Category - Fresh Ideas

What’s a Senior Showcase and How Do You Plan One?

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What do you do when you have have four marvelous, faithful, dynamic and long-time pianists who are graduating from high school and leaving your studio?

You throw a Senior Showcase.

What’s a Senior Showcase? I held one other such event about 7 years ago when I had three dedicated seniors graduate in one year. I did the same for four seniors last year. This show included considerable “upgrades” thanks to the latest tech tools and my ongoing desire to provide creative-based teaching.

Perhaps you have dedicated seniors that deserve recognition for their time spent with you on the bench? If so and if you care to follow through with holding your own showcase, here are the steps I took to make it a reality.

Meet for coffee

During the spring, all the seniors met me at Starbucks and we brainstormed ideas of what the showcase could be. They didn’t hold back and imaginations ran wild. In the end, we made a list of what they wanted. Of course, I guided them in their thoughts and we trimmed it down to these tasks and decisions:

  • Nail down a date that all could attend–this was tricky working around 4 img_4393-2families, different schools and their spring plays and proms and programs…
  • Secure a date at my church where all the past recitals have been.
  • Feature favorite repertoire and original compositions and songs of the seniors.
  • Invite friends and/or family members to sing or play along with them.
  • Hold a reception that could double as a grad party if they prefer.
  • Choose one piece that they would play together as a quartet.

Prep before the show

  • Collect digital life time pics of each senior
  • Collect digital senior pics–they usually have tons of poses!
  • Ask them to write a 50-word bio including plans for the years to come.
  • Take pictures of them together wearing their college t-shirts.
  • Design a program cover.

Plan program detailssenior-showcase

Ask each senior to place their pieces in order of how they’d like to perform them

Order gifts and or flowers for each senior. As a studio tradition, I gave each one a piano music box purchased here.

Set agenda for the evening

  1. Offer a knockout printed program featuring dazzling photos and important info about the seniors. TIP: Canva.com is amazing! Make sure to check out this free graphic design program.
  2. Prepare pianists to perform around 5 of their favorite current or past pieces that best represent their playing AND their creativity.
  3. Present a projected slide show featuring snap shots of “lifetime” pics of each senior to loop prior to the showcase.
  4. Include a projected slide reflecting the mood or style of the piece as each pianist performed.
  5. Meet a special-request for one of the seniors by displaying slides with variousimg_4534 movie posters as he played a tribute medley honoring all his favorite film composers.
  6. Set up cool lighting to provide sophisticated staging.
  7. Ensure outstanding and confident performances from each pianist showing their unique personalities and skills sets.
  8. Create an opportunity for each pianist to read a score on an iPad and turn pages with a blue-tooth pedal.
  9. Design a pop medley collaboration featuring all the pianists using the piano and the impressive voice selection of the Clavinova.

Shift from teacher to tech support

I’m pleased (and relieved!) to say that the above agenda pretty much happened as img_4512planned even though I unexpectedly took charge of all tech support. I was given a crash course and learned how to run the projector, lights, and mics.

The state of the art tech center at my church runs EVERYTHING through apps. I could even mute and change the volume of the mics on the iPad! I called my designated workspace in the back of the sanctuary Mission Control. Below is a pic of where I sat for a good part of the evening changing slides and running sound.

Revisit mission statement

What does all this agenda and tech stuff have to do with a mission statement and a senior showcase? With such a profound occasion at hand, I felt it necessary to write something “important” to my students and families so I included my statement in the printed program at the beginning of my short essay.

As a prompt for where to begin with this task, I revisited my mission statement posted on my website. I haven’t read it in quite some time (it really should be memorized!) and I was curious if these four seniors being sent off into the “real world” matched up with my intentions as a piano teacher.

Here’s what I placed in the program:

Students of any age will develop the necessary skills to become independent pianists allowing them to enjoy making music on the bench for a lifetime.

– Mission statement of Ms Leila

Abi, Kenna, Sarah and Addison were drawn to the piano for different reasons and followed a path as unique as each of their individual personalities.

The dedication each pianist demonstrated from week to week, year to year—img_6551showing up for lessons on time (even early in the morning) practicing with diligence, reading and following my long lesson notes—shows their remarkably loyal dedication to 88 piano keys. They spoiled me!

Music is something to be made. These four seniors are what I’d call high-functioning music makers. Each pianist has worked to learn favorite repertoire of the masters as well as compose and improvise away from the page. They are comfortable playing from chord charts and collaborating with other musicians.

Tonight is a celebration of Sarah, Kenna, Abi, and Addison putting into action all their music-making skills. In addition, it is a testament to their drive to develop dynamic and creative voices at the keys.

I’m thankful for the parents of these four seniors and their support of lessons with “Ms Leila” and this somewhat eclectic approach to learning the piano.

Although I’ll miss seeing these students, I’m extremely grateful for the time I had with them and know they will cherish making music for a lifetime.

Mission accomplished.

-Ms Leila

Realign mission statement

There was no mention of technology or creativity in the statement–the two things I integrate into just about every lesson! But then it dawned on me that these two essentials could be thought as “necessary tools” so it still covers my intentions as a piano teacher. However, I will be making of a point of revising the statement to something like this:

Students of any age will develop the necessary skills to become creative, tech-savvy, comprehensive and independent pianists allowing them to enjoy making music on the bench for a lifetime.

Put mission statement into actionimg_4509

One way this updated mission statement is portrayed in the senior showcase was the “Pop Medley” that concluded the show.

The seniors took turns playing solos from all styles like Debussy, Chopin, Gershwin, Line, Mier and also played original compositions and songs. They wanted to play something with all four of them at the keys.

Since they enjoy playing pop music and because I wanted to provide a chance for them to collaborate like a band, we created a medley of four pop pieces.

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Each pianist took the lead for their choice piece and made decisions regarding who would play what. They worked from iTunes, the Yamaha Chord Tracker app, YouTube videos and hand-written lead sheets.

In the video of their showcase performance, you’ll hear and see how they

  • Listened to each other.
  • Transitioned between new tunes.
  • Had incredible fun playing “drummer” and “back-up synth” on the Clavinova.
  • Wore some crazy glasses and their t-shirts sporting their college choice for the next year.

How about you?

Do you have a mission statement?

Does your mission statement need some updating?

If so, will students leave with music skills that are in line with it?


Do you want more super ideas and an organized planner for your Senior recital? Stay tuned for a detailed resource packed full and carefully packaged by Heather Nanney and coming SOON to the Piano Teacher Planning Center!

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How to create a recital program and amplify your graphics

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In this post you’ll learn how to create a smashing recital program from pro graphic designer, Andrea West. Plus, you’ll learn how you can amplify and use her graphics purchased at the Piano Teacher Planning Center to make stunning student gifts and to market your studio. 

When’s your recital?

This week I’m starting a countdown. It’s 39 days until mine on May 19th.

Perhaps your recital check list looks a little like mine?

  • Venue: Neighborhood clubhouse. Whoa, did mine change this spring–more on that later!
  • Repertoire: Students will perform their original compositions and duets.
  • Well-rehearsed students: They will be equipped to perform with the Five P’s of Performing: Get your free download on these essentials for young performers here.
  • Food for afterwards: In the spring I like to prepare items that students can grab and go as my recital will be informal and students can come when they can and come as they are: (Like I said, more on that later!)
  • Student gifts: Keep reading for some terrific ideas, I think I’ve decided on t-shirts.
  • Program with a cool cover: If you need cover art for your program, Andrea West has created lovely options for you. Thanks to those who have already gotten theirs!

Get your recital program cover art here!

Once you purchase one of Andrea’s graphics, you’ll need to download the graphic and transfer it onto a document to create the program. For those who are uncertain about how to do this, I’ve got great news! Andrea has generously spared time from her busy schedule and agreed to share a step-by-step process on how to create a program in Word.

Don’t use Word for generating documents? Neither do I BUT, you’ll want to watch the video any way as this pro graphic designer has dynamite tips on how to organize and format your recital information so you can spare precious time when it’s the week of the recital. Plus many of the tips she shows are similar to what you’d use in Pages or Google Docs.

On more thing, save on ink and spare yourself from printer frustrations by joining MTNA and taking advantage of their member benefits card. Show up with your “magic card” and you’ll get close to 60% your printing costs! Learn more here.

Learn now to create your recital program in Word

Andrea guides you step by step with clear, succinct instructions. You DON’T want to miss a thing. Her tips on design, fonts, formatting are golden. Watch the video below (or click here) and download her instructions as well, so you have plenty of guidance as you create your own document. Read More

Use a Green Screen for Virtual Performances

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The recital venue that I’ve enjoyed for years is no longer available for me to use. It’s a long story so I’ll save it for another post. This turned my world upside down and has had me looking for other possible venues and performance opportunities for my students. When I saw Amber post videos of her students playing piano “virtually” anywhere with the help of a green screen, I had to learn how she did it! Amber has generously written down the steps she took to make this a reality. 

Take it away, Amber…


I love sparking imagination in my students! One of the ways I do this, is to let them perform virtually anywhere! It’s surprisingly easy to create these virtual performance videos.

Here is what you need:

  1. Green screen background: You need a green background of some sort. The best background I have found is the large green canvas sheets that come with the green screen studio kits. You can find the kits, or canvas backgrounds on Amazon. In a bind, I have also used a green plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Store! It worked! Check out the green screen kit here.
  2. Good lighting: I cannot emphasize this enough. Lighting will make or break your videos. Shadows will produce a pixelated effect. The best lighting I have found are the lights that come with the green screen studio 41tntsirx1l-_sx355_kits. I have used table lamps before but, they just cannot produce the same effect.
  3. A green screen app: My favorite green screen app is Green Screen by Do Ink. Once you get the hang of it, it is very easy to use.
  4. Garageband: I use Garageband to record the audio portion of the video.
  5. iMovie: I import my green screen video and the audio into iMovie to edit and create the finished product!
  6. Intro app: I like creating a fun movie intro with Intro Designer Lite.
  7. A keyboard that can be hooked up to an iPad.
  8. A tripod, or other support to hold your iPad for recording. [Leila likes the Manos Mount.}

Now on to the fun part! Read More

Make Recitals Easier with Ready-Made Cover Art

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It’s been a pleasure getting to know Andrea West. She’s a piano teacher and a graphic designer who created wonderful cover art for your winter recital programs last year. She’s done it again and created marvelous options for your spring recital programs! I’m pleased to be selling them in the Piano Teacher Planning Center. Learn a little more about Andrea and why she creates her designs below. You’ll also get a chance to vote for your favorite design and it could go on sale IF you spread the word!

-Leila


Preparing for recitals and concerts requires more energy and skill sets than most people imagine.  Not only do we prepare each child for a successful recital experience, but we have to be master event planners as well. The solution for me has been to outsource those things I cannot do (like tuning the piano) or don’t have the time to do (like baking all the recital treats), and to focus on what I do well.pop-piano

Since I have a lifelong background in the arts, I use that ability to create memorable recital programs for my events.  The students have worked unbelievably hard to prepare and present their pieces to the audience, and I want to showcase those pieces in a recital program that parents can take home and put in their child’s scrapbook. 

Because I love it, I spend much of my free time designing cover art.  It starts with a simple idea, and then slowly it evolves into a finished piece.  I’m often inspired by a piece of music a student is playing, or something they say about their piece.  These designs are all created in 5.5” x 8.5” format that are ideal for putting on the front of a folded program.  They insert perfectly into your favorite program like Publisher, a Word document, Pages, or even an Excel spreadsheet. And the best part is, it will save you many hours of work and provide your families with a beautiful recital keepsake.

Take a moment to vote for your favorite design by putting the name of the design in the comments section below. The design with the most votes will go on sale for $.99 from March  17-19, 2017.  Voting ends March 15th!

-Andrea

There are TWO pages of designs so make sure to look at them all.

Click on the page links below or click on the image to view all the covers.

Page One   Page Two

 Remember to let us know which is your favorite in the comment section here, or on either program page by March 11th and watch for the sale!

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Have a ball at group lessons!

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Starting a composition and naming it can be tough. To charge up the creative juices, we played a game called “Would You Rather” with the help of a groove and a beach ball at this week’s group lessons.

When I rang the bell, they had to stop and whoever was holding the ball had to answer the question under his/her right hand.

“Would you rather eat dinner in a castle or breakfast in a hot air balloon?”

“Would you rather eat three live worms or a tunafish and peanut butter sandwich?”

They didn’t want to quit…

The video explains it best. Click here if you can’t see it.

Sometimes it’s just hard to get to know your students when they’re sitting on the bench next to you. They may feel a little shy about sharing their thoughts, their likes, their dislikes, etc. In a group setting and with an icebreaker like “Would You Rather,” all those inhibitions get tossed aside–yes, pun intended!

How will this contribute to an upcoming composition project?

After a student answered the question, most everyone else chimed in with their answer and we discussed why they chose what they did. They were eager to start making connections with what they like to what they will be creating at the keys.

Bonus: did you notice that this is a great activity to get them moving to the beat?

WARNING: Stock up on beach balls…more ideas to come. Here’s a screamin’ deal on them if you can’t find beach balls in your local stores right now. Remember to look for them on sale at the end of summer!

What questions to include on your “Would You Rather” beach ball?

Here’s a start. Begin each statement with the words Would you rather

  • Run a mile or swim a mile?
  • Go to a movie theatre or watch Netflix?
  • Stay up late or wake up early?
  • Have a robot or a monkey in the house?
  • Sleep on a hard pillow or a soft pillow?
  • Eat pepperoni pizza or sausage pizza?
  • Eat breakfast in a hot air balloon or dinner in a castle?
  • Eat a hamburger or a hotdog?
  • Paint a picture or take a picture?
  • Do word finds or crossword puzzles?
  • Do math homework or science homework?
  • Have ten brothers or ten sisters?
  • Go to school on Saturdays or go to the dentist every week?
  • Ride a bike or a skateboard?
  • Color a picture or draw a portrait?
  • Drive a self-driving car or a spaceship?
  • Become a famous singer or a famous actor?
  • Shop at the mall or play at the park?
  • Snowboard or ice skate?
  • Have a fish or a bird?
  • Eat mac ‘n cheese or spaghetti?
  • Play at the beach or in the snow?
  • Live on the beach or on a mountain top?
  • Have a cat or a dog?
  • Live without music or without TV and movies?
  • Talk on the phone or go out for ice cream?
  • Be a super hero or a villain in a movie?
  • Wear running shoes or flip flops?
  • Eat a bug or get stung by a bee?
  • Cook dinner or clean up?
  • Take a walk or a bike ride?
  • Go out for Mexican or Italian?leila3d
  • Read the book or watch the movie?
  • Eat 3 live worms or a peanut butter and tuna sandwich?
  • Take a vacation or $1,000 in cash?
  • Eat chocolate chips or gummy bears?
  • Take a road trip or a stay-cation?
  • Ride in a plane or a train?

For more “Would You Rather” questions, checkout my Pinterest board.

Need a fresh way to determine who performs first at the group class?

To review the sound and look of intervals, students were asked to read my e-book Understanding Intervals last week during Off-Bench Time. During the group lesson, everyone spun to see who would play first. I created three wheels in the Decide Now app, with level-appropriate intervals.img_3645

  • Wheel #1: Intervals Repeat-5
  • Wheel #2: Intervals Prime-8
  • Wheel #3: Major 2nd, 3rd, Perfect 4th, 5th, Major 6th, 7th, Perfect 8va.

After the student spun, he/she was asked to play the interval on the piano and try to recall the tune that is associated with that interval in Understanding Intervals. For example, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” begins with a 2nd. The student was then asked to sound out more of the tune. Naturally, everyone sang along!

The student who landed on the smallest interval performed first and others followed according to the size of their interval.

Need to build up knowledge of key signatures?img_6027

In preparation for upcoming theory tests at the local Federation Festival, students identified specific key signatures within the Challenge Mode of the app called Tenuto. They took turns naming the key as the key signatures flashed before them. After each drill was completed, they were challenged to reach a new high score. Music Money awarded to the whole group for beating the prior score. I’m never above bribery!

Note: you don’t need to hook your iPad to an HDTV in order to play this game. I like to reflect my iPad during groups lessons to show videos or to explain theory concepts with an app called Octavian.

Need one more winner for your next group lesson?

Make sure to get Rhythm on a Roll.

This game was developed for my group lesson week last December. I brought it out for group lessons this week and everyone was excited to play it again.copy-of-rhythm-on-a-roll-3 That was good news to me because you know how some can moan about doing anything more than once.

My students also enjoyed the new score cards with the rests and playing the variations I mention in the resource.

Tip: we played this as students were performing for each other. It works well as the audience is quiet, listening and thinking at the same time. This keeps them from getting restless.

It’s still on sale until March 11th. Get it now and your activities for group lessons will be set!

-Leila

NEW GAME! Reinforce Note Values with Rhythm On a Roll

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During Off Bench Time, I assigned students to complete worksheets in the app called SproutBeat which challenged them to add up note values. I noticed this was difficult for some. Many students (even though I stand on my head and do back flips trying to make it clear) assume two 8th notes equal two beats.

The red flags went up so I was determined to develop an activity for an d626eed83fdba1f407497658e26d1b8eupcoming group lesson that would help anyone at any level to understand the duration of notes and add them up with confidence.

For quite some time, I have wanted to design a music game similar to Yahtzee using 5 dice and a score card. For my new rhythm game, I decided to use Yahtzee as inspiration and assumed that the score cards would be the same for each player just like in the game. Then it occurred to me that Rhythm on a Roll would be much more interesting if each player had a different card—like in the game of Bingo. For example, when a TWO is rolled, it represents a quarter note for one player, a half note for another and an eighth note for another.yahtzee-2

With each score card being different, this educational game of chance became much more engaging and competitive. This was a last-minute game planned just in time for my first group lesson of the week and it was a winner. I believe it will be for your studio, too!

Clear as mud? Stick with me, the video will clarify things.

See Rhythm on a Roll in Action

Pictures speak a thousand words and videos…10,000?
To learn how to play Rhythm on a Roll, you’ll want to watch this video that shows me playing the game in “high speed.” Rewind as needed!

What you need to play Rhythm On a Roll?

>Dice. I discovered that my favorite childhood game of Yahtzee is not that popular with most of my students! Some play Farkle, and even Spicey Farkle. ANY dice will do so raid your board games! If you can’t collect enough, try this collection of dice.

>Cup for tossing and rolling the diceimg_6257

>Tray to keep dice from rolling away.

>Padding for the tray to keep the dice from making too much noise if used during Off Bench Time.

>Clear pockets in which to place score cards so they can be reused.

>Dry erase markers with erasers.

>Six score cards in each level.

>Players who are ready to roll!

What’s included in Rhythm on a Roll?

The downloadable PDF includes:

>Instructions to play the game which includes the link to the video above. I suggest letting your students watch it, too.

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Sample score card

>Level One Score Cards (six variations) and instructions on how to play.

  • Quarter note
  • Half note
  • Dotted half note
  • Eighth note
  • Two eighth notes.

>Level Two Score Cards (six variations.)  The same Level-One instructions apply but, you’ll notice that the score cards include shorter note values and that tricky dotted quarter note!

TIP: For more advanced players, change the note value equalled to one beat to an eighth note instead of a quarter note. Added note values include:

  • Eighth note
  • Dotted quarter note
  • Sixteenth note
  • Two sixteenth notes.

>Variations on the game that encourage creativity.

>Ideas for prizes for winners.

>Single-player version for Off Bench Time.

>Tips on how to use the game if you don’t have Off Bench time or teach in groups.

Bonus!

Just before Rhythm on a Roll was going to be “rolled out” it dawned on me that the score cards should also include rests. Rests are SO important and usually overlooked. It’s been said that Mozart stated…

“Notes are silver, rests are gold.”

Therefore, I’ve added two more sets of score cards with rests–one set that correlates with Level 1 and another for Level 2. In addition, you’ll enjoy the clever options provided when playing Rhythm on a Roll with rests.

Get Rhythm on a Roll on sale for $4.88 (studio license) and build strong rhythm counters and readers!get-it-now-button

Let me know how Rhythm on a Roll is a winner in your studio!

Register NOW for the 88 Creative Keys 2017 Workshop

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Take a moment to check out the video below –you’ll learn what we’re cooking up this summer at 88 Creative Keys and get a chuckle, too.

Here we go!

The 88 Creative Keys 2017 Workshop Registration is open. If you’ve been thinking about attending, this is the year to commit. 

The first ten registrants get an extra discount–they are going fast (I mean SUPER fast) so press that blue button below.

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Need more info before you commit? Here are some answers to the questions you may have. Read More

The ONE thing that holds the power to motivate

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Stickers, charts, money, candy, points, and prizes are frequently used to motivate students but, do they really work?  Is it our job as teachers to motivate our students? From what I’ve experienced, incentives and even teachers do NOT hold the power to motivate.

I believe progress holds the power to motivate.

Let me explain with a personal experience.

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Joe, my cool cycle instructor, is on the far left. Tap on the picture to learn more about my cycle class that motivates.

In a Friday morning cycle class, we were challenged to pedal one mile in three minutes. Joe, the instructor, set the large timer in front of the room for the three-minute countdown, cranked up the music and even the disco lights to charge us up for the “road” ahead.

The small computer on my cycle showed me the time, how fast I was pedaling and gradually added one tenth of a mile as my feet went round and round. I thought I was not that competitive, but, it turns out that I was extremely driven to reach the mile mark by the end of three minutes. Joe strategically included the one-mile challenge not just once but, three times within the hour to build up endurance. Even though the last mile 3-minute mile was the hardest, I did not let myself slip. I was determined to beat the clock and improve my stamina.

I discovered that this challenge wasn’t about beating anybody else, it was all about successfully reaching the goal set before me. Clocking the time, adjusting my speed and pushing myself kept me moving forward to earn the “prize.” The fact that I met the goal in the first three-minute round empowered me to carry on and push forward and do it again and then again. I was motivated!

Progress has a magnetic pull. Once we experience progress and see the success that it brings, we want more. It entices us because it makes us feel good. The more progress we make, the better we feel so we try for it again and again.

Progress = The advancement or development towards a better state.

Joe’s calorie-burner choreography uses objective-based skills and measurements to help cyclers reach their anaerobic threshold. In other words, the class promises to burn calories, strengthen muscles and build endurance. The result: cyclers make progress towards maintaining or achieving fitness for a lifetime. I went home from class high on endorphins, ready for a shower and also feeling successful because I beat the clock. (Learn more about this format in this video which features Joe on a local TV station.) 

This fitness class scenario is not that much different from those who are learning an instrument. If students are given a challenge and succeed, it’s addicting. The rush that success brings triggers the desire for more challenges to conquer. That’s called motivation or specifically intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes naturally from within and does not come from outside rewards like stickers or bribery, which are extrinsic motivators.

Motivation =  The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.

Is it the teacher’s job to motivate? From my cycle-class experience, I’d say we teachers need to modify that description. Our job is to set challenges for our students and to equip them to succeed and progress. Joe didn’t have to bribe me with coffee and a scone to succeed, he just provided the objective and set the clock. In the same way, the promise and thrill of progress is what will drive budding musicians to their instrument on a daily basis. Stickers, candy and bribes don’t hold the promise of progress and won’t cut it in the long run.

Teachers = equip students with skills to succeed.

Progress = holds the power to motivate.

The essential “equipment” students need to see progress are practice strategies guaranteed to conquer challenges between lessons. Science has shown that the six strategies listed below will do just that. These are a critical part of any curriculum and should be put into action at every lesson.

Six Scientifically Proven Practice Strategies that Promise Progress

Read More

How a Teacher Empowered her Piano Students to Plan a Fund-Raising Studio Recital

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Renée Holliman is a fine teacher who lives close to Atlanta, Georgia who came up with a brilliant idea for a studio recital. I know she’s a fine teacher because I saw her in action at the Savvy Musician in Action. You can read all about our experience here but, in a nutshell, Savvy Musician in Action is David Cutler’s immersive event for wanna-be entrepreneurs in the arts.

Posing with new life-long friends and fellow piano teachers. We survived SAVVY! BUT, the pic is missing dear Becky who got sick and had to return home :-(

Posing with new life-long friends and fellow piano teachers: Renée is in the white, Marie is in the middle. Sadly, the pic is missing dear Becky who got sick and had to return home 🙁

Renée, along with Marie Lee and Becky Cappelli went with me on this venture and we all came back with input overload and memories for a life time. Renée was the captain of my team during the event and boy, did she keep us on track.

What you’ll read below is all about “Ms Holliman” in action with her own very fortunate students. I’m so eager to implement this plan for my studio recital this spring. I think you will be, too.

Take it away, Renée–oops, I mean Ms Holliman…


The idea of a student produced and performed concert occurred to me around April or May of 2016. I announced the idea to everyone who attended my student “Almost Summer Recital.”

I called the first meeting in July and three students attended:

a 1st grader,

a 3rd grader

a 5th grader.

They were very quiet but, with my prompting they were able to come up with

a date of September 11th,

a venue,

the possible cost of the venue,

and what we should charge for tickets – as this was going to also be a fundraiser.

I had them figure out what job they would like to take on.

“A” likes to chat and is real good with people so I suggested she be the publicist and she took care of emails and social media.

“E” and “H” are siblings, I suggested they be the marketing team. They were VERY apprehensive.

“H” was to design the logo – he’d never really touched a computer other than playing games on it. He said, “I don’t know how to do that”……below is what was emailed to me 2 days later, I was so impressed!

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Next, I set up a meeting with Mr. Mills, the V.P of our local Steinway Piano Galleries so that E, H and A could reserve the date and discuss the fee for the venue. E, H and A got spiffed up and I had them rehearse what to say and how to conduct themselves. We practiced shaking hands, greeting, looking the person in the eye and being respectful. We also practiced what to say and how to negotiate. They got all spiffed up, I met them there, gave them a pep talk and sent them in and I waited outside.

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A, E and H meeting with Mr. Mills

After the meeting A, E and H were beaming from ear to ear and so proud of themselves and their accomplishment of meeting with the V.P. of Steinway Piano Galleries of Atlanta! Mr. Mills was so impressed and said they did a great job. They negotiated the date, time and rental cost of the recital hall (which was $0.00.)

Our next team meeting was well attended and I set up a table and chairs boardroom style. They sat quiet and wide-eyed. Again, I asked them lots of questions to get their creative juices flowing about

ticket price and design,

charity to donate the proceeds,

and who would do what.

They each wrote down ideas for a name for their concert. I emailed many people with these names to vote on their favorite. With all the votes tallied, the name evolved and became…

Holliman’s Student Extravaganza

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The photo above shows some of the names they came up with. You’ll notice the team members are all pretty young by their penmanship.  In the other photo is the team discussing ideas and planning.

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Above are the tickets that were to be sold and the poster–totally designed by the marketing team.

I attended the Savvy Musician In Action Conference this past summer and learned a ton on how to make “it” happen. The “it” in this case was the concert. At Savvy we used large Post-It paper on the walls to keep us organized…..well, I had the concert team do the same. It was great for figuring things out and brainstorming. The kids LOVED writing on the Post-It paper and they all begged to get a turn to do so. Below is an example of the Post-It paper.

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Above left is a worksheet where they were figuring out their possible income from ticket sales and donations.

The other is a photo of the math of the treasurer who is a 13-year-old math genius. They found out that the recital hall fit 90 people comfortably and 100–not so comfortably. Our treasurers figured they could bring in at least $470 as they were also going to sell tickets at the door for $7.00.
At the next meeting I handed the team a computer and an iPad to find an organization to which they would donate the proceeds of their concert. Again, most of them hadn’t really done much research on a computer. They found quite a few but, selected the organization called Tuesday’s Children.

Tuesday’s Children was formed after 9/11 to take care of the needs of the children that lost their parents in the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the 300 unborn babies who lost their fathers.

I called the organization, talked to them and learned so much. They are evolving since the children are now getting older. The unborn children are now 15 years old. Now they offer help to people who have been impacted by any terrorist attack and other acts of violence.

The tasks that the students assigned themselves were all suited to their strengths; for example, the marketing team went gangbusters and sold the most tickets and asked everyone in their circle to come.

There was a job for everyone. My newer student, “T”(2nd grader), is very quiet and shy so I asked if she would like to design a Tuesday’s Children Donation Box. She did a wonderful job and put a lot of thought into it.

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Four students wanted to host the recital as they liked to speak in front of an audience. I wrote the script and handed it to them to figure out who would say what and when. They did an awesome job and owned it by memorizing their parts and making little note cards just in case they had a memory slip.

We had one dress rehearsal two days before. H’s Dad offered to run the recorded music prior to the concert and videos of snippets from Tuesday’s Children. He then handed all the information to his son and said “this is for you to figure out how it’s going to happen and I’ll help you” (loved that.)

On Holliman’s Student Extravaganza rehearsal day everyone was excited!

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September 11, 2016 arrived and the concert went off without a hitch. The students decided to enter the recital hall as a processional at show time carrying an American flag with the national anthem playing. What was so unexpected and moving was the audience all stood and sang the National anthem.

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In the photo above, you see a TV that we used to show the snippets of Tuesday ‘s Children videos for the audience to get a better understanding of the organization.

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After the concert the marketing team approached the audience as they were leaving to donate to Tuesday’s Children with the donation box and they were quite successful at it.

The following week the Finance Team went to work. I wanted to give the performers a stipend from the ticket sales for all of their hard work. The Finance Team met and did the math to see if this would be possible as they could only use the money from ticket sales. Over 57 tickets were sold plus they had many buy tickets at the door.

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They were able to give each performer a $6.00 stipend but most of the performers donated their stipend to Tuesday’s Children. The projected donation to Tuesday’s Children through ticket sales and donations was exceeded! Our extravaganza made a donation of almost $500!! Tuesday’s Children was so pleased and they have asked the team if they would do this again next year.
What I noticed after this experience, is that my students have exceeded their musical benchmarks. This concert was such an enriching experience and I have seen my their musical skills grow and their level of playing increase. Because I put the responsibility on them, they now understand the wonderful results that occur with planning, practice, diligence and teamwork.

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Some of the Holliman’s Student Extravaganza performers and team.

Thank you, Renée, for such an inspiring project and post. Please thank all your industrious and dedicated students, too!

-Leila

Essentials for the Worship Team Pianist

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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.

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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.”

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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!

-Leila

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