Mr. Arpeggio Book

Student workbook and assignment book to coordinate with game board.

It is so exciting to start a new school year. I usually take August off to give myself time to get ready for a new direction in the fall. In my never-ending attempt to keep kids engaged in the study of piano and music, I create a different theme and activity set each year. This year my theme is World Music, and I’d like to share with you how I have put this to work.

Superheros

Game pieces to move around the board; little superheros.

Mr. Arpeggio Map

Game board. Students move a space for each day of practice.

As the basis for my activities I chose to use an assignment book and game board from Keys to Imagination, created by Michelle Sisler. (http://www.keystoimagination.com/) There are several themes available, and I am using “Where in the World is Mr. Arpeggio” to coordinate with my world music theme. Each student gets a
workbook that includes assignment pages, along with activity pages at the beginning of the book which correlate with the game board. I purchase these books for the students out of their fall deposit money. A vinyl game board is pinned to my bulletin board and games pieces depicting superheros are added. The game board depicts a map of the world with a trail for students to follow as they track down clue cards to find Mr. Arpeggio, who has been stealing musical symbols. The clue cards also include interesting history and composer facts. Students progress on the board according to the number of days they have practiced the previous week.

In order to add a competitive element to the game, I also hung an even larger world map (under $15 at Hobby Lobby) on another wall and marked out a route for the students to race around the world.  Students will choose a cute paper luggage tag on which to put their name, and then move the tag along the route as they accumulate points. In order to get on the map they need 15 points to get to Denver International Airport. From there they work their way to New York City, on to Paris, then Shanghai, and eventually end up in Los Angeles. Their prize reward increases at each destination. They will earn points by collecting the previously-mentioned clue cards, bringing their books, playing their scales cleanly, writing compositions, completing theory pages, playing at recitals, and other activities and goals.

large world map

Large map I added to have a race around the world.

During weekly media lab time I will add in world music activities on the computer. I may also use some of Keys to Imagination’s “Are We There Yet” studio series. This curriculum provides many activities related to studying world music. I will incorporate the world music theme into my group lesson activities and any special concerts or field trips we attend this year.

Are we there yet

Multicultural activities for group lessons and media lab time.

Media ceiling view

Media room decorations.

Students will also be choosing a piano piece to study from a foreign country. I usually have a theme-specific recital sometime during the winter so the students can share these pieces with family and friends. I’ll encourage them to write a report about the country and/or the composer and maybe share some of those facts before they play.

ceiling flag strip

This long banner ties it all together.

To set the mood, I ordered very inexpensive decorations from www.PartyCheap.com in the world theme—lots of flags! I may leave these up all year, or move some of them around from time to time. I have little cards to send out before lessons begin letting students know about the “world wide search” and how I need their help to find the thieving Mr. Arpeggio!

I’d love to hear from other teachers who use a theme each year for motivation!

 

 

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Posted in Financial Business, Music History & Facts, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Although I am a professional music teacher, I like to challenge myself when using any computer program to get the most I can from it to help me with my daily tasks.  I have spent much of my early working life with computers, creating systems, writing manuals and teaching people how to use programs to get the best from them.

In a series of blogs called ‘Getting Innovative with MTH’, I am going to share some of my favourite workarounds that help me in Music Teacher’s Helper for a ‘One Stop’ approach for all my studio needs.

To Do List. Creative

To Do List

Creating a ‘To Do List’ 

I really do love the flexibility and powerful features within the MTH Calendar for scheduling all my students.

However, I also like a place to keep notes of things I still need to do, both from a personal point of view and for work related things (check dates for a new student, schedule a group session for my adult students, go to the dentist, etc).

So I have created a way which works for me.   Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Running a piano studio tends to be a lonely job.

hans-shake_318-23259

Setting up an independent piano studio, I worked alone to make it a vibrant learning environment for budding musicians of all ages. Although I cherish my students and their families and never feel isolated while teaching, they do not provide a sounding board for the administrative side of the business.

My church position requires me to work alongside the choir director, the choir members, a few colleagues when we play duets, professional musicians for seasonal cantatas and the like but, I’m not required to attend staff meetings. I choose my own music and practice a number of times each week by myself.

Writing a blog post or article requires time and space alone with my thoughts AND my computer. Sadly, I look at my computer screen more frequently than anyone or anything else and it offers no human interaction beyond its service as an electronic communication conduit.

As timing would have it, over the past year, I’ve worked with more colleagues than ever before.

Co-publishing a book, planning a conference, and running a camp completely and dramatically changed my connectivity with fellow colleagues. Now, there’s not a day that goes by without a text, a call or email about an upcoming deadline or project that requires team work.

This led me to wonder why it is that so many of us set up our OWN studio, independent of others, in our OWN homes or rented space. We seem to dwell in our OWN silo with only limited social pipelines to the outside world like Facebook, blogs, etc. Why were most of us never encouraged to seek a mentor or partner who could offer advice, tips, an exchange of ideas, and even share a studio or business together upon earning a music degree? Or maybe I just speak for myself? Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Oh my God!

© Olga Vasilkova | Dreamstime Stock Photos

As you glance over at Kyle, you are surprised to see tears brimming over. Where did those come from? He is just so sensitive! Some students seem to take corrective comments in stride, but others melt with the slightest suggestion for improvement. Kyle melts…

There can be multiple reasons for a student to not respond well to correction. Each of these reasons would suggest a different approach for resolution.

  • fear of failure
  • low self-esteem
  • perfectionist attitude
  • frustration with themselves
  • not meeting their own expectations
  • lack of understanding of the problem
  • have a hard time trying new things
  • feel they are not able to please you
  • bad day at school
  • hit their emotional limit for the day
  • low stress tolerance
  • fight with parent or sibling in the car on the way to the lesson
  • feel out of control
  • not doing music lessons for themselves, but out of coercion
  • not used to being corrected
  • not used to working hard for something
  • do not respect you as a teacher
  • loyalty to a previous teacher

Questions you might ask yourself as the teacher:

  • Have I properly prepared the student to play this piece?
  • Is this piece too challenging for this student’s emotional reserves?
  • Does the student know what I am asking for and how to achieve it?
  • Does the student have the technical skills to do what I am asking?
  • Was I clear in my instructions?
  • Have I broken the skill down into small enough pieces?
  • Is the tempo too fast?
  • Is the fingering wrong?
  • Have I already pushed too hard for this session and it’s time to back off?
  • Have I given enough positive feedback to balance the negative?
  • Is it time for a break or time for a new piece?
  • What is my best guess as to what is behind this melt-down? (see list above)

Many times we can slip into a pattern of ‘the student plays and then the teacher makes corrections.’ This can be an uninspired approach if it is not a process of joint discovery and stretching for the next level. There are many creative ways to involve the student mentally and emotionally to get past a road block. One approach is to praise what you honestly can, and then, instead of immediate correction, try one or more of the following: Read more…

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Posted in Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

“I’m late!
I’m late!
For a very important date!
No time to say “Hello”, goodbye!
I’m late!
I’m late!”Picture of White Rabbit with I'm Late
Part of the lyrics sung by the White Rabbit from the song “I’m Late” in Alice in Wonderland

Do your students run late?

Late students are inevitable. It is usually the same students that run late on a regular basis.

This can be stressful for instructors as it crunches the already limited time you have with the student.

Ideas on ways to eliminate late students: Read more…

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Posted in Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Anna at CSU Outdoor PianoHere are some ideas to move your studio forward this summer:

Hold a sight-reading challenge. Set out good sight-reading books from your library for students to choose from each week. Give out prizes at the end of summer for reading a certain number of pages.

Host a summer camp. You could hold your camp one day a week for a month, or four to five days in one week. It could be to attract new students, or a fun intensive for current students. I like “Way Cool Keyboarding” books by Musical Moments for great ensemble playing with beginners.

Attend a concert and invite your students. Give your students “points” in the fall for each concert they attend over the summer. Email notices of upcoming events in your area, especially free events for kids. There will be a free “Peter and the Wolf” performance in my local park in a few weeks, so I sent a flier out to all my families.

Get out all the fun music. Take a break from your regular repertoire and find something different and exciting to learn this summer.

Prepare for fall competitions. This is the time to polish up pieces that need to be ready to go in October or November. For ideas, see my blog on “Preparing for an Event or Competition.”

Organize your music and files. Check for overdue borrowed books. Label and file new music. Enter new music into your Music Teacher’s Helper library. I use cardboard magazine boxes on my bookshelves to organize my music into labeled categories, so that I can find books quickly.

Order a new computer or iPad game.  Learn to use it yourself this summer so you can use it in your media lab this fall. Check out “The iPad Piano Studio” by Leila Viss.

Attend a workshop or seminar. Local colleges or music stores often host guest artists or speakers. Consider traveling a little to immerse yourself in a blues workshop, or an improvisation seminar.

Recruit new students. This is the time of year parents are looking for a music teacher to begin lessons in the fall. Make sure you are on top of your marketing strategies. For marketing ideas check out my blog on “How Do You Attract New Students?”

Try out Music Teacher’s Helper. If you don’t already use this fabulous tool, summer would be a great time to learn all it can do for your studio and your sanity!

Plan your studio budget. I swear I only make $.03 per hour after you take into consideration all the time I spend outside of lessons, and the number of “toys” it takes to keep me having fun teaching. But seriously, summer is a great time to plan for the money aspect of the next school year. List your projected expenses, and then calculate how many students you need, and what you need to charge for lessons this coming year.

Think through individual student needs. Summer is a great time to ponder each student, make a list of their personal strengths and weaknesses, and how you can best move them forward.

Decide on your “theme” for the coming year. My students are on a mission to find out what our theme will be for next year! Read my blog on “Themes Add Focus to Your Teaching” for more about how this can enhance your school year.

Look into Michelle Sisler’s games and motivational tools. Michelle is so creative! Every year she comes out with more and better ideas. Check them out at http://keystoimagination.com.

Get your instrument tuned and repaired. If you have been putting off this task, now is the time to get everything in tip top condition.

Learn new music. You could read through new music for ideas for your students, or brush up on some higher level pieces you will be assigning. You could also spend more time on your own musical repertoire.

Read a book. I am enjoying the book “Make it Stick” by Peter C. Brown, recommended on this blog site. If you can’t attend a seminar, a book is an inexpensive way to update and expand your thinking on a particular subject.

Get healthy. I’m serious. It is the only way you are going to live through next winter and withstand all the germs that are going to be traveling through your studio. Summer is a great time to make changes in your health habits.

Rest and refresh your spirit. Summer is a great time to take time for you! Do something you love but never get time for. Get outdoors, take a mini vacation, enjoy your kids and family, or just sit and enjoy the beautiful sunshine and be grateful for all you have been given.

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Posted in Music & Technology, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper

General bookkeeping tools that operate as one size fit all for any industry can sometimes fall short. Here are three reasons scheduling and billing softwares made specifically for private lesson music studios are advantageous over generic accounting tools and spreadsheets:

1) Specialization: 

The financial features within Music Teacher’s Helper have all the proper terminology for a music lesson studio. That decreases the learning curve. QuickBooks and FreshBooks can make you feel like you need an accountingshutterstock_63218473 degree in order use properly.

Music Teacher’s Helper also makes family-based billing and adding recital or book fees easy.

Student facing invoicing features provide a professional touch for your studio. Students or their parents can receive custom invoices, text message payment confirmations, all with your branding and music lesson terminology.

2) Simplified Reporting:

For a teaching studio with just one teacher, a full fledged suite of financial reporting is generally not necessary. For most, a music studio needs to track income and expenses, how much students owe, mileage, and student account summary.

3) Support From Knowledgable Peers:

With 24/7 email, chat and weekday phone support, Music Teacher’s Helper users have access to excellent support staff – many of them private music teachers and experienced users that understand a studio’s needs.

Industry specific softwares tend to understand the needs of their users better than generic financial tools. In addition, these softwares (like Music Teacher’s Helper) come with scheduling, website, and many others features.

Click Here For Main Website &  30-day Free Trial.

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Posted in Financial Business, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

How often to do you evaluate the value of something verse the cost of something?

A Quick Story

Back in 2006, I paid $100 for a pair of Johnston & Murphy black leather dress shoes. Johnston & Murphy has a reputation for excellent craftsmanship and durability. This was one of the most expensive pairs for sale at Macy’s that day. Being in college at the time, I normally would grab the least expensive pair priced at $60 (I forget what brand). But I took a step back and thought about all the upcoming times I would be needing nice dress shoes – my brother’s wedding, my graduation, and future work. I wondered if that $60 pair was going to be the right shoe to wear for years to come. The Johnston & Murphy’s were more comfortable and felt higher-quality.

I asked an employee in the shoe department how many years each pair would last if worn consistently. He said the less expensive pair would last three years max and the Johnston & Murphy’s are known to be worn 10+ years by their owners.  That made my decision easy. Why would I choose to spend almost twice the amount of money, plus two additional shopping trips for a less comfortable shoe over a 10 year period?

Fast forward to 2014. I wear that same pair of shoes several times a week. They are starting to show their age after eight years but I consider them to still be in good condition. That fostered a new mindset for me about always considering the value of something on top of the cost.
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Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

It is that time again – studio recitals, last lessons of the semester, and the beginning of summer!

If you have not already done so, now is the perfect time to update your studio policy. (I sure hope if you are reading this, that you already have a studio policy!)

This year, I have been ultra efficient in this matter, and have already updated mine! I took a lot of time to consider/reconsider the following:

image1. Registration fee – I have been charging a registration fee for the last five years.

2. Tuition – I increase my tuition every year.

3. Sibling discount – I know many teachers frown upon this, but I do offer a small sibling discount.

4. Studio Scholarship – I offer a small award (in the form of reduced monthly tuition) for students that work hard and score highly in festivals and competitions.

imageI also finally decided to put my foot down about the following:

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Posted in Studio Management

Hopefully you will never have to ponder this heartbreaking question. Thankfully, most issues can be resolved with better communication and clear boundaries. It usually takes a lot of misbehavior to even consider dismissing a student, but even small things can add up to a big headache and energy drain over time. The following situations are always a challenge:

  • Student does not show up for lessons or is consistently late.
  • Frequent cancellations, especially at the last minute.
  • Unworkable sports schedule conflicts.
  • Parents pay late or not at all.
  • Student has a disrespectful attitude.
  • Student does not practice. Ever.
  • Student is not willing to try. Doesn’t want to be there.
  • Student frequently forgets to bring her books.
  • Parents do not offer encouragement and support at home.
  • Parents do not provide an adequate instrument on which to practice.
  • Student never participates in studio activities.
  • Student does not care for or return borrowed materials.
  • Student does not listen to direction, and refuses to attempt new ways of doing things.
  • You cannot seem to find the right pathway into a student’s brain to get him to learn and remember certain skills from week to week.
  • The parents’ expectations are miles apart from your reality.
  • Parent offers continual criticism.

When does the time come to say goodbye? Ultimately only you can answer that question within in the context of the particular situation, but here are some things you might want to ask yourself before “firing” a student. Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips