Private lessons or Group classes?

Piano private lessons have been around for centuries. All the famous composers (Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, etc) all had a teacher or several teachers to train them. Private lessons are one of the most effective ways of teaching a musical instrument. You get specialized help, someone that knows your strengths and weaknesses, but also knows how to motivate you to get to the next level.  You have that one on one connection, but you working together. Teachers are a personal coach and maybe even a little bit of a psychiatrist at times!

Piano teachers have recently been branching out the last few decades. Games and activities are not uncommon in a private lesson. Fun repertoire and story-like music is also another avenue of learning. Another aspect of music teaching that has grown the last few years is group lessons. Group lessons are not only popular now, THEY’RE VERY EFFECTIVE. Don’t get me wrong, that private lesson is important and necessary, but group lessons are so good for a young musician as well.


Here’s a summarized list of what a group class can help your child learn and do:

  1. Motivates them to apply their musical understanding through games and activities.

Let me just talk about this one….. when a student learns a new concept about music, it is now their responsibility to apply this to a piece of music they are currently learning or in the future. With a game, this musical concept takes on a whole different meaning by reinforcing their knowledge and understanding. Games and activities are geared to be educational AND fun. Mostly, they are there to help them find different ways to apply their knowledge and understanding of music.

2. Inspire them to pursue excellence.

Students are motivated by many different things. Some students have extrinsic motives (outward praise or award) and some are motivated intrinsically (inner desire and motivation to do their best). Students who perform are most likely going to want to get to a higher level. At a group lesson, when students see their friends/peers playing and performing (or getting involved in a group class and apply THEIR knowledge of music) it  makes them feel inspired to learn more.

3. Introduces new musical information.

It is much easier for students to learn harder concepts in this format rather than trying to introduce it to them through the one on one style. For example, I probably would not introduce eighth notes to a 5 year old, but in a group lesson setting, I can tell said 5 year old what an eighth note is and they most likely will remember the information without ever playing an eighth note. It’s amazing what their little minds can remember! Now when I introduce the eighth note in their private lesson, they already know what it looks like. OQzYsgXZTtaBn0iQS%buQQ

4. Fosters camaraderie within the studio.

Students love to be encouraged. When they are encouraged, they will encourage others. And the circle goes around and around. It is so good for students to be teachable and to enjoy seeing their peers succeed.


5. Builds confidence.

When a student can see how far they have come and have that group class as a reference, it builds confidence because they realize how far they have come and they are not in this alone. This is not a comparison party, but just a time to recognize other musicians and be challenged to do our best. Regardless of age or level, all students should realize their potential.

There are many more reasons why group classes are helpful and beneficial. I barely touched the brim. I hope this sheds some light on the matter and that it helps parents see the importance and place for it.

I cannot wait for our Kick-off Class in a few weeks! I have some things planned (like an escape room….whatt?!?!) that I know the kids are going to enjoy.

Have a great rest of the summer!


Tips for Better Practice Habits

It’s the beginning of a new school year and everybody is going to be starting new routines and new schedules! I know I am! It is nice to have a fresh slate after summer break isn’t it?

I wanted to help some parents and students get off on the right foot when it comes to practicing this year because as we all know, without practice there cannot be a whole lot of improvement when it comes to music lessons. Don’t get me wrong, even if a student “forgets” to practice that week or doesn’t have time (ha! likely story!), it will never be a wasted lesson to me. I can always use that time to help a student work on certain problem areas or play an educatioal game with the. However, if the lack of practice continues it really doesn’t make much sense to instruct them further because the REAL progress comes from how little or how much a student is willing dedicate to practicing their instrument.


If you haven’t read my blog post on How a Practice Session Should Go or Should you Let Your Child Quit Lessons?  take a look at these. They may be helpful reads for you.

I decided to not only tell you what I do to help students stay on track with practice but creative things that YOU can do at home. Pinterest is a great resource. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort for any of these ideas. But it quite possibly could make your life easier.


Things that I do:

  1. Assignment Sheets

I give each student an assignment sheet with a list of the repertoire, a practice log, and other assignments (and page numbers!) of what they have to do that week. For the younger ones, I even put little stickies in their book. I always review with them what they should practice (repetition is the mother of all learning!) before they head out the door. They know what I expect and if they ever have a question, 9 times out of 10, I will have written it down on the Assignment Sheet.

2. Incentive Programs

To break up the year, I like to do incentive programs for all the students in my studio. One year we did Music Olympics, another we did Mission:Music with an Around the World theme. I do these to give the students goals so they have something strive for other than “getting the practice in”. It makes it more interesting and adds a healthy dose of competition amongst the students within the studio.

3. Rewards

Who doesn’t like candy? I mean seriously, I would still take an AirHead for practicing my weekly hours! But not just candy, I offer rewards for the incentive programs AND awards at the END OF THE YEAR. If you’ve been to my recitals you’ve seen this. Whether they earn a reward for completing a program or win a yearly award such as the Little Musicians Award at the Spring Recital. It is all so they will strive to do their best.

4. Recitals

Yes, recitals are motivators. If they don’t practice, they will not play well. This is why having your child be apart of as MANY recitals as possible not only gives them performance experience, it WILL motivate them! I guarantee it!


Some Idea for Parents

Other than setting up a good routine and setting the expectation for your child to practice (which are invaluable by the way!), here are some cute ideas you could incorporate this year!

  1. Practice Jars– I saw this on Pinterest and thought about doing it myself but since I already do so many other programs I figured I’d pass it on to you all! Such a great idea of making it fun at home!
  2. For the Crafty Child– Another great idea from Andrea and Trevor Dowe who have fantastic resources that I use all the time!
  3. The Good ole’ Chore Chart– There are tons of chore charts out there, there’s no point to link any. Make it apart of your child’s life to practice piano. We require them to do homework right? We bring them to soccer practice? Piano practice CANNOT be an option, or it will be an option and well….we all know what happens when it is OPTIONAL.
  4. Take the timer away– Yes, you read right! One of the first things you will probably start doing to develop a good habit is to put a 30 minute timer on and require Susie to sit on the piano bench for 30 minutes. But did you know sometimes they DO NOT PRACTICE during that 30 minutes because they are in anticipation for the timer to go off! Now, first off, they DO need to be practicing more than 10 minutes if they are at a somewhat mature age, but the timer might be cramping their style. Have them practice their songs 3 times each! Check the clock when they start and check it when their done. Did they get at least 30 minutes in? You might find that they got more! Thirty being the minimum, getting more practice is allowed! Sometimes those short bursts of practice turn into longer more inspirational practices because they’re not constantly looking at the timer because they can’t wait to go play outside!
  5. Be Involved– An involved parent is never a failing parent. You’re going to help your child so much by asking questions and being a part of their practice especially in the beginning. For different ages and different personalities, this may look different but either way, if you’re interested they will excel. Not just because you’re paying for it, but because kids naturally want to make their parents proud. Take a look at this handout for some other tips such as having the piano in a central area in your home instead of hidden away in their room. You are the core of your child’s interests and success. No pressure right?

And most of all, don’t be discouraged. No one is perfect and we will have some falls here and there. If you feel like you need to work on some of these things at home, don’t try to tackle them all! Try one and implement it until it becomes natural. The most important thing is to see the value of music in your child’s life and keep plugging along! Your kids will thank you.


And I am thankful for my student’s parents! Keep up the hard work guys!

Roadtrip USA Music Camp

According to my students, this year’s Music Camp was the best so far!! A big thank you to Sheryl Welles and Notable Music Studio  for the resources for this camp. All the games were invented by her as well as the basic ideas of the camp. I tweaked it only slightly to make it fit into 4 days and adapted it to my needs. Road trip USA was a huge success!



I could not have done it this year (being a new young mom) without my teen students helping  me. I decided to give them an opportunity themselves to teach a few lessons and they all did a fantastic job! I was so proud of how they handled everything from assisting students, directing gamesto teaching their own conceptual lessons.

Karissa taught note names C through C on the treble staff. 
Olivia taught music terminology!
Shelby taught rhythm to the students! Here they are clapping the note values. 


Every day had a fun theme or location we traveled to. The students LOVED getting to dress up according to the theme. It was the exciting part of the camp…”what’s tomorrow’s theme going to be?!”. All in the fun and games, there were lessons about rhythm, note values and music terminology. Some students had never had piano lessons or music lessons, and their were telling us at the end of the week what fermata or Treble Clef signs meant or how many beats a quarter note or half note were. They even learned quite a few notes on the staff. My two oldest students were our team captains so they learned how to be good leaders and help their team work together! There was something for everyone. Students with or without experience.



Playing with Boomwackers! Great for ensemble playing!


Each student got one of these picture but Betsy’s face in this one is priceless!
Noah lost his first tooth at camp! Look at that smile! ;-D

By far the students most favorite day was the Carnival Day. I made this the last day because I knew it would be such a fun day. Unfortunately, the risk of rain was too great so I had to have a plan B and move it to Community Baptist Church. The kids were not disappointed though! They loved it!



We had such a great time! It was so awesome to see the older students helping the younger and seeing them learn but also have such great attitudes for their team the whole week. I would do this camp again in a heartbeat!

Here is a video I made with some more pictures (credit goes to Olivia for all the AWESOME pictures!) and fun thematic music!

Could not have asked for a better group! Thanks for making my job so fun guys!



Sacred Music Recital


Every year in early Spring, I love to have my students focus for a time on a Sacred piece and play it at our Sacred Music Recital at a local retirement home called Solstice Senior Living. The activities director, Kelly, enjoys having the children interact with the seniors living there. What I love most about it is the students get to use their musical gifts to be a blessing to someone else. I hope that it teaches them to ultimately give their gifts to the One who gave them the talent in the first place! They always do a great job! It is also another great performing opportunity!

Sacred music holds a special place in my heart. As many of my families know, I am not only a teacher but a church pianist. I have a passion for church music! I love writing my own sacred arrangements and accompanying for solos, ensembles or choirs. It is one of the reasons I play the piano at all! I was a mere 15 years old when I first started playing for church. Music ministry is a huge part of my life and always will be. I encourage all of my students to be apart of the music ministry in their church if they have a home church. It is so wonderful to be able to use your gift for the Lord.



Victor, my hilarious pre-school student, played “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”. He is such a cutie!




Cole played “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”

What a great truth!




Aeyla played “Amazing Grace”– many folks were humming along to this one!




Silas did a great job! This was his first piano recital! He played “Come, Christians Join to Sing”




Taryn played “All Creatures of our God and King”



Lauren played “He Leadeth Me”



Sarai played a family favorite “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”



Evelynn played “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”IMG_0748


Capri played “For the Beauty of the Earth



Karissa played “The Old Rugged Cross” – I had a senior come up to me and say this was her favorite song. It brought her to tears!




Nevaeh played a beautiful arrangement of “Jesus Loves Me”–she even improvised to make it a little more advanced!


Olivia played a favorite “In the Garden”


Olivia and I played a duet together. Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho. It was a fun one!


Of course, all the students did a great job! I love this recital. It is simple but yet such a great opportunity!

Pops and Popcorn Recital 2018

We celebrated St. Patrick Day with the Pops and Popcorn Recital this past Saturday! We had a great time! It was a repeat recital for a few and two new students first ever recital but they did so well! Unfortunately, I missed getting a picture of Lauren because we played a duet together and I didn’t think to hand the camera to someone else!

Students have so many opportunities to play and perform in  my studio. Not only with my own recitals provided but through a group called Music Teachers Association. I am thankful for the Middlesex New London Music Teachers Chapter I have the privilege of being a part of. It allows me to collaborate with other local teachers and gives my own students a way to meet other students that are not apart of my studio. MTA has a wide range of programs to choose from throughout the year. I highly recommend every music teacher to get involved in their local MTNA chapter! It really helps to connect with other local teachers. Some whom I have learned so much from!

Here is a link where you can join the association and reap many benefits!




Sarai played the Sleeping Beauty Waltz by Tchaikovsky arranged by Faber. IMG_0712


Cole played When the Saints Go Marching In


Nevaeh played Appaloosa Pony by Martha Mier (this is also her piano festival piece!)IMG_0718

Karissa performed Marmalade Rag by AlfredIMG_0721

Evelynn chose to play Pirates of the North Sea by FaberIMG_0722

Aeyla played Rusty Old Bike by Faber


And Lauren and I played Pacabels Canon. It was her first recital ever as well as duet.
She did so wonderful!


I am proud of each student that participated! It is so good for them to have a chance to perform something fun and of their choice in a low key setting.


Happy Friday!

Practice, Practice, Practice


It took years of training on my parents part to teach me that the dishes needed to be done thoroughly before I did anything else. That trait has carried through my adult years so much so that even when I am tempted to go to bed with a  sink full of dishes, I still make sure the dishes have been done. Not because I want to but because I know they have to get done. Much like chores, practice can seem like a chore as well. Practicing piano is just one of those tough chores for children. It requires much discipline and hard work, which neither come naturally to anyone, especially children. Most of us are procrastinators aren’t we?

This can be a struggle for just about every one of my students. And if it is not now, it will be one day in the future. Hmm lets see….play games, watch tv, or practice piano…..yeah practice piano is usually not the first thing any piano student jumps up and down to do. But it is expected of each of my students. I do my best to make it fun for them by giving treats, incentives and extra programs. Eventually, when the thrill of a piece of candy wears off, that’s when discipline should kick in. They JUST DO IT because that’s what they have been trained to do. No questions. No excuses.

I’ve had many parents worry that there is something wrong with their child because they don’t LOVE practicing their instrument. Or they’ve reminded the child over and over again and they somehow “forget”. Or that student IS really diligent about practicing but seems to be in a rut because they are just going through the motions. I say to those parents, here’s how you can help them!

First, you need to know what I expect of them, and how their practice should look. Or should I say sound? I go over this ALL THE TIME with them in their lesson but do they hear everything I’m saying. Not always. Here’s what I’m saying to them only in an outlined and more detailed form. For your benefit


  • Every student has a required level of scales. Some of them have extra things like arpeggios (fast broken chords), hanon (exercises) and cadences (chord progressions) They should be practicing these BEFORE anything else. Even if they know them by heart, it is meant to be reinforced with repetition so they do not forget and to be a warm up for their fingers. Yes, warm up. Just like you stretch before you exercise. 


    A fancy word for pieces or songs. They have a list of songs they are working on in their books or for recitals. Some are from the lesson books, separate pieces of music, or other supplemental music I give them. Here’s the steps they go through when they are learning a NEW piece. Most of this applies as well if they are review pieces.

    Learning the piece

  • Analyze the piece- recognize notes, timing, dynamics, articulation


  • They should be keeping a steady beat all the way through like a drum. They should be starting out slow then increasing their speed depending on the tempo of the piece.
  • When they get to tough spots, they are told to circle it and drill it. (we have usually gone over these pieces together in their previous lesson unless it is a sight reading piece)
  • They are told to count out loud if they have trouble with timing

    Reviewing the piece

    1. Ask yourself, did I play that correctly? did I miss anything? A crescendo, an accent mark?

Fine tune

Expression and phrasing are vital when learning a new piece!

Students should be trying to interpret and feel the music.

I encourage them to think about what the song is saying and get a picture in their mind. Example, if a piece sounds peaceful, think of a waterfall in the forest to help them picture the music in their mind.



  • record yourself
  • play it for someone
  • triple check you’re playing everything correctly
  • ask your teacher for advice or help

Theory homework

Students usually have a theory book to work through. If they do it the first day after their lesson, they won’t forget to do it! If they have a question, tell them to WRITE IT DOWN!!! so they can ask their teacher


Write your practice time down

I ask students once they’ve reached level 1, they need to write it down themselves. The parent should not be required to do this unless the student is very young. (30 min, 24 min, 47 min, etc.)


Compose and create

There is nothing wrong with them sitting down at the piano at times other than their practice time. Five minutes here or there or more They need this brain release from all of their assignments. They should be able to enjoy it! Encourage them to “make something up”. Ask them to play at a different time than their practice. It will make them feel good! (if someone asked you to do something you’re good at, wouldn’t you want to please them and do it?)

I try to encourage students to compose their own melody, make up their own song or try to learn one of your favorites by ear!


So now that you know what practice is SUPPOSED to look like. Here’s what it SHOULD NOT look like (caps for emphasis)


  1. brushing through their pieces half heartedly and not fixing mistakes
  2. forgetting to play their scales every single time and maybe practicing them once a week
  3. playing their song once and moving on
  4. playing one song that they like OVER AND OVER again.
  5. forgetting to do their theory homework several weeks in a row and simply shrugging and saying “I forgot”.

These are just a few examples but ultimately….

If you are not hearing an improvement of their piece throughout the week, THEY ARE NOT PRACTICING. Sure they are playing the piano, but they are not PRACTICING. There is a difference. Back me up on this parents! I need your help!


What can you do???

Let me say this with emphasis. YOU HAVE AN IMPORTANT JOB!!!

I am the teacher, but most importantly you are the your kid’s BIGGEST FAN. Here are some things you can do to help your child and me as well!


  1. make it possible

    • Develop  a routine. Find a time that best suits the student to practice. Not when their tired and hungry. Give them a set time in their day and help them stick with it.
  2. enforce a time

    • You can set a time all day long but if you do not enforce this time, it does the child no good. Remember, children are procrastinators. (And so are we!) They will probably not volunteer to practice. (usually, not always)
  3. remind often

    • After you’ve set up a routine and enforced it, try not to lord over them all the time. To develop a disciplined student, give them the opportunity to exercise responsibility by initiating piano practice on their own. The muscles won’t be very strong right now, but they will flex it every once in a while. When they don’t, gently remind by asking “have you practiced your piano today?”
  4. pop in every once in a while, ask a question, be interested.

    Kids love it when they can TEACH what they know to an adult. It solidifies what they know. Ask a questions like “tell me what note that is?” “Why did you play that part softly?” “Can you show me how to do that?” If you know nothing about piano, you  know what your kid will think? “My mom is wanting ME to show her how to do what I can do!”

  5. encourage and approve more!

    You’ve cannot encourage too much. And more than just encourage, approve. Affirm them by saying “I’m proud of you for being diligent about practicing every week.” or “Your recital piece makes me wish I could play the piano”. You are approving their hard work. It goes further than just saying “good job!” or “that was pretty!”. You’re approving not just their music, but their character and their very person. Kids need their parents encouragement more than they will ever let on!


For some, this may be nothing new, but for others it may give you some ideas. Remember your role in these student’s musical education, parents. It is important. Your involvement  in your child’s piano practice could make a huge difference!

Remember, it’s not practice makes perfect, it’s PERFECT practice makes perfect!

A Classical Christmas Recital

We had a beautiful recital this past Christmas! Our theme was A Classical Christmas so the music was centered around none other than…classical music! The students loved being able to play either their favorite Christmas carol or a classical piece we don’t typically hear on the radio. Over the course of the Fall, students learned about composers Bach, Handel and Tchaikovsky all of which composed very famous classical and christmas music. Just look how cute these kiddos are! They all did a wonderful job!



Along with the good music, we had awesome refreshments made by the parents of our students. Some delicious fudge and cookies as well as hot chocolate was tastefully and beautifully presented to us by Market 31 Stylist Company.  They always do a phenomenal job at these kind of events making it extra special for us all to enjoy.



My heart is alway so overwhelmed at a recital because it shows show much concentrated effort and hard work the students put in all year round. Finally, they are able to relish is the feeling of victory and accomplishment! And of course, everybody loves Christmas time and the “extra good” feelings we all get during that season. It is rewarding to see students do well and apply what they are learning in their lessons.

A big thank you goes to Michal Fourman for providing these pictures for me and to Jim Stanton for taking care of our sound and live-stream. (Grandparents were able to watch from afar!)

Can’t wait for next year!

Music and Missions



As a church musician, I am playing the piano in worship every single week. Several times a week. While worship should come from the heart first, music is such a wonderful ministry to be apart of for the many reasons. There’s something different about singing a prayer, or hearing a song that brings lyrics to mind. We dwell on it just a little longer.

I am constantly trying to give my students opportunities to use their abilities for the Lord, if they ever have the opportunity. Once a year, I schedule a “Sacred Music Recital” at our local retirement community. I am always encouraging students to prepare a piece for church worship through special instrumental piece. Whenever I can get them to see that music is such a beautiful gift from God I am beyond excited. It is such a thrill to be a blessing to other people while using the gift God gave you. Especially when it relates to serving God.

We recently had a missions emphasis at my church. It’s big deal to us. We support many missionaries as a part of our private missions program. We had two missionaries visit us this past Sunday, one a missionary to Ireland and another wanting to start a church right outside of Boston. Our music was centered on missions with the adult and children’s choir singing a special and an international lunch where everyone brings a dish from a different country. It is always an exciting time! Each week our church takes up an offering and usually myself or other instrumentalists will play a special piece during that time. It is wonderful to be able to participate in worship in this special way. I played my arrangement of the well known hymn “Send the Light”. I want to share the lyrics with you below.


There’s a call comes ringing o’er the restless wave,

Send the light, Send the Light,

There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,

Send the Light, Send the Light


Send the Light, the blessed gospel light,

Let it shine from shore to shore!

Send the Light, the blessed gospel light,

Let is shine forevermore!


We have heard the Macedonian call today,

Send the Light, Send the Light

And the golden offering at the cross we lay

Send the Light, Send the Light


Let us pray that grace everywhere abound,

Send the Light, Send the Light

And the Christ-like spirit everywhere be found

Send the Light, Send the Light


Let us not grow weary in the work of love

Send the Light, Send the Light

Let us gather jewels for a crown above,

Send the Light, Send the Light



The man who wrote this hymn is Chase. H. Gabriel. He was a self taught musician who wrote many hymns, songs and secular works. Send the Light was considered his first “successful” song. He was asked to write a missions song for Easter. A missionary heard it and took it with him on the the field. It quickly became popular and was published in 1891. It is considered “one of the best missionary hymns ever written.”

We do not know much about the back story behind this song but we gather from the lyrics it is based on Acts 16 when Paul had a vision of a “Macedonian man” pleading for help to spread the gospel. As I study Paul’s ministry and work, I am amazed of the impact it has on our current world.

Paul desperately wanted to reach the world with the gospel. He, Silas and Timothy were planning to go to Asia Minor (present day Turkey) but the Holy Spirit redirected them to the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea in a city called Troas. At this point, Paul was waiting on the Lord to tell him where to go. During the night, Paul had a dream of a man pleading with him to “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” (vs. 10) The Bible says “immediately” Paul and his friends took up the journey to Macedonia which if you know your geography, Macedonia is what we now call Europe or more specifically Greece. They stopped in Philippi, a Roman colony, where we see recorded the first convert in this region, Lydia, the seller of purple. (Acts 16:14). This area is known today as the “gateway to Europe.” Up until that point, the spread of the gospel stopped at Asia’s borders but because Paul obeyed the “Macedonian call”, Europe and later the colonies of America have “the Light”.

There is more packed into this hymn that I could write about. Mr. Gabriel wrote a jewel. What makes this hymn so wonderful, as many other songs and hymns, is the fact that is based on God’s Word. There is truth to these words. We may not all have visions in the night telling us to go across the world and preach the gospel, but we have God’s revealed Word to guide and direct us. We have “heard the call ringing over the restless wave”. How? Because we are all missionaries commanded to be a light to the world. (Matthew 5:14) The Light we are commanded to share (Matt 28:19-20), is Jesus, the Son of God.

I feel myself sometimes pushing that call away and telling myself it’s someone else’s job. The significance of the gospel does not ring as true because I live in a somewhat “Christianized” society but there are so many people still living in darkness. My job is not diminished simply because I live in a “nation founded on the Christian faith”, it is heightened because the call beckons to every Christian able to physically speak of the love of Christ. This song has been a challenge to me as I play it and reflect on the words. It brings tears to my eyes when I realize there are hundreds of thousands of people that have still never heard about Christ or have and just need someone to help them understand how much He loves them. The gospel is still as relevant and needed to be spread as it was in Paul’s day. Maybe even more so.

As I teach my students to learn to use expression and feeling in their music, most often I come back to a scared piece because I know that it is more that a few black notes written on a staff. Music put to words of truth have so much more meaning and depth. Music has such a profound way of making the truth revealed more powerful. It fills us with emotion and understanding, it expresses the deepest feelings in our hearts and speaks to us in ways that an orator or speech never could. As I compare the impact of music and the impact of mission work, I pray it speaks to someone about the call on their life. Whether a christian needing to heed God’s command to “Go” or someone searching for the Answer to their questions. The Light you are looking for is Jesus. Look no further, because He is there.

Should you let your child quit music?



Hello tired. discouraged parent,


If you clicked on this blog, you probably have been through this argument in your mind. It is a valid argument to have. Your child loathes his or her piano lessons. (or any music lesson for that matter) and you’re trying to decide if you should let him or her quit. Your child has shown interest in other activities, but music is a drudgery. I have seen it as a teacher and have listened to many a parents worry about what to do. I can only imagine the struggle it is to get them on the bench at home to practice.

I did not grow up having piano lessons. (surprise, surprise). No, I was mostly self-taught. I don’t say that in boast I say it in regret. It saddens me that I did not have that opportunity. Would my mom and dad have had a hard time getting me to practice? Probably not. I loved to practice because I loved music. There were many reasons why I loved it. For one, I was older. I didn’t necessarily see the value in practicing but I enjoyed it and because I was older, it was my decision to learn. No one was forcing me.

Now I realize that an 8 yr old is not going to have the same determination as a 12 year old. Another reason I believe it was easier for me was that there came a certain point where I used my gift regularly. I played in church. A lot. I was 16 and was the main church pianist as well as accompanying pianist. There were plenty of things I had yet to learn but the fact that I was challenged to use my ability was enough to keep me up on it.

Everyone’s story is different. Not everyone is like me. Some start when their young and still have no problem practicing. Some have a terrible time no matter what. I can say that every student hits a wall. Even the really good students. I hit discouraging pits many times in my college career studying to become a better musician. At times I felt like I would never dig myself out. Eventually, I did. If it wasn’t for my teachers I would have never found my way.

I’m writing my story to say that even accomplished musicians have struggles. So obviously, a learning musician is going to as well. The teachers and parents job is to guide and encourage them along the way. One of the main reason why students “quit” or begin to have disdain for their music lessons is one of the following reasons. 1)Their discouraged 2)They are distracted 3)They are bored.

All are very bad! It could be 2 out of 3 or even all 3 reasons! There may be more reasons but any student I have ever talked to it is usually one of these three. Knowing what to do in these situations can help tremendously.

If they become discouraged, obviously we try to encourage them. Parents often forget to do this. It is important that you show your support with words of praise. Show your enjoyment of their playing not “you need to work on that a little more”. They need to know what they are doing well on first. Be specific about what they did well on too. “You did a great job” sounds different from “Wow! You played that scale so smoothly!”

I have seen some students shut down after a recital usually because they compared themselves to someone else. I have to remind them, this is not about “so-and-so”, it’s about you and how much you want to learn. Our job is to get their focus off of everyone else and on the subject of “learning”. For my perfectionist students that are just so hard on themselves for not being…well perfect..I remind them they are a student and it is ok to mess up. That’s how we learn.

I want to focus on their progress not their skill. Every student has a different skill level not to be compared to the other. When I see a student trying, my response is “You did a great job practicing this week” or “Well done working on this harder section”. Some children are easily encouraged and others you might think I might as well be talking to a wall. But it’s just not true. They are listening. Regardless, it is still our job to encourage them.

When they are distracted, we have to find out what that distraction is. I mentioned before students compare themselves to other people. Maybe a 10 year boy has a hard time because he compares himself to the 8 year old who is more “accomplished”. This is always a tough situation. It could be that they would rather play soccer, or do karate. Maybe they think that they won’t ever be good enough in piano but could be in sports. (By the way, this is totally typical of boys!) I’m just going to be excruciatingly blunt here, they are children. (If it is a teenager, same applies!) They do not know what is best for them. They will not be playing soccer when they are 60+ years old. (most likely not!) And while sports is a great thing that I believe every kid should have a chance to be apart of, it is not a lifelong skill whereas learning to play a musical instrument is. Sorry, I know I’m a little biased. But I have a story to tell concerning this point that I will leave for the end.

Again, pinpoint the distraction, whatever it is. It could be something as important as homework. It may be that they are extremely busy that week and can’t fit their practice in that week. Life is about managing your time. They have to learn how to do this. They have to figure it out. They need their parents help, not just to remind them of their priorities but to enforce an expectation. When they fail, let them fail. But don’t let the failure be the expectation. A few weeks of bad practice will not completely devastate their musical education. Quitting will. If they can learn how to focus when distracted, it will help them immensely in life.

And finally, when they are bored, challenge them. Boy oh boy this happens often. I have seen a student make a complete 180 when I tell him or her, “If you can get through these next few pieces, you will be done with this level of books.” Their eyes widen and I see immediately they’ve taken on my challenge. Incentive programs are great for this. There is nothing wrong with rewarding them. It doesn’t have to be a toy from Toys R Us, in fact, it doesn’t have to be much. Most times, when the reward is self gratification, appreciation or visibility, it is enough. I challenge all my students to work on their scales but when I started putting up boards of each level and listing each name as they worked through their level, the visibility they received from others seeing their name up on the board but enough to get them to learn their scales even faster.

It is not always the same for each student. I have some students that could care less about incentives. They may still struggle with making music their own. That is ok. I believe if we keep doing these things, encouraging,  helping them focus and challenging them, eventually they will get it. Maybe it will take longer, but it is important to understand they will get it someday.

Something to keep in mind is that they are still learning. We all are really. We as teachers and parents are learning more about them while they learn more about life and the hurdles they have to overcome. Another great thing to do is review with them what they HAVE already learned. Sometimes we push, push, push. Then we take a step back and realize, wow they have learned a lot the last year or so. I like to remind students of how far they have come. They then feel proud of themselves and say “I want to do the next thing”.

Parents have to see the value that music lessons will have. Over time. It’s doesn’t happen over night. Quitting is never the answer. When we tell them it’s their choice, we are saying, “When life gets hard, you can just give up.” We would never say those words but making music optional does often increase the probability of failure. And later on regret.

I worked under a successful manager for 5 years at a mortgage company. I was going part time to teach piano students at a college. When he found out what I was doing he said “I took piano lessons when I was a kid.” My first inclination was to think cool, he knows how to play! Unfortunately, he told me he started around 8 years old but quit when he was 11 or so. I asked him why. He said that he was starting to get into sports and boyish things and decided he didn’t like it anymore. So his parents let him quit. I asked him if he wishes he had continued and he said “oh yeah! If I could go back, I would’ve continued. I wish I could remember how to play but it was so long ago.” At one point, he did enjoy it and then he got distracted or discouraged or both, and decided it wasn’t worth it. A man in his late 30s told me he regretted a decision he made when he was 11 years old. Imagine that. Quitting is not the answer.

I wanted to quit many times in school. I was working nearly a full time job, with a full credit load and the amount I had to practice for my private lessons was insane considering the amount of homework I had. Usually 7-8 hours per week. I literally did not have a life. Naps? Psh, not when I had to be at work by 1:00pm. Each semester the amount of free hours I had seemed to vanish. But I did it knowing it was required. I hit a few walls but I figured out how to climb over them. It made me a better person. My orchestra instructor asked us one time in class “Why do you take lessons?” Most students response was “to get better at that particular instrument.” He simply shook his head no and said “It’s for discipline.”

I don’t think my list covers all students/children, nor does my list of remedies, but it speaks for the majority of students I think. Parent, decide that music lessons are an important part of life and will help your child in the long run. Don’t let them quit.



Music Camp


We had such a wonderful week at the “Carnival of the Animals” Music Camp. Students enjoyed learning about Mr. Saint-Saens symphony Carnival of the Animals, while also learning the history of that time period, geography surrounding the area it was written, the animals for each movement and so much more.

I usually create and plan my own curriculum for camps or group classes but because I decided to split my camps between the younger children and the older children (or those that have had piano lessons before), I purchased this curriculum on Natalie Weber did a fantastic job on this curriculum with design and the organization aspect of it. I highly recommend!

The first thing I did after purchasing the curriculum, after studying it of course, is go to Staples to estimate the cost of binding the student workbook. Surprisingly, it was not too badly priced considering I needed a bulk amount. I am so glad they turned out well and the students can keep them and they will hold up really well!


For the gift, I wanted something that would have a practical use. I have done t-shirts in the past and really enjoy them, but this year I wanted something a little different. Instead of t-shirts, I purchased these canvas bags and had them embroidered by a very talented business lady in my church. She custom designed them for me and they turned out beautiful! I loved that the students could not only use them for the week but for their piano books in the future.



Set up was very easy, as it was held at my church. I used this awesome blue tooth speaker  that Natalie recommended along with youtube to play on the pieces. I also had a projector and iPad to project images or vocabulary definitions on the screen. It made everything so easy!


Students enjoyed coloring the different animals and writing the different rhythms down notated in the curriculum. They absolutely loved listening to the different rhythms and sounds each movement produced. We talked about  imagery and how music creates pictures in our minds about God’s creation around us. The main idea of this camp was that every part of our study, whether it be history, science or music, centered around one idea: that God is the Creator of it and knowing those subjects helps us understand more about Him.




As you can see from the top picture of the group, students are holding up an opened page in their workbooks. This is their composition. (except for Aeyla, she is holding up her piece that she practiced that week. silly girl.) Each learned how to compose their own motive and create a melody from it. Each student participated whether they knew how to play piano or not. It was so awesome to see their creative minds enjoying making music. I had almost all of them that could play through their composition at our “mini-recital” at the end of the last day. I did not get everyone’s picture but they all did a really great job!

FullSizeRender.jpgFullSizeRender2.jpgFullSizeRender3.jpgMy only regret was not getting more pictures. Here is the art project we did together. I failed to get pictures of their artwork but here is one of my own. My awesome husband cut all of these squares of wood and sanded them for me. The students loved this project. It was the highlight of the week! They chose which animal silhouette they wanted to do and after nailing all the nails in to create the shape they selected their colored string and made designs of their animals. Super fun!


I say it was a week, but it was really only 4 days. I had to cram a little bit to cover everything. Even still, there was so much we had to rush through. We had a blast though. I enjoyed it myself and the students seemed to love it. I will post about the younger kids music camp soon!