Author: admin

When it comes to running my studio, I am always looking for the next big challenge. Just when I’ve taken my business to the next level, I’m ready to tackle something new and a little bit scary.

Taking a look back, here are some of the adventures I’ve experienced in the last two years: leaving a fantastic job to take my part-time studio full-time, completely remodeling my studio to better meet the needs of my family and my students, and hiring a subcontractor to expand my business.

Of course, there have been bumps in the road along the way, but overall, each adventure has made for a more successful studio…which is why I’m getting ready for the next one.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

In the November issue of Clavier’s Piano Explorer (a wonderful little magazine for piano students), there was an article on creating good practice habits. The challenge was for students to practice 100 days in a row. Students that completed the challenge get to have their names printed in a future issue of the magazine. To motivate my students to develop the habit of practicing every day, I adopted the 100-day challenge in my studio, offering prizes to those who complete the challenge. In addition, I decided to take the challenge as well!

Recently I completed the challenge along with a handful of students. Practicing every day became a habit that I made time for. Part of committing to the challenge meant that practice did indeed have to happen every day, no matter what – like brushing your teeth. For students that went on vacation and had no access to a piano, listening to a recording of their piece was an optional substitute for practice, but only if absolutely necessary.

A few years ago, back when I used to travel to my students’ homes to teach lessons, I tried an experiment. I thought it might be fun to be able to hear themselves playing or singing a piece they had mastered, so I brought alone my laptop computer and a USB microphone.

The results were mixed; while most students LOVED the idea of recording themselves, not all of them enjoyed actually hearing themselves. But what I discovered was that no matter how much they enjoyed or disliked it, having my students listen to their performances was an excellent teaching tool.

Festival, exam and competition season is upon us. How do you prepare your students for these events? I take this part of my teaching very seriously, mostly because I had a negative experience at a music exam as a student myself. My first piano teacher registered me for a piano exam and I had absolutely no idea what to expect, was not coached on any of the components of the exam, and left feeling like a failure. Luckily, I did not lose my drive for music and instead found a much more competent teacher who took the time to make sure I was prepared. What I learned from her was invaluable to me as both a performer and teacher. Most of this is common sense, but I would like to share some of my ideas.

Recently I was at a doctor’s appointment and was asked what I do for a living. I told my doctor I taught piano. He was very interested and asked many questions, which is typically the response I get whenever I share about my profession. However, as I later reflected on the conversation, I thought that perhaps I could have been more savvy. I often get too wordy and perhaps go into details that are unnecessary and time-consuming.

The experience prompted me to brush up on my “elevator conversation.” An elevator talk is a powerful, compelling, but concise explanation of what you do (or if you are looking for a job, what you want to be doing). Additionally, it can be crafted for different audiences or events, such as interviews or conferences. Its title refers to the length of an elevator ride, meaning that it lasts for about 20 – 30 seconds. Within that time, one should be be able to give the “big picture” about their business that is memorable and clear, sparking curiosity. The goal is for the person with whom you’re speaking to say, “tell me more!”