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
  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?


Choosing a Group Piano Method

Group Piano lessons can be a monster or a nice ride in a luxury car. It all depends on the teacher and the chemistry that ensues during  those first essential weeks of  lessons.  Human culture is a big factor in this mix and the choice the teacher makes regarding the method to be used can soothe the beast or sweeten the ride.



For many years my preferred method was Musikgarten’s Music Makers: At The Keyboard – an awesome curriculum for beginning piano students. For years I had the right mix of ingredients. Chemistry between teacher, parents and students. Loads of human interest (culture) and the best method.  I still have many students who I now teach privately who are extremely talented and I can see how their musical wheels started turning with our approach to playing by ear first and reading the notes later.

But the culture is changing. Families are so busy and rushed.  They don’t want to be-but they are.  They want to best of both worlds but they want it now. Today. And please let my child do it on his/her own, because I am busy trying to help my other children with homework, preparing dinner and the normal stress of life. It’s the way it is. And it is not going to change anytime soon.  Oh yes, individual families have opted out of the race. But as a whole our culture is always busy.

So this year I made a big change in my teaching.  I needed my students to be able to work independently sooner than later and be able to transfer to another piano teacher, if necessary, without too many glitches.

Piano adventures

At first I wondered,  how I would be able to use My First Piano Adventures in a group setting? I spent a lot of time researching the Forum and studying the method. But in reality all I needed to do was take the plunge.  And I did.  It has been a good change. We still improvise, play rhythm games, move, sing and compose.

But I have also noticed that the parents who practice with their children will always do it. No matter the method.  The ones that do not practice with their children, will never get to it no matter what.

And then there is the note reading aspect. When they do not have to read the page students are free.  But there seems to always be that one student who needs a picture reference to remember what to do. And what about when students move to another city, state, or just go to another teacher? There are zero piano teachers in my area who I could recommend to continue their musical journey.  If they did not complete all 6 books it was hard for them to transition. No a good thing.

As this semester ends I am satisfied with the changes made.  I look forward to finishing the book  and having a complete view in order to compare.

Musical Amnesia

It happens every September. Sometimes even in late August.

Piano lessons resume, students file into the studio and choose their keyboard.  You greet them happily and chit chat about how big they’ve grown and what grade they are now in. When all these pleasantries are done, you ask for keyboards to be turned on and “Let’s play a D major scale together”.

And that’s when the blank stares appear.  And the questions begin….”Is this C?”, “Are we going up or down?” “Does C major have any black keys?”….

WHAT??????? I quietly whisper to the air….  Or even worse.  I don’t react.  I just expect it. I already know.

Every year during the month of May  I let go of a group of wonderfully capable piano students who have at least a repertoire of 6 to 7 memorized pieces, can play 5 different scales (major or minor), have learned to write simple songs, can harmonize with 3 different chords and improving their note reading every week.  And then for some “WE NEED A BREAK” reasoning they do not continue lessons during the summer or practice on their own and 80% of what was learned during the school year goes down the drain of forgetfulness.

But …we  can’t afford it!

Parents might think that I am whining about loss of income during the summer months. Not at all. My Boss owns everything in the known and unknown universe.  I will not worry.  Plus I also enjoy a more flexible schedule in the summer to spend time in the pool and catching up on all those books I started reading and never have time to finish.

But do parents realize the loss of money they incur while their children sit away from the piano for 8 to 10 weeks? This is exactly where musical amnesia sets in.  Students are no longer plugged in to their routine of practice, singing, listening, dancing and playing instruments, and the connections, those vital pathways that we worked so hard to attain, quietly disappear.

Is there a solution?

Of course there is!

When students are not coming to the studio on a regular basis parents must provide consistent and varied practiced times at home.  If they have sacrificed during the school year to provide musical training, they should find a way to continue when they decide to “take a break”.  Parents owe it to their pocketbooks and to their children.

There is always the  option of scheduling lessons during the summer.  That is the ideal.  But if families are traveling all summer, involved in too many other activities, struggling with carpool issues or other conflicts, it would be wise for teachers to provide a way for them to keep the connections plugged in.

Here are a few things you can offer your families (besides a flexible summer schedule at your studio):

  • online assignments (click here)
  • Youtube tutorials (check out ellenjoh’s tutorial)
  • general assignments written in their assignment books
  • computer theory assignments (such as Music Learning Community)

Help your students prevent musical amnesia…

By providing and encouraging various ways to stay plugged into the musical skills they have already acquired!

Summer Piano Olympics

Maybe it’s a little early to start planning for your Summer Piano Camp. But don’t you think that you should start to plan and prepare, just like the athletes are training right now? Maybe, just maybe, it’s just the right time to start gathering everything you need, a little at a time, so you won’t have to be rushed when June comes around! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. When planning your Piano Olympics  for piano students you may want to focus on students who have mastered the basics of piano playing such as, reading notes on the staff, five finger positions and understanding of note values (quarter, half-note and whole note).
  2. Piano Olympics can be scheduled in many ways.  At my piano studio we scheduled a four-day camp running for 2 hours each day.  The information you will find  is flexible and will allow you to fit the plan to your specific needs.

Piano Olympics allows you to:

  • Provide piano ensemble opportunities
  • Encourage the use of piano skills learned during the year
  • Team work

As a teacher you will:

  • experience group piano class
  • plan lessons or follow lesson suggestions
  • add to your summer income in a short period of time

Start planning today!