Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Student Gifts That Keep on Giving

Do you give your students gifts during the holiday season? If so and if you’re like me, it’s usually a struggle to find something that is meaningful with a reasonable price tag. A couple of years ago I came up with a solution that I believe I’ll be repeating again this year. It’s a student gift that keeps on giving.

Before I dive in with the details, it’s not a bad idea to step back and ponder the purpose of giving gifts. With all the emphasis on “stuff” in our society, do our students really need one more thing?

A couple of years ago a book caught my eye: What Music Means to Me. The picture book includes large pages with stunning images that capture the essence of various gifted musicians. Alongside each photo is a personal, touching essay about the profound impact of music in their lives.


Bonus features:

  • Poetry by Barbara Kreader (composer for Hal Leonard and one of my favorite authors at Clavier Companion)
  • Forward by Brian Chung (excellent speaker and General Manager of Kawai America Corporation.)
  • DVD which includes photos of the featured musicians along with them reading their own essay.
  • Can’t-put-a-price-tag-on-it bonus: I met the photographer in person, Mr Richard Rejino. and my book includes his autograph.

You can purchase the book here.

So how does the book fit into this blog about giving gifts to students? Let me explain.

I like to create collections of YouTube videos for my students to watch. I call them “Get Inspired!” Episodes. A special holiday episode includes videos of some of the musicians featured in What Music Means to Me. The intent is to have students read/listen to essays found in What Music Means to Me, watch the videos of the holiday episode, and then respond. How?


First: Pianists decorate a blank card and on the inside and write a note to their parents describing what music means to them and of course, adding a huge THANK YOU to end of the note.

Second: My holiday gift to each student is a craft. The craft includes decorating and assembling a unique ornament that they then give to their parents along with their card.

Here’s a pic of the finished product.


Hobby Lobby is amazing. I’m not a crafter but I found everything I needed in one stop (and on sale, too!).

Here’s your shopping list:

  • Blank cards.
  • Glass ornaments.
  • Paint markers for drawing on ornaments: black, gold and silver.
  • Nice markers for drawing on cards.
  • Silver and gold ribbon: cut into 8 inch strips.
  • Gold and silver stickers to be placed on ornaments or card envelopes.
  • Small, clear plastic bags and ties.
  • Unwanted music books, preferably yellowed from old age.
  • A good friend who owns a shredder. You’ll need to shred about 20 pages–feels weird shredding print music, but….isn’t there at least one book on your shelf that could be used for a noble purpose such as this?


To assemble:

  • Decorate the outside of the ornament with paint markers and stickers.
  • Take off the top and stuff some shredded music in the globe.
  • Place top back on and tie a ribbon on it so that the ornament can be hung on a tree.
  • Place the ornaments in a small, clear plastic bag labelled with students name.

I set them out on a table at the Christmas recital and after a pianist performed, he/she stopped by the table, picked up the hand-made gift and note and proudly passed it along to beaming parents.


So, with these DIY ornaments, my students (and yours!) can

  • Receive an assembly-required gift from me,
  • Express their deepest sentiments about what music means to them,
  • Serve as a conduit for my “thank you” to supportive parents,
  • AND Give a sentimental token to beaming family members…

all wrapped up in one gift!

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1 Comment

  1. Miriam Williams

    I have a few students who would really enjoy doing this! Sounds like these ornaments would be a great keepsake for the family, too, as well as a reminder to the student: music is more than learning a skill.

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