You have to read this book! (or not…)

music library

Actually…this is a short list of the books that I have read this summer.  I can’t say that I read every single word…but the chapters I read were really good, extremely helpful in planning for the new semester even if it was just for me to realize that I wasted my money on buying the book…

  • The Savvy Musician – I’ve owned this book for a year or two.  It is full of information that I don’t necessarily need but chapter #7 made me realize I need more gigs. Gigs? really, Dorla?  Well, in my world that translates to saying yes to church performances.  Most of them are volunteer- however I had underestimated the positive reaction of the families enrolled in my Studio each time they actually hear me perform.
  • Teaching Piano in Groups – Kindle version. I am listing it because I actually read more than 3 chapters.  But it is geared toward college professors – not dynamic independent studios who need to be at the cutting edge of piano teaching.  It reads like a textbook. Well…it is definitely a textbook!
  • Piano Lessons: A memoir – Kindle version. Such a good book to read by the pool. You can hear the piano teacher’s voice as she rants and raves – but there is also drama. Real drama that even included a few words about my school TCU! A great read about the life of a pianist.
  • How I Made $100,00 My First Year As A Piano Teacher – I am sure I have mentioned Kristin Yost before.  Her book is VERY easy to read – and that is a good thing.  She gets to the point and makes you think hard about how you will set up your first studio or how you are running your 20 year old studio.  Kristin’s book made me re-think recitals (p. 14), her idea of hiring musicians for a “Keyboard Jam” was just that. An idea.  But a few weeks after reading her book I was privileged to attend her “Keyboard Jam” and loved it!  It made me take the final step in deciding to change my studio recitals.  We now play at the local Nursing Home once a month and  I am working on a few other musical opportunities!
  • Steal Like An Artist – Thanks to Leila I now have a new favorite book! The author of this little book says: “Be Boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.) This is one of those books that you read over and over  again. Simply awesome.
  • Studio Makeover: Technology “Addition” – eBook. Can you believe Leila also recommended this one? She is a treasure trove! Anyway…a decade or more ago I had a computer lab in my studio for the students to work on music theory, composition, ear training, etc. I don’t remember if there was a specific reason for closing it down, but I just could not keep up any longer. Nowadays it is a piece of cake – provided your computer is not a dinosaur…this ebook took me step by step and showed me what to do and how to do it with today’s technology. I did not even purchase any new software – everything is online – just the way I like it.  Next year I might invest in new software, however it was exciting to be able to have this technology addition without a big expense.
  • The Dynamic Studio – Kindle version. When you read any of Johnston’s books it feels like your body is being pumped with adrenaline. His voice is so fast paced! I wonder if he speaks as fast as I read him! Granted, I did not read every single word. I can always come back and research or review.  His ideas are always good.  Some a little extreme. But it validated the changes I have made in my studio.  If you are stuck in a rut – strive for a dynamic studio!
  • Piano Hands Should Not Flip Burgers – eBook. Another fast paced book – but full of gems! There are many things that I have wanted to add to my student’s lessons but was not really sure how to go about it.  Composition, improvisation, games, things I would do once in a while without a good plan.  Well, Dow & Dow (the authors) put it on paper for me and I had my aha! moment. A favorite to re-read.

So…what have you been reading?

Favorite Piano Websites

Last year I shared my view on Those Other Piano Teachers out there.  Today I add a few more sites to the ones mentioned in that post.

1. – was one of the first sites that I started to follow a few years ago.  I’ve used many of Wendy’s resources and she always has one more to share!  The best part is that I met her last month in Dallas and that was just icing on the cake!  If you need business advice for you and your studio this is the site to visit.

2. – Joy has so many great ideas and so many other teachers are connected to her site!  She has great ideas on organization, motivation and reports from different music conferences.

3. – Leila is a fine teacher in Colorado whom I met in Dallas this summer.  She gave me the final “push” I needed to reinstate the piano computer lab in my studio.  She has very good lists of apps you can use as you teach and very informative posts on jazz, technology and how to set yourself apart from other studios.

4. – When August comes around  I make sure I do not miss Jennifer’s site.  Her incentive programs are the best! Last year my studio followed her Mission: Music challenge and parents are already asking what will the plan be for this year.  Jennifer also has a plethora of piano theory games to suit everyone’s tastes.

5. – This website is another one  that I visit over and over again.  Her picture scales are fantastic and free!  MAny music games and piano repertoire are shared on this site.  Don’t forget to donate!

6. – Last year I used Piano Discoveries with my beginning students as a supplement for group piano and with others as a summer introduction to piano. Barnyard Friends is a great workbook for introducing the staff and the games and videos that complement it are fabulous and free!  Consider making a donation if you use it!

7. – If you use the Piano Adventures piano method this resource is chock full of information. Interact with other teachers, watch videos and just saturate yourself with the Faber’s piano pedagogy.

8. – I’ve been waiting for this website for the last 10 years! I finally have all my studio information in one place, and accessible anywhere I go. Bookkeeping, studio information, student access, calendar, reminders, assignments sent via email or accessible online, etc. There is a monthly fee – but worth every penny and increases or decreases depending on how many students you will you it for.

9. – I believe I have purchased everything Andrea and Trevor Dow have to offer on their website!  They are both so creative.  Fearless Fortissimo is a comic book for boys – in which they play the music that tells the story in the comic book.  How awesome is that?  Last year I used bits and pieces of it but this year it will be used as the main repertoire for several boys and then they plan to share it in a recital for boys and their families.  They are already asking about episode 3!

10. – Leila from introduced me to this site when we were talking about computer labs.  There are many other resources on this site, but Studio Makeover Technology Addition is the ebook I purchased and it definitively helped get my thoughts straightened out about what and how to set up the computer lab.

11. – It’s amazing how many resources are available to new piano teachers! I have not enrolled in any of the classes but I have read Kristi’s book (and met her at SMU!) and she is one of those amazing young piano teachers who think out of the box.  Refreshing!

Well, that is my list.  It will grow in the next few months and that is exactly what I want!

Would you like to share your favorite sites?

Music. Experience it. Live it. Make it.

This is what Dorla’s Piano Studio is all about.  Music.

Sometimes we get bogged down by recital deadlines, practice requirements and performances, but when it comes down to the last line in the score, it’s all about the music.

Experience it.  Of the many ways available to experience music, participating in a group is at the top of the list.  This is one of the many reasons DPS offers group lessons for beginners. It’s fun.  Children play music games, they sing together, they make music together, play for each other and learn from each other.

Live it.  When you wake up in the morning singing “Mouse, Mousie in the Housie”, “There’s a Worm At The Bottom Of My Garden” “Wake Up Pointer Panda” or any of your songs from music class, you know that you are living the music! It might me annoying at times to have a song stuck in your head, but that is exactly what needs to happen in order for you to play it on your instrument.

Make it.  Each and every lesson should be about making and creating beautiful sounds. Even if you are playing only one note at a time – you should make them the best.  No banging! Instead, tell a story with drama and flair.  So what if you can only play Hot Cross Buns?! Play it in a way that is unique. Improvise, change the ending, change the key.  Whatever you do…make MUSIC.

No More Dead Composers!



This is was my motto for about a week.

I was trying to find new repertoire to practice and thinking about an audience that would want to listen.  My audience (family, friends, students) seem quite young or not interested in Classical music. A few even believe Beethoven was just a dog in a movie when I mention the name!

That’s when I decided to only practice music of musicians that are alive. John Lunn (Downton Abbey Suite) and Yiruma (White Shadow) were my choices and I have enjoyed every minute of their music.

And now? I feel like I’ve been eating sweets all week.  Downton Abbey is a fine piece of music and the piano score is great.  But it really needs to be connected to the PBS series.  And White Shadows? Well, it is a beautiful piece but it’s missing some meat and potatoes…


So I pulled out Schubert’s Fantasie in f minor (4 hands) and I have the privilege of playing with Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu on my iPhone.  This piece has a lot of meat and potatoes and is a great mix of repertoire with Lunn and Yiruma.

But wait! Schubert is dead! (1828 to be exact…)

As I said at the beginning of this post.  That was my motto for a week!

Spring Recital 2012

4 year old airline pilot handing out boarding pass (programs)

I always enjoy piano recitals especially when my students perform!  However, a few years ago I realized that I was maybe the only one enjoying the recitals.  Who wants to hear 30 different pianists you have never heard of? Plus you don’t even recognize the pieces they play!  So when I moved to my new studio I decided to have several recitals in which only 8 to 10 students perform. THAT was a great idea.

recital certificate inside passport for each student

This year thanks to TeachPianoToday I decided to do a little extra.  Last year a seriously fun music educator shared her Mission: Music incentive, I prepared it for my students, they participated excitedly during the year and I used a travel theme to tie in their challenges around the world map with the recital.

cake pops and water: refreshments for a musical day

 It was a lot more work than usual because of decorating (which my mom and friends did…), baking cake pops (my mom did this too…), decorating 150 cake pops (I did this at 5 am…with my mom…), printing boarding passes for 5 recitals, printing passports, and so much more!  However, the children enjoyed  the extras and many parents shared lovely comments.

at the piano

Now the Spring semester is over.  Time to finalize plans for the summer session and plan ahead for Fall.

Thanks everyone for a lovely musical year!

3:00 pm recital