It’s been such a pleasure collaborating with Andrea West. She’s a piano teacher and graphic designer. Andrea recently created some stunning graphics for recital programs and a video on how to create your program and I want to share them with you.

You can check out all her designs here.

Once you find a design you like, Andrea steps you through the process of how to use your favorite graphic to create your recital program in Word in the video below. Even if you don’t use Word, you’ll find her tips helpful when using Pages or Google Docs!

Full disclosure: The designs are found at the Piano Teacher Planning Center at my blog 88pianokeys.me. Usually, I wouldn’t write about “products”  featured in my own store but, I believe that Andrea provides such value in her video and her graphics that I felt compelled to share them here at MusicTeachersHelper.com.

Here’s what teachers have been saying about the video and the graphics:

“I just finished creating my spring recital program following Andrea’s step-by-step video instructions. She made it so easy! I love the template she created as it really makes my program cover pop! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Love it!”

-Paula W

“That tutorial was much better than some of the classes that I have taken in the past that I had to pay for!”

-Leisa J

Don’t worry about taking notes as Andrea also provided written instructions with plenty of graphics for visual learners like me. Click here to access the download.

There’s more…here’s a link to the free recital template Andrea talks about in the video.

One more thing, save on ink and spare yourself from printer frustrations by joining MTNA and taking advantage of their member benefits card. Show up with your “magic card” and you’ll get close to 60% your printing costs! Learn more here.

Click here if you can’t see the video.

Additional ways to amplify your graphic

The word “amplify” means to increase or enlarge. Why not get the most out of your graphic and put it to work beyond the recital cover? Here are tips on how to take advantage of cool graphics and increase traffic to your studio.

T-shirts

Amplification is exactly what good friend, fellow piano teacher and my online piano student, Debbie Moore did.  screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-11-17-15-amDebbie brought in her Jazzy Piano graphic to a local t-shirt store and asked them to design a t-shirt logo with the graphic.

Debbie limited the colors of the design to black and white to save money and had the design printed on colorful t-shirts. She gave a t-shirt to each of her students after the recital.

Why is this SUCH a stellar idea? The souvenir t-shirts cost $7 each. This may seem extravagant for a tight budget but, Debbie gave her students a snazzy t-shirt and also gave her studio some great exposure. As she lives very close to two schools and was driving by the playground, she saw students proudly wearing their recital t-shirts. BRILLIANT marketing!

Book Bags

Not into t-shirts? What about using the graphic to create book bags for your students?

I uploaded Jazzy Piano at Vista Print and kicked out this prototype cinch sack in minutes. I don’t know about yours, but my students beat up their book bags! I think I may be ordering some very soon.

95Wristbands or Trophies

One year I created customized slap bands and ordered them from AmazingWristbands.com. I checked and you can upload your own artwork at this site.

If you order trophies for students, you can upload your own image into “insert trophies.” Check out the options at Crown Awards.

Coffee Mugs

Like coffee? Look at this fancy coffee mug!

Marketing materials

Create postcard recital invitations for students to hand to friends and neighbors or a poster to hang at your students’ school.

spring-recital-2

Create Evite invitations. Use Evite as one more way of inviting/reminding parents about the recital date and time. It’s free and easy to use, and you can customize it with the same artwork as your recital cover to keep the theme consistent. This option will definitely save on printing costs!

Bonus: with Evite you can limit the number of guests, which you may need to do if you hold your recital in a small venue. Also, if you have more than one recital, Evite lets recipients add the date and time to their calendar, which will help them remember the correct performance time.

Create a Facebook cover. If you communicate regularly through your studio Facebook page, create a cover for your page with the same graphic as your program. This image was created at Canva.com.

spring-recitals-3

Your options to amplify the use of Andrea’s graphics are limited only by your imagination.

Please let us know how you put your graphic to work for your studio. Andrea and I would be eager to hear your ideas!

-Leila

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Posted in Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

We just helped complete a funding campaign on DonorsChoose.org with our recent donation.  An elementary classroom in Los Angeles will now be getting small percussion instruments for the fall!

Please check out our general donation page for music classroom projects that still need funding and consider giving: www.donorschoose.org/MTH.

The billing and invoicing feature for the new version are moving along with testing and we’ll make sure to make a big announcement when it’s available. Here’s one notable fix from the past week from the new version:

  • If you’ve tried to enter your personal website into the Website tab under Settings, when you select “Link to a website I already have”, you may have noticed it only shows an option with a prefix for a Music Teacher’s Helper website. The prefix has been removed so you can now enter your personal website. To learn more about how your current studio website and your Music Teacher’s Website can work together, please check out the Studio Website Articles on the Knowledge Base.

Did you know that you can edit and create your own email templates?

Customize the various emails that are sent automatically by selecting Settings in the top right of the dashboard and then selecting the Messaging tab. Edit existing templates or create new email templates. Adding to the signature, and including your own tone and writing style will make a difference when communicating with your students and parents! Use this Knowledge Base article for full details on the message types and how to make changes.

 
If you have any questions for us or experience any issues, please reach out to support@musicteachershelper.com. Happy teaching!

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

Folk songs used to top the lists of school music classes. Now it’s rare to find a student who has even heard many of our country’s folk songs. Why not celebrate them in a recital?

This is my second article in a series of ideas from my sister Vicky Dresser, maker of magical music recitals.  And as I’ve shared hers, I’ve gotten a few of my own. You’ll probably think up even more as you read. I invite you to share them with MTH readers in the comments below.

Organize Songs by Type or Genre:

  • Old colonial Times
  • River songs and Sea Chanteys
  • Spirituals
  • Wartime songs
  • Novelty songs
  • Camp songs
  • Old time religion
  • Mountain music
  • The old west
  • Patriotic songs
  • Good old folk tunes (plain and fancy)
  • Hi-brow
  • Modern folk
  • Mining songs from the gold rush

This type of recital practically begs for variety. Read more…

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Performing, Promoting Your Studio

With spring in full swing, we hope that you’re enjoying warmer weather and that your week is going great so far.

To our international members, if you were seeing the U.S. Dollar currency when logging into your account but have local currency in your account settings, that issue has been fixed. We are sorry for any inconvenience that was caused as a result of the currency switch.

In addition to the small fixes and continual progress towards the new billing and invoicing feature being made, here are three fixes from the past week that were all related to the new version:

  • Events were disappearing when dragging and dropping to a new time slot in the Day view.  
  • Editing a repeating event was creating a duplicate event for some members.
  • When viewing the Agenda view in Calendar, events were showing future lessons first. It now shows current lessons first, then future lessons.

 

Did you know that you can automatically add late fees to overdue invoices?

 

In the new version, set up your account to automatically act on your studio late payment policy by enabling charging of late fees. You can charge a percentage of the invoice or a flat fee.

To set up, make sure you’re in the new version first, then head over to Settings in the top right dropdown, then click the Invoices & Payments tab, and scroll down to the Reminders and Late Fees section. Add in your late fee amount and make sure to click the green Save button at the bottom when you’re finished. Another task taken out of your hands and automated!  
If you have any questions for us or experience any issues, please reach out to support@musicteachershelper.com. Happy teaching!

 

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

Hi, Everyone. If you’re not already using the Music Teacher’s Helper app for your iPhone and Android smartphone, head over to the app store on your device, type Music Teacher’s Helper into the search bar, download, and enter your existing login info to gain access. The app has some useful features such as a metronome, record audio/video, and push notifications.

And here are some notable fixes from the past week:

  • In the new version, the running balance was showing incorrectly in billing history for some members. That has been corrected and proper balances are shown.
  • In the new version, expenses were not saving correctly if the dollar amount has more than three digits, such as $1,000 or greater. It is now fixed, so expense your new piano!
  • In the new version, Region Settings was not changing the default currency and language settings to that region, specifically Great Britain. That has been fixed to show the British Pound and U.K English when the Region Setting is switched.

Did you know that you have the option to set attendance separately for group lessons?

In the new version, when you click the tab for Attendance above the the calendar (next to Month and Week view), you can set bulk attendance as well as set attendance for individual students separately for group lessons.

If you have any questions for us or experience any issues, please reach out to support@musicteachershelper.com. Happy teaching!  

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Posted in New Features and Fixes, Studio Management

“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot

Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousand hands, they carry me”

– 10,000 Hours by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

 

When I was a boy, I would spend the days reading up in a willow tree in my backyard.  It was my way of escaping to far-flung lands of adventure, mystery, and intrigue.

There just wasn’t much else to do.  And, I loved it.

Today there are so many other ways to spend our attention.

With our smartphones, we can instantly gratify any curiosity, itch or bet we have with a friend.  

It’s a blessing and a curse.

As a parent, I love the ability to “find my friend” and track my son’s location.

But this instant gratification has made a problem.  A problem of attention.  

With the lure of instant gratification, our attention has become shallow and scattered.  (Note the rise in cases of ADHD.)

In his book, Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in A Distracted World, author Cal Newport states

“The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”  

Faster…But Is It Better?

To be a contributing member of society today, one needs to achieve mastery of multiple areas.  As the pace of innovation increases, we need to learn new skills, behaviors, and tools that didn’t exist a few years ago!   

And to do this, we need to learn “how to learn.”  We need to develop the muscle of concentrated focus.  It’s a skill that is not inherent.  Simply clearing away the noise is not going to make you a master of focus.  It’s a skill that needs to be cultivated, honed, and practiced.  

Catching Up With Prodigies

Perhaps because I was bored and lonely in my teens, I spent hours and hours practicing guitar. I felt like I had to “catch up” to all the other prodigies who started when they were 5 years old.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was engaging in the “10,000 hours” rule that Malcolm Gladwell describes in his fascinating book, Outliers – The Story of Success.

The basic idea is that it takes a long time, about 10,000 hours, to achieve mastery in anything.

The Art of Practice

Studying a music instrument is like a zen practice on the art of practice!  It cultivates attention skills required for deep focus.  In psychology terms, they call it deliberate practice: repetitive performance of intended cognitive or psychomotor skills.  

This is what will set apart anyone for future life success.

Deep work is not an inherent ability but a skill that needs to be practiced.

By the way, you can’t multi-task your way to mastery.  

Multi-tasking is not a real thing.  

Studies have shown that you are not actually doing more than one thing at the same time, but rather jumping between two or more things quickly.  This results in a slow-down and lowering of quality of attention.   So when you want to get things done, you need to go into the world of Deep Work.

Success in life is not about innate abilities/talent, but rather skills of focus, courage, action, and perseverance.    

As music teachers, we help foster these skills.  We become a factor in their life success.  We are coaches of practice.  Mentors of mindset.  Role models of focus and should embody the successful work ethic.

“My earliest memories of my father are of seeing him work at his desk and realizing that he was happy. I did not know it then, but that was one of the most precious gifts a father can give his child.”? Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success

So I encourage you my fellow music teachers, to keep on keeping on, knowing you are more than just teaching someone to play a tune.  You are activating a person for life.  Carpe diem.

 

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Posted in Professional Development

 

Hi, Everyone. With the end of March around the corner, we hope your recent or planned spring recitals were a huge hit! With the new version of Music Teacher’s Helper, creating new events, such as recitals, can be done without having to leave the Calendar page. This saves you even more time when planning out your schedule. Once in the calendar, click the green Add New event button, select your event type and add the details on the pop-up screen.

Also, the new version has a Personal Appointment option. Personal Appointment allows you to create events without assigning a student, such as errands or a dentist visit. This makes it easier to create your entire schedule using the calendar and ensuring your personal and teaching schedule don’t get mixed up. (And remember that you can also sync the calendar up with Google Calendar or iCal, etc.).

As always, our team is working hard to keep your studio running smoothly. Several small fixes have been made but no notable fixes from this week to announce.

Did you know that you can make your own attendance statuses?

The new version allows you to fully customize the number and names of your attendance statuses. So, rather than tracking all lessons under Attended, Cancelled, or Missed, you can create a status to indicate when a student was “Late” or if you missed the lesson (oops!), you might mark it as “Teacher Absent”. Setting up your own attendance statuses is easy. Once in the new version, click your name in the top right and select Settings. Click the Calendar tab and scroll down to Lesson Settings. Clicking on the name of an existing status allows you to edit the name. You can also add additional statuses as well as view and edit statuses in your attendance report.

Don’t forget to click the Save Calendar Settings button at the bottom when you’re finished.

If you have any questions for us or experience any issues, please reach out to support@musicteachershelper.com. Happy teaching!

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

teaching music

The latest scientific research about mind vs body has huge implications for music teachers.  We are constantly working with the “body” to train our students’ ears and muscles to produce music.  Meanwhile, we continually work with the “mind” to manage egos, mental blocks, learning styles, and the basic disconnect between playing music and verbally describing it.

The bottom line in the new science is that there is no mind versus body.  The mind/body split, which has taken center stage in Western civilization for the past 2500 years, appears to be bogus.  Research now speaks of “embodied intelligence”.  The complex bodily systems are engineered to function and communicate so well with each other — electrically, chemically and physically, with whole-body signals taking place at a rate of about ten times per second — that the brain really functions more as a mediator and coordinator than as some kind of executive director.  One book likened the brain to being director of the choir, rather than the pilot of a machine.

I’d recommend the book I’m reading to anyone interested in this groundbreaking research.  It’s called Intelligence in the Flesh: Why Your Mind Needs Your Body Much More than It Thinks, by Guy Claxton.

One reason I’m excited about this book is that I’ve subscribed to its conclusions for some time now — I think my first Music Teachers Helper blog post relating to this way of thinking dates to 2008.  It is thrilling to see science support these ideas with detailed research, as described in Claxton’s very readable book.

You can read a few of my past posts* on this subject here in the Music Teachers Helper blog — especially Reversing the Learning Process.  In that post I suggest that while many people presume the brain tells the fingers what to do, and the ears decide if we got it right, the actual process is the reverse — the ears are in charge, and learn very quickly what is wanted; the muscles try to please the ears by testing and rehearsing their movements; and the brain takes notes on what has happened in order to provide help organizing and replicating it next time.

Science says next to nothing directly about the effect of “embodied intelligence” on music, and that’s not only true of Claxton’s book but also in many other areas of research, including work in linguistics and dyslexia.  I can’t explain this disconnect, but whatever the cause, it does free us musicians to explore the meaning and impact of this research on our field.

The research calls into question any teaching of a musical instrument that places music theory as its top priority.  Consider that perhaps the names of notes, chords, harmonic progressions, keys, and musical syntax are all ways of organizing and deeping our awareness of what we hear and play, and should be presented after listening and trying the music, not before.  Perhaps the physical relationships of half steps, whole steps, the “microballistics” of hitting a note are all more important than, or at least take precedence over, memorizing theoretical concepts.  Theory and practice are both important but what really comes first for the student?  That’s the question for a music teacher to consider.

Maybe a student should experience a G scale and arpeggio before being required to recite the names of the notes in the scale or its key signature.  The theory can then be presented as an exciting way of understanding what the ears and fingers are already experiencing.  Maybe our method books would be better off placing the section on musical notation and theory later on, after some physical work has already been done, rather than at the beginning of the book as if these technical details were the foundation of what is to follow.

The whole concept of what is right and wrong — what a mistake is — in playing music can change as a result of this research.  If you tell a student to play a C# and they don’t, is it really because they didn’t hear you or ignored you?  Or is the concept of a “C#” not as immediate to them as, say, the physical proximity of one finger to another, or the sound of the C# in relation to the surrounding notes?  Maybe the verbal description “C#” is lower down the pathway of perception than these other factors, and perhaps there’s a way to teach with a more immediate impact.  At minimum, allowing for this could be good cause for more patience and perception on the part of teachers as they try to figure out how students are feeling and thinking.

There is a large body of research on the subject but I’ll just mention one detail here.  There is a part of the brain called “Broca’s Area” which appears to control the syntax of language.  When it is damaged, people can still speak but cannot connect words fluently.  For example, instead of saying “the porpoise jumped in the ocean,” they might only be able to say “porpoise…ocean.”  Interestingly, there is a mention in the research that the same effect happens in the sequencing of music.

My question, however, is:  if a person with damage to that part of their brain can play or sing elements of music but have trouble sequencing them, what unit is being sequenced?  Nonmusicians might presume that the patient is having trouble sequencing notes — but the words “porpoise…ocean” are not single notes in a musician’s mind.  “Porpoise” could be written as a sixteenth followed by dotted eighth, and “ocean” could be a quarter note followed by an eighth note.  In other words, the basic units of music are not individual notes but relationships between notes.  The sequencing of music would then take place, not from note to note, but from one group of notes to another, or on a larger scale, from phrase to phrase.  Teaching someone to read a measure at a time would then prove to be an artificial and nonmusical way of learning the music, since often the last note of a measure is a pickup belonging to the next measure, much the way the word “guitar” could be written using an eighth note at the end of one measure leading to a quarter note at the beginning of the next.

I find the latest scientific research to be amazing food for thought in relation to music.  Teaching music particularly calls upon the science of learning and intelligence. In fact, since music is built on integrating physicality, emotion and thought into one act, the new science of “embodied intelligence” suggests to me that the playing or singing of music is one of the purest of human expressions.  It is up to us to find the best way to communicate that to our students.

*other related posts:  Beyond the Control Barrier, Mapify and Tonalize, Mind Over Muscle, Verbalizing the Work of the Ears, Muscularizing Music

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Posted in Music & Technology, Music Theory, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Hi, Everyone. Don’t forget, if you’re attending the Music Teacher National Association conference later this month in Baltimore, come say hi to us at Booth 312 in the exhibit hall! We’re also organizing a meetup for MTH members so keep an eye out for details in your email.

Here are a few fixes made this week in the new version:

  • Entering large expenses over $1,000 were not saving correctly for some members in the new version.
  • Adding decimals in an event, such as adjusting the lesson price, was showing an error message, requesting members to enter a rounded number. This has since been fixed and allows you to edit a lesson fee with decimals, such as $40.50.
  • When canceling or rescheduling an event, the changed time was defaulting to AM instead of PM for some members and has since been fixed to match the meridian you select.
  • Birthday reminders were sending out more than once for some members instead of just the one scheduled time.
  • The main titles and logos on the studio websites for some teachers were not showing and have since been restored.  

Did you know that you can click and drag an event?

For a quick scheduling change on the Calendar, simply drag and drop an existing event to its new time and/or day. One left-click with the mouse button hovered over that event selects it and then dragging it over to its new location will edit the time that event takes place. The changes are instant and this saves time from having to edit the event and typing in a new time and date.
If you are experiencing any issues or have any questions for us, please reach out to support@musicteachershelper.com. Happy teaching!

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Posted in New Features and Fixes