This post was updated in July 2022.
I spend a lot of time in the car.
While my students don't live particularly far from me, I live in Los Angeles, and traffic is ubiquitous.
Over the last couple of years, the one thing that has made all that driving more bearable is podcasts.
I love to keep a mix of genres in my app: news, business, professional development, inspiring, entertaining, and just plain fun! Below I have compiled a list of some of my favorites, sorted by category.
I'll keep this list updated as I discover new ones too! (Updated July 2022)
If you've been in the online piano teaching space for a while, you are probably aware of most of these, but if you're not, you should definitely be subscribed to these!
The TopCast with Tim Topham--this is by far the best podcast out there for piano teachers. Tim covers a huge span of topics from teaching ideas, to business and marketing. It's really a one stop shop for running a successful piano teaching business.
The Vibrant Music Teaching Podcast with Nicola Cantan--this one is new on the scene, but I love that the episodes are short and sweet. They're about 15 minutes long and get right to the point. You leave each episode with something actionable that you can apply to your business and teaching right away.
The Piano Parent Podcast with Shelly Davis--this podcast is actually directed at parents of piano students, but I think it's a great one for us to listen to as teachers as well. You'll get lots of insights on how to communicate well with the parents in your studio. Definitely recommend this one to your studio parents too!
Key Ideas with Leila Viss--a mix of teaching ideas from Leila Viss and fantastic interviews with industry powerhouses.
There are a million business podcasts out there, and it can get really overwhelming trying to choose one to listen to. Here are a few of my favorites:
Teach Music Online with Carly Walton--Carly Walton has a gift for making technology accessible for even the tech hesitant. Each episode is packed with great business and teaching ideas for online or hybrid teachers, and even those who teach mainly in person.
Music Lesson Business Academy--this podcast is exactly what it sounds like. Danny Thompson owns a music academy in Southern California, and this podcast is full of great advice and in the trenches experience.
The Music Studio Start Up
Happier with Gretchen Rubin--I never miss an episode of Happier. It's kind of like Real Simple Magazine, if it were a podcast. Each week you get tips, hacks, and ideas to make your life happier, healthier, and more efficient.
Happier in Hollywood--This is a sister show to the Happier Podcast, literally. It's hosted by Gretchen Rubin's sister Liz, and her writing partner Sarah. It's a fun look into what business in Hollywood looks like, but even those of us who don't work in television can get a lot of great ideas from this show!
Just for Fun
Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness--Before it was a show on Netflix it was an awesome podcast! Jonathan has this actually really great podcast that tackles all kinds of topic from the difference between British and American English to the impact of family separations at the border on children. He's also interviewed all of his fellow Fab Five cast members.
Office Ladies--This rewatch podcast of The Office with Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey is so much fun. I've learned a lot of fun behind the scenes things, and they often have great guests including fellow cast members, guest actors, directors, and behind the scenes people like the props master.
Lately I've been getting a lot of my news from daily podcasts. Any news outlet you prefer has one at this point. I listen to UpFirst from NPR.
A few years ago, I took a webinar about summer camps and group teaching, and I got SO INSPIRED! (You can check it out here!)
Only one problem: I don't have a studio space.
My house is itty bitty, and where I live, it's really expensive to rent a space. So I was faced with a dilemma: How do I capture the energy, fun, and, let's be honest, income boosting potential of summer camps in my mobile studio?
While I have not abandoned the idea of having everyone meet me at the beach every day for a week, I also understand that a big part of why parents hire a teacher who comes to them is the convenience of not having to drive their children to another activity.
Thus, I came up with a few alternatives:
1. Creative Projects
This idea originated with my colleague Dawn and her Young Composers Program, which totally rocks.
For a small added cost to cover expenses and extra work hours, over the course of the summer, students are coached through creating a polished composition which they notate in notation software and record. At the end of the summer, every participant gets a book of all of the compositions and a CD of everyone playing their pieces. It's a really fun project that students in her studio look forward to every year!
A handful of my students have participated over the years, and they are always so proud of their end product.
For the past couple of years, I've expanded upon this idea in my own studio to facilitate some other creative projects.
Last year I had a student make a video about how the piano works.
This year, I'm offering a "Build Your Own Piano Game" opportunity, inspired by one of my young students who made up a bunch of extra rules to one of my games and made it WAY MORE FUN!
2. Quick Starts/Crash Courses/Bootcamps
With these, I put together a 6 week add-on curriculum to give students a jump start in areas like chord playing, pop music, improvising, and songwriting. They usually take up about half of our regular lesson time, with homework assignments, and a final project.
I'll include some examples in future posts.
3. Music Clubs
I am super excited about this new offering this year, and I'm getting my students pumped up about it too. Basically, these clubs are like virtual summer camps. Students will participate in special activities during their lessons. They'll have ongoing projects that they share with other participants including games and composing activities.
This year I'm planning a Harry Potter Themed "Magical Music Club" because at least half of my studio is as obsessed with Harry Potter as I am.
I'll be sharing a lot more details about this project in the weeks and months to come, so if you're intrigued, stay tuned!
What do you do to mix things up and make a little extra money in the summer? Let me know in the comments.
Have you ever thought about online or video lessons?
To be honest, until very recently, I hadn't. I like teaching in person. My piano space is limited. I don't have room in my budget right now for new tech. I don't need new students or want to extend my teaching hours. I didn't think my families would ever get on board with remote learning.
All of this changed about a month ago when I started the Online Lesson Academy from the Upbeat Piano Teachers.
I've taken many webinars from the Upbeats, and I'd always been so inspired by them. This past summer I took part in their Planning Academy, and it was a whole new experience. The live group coaching format of these Academies is unlike anything else out there right now for piano teachers!
This Online Lesson Academy was so inspiring!
Here's what you get:
What do you learn exactly?
This academy is so jam-packed! You get everything you need to get started teaching online or via video. You'll learn all about the technology needed (and that you probably already have all of the tools you need to get started), different platforms you can use (and exactly how to use them), ideas about scheduling, writing policies, getting parents on board, how the lessons will actually flow, what kind of activities work well in an online format, how to physically set things up at the piano, etc. They really leave no stone unturned.
So what were my favorite parts?
A caveat: do not register for this class if you are in a busy season because it is time consuming. Between the live coaching, the group discussion, and the assignments, you really do need a little time every day (and sometimes a little more than a little) to get the most out of the Academy.
That being said, you do get lifetime access to everything, so you can go back at any time to watch or re-watch videos and complete assignments. The group is archived a couple of weeks after the Academy ends, but you are invited to join the private Upbeat Mastermind Group, where you can always continue the discussion or ask questions as things come up.
My over-all impression: This class is WORTH IT! Even if you're just tossing the idea around in the dreamy part of your brain right now, the practical tools and ideas you get from the Online Lesson Academy can open up some brand new possibilities for your studio and your business.
If you're interested in the Online Lesson Academy, you can get more information here. Registration is currently closed, but they do plan to offer more sessions in the future, so definitely check it out.
Have you ever thought about teaching online or video lessons? If so, what's holding you back?
I've been a little MIA for a while, and that was for a few different reasons:
Now this post is not going to be a downer, I promise, but I know there are a lot of other teachers like me. I've seen this topic come up many times in forums and masterminds. How do you handle running a studio with a chronic illness like Lupus, Lyme Disease, or in my case, Hashimoto's and a few friends (autoimmune diseases like to hang out with each other, so a lot of people get more than one)?
While working for yourself can be taxing, it's actually really great when you have a chronic illness because
YOU MAKE THE RULES!
That's right! We set our policies, and we get to decide how to run our businesses in a way that works for us, and also makes money!
Here are a few things that I do to make my piano studio work for me:
I think the main trick is to simply know yourself, take care of yourself, and be kind to yourself. We do important, sometimes stressful work, but it's not back breaking, and it's totally doable if you approach it with kindness and creativity.
I know this topic sounds super boring, but hear me out.
Over the last few years I have made a MESS of my Dropbox folders. Sure, I at least had the foresight to have a Dropbox, which allowed me to keep all of my teaching resources and digital sheet music in one place that I could access from any device, but that's where my forethought ended.
Does this sound familiar?
When I first started teaching I started following a few blogs and teachers who would offer up cool resources from time to time.
Every time I saw a new free resource, I'd download it and save it to Dropbox. If I didn't have a folder that it seemed to fit in, I'd create a new one.
A few years go by. Now I'm following about a million blogs that all offer the most AMAZING resources, many even for free! I see some really cool free resources, and I download them. If I don't have a good file for them, I create a new one.
As time went on, I was filling my digital file folders with hundreds of awesome resources, but I NEVER USED THEM!
There are a few reasons for this:
1. I didn't know what all I had.
2. I couldn't find things that I was looking for.
3. I never downloaded anything with a purpose.
So what did I do?
1. I went through every single file folder and deleted everything I'd never used, and never planned to use.
2. I made a Master List for every file with brief descriptions of each resource, for easy searching. (This is an idea I got from the Upbeat Planning Academy!)
3. I made myself a promise: I will not download anything that I doesn't currently fill a need in my studio.
If I see something really cool that I don't have use for, it goes on my "Cool stuff I don't need yet" list. Sure, I run the risk of it not being there when I want it, but if I don't have a use for it now, there's a possibility I never will.
So how does this work for me practically? Let's consider the following example:
I have an intermediate-level student who is working on left hand accompaniment patterns, and wants something more modern-sounding than her classical repertoire.
I open my Digital Sheet Music Master List, sort by level, and browse through the "Teaching Points" column to see if I have anything that fits the bill.
Want to try creating a Master List of your own? Download my Master List Templates for Excel and Numbers here:
What's in my bag?
A common question I've seen posed by traveling teachers is: What do you carry with you?
Teachers tend to fall into 3 camps:
1. The Empty-Handed Ones: Some teachers take nothing but their bodies with them to lessons. I once heard a teacher describe how he carried an empty bag with him because he didn't really need anything, but he felt like he should carry something!
2. The Minimalist Ones: Others don't need much, and they have shaved their materials down to the bare minimum: pen, iPad.
3. The Ones with Back Problems: Then you have the teachers who take everything with them everywhere. They have all of the latest and greatest resources, games, manipulatives, rhythm instruments, fancy writing utensils, post-it notes...you get the idea.
I used to fall into camp 3. Every time I got something new, I would just add it to my bag. Overtime, my bag got bigger and heavier and messier, and my back started to ache from all of the weight I was carrying around.
It was a piano parent who saved me. One afternoon, as I was hoisting my two-ton tote bag into the back of my car she asked, "Why don't you just keep everything in your car, and only carry in what you need?"
Holy Mozart! Why had I never thought of this? I like to think of myself as a gifted problem solver, and yet, here I was, giving myself scoliosis from the weight of my teaching bag, and I'd never, ever thought to do this! That day I had what Oprah would call an "Aha Moment."
As soon as I got home, I got to work. I dumped the entire contents of my bag onto the floor of my living room and started sorting into two piles: 1. Things that I need to carry always (pencils, my iPad, assignment sheets, etc.) 2. Things that I could grab as I need them (games, rhythm instruments, etc.)
I also gathered together things that could serve multiple purposes like generic flashcards and these little foam beads that I found at Big Lots for a dollar and I still use for everything.
Today, I'm happy to say, my bag is much smaller and lighter, my games and resources are much more organized, and my back is recovering from all of the strain. Here's a look at what I carry around on a typical day of teaching:
-Accoridan file for the day
-A few games
-a couple pens
-game pieces and dice
-generic flash cards
Which camp do you fall into? What do you carrying in your bag? Let me know in the comments!
I teach piano in California. Here are some of my thoughts.