Tech Tuesday: Motivational Video and a free app!

Goals Screenshot

Every four years I hold Piano Olympics in my studio. So 2014 is our official Piano Olympic year. This summer we are “training” (aka Piano Olympic training camp). I was looking online for some inspirational video’s that I can show my students and came across one that I thought would be perfect for my Fall Kickoff when everyone returns in August (we are doing summer camps right now). I thought I would share it with you today for Tech Tuesday. Enjoy!

GET INSPIRED- Never Give Up On Your Goals!

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Also if you missed it on the FPSResources Facebook page, don’t miss it here… Free for a limited time! goodEar Intervals- Ear Training app  by iMobilTec.

Music Camps and Workshops Part 3 of 3

Now that you have decided  you want to hold a music camp or workshops you must…


When I send out my re-registration forms, it includes the summer registration information. In my cover letter for my registrations I tell them how excited I am for the opportunities they have this summer to learn new things.

I give descriptions of the camp or workshops which not only explains what the class is about that they are signing up for but creating excitement.  My goal is to make all of them sound so enticing that they want to take more than the minimum required. (If I am doing workshops)

(See Part 2 of 3 for sample schedule to read the descriptions)

Talk it up to students- ask them what class they are thinking about taking.

What Camp Should I Do?    Anything and everything is a resource!

-Those that are done for you…

Music Ed Market

Keys to Imagination

Theory Time

Music Matters blog

Color In My Piano blog

Sheryl Welles blog

FPSResources (currently only my Christmas camp is available)

(I’m sure I’m missing some- so feel free to add yours in the comment section)

-Then there are those YOU create! Some workshops that I have done with my students are:

Accompanying Basics

Conducting Basics

Practice Makes Perfect, or Does It?

Just Fakin’ It (reading lead sheets)

Music by Me- Composing 101

Blues Improvisation

Science of Music

Roots of Rhythm

Now for lesson planning!

If you purchase a camp, the lesson planning is already done for you, which saves a lot of time.  But if you want to create something from scratch lesson planning is very important.

Length- Decide how long you want your camp/workshop to be. Then make sure you have more activities then time for. I always put at the bottom of my lesson plan, “If time…” Sometimes we get to them, sometimes we don’t. I am very grateful for  that I have them when I need them.

Goals/Obectives- What do you expect your students to be able to do after the camp is over?  How will the students demonstrate they have learned and understood what was taught?

Intro- How will you get the students attention and motivate in order to hold their attention?  What will be expected?  Will you have some rules and consequences discussed ahead of time?

Main activity- what is the focus of this workshop/camp?  What will the activities be?  How will the materials be presented, do students need to bring anything or are you providing everything?  What activities will you be doing?  What will the prep time be for those activities?

Be sure there is a good mix between the lesson itself and activities.

Snacks- are you going to provide a snack or should the students bring a snack?

Follow up/Closure- leave time to clean up if needed before it’s time to officially close before the students are dismissed.  How will you close the session?  Will you discuss what was learned that day with students?  Will you give a quick overview of what they learned?  Will you ask for feedback?

I’m worried about my students backsliding over the break after camp is over, what can I do?

The trick is to leave them with a challenge or goal to continue over the summer. The last few years my students are given the challenge to create practice prop projects over the summer and present those projects when they return in the fall. Because they come back to present these projects in the fall, there is accountability. If they return with nothing, it’s actually a little embarrassing… 95% of my students return with their practice prop projects.

The projects are something they create/make that represents their practicing over the summer. They need to present their project at our Fall kickoff (first group lessons of the year) and how it represented their practicing. (i.e.: for every minute they practiced they put that amount of time in their project or every time they completed a section successfully they added something to their project, etc…) The goal is to finish the project (or even do more then one) before they return. This has been successful in my studio. You can see our 2012 Fallkick off here. I encourage LOTS and LOTS of sight-reading, even going ahead in their books. I actually don’t mind when they go ahead. Worst case scenerio- some pieces aren’t right. Well, what do we do about it? We learn it the right way when they come back. They learn from their mistakes, what they did wrong on their own and what they need to look for now and in the future. I’ve had students over the break that have finished a book, sometimes a complete level successfully.

The other tip is follow up with parents. I like to send just quick little email reminders about the practice prop projects. Encouraging lots of sight-reading, playing MusicLearningCommunity games to keep up on their theory, tips, etc… Last year I gave all my students a copy of Shhhh Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice. (Please note the giveaway from the review link has expired) It only takes me a minute or two to send a mass email off to everyone and I know the follow up is appreciated.

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If you ever read the book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen R. Covey you might remember the Think Win-Win Chapter…

“First, see the problem from the other point of view.  Really seek to understand and to give expression to the needs and concerns of the other party as well as or better than they can themselves.

Second, identify the key issues and concerns involved.

Third, determine what results would constitute a fully acceptable solution.

And fourth, identify possible new options to achieve those results.”

(excerpt from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Music camps and workshops have been my win-win solution in my studio when it comes to both summer and Christmas time. I hope it can be your win-win solution too!

Music Camps and Workshops Part 2 of 3

Today we will be focusing on what to charge for your camp or workshop and how to go about scheduling. I will share what has worked well in my studio over the years.

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1) How much should I charge?

My tuition for the year covers August-May, the tuition remains the same each month regardless how many lessons are in that month and includes Christmas camp in December.  Summer is billed separately.  However, you can easily include your summer camp in your yearly tuition if you want the monthly cost to be the same even during those summer months. Camps and workshops take quite a bit of prep time and you want to be sure that you are paid for all the time you put into it.  I personally charge the same as it would cost for 2 months of private lessons for the summer camp. Because this is a group experience and not private, my camp is longer than what they would normally get in a given month. For example, my camp this year is a little over 8 hours long. Normally a student would get 4 hours of private lesson and 2 hours of lab time in the span of 2 months. So with camp a little over 8 hours, they are receiving a little more than 2 “extra” hours.  If you wanted to do a shorter camp then I would probably charge about 1/4 less what your regular tuition would cost.

Keep in mind when you are charging for your camp or workshop of any materials that they might receive.  Are you going to include the materials in the camp tuition cost, or is it going to be an added fee?

2) How do I schedule when I have so many students going on vacations and other activities at different times?

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– If this is your first time doing a camp or workshop, it may be best to survey parents- is free.  This will give you an idea of what times may be more popular during the day, weeks that hardly anyone will be around, etc…  I have students coming from at least 4-5 different districts, charter schools, private schools, etc.. So schedules vary a lot.

– I highly recommend giving several session options for families to choose from.  I begin my session options the last week of May right after our spring recital party but before most of the students get out of school.  This way there is no excuse even for those who take off as soon as school gets out.  If I am doing workshops instead of a camp that year, I require a 2 workshop minimum (equal to 1 camp) in order to keep their spot for the fall.  Otherwise they go on the bottom of my waiting list and right now that would mean they would have to wait at least a year before they would be able to get back in. Sometimes I have to remind newer families of this. There have been a couple occasions when I did have a student pay for their required sessions but did not participate because they were too busy.

-Decide how long you want your camp or workshop to be.  My workshops are at least 4 hours long (each- remember 2 are required) and my camps are at least 8 hours long.  When I first started doing summer camps, I had families come everyday that week (4-5 days) for an hour each day.  This was when I lived in an smaller city where most of my students were within 10 min. of my house.  It wasn’t until I got a family that travelled a distance a way that I started offering the camp as an 1 day – four hour camp.  They would then choose which session would work best for them.  Fast forward to know and I run my schedule more like you would see in your local community rec program schedule.  I offer several sessions.  One might be a 1 day- 4 hour session, the other two might be a 2 day- 2 hour each day session.  I have families that like to just get it done in one day, and others that prefer the other.  This is something I found from surveying parents.

-When I give my summer registration schedule, families must check ALL sessions they can participate in. I make it clear that if a session doesn’t have a minimum of 4 students sign up for it, that session will not be available so they need to try to give more than one option. They are welcome to put 1st choice, 2nd choice, etc… This also helps me tremendously when I’m putting the schedule together.

Here is a sample schedule of a couple workshops I offered years ago…

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And another sample of my schedule options/summer registration form for my camp this year…

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If you have any other questions on this particular subject in regards to camps and workshops, please let me know and I would be happy to answer your questions in the comment area.

Click here for Part 3.

Miss Part 1 of 3? Just click here.

Music Camps and Workshops Part 1 of 3


Today I begin my first session of Piano Olympic Training Camp. Every summer I do either a camp or a choice of workshops students can participate in. I thought I would blog about how I go about music camps and workshops each year and give some ideas that might help teachers that have thought about holding one but not quite sure how to go about it.

First to explain the difference between a camp and a workshop… Camp- typically has several topics that you are teaching in one setting. Workshop- is more focused.  For example the subject is only on composing.

Today’s post will concentrate on Why, When and Who.

1) Why music camps and workshops?

– Schedule conflicts. Avoiding schedule conflicts with vacations or other events that might happening in certain times of the year. I live in AZ where it can get pretty hot during the summer. Many families want to leave the heat and go somewhere cooler but I can’t afford not to teach in the summer. So camps and workshops are the next best thing. Matter of fact, my families appreciate and me and my students prefer it because it is so fun!

Review/Learn something new. This is a great time not only to review what students are learning through the year, but to learn something new that can’t be fit in the regular weekly lessons.  When I say learn something new.  This isn’t necessarily just for students.  When I decide a topic that I would like to do a workshop on, I consider topics that maybe I’m not as strong in but would like to improve in.  For example, one year at my spring recital I had a student draw four note out of a hat where I was to start an improvised piece from and create a theme per se based off of those four notes.  If you were to ask me even 5 years ago to do this, I would have told you, you were crazy!  But because I have gone to workshops like Forrest Kinney (Pattern Play), I was motivated to implement improvisation in my studio and would hold workshops, and group lessons on improvising.  This allowed not only my students to grow but for me to grow as well.  Another workshop that I have done during the summer was on reading lead sheets which is something I was never comfortable in doing but had the desire to get better at it.  Bu picking a topic that I’m not comfortable doing, gives me the drive to learn all I can about the topic so I can teach it to my students.

Retain income. Music camps allow me to retain income that could drop dramatically during those summer months but at the same time give me and my students a much needed break.

2) When should I hold a music camp or workshop?

I hold my camps and workshops starting the end of May right after my recital party and into June.  Then I hold a Christmas camp in December.

Summer is a great time to hold camps or workshops.  I have students that are gone all summer, they leave the country, they go visit their other parent that lives out of state, they go on vacation, participate in other summer activities, etc…  By doing summer workshops, I am able to retain my income but allow them the freedom of having summer plans.

I started Christmas camps in December well over 10 years ago after being very frustrated at all the no shows that would happen that month. Music camps and workshops have solved many frustrations for me over the years and has become a win-win for both me and my piano families over the years.

3) Who should participate in the music camp or workshop?

Target audience– Are the camps going to be for your current students only or are you going to open them to others that aren’t in lessons?  One of the workshops that I hold each summer is an intro to piano class.  So my target audience is those on my waiting list and those who are inquiring for lessons.

Pre-requisites– While you are considering your camp topic and activities keep in mind if there is is certain pre-requisites for students in order for them to take that class.  For example my lead sheet class that I did has a level 2 pre-requisite.  I want them to already be familiar with basic chord structure and so on before they take this class.  But my rhythm class does not have a pre-requisite so anyone can sign up, including siblings, friends of students, etc…

Mixed/ages– My camps/workshops typically have mixed ages/levels in a group.  Pre-requisites determine a lot of what ages end up in the classes, but when there are not pre-requisites I can have a variety of ages in one group.  It has never been a problem to do this.  Matter of fact, it’s been helpful to have the older students assist the younger students if needed.

For some camps it may be helpful to have an assistant depending on the size and dynamic of your group.  For example one of my intro to piano classes had 3 brothers all a year a part in age. At the time, I hadn’t yet worked with them yet, but after meeting them realized that I will need my daughter to help assist me in this particular session so we can keep the class controlled because I predict that if I’m not on top of it at all times, they might lose focus. It ended up being a good decision. So always be prepared or have a back up plan. And always plan for more activities then you think you will need.

Click here for Part 2 will focus on how to determine what to charge and scheduling.

Tech Tuesday: Blog feature- Technology in Music Education

One of the blogs I subscribe to is Technology in Music Education. Christopher J. Russell, Ph.D., also known as the “choirguy” is the author of the Technology in Music Education Blog. You can read more about Dr. Russell here.

On his home page you can find helpful links such as: Choral Warmups for iPad, iPad FAQ, My iBooks, Recommendations (Apps and Accessories) and more!

There is a recent post that was written that I particularly wanted to share on iPads and how much memory one really needs. Many times when teachers are looking at purchasing an iPad for the first time, they are not quite sure how much memory they are going to need. More memory= more money. So sometimes a purchase might be based solely on price instead of what will give you the most bang for your buck. Please check out this post  and many others on the Technology in Music Education blog.



An idea for your recital program

This year in my studio students earned jewels throughout the year for different accomplishments. Next week at our group lesson (post recital) party I am holding an auction so students can “spend” their jewels (we did a pirate theme).

I have 36 students that participated in this and I was realizing how expensive this auction would be. So I was trying to come up with an idea to generate a little more money to help fund the auction. I tried asking for some gently used or new donations from parents that could be auctioned off and got no response. Then I remembered our local MTA Ensemble concert does support ads and I figured why not? So I went ahead and offered it in hopes I’d get some bites and I did. By doing the support ads I was not only able to fund my program printing costs in color but now have a good budget to spend on auction items! I think this will be a new tradition in my recital program. Plus I can’t help but smile when I read the support ads.

A support ad is an ad feature in the program with a supportive message from a family member, friend or even a business. I’m including the pdf version 2013 Hidden Treasures Program so you can get an idea of what they look like. Keep in mind the pdf file is not the printing order but you get the idea…