Monday, August 26, 2013

Ten Years of Technology in the Piano Studio

The upcoming school year is a milestone for my studio. It marks twenty years since completing my Masters degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy and setting up my first piano studio. For me that's where I start counting my years of professional teaching experience.

I used to joke that my first cat had sat in on well over 20,000 piano lessons and still she couldn't play like Nora.

Twenty years ago I was excited to have 4 fonts on my little MacSE30 and I could make primitive rhythm flash cards if I combined circles and lines. I had no email contact with family or friends while at university and there was no Pinterest to find inspiration for teaching aids. When you cut and pasted it really meant with scissors and glue.

In my mind, it has been the past ten years that have been truly amazing for piano teachers. Just stop and think about technology in the past decade and how it has impacted our piano studios.

Hope you don't mind letting me indulge in my personal trip through history:


I hired someone to build a website for my piano studio. I had to spend about $1000 to have that website built...that's just what it cost 10 years ago! I was also self-publishing Music Discoveries, which is another story altogether. There were no digital downloads and there was no Paypal (or at least people were generally not comfortable with PayPal yet)...imagine!


I bought my first songs from iTunes. Yes, I'll tell you what they were! "What You Waiting For?" by Gwen Stefani, "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" by Smash Mouth and "100 Years" by Five For Fighting.


I remember a day in 2006 when a friend came over to look at some photos on my computer. She said, "Anne what's that noise?". Until then it hadn't occurred to me that PCs are not supposed to sound like lawnmowers. Not long after that I bought my first iMac...that was a game changer!


I learned Dreamweaver (for building websites), Flash (for animation), Illustrator (for graphics) and Photoshop (for photo editing). With that arsenal of tools I was set to start building and taking control of my own websites. My piano parents know how many redesigns has been through. HMTL became my sandbox and the best way to learn is to play.


I started uploading movies to YouTube. My students are always speechless when I remind them that YouTube has only been around since 2005 and the quality was pretty weak in the beginning. YouTube has become an exciting way to share student videos with families. Of course, YouTube is the place to go to learn how to do most anything these days. With an endless supply of tutorials and concerts, YouTube has made a huge impact on my day to day teaching (and learning).


Piano Discoveries! This was a very creative year and my philosophy was "create and share freely". My new website was a massive project and pushed my limits of creating teaching material with every multimedia tool I knew. This was an exciting time when I really began to connect with a larger community of piano teachers.


What they heck is a blog? It was probably in 2010 when I first bumped into sites like Compose Create, Color in My Piano and of course Susan Paradis' Teaching Aids. And I'll admit it, I was so confused. I didn't understand why they were different every time I visited. My experience was with static websites and it hadn't occurred to me that one could present and organize material in a blog. Another game changer!

This is also the year I got my first iPad so it was exciting to be one of the first piano teaching bloggers to start sharing apps and creative resources for making use of the ipad in the piano studio.


I decided to start my Pianoanne Blog to share tips, resources and ideas for piano teachers. At the time, I was studying for two piano pedagogy exams so I used my blog to reflect and share my studies. I think my goal was to post everyday for a month. I figured if people are going to follow my blog I'm going to need some content.

I started making use of Dropbox this year. When I was sharing teaching aids on my blog it was easy to store the pdf in Dropbox and just share the link. Likewise, it became easier to deliver studio newsletters. Some families had computers that rejected emailed pdf attachments, so now I just send a link to the newsletter in Dropbox.

And then there's Facebook. I avoided Facebook for as long as I could and finally got a Pianoanne Facebook page in 2011, deleted it, then got it back. Show of many people have delete their Facebook accounts and then take them back?


Pinterest was first launched in 2010 and I started pinning in 2012. From a user's point of view Pinterest is a brilliant way to collect and organize all the bright ideas that are out there. From a blogger's perspective it has made a major impact on how we create images for our sites. Peep if you love Pinterest.


This year I brought SoundCloud into my studio. SoundCloud has been a wonderful way to share mp3s with my students. Sometimes these are quick little practice recordings and sometimes it's a best performance, but SoundCloud makes it easy to share. I love that I can group my entire studio into a set and share it on my studio website pages. It's also a great practice tool; when my students were practicing for the Crazy Combo concert I sent them slow practice recordings on SoundCloud so they could play along with their virtual partners at home.

It's amazing isn't it? And the list could go on with ipad apps, notation software and recording tools. Take a minute to think about the impact technology has made in your studio in recent years.

I feel so grateful to have had these past ten years to celebrate technology in the studio and I'm grateful for the ten years before to help me appreciate how far we have come. Thanks to my husband who has always encouraged me to dance around in multimedia and comes to the rescue when there are just too many cables. I wonder what's going to be next?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Three Reasons Why is Back

Last year I had the bright idea to combine my studio website and my blog. Why pay for hosting and a domain name when Blogger offers it all for free? So I said goodbye to and cancelled my hosting package.

It wasn't a terrible idea, in fact it was a great way to encourage my own piano families to check in with my blog from time to time and see some of the fun things we do. And a friendly way to let the piano teaching community have a peek at our studio projects.

But I think I made a mistake. There are three reasons why I decided to bring back Before I tell you, here's a screen shot of my sparkly new website, I hope you'll come visit: piano studio website studio website

1. Tidy code - When I learned how to code HTML a few years ago, I became aware of writing nice tidy code for a quick loading site. Unfortunately, I am all too aware of the very messy code that is behind the scenes in a WYSIWG blog. You know when your house seems tidy, but don't ever open the door to the spare room because it is a disaster (or in our case the tool room). Well, I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted my tidy code back and it felt good to build a website from scratch again.

2. Search Engines - I need my studio website to bring new students to me. We all do online research for everything from cameras to chiropractors. I know potential piano families are out there typing "piano teacher Bedford Nova Scotia" and I would like my name to be at the top of that list. When they click the link I want them to see a great looking website that makes people want to come take piano lessons.

3. Service to Piano Parents - It is very important to make it as easy as possible for my current piano families to get the information they need. Part of that is just respecting the fact the families are busy and anything I can do to make it a little easier to manage their children's activities and schedules is something I want to offer. Also, being professional and well organized helps with student retention from year to year and reduces the amount of time answering emails and phone calls.

Here's why letting go of my old domain was a mistake. When I contacted my hosting provider to re-establish a hosting plan and reactivate my domain, they told me that since it had expired I would have to pay $100 extra to get back. Ouch! piano studio website
I suppose I could have tried to think of another domain, but Pianoanne has been my teaching identity for so many years. In fact, it started way back when I belonged to a large biking group, and as people were struggling to remember all the new names, the other members remembered me as Pianoanne. Catchy and stuck.

By the way, if some of you are considering a new studio website you might want to hold on just a little longer. Everything is about to change with the addition of new extensions. Instead of .com or .ca you'll be able to have .music or .studio. Imagine!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

5 Benefits of Private Piano Lessons

With twenty years of personal piano studies along with twenty years of full-time professional piano teaching experience, I thought I would share my personal perspective on the benefits of private piano lessons. I’m not thinking about the short term perks for those children who enroll for a few years, this is about the long-term benefits to those students who start at a young age and commit themselves well into high school.

5 Long-term Benefits of Private Piano Lessons from Pianoanne

1. Private piano lessons center around a very special one to one teacher/student relationship that can last for many years. It is not uncommon for piano teachers to work with their students from the age of 7 to 17. During that time we celebrate lost teeth, braces coming on and off, transitions to new schools, proms and graduations. Piano teachers are important role models for their students and I take that job to heart. I believe that it makes a difference for students to have someone in their lives who models a joy for learning, a strong work ethic, someone who is dependable and organized, creatively playful and above all shows a love for teaching music.

2. Learning to play piano and read music involves all parts of the brain. On the one hand, learning music is very similar to the process of learning a new language, while on the other it can be quite mathematical, like deciphering a code. In any case, recent studies have clearly shown that studying music has long-lasting positive benefits for brain development. And let’s not forget the impressive fine motor coordination that is required of pianists. Young children quickly develop a hand-eye coordination that most adults struggle to achieve.

3. During the journey of learning music, students develop the ability to assess their own work. As students advance, it no longer works to play a little song three times. They need to break down new repertoire into manageable tasks, listening for problems and developing a set of practice tools that will help them solve various technical and musical issues. With good instruction students become adept at identifying problems and coming up with creative and effective solutions. Along this journey a good teacher will help students understand their own learning style. Some students need more repetition than others, some require more strategies and preparation for memory work. We all have to understand our own brains and bodies to help us work effectively, efficiently and with healthy expectations of ourselves.

4. Studying music gives us the opportunity to pull back layer after layer as we discover the wonderful things that music has to offer. The first stage of learning music is fun and full of playful discovery. After a few years students transition to a stage that involves more problem solving and commitment to practicing. This is often that tricky year when many students decide to quit. But for those who make it through that transition, there are valuable lessons to learn. There will be ups and downs in the journey of studying music, so we enjoy the thrill of the ups and learn what to do during the downs. The secret to a smooth ride is good consistent practicing, but we all know that life can get in the way sometimes and motivation can drop. We don’t panic, we get back in the saddle and practice...and before long you are back on that up-swing of motivation and moving toward yet another interesting layer of learning.

5. Students who keep music studies in their lives throughout high school develop a personal identity as a musician. We celebrate that long-term commitment and I encourage students to think about how music might be in their lives as adults. It is important that students have the skills and confidence to become adults musicians who are able to teach themselves without needing a teacher to tell them what to do and how to do it. In the end, it is the job of a piano teacher to help students develop the values, skills and desire to go out in the world able to enjoy, learn and support music throughout their lives.

Piano study not only changes what you know and what your fingers can do, truly it plays an important role in developing who you are.

Of course we all have our own points of view in terms of the unique benefits of piano and music studies. Here are some other lists that you might find interesting and inspiring:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...