πŸŽ„Christmas In July

July 21, 2023 0 Comments

Do you remember Christmas in July? TV networks would air all of their Christmas specials in the middle of July and I remember distinctly the suggestion to make peppermint ice cream sandwiches while we watched. 

In my studio, Christmas in July means that it's time to get out the Christmas books and pick pieces and songs. I start this week on July 19 and end on July 25. 

Is it too early? Actually, no. By the time the holidays come up, there is simply not enough time to learn Christmas music for our winter recital and celebrations with family and friends. 

This year, I decorated my studio with a wreath and put little Santa hats on two of my little plushies. 

Requests so far have included Sleigh Ride, The Holly and the Ivy, Silent Night, and O Little Town of Bethlehem.  I have two more lessons coming up during this week, so I will update with the rest! 

Books and sheets I currently own:

  • Sleigh Ride
  • O Holy Night (High Voice)
  • You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
  • Faber Supplemental Series Christmas books - solos and duets, especially Level 4 solos
  • Faber Supplemental Series - Classical Level 3A-3B - Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies
  • George Winston Piano Solos - The Snowman and more
  • Peanuts Illustrated Songbook - This contains transcriptions from A Charlie Brown Christmas

Christmas albums (and specific tracks) I love to listen to: 

  • Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
  • A Fresh Aire Christmas
  • Christmas in the Aire
  • A Family Christmas by John Tesh - Carol of the Bells
  • Kenny G Miracles: The Holiday Album
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Home Alone soundtrack
  • Winter - George Winston
  • Linus & Lucy - George Winston - Skating and Linus & Lucy
  • Forest - George Winston - Music from The Snowman
  • Elf Soundtrack - The Nutcracker Suite by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
  • 1996/ Ryuichi Sakamoto - Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

When do you start teaching Christmas music? What are your favorite carols or songs to teach, play, and listen to?



🎼 First In-Person Piano Recital

July 19, 2023 0 Comments

On June 3rd, my studio presented our first in-person piano recital. Since I recently opened my own small business out of my home, I only had 2 students for a year and a half, including my 6-year-old daughter. But in March, my current student's brother joined! Then, their mom, who also plays piano, joined us for the performance and we presented a 30-minute piano recital complete with a reception. 

This was my students' first time playing a baby grand piano; up until then, they practiced on my Yamaha digital piano and their Kawai digital piano. I made sure to give them a warm up time to get used to the piano first. I also gave them a pep talk to relax, to know we're all supporting them, and to ultimately play for the Lord and share the joy of music. 

Performing Bonfire


Only my students' family joined us from out of town, but that was okay! I made a livestream using my church's camera and YouTube channel and our long distance family members and guests who were unable to come in person were able to watch!

At the end of the recital, each participant received a prize from my prize box!

Refreshments at the end were provided by my family and my students' family. We had an assortment of cookies and ginger ale/pineapple juice punch. 

I used one of Joy Morin's program templates, which I will link below. 

Here is the program (with last names redacted):

This recital was very fun! 

What did you do for your piano recitals this spring? 



πŸ“• Review: 10 Keynotes of Piano Pedagogy

July 12, 2023 0 Comments
Wanda Landowska at Chopin's Piano - Public Domain

For some reason, when I put Chopin's name in the title of this post, the thumbnail will not show up on my main page. So this should be titled 10 Keynotes of Frederic Chopin's Piano Pedagogy

I recently read Chopin: pianist and teacher as seen by his pupils by Jean-Jacques Eigeldinger. Chopin had about 150 pupils in total, which is pretty incredible considering his many compositions and performances; and, he only lived until he was 39. In this book, his students share their experiences and the specific teachings of Chopin.

Here are the 10 most important takeaways that I'm actively applying. 

  1. Teaching Hand Shape

  2. Many methods teach beginners to pretend they are holding a ball or apple under their hands. Others mention keeping your fingers rounded, playing on fingertips, and keeping your wrist level.

    Chopin's instructions were to place fingers 2, 3, and 4 on the three black keys. Then place fingers 1 and 5 on the black keys. This is your natural hand shape. To play on the white keys only, gently pull your hand towards you and maintain the hand shape.

    Forearms should be level with the piano and the wrist needs to stay flexible. In addition to that, he taught that the 2nd finger was the center of the hands; turning my hand out has actually helped with playing his music, but it is awkward to maintain since that is not how I learned.

  3. Singing with the Fingers and Breathing with the Wrist

  4. You must sing if you wish to play - Chopin

    Chopin was a huge fan of opera singers and specifically the bel canto style of singing. By singing our piano pieces, we can hear our natural tendency to crescendo and decrescendo, to take extra time preparing for leaps, and have a freedom from the accompaniment to push and pull the tempo; an effective way to learn how to play rubato.

    Along with singing with the fingers, Chopin also taught students to create the impression of human breathing. He taught students not to lift their hands too quickly and would ask,

    Did it burn you?

    Legato playing was also emphasized. Playing detached would lead to Chopin asking if they were hunting pigeons.

  5. Teaching Rubato

  6. I don't know about you, but when I was taught rubato, the only definition I had was to push and pull the tempo. Listening to interpretations of Romantic music, I would often hear the artist use both hands simultaneously to push and pull the tempo. This sounded great to me! However, my execution often ended up being a cover for my less than stellar sense of rhythm and maintaining an even, steady beat.

    How did Chopin teach rubato? He noticed that singers didn't always stick with the accompanist's tempo, therefore his definition of rubato is the melody is free from metrical constraints leading to the artist being able to freely express their feelings.

    So, if you thought teaching hand independence was difficult, just wait until you teach rubato for Chopin's compositions!

  7. Inspiring Students

  8. Chopin used images to convey emotion. Chopin's own imagery included 

    • For legato - avoid a pigeon hunt
    • For staccato - think of pizzicato or plucking a string and grazing the key like a fly brushing it with it's wing

    I have practically applied this by telling beginner students that spiders can only crawl with rounded legs. Don't be a smashed spider! Use a hammer-like touch for accents and forte, but gently pet a cat to create soft sounds.

  9. Playing Pieces for Students

  10. Chopin would play piano pieces, including his own compositions, many times for his students in full. This is encouragement to us to also play for our students! Don't be shy! I think we may focus more on how to get through the method material or marking up the students' scores, but students need to see how technique and expression are applied.

  11. Advocating for Shorter Practice Times

  12. Chopin advocated for practice sessions to be no longer than 2 hours a day. He actually was angry with a student for reporting practicing longer than that. Why? Because he was very against being mechanical and he believed practicing more than 2 hours caused the student to lose expression and musicality to exhaustion.

  13. Being Self-Taught Is Not a Weakness

  14. I spend time on Reddit's r/piano subreddit. Many users have reported being told that they will have created too many bad habits from self-teaching that a teacher will not accept them into their studio.

    I will admit, I was self-taught for my early years. I did have bad habits. I, perhaps wrongly, perceived my high school piano teacher reluctantly taking me on as a student given my patchy background. Why can't we as piano teachers have the patience to help a student sort out bad habits? Are we worried about tarnishing our reputation? 

    Chopin was self-taught and his eventual piano teacher was a violinist. See how that worked out for him? A well-respected composer, teacher, and performer, remembered nearly 200 years after his death. Please don't underestimate self-taught individuals.

    In my own story, after a failed audition for a university, my dad recalls I was told that I didn't have the expected background of a future music major. When a different college accepted me, I thought it was because they felt bad for me and unfortunately, I carried that sadness for many, many years. I didnt feel as though I belonged and that I was simply given the spot because the professors felt bad for me. Kindness is free. Imagine how a student can thrive if they have your encouragement.

  15. Purpose of Technique Books

  16. Chopin was not a fan of training mechanical technique. Technique and expression work together. Therefore, the technique exercises he preferred weren't trying to create a perfect evenness between fingers, but challenging artistry to shine through even the most difficult passages. He actually prized the individuality in tone each finger could produce. We can hear that in his Etudes. They are performance literature for a reason! Practically speaking, Chopin assigned Clementi's PrΓ©ludes et Exercises and Gradus, Cramer Γ‰tudes, and Moscheles Op. 95 or 70 for technique.

  17. Expression over Accuracy

  18. From the earliest levels, I have been drilling this into my students. Better to focus on the dyanmics, articulations, and putting your emotions into music than play robotic, trying to be perfect, and correct any and every mistake. I ask for my students to continue playing despite mistakes, cover the mistake if they are able, and, since we are still practicing the piece, we go back in and work on the problem spot. This is to train them to perform. We all make mistakes when we are performing; develop the skill of covering and the audience will not notice.

  19. Finding Joy in Piano Teaching

  20. Have you ever been told

    Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

    Ridiculous, I know that now, but I was told by a student that his grandpa said that about me. His grandpa didn't know me, but even if he did, those words are not true. Chopin stopped giving performances due to anxiety about being on stage (another way I related to him!), but I don't think any of us would consider him someone who "can't" simply because he became a teacher full-time. He gave excellent performances of his works to his students. He continued composing. Teaching is an amazing career and rewarding. Don't let someone undermine your accomplishments.

  • Bonus! Chopin's Curriculum
  • Specifically lesser known repertoire

    • John Field
      1. Concertos 1, 3, 4
      2. Nocturnes
    • Weber
      1. Sonatas in C (op. 24)
      2. Sonatas in A-flat (op. 39)
    • Hummel
      1. Rondo brilliant op. 98
      2. La Bella Capriciosa, op. 55
      3. Sonata in F# minor, op. 81
      4. Concertos in A minor and B minor
      5. Septet op. 74

    In conclusion, I found these points to be so encouraging and helpful for practical applications and for creating a positive mindset. I highly recommend picking up this book. It is priced as a textbook, so I suggest doing what I did: use your library or your library's interlibrary loan service to borrow a copy.

    What books have helped you grow as a piano teacher? Please share them in the comments!



πŸ‘©πŸΌ‍πŸ’» Creating a Studio Website for $6 a month

July 05, 2023 0 Comments

Do you remember Geocities, the free Yahoo! websites? In the early 2000s, people would make "What You See Is What You Get" pages featuring dancing GIFs, tacky font, and tie-dye inspired backgrounds. Ah, those were the days. 

I loved making GeoCities websites.  One day, I decided to use the HTML editor with the help of the HTML help page for kids, Lissa Explains It All (referencing the Nickelodeon TV show, Clarissa Explains It All). Believe it or not, that website still exists in all it's vintage glory and the HTML help still works. 

Armed with my basic HTML and CSS knowledge, I made all sorts of websites and uploaded my original art. I collected cool MIDI files of my favorite music and linked them to drop-down menus so you could listen to music while you looked at my page. Building websites was a great hobby and served me well when I applied for jobs that needed website support. 

When I decided to open my own business in 2020, I needed minimal start-up costs. Covid was not easy for anyone and my husband was on furlough for the foreseeable future. 

Enter Neocities

Neocities' goal is 

"to enable you to harness the creativity, beauty, and power of creating your own web site. To rebuild the web we lost to automation and monotony, and make it fun again."

The basic account is free with no ads. That's even a step up from Geocities which would have a sidebar ad. You do need to code it yourself and you can't use a domain name until you become a supporter. But, if you don't mind it looking like an early 2000s website, you may get away with basic HTML from Lisa Explains It All. I built my website with the help of a free Bootstrap tutorial I found using a Google search which brought my page into the 2020s!

A supporter account from Neocities costs $5 per month. The next step was to make a domain name. I bought a Google Domain name for $12/year. 

Now I have a website that I built myself that is online for only $6/month. I am pretty proud of this accomplishment if I do say so myself! If you are good at teaching yourself new skills, I highly recommend this route as an option to save money. 

Click here to see my website

If you have a website, how did you create it and host it? 



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.