Music Teacher's Helper Blog

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

With the retail hype surrounding the festive season starting earlier and earlier every year I am reluctant to write a post about Christmas in October, however this is the time of year that I start to prepare my students for the upcoming holiday season. I have just written to the parents of my students with some suggestions for sheet music orders. 

When I was a child I would receive a gift voucher to the largest sheet music store in the city for every birthday and Christmas. I would look forward to gift more than any other, enthusiastically browsing through the sheet music and selecting books of the latest pop music, songs from musicals and Christmas carols. I was fortunate that my mother, who also played the piano, understood the excitement I found in selecting the music that I wanted to play. Many of my students don’t come from musical families, so buying extra sheet music in addition to the music that is required for lessons doesn’t cross their mind. That is why at this time of year I write to the parents of my students with a range of suggestions for music that might make a good Christmas present for their children. I add links to items in online music stores and write a short blurb about each book that explains what level the music is and what songs are included. I list a range of Christmas Carol collections, TV and Movie theme songs, and anthologies of the latest ‘top 40’ pop music. I also inform parents about the digital download options for single pieces that are very reasonably priced.

My letter not only contains the above recommendations, but also outlines the importance of this gift. The autonomy that students feel when they learn a piece independently gives a huge boost to their confidence. Students often learn music that extends their current skills. They are more likely to ‘stick with it’ even if they are finding it difficult, because they want to learn the song. There’s a great social aspect to learning the music that their friends listen to. I love watching my students proudly share their piano skills with their non-musical friends, who are in awe of their ability to play the latest pop songs. Another great benefit to students choosing their own repertoire is that here in Australia our long summer break happens at Christmas, so students who are not having lessons over the summer are still motivated to practice, learn new repertoire and improve their skills without the guidance of their teacher

I always encourage parents to contact me if they are uncertain what music is at an appropriate level for their child and I also organise bulk orders of music through a local retailer that willingly offers a discount for a certain quantity of books. I always look forward to the first lesson of the New Year when students race into their lessons, proudly demonstrating their new repertoire for me. The look on their faces is most definitely worth the little time it takes to write to parents with a list of suggestions!


Image: Idea go /

About the Author

Nicole Murphy
Nicole Murphy is a pianist and composer residing in Queensland, Australia. She has been teaching both piano and composition privately and in schools for over 8 years, with students currently ranging in age from four years to eighty-five years. She holds a Bachelor of Music (Honours Class I) from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and is currently working towards a Masters of Music. As a freela... [Read more]


  1. Kristin McGinnis

    Thanks for your article, Nicole.

    As a gift, I give each of my students a holiday book to work on together during lessons. I give the book to them about the 3rd week in November so that we are able to work on 2-3 songs before the season ends. (We set aside the lesson and performance books of the curriculum that we’re using during the holidays to have time to concentrate on the holiday music.) I purchase either an at-level book for each student or one maybe even one level lower so that they will be able to work on the remaining songs independently. They all look forward to opening their present to see which book I chose for them – it’s worth the added expense.

  2. Daniel

    Do you manage to get tips from the people you teach?

  3. Bradley Sowash

    For your resource list: Kjos Music Company publishes collections of my “That’s Jazz” Christmas arrangements that students just LOVE!

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