πŸ€” Case Study: Student Brings a Song Above His Current Skill Level

June 28, 2023 0 Comments

Ryan's Story

In the spring of 2016, Ryan was preparing for his high school's Asian American Club Show and wanted to accompany his friend on a popular K-Pop song, "Eyes, Nose, Lips" by Taeyang. Ryan's skills grew dramatically from the motivation to reach this goal. He played quickly and fluidly as he interpreted music that was more difficult than what had been presented in his method series thus far.

When we reached the end of the song, we found that it moves up a half step to a key that Ryan hadn't previously learned! The key signature had five flats when the previous key had no flats or sharps. I quickly pulled out my notebook and drew a keyboard. Using small fish stickers, I color-coded the keys and put the matching fish above each chord on his music; he quickly mastered the ending in time to audition for this festival.

Ryan and his friend performed this song beautifully to the ecstatic cheers of their peers. I was so proud of him! At the following spring recital, his mom thanked me for inspiring him to love the piano.

Here is the video of Ryan and his friend's performance. 

What are your student success stories? 



πŸ₯… Vocational Goal Update #2

June 21, 2023 0 Comments

How has my goal to put out 25 physical advertisements for my piano studio gone?

After my previous goal post (no pun intended), I decided to invest in Google Ads after reading a business advice blog for piano teachers. Unfortunately, after spending $325 for 941 clicks and 83,400 views, I was only contacted by one person who ultimately ghosted me. Therefore, I will not post the name of said blog because I can't endorse it at this time.

My statistics showed that the bulk of my clicks were from YouTube and were shown on piano tutorial videos. I limited these ads to nearby zip codes and times, but YouTube didn't fit the audience whom I was expecting. I was hoping for Google searches for "piano lessons near me". 

YouTube Ad

I felt very discouraged by the lack of responses because this campaign was ultimately very expensive and I would need three new students to break even from this loss. I have a feeling that maybe people were expecting a video, but the ad was merely a picture. I know my homemade website also loads slowly and wasn't very engaging at the time.


How has my overall goal to get 2 new piano students by June 30 gone?

The brother of my current student signed up in March! I was halfway to my goal. 

I decided to go through my contact spreadsheet and text two friends of mine who inquired. After texting them, 1 signed up! I had reached my goal and she started a week ago.  

Then, at church, a new friend of mine from my worship team inquired about lessons and she was very serious. She signed up and started 2 weeks ago. 

My goal has not only been accomplished, but has exceeded my expectations. 

My happy ending is that I have earned back the Google Ad cost; just not in the way I was expecting. 

What are your goals for 2023 and how close are you to achieving these goals?



πŸ₯… My Vocational Goal Update

March 04, 2023 0 Comments
Goal Detail Page

How has my goal to put out 25 physical advertisements for my piano studio gone?

Thus far, I have put out 10 physical advertisements: 2 business cards directly handed to inquirers, 1 flyer posted in my local library, and 7 business cards placed on advertising tables at the library and a school. I have until the end of March to put out 15 more! 

I have had 2 contacts via email this year.  One nearly committed, but ultimately decided to wait. 

My current lead for advertising is my former principal who said I can post a flyer, she will tell my former students, and she will put my information in her weekly newsletter.  I am needing to update my business cards and possibly change my flyer format again. 

This has been a difficult endeavor, but I know nothing ventured, nothing gained! 



πŸ₯… Vocational Goal Setting for Piano Teachers

January 17, 2023 0 Comments

Setting goals is an important tool for having success in many different areas of our lives, whether that be relational, emotional, or spiritual. When focusing  on our vocational goals, what are we aiming for this year? 

The reason why I decided to start using the Full Focus Planner (see my blog post here) is because of the Best Year Ever course that Michael Hyatt & Company (now called Full Focus) offers. Many topics were covered such as reviewing last years accomplishments and having a positive future outlook. Today I want to tell you about one of Michael Hyatt's most impactful suggestions: the SMARTER goal system. 

What does the acronym SMARTER stand for?

  • Specific
  • Measurable 
  • Actionable
  • Risky
  • Timebound
  • Exciting
  • Relevant
For piano teachers, unspecific goals look like this:
  1. Practice more
  2. Advertise
  3. Have more piano students sign up
  4. Teach well
This is my process of taking these goals through the SMARTER system. 

Rephrasing these goals to be Specific looks like this:
  1. Practice Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 daily
  2. Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood
  3. Have 2 piano students sign up
  4. Create detailed lesson plans and long-term overviews for each student
Measurable means that you can track progress. 
  1. Practicing will be measured with a habit tracker
  2. Creating flyers and distributing them will be measured by the completion of this task. 
  3. Having 2 piano students sign up will be measured by the completion of this task. 
  4. Creating lesson plans each week will be measured by a habit tracker. 
Actionable goals start with a strong action verb. 

What specific action will I do to achieve this goal? 
  1. Practice daily, memorize and perform Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 
  2. Design and print 20 flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood
  3. Follow up with all leads by text, email and or phone call until at least 2 students sign-up
  4. Write detailed lesson plans each week and create a spreadsheet for long-term overviews
Risky goals are goals that are challenging enough to keep us interested. 
  • Practice daily, Memorize and Perform Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 Chopin Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 
    • I have already learned Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, but have had difficulty with Op. 27 No. 2. It is still within my capacity to learn, but presents challenges that I have limited myself to believing I can't surpass. 
  • Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood and directly to people with a prepared "elevator pitch"
    • This requires me to actually talk to people I've never met before and present clear reasoning why my piano lessons are a valuable activity for them or their child
  • Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons
    • Another uncomfortable situation, but sometimes a necessary one. If a student is showing interest and attention, a longer lesson time helps us to do more activities outside of the method book
  • Create detailed lesson plans and long-term overviews for each student by helping my students to craft their own goals 
    • This takes away some autonomy from me and can sometimes be difficult to encourage a student to create goals for themselves

The next step is to make these goals Timebound. Create a start date and a deadline for both habit and achievement goals. In addition to those, create a frequency and streak goal for habit goals.

  • Practice daily, Memorize and Perform Chopin Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 starting January 5th, 6 days a week, until March 5th. (Habit Goal) 
  • Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood and directly to people with a prepared "elevator pitch" starting January 10th, completed by March 31st. (Achievement Goal)
  • Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons by September 30. (Achievement Goal)
  • Create detailed lesson plans and long-term overviews for each student by helping my students to craft their own goals each week and track plans for 20 weeks and overviews for 5 months. (Habit Goal)

Are these goals Exciting to me?  Exciting means inspiring and engaging to the point of being willing to continue even when it gets hard. Internal motivation is what helps us to see goals through to the end.  Asking if a goal is exciting may also be an evaluation of whether or not it would be fun. At this point, it's important to weed out any goal that we've made because we feel expected to achieve that goal by other people (whether real or imagined).  On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most exciting, I have rated my goals below. 

  • 6 - Practice daily, Memorize and Perform Chopin Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 starting January 5th, 6 days a week, until March 5th. 
  • 4 - Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood and directly to people with a prepared "elevator pitch" starting January 10th, completed by March 31st.
  • 10 - Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons by September 30.
  • 9 - Create detailed lesson plans and long-term overviews for each student by helping my students to craft their own goals each week and track plans for 20 weeks and overviews for 5 months.

The last step is evaluating if these goals are Relevant to my life overall. I've created 4 possible vocational goals, but there are other domains of my life in which I also wish to set goals, such as parental, relational, financial, and avocational. Michael Hyatt recommends only setting 8 goals per year to cover ALL the domains, and then only assigning 2-3 per quarter. If I think of these goals in the context of my overall life goals for this year, the most relevant is
  • Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons by September 30.


One does not simply have 2 students sign up for piano lessons.

So that means I need both of these vocational goals during this year. 
  • Create flyers and distribute them around my neighborhood and directly to people with a prepared "elevator pitch" starting January 10th, completed by March 31st.
  • Have 2 piano students sign up and encourage 45 minute lessons by September 30.

Full Focus calls these related goals complex goals. They will count as one goal. Full Focus recommends limiting your multiple step complex goals to 2 per year. 

I think once I have a 4 student studio, creating the lesson overviews will make more sense since I will need to do those to stay organized. For now, I'm able to keep a lot of it in my memory since I only have 2 students to track. 

As for the last remaining goal, practicing and performing is something I'm always doing.  I may still learn this piece as a major project, but I won't put it on my Annual Goals list. 

And that's the SMARTER annual goal setting process!

What goals are you setting this year? How can you phrase your goals as SMARTER goals? 

Happy New Year!


Source: Full Focus 

This post is not sponsored. 


πŸ“’ Review: Full Focus Planner: How to Stay Positive, Organized, and Focused

December 29, 2022 0 Comments
One Year of my Full Focus Planners
My 2022 Full Focus Planners
I painted Quarters 2 and 3. 
Full Focus Planner by Full Focus
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

This is my honest review of the Full Focus Planner. This post is not sponsored.

What symptoms did the Full Focus Planner address for me?

  1. 1,000 tasks in my brain at a time
  2. No idea where to start
  3. Long-term projects being pushed to the last minute
  4. Feelings of discouragement for "not doing anything today"
  5. Little tasks getting lost in the shuffle

How did it address the symptoms?

  1. Key Projects section - List your most important tasks for the upcoming quarter. Other Tasks and Notes spaces on Daily pages. Weekly Overview space where I keep rolling over tasks. 
  2. Ranking my most important goals and projects. Using the Goal Detail pages to break down the goal into action steps. Sending these action steps to Weekly Big 3 and Daily Big 3 pages. 
  3. Using calendar pages and quarter pages to set regular deadlines for the action steps. 
  4. Feelings of encouragement from checking off my Big 3 each day and saying I accomplished important things today. 
  5. Checklist-style entries with a key with symbols to code if the task is finished, waiting for something, deferred, delegated, or deleted. Tasks that are not completed or deleted get sent to the following day. 

How did I learn about the Full Focus Planner?

Last year, my husband became interested in Full Focus through a podcast. One product they make, their Full Focus Planner, really caught his interest. I was very skeptical of this system because of the expense and also because I had experience trying planner systems that were far too cumbersome to set up or set up but with not enough space. I abandoned those systems and found that I was making long lists on loose-leaf paper and leaving them around the house. I would hang on to this list of never-ending tasks and feel bad daily for not accomplishing anything. 

After using this method for a few quarters, my husband was keeping work at work and coming home when he planned and being present. He was more organized and positive. 

My husband wanted me to try this method too, but I was reluctant. Like the Bullet Journal method, this planner required a lot of front-end setup. It was also a very expensive system because you need 4 planners for one year.

In contrast to the Bullet Journal, however, I didn't need to create my planner from scratch, which eventually became a chore. In contrast to a yearly planner, Full Focus had equal space for each day of the week rather than shrinking Saturday and Sunday. 

I was very skeptical that this would help, but I was getting annoyed by the recurring reminders on my phone (to the point of ignoring them!) and my loose-leaf paper wasn't organized or motivating.

At the beginning of 2022, my husband bought the Best Year Ever course from Full Focus and encouraged me to watch with him. Almost immediately I was sold on this method as I realized they were using a researched-based approach to help people reach their goals. I was already learning how to implement challenging limiting beliefs and all-or-nothing thinking using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques and this planner is built specifically to implement those challenges. 

How is the Full Focus Planner structured?

The Full Focus Planner is a quarterly planner that is centered around goal setting. To start small, the Start Here page gives a Simple Setup: On the first Day page, list your top 3 tasks for the day. This is called your Daily Big 3. Check them off as you accomplish them. Just 3 tasks. There is a list for other tasks below the Big 3, but the Big 3 are the tasks that have priority for accomplishing your goals and to help you feel like you did something today. 

I use the Big 3 to remind myself to plan piano lessons, send piano lesson notes, plan music for Sunday worship, email my band and AV team, post a blog, read to my daughters, and clean my apartment. Each Day page also has a schedule column where I list my lessons and other appointments. I also draw boxes to show how I will use my time: cooking, cleaning, or writing music. 

The Weekly Preview is my favorite tool. After the end of a week, the first section has you review what you did and write down 3-5 of your Biggest Wins. I can't begin to express how much just sitting down and reviewing what I actually did objectively has done for how I view myself. Lazy? No. Doing the best I can with what I have? Yes. 

Previously, I would complain to my husband about how lazy I am and that I didn't accomplish anything. Then I would proceed to list doing the dishes, picking up a toys, going to the park with the girls, and making lunch. I was accomplishing tasks, but I didn't record them, so I didn't remember them, and I felt discouraged and even shame about myself. Now, I look back and see that I put together a worship set list for Sunday, I had guests over on Friday, I published a blog post, I turned in a competition entry, I made a craft, and planned a piano lesson. 

On the Weekly pages, you get to set a Weekly Big 3 to advance your goals and projects and at the end of the week and gauge how far you got. There is space to review your week for what to keep, improve, start doing or stop doing. I usually roll over a list of tasks in another space and have decided to use large post-it notes so I'm not rewriting long term tasks multiple times. 

Another helpful tool has been the space for writing down appointments for the week. Even though they are on my phone, reviewing and writing them down helps me to be prepared ahead of time. The last part gives space for planning self-care. I use this space on and off, but I want to set a goal to focus on how I can rejuvenate myself. 

To sandwich the book, the front gives lots of space for goal setting for the year. I highly suggest learning the SMARTER goals format. Next are blank calendar pages including full box calendars for the 3 months of the quarter and additional list pages for the remainder of the year known as Rolling Quarters. 

The back of the book has a quarterly preview which is a review of the previous quarter and a time for planning the next quarter, giving steps for setting up the next one. An index is in the very back for any notes you've made over time that you would like to find later. 

Additional favorite features of mine include the back pocket that is the perfect size for inserting a Moleskine notebook and inspiring and motivating quotes on each page of the planner. 

Did I have my Best Year Ever?

Yes. I consider my mood boost from reviewing my weeks and quarters (and in the next few days, my year) similar to eating chocolate except the benefits are long-lasting and actually change my negative beliefs about myself. These positive feelings towards myself are based in reality and I have physical evidence to prove it. I have been less anxious about completing projects and whether or not I will have enough time. My goals are set according to my values and not what I think I'm expected to do by others, so I get intrinsic rewards from my accomplishments even if I don't have a sushi date or cream cheese danish waiting for me on the other end of a project. Although those treats are a good idea, so maybe I'll treat myself for a great a 2022. 

What annual goals did you specifically accomplish?

I haven't done a year in review after having used this system, but I imagine my comparison to last year will show that, while last year I did do a number of things that I hadn't formerly considered accomplishments, this year I purposely had goals and I purposely accomplished them. 

My 2022 planned and accomplished goals:
  1. Have a fully licensed business by August 21 ??? Whenever Chicago can figure it out
    • Status: Completed, but much later than August 21st.  
  2. Teach my 5-year-old how to read daily and finish lesson book by April 30
    • Status: Completed by May 7
  3. Post 1 composition a month on Soundcloud, Pond5, and/or Arrange Me
    • Status: Completed on time
  4. Finish reading Daring Greatly by BrenΓ© Brown by March 31
    • Status: Completed on time
  5. Read the Bible 4 times a week (48 times) by September 30
    • Status: Completed
  6. Composition Competition by April 30 
    • Status: Completed. "The Voyage Home"
  7.  Composition Competition Entry by July 31
    • Status: Completed "Save the Sheep!"
  8. Spend quality time with my daughters everyday by December 31
    • Status: Completed, however I didn't track this. 
  9. Symphonina Competition Entry by December 15
    • Status: Completed

What planned goals were not accomplished? 

It is true that not all goals get accomplished with this system. Realities set in, such as too many invasive weeds took over our shared backyard (4), concertos are very, very hard (goal 1), habits are hard to form and maintain (2, 3), and sometimes saying no to one project means getting to say yes to another (5). 
  1. Memorize Romance movement from Chopins' Concerto in E Minor (8 ½ pages) by June 5
    • Status: Abandoned
  2. Do physical therapy or yoga every morning (80 times)
    • Status: Abandoned despite the reward of cheesecake...
  3. Practice piano every morning for 30 minutes at 6am (60 times) by March 31
    • Status: Partially completed (I have a ~ in the checkmark box)
  4. Plant lawn and garden by May 31st
    • Status: I have an indoor tomato plant I grew from a seed. Hoping for a better season in 2023. 
  5. Composition Competition Entry by October 31
    • Status: Abandoned in favor of the Symphonina Competition
In addition to these annual goals, I had a number of smaller projects that came up over time that were also accomplished or abandoned, but they are less interesting and more mundane, such as cleaning and paperwork. 


The Full Focus Planner is worth the cost. The productivity increase and mood boost has been absolutely priceless. I highly recommend this system for everyone whether you are a stay-at-home mom like me or a manager like my husband. They even have a youth version. 

It is so much more than just a planner; it is a way to capture the truth about what you accomplished in a year and to challenge the negative beliefs about yourself and how you spend your time. Everyone has different values and our goals reflect that. 

I hope if you try this system, you also find that you are able to do things you dreamed of accomplishing, such as me orchestrating compositions, but didn't know where to start. 

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know below!

Have a happy New Year!



🎹 Essential Piano Studio Set-Up Guide

December 09, 2022 0 Comments
Essential Piano Studio Set-Up Guide
I started teaching by traveling to homes or schools. More recently, I have been able to put together a small studio in my three-flat with a home studio and virtual option. 

This is a list of essentials to set up your piano studio. I created three lists: Traveling Piano Teacher, Home-Based Piano Teacher, and Virtual/Hybrid Piano Teacher

I sincerely hope this post helps you if you are just starting out on your piano teaching journey.

Traveling Piano Teacher

If you teach at a school, church, or at students' homes, this is the list of items you will need to own or have available for your use:
  1. Reliable transportation 
    • Public transit or a car
  2. Access to a piano or digital piano 
    • Piano must be tuned and in good working order. It must also have a bench and music stand. A digital piano should not be on a table; an X-stand or furniture stand is necessary. It must have a sustain pedal. 
  3. Private space with a waiting area 
    • Especially if you are using a multi-purpose space, you will need to assert that you and your students need quiet and no interruptions. 
  4. Backpack 
    • Durable and comfortable. Space to keep books from bending.
  5. Onsite Storage (permanent classroom)
    • Plastic box 
    • File box
  6. Method Series 
    • Create a system for knowing which books to take to avoid overstuffing your backpack. 
  7. Repertoire Books 
    • Avoid heavy materials and consider making scans of material that both you and your student own. 
  8. Flashcards 
    • Use an old stationery box to prevent bending. 
  9. Stickers 
    • Organize in a 4"x6" photo album. 
  10. Metronome
    • If you are using an acoustic piano, make sure you have a metronome with you. 
  11. Storage at home
    • There's nothing worse than not having a place for your materials to be safely stored. Whether it's a bookcase or storage boxes, make sure that your paper materials will not get bent. Corral loose items and manipulatives into small boxes. I save boxes from mugs that have been gifted to me.
  12. Curriculum 
  13. Prizes
  14. iPad or comparable tablet
    • Optional, but this is helpful for music apps such as Note Rush, Piano Maestro, Rhythm Cat, Treble Cat, or Bass Cat. It is also useful for emailing lesson notes. 

Home-based Piano Teacher

  1. Piano or digital keyboard and bench
  2. Bookcase
    • Hold all of your books and materials in a bookcase, preferably one with cabinet doors at the bottom to hide most of your materials and scores. Keep the shelves organized by decluttering and organizing often. Don't forget to dust!
  3. Method Series 
    • I have my go to method, Piano Adventures, but I also have methods from Alfred, Bastien, Music Tree and others on hand just in case a student needs supplemental repertoire to reinforce a concept or they have a different learning style. 
  4. Metronome
  5. Repertoire Books 
    • Have a wide variety of music ranging from easy to difficult.
  6. Textbooks 
    • Important for referencing information about music without "Googling it".  
  7. Carpeted Space or Area Rug 
    • This provides a comfortable area to play games. 
  8. Rhythm and Movement Accessories 
    • I purchased nylon scarves from Amazon to help with listening activities. 
  9. Stuffed Animals
    • I will often communicate with antsy preschool aged students by use a stuffed animal as a puppet. 
  10. Curriculum 
  11. Prizes

Virtual/Hybrid Piano Teacher

All of the Home-based piano teacher materials and: 
  1. Tripod 
  2. Camera
    • I use the camera on my phone 
  3. Skype 
    • Skype had the best sound quality when paired with an external microphone when comparing it to other available conferencing software. This platform is free. There are companies that offer subscriptions to low-latency conferencing software specifically for music lessons.

My Gear

  • Yamaha P-255 
  • Adjustable Piano Bench from Amazon
  • Manhasset Music Stand
  • Sauder Bookcase
  • Filing Box
  • Ikea Step Stool
  • MacBook Air
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPhone SE (2nd Generation)
  • Tripod
Thank you for reading my Essential Piano Studio Set-Up Guide. I plan to update the links as I create more blog posts detailing items from these lists. Please let me know in the comments if this post helped you and if there are any items you would like me to expand on in a future post. 

Blessings on your piano teaching journey!



πŸ–‹ Sheet Music: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

December 05, 2022 0 Comments


Now available for digital download from Sheet Music Plus and Sheet Music Direct


Play this popular Christmas hymn tune at your church using this unique jazz reharmonization for piano. This lovely arrangement brings this hymn tune into modern times with interesting harmonies and calming arpeggiated chords. Other popular texts include Alleluia Sing to Jesus! and Love Divine All Loves Excelling making this an excellent choice for church services year round. Consider programming this arrangement for prayer and meditation, communion, and special music. The tune is Hyfrydol and has an 87 87 D meter; additional hymn texts also fit this meter.

Click here to listen to my original recording on Soundcloud.

Also available as a fake sheet or jazz combo lead sheet on Sheet Music Plus and Sheet Music Direct



πŸ’‘Aha Moments - The Principle Goal of a Piano Teacher

November 30, 2022 0 Comments
"A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.” - Anonymous

"A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.” 
- Anonymous

My goal as a piano teacher is to teach myself out of a job. 

Sounds strange, right?

I love my students and I love piano teaching, but I want my students to continue playing the piano even after they discontinue lessons. I want them to move beyond my knowledge. I want them to explore the many, many musical topics. 

How does a piano teacher accomplish this? 

The Principle Goal of a Piano Teacher

"The principle goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” 
- Jean Piaget

In her book, The Independent Piano Teacher's Studio Handbook, Beth Klingenstein explains that showing and not teaching creates a dependency on the teacher for every piece they will ever learn. She says, "Ultimately, such dependency means the last piece the student is taught will be the last piece played with accuracy" (156). 

Following this claim, she details many skills piano teacher's must teach their students in order to create independent musicians. 

The topics include how to teach:
  • Practicing
  • Memorizing
  • Performing
  • Timing and Rhythm
  • Technique
  • Sight-Playing
  • Fingering
  • Pedaling
  • Developing the Ear
Wow, what a list! When we shift to this mindset, however difficult, we benefit our students for a lifetime.

Pieces provide a vehicle with which to teach skills, but the end goal is not the pieces themselves, but the ability to learn more and more. Klingenstein goes on to say that pieces are learned faster and more pieces are able to be learned by a student who can effectively train themselves.  

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher . . . is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” 
- Maria Montessori

As I continue to build this blog, my hope is to chronicle my journey learning to teach these and to provide helpful resources and tips for other teachers to in turn cultivate lifelong learners of music. That is the principle goal of a piano teacher.

What are some quotes that have helped you as a teacher? What is your personal response to this post? What are some anecdotes you have about putting this into practice as a teacher? Let me know in the comments!