music teaching business

A lot of teachers of music, especially private ones, just fell into this line of work. Someone asked them to show them a few chords and one thing led to another. This is fine. But if at some point you find yourself really beginning to love teaching others, you need to start thinking of it as your career and your business. And teaching music is a business.


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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

imageThe school year is coming to an end, and it is once again time to host my annual studio recital. I¬†used to organize two studio recitals every year, once in December (called Holiday Recital) and once in June (Summer Recital). The Holiday recital became more and more difficult to schedule around everyone’s holiday plans, and now with a new baby, I decided to just do one big recital in June to celebrate the students’ achievements throughout the year. I now call it Annual Studio Recital and Awards Ceremony.

We all know how much time and effort can go into organizing these studio recitals, from renting the venue, scheduling students, to making programs, preparing refreshments, ordering awards…the list goes on and on. Ever since my first studio recital many years ago, I came up with the idea of making postcard invitations to give to the students so they can invite friends and family to come. This has proved to be an excellent investment for my time and effort, as the students hand these out at school to their classmates, and I have gotten new students as a result ūüôā

This year, I am doing something extra to further promote my studio recital. I made a movie trailer!

Here is how I did it:

1. I use my iPad.

2. Open iMovie app (free download at Apple Store).

3. Click on the “+” sign to create new project.

4. Select “Trailer”.

5. Choose a theme (I chose Coming of Age).

6. Click “Create” (top right hand corner).

7. Fill out the form under “Outline” (This is the movie credits page).

8. Click on “Storyboard” (next to Outline).

9. Choose pictures/videos stored on your iPad and insert in each box. You can customize the wording to go with the pictures.

10. Done! You can save your new movie trailer on your iPad, email to students, and upload to Facebook and YouTube!

Hope everyone’s studio recital goes well!

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Posted in Product Reviews, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

Yiyi Ku

Inspired Holiday Music

December 9th, 2015 by

It is this time of the year again! I always look forward to checking out new arrangements of my favorite holiday music. This year, three collections will become staples in my studio.

Christmas Extravaganza by Robert D. Vandall

imageThis is a collection of three books, from Early to Late Intermediate levels. It was great fun when I was sight reading through the pieces for my students, as each one sounds so impressive. Each arrangement of familiar Christmas favorites combines both fresh and familiar harmonies with unique melodic treatments and interesting rhythms.

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Posted in Product Reviews, Teaching Tips

Leila Viss

Wolfie App: A New Reality

November 3rd, 2015 by

Ever wonder what the future of piano lessons will look like? The Wolfie app is it: a new reality. In short, it’s a virtual piano book bag for your students packed with power tools. ¬†No more forgotten books or torn pages as the¬†Wolfie¬†Piano iPad App, developed by Tonara,¬†efficiently stores lesson repertoire on the iPad AND much more.

I first experienced¬†Wolfie¬†at their¬†exhibit booth at NCKP 2015, I played a Clementi sonatina on an acoustic piano (MIDI and cables were NOT required) and read the score from the iPad. Wolfie listened to my playing, turned my pages as I progressed through the piece and after I finished, gave me feedback on my timing and pitch reading accuracy. Isn’t this intelligent listening what we as teachers do at a lesson and wish our students had to assist them during their home practice?¬†Loaded with repertoire of all styles,
Wolfie¬†is designed to be YOUR ears and teaching assistant so that your students stay on track and progress between lessons. Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Practicing, Product Reviews

The Savvy Music Teacher is a new book just out this month, offering a comprehensive look at what goes into making a decent living as a music teacher.  The goal of the book is to provide a strategy for making a positive impact on your community and translating that into a good income for yourself.  The book includes detailed discussions about music teaching options, a variety of income streams, financial explanations and strategies, and stories about successful experiences from over 150 savvy music teachers.

savvymusicteachercoverAuthor David Cutler, the Director of Music Entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina, starts by asking the readers to become aware of their own teaching formulas and priorities, while highlighting numerous ways to freshen or rethink methods and content.  For many teachers, this discussion might inspire some new ideas about how to match teaching approaches and formats with their personal interests and style.

A review of Cutler’s previous book, The Savvy Musician, can be found in an earlier Music Teachers’ Helper blog post at this link.

Read on, and enjoy an overview of the book, as well as a look at the book’s companion website…
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Posted in Financial Business, Music & Technology, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

There are four secrets¬†of a successful studio. I realize it’s a bold claim to narrow it down to just four and you may be asking, what does successful mean? Keep reading.

Four SecretsFB2

Like any other human being, your bottom line comes down to:

  1. food on the table
  2. a roof over your head
  3. decent clothes on your back.

These three essentials require an income and as a music teacher that means you’ll need students and preferably, lots of them. ¬†The trick is figuring out how to attract and retain them. When you have met and exceeded your bottom line and enjoy a waiting list, I believe you have made a success of your studio.

After extensive research, David Cutler discovered that music teachers who¬†generated substantial (successful) incomes were more likely to integrate these three elements (OK, they are not really secrets but it caught your attention, right?) into their instruction compared to other teachers who did not. They include: Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management

It is back-to-school time again! At the last MTNA National Conference, I discovered three new repertoire series that I will be using in my studio.

00-44560Five-Star Solos by Dennis Alexander

There are three books in this series, from Early Elementary to Late Elementary levels. Dennis Alexander needs no introduction! I already use many of his original compositions in my studio, from Early Intermediate to Early Advanced levels, so I was very glad to come across this new series. Now my beginning students can experience the magic of his creative genius. There are 11 original solos in each book, all with optional duet accompaniments. They contain a variety of styles, tempos, and moods – from ballads, waltzes, Latin pieces, contemporary sounds, and “showstoppers” that are sure to inspire students and impress parents. The optional duet accompaniments are fresh and contemporary-sounding, and technically¬†accessible by teachers, parents, or older siblings. Many of my students do the National Piano Guild Auditions, and this series is perfect for the Elementary categories.

00-44380Classics for Students – Bach, Mozart & Beethoven, selected and edited by Jane Magrath

A highly respected piano pedagogue and frequent music conference presenter, Jane Magrath also needs no introduction.¬†This new series contains three books, from Early Intermediate to Late Intermediate levels, featuring the music of three great masters – Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. The literature found in this series provides a sequenced course of study for the serious developing student who aspires to play music with substantial quality. All selections have been carefully edited with sensible fingerings and helpful ornament realizations. Pedal markings are very sparse, so as to remain as authentic as possible to the original composer’s score. What I really like about this series is that before the works of each composer is introduced, there is a page on the biography of the composer as well as important and interesting facts. For example, in the case of Mozart, Book 1 talks about Mozart as a child prodigy, Book 2 mentions the interesting historical pianoforte dueling contest between him and Clementi, and Book 3 talks about his importance and popularity as an operatic composer. The biography page is followed by a page “About the Music,”¬†giving helpful hints on the characteristics of the pieces and technical skills required to play them. This series is perfect for Intermediate level students participating in judged festivals/auditions/assessments that require standard literature from the Baroque and Classical periods. I hope planning is underway for a similar¬†series covering the Romantic and Contemporary composers!

12-0571538517Mastering the Piano by Lang Lang Piano Academy

Well, Lang Lang definitely needs no introduction! Arguably the most controversial of all famous classical pianists, love him or not, his influence and superstardom can not be denied. This new series contains 5 books, from Level 1-5. Warning: the levels DO NOT coincide with standard US pedagogical leveling! Level 1 (labeled as Early Elementary) is actually more like Late Elementary in my opinion, while Level 5 (labeled as Intermediate) is more like Late Intermediate to Early Advanced. Each book contains 8 units that aim to develop key aspects of piano technique, including specially devised exercise and studies that focus on a specific technical area. If you are a fan, there are lots of stunning photos in each book, showing his amazing fingers and famous posture, as well as commentary and guidance from the pianist himself.

86B6998B-1C5A-4DE9-B79D-E23192784B0AWhat I do like about this series:

  1. The selections are “uncommon” – there are some famous pieces that everyone knows, but there are lots of lesser-known pieces that you do not find in other series, including arrangements of music from other cultures. For example, here are the titles from Level¬†1:¬†Lantern Song (Traditional Chinese) * Canzonet (Christian Neefe) * Hopscotch (Richard Harris) * Mission Impossible (Pam Wedgwood) * Allegretto in F (Johann Georg Witthauer) * Simple Gifts (Joseph Brackett) * Twilight (Richard Harris) * Cuckoo (Emil Breslaur) * Chasing Tails (Alan Bullard) * Minuet in C (Domenico Scarlatti) * Ode To Joy (Ludwig van Beethoven) * (Allemande (Ludwig van Beethoven) * The Elephant (Camille Saint-Saens) * Lullaby (Johannes Brahms) * Mo li hua (Jasmine Flower) (Traditional Chinese) * Embrukoi (Traditional African). Highly unusual but interesting for a “Level 1” book wouldn’t you say?!
  2. The commentary is very “personal” – it is as if though Lang Lang is sitting next to you and talking to you. There are numerous quotes and “messages from Lang Lang.” For example, in Book 2 Unit 1 Exploring the keyboard: “In this unit I would like you to start moving all around the piano keyboard with more confidence. We’re going to get used to traveling smoothly and swiftly and playing high up and low down.” “Keep a soft, curved hand position and relaxed arms and shoulders even when you are moving quickly around the keyboard. Have fun!”
  3. As he says in the Introduction of each book, you do not need to work through the units progressively. One can “Pick and choose what you would like to focus on depending on your own individual needs and tackle the units in an order that suits you.” There are¬†also additional supporting materials from

One can sense Lang Lang’s passion and drive in this series. He has inspired millions, and I look forward to using this series with some of my students, especially the ones that love him or have heard him in concert. I know when they see Lang Lang say “I was always told to curve my hands and fingers – as though there was an egg under my palm. This is a wonderful posture for making sure the power flows directly to our fingertips” – it will carry a little more weight than when I say it!

All of the above new resources can be purchased on the Alfred website.




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Posted in Product Reviews, Teaching Tips


Count on¬†Tin Pan Rhythm¬†to boost your budding musicians’ understanding of¬†harmonic progressions. Count on the app¬†to trigger arranging skills thanks to the app’s intuitive interface. One more, you can count on students catching on to using the Tin Pan Rhythm ¬†in seconds–I’m not exaggerating–and charge up their creative juices.

Here’s an extended tutorial provided by the developers so I won’t go into details on how the app works. You may not even need to watch the tutorial as it’s so intuitive. I know you’ll enjoy learning the app as you go. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music Theory, Product Reviews

teaching piano tools and resources

The intersection of technology and art is key to the evolution of life. One such example is the transition from standard instruments to electronic based instruments. No longer do drums need a special material stretched over the base, nor a piano need strings to sound like a grand piano. With electronic instruments, the world of self-taught musicians is becoming more common. With the surge of mobile apps, musicians are able to learn musical instruments at home, on the train, at the park or even at the beach. Below are a few examples of technology infused with art.

1. Wolfie

One new app that has surfaced is called Wolfie, named after famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Because the study of music is declining in the US and Europe, the idea of combining tech and music learning is essential to keep the attraction of the youth. The app includes a patented Magic Cursor, which follows the notes in real time, allowing students to not lose their place, or miss a note. The app has a wide variety of scores, ranging from beginner to advanced, and constantly adding new scores. After 12 months of development, the app is ready to go!

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Posted in Music & Technology, Product Reviews, Professional Development


This past weekend marked a major milestone in my use of my favorite device, the iPad. I played piano at my niece’s wedding and read all the music scores from my iPad with the help of an app called forScore and turned the pages with my PageFlip¬†Cicada Bluetooth Page Turner Pedal. Ahhh…a match made in heaven!

This decision was due to the fact that the happy couple requested Jon Schmidt’s “Waterfall” as a recessional. As there wouldn’t be time for me to memorize the piece and because I dislike depending on someone else to manage the tricky page turns, I determined this tech-savvy combo was the logical choice. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Performing, Product Reviews