Piano Lessons Without Practice

Maxes at DPS


Week by week. Year after year. Students arrive at their piano lesson without practicing their assigned pieces.

Week by week. Year after year. Piano teachers try to find ways to entice students to practice.

Piano students are “let go” from piano studios because they do not practice.

Households are stressed because piano students do not practice.

Piano teachers are loosing students because parents are tired of weekly messages saying “Johnny needs to practice .”

On the other hand…

Playing sports is so much fun! Put on your t-shirt, join your team, play the game together, go home.

Next week? Repeat!

How many of these players will be drafted by a major league team? less than 2.9%.

How many will have a career in sports? Probably a few more.

How many will love the game for life and dabble in it when gathering with friends? I bet 99% of them will at least still enjoy the game.

What does this have to do with piano lessons?

Learning to play the piano has a tradition of discipline, repetition and loneliness. Students may love to come to their lesson every week, it may even be fun; but the daily practice at home… that’s another story.

Is there another way to learn to play the piano and love it?

Here is my vision.

Piano lessons are so much fun! Grab your music bag, join your team, play the piano, go home!

Next week? Repeat!

How many of these pianists will pursue the career of a concert pianist? Probably none.

How many will have a career in music? Maybe quite a few.

How many will love the game for life and dabble in it when gathering with friends?I bet 99% of them will at least still enjoy music the rest of their lives.

Do you see what I see? It’s a beautiful vision of my students  making music at the piano with others. For life.

Will you join me?

Piano Camp: Put on a Show!


Planning, preparing and executing a piano camp takes time but with careful planning it turns out to be a satisfying endeavor for the teacher and an exciting experience for the students!

Beginning in January, I polled the parents to find out the interest level and available dates. Shortly after I began browsing the many resources available. The model for piano camp has traditionally been group games, crafts, worksheets and rhythm play. I decided to follow a different path in order to challenge myself and inspire the students.  The two major changes I made, were:

  1. Piano Camp for a wide range of ages.
  2. Put on a Show!

Offering a piano camp for ages 5-11 seems like a disaster. However, by mixing the age groups and musicianship levels, I did not have to worry about having enough children enrolled in various groups.  My goal was to have 12 children participate in the piano camp. Why did I stop at age eleven? Two reasons. The 12-year-old students that I know would probably not have enrolled in the same class as the 5-year-old students, so I went ahead and offered a different camp for them.

Usually at the end of the week the students would go home with crafts and worksheets completed with a little verbal summary from me.  Sometimes each student would perform solos or we would prepare a piece to play as a group.  But I took a risk  and instead prepared them to perform an “operetta” . Students had to sing, dance, act out the story and make music together.  By the end of the week they had experienced music in a whole different way, worked as a group and shared their talents and skills with an audience.


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How does an operetta become a piano camp? Each day the twelve students shared six keyboards and learned different parts of the songs.  Students were of all different levels and it was great to see how they helped each and worked together.  However, during the performance only two students played the piano while the others had different parts to play on stage.


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Interested in doing this next summer? I ordered my operetta here.  Jack and the Beanstalk became “Jackie”, the Con Man became the Con Lady, the Giant was not tall at all – adaptations we made to fit our group and add to the fun.

Did you have a piano camp last summer? What new things did you do?

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Group Piano Q & A

group piano boys
Over the years parents have wonderered about group piano lessons. Here is a short FAQ page that may answer these questions.
1. When is the best age to enroll in group piano?
For preschoolers group piano is a magical and playful way to discover the world of music. Likewise, elementary school age beginners and even those who’ve had previous experience, benefit from the structure, friendship and growth that group piano offers!

2.  Do you finish the book in one semester?
 Each student in class works at his/her own pace in technique and application to the songs being learned. One book is normally completeted in one school year. 

3.  Aren’t private lessons better than group?
 If you’re child enjoys making memories with friends and meeting them in a safe friendly environment, group piano lessons are ideal. At the same time the group environment lends itself to the opportunity to include additional musical activities such as “piano band” and piano games.
Private piano lessons are recommended for those students who are willing to commit to 5 -10 hours of practice each week.

4.  How are the students grouped?
At Dorla’s Piano Studio preschoolers are grouped by age, then starting at age 8 students join a Mixed Age Class that most fits their needs. In the Mixed Age class each student works at his/her own keyboard to complete the assignments under the teacher’s guidance.

5.  What do you do if the pace of one student varies greatly from the rest? 
That’s the beauty of the Mixed Age class! Each student in class works at his/her own pace in technique and application to the songs being learned at his/her own level.

6.  Do parents watch, or are kids dropped off?
 Parents are always welcome to stay during class, however I ask that they do not interrupt, interact or talk while in the classroom.  Normally parents stayed outdoors and created their own social gathering.  
What are your concerns about group piano?

Summer Piano – part 2

Playing music at the seashore. Beautiful female hands, piano key


Read Part 1 here

Today I share with you what other teachers have planned for their Summer Piano. Enjoy!

What are your plans for teaching this summer?


Summer Piano Part 1


Once again piano teachers are faced with the dilemma of what to offer at their studios during the summer! Many teachers take the summer off and many of us need to keep working in order to pay rent/lease on our buildings.  Yet others have figured out how to earn a steady income for all 12 months!

However, not all communities are the same.  Each teacher must find what works for the families they serve.  Unless, of course, you have just moved into a community and are trying to attract new students, you will have to try different things before deciding what works best.

Here are some ideas for Summer Piano:

  1. Private Lessons – Choose the weeks, days and hours you want to teach during the summer.  Multiply by your lesson rate, add the cost of  any materials needed, mix with a lot of flexibility plus require full payment at registration.  Click here to see my plan.
  2. Piano Camp – There are so many ideas you can find online in order to plan your piano camp! I started creating my own back in 2004 and held one or two camps each summer for 6 years. It was a lot of work – so I took a 3 year break and now I am ready for my next piano camp.  Instead of creating my own I decided to have the students be involved in an “operetta”. Mayron Cole has done an excellent job at putting a musical together that I can use to involve my students in different aspects of making music together.  Piano skills will not matter. In previous years I have had games, crafts, etc. and I wanted to do something different this year.
  3. Worship Music Camp – Way back in 2005 when hymns were still sung in our local church I had a group of pre-teens learning how to play hymns and create accompanying tracks on the Roland sequencer.  Eight years later I have a request to have a group of 12 – 14 year old girls learn how to lead worship and accompany the singing at church.  I have not finalized the resources we will use but I am making my decision while looking through The Easy Worship Fake Book, Top Praise & Worship Instrumental Solos and Worshiptogether.com.
  4. Group Piano Lessons – for beginners. An introduction to piano for those who are not quite sure if they want to commit to  a 15 week semester or just want to “try” piano lessons to see if they like it.  Alfred’s Basic Group Piano ,  Musikgarten’s Keyboard Introduction (teacher training recommended) and Music Discoveries are programs that I have used successfully.
  5. Pre-Piano– piano instruction for preschoolers can be attached to  a theme or offered in private sessions. Musikgarten’s At The Seashore and Nature’s Music themes are excellent resources for group instruction. Wunderkeys is a lot of fun for 3 year olds in private lessons and I have also used it with a group of 3 students in Book 1.

What is your favorite idea or resource for summer piano at your studio?