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Teacher's Blog

Small-but-Mighty Business Saturday

In my studio, there is a cute little trinket that says, “In the future, you’ll wish you had started today.” I bought it because I believe it’s a sentiment many folks have about hobbies and skills, in hindsight. It’s in the perfect place in my studio, because piano practice is one of those tasks ...
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The Five-Year Banner

2021-2022 is going to be one of the most exciting years in the studio. I have on my wall a beautiful banner, with company logo, set aside for handprints of students who have achieved the five-year mark. This year, some students who joined me during Pfafftown Piano's opening year will achieve just ...
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Coronavirus and Online Lessons

Coronavirus: Hey, I'm here. Going to disrupt your plans. Piano Teacher: Uh oh. Who are you? I can still have people in my home and teach piano lessons, right? Coronavirus: Maybe for a while, but you might want to plan on feeling a life-altering, paralyzing fear of online lessons coming your way. ...
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How to Practice

Let me tell you about a student of mine. Every week, I see pictures of this student on Facebook living her young life. She loves to dance, and she loves horses. She goes to school, does homework, and cares for pets. She lives with her mom and dad, hangs with her grandparents, and does things that ...
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Change's Choice

Change is inevitable, and a pal of mine. I happen to be a person who loves to inhale the freshness of Change, and I look forward to its coming around regularly. Change and I get along well. We have a mutual respect, and my perspective is optimistic; that Change isn't necessarily restrictive. This ...
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Spider Fingers: Strategies for Tiny Hands

Tiny students have tiny hands. They are so cute on the keys, and they're teachable, but how does a tiny student learn to build strength in those itty bitty fingers properly? There are several techniques parents and teachers can use to get precious fingers positioned properly for piano practice. So, who ...
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To My Students with Love

Happy Valentine's Day to the three- and four-year-olds, kindergarteners, early elementary kids, middle schoolers, high school young adults, adults-of-students-turned-students-themselves, and grandparents who I see in my studio week in and week out. It's no secret how much I love you all, but in ...
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Welcome, Dozer

When I opened the studio I knew it would be modeled after Separk Music's original location on Fourth Street; specifically, there would be dogs present. Whenever I needed music, I took the short walk from my Fifth Street workplace down to Fourth Street to the cozy shop where Charlie Parker, a ...
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100 Likes Later

Yesterday, July 27, 2018 the Pfafftown Piano Facebook Page hit 100 likes. One year ago at the same time I was drumming up business, hoping for enough students to fill the studio. I have been teaching and performing music, piano, voice, handbells and organ since I was 13, but never in my OWN studio in ...
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What Do I Practice Over the Summer?

In a few days it will be summer break time. For some, summer break will mean the end of a year of piano lessons. If a school year of piano lessons followed by a break over the summer is the proverbial "two steps forward and one step back," our year at Pfafftown Piano has strongly challenged that. I'd ...
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It's December UnRecital Time!

I pretty much enjoyed all my piano recitals as a young student (except for that one time - yikes!), and only felt the slight increase in adrenaline that made me laser-focus and do better than I would have done in the relaxed comfort of my own home. Sounds backwards, I know - to do better under ...
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No-Stress November

I rented a violin, my younger child's life's dream-come-true (according to her). She begged for a solid year and we ignored it until we started whispering the what-ifs, "What if she's great?" and "You started at a young age, after all." and "We could do a short-term rental and see how it goes." The day ...
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Do I Have to Practice? New School Year Resolutions

It's that time of year. The summer is winding down to a hot blah, the crisper mornings inspire us to take on something new, the young and not-so-young are donning backpacks and taking new classes. So why not take a dance class, do Goat Yoga (Google it), or learn to play an instrument, right? "If I ...
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Music Proven to Influence Us

In grad school, I participated in a study about how music affects one's mood. The conclusion was as expected. Music does influence a human being. Ann Johnson, Ph.D., states that everything we hear around us is not just sound waves of different amplitude. According to her words, every wave includes some ...
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Gearing up for Fall 2017

August is one of my absolute favorite times of year; the return to routine. Scheduling returning and new students absolutely thrills me, and I cannot wait to connect that final piece of the puzzle that creates a lovely fall schedule for myself and all my students. It is a time of new beginnings. Each August, ...
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No-Stress November

I rented a violin, my younger child's life's dream-come-true (according to her). She begged for a solid year and we ignored it until we started whispering the what-ifs, "What if she's great?" and "You started at a young age, after all." and "We could do a short-term rental and see how it goes." The day we rented she oohed and ahhed over it, bursting with pride. She even showed potential in her first lesson. But then we reached an impasse. After a couple of weeks, I realized practicing was - ahem - not on her agenda each day. Did I know this would happen? Pfft, of course. ...to other children, but not mine; the child of two professional musicians! How could this be? The faces of my piano students' parents flashed before my eyes. I was officially "them."

You know who you are. You've walked into my home studio pre-apologizing for how Johnny didn't practice much this week. Maybe you coerced at home, maybe you bribed, maybe you lost your temper. No matter how much you reminded your little angel that you were shelling out money each week to make this happen, he wasn't buying it. Yeah, I get it. 

I called her violin teacher, embarrassed and ashamed, and I said, "She doesn't want to practice AT ALL." Desperate with "What do I do?" questions, I relaxed when she reminded me to stay calm and most of all not to squelch her passion for the instrument. After all, her passion at this point is merely loving the lesson and fiddling (no pun intended) around with it at home, usually not with her assignment in front of her. And let's not forget that she is a small child with small attention span and small fingers; not an adult. In less than a month I had turned into a person who was pushing my child away from my own passion and her budding passion. What really pushed me over the edge was our return to her violin lesson after a particularly rough week of cajoling to no avail. As I slumped down to watch an inevitable failed lesson, my little one behaved wonderfully, played well, and received accolades from her teacher. Scoff. I was the only one having a horrible time. So I let it go.

A particular dear parent-friend  - after butting heads with her own sweet one about practicing - is accepting the challenge I put before her to walk away or be hands off her child's practicing, saving herself the stress. She jokingly remarked on her way out the studio door (after her child had a great lesson, of course), "It's going to be 'No-Help November'!" Her comment struck me and I immediately loved it, deciding to issue the challenge to the rest of my students' parents and any who are struggling with how to encourage but not burden beginners. Altering the catch-phrase a bit, I am calling it "No-Stress November." Want to try it? 

Be encouraged by the following:
1. Your child does a great job behaving in lessons and the teacher is proud of his/her progress. No stress.
2. Your child is progressing at a normal-to-advanced pace in lessons (and that's everyone!). No stress.
3. Your child loves to tinker around on any piano anytime, anywhere. Awesome. That means he or she loves it! No stress.
4. Your child's lack of practice or inability to play an assigned piece is blatantly obvious to the teacher. Hey, it's out in the open anyway, and your teacher isn't mad. No stress.
5. Your teacher is training your child to play piano without you and your kid probably doesn't need your help anyway. No stress.
6. Most of all, your teacher loves teaching and loves your child! No stress!

Sit back and enjoy! No-Stress November is coming.

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