I don’t have a hobby. I have a boutique studio!

When I first started my small studio, I had big ideas of growing my business quickly.  I wanted to be known as a business owner, not the typical image of piano teacher.  “Oh, what a lovely hobby!”  Then, I actually started running my business.  I had budgeted a certain amount of time towards my business.  The first year, I blew past that time budget so fast my head was spinning.

While I’m certainly not perfect at the life-work balance, it has improved each year & I am finally at the point where I can be happy with my choices.  I want ALL teachers to feel confident & happy with the choices they are making in their businesses.  We all have different goals, priorities, & responsibilities … many that have nothing to do with teaching, but have a huge bearing on how we are able to do our jobs.

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What On Earth Was I Thinking?

Yesterday was the first day of Grade 3 for my kidlets.  There was a lot of excitement & a bit of nervousness on their part.  There was a lot of excitement & a bit of stress on my part.  (How many school supplies do they REALLY need for the year?  The answer.  A lot.)

Combined with all the back to school preparations, it was natural to look back on the previous years of school … both my kids in school & my growth as a teacher.  At this point, we are now on the 11th & 12th teachers for our kids.  They have all done well with our kids, but not all have interacted well with us as parents.  And, I realized at the end of last year that the ones that seemed to work against us as parents reminded me of someone I know very well.  Myself as a beginning teacher.  What on earth was I thinking?

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The Countdown Is On!

Today is looking to be a busy day.  It turns out that while I was right that a grocery trip with my kids would have taken away the last of my sanity (it was a VERY silly week for them), our fridges & pantries are showing that it really is time to actually purchase food to eat.  Add getting ready for back to the studio for my students & I realized it was time to pull out the big guns …

When you just need to get stuff done
“Don’t Have Time For That” Minions shirt

I have explained to my boys & husband that the shirt appears to have magical qualities.  Every time that I wear it, I get a lot more done.  And today I need that magic.

Today, I will be sharing with you one of the images I am using to get my students & their families excited about the start of piano lessons.  Much like studios use trailers to build anticipation, these images will build anticipation for the fall.

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With These Piano Parent Stickers… Home Practice is Sure To Improve! — Teach Piano Today

Each year, I try to help my students practice more efficiently.  But, the fact of the matter is that without parent involvement there is only so much I can do.  Especially with my youngest students who are unable or struggle with reading my (fabulous) practice notes.

Once my kids entered school, I developed a whole new appreciation for just how involved parents are expected to be.  And, with twins in different classes we have seen just how diverse those expectations can be.  For Grade 2, one teacher expected us to sit with our child while he read for 20 minutes a day, ask him questions at the end of each reading session, review math facts for a weekly test, help him complete occasional projects, & read a couple emails a week.  Our other sons teacher expected us to have him read on his own (or with us) for as close to 20 minutes for as possible as many days a week as we could handle.  We were encouraged to praise him & talk to him about notes in his agenda.  And, if there was a concern she encouraged us to email, call, or talk to her before/after school.  Neither approach was wrong, but as a parent I can tell you that the second approach was much more appreciated.  However, before kids my approach more closely aligned with the first teacher.

So, when I read Andrea’s article this morning I was inspired.  She hit the nail on the head. It is easy, quick, & can have huge impact on a child’s enthusiasm for playing.  Follow the link below to read more about how you can help your piano parents support their kids this upcoming year.

I desperately want piano parents to take an active and effective role in home practice routines. For this reason, I am on a perpetual search for creative ways to make their participation easy, encouraging and effective. Finding the perfect solution to parent participation can be challenging. It has to be both easily manageable for busy parents…

via With These Piano Parent Stickers… Home Practice is Sure To Improve! — Teach Piano Today

Taking time to reflect on the year

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly believe it is almost the end of June.  The next week is a whirlwind of recital (tomorrow), group lesson (Monday evening) & a few individual lessons as well!   On one hand, I am exhausted & looking forward to the break.  (The kidlets are dragging their feet quite a bit in the mornings so I’m getting the sense they are looking forward to the break as well.)  On the other hand, I’m trying to figure out how the year went by so fast because I am quite sure summer was only a few months ago.

Whether you teach throughout the year or taking a break over the summer, reflecting on the year is a great activity to celebrate our achievements & take time to figure out how to improve on those things that just didn’t quite work out.  This last week, I collected the “My Music This Year” worksheets that I gave my students.

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Recital Prep … the countdown!

Recital prep.  It’s a busy time of year for everyone & there are a lot of things to get ready beforehand.  I used to get so stressed out before our studio recitals.  Between the million items on the to-do list & worrying about my students performing their best, I realized that my stressing wasn’t solving anything.   So, I made a list!  Over the years, I try to get the biggest items done over the first week with some years more successful in this goal than others.  I was often crazy tired by the end, but I am quite sure my shoulders dropped a good 3 inches.  But, over the years, I’ve streamlined my recital prep to take away a lot of the stress!

What every recital needs

While there are different types of recitals, there are certain things that are going to stay the same on your to-do list regardless of where the recital takes place.

  • Invitations (digital, physical, or both)
  • Program
  • Compliment cards (optional)
    • The original idea came from here, but these are incredibly easy to design on your own.
  • Introductory & ending comments
  • Introductions of songs (or a template for students to use if they will be doing this)
  • Handwritten notes for all clients with specific praise for each student.
  • Copies of all songs in case a student forgets their music (memorized or forgets the book at home)

That last one may seem weird, but it has happened.  One of my clients arrived & their youngest suddenly realized that he didn’t have his music with him.  Even though he had been asked multiple times if it was in the bag.  And, of course, because he was panicked he also completely forgot how to play any of his songs.  So, one of his parents drove home to get the book.  As a parent, I could understand the frustration of a 20-30 minute roundtrip just to get a book.  Having an extra copy eliminates this situation.

P.S. I love to use Canva, to easily create beautiful invitations, programs, & compliment cards!  The best part is that it’s incredibly easy to make sure the branding/look is consistent across all those documents.  And, having a tool that makes the design part of recital prep easy saves so much time.  (This is a Canva affiliate link that gives me a credit if you sign-up.  Links like this make running the site financially possible.)

In-person recitals

For in-person recitals, there are a few more things that get added to that to-do list.

  • If you are doing compliment cards, pencils with erasers
  • Box for books that should be returned to you after the performance
  • Camera or camcorder to record the event
  • Refreshments & beverages so families can visit afterward
  • Gift bags for attendees
    • Ideas: preserves (my homemade preserves were the gift of choice for my students for YEARS) , s’more kits, individual music, beach balls that are autographed, a compilation of songs students have composed in a keepsake coil-bound book (also a massive hit).
  • Any permits or materials needed to keep the event safe (check with your local bylaws, etc.)

Online recitals

I’ll admit, I’m loving online recitals.  Now that I have templates in place, recital prep is greatly reduced & after the event, all I need to do is shut down my computer.  Plus, they are so much less expensive which means I’ve added another recital & still had more profit than before moving online.  I take some of the extra profit to make sure my students are getting something extra special from the experience.

  • A video that shows people how to join the event using the program you choose (i.e. Zoom, etc.)
  • Multiple scheduled emails with the recital URL (1 week, 24-hours, 1-hour)
  • Run-through with students on how to use the program (if different than what you use for regular lessons).
  • Set event to automatically record, mute participants & leave all participants’ videos on.
  • Decide how applause will show after each performance.

To find out exactly how I host virtual recitals in my studio, read Part 1 & Part 2 on the site.

Putting it all together

It can be a lot of moving parts to a recital.  But if you create a checklist & templates your first year, recital prep becomes much easier as you build on what you have already created!

Here is what the various gift bags have looked like over the years, including storing all of them in an out-of-the-way place.  (Click on the image to enlarge or scroll between images.)

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”4″ display=”basic_slideshow” arrows=”1″]   

Student readiness

I think this is the one that many of us stress over the most during recital prep.  In some ways, it can feel like we take on this responsibility more than some of our students.  Just remember, their performance is their performance.  Not yours.  But, that isn’t to say there aren’t ways to help students have a great experience.

You can add backing tracks that are fun to listen to.  They also force students to keep a steady tempo & master their songs earlier.

You can add a practice challenge like our “Students vs. Ms. Rosemarie” practice challenge which still keeps our studio community strong but adds a little friendly competition.  Plus, I’m always excited when most, if not all, of my students beat me in the number of practice sessions!

Or, you can make the practice fun with a series of activities (but more on that below).  Whatever you choose, just have fun with it!

What do you have on your recital prep list?

While recitals are a LOT of work (both before & during), it is wonderful to see everyone’s smiling faces as we celebrate together.  

One of the ways we love to prepare for the recital is to do fun activities that strengthen our ability to play recital pieces.  Whether it’s off-the-bench & being active or changing up the song in some way,  “5 Ways Recital Activities” have bridged the gap between repetition & having fun.  Plus, they can make for great social media posts for your studio as well!

To get your copy of “5 Ways: Recital Prep Activities“, click below.
Get Your Copy of "5 Ways: Recital Prep Activities"!

How do you prepare for recitals?  Let us know about the projects that you do annually to make your recitals a success!

NOTE: This article was originally published on June 10, 2016.  It has been updated to include prep that I do for online recitals as well + keeps many of the great ideas from the original article.

Marketing Your Studio: Wild West Style

I feel very fortunate to have found so many great mentors online … most who probably have no clue that they are my mentors.  As my year ends, I have been looking back on the teacher I used to & the teacher I am now.  Thankfully, that bit of introspection showed how much I have grown professionally & personally.  And, all those mentors?  A huge thank you for sharing your journey, as well as what has worked (& not worked).  All those hours blogging has had such a positive effect on how I have changed my approach over the years.

While this has nothing to do with marketing, at least on the surface, I also wanted to thank Leila Viss for stopping by in Calgary to present a workshop on improvisation & creativity!  If you haven’t read Leila’s blog (88pianokeys) or attending any of her many workshops (online & in person)  … What are you waiting for?  As always, Leila provided tons of practical, inexpensive, & easy ways to add improvisation to both group & individual lessons.  I really liked how she broke things down into small steps that were easy on student AND teacher.  Check out when she may be in your area this summer.  (Scroll to the bottom of the page when you follow the link.)

Not sure what your plans are for this weekend?  There is also some very exciting professional development available through Tim Topham’s blog.  He is partnering with Amy Chaplin for a FREE 1-hour webinar on Marketing Your Studio!  While the webinar takes place this Sunday in Australia, those of us in North America will probably be tuning in Saturday afternoon or evening.  Follow this link to sign up.

Amy’s blog (Piano Pantry) has so much straightforward information on a wide variety of music topics that I am going to be happily reading posts for quite some time.  I encourage you to subscribe to her blog as well.

It looks to be a fantastic weekend here in Calgary & I hope yours will be just as awesome!

The Skills I Never Thought I Would Need to Learn

The last 2 weeks have been a blur of coding, hosting issues & catch-up on my ever growing to-do list.  Turns out that having computer issues does NOT mean everything else miraculously gets done.  Sigh.

Back in university, I remember a well-meaning, math-loving professor attempting to teach a bunch of arts-based education students how to determine the mean, median & mode to the thousandth decimal for data sets using nothing but a pencil, paper & our brains.  He was especially fond of using the Socratic method of teaching (poor, poor man to be stuck with our class).  Granted he tried to teach us even more than this, but this particular set of lessons stood out for me.    After an especially frustrating class, I asked him WHY we needed to learn to do this with paper.  Schools have programs that provide this data for us automatically & in a pinch using Excel with a simple code provides the same data.  He said it would be on the test (it wasn’t), he said we would need data to the thousandth decimal place (I have NEVER needed that level of specificity), & that we would need to know this type of information to analyze how we did assessing students (true, though not to the minute detail he expected).  While I am thankful for the skills he taught me in assessing students (i.e. writing good test & assignment questions, analyzing WHY students did not do well on a particular concept, etc.), I sincerely hope that forevermore after this professor was given the science-based students so he could really shine.

But, this memory did get me thinking about what I had envisioned whilst in university. While it is true that I have have always been able to use school programs or Excel for my data analysis, it turns out there are many skill sets I had never dreamed I would need to learn.

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Just Ask Jennifer- Live #2 — Music Educator

Last week, Jennifer was back for the second installment of “Just Ask Jennifer”.  During this short (15 minute) Facebook Live session, Jennifer answers questions that teachers have submitted.  And, while I enjoyed the first session, I found this last week’s focus on lesson planning to be very timely.  (More on that next week.)  Read more below & click on the link to watch the video on Facebook.  Have a great weekend everyone!

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Work/Life Balance … Does it actually exist?

Creating balance between work and life is not easy.  When I first started my business I vastly OVER-estimated my ‘free’ time & vastly UNDER-estimated the time I needed to complete basic administrative & teaching tasks (let alone projects).  My twins were going into preschool 3 mornings a week & I thought, “Great!  I have all this free time & can take on more students.  Easy!”  The reality was that I didn’t accurately budget my time & felt like I spent most of that year telling the boys, “Yes, sweetheart.  But, mommy needs to finish this stuff & THEN I can take a look at your drawing.”

I don’t claim to have the magic pill solve all scheduling woes.  And, I certainly don’t claim to have a perfect balance of life & career.  What I can offer you is some ideas on how to get a little closer to that balance … at least most days.

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