Category - Preparing for Performance

It is Healthy to Talk about Stage Fright!

Stage fright. It’s a topic that often gets pushed aside at weekly lessons. As teachers, we tend to focus on how to play, how to memorize, how to read, how to create, and even how to perform but, we can overlook how to prevent or deal with performance anxiety.

I believe preparing students properly and in advance of a performance can curb anxiety (see The Five P’s of Performing) but, what if students have anxiety about performing regardless of their adequate preparation? When self-doubt and the fear of what others think creeps into our students’ psyche, what are we to do? How can we coach pianists to find the right balance of adrenalin, mental and emotional health to develop successful performance skills?

Answers to all of these questions are addressed in Julie Jaffee Nagel’s new book called Managing Stage Fright: A Guide for Musicians and Music Teachers. The well-organized, easy-to-read book is packed with sensible advice, insightful tips, and well-researched strategies. It’s a must-have for any music teacher’s library. That’s what sets this book apart–it’s not only for performers, it’s also for teachers of performers!

Each of the 13 chapters opens with a list of “Questions for Thought.” Sprinkled throughout each chapter are summary boxes called “Implications for Teachers.” These two features, along with Julie’s expertise and conversational writing style make it easy to glean the information and help you are looking for.

I just ordered my Kindle edition of Managing Stage Fright. As I read through it, Julie’s careful research has validated a good portion of what I do in my studio (whew!) and has offered significant information on how we as teachers can best approach the unique students AND parents who walk in the studio door. One chapter title that immediately intrigued me: Performance Anxiety Begins in the Nursery!

Check out Julie’s blog post below to get a sense of her writing style.

Personally, I’ve had to overcome significant performance anxiety over the years on my own. I’m so grateful that now there’s research, expertise and open discussion on the topic so teachers can help students who struggle with it. Thank you, Julie for the blog post and the timely book on such an important and often overlooked topic!


Once upon a time, many years ago, when I was a piano teacher, I was working with a young student, Maria, who had come to my studio from another teacher in town.  Her mother explained to me that it was felt that  a different approach would be helpful for her daughter.  It was clear that her daughter loved music, and was quite accomplished at the piano, but her interest was waning.  When this was discussed with her music teacher, my name was given to her as a reference.

At one lesson, not long after we began to work together, Maria was having a very difficult time  playing a passage.  As she tried harder and harder, I could sense her frustration.  So I did what I thought was the best thing at that moment, and I asked Maria to stop playing so that we could  talk.  Maria started to cry, but also seemed relieved.  As we spoke about some things that had upset her at school earlier in the day,  Maria calmed down.  We didn’t really solve anything about school, but Maria felt  heard, respected, and understood.

Later that week, I ran into her previous teacher when I was downtown.  She inquired about her former student.  When I replied that when Maria had gotten upset,  had put a great deal of pressure upon herself to get everything “right”,  and that we had spoken about what she was feeling, the former teacher asked incredulously, “why did you let her talk?”

I was taken aback!  How could you not talk with someone in distress? Read More

What happens when the regular recital venue isn’t available?

When God closes a door He opens a window.

It’s a cliche, I know, but it seems so fitting for my recital experience this spring!

Two composers holding their original cover art and recital trophies

Two composers holding their original cover art and recital trophies

Earlier this year, I learned that after a decade of presenting recitals at the church where I hold a full-time organist position, I would not be able to this year.

After I calmed down and stopped fuming about it–my friend and I made a pact that you can hold on to feelings like this for no longer than a week–I told myself I had to begin thinking outside the box and beyond the closed door.

My thoughts

Another church sanctuary just wouldn’t be the same.

I’ve held informal recitals at the local Whole Foods but it’s noisy and not the intimate setting I wanted for my event.

Then it came to me Read More

Celebrate 150 years of Canada with these designs!

Did you know that Canada is celebrating it’s 150th birthday? Nope? I didn’t either! Not

A selfie after lunch out during spring break. Of course, shopping happened, too!

A selfie with daughter-in-law, Brittany, after having lunch together during spring break. Of course, shopping happened, too!

until fellow teacher, Swan Keizebrink filled me in and was requesting a recital program cover for her studio recital in honor of her native land.

Watch the video below to help you understand that it may come as a surprise even to many Canadians. Confession: my lovely daughter–in-law from Alberta, Canada had forgotten about it and she takes great pride in her Canadian citizenship.

Click on the video below to get a one-minute explanation of Canadian history and it’s 150-year birthday.


Although it’s not quite the Fourth of July celebration we enjoy in the states, the birthday is worth noting. In fact, it’s quite a big deal and is marked with an official logo! (See below.)

My loyalty for Canada begins with my daughter-in-law Brittany, but also because I enjoyed presenting at the Alberta Registered Music Teachers Association in Calgary last summer and met or reunited with many lovely teachers from Canada at the recent MTNA conference.


So, why the post about the Canadian 150th birthday? As mentioned above, this was spurred by a request from Swan who was looking for a design for her upcoming studio recital program commemorating this Canadian celebration.

Swan asked Andrea West for some designs and Andrea has delivered in fine fashion. You will find her new, custom Canadian designs perfect for a program, an invitation, card–use your imagination. Get them HERE!

Plus, don’t miss her other designs for spring recital covers. Find them all at the Piano Teacher Planning Center right HERE.


Stay in touch,


Make Recitals Easier with Ready-Made Cover Art

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!


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!


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!


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

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!


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.


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.


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!


The ONE Thing that Guarantees a Top Performance

As much as we’d love to promise ourselves, our students and our audience a perfect performance, it really is impossible thanks to all the great unknowns:

The unknown of nerves: they pop up in odd ways like sweaty palms, a shaking leg, heart palpitations.

The unknown of the audience: they cough, cry, chat or make sudden movements that distract.

The unknown of being human: we cannot control our environment when performing in real-time.

The one and only thing we can control which will guarantee a top performance is how to respond to these unknowns.

Just this past Sunday, my bluetooth page-turning pedal turned two pages on my iPad Pro (learn more this set up here) instead of one. Wouldn’t you know this occurred in a tricky spot where I was already focused on specific, pre-planned mental cues and was not counting on a faulty page turn. It interrupted my focus but…I recovered.

Here’s what I’d recommend (after years of trial and plenty of errors!) for you and your students:to-live-a-creative-life-we-must-lose-our-fear-of-being-wrong

Prepare your performance with diligence.

Prepare yourself for the unknowns.

Prepare your ego for the recovery process.

and, perhaps, the most difficult and yet most important…

Prepare to forgive yourself when things don’t go as planned.

Below is a list of ten tips for a top performance–the first step in the preparations listed above. Notice, I didn’t use the word “perfect” but I did use the word “top” as that is what we can aspire to with proper preparation.  I’ve designed a printable of this list and the Five P’s of Performing in a free printable. You’ll see where to sign up, below. Read More

Five P’s and Ten Tips for Sparkling Performances

It’s that time of year again. You are probably preparing students for a special holiday recital or gearing them up for festivals and competitions coming in early spring.


A peak at the printable

Along with preparing the piece, it’s important to train students in the art of performing. This is something to be taught right along with memorization skills and refining details so that the entire performance sparkles from head to toe.

In my studio, I’ve narrowed the performance process down to five steps which I call “The Five P’s of Performing.” Limiting it to five helps students remember the routine with little trouble.

Below I’m sharing how I explain these five P’s to my students. Next, I discuss how playing a scale and chord progression can be used for more than warming up hands and fingers prior to a performance. It’s important for students to treat this time as if they are investigative reporters. The information gathered about the piano during the warm up is crucial to a positive performance.

Last, I explain how I address wardrobe concerns with my students.

One more thing, included at the end of the post is a free infographic printable listing  The Five P’s of Performing that you can give to your students.

BONUS! Stay tuned for a follow-up post where I will discuss in detail the printable called Ten Tips for Top Performances included WITH the Five P’s download. It’s perfect for printing on the other side. I think you and your students will find both of these useful now, and in the years to come.

If you are a member of MTNA, consider printing these on card stock at Office Depot with your MTNA member benefits card! Learn more about it here.

Students can store their printable in their practice pouches. Learn more about those here.

The Five P’s of Performing

Group lessons are the perfect opportunity for peers to test the readiness of an upcoming performance. Besides each pianist playing a well-rehearsed piece, I talk each performer through the five P’s so they feel equipped for the stage. As the process is repeated over and over, the group of students chime in and coach the performer and I say less and less.

Here’s my script:

#1 Posture: Check the bench


Playing the bridal processional at my niece’s wedding without errors takes concentration. Talk about pressure!

If the bench is too close or too far, stand up and move it to the position that allows for feet to remain flat on the floor.

Stretching fists to the fall board with straightened arms is typically the correct distance and promotes a straight spine.

Look for the pedal. It’s SO frustrating when half way through a performance you realize you are lowering the wrong pedal. Feel free to tip your head to locate the correct pedal with your eyes. Never assume your foot found the correct one!

#2 Prepare: Find the correct keys

Use middle C as a marker to help locate the correct placement of your hands.

Check in with the minds ear: audiating or internally hearing the first measures of the piece to be played will help you set the correct tempo.

#3 Perform: Get in the zone

Beginning a performance with these first two “P’s” should help you to feel at ease and remain confident on the bench despite the pressure of the upcoming performance.

This is a good time to remember to align yourself with the “zone” required to perform. Perhaps the best way for you to experience this zone is by recording several run-throughs of a piece with a video camera.

Taking a video closely simulates the pressure of a live audience and can equip you with the focus needed to move through a performance successfully–mistakes and all!

Time out…

What defines a successful performance?


Rylan is accustomed to the pressure of performing and he even won an award for his improvisation at the Creative Pianist Festival.

We’d all like to play the piece exactly how it’s gone in practice with all the dynamics and notes in place with musicality and confidence.

Do you find that what you hope for in a performance and what actually occurs is not what you intended? If so, you are not alone!

Sometimes–to our surprise–the performance can be better than expected!  If that’s frequently the case for you, you are meant to perform and congratulations!

For most, an actual performance may not go as planned. Your hands may be sticky from nerves or the piano may sound completely different from yours at home, or a sour note may poke its ugly head in a surprising place where it’s never been heard before or…

You know all the distractions there can be. Performing is truly a test of will. You MUST continue and play forward and appear that everything is fine even when it’s not. It requires a game face and tenacity and the will power to recover

Expect bumps in a performance. Video a run-though and play through any mistakes. Forcing yourself to forgive and forget is essential to an overall positive performance experience. Carry on…

#4 Pride: Smile

Playing a musical instrument is an achievement.

Performing on a musical instrument in front of others is a major feat that should make you beam with pride.

This is not the time for a stern face or even a show of disappointment despite a possible less than perfect performance. 

Making mistakes is human but recovering from them with style qualifies as a stellar performance.

In addition, no one in the room could have played it better than you!  A warm smile exuding your pride in what you shared at the keys is your gift to yourself.

#5 Polite: Take a bow

It’s a natural response for an audience to show appreciation for a performance with applause.


Playing every Sunday has boosted my skills tremendously. Being responsible for so many notes pushes me to do my best yet keeps me humble as I regularly forgive myself and recover from mistakes.

The dazzle of bright lights and deafening cheers may rattle you.

Be ready to receive your glowing support by being polite and acknowledging the applause with a bow.

A bow may be an unfamiliar act.

Cut yourself in half with an arm, or place your hand on the nearby piano, bend over and slowly say “hippopotamus” while looking down at your toes.

To avoid looking like a turtle, keep looking down and not up at the audience. Stand up tall and retrieve any books from the piano rack.

Prepare to Make Friends with a Foreign Piano

As pianists, we rarely carry our instrument along with us which means we will encounter oodles of strange pianos. If there is any chance before a performance, I highly encourage you to make friends with the foreign piano. Here are steps to get to know the piano.

Gather info


This sister and brother were pleased with their performances at a local Federation festival and texted me this photo. Even if they didn’t play everything correctly, their preparation and confident performance earned both of them a Superior.

Prepare a scale and chord routine. Think of this as a warm up and more importantly as a routine to gather important information about the piano. In other words, you are shaking hands with the piano!

Test the weight of the keys

Play the scale with a musical crescendo and diminuendo to test the key weight. This helps to recognize how much arm weight is needed behind firm fingers to create a solid tone. In addition, it will tell you if the piano is lively and bright or mellow. This will give your ear and hands information on how to successfully create dynamic contrasts

Check the pedal

Play the chord progression using the pedal to locate the damper pedal and determine what is required to lower and lift it to create clean pedaling.


Test the Wardrobe

One last thing…you know today’s hip and dangerously high-heeled shoe styles? They can pose a potential hazard. If the heel is too high, your leg may not fit beneath the piano, or the ball of the foot may slide off the pedal. Worse yet, the heels may turn an elegant strut across the stage into an embarrassing trip.

We grabbed this pic with the few students left after a recital. I always forget to shoot a group shot! We’re posing a little less than professional, oops.

Yes, you could avoid heels at performance opportunities. If you are a fashion diva and can’t say “NO” to 4-inch heels, make sure to practice pedaling with the shoes! In addition, hold numerous runway tests to avoid any tipping, twisting and tripping.

Short skirts and small straps or strapless gowns can be a distraction if things slip and slide. Be safe and wear professional attire that reflects your playing.

Avoid flip-flops, jeans, leggings and sloppy clothes that are more appropriate for hanging out at home.

In other word, dress to match your success at the keys.

Ten Tips for a Top Performance

Stay tuned for a follow-up blog that covers these ten tips in detail. I’ve offered this download now with the Five P’s so that you can print on both sides of a page.

Best Wishes to you and your students

It’s my goal to leave few surprises especially for rookie performers and their parents. Moving through the steps listed above helps to build a positive performing experience. Communicating details on what to expect is one more way to curb anxiety and boost confidence of young performers. Best wishes to all your upcoming studio performance events!


Printables for positive performances

Include your first name and email address to download "The Five P's of Performing" and "Tips for a Top Performance"

SAVE the DATE! Do we get to meet you in Denver this summer?


Turn Practice into Progress with Power Tools

NEW: Get your free Practice Printable HERE!

Practice habits can dwindle in the summer and right now is the perfect time to give them a boost. In reality, we as teachers have little control over what happens between lessons. Because of this, it’s essential that we make time to teach purposeful practice strategies and use powerful tools that work at lessons and empower students’ practice between lessons.

Four years ago I wrote a post about practice pouches that my students assembled at their lessons. It is one of my most popular posts and now many students around the world(!) carry a practice pouch in their piano book bags.

Practice Pouches of the Past


It is hard to keep a firm knuckle while squeezing a clothespin but it shows how knuckle buckle can happen so easily.

If this is the first time you’ve heard about them, here’s a summary of how practice pouches were first designed. (Follow this link for ALL the details.)

During lab time, which I now call Off Bench time (tap here to learn more) at the first lesson of the fall session students chose a bag and decorated it with fabric pens. The bags were cosmetic bags found at the Dollar Store. Students passed through an assembly line of tools choosing one of each of the following:

  • Clothespin to cure “knuckle buckle” syndrome.


    Dumping an eraser off the wrist demonstrates the required motion for the ends of slurs.

  • Notebook to record new musical terms, repertoire, metronome markings and tallies for 20x perfect.
  • Mechanical Pencil so students “practice with a pencil” and write in counting or fingering where necessary, circle that one note that always comes out sour, etc.
  • Eraser: Wrist rolls and a lift at the ends of slurs allow for a natural tapering of sound/volume and immediately provides a more musical technique. The eraser balanced on top of the pianist’s hand is dumped off as the wrist rolls upward toward the fall board which helps students feel the correct motion required.
  • Stickers A small row of stickers are provided for students to place on a page they are

    Reserve ONE color for dynamics so they always stand out.

    particularly proud of.

  • Yellow Highlighter to highlight all dynamics to add and listen for each one in their practicing.
  • Rubber Snake to keep wrists parallel to the floor, a small snake is placed on the keyboard ledge and students are advised to avoid droopy wrists and stay out of the snake pit!
  • Dice so the student can divide a piece up into 6 sections. The die is rolled, if the number is 4, the student finds section 4. The student rolls again and that new number is how many times section 4 will be played. The LAST time the section is played, ZERO errors is the goal.


    Heather’s assembly line of practice tools.

Heather’s Practice Pouches of 2016

As I revisit the list, there are some things I’ll bag (pun intended) and others to add. Help with this updated list comes from Heather Nanney who recently adopted the practice pouch idea in her studio.

Take time to teach purposeful strategies and tactile tools that work at lessons and empower your students’ practice between lessons.

Heather included the following in her pencil pouches turned practice pouch.  You can find pencil pouches at Amazon and other stores. (I believe they are more sturdy than the bags I purchased at the Dollar Store.)

  • Mechanical pencil

    Plot out scales with erasers first so fingers know where to go.

    Plot out scales with erasers first so fingers know where to go.

  • Eraser
  • Clothespin
  • Ziplock bag to hold “Fast Fingers” for warm-ups and composing, etc.
  • Sticky notepad (instead of notebook.)
  • Tootsie Roll for when they practice every day of the week and they are “On a Roll.”
  • Eight pencil topper erasers to help mark scale degrees. This is inspired by a past post. Follow this link.
  • Music bookmarks (because they were hanging around the studio waiting to be used.)
  • Colored pen (because they were hanging around the studio anyway.)

Leila’s Practice Pouches with Traveling Power Tools

Read More

How to Prepare Performers for Adjudicator Comments and Decisions

A number of my students enjoy the challenge of entering adjudicated events. Many are quite competitive–much more than me! It takes strategic planning to prep them and that’s why I’ve posted past blogs about the process. You can find them here.

In recent a newsletter, I featured a popular download with all kinds of details and suggestions for students, parents and teachers in preparation for performance readiness.

Over the years, I’ve discovered strategies to help students play their best. Some have earned high praise and even prizes. Of course, this makes me beam with pride and more importantly, extremely happy for the student.

But, there’s usually a downside to this experience.

Please, don’t misunderstand me.

I’m not saying that I believe all my students deserve to earn top scores or receive Top Performer when they participate in festivals and competitions. It would be great if they did, but I don’t expect it.

What I find the most disheartening about adjudicated events after MONTHS of preparation is reading through the judge’s evaluation sheets with my students, and at times questioning their final decisions after the events. Read More

From Head to Toe Performance Tip #3: Communicate What to Expect


Kenna posing after her successful concerto performance.

Once a piece is memorized with all the details in place it would seem a successful performance would follow. I believe there are THREE MORE ESSENTIAL elements that guarantee a positive outcome for a rookie and seasoned performer. In my opinion, these steps involving the head down to the toes are almost as important as preparing the piece itself.

To learn about the FIRST element: The 5 P’s of Performing, click here. To read about the SECOND element, follow this link. Keep reading for the third element…

Communicate What to Expect

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