How Much is Too Much?

Scheduling in Private Practice

Self-employment can be scary at first. After making the decision to leave my full-time job in order to expand my private practice and teaching studio, I did what I thought was the most logical thing, and took on as many new students as I could. More students, more income, less worries…right?

But what I didn’t factor into that equation was “less time” and “more stress”. I’ve already written about my jam-packed schedule once this month, but thought the topic was worth revisiting after I received this tweet:


It was meant in good fun, of course, but Sarah makes a good point. Most sane people probably wouldn’t schedule 14+ half hour lessons and/or music therapy sessions in one day.

The good news is that I absolutely love my students and the work I do with them. Yes, the days are long, but I’m not sitting in an office, bored, watching the clock count down to quitting time.

But I will admit that maybe I’m a little close to crossing the line separating a healthy workload from too much. I haven’t done so yet, though, and intend to keep it that way. That’s what my waiting list is for!

Sarah’s tweet sparked my curiosity, and now I want to know: what is your definition of too much as far as the number of lessons/sessions per day or week? Have you crossed that line? And if so, how did you handle it?

Microphone Stand = Music Stand?!

Microphone Stand for iPad 2

I tried to keep my newest piece of equipment under wraps until today’s blog post, but I couldn’t help but give my Facebook friends a sneak peek over the weekend.  I’m just wayyy too excited about my new microphone stand mount for the iPad 2!

I wish I was one of those people who has all of their gig music completely memorized, but alas, I am not…especially when I’m playing a two or three-hour gig with ever-changing repertoire.

Now, instead of bringing a music stand and big binder full of lead sheets along with all my other equipment, I just stick my iPad 2 and the mount in my bag.  I don’t even have to bring my own mic stand, because the mount clamps on to any standard one.  Not to mention that I never have to worry about my pages blowing in the wind while playing outside.

Admittedly, there is a little bit of a time commitment involved in getting your music onto the iPad before using this setup.  The two apps I use, GigBook and MusicReader, require that sheet music, lead sheets, or just lyrics be in PDF form.  So while I did already have electronic versions of much of my music, I had to do quite a bit of scanning to complete my digital collection.  But it was totally worth it, considering that now all of my music is at my fingertips.

Aside from the convenience of my new iPad mount, it also ups my cool factor immensely :)  I played a gig over the weekend, and everyone (audience members and other musicians) wanted to get the full scoop on my little gadget.

iPad 2: $500 +.
Microphone stand mount: $99.
Making my life easier AND cooler: priceless.

Sunday Singalong: Play the Cabasa!

I love the cabasa because not only is it totally fun to play, but it is also multi-sensory. The unique sound it produces, coupled with the tactile input, makes this one of my most frequently used instruments during music therapy sessions.

Play the Cabasa serves as a great introduction to this instrument, but there is so much more you can do with it. I don’t have any other specific songs I’ve written for the cabasa — instead, I usually just make up a song based on how I’m using it in a session. For example, I might ask my student to roll it over different body parts (foot, leg, arm, etc.) or do that myself if he/she is not able.

How do you use and play the cabasa?

Friday Fave: Kids Sing Studio

Kids Sing Studio

After almost three years of blogging (and over 700 posts), it still amazes me that some people think of me as an “expert” on certain topics related to studio teaching, songwriting, and music therapy.  Yet I continue to receive emails and comments from people thanking me for my resources and advice.  (Not that I’m complaining — each one of them truly makes my day!)

But I have a list of go-to people that I consider to be the true experts.  Lisa Casciola of Kids Sing Studio is one of those people.  I first met Lisa on the second day of my music therapy internship, since she was one of my supervisors.  I got to spend almost nine months learning from someone with whom I shared many of the same interests and goals.  Not only did she help me become a better music therapist, but I also got the bonus of learning about running a teaching studio.

Lisa is the kind of teacher I aspire to be.  Her studio holds masterclasses (with famous Broadway performers, no less!), yearly recitals, holiday parties, and offers all kinds of cool classes and summer programs related to music technology and performance.  Like me, she teaches students of all abilities.

Just this week, I emailed Lisa and asked for some new repertoire suggestions.  She replied almost immediately with a huge list of songs and resources for me.  Looking back over the last four years of teaching, I think I owe Lisa for all the songs that have been the biggest hits amongst my students.

So now that I’ve sung Lisa’s praises, I want to know…who is your go-to expert, or the person you look up to as a role model in your field?

Getting Flashy

USB flash drive for lessons

When I was growing up, my voice teacher would have me bring cassette tapes to my voice lessons.  We would record warmups, new songs, and sometimes even full lessons so that I could practice more effectively at home throughout the week.

In college, I bought a handheld voice recorder for the same purpose, thought not the modern kind that allows you to download mp3 files from it.

When I started teaching lessons, and even up until this past school year, I made CD after CD for my students — each time they learned or recorded a new song.  I was going through so many CDs each month that I finally decided I needed to find an alternative.

I experimented with a few different options.  I tried out Dropbox as a method of sharing mp3 files with my students, but that took up too much space in my already full account.  I also tried sending mp3s as download links, but that wasn’t very convenient for either of us.

And then I had a “duh” moment.  I used a USB flash drive to transfer new songs from my home computer to my work computer, so why couldn’t my voice students do the same thing?  I suggested it to just a few students at first, and now almost all of them bring a flash drive to each of their lessons.

No more wasted CDs or excuses about not being able to practice.  Most of my students are very good with computers and know how to use iTunes, YouTube, and so on…this is just one more excuse for them to use the computer, and I’m okay with that :)  Parents are happy too, because they get to hear what we’ve been working on in our lessons.

How do you share music with your students and encourage them to practice throughout the week?