We love celebrating the things we do right, but sometimes you need to hear about what people think! Starting this past February through March, we did our first-ever parent survey! The results were great! I think we got some REALLY good and honest feedback from our parents at Music SO Simple and we would love to share our results with you.
Here are the averages on our teachers (scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest)
Here are the averages on the studio as a whole (scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest)
Comments that really stood out are:
And, to address the concerns:
And to end with a few random comments: We definitely have some cheerleaders out there!!
Our May Awards Recital is always something we all look forward to at the end of each school year! Due to the circumstances, our May recital this year looks a little different: instead of performing for a live audience, our students are submitting a recorded video of themselves performing at home. They have been working so hard on their recital pieces, and we wanted to give them a chance to still perform in the safest way we could. We will be putting together the videos to make virtual recitals and sending them out to all of our families!
At the end of the May recital, we call up students one by one and present them their bag of yearly awards. Most families head home with their awards, but don’t always understand what they are for or how their child earned them. So I thought this blog would be a great way to explain all the different types of awards students can earn!
Our last category of awards has to do with how long a student has been studying their instrument. Awards start at half a year of study all the way through their senior year.
Our intention is never to hurt anyone’s feelings if they didn’t receive many awards. We know how challenging it is to earn some of these, and we feel that students who achieve them should be recognized and celebrated. Reflecting on the quality of a student’s work is a valuable lesson no matter the outcome because it shows them how far they’ve come in the last 9 months, and shows them what could be improved so that they earn a certain award next year. We think awards are the perfect way to end the school year, and we really are so proud of all of our students!
A few months ago, I was listening to a great business podcast while I was driving home from taking my oldest to school. The podcast was asking questions like "what does your business do to set you apart from your competition?" It got me thinking and I jotted down some notes about Music SO Simple.
What sets MSS apart from other music schools?
My number one thought is our teachers. I have always known that if you don't have the right teachers, you have nothing. I learned this very early on from a much wiser woman than me, Becky Corley. She always put her teachers first, she treated them right, and she was very picky about who she brought on to her team. To say that we have amazing teachers is an understatement. Even as we have faced this pandemic, we have been able to do multiple brainstorming sessions to help us with our online virtually lessons.
My second thought is our student families! We have the most caring, wonderful families that we have the privilege of teaching. We get lots of feedback from them, and they help us grow by recommending us to other family and friends.
So, in total, what sets us apart from other music school? It is our wonderful community and family-like atmosphere. And world-class teachers who care for each student. We truly are like one big family!
Who is our competition and why should you chose us?
There really are not any other music schools around our area, so our main competition is other private teachers who teach from their homes. Our teachers and class/instrument options we have are a huge reason we are successful. It's almost like one stop shopping- if you need to changes teachers for a reason, we are able to help. The same goes for adding or changing instruments- we have violin, guitar, voice, and preschool classes!
Our students are able to enter into festivals and competitions city-wide, we have 2 yearly (awesome and fun) MSS recitals that most students participate in, and we have lots of fun practice incentives.
For the first time ever, we sent our parents a questionnaire at the beginning of the semester. We are so fortunate to have had a great response to this! In the next part of this blog, I would like to share the results with you! So, stay tuned for the next part of this blog and to see how we did on our "report card".
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has changed every aspect in our daily lives, and we’ve all had to adapt quickly to this new way of life. From figuring out how to continue school and work remotely to being isolated from family and friends, this virus really has turned our world upside down. It’s easy to dwell on all the things that are going wrong, but what about the things that have been better? In the last few weeks, I’ve reflected on what positive changes are happening, even though they are sometimes hard to see.
Like a lot of people, there have been many changes in my work life, and I am so grateful that I am one of the lucky few who are able to work from home. Before the pandemic, I had never taught virtual lessons before, although I know that many teachers across the world were already teaching this way. After teaching online for 2 weeks, I definitely miss being with my students in person, but at the same time, I am learning a lot about what my students really understand and my own teaching abilities. Because I am not there to point to certain things in their music or to demonstrate something, I have had to become a clear communicator: my feedback and instructions are now much more specific and descriptive than before. Online lessons are really showing me what my students do and do not understand: can they find certain keys on the piano? Do they really know their finger numbers? Do they understand what all the different notes are called? Do they understand measure numbers? If they don’t, they are learning these concepts much faster because they have to do so on their own!
(my home studio setup- teaching assistant included!)
My students are also becoming better communicators with me as well. If they have a question, they have to be able to explain different musical elements to me. My younger students who have relied on me to point to their music as they play are now responsible for keeping their eyes up and following the notes independently. I believe my students are also becoming better listeners and applying their ear training in a new way. If I hear something wrong in their piece, I will play it back to them correctly, so they now have to be more aurally engaged to figure out which notes need to be fixed. Another huge improvement I’ve noticed is that students are completing their weekly theory homework on a regular basis. I usually text students or parents sometime before the lesson to send me a picture of their completed work, so just having them check in on whether or not it has been done has been a huge success in the theory department!
It’s also been very enlightening to get a glimpse of my students’ pianos at home (for those students who take studio lessons). It’s allowed me to learn about sticking keys, broken pedals, pianos that need tuning, and for those students who use keyboards, if it might be time for an upgrade in the near future!
So to sum everything up- are online lessons effective? Yes. Would I rather teach in-person? Yes. But teaching virtually has allowed me and my students to grow in a way we wouldn’t have before, and I can see how virtual lessons could be useful in the future after this virus has subsided. Virtual lessons can be a great way to get in a make up lesson without anyone having to travel, or would allow for a regularly scheduled lesson to still happen if the student or teacher has a contagious illness. We are so grateful to our families who have stuck with us through this difficult time, and I know I speak for all the teachers when I say we can’t wait to have in-person lessons with you all again soon! Let’s keep making music!
I have been doing a lot of soul searching in this past week, as I'm sure a lot of you have as well. I think this is only natural when the world feels on edge and everything is very uncertain. As we begin to face our temporary "normal" in finding new schedules, routines, and embrace technology in a way that is so very different, I find myself grabbing on to the things I know and need.
Why is learning an instrument so important? And why should we continue now as our lives have been disrupted? Well, for starters, here's what we know learning an instrument does:
So, knowing why learning an instrument is good for us, the next question would be why do you value music lessons? Well, the answer is going to be different for each family. For my family, it is important that we are well-rounded. I'm a music teacher and my husband is a software engineer. We are on two different planets! But, we want to raise our children to use BOTH parts of their brains! So, why does your family value lessons?
Why not quit when it gets hard? Um...I get this question a lot!! Are we really teaching our kids to quit when things get hard? That's when the REAL learning begins! Try holding a plank- how long can you hold it? Do you drop out when it's hard? Nope- we push through so we can build muscles and get stronger. What does letting our kids quit help them? It doesn't! It teaches them that when something gets difficult, that you move on to something different. This is why we ask for a commitment to learning an instrument.
Hopefully, I've given you some things to think about today besides the spread of the Coronavirus. This is much more fun to think about! lol. But in all seriousness, do your best to keep your routines, give your kids (AND YOU!) a creative outlet. Sit and enjoy making music together. If there's anything that we can learn from this situation, it's that we are getting lots of quality family time together. Put on a family concert! Ask your teacher if they can teach you a few lessons! Use a part of your brain that allows you to distract from our problems and makes you think on a different level. I'm praying everyone stays safe and healthy!! I hope to see you all soon!!
This week, I wanted to talk about parents sitting in during lesson time. Some teachers may have a strong preference about whether or not parents should attend their child’s weekly lesson, while others believe it is more situational. I came up with a good list of pros and cons for both group class settings and private lessons.
Let’s talk about parents and group classes first. At MSS, we have two early childhood classes: Treblemakers (ages 6 months to 3 years) and Merry Musicians (3-5 years). Our Treblemakers class is designed for parents and children to make music together, so of course we want the parents in class! Around age 3, students transition into our Merry Musicians preschool class without parents. Some children at this age experience separation anxiety (usually because they have never been to a class without parents before), so we understand that they may feel a little anxious. Even if the child is nervous or upset about being separated, the important thing is for parents to not join class or be visible from the classroom window. When a parent joins the class, the child remains dependent, which can hinder their learning and socialization with the other children. It’s also distracting to the other students, and oftentimes they feel as if they can’t be themselves, so the group dynamic is compromised. If you are worried that your child cannot be without you in class, that is probably a sign that they are not quite ready yet to join, so it’s best to wait a few months!
There is more gray area when it comes to parents attending private lessons. Some teachers prefer having parents attend lessons for the first year so that they are able to fully support their children at home. Parents have the opportunity to ask the teacher questions on the spot and learn what is expected (for parents do’s and don’ts during lessons, check out this article). Other teachers prefer to have families sit outside of the lesson, but reserve the last 5 minutes of class to go over the lesson with the parent. What’s nice about our studio space is that each classroom has a large window so that parents can see in at any time if they are asked to sit outside the room. This is a safety feature for both students and teachers that just puts everyone more at ease. As far as student behavior goes, I’ve seen it go both ways: some students have much better behavior when the parent is present, while others have worse behavior and are tempted to talk to the parents too much or seek attention from them. Another potential problem is when a parent and younger sibling both attend the lesson. When extra people are brought in, it just creates more distraction, especially if a parent is trying to keep the sibling entertained.
Like in group classes, the dynamic between teacher and student is sometimes compromised when parents or family attend private lessons. The student may not feel comfortable fully opening up to the teacher if the parent is there, and the teacher may feel as if they are being evaluated. In any scenario, the environment feels different when someone is observing, and it is unlikely that both people will act completely naturally. We’ve talked about how important the relationship between teacher and student is for success and longevity, so time alone between teacher and student during lessons can ensure that the rapport is built properly.
Whether or not parents sit in on the lesson is really up to the teacher, and teachers may make different decisions based on each student. If a teacher wishes to be alone with the student during the lesson, it is not something to be taken personally (in fact, I think it’s a great sign that your child is independent and well behaved!) If you’d really like to be in the lessons but your teacher would prefer to be alone, come up with a compromise, like sitting in on a lesson once every 4-6 weeks. The important takeaway is to have an honest conversation with your teacher so that both of you are happy! As a parent, what is your opinion on attending lessons?
One of my new year's resolutions for 2020 was to listen to more podcasts. I usually listen to them in the car after I drop kids off or on my way to get my kids, because they need to talk or listen to music. I love listening to podcasts about business, managing a team, Gretchen Rubin, piano teaching, and piano parenting. I wear lots of different hats and I just can't narrow it down! ;)
This week, I was listening to the PianoParentPodcast, the host, Shelly Davis, was talking about how to fit in piano practice for our students. Now, I know we've written blogs about practice and how to practice, but this podcast really hit home with me. As a parent myself, my daughter is on her own most of the time to practice since I'm teaching most evenings. I don't do a whole lot of checking and planning for her, but I have added it to her "responsibility list" to help remind her to practice.
As parents, we think just enrolling them for lessons will get the job done. If we can get in a few days of practice here and there, then that's an added bonus! However, I've seen so many students lose interest in their lessons because they are not getting in enough practice. You see, they want to come prepared for lessons! They want to impress their teacher! And when they are not able to do that, then they feel like a failure. As teachers, we get them re-motivated in their lesson and then send them back into their world hoping they will get to practice. Maybe one week is not a big deal, but if they don't get practice in week after week, this is when our students begin to lose interest.
We, as parents, have to be intentional about helping our kids get their practice in. That doesn't mean we have to sit right by them, but we do need to say, "Hey, while I'm working on dinner, go get a little time in at the piano". "Or, we have a crazy evening tomorrow, so how about practicing your instrument before school so we get that in." They need our guidance and our help. Practicing is not going to always be first thing on their mind; it's our job. Yeah, I know, sometimes I feel like EVERYTHING is our job, we've gotta do everything, remind everyone, blah, blah, blah. But, I'm starting to come to terms with that. Have you?
So, if you have a chance, check out this podcast. It will give you ideas on how to help your child with practice at home. Let's set them up for success the best we can!
It's that time of the year when I start getting a bit sentimental. This past Sunday, January 26th, was the 4 year (!!) "anniversary" of our "Doing Business As" or DBA. I remember that day so well; only my kids and husband knew. I went down to the Dallas county building with my secret plan, making sure I didn't run into my dad (since he had restaurants in the county buildings). I think I was shaking with nervousness and excitement. It didn't take long since I had done my homework thinking about names and getting my paperwork together.
Why Music SO Simple? Well, I am pretty sure that 4 years ago I was ready to get back to making music lessons simple again and I caught myself saying that a lot. Then, it dawned on my that "S" and "O" were my initials. I thought about "Music SO Simple" for about a week or so until I couldn't take it anymore- I KNEW it was perfect!
Next came setting up a google domain and website. I wanted something I could edit myself (insert total type A personality here). But, what I had learned is that I wanted to be able to edit and change anything anytime that I wanted. I'm not always great at waiting on others. I had all of that set up within two weeks. Once you start thinking of what you want and you begin getting excited, it's really hard to put the brakes on and I was not going to back down.
Needless to say, this dream of Music SO Simple was the birth of our new music school in Richardson, Texas. I honestly couldn't call it a "music school" until this past summer. For some reason, it always felt too formal. However, I think with over 170 students and 10 teachers, it's officially a school. :)
I had no idea what the plan was for me (or us). Anyways, all of this to say that every time I start letting things get too complicated, I always come back to the "simple". It's is my mantra. When we keep things simple, we allow our imagination to flow. We keep it pure, uncomplicated, and natural. Music SO Simple is truly the perfect name.
I came across a blog entitled “10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make About Music Lessons”, written by Lara Levitan. She compiled a list of potential pitfalls from parents and teachers she works with, so I wanted to share a few of her points. I think it’s common for parents to approach music lessons with the best intentions, but sometimes have the wrong expectations when it comes to learning an instrument!
The first mistake is starting formal music study too young: if your little one shows interest in music, this does not mean they are ready to start lessons. Private lessons require attention span, motor abilities, and reading skills that children younger than five are typically not ready for. For a preschooler to concentrate for a full 30 minute lesson is a lot and on top of that, because their minds and fingers are not ready to grasp the concepts, their first impression of learning an instrument is that it will always be a struggle (to get a full idea of all of the skills needed to read music, click here). A better solution for young students is to attend parent/child music classes or a general music class for preschool age children (like our Treblemakers and Merry Musicians classes), and then wait to start lessons until they are around 5 ½ or 6 years old.
The next mistake is a big one; not sitting down with your young child during practice time. The truth is that children ages six to nine need practice support from parents to be successful. Some parents feel as though they are not able to help because they know “nothing” about music, but sometimes all the child needs is a quiet presence. If this still seems intimidating, talk with your teacher about things to listen or watch for, or have your child teach you! If they can explain concepts to you, that means they really understand the material. Another consideration is to have your child practice in a “family area” of your home: that way, it’s not isolating for him/her and you can be there for support while doing other tasks around the house.
Another misconception about practice is that students are supposed to practice for a certain length of time. Practice should be focused more on achieving the goals that the teacher has established instead of practicing for an hour just for the sake of practicing. This takes the joy out of music making, and oftentimes the child starts to resent the instrument.
Many parents also expect their child to always stick with their first instrument. Finding the instrument that is the best fit for the student can make all the difference. A child who studies piano because their older sibling takes lessons and because you already own a piano does not automatically mean that piano is the right instrument for him/her. If you want your child to be a long term musician, be open minded to what instrument is the best fit- even if it’s not what you originally envisioned!
The last point is not letting students take lessons just for pure enjoyment. As students grow older, they have more academic demands and other activities to juggle, so it’s usually at this point that they quit lessons. Instead of nagging older students to practice and meet rigorous expectations, maybe all that’s needed is a shift in purpose for the lessons. What if we let older students decide when and how often to practice? I have mixed feelings about this, as I know private lessons are expensive and if you’re not going to practice, isn’t this just a waste of money? On the other hand, older students crave independence, and if they are in charge of what they are playing and when they sit down with their instrument, wouldn’t that make them happier and more likely to play? As long as the parents and teacher are on board as a team, it may be worthwhile to let older students take the reins.
As parents, what are some things you’ve learned along the way in your child’s music journey? We are always open to what parents have to say!
To read Ms. Levitan’s original article, click here
We are heading into 2020! I can't believe all that we have been blessed with in 2019, or even since 2016! We are continuing to grow at a super steady pace and I anticipate that continuing through 2020. It's always nice to take time and reflect on the year and what you see as goals for the next year. So, let's revisit what we were hoping to accomplish in 2019:
Our Goals for 2019:
In looking at the numbers, we had 135 active students at beginning of January 2019. We now have 172 active students. And, we went from 7 teachers to hiring 3 more teachers, for a total of 10. We added more guitar students, a group piano teacher, a new voice teacher and violin teacher.
2020 is supposed to be "the year of vision". For me personally, I've had a few things that I have on my list to get accomplished this year: completing my teacher certification being a big one. However, my husband also gifted me with a 200-hour yoga certification which will begin in February. I'm excited for both of them, but how am I going to complete both this spring? My only thought is with lots of planning and being very purposeful with my time. I know both of these certifications will help me as a leader and as a teacher.
So, for this 2020 year, here are my goals:
I hope and pray my vision for 2020 will be happy and bright and I wish all of you a wonderful New Year as well!