Big Dreams Concert 2015

It’s true. Dreams don’t Work unless you do. That’s why we are busy WORKING already to prepare for the Big Dreams Concert 2015. You may have read about our concerts in David Cutler’s new book, The Savvy Music Teacher. Well, those are not just words. We actually put on a show every year where music students and professional artists work together. Save the date for this year’s event: Sunday, Dec. 20th at 6pm at the Red Clay Theater in Duluth, GA. Check out our concert trailer and if you LIKE it, well you know what to do!!!


Food For The Music Teacher’s Soul: Performing Live

As music teachers we spend hours preparing lessons, music learning games, and performances for our students. After doing an adequate amount of scouring music teaching blogs and piano teaching blogs, and attending student concerts and recitals there is little time left to devote to our own musical development. The interesting thing is that the missing ingredient in most music teachers’ studio marketing plans is consistent performance by the teacher!  I will speak specifically as a piano teacher, but what I am saying is true no matter what instrument the teacher teaches. The same thing we tell our students applies to us – in order to get better at playing your instrument, you have to PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT!

I know from my own personal experience how difficult it can be to carve out time to flex your performance muscles when you are a music teacher. I also know that carving this time out is absolutely essential. It is also life-giving! The video about is proof of that.

Last weekend I was blessed with the opportunity and challenge to play in the faculty concert for the music camp where I taught. Getting to this point took a couple of years of trying to find time to collaborate with the other teachers because our schedules are so varied. Thankfully one of the faculty members, Russell Ferrara (fabulous guitarist who is fluid in numerous genres) never gave up and simply insisted that we make it happen. Oddly enough it took his persistence to get me and fellow teacher Derwyn Browne playing together for the first time although we work together often and live near each other. Russell lives a thousand miles away!

I can definitely say that it was well worth the wait and that we should have done this sooner. If you haven’t played in a while, please let me suggest that you get out there and go for it! Why should our students be the only ones who get to play? Why should they be the only ones who experience the rush that comes from an audience erupting with applause? Why should they be the only ones who get that undeniable sense of satisfaction from having done their best onstage?

If you haven’t done so already, watch the video. I hope it will inspire you to go out and play!

Actors Who Play The Piano

Actors who play pianoWhat kind of people like to play the piano? Superheroes! Really, though, did you know that Superman (Christopher Reeve) played the piano? Actually a LOT of actors like to play the piano. Click here to catch a few your favorite actors in action!

You might also be interested in reading:

Famous Actors Who Play Music

10 Celebs Who Play Music

10 Surprising Ways Piano Lessons Literally Pay Off

Piano Pays Off

Parents all over the United States are spending countless hours driving their kids to and from sports activities and in many cases juggling football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and soccer all at once. These dutiful parents are working hard to insure that their children have the brightest futures possible. Many dedicate endless hours and make quite a financial investment in hopes that their child will qualify for and earn an athletic scholarship to college. They schedule their lives around their child’s sport. They even ask others to schedule their lives around it as well. When the coach calls an unplanned practice or when a game is rescheduled, they ask music teachers and tutors to make accommodations. Maybe YOU are one of these parents. As the parent of a high schooler that is involved in 2 sports I can totally relate. It’s not easy being a parent and certainly not cheap! That is why I want to give you some information that you may not have considered or been aware of when it comes to the real VALUE of an activity that is often not perceived to be as valuable as sports – PIANO.

I am about to tell you from personal experience that YOUR CHILD can earn money with music even while he/she is learning to play the piano. I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I started making money with music when I was 12 years old. Here is a list of 10 ways your child can do the same thing.

1. Get paid to play at parties and weddings

2. Play or sing in a band with REAL music professionals

3. Get paid to play for a church choir or children’s choir (Churches are ALWAYS looking for good musicians)

4. Write songs for YouTube video backgrounds

5. Teach music at a summer camp

6. Teach music at VBS

7. Enter contests (Some contests pay thousands of dollars)

8. Apply for music scholarships

9. Earn a 4 year scholarship to study music in college (Did you know that athletic scholarships are only guaranteed 1 year at a time? On the other hand, true 4-year scholarships are available for Music!)

10. Provide rehearsal accompaniment for musical theater

This is just a sample of how Piano Lessons Literally Pay Off. I am in no way saying or suggesting that your child will get rich by taking piano lessons. I am saying that there is more value to piano lessons than many realize.

Feel free to leave a comment, especially if there are other ways you are aware of that piano lessons literally pay off.

How to Make Summertime “Piano Time”

Summertime Piano

Hello Kids and Keys Readers! Today’s post is coming to you from Doug Hanvey, an accomplished piano teacher in Portland, OR. Doug also writes his own blog at

Read on for some helpful tips for getting over the summer piano slump!

Summertime is here! But that’s not good news for every piano teacher. Some students may take a break from lessons, and parents may have to be reminded to start up again as fall approaches. How can you continue to engage your students and their parents during the summer so that the dreaded lapse in practicing – and the possibility that some students might end up leaving your studio, having lost momentum – can be avoided?

Have you ever noticed that the way you ask a question determines the possible answers to it? We could take that question as is, or we could go deeper and ask: How could you make your summer lessons so exciting and fulfilling that they’re not only competitive with all the other fun activities kids can choose, but rise to the top?

If you were a kid, and a long, lazy summer were beckoning in front of you, what would keep you excited about continuing your lessons, and even have you bugging your parents to make sure they’d let you keep going?

Every piano studio is different, and every teacher will come up with ideas that reflect the unique qualities of their students, the area they live in, and other factors. Here are a few ideas to use as starting points for your brainstorming.

Take Your Studio Outside

Summertime is outside time. Why not throw a party in your backyard for your students (no parents allowed) with a digital piano or two, and a long extension cord? Include lots of games, both musical and not, yummy food, and let the students play for each other (but no pressure – only if they want to). Suggest they invite their friends. Once their friends see how fun and cool it is to make music under the summer skies, you may gain a new student – or two or three.

Go on a Field Trip

Take your students on a field trip. Their parents will love you for getting them out of their hair for a day or two. Promise lots of fun – this should be more of a social occasion. They will have a blast hanging out with each other (take a couple of parents along to help you out!) while you visit a nearby city to see a concert or other cultural attraction. Along the way of course, keep them entertained with activities, games and surprises that will make the trip a highlight of their summer.

Get Creative

If you were a kid, what would keep you excited and involved with music during the summer? I think it has to do with the way a child relates to music. Is music something they do or is it something they are?

If music is something we do (like homework) and not something that is part of us – that helps define us – how likely is it we’ll stay motivated to play or study during the summer, or even at all? For better or worse, by the time I was 12 music had become a major part of my identity. Playing the piano, but even more so, being creative with music, was a therapeutic and enjoyable way for me to express my individuality. I taught myself how to improvise and compose (formal instruction came later). But what if my music teachers had actually encouraged me to do so and given me direction?

Baseball is fun, and so is camping, but neither is very creative. If you haven’t brought improvising or composing into your studio, why not develop a summer creative group program? Your students meet together each week to learn about improvising and composing and to play creative music games. (You could even combine this with outside activities like the above.)

Towards the end of the summer you could bring in students from a couple other studios – such as a voice studio or percussion studio – for a fun, creative jam. Students who have written their own pieces can perform them. The kids will have a blast, they’ll make new friends, and they will be dying to continue their piano lessons. They may even be the ones nagging their parents about signing up for the fall, so you don’t have to.

These are just a few ideas for making your studio so dynamic and exciting that the idea of quitting lessons during the summer is simply inconceivable.

How do you keep your students enthusiastic about summer lessons? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Doug Hanvey

Doug Hanvey is a piano teacher in Portland, Oregon. His Piano Lab Blog offers cutting-edge tips and ideas for piano teachers and students.

You may also be interested in reading: 

The Music Store Field Trip

Piano Outside

Summer Piano Shorts: Cool Chords

Summer Piano Shorts: Octaves

Students Can Win $$ For Their Thoughts on SELMA

                                                                   Jordan Rice (SELMA actress) Charity Jordan (SELMA actress)

Last week I shared with you a lesson plan using the song “Glory” from the movie, SELMA. Since then, “Glory” has received an Oscar Nomination for Best Original Song! With that in mind, I am sharing info about an essay contest which is being presented by Charity Jordan, who plays a lead role in the movie. Even though this is not directly related to their piano studies (unless you used the lesson plan) students will benefit from expressing their ideas and possibly earning some spending money and… THEY WILL LOVE THEIR PIANO TEACHER FOR IT! Also be sure to LIKE and follow these actresses at and on Facebook Actressjordanrice. Details about the contest are below:

Charity Jordan presents the Reflection of the Selma Essay Contest.

Youth between ages 10-18, are invited to participate in 500 word or less essay contest about their reflections after watching the film, “Selma.” This is an opportunity for youth to use the medium of writing to share their voice, feelings, and convictions. Students are asked to submit their essay via email to,, no later than February 20, 2015.

Participants are asked to include a clear/recent picture of themselves as well as their name, grade level, and phone number with the essay submission. Each entry must conclude with this final sentence:

“I, _______________ (name) accept Charity’s call to action and commit to encourage, educate, and elevate my community by ____________________________ (action) on a _________________(time) basis this year.

Sincerely ____________________(name) ”

Winners will be announced on by March 23, 2015. Winners will be notified by email and phone call. Cash Prizes will be delivered by mail to the 1st ($150), 2nd ($100), and 3rd ($50) place entry. All essays and pictures become property of “Selma Reflections Contest” and are subject to be used by Charity Jordan in the future. Thanks for your participation. #CTA3e #marchon

New Piano Music Just In Time For MLK Holiday

Piano lovers have been given a special gift by artists John Legend and Common who teamed up to create the song “Glory” for the movie SELMA which opens in theaters nationwide THIS FRIDAY January 9th. This powerful song has received the Golden Globe Nomination for Best New Song and I for one believe they got it right! Piano students are often asking to learn the latest hit song but because not many of today’s radio songs feature piano it can be difficult to come up with an arrangement that a student can play as a piano solo. Thanks to John Legend, who himself is a pianist, we have the perfect song for the upcoming holiday.

“Glory” is a powerful anthem that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled in any way and anyone who has faced adversity or opposition. That’s most of us, right? The lyrics video above features scenes from the movie which has received a total of 4 Golden Globe Nominations including Best Director, Best Picture, Best New Song, and Best Actor. 

It’s a new year and the perfect time for a piano studio challenge! With the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday just around the corner on January 19th, you have just enough time for this quick 2 week challenge. So here is the challenge:

1.Listen to the song with your students.

2.Challenge your students to use their listening skills to determine how many chords are used in the song.

3.Challenge younger students to count the number of beats in each measure – or how many beats each chord lasts.

4.Challenge more advanced students to play the melody by ear.

5.Challenge more advanced students to play the chords by ear.

(Perhaps some of these might even be good challenges for yourself as the teacher, especially if you usually use sheet music to learn new songs like I do.You just might surprise yourself!)

Sheet music for “Glory” is available at

Remind your students that in order to continue making great music, artists must be compensated. Remind them that as growing musicians themselves they may one day need people to purchase their music. Challenge your students to support their fellow musicians by purchasing the song at

To find out what my connection to SELMA is check out the following posts: