Category - Piano Maestro

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

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

Events, opinions and resources definitely worth your consideration


If you are part of Tim Topham’s Inner Circle, take advantage of your membership and join the Youve-Found-Your-Tribenext Mastermind event.  I’ll be there and am looking forward to chatting about creativity and apps. It’s scheduled for this Saturday at 8-9am Melbourne time which makes it Friday at 4pm my time (Mountain Time.) Here’s a link to figure out what time it will be for you!

If you want more details on Tim’s Inner Circle, here’s my past post that includes my Google Hangout with Tim. It also features information on the benefits of the Inner Circle and how to sign up. Or, just sign up here, right now, and you’ll be set for Friday afternoon.

Reminder: Bring your iPad to the Mastermind and come with questions. Will I see you there?


Speaking of the iPads and apps, I can’t wait to release a new product in my Piano Teacher Planning Center called Rhythm: Make it Count. Here are the details…

Why this resource, now?

So, you’ve dipped your studio toe into technology? Perhaps you’ve even added Off Bench time knowing that having extra time to reinforce your instruction is worth the effort. But you’re still Rhythm Make it Count Facebook (1)wondering: “Now what?”

Here’s my first attempt to bring you an official, organized and I believe efficient answer to that nagging question.

What is it?

The downloadable PDF, Rhythm: Make it Count, is a compilation of iPad app assignments and off bench activities and games exclusively related to rhythm. I chose and isolated rhythm first (yes, there will be more of these theme-related resources to come!) because if rhythm is understood, then improvisation, reading, ensemble playing and all things related to music falls into place IN time and at the RIGHT time!

The easy-to-use resource includes:

  • Reproducible Level 1 weekly student assignment sheet (quarter – whole notes, 3/4 and 4/4 time.)
  • Reproducible Level 2 weekly assignment sheet (dotted quarter, 16ths and syncopation.)
  • A Get Inspired! Episode dedicated to performances highlighting rhythm in unique ways with a reproducible list of guided questions.
  • Additional innovative ideas for Off Bench activities and suggested games to use in private lessons, Off Bench time or group lessons.
  • Printable large icons of apps to hang in your studio to ease the assigning process.
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to easily implement the plan in your studio.

How is it of value to you?

It will save you oodles of time and anxiety. A plan will be in place for your students on and off the bench that will offer reinforcement and engaging student activities. I know this because Amy Watt, friend and rookie Off-Bench teacher is helping me design this.

Stay tuned, it will be released soon…


Still not sure about adding technology or how to incorporate creativity into your teaching? Then consider working with me. Now’s the time for last minute advice and strategies! Learn more here. Here’s what Kelly Koch (her studio is featured in the photo above) stated after our FaceTime consultation:

Leila offers a Studio Consultation, but really it’s so much more!  We received a online-730x730consultation for our Lab/Lesson format, which was a little outdated.  Our students were stale on our lab and we asked Leila for ways to improve it.  Not only did she give us SO many ideas, she helped us after the consult (many times) on our purchase of iPads, apps and accessories.  She is my silent partner in the studio!  It was an excellent investment for Minds On Music and we know it will pay dividends for us this fall!


Looking for some fresh teaching repertoire and tips on how to introduce new music to your students? You can get both by joining the Composer Community Discussion Group. Recently, they added a Thursday’s Teaching Tip to their conversation threads. Here’s fellow blogger and co-author of Bucket Drumming for Piano Teachers Heather Nanney’s teaching tip video that she produced to go along with her “flashy solo” for beginners. She packs the video full of excellent suggestions!


Bradley Sowash held a free online group class. Yes, you heard me right, a group class online. He guided us through creating a gospel style improvisation of “Amazing Grace.” A number of us were involved in the class and were called upon to play (if we wanted to!) Other viewers could just sit back and listen and learn.

I can’t tell you how much fun I had after the lesson. I’ll I wanted to do was practice but work got in the way. Below is my creative effort following Bradley’s tips. If you can’t view the video click here.

If you are interested in developing your improvisation skills, if you’ve always wanted to but didn’t think you could, then I can’t recommend Bradley’s instruction enough. Yes, I do work with the guy so I might be partial but, this online group lesson venture is his thing. I’ll be there learning right along with you all. Sign up here.


Many have asked if I will continue using Piano Maestro and if so, which payment plan will I choose? Last evening I signed up for the Studio + Home option. You can learn more about all the options here.

The app is no longer free for verified teachers and their students. It came as a surprise to mepm and to many other teachers who were spoiled with the free access. I paid for the annual plan for this year and then will determine if my students use it enough to justify the cost for next year.

For so many reasons, I find this app extremely valuable to my Off Bench time as do my students. I don’t believe the students take advantage of it at home as I would have liked. This year I’ll push more home use of PM and see if it’s worth the price tag.

The lesson for all of us: FREE is not always best. In hindsight, JoyTunes should have charged us a long time ago for their extremely valuable tool. The announcement of the new fee structure was poorly timed. Us teachers became addicted to it and now that it’s not free, the adjustment is that much harder.

It’s a reminder, though, that good things are worth paying for.


Some good things are also free! Check out my freebies at the Piano Teacher Planning Center. The newest is a letter to parents about using the iPad in piano lessons.


A letter to parents about using the iPad in piano lessons.

Ten Things Guaranteed to Rock Your Summer Lessons

It’s mid-summer for those of us in the States which means we are either enjoying time off from teaching or are desperate to keep things interesting during private lessons, group lessons and/or camps.

Dynamic teachers Lou Ann Pope and Anna Fagan provided some terrific posts about Practicia and group lessons for multiple ages while I’ve been away. Click on their names to check out their posts loaded with ideas for your studio. Thanks to both of you!

After a wedding in Canada (hooray, we have a daughter in the family!) I travelled from coast to coast (South Carolina to Oregon) and I picked up some additional ideas to share.

As our 88 Creative Keys Workshop begins this Wednesday–July 6th–I’m short on time but big on ideas so the list below offers limited descriptions of each idea, but…I figured it was best to show and then I’ll tell more later OR leave a question in the comment section.

1) Rhythm Boards

Read More

An A-List of Apps for the Budget Conscious

When a friend asked me what apps I’d purchase if I had $50 to spend, it gave me a challenge. I thought it’d be easy–it was anything but!

The challenge of staying within a budget triggered three lists:

List #1 My first attempt to stay within $100 failed miserably.

List #2 My second attempt to stay close to $100 was successful but I griped about it.

List #3 My third attempt I stayed within the preferred $50 budget. I did it but I didn’t like it.

Perhaps $100 sounds like a lot to spend on apps?

Maybe, but a good deal of them on the list are free so the list is REALLY long.

In the past, I used to purchase software programs that were $100-200.

The amount of incredibly helpful tools you can get for $100 on the iPad is completely worth the investment. Yes, I’m biased but you knew that already.

The list was recently shared in my newsletter. Once you download the list, you’ll automatically be signed up to receive my newsletter which will always have something you won’t want to miss!

Download the list here.

Or check out my store here and grab some other items while you’re there.

I’ll be away for a while but there will be some surprise “guest bloggers” over the next couple weeks.  I think you’ll enjoy seeing who they are and what they will share with you.

Will I see you this summer?

1) Alberta Registered Music Teachers Association Workshop in Calgary, Alberta.

On my way to my firstborn son’s wedding, I’ll make a stop in Calgary where I’ll be IMG_0783talking about group improvisation and apps for creativity.

2) David Cutler’s Savvy Musician in Action at the University of South Carolina.

Next, I’ll be head to South Carolina and step out of my comfort zone attending an entrepreneurial event. I’m SO pleased and thankful that three 88PK readers are joining me as they also received a scholarship to attend. See you soon, Marie, Becky and Renee!

3) Oregon State Music Teacher Association Conference

Bradley Sowash and I are honored to be the main speakers for this conference. Whoah, are we gonna have fun. I hope those Oregon teachers know what they have coming! 🙂

4) 88 Creative Keys Keyboard Improvisation Workshop July 6-13, 2016.

I’ll finally come back home just in time to welcome YOU into my Denver backyard. Hope you can make it! If you’ve got questions, contact me at


Pssst… Tim Topham is offering a webinar, Sunday June 5th.

It’s FREE and features Amy Chaplin (Marie Lee wrote about her excellent MTNA presentation at 88PK here) talking about studio marketing.

 Follow this link to learn more. 

The Wild West of Studio Marketing blog size



Yamaha’s P255 Digital Piano: You’re Gonna Want One!

Are wondering which digital piano will fit your needs?

Are you looking to add your first digital piano to your studio?

Are you hoping to add an additional digital piano to your studio?

Have you noticed the “buzz” around teaching piano in groups? If you are gearing up to teach in groups, most experts in the field admit that you can do so with just about any kind of keyboard. Yes, even an old Hammond organ will do!

But, when you are–

  • done putting up with an old keyboard
  • ready to offer your students a serious and digital instrument
  • searching for a reasonable price tag
  • looking to upgrade the level of technology in your studio
  • wishing to add your very first digital piano to your studio

–whatever the case may be—you’ll want to buy Yamaha’s P255 digital piano.

The P255 recently joined my growing collection of Yamaha pianos. I wouldn’t trade my C6 or my Clavinova CVP 505 for the world. The P255 took the place of an ancient Roland keyboard. I set five requirements for the replacement of the ancient keyboard.

The P255 digital piano meets all my requirements and then some


1) Compatibility

The digital piano is MIDI capable (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) which means it can be wired to and “talk” to an iPad or computer. This feature is not unusual now-a-days, but is extremely important to me as I want students to be able to play Piano Maestro with head phones, and notate compositions using either Notion or Noteflight. Both notation programs are MIDI compatible and allow composers to enter notes by playing them on a MIDI compatible keyboard.

2) Portability

It is my intention to provide students more playing opportunities and to “play it forward” at various public and private venues. Since there is never a guarantee that a decent piano will be around, it is crucial that my new keyboard is light enough to carry with me on the go. At 38 pounds, this is not a problem. I purchased an X-stand so that it can be set up anywhere (see pic below.)

This also means that I can move the keyboard around in my studio to suit my needs when teaching in group settings. Read More

Simplify Your Studio Incentives

This is my second post about studio organization. The first post highlighted the KonMari method which encourages organizers to keep things that spark joy and get rid of items that don’t. Follow this link if you missed the popular post. This post is about how simplifying my studio incentive sparked joy for me and could do so for you, too! I’m an aspiring minimalist. Isn’t that a great phrase? I stole it from a fellow teacher.

How do you motivate your students?

  • to master scales
  • to build reading skills
  • to pass theory tests
  • to practice between lessons
  • to…

Perhaps you use games, apps, drilling, even nagging and probably some kind of incentive program? They do help to drive the student who needs an extra push and provide a healthy competitive spirit throughout your studio

I regularly resort to bribery

Good old-fashioned cash works wonders. Cash as in Music Money made by TCW (Three Cranky Women) Resources. Students in my studio can earn the Mu$ic Money for anything I deem worthy. Examples include:


  • $100 for receiving a 5 progress score in their lesson notes. Follow this link toIMG_3085 (1) learn more about my system for measuring progress between lessons.
  • $5 for being smart: I ask a question and they answer it correctly.
  • $1 for lifting wrists at the ends of all slurs in a piece.
  • $10 for perfect hand position.
  • $1 for adding every dynamic marking in a piece.
  • $30 playing a challenging measure correctly three times in a row.
  • $500 for playing in a recital, at school, at church…
  • $20 for moving to the beat.
  • $50 for each piece that earns three gold stars in Piano Maestro.
  • and whatever I can dream up during a lesson to maximize learning and mastery at or between lessons.
  • $1000 for being the Piano Maestro Star Student of the Week.

Steps to money handling

  • Music Money is kept and paid out throughout the IMG_2054 (1)lessons as mentioned above.
  • Students store their hard-earned cash in plastic envelopes, (I recently found them on clearance at Office Depot but paper envelopes work fine.)
  • Once my cash supply is getting low, students add up their bills, trade them in and record the amount on their credit cards. (I order the cards from Vista Print. They are the size of business cards.)
  • About three times a year, I set up a card table in the studio and display tantalizing items for students to browse and buy with their Music Money.

This year, I recognized that the “store” had become something I dreaded:

  • It’s an ordeal to build up an inventory and set up shop with pricing and displaying the goods. Most of the stock came from the Target $1 bins)
  • It’s hard to anticipate what items might appeal to the students and if I purchased enough of them.
  • It’s clear to me that setting up the store did NOT spark joy so it was time to make a change and simplify!

A NEW streamlined approach to money handling

I’ve decided to scrap the store–no more inventory to worry about.

1) Instead, students get to choose to save their money for gift cards.

  • $5 Amazon
  • $10 App Store
  • $10 iTunes
  • $10 Sheet Music
  • $5 Target

2) Students write their name on a gift card punch card to represent what they are saving for and the cards remain in the studio tucked in a special sleeve I purchased at Target.

3) Once students accumulate $1000 in cash, they earn a punch on their chosen gift card punch card. When they earn 5 or 10 hole punches on their “gift card” they receive the REAL one.

NOTE: I still use the credit card system along with the fake gift cards in my studio so that I can keep plenty of cash on hand BUT, this step could be eliminated to keep things EVEN simpler.

How has this simplified things the most? NO MORE going to the store and shopping. All these gift cards can be purchased and given online!

  • Target Gift cardLearn how to send iTunes or App Store gift cards here.
  • Learn how to redeem gift cards here.
  • Order Target gift cards here.
  • Order Amazon gift cards here.

How can you use this in your studio?

Mostly likely you already have creative and kid-friendly incentive plans throughout the year showing progress on posters on the wall and charts tracking progress. With multiple incentive plans, consider streamlining the award system. For example, instead of awarding a trinket or medal for transposing in all 12 keys, award one punch on the gift card punch card.

How do you make these gift card punch cards?

I’ve made it easy for you.

1) Download the PDF below and print out the amount of cards you need.

2) If you are an MTNA member, take advantage of your discounted printing prices at Office Depot.

3) Laminate the cards to protect them and make them look “official.” I use this laminator and love it.

4) Find a place to store them in your studio: either in a small recipe box in alphabetical order or in order of when the students arrive for lessons during the week. My cards are housed in this “thing” with pockets that I found at the Target $1 bin.

How can you afford this in your studio?

I realize that money does not grow on trees. Here are some practical tips to help you run with this idea without going broke.

1) Ultimately, you may spend less money on rewards as you’ll reduce your stock of trinkets and gadgets. Ordering the cards online saves precious time and gas. I still have a stock pile of items for prizes–evidence of wasted time, money and mileage on the car.

2) Charge an annual supply fee in addition to your tuition that covers apps, reference books and studio incentives. Building this fee into your tuition structure will help you recoup your costs of the gift cards.

3) Talk with your parents about this more practical incentive plan and get them on board. Most likely they’d be up for something like this to encourage their child over sugary snacks and silly prizes. Suggest that they match you dollar for dollar. You promise $5 toward the gift card and the parents supply the balance for the $10 gift card.

Are incentives really necessary?

It seems ridiculous. All this for motivating piano students? I really want and intend for their personal desire to play the piano and make music to be motivation enough. This type of motivation, called intrinsic motivation, is why teenaged students stick around for piano lessons. By this age, they realize that playing piano has become a passion and not just something to please their parents.

For younger students still uncertain about the hard work involved with playing the piano, earning money IMG_1953towards a gift card to a favorite store may be the perfect way to keep them on task and on the bench. I notice that whenever a bribery replaces my “nagging” at a lesson, the learning or challenge becomes fun. A cheer with arms raised of ” I did it!” rings through my studio quite often. The money ignites the challenge but once the challenge is met, the student realizes that the feeling of accomplishment is worth its weight in gold.

I love to see a student’s eyes light up when I say “twenty bucks if you can play that phrase perfectly!” If it doesn’t happen the first time, they will play the phrase until it is perfect.

It’s important to remember that bribing students works IF they know:

  • what the challenge is
  • how to accomplish the challenge
  • when they’ve met the challenge.

I continue my quest to organize and simplify and minimize. How are you simplifying things in your studio? Do you have an easy-to-implement incentive program that works? Are you becoming an aspiring minimalist? If so, how’s it going?



Should piano lessons require an iPad? Free download for parents!

Have you been asked by prospective parents if a piano is necessary for their child to begin piano lessons? While you’re saying under your breath “do you need a soccer ball to play soccer?” you kindly explain why a piano–preferably one in good condition and in tune– is indeed essential if the youngster is going to make progress. This usually makes sense to the parents and helps them rationalize the expense of a quality instrument.

Are you convinced that an iPad, along with a piano, is an essential tool to your teaching?  It’s not just a fancy gadget that demonstrates your advancing tech-savvy skills. You’ve witnessed the relationship between the iPad and student progress. Case in point: the ongoing, continual, unending (no kidding!) testimonies on Facebook and at conferences of teachers cheering the magical powers of the app called Piano Maestro. If you use the app, most likely you’ve seen the substantial progress of students who play with the app at home as well at lessons.

In addition, do you notice that students who own an iPad gladly download your recommended Apple-logo-icon-Aluminum-485x485apps; for example, a free metronome? Remember trying to talk families into buying one of those pricey, slightly annoying gadgets that eventually were ignored or lost? For beginners, it’s never hard to talk them into downloading the free version of Petronome so they can match their beat with a bark or blurp or meow.

So, do you find yourself wishing that all your students owned an iPad along with a well-tuned instrument? As of now, I don’t require it–an acoustic or digital piano yes, but not an iPad–yet I’m tempted!

Thus, I’m sharing a downloadable PDF for parents called “I Thought We Just Needed a Piano? Now an iPad, Too?” I’ll be sending this to my parents who have not yet purchased an iPad or who are leery of anything with that Apple logo on it and you can do the same.

The download addresses questions often asked by concerned parents:

  • Why do you recommend an iPad for my child, I thought we just needed a piano?
  • Why do you specifically recommend an iPad? Can’t we use the tablet we already own?
  • Excess screen time is a concern and that’s why we want our child to play piano and not Xbox or Angry Birds. Now you are asking us to allow more screen time. Why?
  • Which iPad should I purchase?
  • With all these “amazing apps” for the iPad, why does my child need a teacher?
  • Once we own the iPad, what apps should we get?

With Black Friday around the corner and the recent release of the hot (ouch!) iPad Pro, now is the time to jump on the iPad Air, Air2, the mini or even a refurbished model (32G’s or more!) If you have a current family that needs a gentle nudge, this PDF download may do the trick.

Or, if you are interviewing a new family, this document is the perfect way to “sell” them on your tech-savvy approach and get them onboard with purchasing an iPad as part of your required materials.

Enter your email and share this with your parents!

Personal Online Consultation

Are you looking to expand your studio, make more income, find more time for theory, music history, composition, and get full use out your iPad? Then you need to consider adding Off-Bench time with your On-Benchneed help instruction.

Or, perhaps you know you need to reset or reboot your curriculum and instruction with a tech-savvy iBoost.

I’ll take a look at your current situation and help you design a plan to suit your unique studio needs with a balance of tech-savvy and non-tech activities. Let’s meet via Skype or FaceTime and brainstorm!

Please contact me (Leila Viss) at if you are interested in a personal consultation (60 min for $75.)

Remarks from Marie in Nevada after her consultation:

This is so exciting! I can’t stop thinking about all the ideas you shared and probably won’t be able to fall asleep tonight I appreciate you taking the time to make notes for me to refer to, and your connections to other teachers will be invaluable.



Yamaha Pianos, Wireless MIDI, Piano Maestro, AirTurn Pedal Wow!

Just returning home from the Ohio,  I want to share some things I discovered during my short stay. My Christmas list is growing!

Ohio is home to outstanding music institutions and teachers

It was fun sharing the joy of Piano Maestro and oodles of other apps this past weekend at the Ohio Music Teachers Association conference.

This association is loaded with highly esteemed teachers and professors 12227641_1520085918305009_7946332132038695363_nthanks in part to excellent institutions like Oberlin Conservatory, The Ohio State University, Ohio University, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cincinnati  College Conservatory and all the smaller yet strong schools interspersed throughout the state. In addition, MTNA (Music Teacher’s National Association) is based in Cincinnati so Rebecca Johnson, MTNA president, was at the conference. Joy Morin of ColorInMyPiano fame resides in Ohio as well. Make sure to check out her blog if you have not done so already. Of course, I best not forget my colleague and friend Bradley Sowash and of course, Suzanne Newcomb who chaired the conference planning. Read More

iPad Piano Teacher: Jennifer Foxx

Jennifer Foxx is a pioneer in the field of teaching piano with technology. I continuePiano Pic 2 to learn new things, gather savvy tips and accumulate more apps thanks to her enlightening app reviews and iOS app list. She definitely qualifies as an iPad piano teacher and Jennifer was kind enough to share her studio “secrets!” Check out my book The iPad Piano Studio which features other fellow iPad piano teachers.

Learn more about Jennifer…

Jennifer has over 15 years of experience in speaking and enjoys giving presentations to fellow music teachers, sharing with them her teaching ideas and practices on topics such as technology, practicing, motivational programs, group lessons and summer music camps. Jennifer has taught piano lessons for over 25 years and is nationally recognized from her teacher resource blog:

and her studio

When students attend Foxx Piano Studio, they are getting a music education experience. Foxx Piano Studio includes tech time, group lessons, camps and performance events.


Jennifer, how long have you integrated the iPad into your teaching?

Read More