The Best Piano Teacher in Town Free – Preschool Webinar 

The Best Piano Teacher in Town Free Preschool Webinar 

Sign up for the webinar

Wednesday, February 5, 2020, 12:00 pm ET

Imagine having a great time teaching preschoolers. Teaching little kids on the keys. Imagine those lessons are so much fun that you could teach eight three-and-a-half and four-year-olds back to back and feel energized and inspired. Imagine that you are really teaching them music, they love it and their parents are not just happy but thrilled. Imagine you can’t wait to get to work because it’s so much fun and the time flies by.


This is what I posted 2 years ago…

This isn’t only possible, this is my life. I left my well-established studio of beginning through advanced students behind. I said goodbye to West Palm Beach Florida and came to Cleveland Ohio ready to start teaching. I have a home studio but I also teach three days a week an arts center that is famous for Kindermusik, as a result, I have 25 students (so far) 19 of whom are four years old or younger. I love it and here’s why.

Fast Foward 2 years and I am still teaching almost all of those preschoolers who are now reading music, playing well, and loving the piano!!

Continue reading “The Best Piano Teacher in Town Free – Preschool Webinar “

Piano Students with Challenging Attitudes


My second son Johnny is musically gifted and like his mom he loves music. He has always been a super-sweet kid, although when he was younger, he was a bit on the shy side. When he was 12 years old, I took him to a new guitar teacher. Being a quiet person, Johnny didn’t say much during the lesson with his new teacher. The teacher took this the wrong way, he told me he was sensing an “attitude problem.”

I knew that my son did not have an “attitude problem” although, I could see how his teacher may have perceived it that way. I explained to the teacher that Johnny loved the guitar he was just a quiet kid. Things went better after that. (I also took this opportunity to teach my son about trying to be more outgoing.)


This situation made me think about my own students. I knew there were times that I had also struggled with what I had perceived as student attitude problems. I came to the realization that if someone could misread my child, I could certainly be misreading my students as well. I also pondered the idea that if indeed a student had an attitude problem there might be a reason behind it, and there might be something I could do to make the situation better.

My job as a teacher is to reach people, this means that I have to dig deep to discover who my students are, and what makes them tick. Because my ultimate goal is to teach as many students as possible to play the piano well.


What is an “Attitude” Anyway


“The way that you think and feel about somebody/something; the way that you behave towards somebody/something that shows how you think and feel.” Oxford Dictionary

Obviously, an attitude can be good or challenging. But it’s a challenging attitude that presents the problem. As a teacher, it can be really frustrating trying to teach students who are rude, sarcastic, sassy, or withdrawn. As a human being, it is natural to find such situations troublesome. There are, however, ways to make things easier.


Take a step back-Put it into perspective

“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

 Dealing with students with attitude problems is indeed annoying but it’s not the end of the world. I may not have control of how my student is behaving at any given moment, but I do have control over how I respond and over how it affects me. When dealing with a challenging attitude I try my best to say calm and carry on with the lesson. I want to give myself some time to decide how I will address the situation.


Observe Don’t Absorb

If a student is being rude, making comments, or displaying unsettling body-language I imagine myself as an observer. I don’t absorb the negativity. As the teacher, my job is to teach my student how to play the piano. In order to do this, I need to be a problem solver. I need to find out why my student appears unhappy, unmotivated or both. Going forward, I try to do my best to discover what is bothering my student.


It’s not always possible to turn things around

 Before I delve into problems and solutions, I feel that I need to admit that while I have been able to solve many “attitude problems” I have not been able to solve them all. It’s important to accept the fact that some things are outside of our control.


Here are some of the challenging attitudes I have come across and how I was able to deal with them.


The Quiet Student

This student won’t speak, he avoids answering questions or just nods or gives one-word responses making the lesson feel very long and uncomfortable.

This student may simply be shy or self-conscious. He may need some time to warm up to me and to the situation. In this case, I greet the student warmly, but I try not to talk too much. I stick to teaching and talking about music. As time goes on this type of student usually starts being more interactive.


The Angry Student

Sometimes a quiet student also seems angry. She may not want to be at a piano lesson. Some kids are compelled by parents to take lessons. This can be a very difficult situation because when asked the student will often say that she wants to take lessons. Especially if mom or dad is right there.

With this type of student, I try my best to inspire her and win her over. I sometimes can appeal to her by saying that since she has to be at a piano lesson why not make the best of it. In the end, it is usually possible to work with a student even if she is not that excited about piano lessons. I will continue to work with a student who will practice, be respectful, and show some sense of goodwill. If I find that the lessons are very uncomfortable or that the student is not making progress, I will let them go.


The Student Who Hates Piano Lessons

In my 35-year teaching career, I have had a few students come right out and tell me they don’t want anything to do with the piano. I totally understand this. There are many wonderful activities that I would never want to be involved in (like sky diving, long-distance running, or worse, sewing). When this comes up, I talk to parents about putting their child into an activity they will find more to their liking. I explain to parents that if their child is not interested in learning the piano and will not practice at home, they are wasting their time and money. If all else fails I put them on what I call the “last chance program.”

See the post, “Time to Say Goodbye”


The Rude Student

Sometimes, students are just plain rude. They talk back, make snide comments, or even mock me. Sometimes these kids are so crafty that I might not even realize right away that I have been insulted. Other times, it’s not what they say but the way they say it that makes my blood pressure rise. This type of behavior must be nipped in the bud immediately.  I have tried using a bit of gentle humor to get the point across that a student’s comments or behavior are unacceptable. Other times I let piano students with challenging attitudes know that they need to turn things around and act more appropriately.

There may be many reasons why a student will behave rudely. It may be that they are accustomed to talking to their friends and family in a sassy manner. Some students even think they are being funny. The bottom line is that as teachers, we deserve to be treated with respect. In fact, we must have the respect of our students if we are to be effective teachers.



The Clown

I love funny kids! I really appreciate a good sense of humor but not so much during piano lessons. We only have thirty minutes to an hour to work and quite a bit to accomplish, so while a little jocularity might be amusing, we just don’t have time for a lot of fooling around.

I have found that a student may clown around because he is nervous or anxious. At times a student acts up as a diversion because he is unprepared for the lesson. Some kids are natural comedians and love to joke around. If I feel that a student clowning because he is feeling uncomfortable, I do my best to put him at ease. After that. I remind my little jokester that the clock is ticking, and we have to get to work.


Challenges are part of the job

As teachers facing challenges of all kinds is what we do. From musical and technical issues to attitude and motivational issues we have to come up with creative ways to educate our students. I do my best to be patient with my students and with myself and look at challenges as an interesting part of the job of piano teaching. As piano teachers, we have a long-lasting impact on people’s lives. Our job is important and rewarding.


As for Johnny

 My son John is grown with three kids of his own. He isn’t shy anymore he teaches music and plays professionally.

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Beginning Piano Improvisation Activities

This post will explore beginning piano improvisation activities and why improvisation is so important.

Objectives, For students to feel comfortable making their own music. To inspire creativity. To build confidence and comfort at the keyboard.

“Improvise means make it up as I go along

I can play some music, and improvise a song”

Improvisation is an important part of learning to become a musician. Improvisation helps build ear training, technique, and creativity. Improvising also makes the student comfortable at the piano. Not to mention the fact that improvisation is fun!


Here are my favorite beginning piano improvisation activities I use with my youngest students.

  1. Use the black keys to improvise beautiful music that features the pentatonic scale. Have your student hold the pedal down (or hold it for him).
  2. Have your student improvise a melody to a simple poem.
  3. Play an improvised musical phrase and have your student “answer” with their own improvised phrase
  4. Use pictures or other objects (prompts) to spark improvisational ideas.
  5. Suggest a set of notes for your student to use while improvising (for example C, E, F, and G).
  6. Suggest rhythmic patterns for improvising
  7. Suggest that your student improve using right, left or both hands.
  8. Read a story and let your student improvise the background music
  9. Improvise using different sounds on a digital piano
  10. Watch a video of a famous artist playing and let your student “Play along” with the artist in the video. 

The sooner you start beginning piano improvisation activities with your students the more comfortable they will be. Improvisation helps students to feel confident and creative. Most people associate musical improvisation with Jazz. This is because Jazz relies heavily on improvisation. But any style of music can be improvised.

Improvisation has many benefits, it helps students to feel comfortable at the keyboard. Being able to improvise means that if you have trouble during a performance you can keep going. It means you always have something to play.

Improvisation builds strong technique, strong aural skills, and flexibility. Improvisation leads to music composition. Improvisation is a critical part of becoming a musician.

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Read my book “The Happiest Piano Teacher in Town”

Practice Makes Progress

Chapter 18 – From “The Happiest Piano Teacher in Town-Empowering Teachers to Inspire Students”

Practice makes progress.

“Our aim needs to be the nurturing of children. The moment we rigidly convince ourselves, “Education is what we’re after,” we warp a child’s development. -1-  First foster the heart, then help the child acquire ability. This is indeed nature’s proper way.”

        — Shinichi Suzuki, Nurtured by Love

Getting People to Practice

This is big. Really big!!

In fact, everything I have written in this book so far leads up to this crucial point. From cultivating our own positive mindset to having a Teaching Blueprint, everything we do all leads to setting students up for success. Success means learning. In order to learn, students must practice at home. Without at-home practice, students cannot be successful. Without at-home practice, I cannot foster a joyful studio.

As teachers, we all know the importance of practice.  But for some reason, the idea of at-home practice escapes many students and their parents. I think this may be in part because piano lessons are one of the few extra-curricular activities that require practice outside of actual class time.

Parents aren’t used to having to make children practice baseball at home every day. However, students must practice the piano at home regularly. And this requires some hard work. Piano practice in and of itself is hard work—very hard work that most average people (especially children and teenagers) would prefer not to do. I make a big point to tell my students to listen to their parents when they ask them to practice. I tell them not to argue with mom or dad or promise to practice later. I follow this up with “and say thank you to mom for bringing you to piano lessons and reminding you to practice. Imagine how you are going to feel in a few years when you can play really well!”

Getting young kids to practice requires that parents help or at least remember to remind them to practice. This can be a tall order for busy families. Those of us who are parents also know that it is not easy to get kids to do things they would rather not do. Our students and parents need our guidance and support in order for consistent and careful practice to take place.

Read the Post “10 Tips for Accurate Piano Playing”

Nothing makes me feel happier and more joyful than students who actually practice. Students who come to their lessons prepared and ready to work on new skills and materials. When my students practice at home, the lessons are so much more fun to teach. Parents are happy, recitals go well, and students don’t consider quitting.

Continue reading “Practice Makes Progress”

Evaluating Piano Student Progress

“What is measured gets improved” Peter Drucker

Evaluating Piano Student Progress

The school year is drawing to a close. The kids are counting down the days, so are their teachers.

For most piano teachers this means year-end recitals and getting ready for the summer teaching schedule.  For school-aged students, the end of the school year is a milestone. They receive year-end grades and test scores. Children get promoted (hopefully) or move on to new schools.

Yes, indeed though we are only halfway through the calendar year the end of school is a time of transition. A time to reflect on progress made during the year gone by and look forward to the future. A time for students to take a look at what they have accomplished and evaluate themselves. A time to celebrate what they have done well and plan to make future improvements. The perfect time for evaluating piano student progress.

As a teacher, this information is useful for me as well. I want to make sure I am teaching all the skills and concepts necessary for my students to become accomplished musicians. (Of course, not every category is applicable to every student.)

Read the Post- “The Value of Independent Piano Work”

Assignment Book

I have each student keep an assignment that we write in each week. This makes it easy to go back and see what has been assigned and completed.


Progress Worksheet


I use this worksheet to help with evaluating piano student progress.






Here are some of the things to look at when evaluating piano student progress,

  1. Technique-Make a list of the scales, arpeggios, and technical exercises that have been covered. How many can be played from memory?
  2. Repertoire-List the pieces you have learned to completion. List any accompanying or ensemble playing you have done.
  3. Music Theory-Make a list of music theory concepts learned throughout the year. Include things like musical terms, key and time signatures, musical form or any other music theory that may have been learned. Ear training can be included in this list.
  4. Music reading-Compare your reading skills with your reading skills at the beginning of the school year. Notice any improvement you have made in your sight-reading level.
  5. Musicianship-Consider any general musicianship skills you have worked on or improved throughout the year such as. Learning to play using chords, improvisation, playing by ear, or composition.
  6. Music History/Listening-What did you learn about composers, genres, and/or periods of music history? Make a list you have probably learned much more than you realize.
  7. Performances/Festivals-Have you played in performances of any kind? Recitals or church services? How about accompanying? Have you made any recordings or videos of your playing?


Evaluating piano student progress may be surprising,

I’ll bet that your student will probably be surprised (hopefully pleasantly surprised) at how much has been accomplished throughout the school year. For some students, this may be a “reality check” letting them know that they need to work a little harder in the future.

Lastly, the end of this school year is an opportunity to set goals for the summer and for the coming school year. You may want to let your students take a week to consider what goals are important to them. Ask them to imagine where they might be with their playing at this time next year.

At the next lesson sit down with your students, go through the skills listed above and set some goals. With younger students, you may want mom or dad to weigh in while setting goals for the coming year.

Keep the Piano Progress Sheet in front of the student’s notebook. At the end of the next school year take it out and see how this year went.


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Still trying to Please Everyone? Stop it You Can’t

I had almost forgotten.

It’s been a little while since I’ve been hit with a dose of negativity. Things have been going pretty well lately. I got a job at a studio I love and I’ve picked up quite a few students in my home studio too. All of them happy. Parents, students, everyone’s been really great! Full of compliments and tidings of goodwill. Still trying to please everyone? stop it you can’t.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday…I got the worst email I have ever received from a parent, ever! (and for me ever is over 30 years).

Here’s what happened.

Continue reading “Still trying to Please Everyone? Stop it You Can’t”

The Best Piano in Teacher Town – Preschool Webinar

The Best Piano Teacher in Town Free Preschool Webinar 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020, 12:00 pm ET

Imagine having a great time teaching preschoolers. Teaching little kids on the keys. Imagine those lessons are so much fun that you could teach eight three-and-a-half and four-year-olds back to back and feel energized and inspired. Imagine that you are really teaching them music, they love it and their parents are not just happy but thrilled. Imagine you can’t wait to get to work because it’s so much fun and the time flies by.


This is what I posted 2 years ago…

This isn’t only possible, this is my life. I left my well-established studio of beginning through advanced students behind. I said goodbye to West Palm Beach Florida and came to Cleveland Ohio ready to start teaching. I have a home studio but I also teach three days a week an arts center that is famous for Kindermusik, as a result, I have 25 students (so far) 19 of whom are four years old or younger. I love it and here’s why.

Fast Foward 2 years and I am still teaching almost all of those preschoolers who are now reading music, playing well, and loving the piano!!

Continue reading “The Best Piano in Teacher Town – Preschool Webinar”

10 Great Things to do with Chopsticks


Like most teachers, I always have an eye out for things that I can use when I am teaching. I came across a great set of twenty Chopsticks in the dollar store. Not only are they just the right weight to be used as rhythm sticks, they are also durable, nice looking and safe to use near the piano. At ten-cents a set, I simply couldn’t pass them up. Now, I find myself using them almost every day, especially with my younger students. Here are some of the ways my students and I use chopsticks to have fun and learn about music. Here’s the post, “10 Great Things to do with Chopsticks.”

  • We practice tapping a steady beat along with you or with the metronome.

  • We sing the words to whatever piece is being learned while we click the chopsticks to a steady beat.

  • I sing the note-names to a piece as I follow along using a chopstick to tap each note on the page as I go. (each quarter note gets one tap: two for the half notes etc.)

  • We mix it up and click the chopsticks together on quarter notes, tap the bench for half notes, and shake the chopsticks in the air for rests.

  • I use a Chopstick to point to random notes and markings on the page and have my student tell me what the note is or what the marking means.

  • We have fun learning basic conducting patterns while listening to some great music.

  • I have my student place chopsticks under rhythmic values to provide a hands-on visual example of the value of each note.

  • We play a copycat game, playing rhythmic sequences and playing them back to one another.

  • We click and tap rhythm examples from a Chopstick rhythm worksheet. This can be done with or without the metronome. We can increase the tempo to make the patterns more challenging.

“10 Great Things to do with Chopsticks”

The Chopsticks work out great. The activities really help my students to grasp basic rhythmic concepts and learn to keep a steady beat. They are a perfect change of pace when a student needs a break from playing from the book. Students can do the Chopstick activities right on the piano bench no extra space is needed. They fit easily into the piano activity bag that I take with me when I teach. Best of all, they are so inexpensive each of my students can have their own set.

Check out the new “Preschool Activities Book”

But wait! Those are only nine great things you can do with Chopsticks and I promised “10 Great Things to do with Chopsticks”

   Sorry, I just couldn’t resist:)

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Here are the exact chopsticks I found at a store called “Just a Buck” in Cleveland they were a pack of 20 for $1. I found this pack of 40 on Amazon. You can use any type you like.

Love Will Keep Us Together

I have one, most all important wish for every person (adult or child) who comes into my studio to begin piano lessons. That is, that they fall in love with the piano. Why? Because I know only that if they truly love the piano will they be able to persevere through the tremendous amount of work and sacrifice it takes to learn to play the piano well and discover they joy playing will bring them. That’s why I believe it is important that we are always helping students fall in love with the piano. Love will keep us together.


Loving the Lesson

I strive to make piano lessons the highlight of each student’s week. I want my students to look forward to their piano lessons. I want each student and their parents to enjoy their lesson so much that they literally don’t want to miss. How do I try to accomplish this?

Love will keep us together.

As much as possible I try to be physically and mentally ready for teaching. I know I need to be well rested, fed, and be ready to be fully present with each student. I make it a point to say I am really excited to see each student as they come through the door. One thing that really helps with this is to take notice something about them. I’ll say “Look at the flowers on your dress”, “You have a new backpack”. This almost always wins me a smile, people love to be acknowledged.

I try to make the lessons fun by varying activities. For younger beginners, this means lots of hands-on activities in addition to learning from the book. For older beginners, we do some ear training, and improvisation along with working through Method books, Scales, and Theory. I play a for my students at every lesson. I show them how much fun it is and how much I love it. I am hoping that my enthusiasm for the piano rubs off on them. I hope I am helping students fall in love with the piano.

“If playing the piano was easy…”

All of my students can finish that sentence. “Everyone would do it!” I never tell my students that learning to play the piano is easy. It isn’t. In fact, I believe it’s one of the most difficult projects that one can take on. How does this help them fall in love with the piano? First of all, I think it’s important not to set them up for false expectations. I want them to know that because learning the piano is a ton of work they are not doing something wrong. Second, doing something that is difficult is rewarding. Try to make my students feel like they are part of an elite club, the piano players club. This is one way I go about helping students fall in love with the piano.

The First Year

I believe establishing a love for the piano in the first year of lessons is super important. For this reason, I concentrate on teaching my students to get playing. For most students, this means learning to read and count proficiently and playing with both hands. We work on lots of ear training and improvisation as well. My goal is to have them see and feel that they are making good progress. I hold off on scales and arpeggios until year two, after my students learn to enjoy playing music.

Read the post “What Kind of Piano Teacher are You Anyway?”


People need inspiration. People need a dream. They need to see and hear how amazing it will be when they begin to reach their goals. As teachers, we are our students first example of someone who can play. It helps our students to see and hear us play, in the lesson, at recitals, in concerts, at church, school or wherever else we perform. It is also really inspiring for students (and parents) to see more advanced students playing. This proves that they can reach the goal of learning to play well. Having studio recitals really helps with this, I also keep some videos of my best students handy to show the newer students. Lastly, I show I show my students videos of great pianists this is so inspiring. I want my students to enjoy every aspect of the journey while at the same time dream of how it will feel when they can play the piano well.

“Where loves is deep”

“Where love is deep much can be accomplished” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki.

I love this quote from Dr. Suzuki. It is so true. I love the piano, I love teaching people to play the piano and most of all I love my students. All of this love goes a long way toward helping them discover the love that will keep them going through the many hours and years it takes to learn to play the piano. It all comes down to helping students to fall in love with the piano. Then we can be sure that “Love will keep us together.”

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How and Why to Teach Folk Music to Piano Students

<img src="img_kodaly_bartok.jpg" alt="Kodaly and bartok">
Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly

Folk Music, by definition, is the music of the people. It is simple enough that the average person can perform it and it reflects the lives and concerns of its people. Every culture has its own folk music; Music that has been handed down through generations and has endured the test of time. Here is how and why to teach filk music to piano students.

Intriguing and mysterious, folk music is rich with historical references and imagery. Though we rarely know who composed a particular song, there is almost always a story that goes along with it. Folk music can tell us so much about a historical period and the people of that time.

Read the post “Helping Students Fall in Love With the Piano”


Because of its singable, melodic lines and its basic harmonic structure, folk music lends itself to endless compositional and improvisational possibilities. Many (if not all) of the greatest composers were influenced by folk music. Most notably, Brahms who was fascinated with folk music and Bartok, who together with Zoltan Kodaly, (pictured above) tracked down and cataloged thousands of folk songs of Hungary and Romania.


Folk music is wonderful in so many ways! I believe it is a treasure that should continue to be passed along to our children. Here are some of the ways I make folk music a part of my studio.


How and why to teach folk music to piano students.


1 – I find, or write arrangements of folk songs for my students to play. My students and I always investigate the history of each song so that they can learn something about its cultural background. This can include locating the place the song comes from on a map and reading a bit about the area and its people.

2 – We take a look at the lyrics or the translation of the lyrics and discuss interesting new vocabulary that might be included. (Warning! Always check the lyrics beforehand. Some folk songs are not appropriate for children.)

3 – I ask my students and their parents about their own family’s traditional folk music. My students love to play music that is a part of their family history.

4 – Folk songs are a great starting point for improvisation and composition. I like to take an easy folk song and improvise a new melody. Most folk music uses only the I-IV-V or V7 harmonization. I take this opportunity to introduce some chord substitutions and have students experiment with alternative harmonies.


Download the free piano duet “Los Pollitos”


Folk music: the music of the people. Nothing is more personal to a culture than its music. Wherever there are people, there is also music. To celebrate, to grieve, to dance, work or rest there is music. In times of peace or strife and from the beginning of life to the end there is a song. What better way is there to connect with humanity; To listen and hear the heart and soul of a people and to teach our children to do the same.


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