Group Piano: What it IS and What it ISN’T

On the fence about whether group instruction is right for you? Not sure what format you should use? Good friend and colleague, Marie Lee has some strong opinions on this topic as she should. I consider her an expert in group piano instruction–check out the programs at her Musicality Schools. You can learn more about her experience here or just keep reading and hear what is and what isn’t group piano class.

-Leila


As piano teachers realize that YES, they can make a good living teaching piano, the subject of group classes comes up as a way of increasing studio size and income. But what exactly IS a group class? And what is it NOT? Read More

Feeling the BEET with Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory

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

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

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

Can you carve out a career by ear?

Jake Mirow is one of those students you don’t forget. Don’t get me wrong, I treasure all my current and former students but Jake was different. In fact, that’s how Jake came to my studio, because his mom and dad knew he was different and that he needed something different.

What does different mean? Jake has an uncanny ability to play by ear with style and flair. The best way to explain it? He’s hard-wired differently than most.

Example? After seeing the movie Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey in 2009, Jake returned to his lesson and played a jaw-dropping medley of the soundtrack. It’s like his ears have a photographic memory?!?

Mmm….what does a classically trained pianist trying to get over her own fear of improvising do with a student like Jake? Read More

Two Big Changes for Me and The Benefits for You

Opportunity knocked two times this spring.

#1

The first opportunity that will make a significant impact in my work week is a position banner-192-20130306132137I recently accepted at the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music. I’m pleased and honored to be heading up their Piano Preparatory program. I’ll be collaborating with Chee-Hwa Tan, colleague, good friend and brilliant pedagogy professor at the university. I’ll also be working with and mentoring graduate students as we provide group and private lesson instruction to youngsters around the ages of 6-11. I’ll be working in this beautiful building on the lovely DU campus.

How does this change for me benefit you? 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

Marie’s Secret Sauce for Getting New Students

NEWSFLASH! Marie Lee (good friend and featured here at 88pianokeys.me) 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

Paul Myatt: One more reason to attend 88 Creative Keys Workshop

Launching an independent, tech-savvy, creative-based piano studio has been a dream come true for me.

Some dream bigger.

Over the last ten years, I’ve had the itch to move out, rent space, teach more group lessons and hire fellow teachers but I haven’t followed through for multiple reasons. Those who do are such an inspiration to me.

Some dream even bigger!

Paul Myatt not only co-founded and directs a successful, multi-teacher school, he’s franchised it! His Forte Music Schools which feature innovative group teaching, are located throughout Australia, New Zealand and have spread to the United Kingdom. I first saw Paul in action at Tim Topham’s blog. Follow this link to learn Paul’s Five Secret Ingredients to Successful Group Teaching.

Listen to all or part of this video to see and hear Paul in action. Read More

Share your sizzling hot summer studio plans in STYLE

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

Here’s Andrea with all the details.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out all the designs in the slide show below

Read More

New Arrangement for Piano Solo: “It is Well”

Perhaps you know the tragic story behind the lyrics of the hymn, When Peace Like a River? They were penned in 1876 by Horatio G. Spafford after losing four daughters in a shipwreck. His wife survived the wreck. This was just one of many tragedies this couple endured. You can read more about their life here.

Unfortunately, and as you know, tragedies are a common occurrence. I’m surrounded by family and a community in which I witness the faithfulness of saints—despite dire circumstances—on a daily basis.

Photo by Joanne Alberda

Photo by Joanne Alberda

“A river might bring to mind a damaging flood, but the paradox of being flooded by peace is the rich insight of the poet.”   – Joanne Alberda

The testimony of saints who persevere and profess “it is well” although it may seem anything but, inspired me to write this arrangement. You’ll hear calm waters, ripples growing into rushing rapids, the rolling of sea billows and the trumpets resounding.  The simple yet profound tune composed by Philip Bliss, lends itself to wonderful possibilities for harmonic and rhythmic color! Read More

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

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.

img_4545-e1463404805154

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!

17797834_10211208262215130_341829101_o