buckets full of resources so that you can learn how to teach bucket drumming in style. Order your copy by clicking here or on the photo below.

Let's Drum This

With the help of over 80 “recipe cards” you’ll be able to integrate bucket drumming into any of your current plans with pedagogically sound and guaranteed-to-rock activities.
Even better news for those who are planning December group lessons and camps, we are offering an additional 12 days of holiday-themed drumming ideas that will rock your lesson plans!
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” is a cumulative song where each verse gets longer and longer. We are echoing this by adding a new card to your Bucket Drumming recipe cards you already purchased (or will very soon!) each day for the next 12 days.
You’ll notice that the cards modify ideas already found in Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers so you’ll want to refer to the resource to make the most of the holiday cards.

Get your first holiday recipe card by clicking on the drumming reindeer.


Happy students stick around.