For a while I struggled to keep track of lesson attendance and payments. Even though I input payments into my invoicing software and try to mark in my Google Calendar what lessons are missed, I wanted a way to see, at a glance, who still owed lessons or payments.
A couple of months ago I developed this grid (now posted on the printables page) for doing just that. Each month I print a new sheet with student names already typed into the first column. Then I write the date of each lesson that student will have that month under the “day” columns. Whenever a student attends a lesson, I check off the “check mark” column after the date. If a student reschedules a lesson, I write the rescheduled date instead of the checkmark. Finally, when lessons are paid for I check off the $ column. Typically I have this sheet handy during lessons and make quick checkmarks as kids show up and payments are made. As the kids say, “easy peasy lemon squeazy!”
Ok, so I have been absent from this blog since August. Baaad blogger I am. I do think about it often, saying to myself ”ooh I should post that on my blog….” But it just doesn’t seem to happen
Back in the fall I began teaching Kindermusik. Starting up this program was far from easy, but in the end I feel that it was one of the best decisions I have made. It has been an eye-opening experience for me in terms of running a business, managing business expenses, communicating and building relationships with clients, and most of all – teaching the youngest of learners. My Kindermusik business is not yet out of the red, financially, yet it is a full-time and then-some job. Keeping up with everything else, especially my private studio, has been a challenge. By this fall I hope to be able to make some changes that will allow me to dedicate myself completely to my studio and Kindermusik program.
In the meantime, I will leave WordPress open in my internet browser in the hopes that seeing it there everyday will motivate me to actually use it. There are many things I do want to share and rant about. I may even start a blog about my experiences teaching Kindermusik.
A few weeks ago I had a brother-sister pair of high schoolers start lessons on piano. Piano was new to both of them, but thanks to some past musical training they took very quickly to the instrument and reading two staves at the same time. From the start, though, I wasn’t sure how enthused they were. I knew that learning piano was something that they had both chosen to do; it wasn’t a case of parents making their kids take lessons. And they were both doing really well those first couple of weeks.
I got nervous when their mom left me a message the day of their third lesson requesting a call back. As a new-ish teacher, my gut instinct in situations like that was to think “what did I do wrong?” It turned out that the brother had decided to discontinue lessons. The good news, though, was that the sister was more than willing to do an extra lesson to take his now vacant time slot. The young man came to that third lesson at his mom’s insistence to tell me in person that he had decided to discontinue. Though he didn’t verbalize any strong reasons besides that he found it just wasn’t for him, I couldn’t help but feel that I was a portion of his decision. I harbor no hard feelings about this; I know from my own experience that there needs to be a good “fit” between teacher and student. I once had a piano teacher in college with whom I simply did not see eye to eye, and I switched to a different teacher the next semester. Now, as a teacher, I feel much more natural teaching younger students than high schoolers. I also seem to have a more difficult time reaching boys that girls.
Have you ever had a student quit, or had to dismiss a student, because it simply was not a good “fit?” How do you approach teaching boys and teenagers differently than young students? Thanks for any advice!
I was very inspired by The Fame School’s CD Recording Project that I decided to do my own (her blog has OODLES of awesome ideas, by the way!). I planned to have my students start recording some of their favorite pieces that they have learned over the past year this summer, when things are much more laid-back.
Before we began recording, everyone looked back through their assignment and lesson books and found songs that they like that they have learned in the past year. Everyone then made lists of songs they would like to record, and got to design their own album covers. (Both of these worksheets are found in the Printables section).
We are about halfway through our lists now, recording one or two songs at the end of each lesson. It has been a fun way to revisit things already learned, and re-practice them with all of the new knowledge we have gained.
The studio room is certainly a little crowded with lots of wires hooked up to the Yamaha and microphones on booms pointed at the cellists’ chair, but so far everyone is having so much fun! Students walk in asking “can we record today???” One of my middle school students who just started piano recorded a great arrangement of “Ode to Joy” from Faber’s Accelerated method. When she listened back to her performance she did a little happy dance and said “I feel so professional!”
I hope to have a “CD Release Party” in conjunction with my fall picnic in the middle of September… if all of these budding young artists can finish their increasingly lengthy albums by then!
One of my newer students, Jayden was working on “Space Vacation” in Anne Crosby Gaudet’s Music Discoveries book a few weeks ago. The instructions are for this piece to be played “mysteriously,” and we were talking about how to make it sound mysterious. He immediately said that using the pedal would make it mysterious. (And I thought to myself, we haven’t learned about the pedal yet… where on Earth did he get that notion?). I hooked up the pedal to the digital piano (I typically don’t have it attached since many of my students couldn’t keep their feet off of it if their life depended on it!) and sure enough, it certainly gave “Space Vacation” a mysterious and spacey feeling. Way to think out of the box, Jayden!
Though I feel kind of bad saying this, I have stopped using Music Teacher’s Helper to manage my studio. It was giving me too many glitches, not enough control over invoices, and I needed to cut monthly costs. At my part-time job we use Quickbooks Invoice Manager and I love it, but it is only made for PC and I have a Mac.
After a little bit of searching, I found Profit Train – software made just for Macs that allows me to store student information, create customized invoices, create reports, and enter payments and expenses. MTH was running me $29 a month, and I wasn’t using many of its features. Profit Train cost me a one time $50 after a 30-day free trial.
Profit Train doesn’t have the calendar feature that MTH has, so instead I have been using Google Calendar. It is just as easy to create events on Google Calendar as it is on MTH. The biggest bonus for me is that Google Calendar syncs to my phone, so if I am away from my computer and need to look at my student schedule I am able to very easily. I also embedded my Google Calendar on my website as a reference for students and their parents, and several parents have already referenced it on the go from their phones and ipads.
A couple of Thursdays ago I had a brother-sister pair come for their first piano lesson. They are in their mid-teens, go to my old high school, and wanted to learn piano. Their dad dropped them off and went back home since they live rather close by.
The weather man had been threatening severe and damaging thunderstorms all day, but besides one cloudburst early that afternoon followed by lots of sunshine, the day was uneventful. So I was a little surprised when, barely into the sister’s lesson, the sky started to turn jet black. With a tinge of green. This was shaping up to be the one occasion where having the keyboard face out the window was a not-so-good idea. Kudos to this young lady, though, who got through a crash course in Piano Basics 101 with the sky turning all sorts of putrid shades, wind blowing the trees outside the window almost sideways, rain and other airborne refuse pelting the windows with the force of a power washer, purple lightning landing way too close by, and thunder rattling the house. We were both having flashbacks of Hurricane Irene just less than a year ago, and this poor gal hates storms! There was some comedy in this all, though. The power kept flickering, causing the digital piano and stand light to both kick off. So, every time the power flicked for just a second, we had to turn it all back on!
I had been nervous about these new teenage students since most of my students are elementary age, and those in middle or high school I have known since elementary age. Luckily, the skies provided quite an ice breaker!
Young cellists ( and some older cellists >me!< ) often have trouble keeping their first and fourth fingers in tune. This is because the first finger has to reach much lower than one would think in order to stay in tune, and the relative shortness and weakness of the fourth finger (pinky) makes it hard to reach and press down hard enough in just the right spot.
This week I met a new student who only just began cello in school last September. He’s off to an excellent start on his technique, but he has developed the bad habit of squishing his fingers together completely as if he was playing the violin. T0 help him and other students correctly place these fingers by hearing the correct intonation, I wrote up this brief little ditty. The tune is a familiar one and is very simple. To extend the four measures of the tune I wrote a few basic rhythmic and metrical variations (except Variation 4, which is the theme written backwards, in homage to Bach’s “crab canons”!). I also included a second part for the teacher to play, preferably pizzicato. I’m looking forward to giving this a try with my student next week!
View the “Theme & Variations” here or on the Printables page.
One of my youngest piano students has an uncanny ability to figure things out all on his own. He’s been known to show up suddenly knowing minor chords before we had ever learned minor or chords, playing a familiar song perfectly by ear, or playing his scales with two hands together when we were only working on right hand. This week he suddenly started playing Ode to Joy in D Major during his lesson. We had learned it in C before, but not D. He got a little stuck in the middle, so I promised that I would write it out for him for his next lesson. Since he is just getting to the part of his book where hands combine, I decided to add a very simple left hand part. The arrangement can be found here, and also on my Printables page.
I hated recitals as a student. But, as a teacher, I love recitals. I love seeing all of my students smile as everyone applauds for them, and I love seeing their parents beam with delight and pride. I love seeing the kids having fun bonding with other students that go to other schools on the other side of the county. This year’s summer recital was particularly fun.
Our Summer Recital was chock full of so many excellent performers! For many, it was their first ever performance in public. For others, it was their first time playing with piano accompaniment. For some, it was both! Three sets of parents got to see all of their children perform. Two of my students from the private school I teach at were there and performed beautifully for a very welcoming audience of strangers. The middle school string ensemble I lead at church played an arrangement of Ashokan Farewell – it was a rare treat for them to appear before an audience, rather than be sequestered in the choir loft during a service. It was the last performance as a high schooler for one of my students, and we all got to wish her luck as she goes off to college. I also had the wonderful opportunity to give an encore with my first ever student from when I was in high school (and clueless as a teacher!), who has since received her Bachelors in Music Education, is going on to get her Masters in Performance, and now, I am proud to say, plays waaaay better than me! We closed the program with Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor. The piece is simply epic.
To me, personally, this particular recital was a poignant one. Through no planning on my part, the evening brought the journey of the young musician full circle, from where all students start to where their hard work and vision can lead them: the youngster giving his or her first jittery performance, the middle schoolers honing their skills, the young adult embarking on a new chapter, and the graduate and professional performer who is independently rising to achieve her dreams. As a teacher, I had a bit of full-circle, too, from where I was as a teacher to where I am now… and ultimately where I need to go, of course!
(Most of the menagerie after the recital)