MTNA Conference

I wasn’t able to attend MTNA Conference this year due to a couple important family events. If you are like me and couldn’t make it you may be interested to know where you can find those who are sharing about conference…

Blog- Marcia Vahl has been blogging about sessions she is attending. You can catch her posts at

Joy Morin has been blogging about sessions she is attending as well. Here is her link:

Facebook/Twitter- Wendy Stevens has been posting memorable quotes on Facebook and Twitter. You can catch her on Facebook here. And the MTNA Facebook page with all the Twitter hashtags can be found here. Otherwise just go to Twitter directly and search for #mtna2014.

MTNA- If you haven’t heard already, MTNA is live streaming some masterclasses. You can check them out here.


If anyone else is blogging or sharing in anyway, feel free to comment with where we should go! Thank you to all those who share! I really wish I could be there, but I’ll see you in Vegas 2015!


MMF Piano Primer iPad App

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Andy Fling, creator of the Making Music Fun website has created a new iPad app, MMF Piano Primer. If you are familiar with the Making Music Fun website you will know that it offers a lot of free resources for teachers. Music, certificates, games, charts and more!

In the MMF Piano Primer app for the iPad you will find 19 pieces students will enjoy such as Bubble Gum and Jack be Nimble, composed by Andy. Included in the app is a recording of each piece, a note to parents and teachers, an introduction of piano theory basics, worksheets and a certificate of completion that can be printed out.

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The primer book pieces are enjoyable supplemental pieces that would go along well with whatever core primer book you might use. The pieces are in Middle C and C position (very basic LH- Bass C, F and G).

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MMF Piano Primer is an iPad app that can be downloaded for .99. Over the weekend, I will be giving away 2 copies of this app as a flash freebie on the FPSResources Facebook page. So if you haven’t already liked FPSResources on Facebook yet, be sure you do it before tomorrow!  *

Walking Billboards

A couple weeks ago I was wearing a t-shirt I bought years ago that says “Piano Teachers have a Grand Time”.


On this particular day, I was dropping my daughter off to work and getting some gas at the gas station when a lady drove up to me and asked if I was a piano teacher. Why yes! I said… She is now on my waiting list.

Fast forward to yesterday and I’m wearing my t-shirt again. This time I was at my physical therapy appointment (nursing tendonitis in my elbow- no fun!) and a lady also receiving PT asked me, do you teach piano? I am looking for a teacher for my two kids. Why yes! And I gave her my card.

That night I was across the street meeting our new neighbor and she noticed my shirt and asked if I taught piano lessons. Why yes! She proceeded to tell me her daughter who also lives in the area is looking for a teacher.

I have to say sometimes I will wear my shirt and nobody will say anything, but lately it has been my walking billboard. You just never know…

A couple weeks ago I held my Keyboard Festival event where I order t-shirts for all my student participants. On the t-shirts I always make sure my studio website is included. They can be walking billboards too.


If you are looking for a place to have your t-shirts printed, I highly recommend using I used them for the first time this year and was highly satisfied. (I haven’t had much luck with local businesses) They made the entire process so easy. I designed my shirt, which then created a link that I was able to pass onto my piano parents. All they needed to do was click on the link and enter their child’s size. Once everyone submitted their size, I clicked on the order button and a couple weeks later they arrived. So easy and quality was excellent!

Tech Tuesday: Plickers

Have you heard of Clickers? How about Plickers?

A clicker system is where students can answer questions or vote on something in an interactive way. (Think game shows such as “If you want to be a millionaire” when they ask the audience to submit their answer) If you have seen clicker systems like these:

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You will know or very quickly find out that they can be very expensive. Not to mention where to store your clicker system? But the idea is pretty cool and has great potential to use in a group class setting.

In comes They have created a simplified and FREE system. All the teacher needs to do is simply download the free app (iOS or Android) and print off the free paper clickers (barcodes). When the teacher asks a question. The students hold up their paper clicker to their answer and the teacher quickly scans them in. Then everyone will be able to view a real time graph of those answers.

Here is a helpful video that gives you a good idea how it all works.

I am planning on using Plickers at group lessons in a couple weeks. I will write a follow up post on how it went! I’m super excited for this resource!

Be Our Guest! Common Time: Creating Community Within Your Studio


I’m happy to introduce our March guest, Megan Desmarais. You will want to make sure you read her post as it is filled with wonderful ideas. Be sure to visit her blog, Pianissimo- a very piano blog when you get the chance.

Common Time:  Creating Community Within Your Studio

As a piano teacher, one of my goals has always been to create and maintain a sense of community within my studio.  Since playing the piano can, at times, be a fairly solitary experience, I also want to show my students that it can be the opposite.  Enjoying and making music is also a communal endeavor and friendships are made surrounding music.  Here are ways that I get my students interacting with each other:

I used to teach only 30 or 45 minute back-to-back lessons.  Students would see the one student that came before them, and the one student that came after them, but they would never see the other 30 students that I taught until a recital.  Because of logistics of entering and exiting my studio, students wouldn’t even hear each other play.

pic 1When I moved to a new state and started a new studio from scratch, I decided to change my format.  Now, all of my students come in twos or threes and stay for an hour.  Sometimes they come with a friend or siblings and sometimes they are randomly matched based on scheduling.  Regardless of who comes together, there are countless ways to help students collaborate:  working on flashcards, playing duets or ensembles, playing games, trying an iPad app together, talking about the listening assignment.  A huge bonus is that veteran students are encouraging to beginners and beginners look up to older students.  They learn a lot from each other! This format isn’t a group lesson, because students are still getting individualized attention, but it is an excellent compromise to turn a solo activity into a more social activity while maintaining the feel of a private lesson.


Nearly every studio has recitals and they are a great way to get your families together.  However, the atmosphere of recitals can affect how students and families interact.  A formal recital, even with a reception, doesn’t always foster conversation and interaction.  While there is definitely a time and place formal recitals, it is nice to shake things up. I love changing the venue, formality, and feel of my recitals.

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This recital was modeled after a trivia night that I had attended.  Students spent about a month leading up to the recital learning piano trivia.  Families sat together around tables and students helped their parents answer the questions.  In between rounds of trivia, students performed ensemble pieces.  
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This recital featured a summertime theme.  Each student played a song about summertime and also played their own composition inspired by summer.  We made short videos of each student introducing themselves and their composition and describing what inspired their composition.  The video clip played as each student walked to the piano and it was a great way to highlight their personalities while still allowing them to focus on their performance.

pic 4This Christmas recital took place in the gallery at a local art museum.  It is a very formal setting and not conducive to visiting.  My students filled over 4 hours with music.  Even though this recital setting did not involve a lot interaction, each student contributed towards the ultimate goal of sharing music with the public.

Student-Only Recitals and Activities

pic 5In addition to larger recitals, I have also made a point to create smaller, less formal events for my students.  Each year I try to have at least one recital that is just for students.  They play music for each other, but we also make sure to spend plenty of time doing other activities that get the kids talking, working and playing together.  Here are some recent activities:
-Name That Tune with kazoos
-Get To Know You Bingo customized with facts about my students
-Rhythm games with egg shakers
-We put together a 5-part ensemble from Lynn Freeman Olson’s “A Folk     Gathering.”  9 Kids played the piano parts and about 15 played the percussion     parts, all together.
-Students trained for Piano Olympics and came together for some friendly     competition and to show off their theory skills.

Summer Camp

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pic 6aPiano Camp is the ultimate piano studio community builder!  Spending a whole week together is a sure way to help your students get to know each other.  Since Piano Camp allows for some down time and a variety of activities, it is easy for students to relax and become friends.  My group of Piano Camp students from last summer are always asking when they will get to see each other again.

Incentive Program

Even though my students play at different levels, have different personal goals, learn differently and play different music, they are all unified with my incentive program.  It helps us to all speak a common language and work towards a common goal.

Each year, I create a themed assignment book that each student uses to track work and progress.  The goal is to earn points – every 20 points allows a student to record a song of their choice.  When students have earned 10 songs, they get to make their own CD.

Having this unifying framework makes it easy for students to relate to each other.  They like to chat about their latest recording.  They are good about helping each other follow all the steps to making a recording.  They stand around our progress chart displayed on the wall at the end of their lessons and find their name and look for other familiar names.  They talk about their plans for designing or naming their CD.

We celebrate the completion of our CDs with a CD release party.  This event is purely social.  Students see their CDs for the first time, their music is playing in the background, we eat ice cream and play games.  We applaud students for their hard work in a relaxed and fun setting.

These are ways that I have been actively building community within my studio, but of course, a sense of community will look different from studio to studio.  For other studios, community activities might look like this:
-Regularly scheduled group lessons, theory classes or master classes
-Field trips to professional concerts and performances
-Organized challenges that all students can participate in.  For example, a     practice challenge where students individually compete to practice so many     minutes during the course of a month

Teachers, do you feel like there is a sense of community among your students?  What are some things that you are doing to foster camaraderie?  Share your experiences in the comments!

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Megan Desmarais, NCTM operates Megan’s Piano Lessons, a piano bustling piano studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma that includes kids K-12, adults, Skype lessons to students overseas and Kindermusik classes.  Megan also blogs about teaching, learning and loving the piano at  

Megan studied music at the University of Tulsa and received her Master’s in Piano Pedagogy from Wichita State University.  She is active with her local Music Teacher’s Association and currently holds the position of historian.


Thank you for being our guest Megan! Don’t forget to follow Megan’s blog! If you are interested in being a future guest on FPSResources, let me know by emailing me:

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