To Teach, Or Not To Teach

Teaching Lessons

Before I go on, let me qualify that title: whether or not I will continue teaching lessons is NOT the question. But it’s a curious topic amongst music therapists.

Yesterday, I had a brief conversation with one of my music therapist friends about teaching lessons. It seems that there are two different camps in our profession: those who stick to music therapy and don’t offer music lessons at all, and those who do. I most definitely fall into the latter camp.

Even before I made the decision to become a music therapist, I taught lessons. It was a great way to make spending money back in college, and what I realized early on is that teaching was the perfect way to keep up my skills as a musician. In fact, I owe several young children (who are all grown up now) for getting me back to the piano — an instrument with which I had a love/hate relationship at one point — in order to teach their lessons.

Now all these years later, I am a much better pianist because of those lessons, and feel like I continue to get better the more I teach. Same with guitar and voice. And all of those skills carry over into my music therapy work, which is why I consider teaching to be a crucial part of not only my business, but also my professional development.

As a music therapist (if you are one), what are your thoughts on teaching lessons? Do you fall into my camp, or are you a music therapy purist?

Spotify = Total Game Changer


I freely admit that I am a total junkie when it comes to technology — particularly technology that I can use to make my work easier. I have highlighted a few of these in the recent past (Music Teacher’s Helper, Dropbox, Gigbook) and now I’m adding another to that ever-growing list: Spotify.

When I first heard about this new application, I thought it sounded cool but didn’t take the time to really look into it. I knew you had to have an invitation to get the free version, so I figured I’d just wait until it was more freely available.

But then I kept seeing posts and links to Spotify on Facebook, so finally last night I decided to see what all the excitement was about. Ten minutes later, I found myself springing for the $10/month Premium version.

The free version of Spotify lets you search for, play, and share with your friends millions of tracks — pretty much any song you can think of — via the Spotify app on your desktop. Pretty cool. The unlimited version ($5/month) lets you do this without advertisements and for as long as you like. The premium version lets you do this not only from your desktop, but also on a mobile device WITHOUT even being connected to the internet.

For example, last night I created a playlist of both songs I own (Spotify imports your iTunes library and even retains your playlists) and songs I searched for in Spotify. Then I connected my iPhone and iPad to WiFi and without even connecting them to my computer, the playlist synced to both devices. Today I listened to that playlist in my car using my iPhone.

But the coolest application of Spotify for me is how I can utilize it in my studio. I can create unique playlists for my students and play them either on my computer or on my iPad. Instead of listening to just a sample of a song or having to purchase it, we can stream the entire thing so that my student can decide whether or not to add it to his/her repertoire.

I have only just begun to explore the possibilities, but I’m already hooked. Warning: searching for songs and browsing your Facebook friends’ playlists can be quite addictive! Have you jumped on the Spotify bandwagon? If so, I’d love to hear how you are using it.

As I mentioned earlier, the free version of Spotify requires an invitation. I have 8 left to give out, so the first 8 people to comment on this post will receive an invitation in their email inbox!


Friday Fave: A Fantastic First Week!

Thumbs Up ~ Fantastic First Week

After writing on Monday about my first day back to work (and official full-time self-employment), I was hoping today’s “Friday Fave” would be a celebration of a successful first week back. And guess what: it is!

I still have today’s lessons and music therapy sessions to go, but I’m optimistic that they will go just as smoothly as the previous four days. It has been such a relief to have students coming through the door exactly as scheduled — because as I’ve written about before, scheduling is the hardest part of running a studio and private practice.

But that hasn’t been the best part of the week. Not even close. Far and away, the best part has been seeing and hearing my students’ progress (mixed in with a few great excuses here and there).

Yesterday, for example, one of my piano students blew me away by playing “Hey Jude”. We had just started it at his last lesson before the break, and three weeks later (after working on it completely by himself), he gave a nearly flawless performance. Those are the moments that remind me just how lucky I am to do what I do.

Of course, there are still kinks to work out…like adjusting to having so much unscheduled time during the day. I’m working on a schedule that will help me use that time more productively, and I think next week I’ll have a better handle on it. It’s always tough to get right down to business after a long vacation, which is why I’m trying not to be too hard on myself ;)

How has your week been? I hope you are celebrating its fantastic-ness right along with me today. Here’s to an awesome Friday and a fabulous weekend!

8 Songs for the School Day

Back to School Songs

Going back to school at the end of the summer is a big adjustment for most kids. I know not only from the experience of working in a school setting for 4 years, but also from talking with my students’ parents as they are in the midst of this transition right now.

The start of the school year is especially hard for kiddos who are going into kindergarten and are not used to being away from home all day. I’ve taught several brand new kindergarteners this week, and while they’ve had great things to say about school so far, their moms have filled me in on the anxiety they’ve felt.

I’ve written quite a few songs about preparing for the school day and going to school, and there’s no better time than now to share a little round-up with you. Let’s start with the beginning of the day and work our way through, shall we?

  1. My Clothes & My Shoes – Most kids who are old enough to go to school should also be able to dress themselves properly. This song was a staple in all of my classroom music therapy groups.
  2. Time to Say Goodbye – Saying goodbye to mom and dad is quite possibly the hardest part of the school day. This song also addresses saying goodbye to teachers at friends when school is over.
  3. That Yellow Bus – Riding the bus can be overwhelming at first. There’s nothing like a fun song to ease the anxiety over doing so.
  4. Off to School – I like this song because it gives a general overview of what to expect throughout the school day.
  5. The People I See – Teachers and principals are included in this tune, as well as other community people a child may or may not see during the day.
  6. Making Friends – I’ve had so many students tell me that their friends aren’t in their class this year. I tell them that it is the perfect opportunity to make some new ones!
  7. Stop, Think & Do – A good reminder to all kids. I have to thank one of my former colleagues, a classroom teacher who uses this motto on a daily basis. It’s an effective one, to be sure.
  8. Clean Up Time – I think every young child learns at least one song about cleaning up at school; why not add another option into the mix?

Whether you’re a parent, music therapist, or teacher, what has your back-to-school experience been like this week?

Excuses, Excuses


One of the things I secretly look forward to at each lesson I teach is hearing the clever (and sometimes not-so-clever) excuses my students come up with to explain why they haven’t practiced.

I think I get such a kick out of them because I was once in their shoes: a busy kid who really wanted to excel at an instrument — piano, in my case — but just didn’t always have the motivation to do the work. I always had a handy excuse up my sleeve for my wonderfully patient piano teacher (she was a nun, after all!) and now I’m on the other side of the coin.

Since the fall session has just begun, I’ve heard some doozies after asking the dreaded question, “So have you had a chance to practice over the break?” Here are a couple of my favorites over the past two (just two!) days:

I really wanted to practice, but I had to go school supply shopping.

School supply shopping can be so overwhelming! :)

I know I was supposed to work on my chords, but I was busy writing my own songs instead. 10 of them!

Okay, this one was good.

My dad was watching TV and I didn’t want to bother him.

Mind you, this student’s dad attends every lesson, is extremely involved, and tracks his son’s practice.

The week is still young, so I have lots more excuses to look forward to in the coming days. I think I have mastered the art of balancing validation with encouragement; discipline is not my forte. How do you handle the excuses presented by your students? And please feel free to add any doozies you’ve heard to my list!

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