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88 Piano Keys by Leila Viss - 1M ago

Growing up in the Christian Reformed denomination, it was never a tradition to sing or play patriotic music in church. That is not the case in the church that I play at now. No, they don’t talk politics but, they do honor their service men and women in worship services around Memorial Day and Veterans Day and even holidays like the Fourth of July.

So, this has led me to years of searching for patriotic arrangements and back in 2013, I finally created my own. Six years later (2019), “Let Freedom Ring” is now notated with a few additions and tweaks. I’m happy to share this “rhapsody” with those looking for a unique arrangement for church services, a patriotic event, a recital, or a special tribute to veterans and service men and women.

Let Freedom Ring - YouTube

About the tune

Although the lyrics were written by Samuel Francis, it’s hard to nail down the origin of the tune called “America” that most know in the States as “My Country ’Tis of Thee.”

It was printed in England in 1744 in the tune book Thesaurus Musicus. Since then, the melody has been used as national anthems in several countries including Britain’s “God Save the Queen.”

Click to view slideshow.

About the cover art: Eight years ago I took my first trip to New York and finally met Lady Liberty in person. The sky was a spectacular blue that day and crowned every photo with royalty.

About the arrangement

An interlude, featured throughout the piece, borrows the opening motive of another patriotic tune, “America the Beautiful” which complements this rhapsodic setting of “My Country ’Tis of Thee.”

The arrangement is titled “Let Freedom Ring” because that phrase is highlighted and augmented throughout. And, it also echoes one of my favorite performances of any patriotic tune that inspired my arrangement. It’s sung by Crosby, Stills and Nash with Michael Hedges on guitar. I found a short video–see below.

Crosby, Stills and Nash / Michael Hedges - YouTube

Get “Let Freedom Ring” here

Click on the links below for your digital sheet music on sale through July 4, 2019!

Single license Studio license

Here’s to celebrating the freedom we enjoy every day thanks to the sacrificial service of countless men and women!

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Perry’s Party Piano Camp is a brand new resource triggered by two things:

#1 My inadequacy at playing “Happy Birthday” when asked to play it at parties.

#2 Years of teaching this tune to my students so they don’t suffer the same embarrassment as I did.

I’m very happy to finally share this with you!

It’s a colorful, downloadable PDF resource that

  • Helps you guide your students of any age to make their own arrangement of “Happy Birthday” in preparation for the next birthday party they attend.
  • Provides step-by-step instructions on how to do this in private lessons OR in a group setting.
  • Amplifies these steps into four days (or more) of group lessons or a summer camp.
  • Includes indoor and outdoor off-bench activities to reinforce concepts like scales, intervals, chords, rhythm and harmonization.
  • Demonstrates how to teach the main concepts with instructional videos.
  • Shows how students apply the instructions to their own playing through numerous videos.
  • Suggests an ample supply of recommended resources but, encourages you to use what you have already!

It’s a resource that you’ll reference from year to year that promises to inspire your creative-based teaching. And, if you’ve read my magazine article in the American Music Teacher magazine and are curious to see what I describe in action…this is as close as it gets!

Could be an easy sell to parents

Announcing a theme around this standard tune is a great way to “sell” the idea of summer lessons or a piano camp to those skeptical parents.

Who wouldn’t see the value in learning this tune?

Make a party out of “Happy Birthday” and aim for students saying:

“Where’s the party? I’m ready!”

The details

Sample page

Although the plans are divided into four days, you can tailor the activities to suit your needs over days, weeks or months.

Main Objectives 

  • Play the tune “Happy Birthday” by ear and memorize it.
  • Harmonize the tune with at least three primary chords and a simple left hand pattern.
  • Add an introduction and an outro or coda.
  • Create and master an original variation of the tune.

Additional Objectives

  • Reinforce pitch reading.
  • Recognize major, minor and perfect intervals aurally and visually.
  • Spell and play major scales on C, F and G.
  • Understand the I, IV, V chords and their symbols in the key of F.
  • Master hearing and reading rhythm patterns with dotted notes in 3/4 meter.
  • Develop ensemble skills.
  • Harmonize a melody.
  • Extend the options for left hand patterns and harmonization.

Can’t see the video below showing details of the resource? Click here.

Perry's Party Piano Camp - YouTube

A breakdown of the objectives for each day

Day # 1 

  • Sound out the melody,
  • Identify the look and sound of major, minor and perfect intervals,
  • Spell major scales.

Day #2

  • Match primary chords with melody to add harmony.
  • Name and spell primary chords and their symbols.
  • Play single bass note with melody.
  • Play chords in root position with melody.

Day #3 

  • Discriminate between 3/4 and 4/4, identify upbeats and count

    Can be used with all ages!

    and play dotted notes.

  • Identify and find examples of tunes in 3/4 time.
  • Understand note values: whole, half, dotted half, quarter, dotted quarter, 8th, dotted 8th notes.
  • Understand duration and location of note values within a measure.
  • Conduct in 3/4 time and 4/4 time to reinforce upbeats and downbeats.
  • Slide between chords (using inversions) to reduce LH jumps and avoid running into the melody.

Day #4 

  • Create various LH styles to harmonize the melody.
  • Correlate chord choices with melodic pitches.
  • Choose and add a LH accompaniment pattern to the melody.
  • Add an introduction based on the V or Dominant chord.
  • Add an outro or coda based on the I or Tonic chord.

Perry’s Party Piano Camp is on sale today through Memorial Day and then the price will go up significantly so get it now.

Even if you have your summer plans in place, teaching your students to play “Happy Birthday” is something you can do with your students any time of year and you’ll want this on hand when you’re ready to commit!

Also, there’s a time sensitive coupon in the resource that’s good towards any 88PK products. One more reason to buy it now.

Get it here.

And…Happy Birthday!

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Confession: I’m a piano teacher and blogger who feels like she’s always behind when it comes to social media.

Now that I’ve just gotten the hang of Facebook and even connected my Twitter account to it, Instagram has taken over! How is a piano teacher to keep up? Tell me I’m not alone for thinking like this!

And, for that matter, is it important for piano teachers to stay with the latest trend in social media?


Part of me wants to say NO! I’m not a millennial so I shouldn’t try to be one. But, the other part of me knows that if I want to connect with potential blog readers, students and clients who are younger than me (I’m still 29 at heart!), I need to become Instagram savvy. Follow me here as I learn the ropes!

Thankfully, I have a wonderful friend named Audra who is a corporate sales-woman turned health advocate, wife, mother to 3, small-business owner and yes, a millennial. Audra continually inspires me as she likes to dream big. She even created her own online course called “Instagram for MLM Success”.

For the record, just a few short years ago, Audra didn’t even have an Instagram account. Her road to becoming an Instagram expert has been rough and with her help, she assures me that my Instagram journey (and yours) doesn’t have to be the same. Whewhoo!

One of the basics to learn when using Instagram is how to use the sign that looks like a sharp sign (#) and the words that follow it.

It’s called a hashtag.

Yes, they look like sharp signs but everyone born after 2007 knows them as hashtags!

Sign up below for Audra’s FREE list of over a 100 hashtags for piano teachers. Trust me…the list will soon become extremely valuable to you as you post photos and stories on Instagram.

Of course, the list won’t do you any good unless you learn how to use hashtags. So, Audra has agreed to an interview with me in early May which I’ll record. In the video interview she’ll explain why hashtags are important and how they can help piano teachers like you get more students.

A link to the video interview will be shared here at THIS blog so make sure to sign up (above) for the FREE hashtag download and you’ll get notified when it’s available.

Among other things, Audra and I will cover:

  • What it’s like being a millennial parent in search of a piano/music teacher
  • Unique ways to connect with them
  • How to attract their kiddos as students
  • And, more importantly retain their kiddos as students.

Have more questions for Audra? Include them in the comments below and I’ll make sure to include them in our interview.

Don’t miss your chance to learn how Instagram can help you grow your business!

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This article is inspired by two things:

1. A captivating TED talk that addresses the “checklisted child” and the TWO things they need most from their parents.
2. Numerous comments of friends and colleagues about their students’ lack of practice and feeling lost about what to do about it.
Although the TED talk doesn’t speak directly to teachers and what to do about students who don’t practice, I highly recommend you listen to it. Lythcott-Hayms, former dean of freshman at Stanford University, gives a dynamic and enlightening speech that caused me to cheer out loud! I wish I would have heard this as a parent and teacher long ago.
And, the two things she recommends to parents (I won’t spoil it for you—go watch it now!) are two things we can take to heart as teachers.
I encourage you to share the TED talk with your student families! 

Now…on to my point…

In the ideal world, you would like students to:

  • Adore lessons
  • Attend lessons every week
  • Arrive prepared
  • Enjoy adequate parental support between lessons.

In the real world, it’s important to fill in your teaching schedule to make ends meet. This means that some lesson slots or group lessons may be filled with “placeholder students” who “fill in the gaps.” 

Their reasons for enrolling in your studio may not align with your expectations. But, their schedule allows them to slide into an available time slot and you need their tuition payment to keep the lights on and the bills payed.

It’s not ideal but, it’s reality.

You know that what happens between lessons is essential to progress and yet, unfortunately, you have little control over of that time. Especially for those placeholder students–practice may not be a priority.

No wonder why you (all of us teachers) get frustrated!

How can you do your job when students and their families don’t—maybe even can’t—commit to their end of the bargain?

Even though you may try your best to train parents and students in the way they should go, actions like…

  • Attend lessons every week
  • Arrive prepared
  • Receive adequate parental support

…may not be a reality for some students.

Face it, life gets in the way of practice and your best efforts will be thwarted by other things like soccer practice, chess club or even a student’s sibling’s activity!

It’s easy to jump in on the “poor me” band wagon—one of the hottest topics in our social media groups.

Nope, I’m not going there. I won’t be griping about today’s kids and their parents. 

Instead, I aim to

  • Identify and describe some profiles of students who don’t practice.
  • Acknowledge the existence of these student families in most studios.
  • Equip you with a mindset and strategies so that you can survive, tolerate and yes, enjoy (!) lessons when teaching students who don’t practice as you’d like.
Profiles of students who don’t practice

After-school-activity child

Parents sign their child up for piano as a weekly activity to keep the child busy and “edutained” with little or no regard to commitment of what happens between lessons.

Checklisted child

Music lessons are just one more item to be checked off the list each week as parents believe multiple experiences of exploration will develop a well-rounded child. There is simply no time for the child to practice because every hour is jam-packed or the child is simply too tired to make practice a habit.

Living-the-dream child

Parents see music lessons for their child as a dream come true—an opportunity that they never got themselves. They live through the life of their child and assume he will enjoy lessons as much as they would.

Untapped-potential child

Starting from scratch—where all good piano teachers usually begin—does not always appeal to every student. Some don’t want to be coddled every step of the way. Some want to dig in beyond their ability and thrive by a challenge and won’t practice if assignments seem too easy or aren’t related to their interests.

Meh-about-music child

Quite often, early level, beginner music doesn’t hold that much appeal to kids. If there’s no interest in the repertoire they are assigned, practice will be low on the list of priorities.

So what are teachers to do about these students?

Option #1 Enroll only students who meet your practice requirements and fire anyone who doesn’t commit to them. This may be easier to do with a lengthy wait list but, for teachers just starting out or who live in smaller communities, this may mean low enrollment and result in less income.

Option #2 Take note of how placeholder students effect your energy level. Do they energize you or drain you? If you’ve done your best and given 110% and yet still dread their lesson, it may be time to say good-bye.

Option #3 Come to grips with what reality has dealt you and make lemonade out of lemons. Enjoy the light in students eyes as they walk in the door eager to be with you. See the bigger picture and make an impact on a child’s life despite their commitment issues.

Follow the path of the most productive and happy people you know. By redefining the work you’ve chosen to do as something you get to do. 

-Seth Godin

What can Option #3 look like in your studio?

First things first:

It’s important that you avoid associating your worth or mood as a teacher to your students’ practice and progress.

Regardless of who walks in the door, you are in control of how you react to what students bring to each lesson.

Your happiness cannot be based on what your students do or not do. Happiness is a decision and a skill. Develop it to help you see beyond the wrong notes or the lack of practice. See the bigger picture and at the same time, live in the moment and enjoy the privilege of shaping the young minds sitting on your bench.

Your identity as a teacher is not defined by what your students accomplish between lessons.

Instead…identify yourself as a teacher who

  • Believes there is music in every child
  • Regularly seeks the best for students
  • Subscribes to professional development
  • Develops sound curriculum plans
  • Seeks joy in making music over always mastering it
  • Finds enticing repertoire
  • Generates an environment of exploration
  • Boosts musical imaginations
  • Follows sound business policies
  • Continues to take risks 
  • Takes the unbeaten path
  • Promotes strong practice strategies.

You are one who does your best and provides students a nurturing environment to explore and expand their musicality.

Once you feel secure about your identity, you can prepare for any student who warms your bench.

After-school-activity child

Face it, two working parents or a single parent may be looking to book their kids with activities after school so they can run their errands after work.

Consider these ideas:

1. Challenge yourself to build lesson plans based on what happened at the last lesson and move forward—even in incremental steps! With your engaging teaching style, the child will want to return because they’ll be eager to see what you’ve come up with next.

2. Use lesson time to your advantage:

  • Focus on whole-body activities that involve movement off the bench.
  • Play games to reinforce a concept. When you gamify, you solidify!
  • Followup the off-bench learning with repertoire that includes the same concepts.
  • Make how to practice an essential part of your lesson plans and let them experience first hand how practice (hard work) makes a difference.

Learn about three principles for practice here.

Encourage students to pack a practice pouch.

Demonstrate what science says about practice in lessons. 

3. Offer two tracks in your studio and encourage a student with minimal home practice to enroll in group lessons. Call it a “recreational track” where students have fun and learn and where practice is preferred but not required. Students who practice more, could be part of the “challenge track” or any name you prefer, that requires a certain amount of practice.

Your “after school care piano lesson program” could rock and generate substantial income as well as serve as a feeder to your “more serious” studio.

If you need the income and can’t afford to be choosy about your students, be open to more fun, less progress and an “edutainment” frame of mind. The impact you have on a child in this setting may reach far beyond anything you could imagine!

4. Revisit what a studio recital looks like. Perhaps a recital would look more like a jam session or a casual gathering around the piano at a student home or a coffee shop rather than a staged and formal event.

Checklisted child

These children may be a perfect fit for the informal group situation described above. However, some may be wanting to move forward more quickly because they like piano but are feeling stuck and frustrated because their schedules won’t allow more home practice.

Consider an on/off bench format where the child comes for 30 minutes on the bench with you and another 30 min off the bench with a keyboard and headphones where the time is spent mostly on practicing assignments with effective strategies.

In addition, provide atomic-sized assignments and them keep them to a minimum. Design “sliced-apple” assignments that are achievable by the next lesson.

Learn more about how important achievable assignments are here.

Develop lesson plans using the Piano Teacher Planning Kit.

Read more about developing Off Bench time here.

Regardless of the amount of practice, review what was covered the week before AND add something new beyond the last week’s assignment. Letting an assignment stagnate until it is practiced only serves as punishment. You can bet that it won’t be practiced!

Start from scratch—every day.

– Robert Duke, Intelligent Music Teaching

Once students see that they can find time to succeed at bite-sized assignments, they may take the initiative to carve out more time because they’ll like the results. 

Once the practice kicks in, they make progress and progress prompts motivation. Once students fall into this loop, they can get hooked for good!

Living-the-dream child

Build a relationship with the child and talk about his interests. Dedicate time finding the music he likes. Also, be an advocate for the child. If he’s too busy and seems stressed and unhappy, approach the parent. It’s better to check in with the child’s well-being and stop lessons than “use” the student to pacify a parent’s dream or to fill a vacant lesson slot.

Untapped-potential child and meh-about-music child

It’s easy to assume that if a student appears bored, it’s time to pull out some fun. Dig a little deeper and talk honestly with her. It may be that she wants a challenge. Ask her to create a wish list of pieces, find one that is above her present level and break it up into small parts so that she can succeed.

[One of my students discovered Japanese anime music, downloaded free, difficult and crazy looking arrangements. Despite the poor notation, her sight reading skills sky-rocketed and her zest for piano was reborn.]

Or, maybe she wants to be a song writer, an accompanist, a composer or play in a band. If so, it’s important that you have options to develop these important skills. Here are some resources to consider.

50 Ways to Make a Melody

Put a Twist on Twinkle

Be Cool and Play the Blues

Rote Repertoire by Samantha Coates

How to Prep the Worship Team Pianist

Improvisation resources by Forrest Kinney

Improvisation resources by Bradley Sowash

Even in small increments, sometimes it’s necessary to place her ambitions over your comfort zone or even your best pedagogy. In the end, things will begin to balance out and she’ll see the need for remedial work on the basics and she’ll be proud of her progress.

What will motivate?

A few more things to consider when teaching students who don’t practice much: Studies show (read more here) that there are 5 things that teachers can do to trigger motivation:

  • Build relationships— you have a huge impact on your students’ lives, consider every time they arrive for lessons a privilege. 
  • Provide choices—let them drive the direction of repertoire and style within your carefully crafted parameters. And, be open to a wide variety of repertoire and creative options.
  • Rethink incentives—reward progress over practice time.
  • Shape a growth mindset—avoid the word “talent” and celebrate dedicated, hard work, instead.
  • Relate content—guide students to see that the stuff they learn in lessons is connected to their world outside of lessons and will last a lifetime.

There’s a difference between getting kids to do what you want and truly, deeply motivating them.

-Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy

Final thoughts

Years ago, I read the book Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. I thought it would revolutionize the way I parent but I believe it made a bigger impact on the way I teach.

The book helped me realize that I can equip students to do their best but, I don’t own their progress. It’s not mine, it’s theirs. It’s my job to give them the practice tools, the repertoire, the best guidance I can possibly offer and they are in control of how they will receive what I give.

So much is out of your hands. The actions of your students or parents (or lack of actions) do NOT define who YOU are.

You are a passionate professional that takes pride in a rock-solid studio built on your passion for teaching and making music. 

Know that you are making a difference if a student practices, or not. Who else sees a child one-on-one or in a small group more than YOU? Who else is exploring the world of music with a child more than you?

Think of all the lives you are touching with the wonderful gift of music. Think of the work ethic you are ingraining in students as they see the discipline it takes to make progress as a musician. Consider this quote from a post by James Clear, author of one of my favorite books: Atomic Habits.

Goals [like having only students who practice regularly] create an “either-or” conflict: either you achieve your goal and are successful or you fail and you are a disappointment. You mentally box yourself into a narrow version of happiness. This is misguided. It is unlikely that your actual path through life will match the exact journey you had in mind when you set out. It makes no sense to restrict your satisfaction to one scenario when there are many paths to success.

-James Clear, Atomic Habits

The big take aways….

  • You DON’T OWN your students’ practice OR their progress.
  • You DO OWN your actions in guiding your students on their musical journey.

And, according to Julie Lythcott-Haims, remember the two most important things you can give your students:

  • Unconditional love–even if they don’t practice.
  • Chores–even if those chores—like practice—are only accomplished at the lesson, you are instilling discipline and skills they’ll use for a lifetime.

All the best to you and your students,

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This stately processional hymn suits the organ—known as the king of instruments—extremely well. Watch this video to hear the tune with a choir processing with organ…

"Lift High the Cross" - YouTube

After a little investigating, I learned that the tune, Crucifer, was composed by Sydney Nicholson for the text written by George Kitchen. Both men hailed from England. Having just visited London, I enjoyed a Rick Steve’s audio tour that passed by the majestic facade of Westminster Abbey. Now I want to cross the pond again so I can hear the organ as Nicholson held the organist position there from 1919-1928!

Westminster Abbey

It’s fascinating how ideas and history and creativity and activities intersect. Soon after my return from London, I was thinking ahead to Holy Week and planning what to play for services.

Because I like to turn things upside and because “Lift High the Cross” is not typically played on the piano, I ventured over to the keys not knowing of the tune’s connections to my recent trip. I had a ball exploring rhythmic and harmonic possibilities on the piano. My explorations led to this setting.

Your congregation may enjoy hearing this as a prelude or postlude on Palm Sunday or Easter or any festive service. It’s brief on purpose as the service music I usually prepare needs to be around 2-4 minutes. Feel free to add repeats if necessary! It’s fairly accessible with some syncopation and just a few hand shifts and leaps to master. 

Watch a performance of the piano setting here:

Lift High the Cross - YouTube

Single Use and Studio License on sale NOW Happy Easter!


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Why teach scales in piano lessons?

Briefly, playing scales:

Builds dexterity, finger independence, flow and technical skills like crossing thumb under and crossing fingers 3 and 4 over thumb and much more.

Reinforces a fundamental understanding of the key when studying repertoire.

Generates a file folder of familiar patterns that will be encountered in repertoire and available for use in improvisation.

How do you teach scale spelling?

Equip students with rules and tools so they can discover how to play any scale on any key. For the purpose of this post, I’ll be showing how I teach major scales with numbered erasers thanks to the ever-clever Susan Paradis. Follow this link so you can get her whole and half step cards shown in the picture below.

First, make sure students can hear and discriminate what is a major scale and what is not. Then ask them to play keys from a C to the next C above and place numbered erasers on each key.

Through this process, students will notice that the C major scale includes half steps between 3 and 4 and 7 and 8.

Explain that major scales must have half steps between scale degrees 3 and 4 and 7 and 8. Require them to memorize the major scale code: 34-78!

Ask them to play keys from a G to a G above.

Ask, did that sound the same? Why not?

After they place numbered erasers on each white key, they’ll notice that there is not a half step between scale degrees 7 and 8.

Ask them to fix it by guiding them to move the 7th eraser up a half step.

Ask them to name the black key. Here’s the important learning moment!  All scales are spelled with consecutive letters–A, B, C, D, etc. So, the black key must be called F# because F is the next letter in the alphabet. Spelling from E to Gb to G would be incorrect because F was skipped.

Once students explore scales with these tactile tools and specific rules, any scale can be spelled with confidence and THEN key signatures make sense!!

Below is a super-sized visual of the one above on a floor-sized keyboard with numbered Solo cups. This works great for groups!

How do you teach scale fingering?

I wish I would have heard this secret to fingering long ago! Just recently, I happened to hear Eric Jones, a highly respected teacher in the Denver area, describe how he explains fingering to his students. His strategies hit a home run when I teach scale fingering!

Unlock the secrets of scale fingering with two rules:

  • No thumbs on black keys.
  • Every scale has two fingering groups: 123 and 1234.

Discover where those groups are distributed within the topography of a scale and fingering is set!

Eric asks students to “gallop” each pattern up and down the keyboard before connecting them.

  • In the key of C Major, play RH fingers 123 on CDE on various CDEs on the keyboard.
  • Then do the same with fingers 1234 on FGAB.
  • Then gallop the two groups together: CDE FGAB.
  • Then play them without galloping and listen for a legato tone.

The whole issue of crossing the thumb under is a NON ISSUE. Students play 1231234 with ease without even realizing the trick of crossing the thumb under. Magical!!

I’ve created a one-page PDF that shows how this fingering works in various keys. And…it’s included in the resource described below!

When should you begin teaching scales?

I begin with 5-finger patterns first, then move on to 8-pitch scales. The process depends on the student and how quickly they grasp concepts and their finger mobility.

When students begin with scales and as they advance through them, I use Bradley Sowash’s Squared Scales method. It helps them play scales rhythmically from day one!

Below is how Andrea West, creator of Key Master and all the 88PK graphic designs, answers that question and how she’s discovered a way to make scale playing mindful where simultaneous learning takes place!

This question comes up a lot in different forums, and the answers are typically varied. I teach my students early, and I must admit, I’ve been inordinately proud of how well they play them. They travel around the Circle of 5ths confidently, while chatting about their day at school, never missing
a note or using a wrong finger; rather like I drive to the grocery store, completely on autopilot.

How do I encourage mindful practice of scales?

What I didn’t realize, is that when I take them out of their routine and ask them to play a random scale out of sequence, they absolutely crash and burn. Well, so much for my over-inflated view of my students’ skills!

Apparently, it’s time to scale up my efforts to reach the level of understanding and fluency I thought they had. To do that, I decided to scale it down.

I realized that I needed a different balance. If I reduced the number of scales they were playing, and added more variety on how they were played, they would have to turn off the auto pilot and think about what they were doing.

Key Master: Be mindful when playing scales - YouTube

We started playing Key Master, and it was a real eye opener for me and the students.
They randomly choose a key signature from the deck, and then pick anywhere from 1-4
tasks. They love the idea of only playing in one key (and of course gloat if they pull C out of the deck.)

The specific tasks make them really think about how they’re playing them. Even in C, they are surprised by the mistakes they make because their attention is focused elsewhere.

The best part is, they are having so much fun!

They’re asking to play Key Master, and I can see they like the challenge and variety the game gives them. I like seeing them focusing on rhythms, technique, and dynamics, as well as the right notes and fingering!


Get Key Master ON SALE here Bonus! Bundled with your purchase is a PDF of how to teach scale fingering as described above.

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Summer is just around the corner. What are your plans?

With family vacations and overnight camps, regular weekly lessons during the summer may be tricky to schedule.

Coupled with the fact that students seem to slide into a summer practice slump, you need something new and different up your sleeve when it comes to summer teaching!

Changing things up can be just the ticket to

  • secure enrollment 
  • maintain a steady income steady and…
  • attract new students. 

I began this tradition of summer piano camps instead of weekly lessons in my studio years ago and now every summer, I (and my students!) look forward to new adventures on and off the bench. 

So…that’s why I’m over-the-top excited about sharing this innovative and imaginative resource created by good friend and colleague, Dorla Aparicio–remarkable teacher and expert at group instruction–and her co-author, Stephanie Ivery–science expert.

Whew…my summer plans are all set, thanks to them.

Read on to learn how Dorla developed Musical S.T.E.M. with Stephanie and how to use it in your studio.


Dorla Aparicio, imaginative expert in group instruction

I wish there was a fun and exciting story to tell about the birth of Musical S.T.E.M. A story about me growing up with a scientist father that was also a genius at the piano. Or that I was never allowed to play the piano until I finished my science homework.

The truth is… I am a homeschool mom.

I also have degrees in piano performance and piano pedagogy, and I’ve always taught piano.

The spark for Musical S.T.E.M. came from reading my son’s high school chemistry textbook. Chapter 5 was all about Covalent Compounds and their Molecular Geometry. Not necessarily words in my vocabulary.

The Idea

The experiment due for his lab was bending water. We had to do it several times. We finally got it right and I had enjoyed every minute. Now I wanted to somehow share it with my piano students!

At this time my son was also being tutored in Algebra by a lovely teacher. Stephanie, a chemical engineer and also a musician, met my son on a weekly basis. When Stephanie would give me updates about tutoring progress, we would get sidetracked. We started talking about summer plans. Then talking about working on a project together. Very quickly we thought it would be an awesome idea. And Musical S.T.E.M. was born.

We (Stephanie and Dorla) decided to call it S.T.E.M. instead of S.T.E.A.M. on purpose. The focus is mainly music instead of science with an art component. We wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between subjects. School subjects are consistently separated from the arts, when in fact, if combined add a new richness to learning.

What Is Musical S.T.E.M.?

Musical S.T.E.M. is an elementary level curriculum for playing the piano alongside science, technology, engineering and math. It is different from many music camp curriculums because it includes playing the piano.

Piano teachers were the reason for putting it together.

Specifically, those that would like to include students of different ages and piano skills into one class.

Why consider Musical S.T.E.M.?

If you are searching for a piano camp that will be totally different than anything else you have planned before, this is it!

Musical S.T.E.M. is a curriculum for playing the piano in combination with science, technology, engineering and math.

Musical S.T.E.M. is for your if you…
  • Want to teach your students to play the piano by rote.
  • Need a day by day complete lesson plan.
  • Love to teach music and how it relates to other subjects.
Musical S.T.E.M. is NOT for you if you…
  • Avoid learning new things.
  • Want to teach piano the same OLD WAY you always have.
  • Don’t really care if your students are having FUN.
Musical S.T.E.M. lessons include:
  • Group Time and Game Time
  • Science Lesson
  • An experiment
  • A Piano Lesson
  • Original videos and links to YouTube videos
  • A Worksheet
  • No Books

There are NO books to purchase for the students because they will be playing by “ear.”

A list of suggested repertoire is included if you are not sure how to go about teaching by rote.

Follow this link if you can’t see the clever video!

Slime - YouTube

Musical S.T.E.M. is flexible

The structure and format of the curriculum is strong enough to withstand changes that you need to make for your students. There is a list of optional materials that you may or may not decide to use. Think of this curriculum as a springboard to creating your own studio experience!

What questions do you have about Musical S.T.E.M.?


This BRAND new resource is hot off the press and available exclusively

 at 88pianokeys.me.

And with the coupon code below (good until April 1, 2019),

you can save 10% on your purchase of Musical S.T.E.M.


Enter the code above and get your e-book


and set your studio apart this summer!

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