Category - Gift 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

The Perfect Paper-Free Gift for Mother’s Day

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Kristin Jensen’s site called Ear Training and Improv offers unique worksheets, FullSizeRendervideos and posts to spur musical imaginations. Kristin’s growing library of clever resources is impressive. Since the special day is coming up shortly, I decided to check out her Mother’s Day Composition activity.

I’m always attempting to find a way to incorporate my favorite tool (the iPad) and prefer to remain a paper-free studio as much as possible. Therefore, I’ve created a tutorial on how your students can complete Kristin’s mother-pleasing project with just the iPad and the help of some terrific apps, of course! Read More

An Edible Ornament that Lasts for a Lifetime?

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Turning a candy cane into the shape of a “J” and attaching an Christmas Candy Caneappropriately shaped pipe cleaner can magically transform into a treble clef. No, I wasn’t clever enough to come up this idea! Credit goes to Mrs Dennis and her article posted at Music with Mrs Dennis. If you have not visited this creative and colorful blog, check it out. Music with Mrs. Dennis has oodles of ideas for the music classroom that can prove useful in the piano studio as well.

Mrs Dennis was kind enough to shoot a video of how she made the candy cane treble clefs. My students watched the video to learn how to make these tasty treble clefs in the studio during Music Tech Time.

Unlike Mrs Dennis, who generously crafted them for her students, I made my students make their own as part of a Christmas gift to their parents. After their treble clef ornament was finished, students wrote a holiday sentiment on a tag, and threaded the tag and a silver or gold bell on a colorful string. The string was then tied in a knot which was glued to the bottom portion of the “J.”

What you will need to create the candy cane ornament:

Read More

The Perfect Keepsake for Your Students!

QR code postIt will be hard to outdo the Christmas gifts given to my student families last year. The idea came to me when I saw that it was possible to link a video to a QR code and print the codes on stickers.

FYI: A QR code (short for Quick Response) is a specific matrix bar code (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR bar code readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded on a QR code can be text, a URL link or other data like a video.

I bribe my students with Music Money. (Read more about it here.) They are given the chance to shop and spend their hard-earned cash various times throughout the year at my studio store and as a result, they accumulate many trinkets and gifts.  Because of this bribery system, it seemed appropriate to give the parents of my students a gift instead for the holiday season. A handmade item crafted by their adored, budding musician seemed appropriate and definitely more meaningful than any store-bought item. This line of thought triggered the idea of students designing cards with QR code stickers for their parents. Read More