Christmas Book for Intermediate Students

If you haven’t heard about Jennifer Eklund’s new Christmas Classics book RUN, don’t walk over to her website and check it out. Her Christmas Classics piano book has some gorgeous intermediate solos that not only will your students fall in love with, but you will want to play them too!

Included in this book are those classics like Joy to the World, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Conventry Carol, Silent Night, We Three Kings, The First Noel, What Child is This, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Angels We Have Heard on High. There is not a dud in the bunch!

Jennifer has recorded all the pieces, you can preview them by listening to the audio files and seeing a sample of the music. Now what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Having fun with iMovie

I recently downloaded the iMovie app. Even though I have iMovie on my Mac, I wanted to try it out as an app and I have to say that I think I like it even better as an app. I find it super easy to use. After seeing one of the themes available that went perfectly with our studio theme we were working on this year I thought it would be fun to create a studio movie trailer of what students will be doing this year. So I took video and pictures from some group lessons and regular lessons and put something together. I plan on putting it on my studio website as well.


Tech Tuesday: Free Internet Resources for Teachers and their Students

Due to a teachers request on one of the piano online message boards I’m a member of, I thought I would share one of my handouts that I made when I facilitated a Sharing Plus meeting for our local MTA group. Sharing Plus is a more “laid back” meeting where teachers have the opportunity to share ideas, concerns, etc. with each other. I made this handout in January 2011 so it’s a little out of date but glancing through it, most of the websites listed should still be relevant. I know there is more I could add though, especially in the blog section. But for now, feel free to enjoy…

Click here to download handout: Internet resources

Tech Tuesday: A Scanner you can fit in your pocket!

One of my favorite business apps I use a lot is called TurboScan. For only $1.99 you can literally have a scanner you can fit in your pocket (using the iPhone or iPod Touch). 

TurboScan is super easy to use. It uses the camera of your IOS device and is quick! You can scan multiple pages (love this!) in one document, name your scan, email your scan via a pdf, jpg or png file or simply save it to your camera roll. Scans can be cropped to where you want them, 

This week I am passing out Halloween music to my students. Normally when a student borrows a piece I will write all the information on the book down and then type it into Music Teachers Helper. This week however, I realized how much easier it would be just to scan the cover and save it with the students name that is borrowing the music. This was so much faster and has become a new favorite tool for this purpose! When a student returns the music, I will simply delete the file of the scan that I had saved.

Be sure to visit the iTunes store to read more about TurboScan plus some tricks and tips to make sure you have a high quality scan.

Happy Scanning!

Teaching from Home

The other day my 16 year old daughter posted this comment as her Facebook status… “ughhh… sometimes I really hate the fact my mom teaches at home….”

If you are like me and teach out of your home, I’m sure you have experienced the same feelings I have over the years. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to give my kids the attention they needed because I was busy teaching. Both my kids are teenagers, one just graduated from high school. So they have grown up all their adolescent lives with listening to the piano day in and day out. I can imagine that it can get tiring. My husband is luckier than the kids in the sense that he has an office that he can escape to that we built out in the garage.

Teaching from home definitely has it’s ups and it’s downs. I’ve even thought about exploring a store front, but decided it wasn’t worth the added overhead costs. Plus I like teaching from home. I like seeing my kids walk in the door from school and knowing they got home safe. I like having everything I need at my finger tips whenever I might need something. I like being home for my kids, even though I can’t give them the attention right away. I try to pop in and talk with them briefly about school in between students coming in and out. I like that they don’t come home to an empty house.

Even with those positives, I can totally understand the negatives particularly for my kids. It can be tiring to hear the piano day in and day it. It can be hard to deal with higher noise level during group lesson weeks. It can be hard to want to share something that happened at school but have to wait. It can be hard to deal with nosy students that say they are going to the bathroom and then decide to peak into my kids room. (I put a stop to this one fast! Doesn’t happen very often thank goodness)

So what do I do to help make it more manageable for our family?

1) I only teach Monday-Thursday. I understand my family needs a break and honestly so do I. So we all get a break Friday-Sunday.

2) I hold group lessons once a quarter. The weeks I hold group lessons I only teach two days that week. No regular lessons are held the week of group. It’s a nice change.

3) I hold Camps during the months of December and June. This allows for some longer breaks. Christmas camp covers the first two week of December and then the studio is off for the remainder of the month. Summer camp is in June and we are off in July.

4) I try not to teach too late so we can have dinner together as a family. This has gotten trickier as the kids have gotten older and have more activities. Each of us has a night to cook. Mine is Sunday. My husband has Monday. My daughter is Tuesday. Wednesday is “on your own” night because of activities they have and Thursday is my son’s night. Friday night is date night for my husband and I so we go out to dinner and the kids are on their own. Saturdays we usually splurge and go out to eat with the kids. Wednesday is the only night that I teach past 6:45pm. And this is ONLY because of a conflict with a family after the schedule was done and they changed schools. I normally don’t teach past 6:45pm.

5) I don’t do make-up lessons. When my teaching schedule is done, then it’s family time.


While these ideas do help our family, there will always be times of frustration. I know there are times when I feel some guilt that I’m not 100% there for my kids while I’m teaching. But given the choice, I would rather be home than somewhere else.

I was talking with one of my teenage students that I have taught for over 5 years now the other day about her previous lesson years before coming to me. She shared with me that her previous teacher before coming to me taught from a commercial studio. I didn’t realize that before and asked her how she liked it. She said she actually prefers to come to my house then when she went to the commercial studio because if feels more “homey”, more comfortable, more welcoming. I thought that was interesting.

I would love to hear ideas what you do to help your family not get too frustrated because you teach from home.

Class Piano- Regan Starr

I was going to wait on sharing this post until a Tech Tuesday next week but I have been having so much fun sight-reading this last week that I didn’t want to hold back another day!

Last week I read a blog post from Dana with Kids & Keys. She interviewed Regan Starr from Regan is a recent graduate from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Each week he composes new piano pieces and adds them to his blog. All the pieces you see are original pieces that he wrote himself. Not only do you get a copy of his composition for free, but he includes written advice and practice tips as well video tutorials!

One thing that I enjoy on his blog as well is the feature to rate the song with a thumbs up or thumbs down rating. One of the first things I did when exploring this website was visiting the “most popular” section and the left sidebar and listening to his most popular pieces.

Regan is a talented composer and I have really enjoyed sight-reading his pieces. Most of his pieces would be considered to be in the early-intermediate to intermediate level. However there are some pieces that have trickier rhythm making a piece more late-intermediate to advanced. Regardless, Regan has provided all the tools to make a student feel successful in learning his pieces.

Today I will see my intermediate students for group lessons and you can bet that I will be letting them know about

Thank you Regan for sharing your compositions with us!

Tech Tuesday: Practice Champ

Have you heard of Practice Champ? I hadn’t either until recently when another teacher I know posted the link to this website. I found the concept interesting and wanted to share it to see what you thought.

Practice Champ was created, founded, and operated by Iced Pita Music Lessons, the husband and wife team of Tyson Marquardt and Heidi Yost-Marquardt from Thousand Oaks, California. Practice Champ is an online tool to help music teachers, students and parents monitor assignments and track practice time in a way that is fun and rewarding. Students and teacher can see a weekly summary of the practicing. As students enter their assignment after their lesson, they can create goals. When goals are met they are rewarded in “star” currency. (ie: Meet or exceed goal = Gold Star). The only thing that isn’t clear to me is if the star currency can be used for anything or if it’s something that parents or teachers can use to give a reward should they so choose to go that route. (This is my guess)

Students pay a flat-rate subscription fee either by the month or at a yearly discount. The monthly rate is only $2.49 month, and for the year it’s just $25 up front. There is no fee for the teachers.

So what do you think? Do you think your students would use something like Practice Champ? Would you want to be involved in this way? I would love to hear your thoughts!

By the way on their website they said they are working on a Practice Champ app for mobile devices and should be coming out soon.