Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Keep the Bench Warm During the Summer Months

As the summer months are fast approaching it’s time to get studio plans going that will entice students to “stick with it”. All students who intend to return to my studio in the Fall are required to:

  1. Submit a $50 deposit that is credited towards Fall tuition
  2. Register and attend at least one summer option between June and August. Students may enroll in 5 private lessons or a camp. Lessons are scheduled around everyone’s availability–always a little tricky, however, things seem to work. Thanks to‘s calendar, communication of all dates is always clear.. FYI: This year I am using Google docs to create forms and a spread sheet to assimilate all registrations and calendars. Crossing my fingers that this will permanently eliminate a nasty paper trail.

I desire a break from the routine just as much as students and parents. So, I enjoy offering a number of options that keep students on the bench and keep income steady during the normally lean summer months. Here are three of the options I’ll be offering this summer:

Piano Olympics

Summary: Every spring students ask me if there will be Olympics again this summer. Each “camp” day features…

  • indoor and outdoor age-appropriate games that review elements of theory,
  • solo work
  • ensemble work
  • online theory assignments
  • and most important–snacks!

Students earn points/tickets for winning games, completing assignments, practicing, etc. One year, a Gold, Silver and Bronze medal were awarded  to the top point earners. Another year, all campers achieved “gold, silver or bronze” status by earning a certain amount of points. Not quite sure what I will do this year.

Last year’s Olympic theme focused on the music of various countries but this year, Olympians will be “going to the movies”. We will explore the melodic and harmonic elements of movie themes, play some of the all time favorites as a solo or an ensemble, and campers will even be challenged to create their own movie theme. Popcorn will be a featured snack, of course.

Format: Group of 2-4 students, Four 90-min classes over two weeks

Resources: (naming only a FEW!)

1) Online Games–Olympians are given assignments at these terrific sites. They are to be completed at home by the end of camp to earn points.

Indoor Camp Games–all of these listed below are used plus many more.  Click on the links below to visit some terrific websites for games.

2) Outdoor Camp Games–These are designed by me for the age and skill levels of the campers. The items I use the most for outdoors are pylons (found in the Target $1-aisle) and many sets of home-made large alphabet cards. Example: beginning students race to place alphabet letters in order, backwards, by skips, etc. Older students must place the cards in the circle of keys –racing against the clock…

Let’s Make a Melody

Summary: Students sign up for this class to create an original composition. The end product is a professional looking cover and score notated and designed by the student. A world premiere of the piece is a must at the summer’s recital.

Format: Private or Partner Lesson, Five 60-min classes over the summer months


1) Musescore: First-time composers easily catch on to this notation site. Scores can be shared by email so students can notate ideas with me at the lesson and continue work at home.

2) Piano Teacher’s Guide to Creative Composition: This book will be a terrific new resource for me as a teacher of composition as it offers such marvelous suggestions for lesson plans, explanations, imagery and terminology…

3) Wendy Stevens continues to develop extremely helpful insights into composing at her popular site. She recently indexed all her articles so they are easy to access. Her tips and guidance will be extremely helpful for you as you encourage young composers in their creative endeavors.

Off the Printed Page

Summary: Pianists develop playing by ear,  learn how to harmonize and develop improvisatory skills.

Format: Private or Partner Lesson, Five 30/30-min classes over the summer months (30 mins with me at the piano, 30 mins at the computer completing a lab assignment).


1) Pattern Play–used this first book of 5 with great success last summer.

2) Chord Play–available sometime April, 2012–can’t wait.

3) Ear without Fear–Although I have not used it yet, the workbook features a structured curriculum, brief but focused exercises and a CD that offers many listening excerpts that can be repeated over and over. Students can work independently so this will be a great lab time assignment.

During the summer, there are certainly fewer lessons for each student and progress does slow. However, I found that supplementing lessons with summer “specialties” enriches the musical experience of budding pianists.  When students return in the fall, the order of sharps has been mastered, or the ability to see and hear harmonic structure is magnified and progress steps up a notch and sometimes even two. Stay tuned for next month as I will add to the list of my summer options.

Would love to hear your plans for the summer!

About the Author


  1. Bella

    Thank you so much for your article! It is very inspiring and I am extra excited to now know about this “Pattern Play” series!

  2. Leila Viss

    Thank you, Bella, You will love the Pattern Play Series. Each book is a fabulous resource and worth the investment.

  3. […] events are planned for each day that review rhythm, pitch, harmony.  Indoor games acquired over the years from Music Educator’s Marketplace and TCW are always fun and […]

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