At the start of each new school year, we give our students a chance to learn at least 40 pieces. That's a lot of music! In a school year with 33 weeks, that at least one and a quarter pieces each week!! Congratulations to those who have achieved this award by our recital date!
A lot has changed since we originally wrote our blog, “What Makes Us Different From Other Studios” back in November 2016, so I decided that we needed to write an updated version! Besides our Music Buck system and our very own Early Childhood curriculum which we wrote about in the first blog, we’ve got a lot of new things that makes us different than any other studio out there!
Student of the Week is something that we really love about our studio. Each teacher can choose a student who stood out that week in their lesson- or not choose anyone if there was nothing to write home about! Students’ pictures are displayed on our Student of the Week board at the studio. They also get 10 music bucks and a printed certificate, and the best part- our Student of the Week yard sign, which they can sign their name on the back and keep at home for the week!
Our Adult Performance Opportunity called the Champagne Serenade is also new this year. We wanted our adult students to have a casual and fun performance experience to showcase what they’ve been working on, and meet our other adult students! We are really excited to host our first Serenade this Saturday, May 4th.
We get a lot of compliments and positive feedback from our parents about our sense of community, which has always been super important to us: we really strive to make our studio feel like a family. We’ve created an inviting studio space for our students who have lessons there, but we also want our students who have in-home lessons to feel just as much a part of the studio. Each Sunday we send out a weekly email newsletter that includes Students of the Week, upcoming student birthdays and events, our Merry Musicians preschool class, and our latest blog.
Recital Prep/Theory Group Classes are something we’ve added since we opened our studio space. We offer 2-3 group classes before each recital and DMTA festival, so that students can perform their prepared pieces in front of a small group and get feedback from the teacher. As of now, we have a group theory class every February for those students who are taking the Texas State Theory Exam.
We know that there are amazing teachers all over the metroplex, but something that helps us stand out from the rest is the time and care we put into matching students with the right teacher based on personality and learning goals. Before we enroll any new student, we conduct a phone interview with potential families so that we can pair them with a teacher that we think they will mesh well with. The right fit between student and teacher is extremely important for happiness and longevity in lessons!
Last but not least, we are very proud to say that all of our teachers at Music So Simple are Dallas Music Teachers Association (DMTA) members, with three of our teachers serving on the board. We think that being involved in our local association is essential for continuing education, personal growth, and extra opportunities for our students.
We are really proud of the studio we’ve built in the last 3 years, and we will continue to make improvements where needed. We value feedback from all of our families and most importantly we always put people first!
Since the beginning of January, I have been doing some leadership and strength building classes. These have been unbelievably helpful to me as I am leading our team of teachers. The first thing I had to do was take the Clifton Strengths Assessment so I could know my top 5 strengths. This was a bit like a personality test, but I loved that it was automatically focusing on the positives. The idea is to take these strengths and make them known in our every day lives.
So, my top 5 are Discipline, Responsibility, Harmony, Relator, and Maximizer. What do these mean? It means that I love to be organized, and that I thrive in routine and structure. When I have everything in order, I can think more clearly. The "responsibility" in me says I am dependable and I am always wondering what I can do better. With "harmony", this strengths allows me to listen and be straightforward with my thoughts. I don't like conflict, so I'm always looking for agreement. I enjoy close relationships with others and I find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal- this is my "relator". Lastly, my "maximizer" means I am always trying to be better in what I'm doing. I like to take something strong and turn it into something superb. I think this is especially true in picking strong teachers and putting us together to make our team superb. It may sound a little corny, but I believe whole-heartedly in this!
So, all of the teachers took the strengths assessment. Together, we are very strong in our strategic thinking and executing tasks. 5 teachers have "achiever" in their top 5! Our other strong area as a team is in relationship building. Obviously, this is pretty important as we work together with our students, parents, and teachers. As you can see below, we are not strong in "influencing", so it doesn't sound like we are going to be taking charge- maybe we let our students direct us??
When I told my students that I was going to a conference to make me a better music teacher, their reply to me was “But you’re already the best teacher ever, Ms. Stathia!!”. That made my heart smile. But, I sincerely believe that we can all benefit from continuing education and networking with others in our same field, and that is exactly what Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Conference is all about.
I am so lucky to be apart of MTNA, but also of TMTA-Texas music teachers- which has the largest MTA in the country. With this, we also have an amazing conference every June, which we have written about before. But national connects us with teachers from all over the country and Canada. We were at the beautiful convention center in Spokane. Washington. For those of you not familiar with Spokane (which I was not!), it’s pronounced “SPO-can” and the people were super friendly. There was snow on the ground and it was just beautiful!
Clinicians from all around the country gave presentations from 8am till 5:30pm for 5 full days. An example of just a few sessions I went to were:
Obviously, there were many other sessions that I went to in addition to the publisher showcases (seeing new music!!). I had a great time getting to meet teachers from around the country and even connecting with the Texas teachers at our Texas Dinner! Being at the conference energized me in my teaching just when I needed it. But, it also gave me the desire to want to be better and do even more! I’ve got a little list going of things that I would like to do over the next few years, like finish applying for my MTNA certification (which I’ve already started), get on the TMTA board (which might be happening sooner than I expected, lol), get my yoga teacher certification, and possibly even speaking at one of these conferences. When do I have time to any of this?! I have NO idea, but I’m shooting for the stars and this girl has some serious goals!!
We’ve written many, many blogs over the last 3 years, and I am surprised that we haven’t thought to write about this subject. Possibly because it’s not the most positive topic to talk or write about, but it is certainly important. With our May Awards Recital about 8 weeks away, I was thinking about the performances of my past and current students. While most of my students have performed well, there were a couple who had disappointing performances, so I wanted to write about the importance of failure.
In the wise words of Yoda, “The greatest teacher, failure is”. While it is difficult to get a poor test score back or to perform poorly at a recital or festival, I think it is these situations where we really learn what to change and are able to fix our problems. I’ve thought back to my own performances that were disappointing, but I know exactly what I did wrong, and I rarely ever make those mistakes anymore. I needed to experience failure in order to grow and improve. Of course, I would never let a student go up and play in a recital who was totally unprepared. But, if a student has had plenty of time for their piece and has chosen not to practice, and has it mostly memorized, he/she will participate. It’s never easy to watch a student “bomb” their piece, but we always address it at the next lesson and usually the student knows exactly what they need to do differently next time. “Maybe I should have practiced more”, “Maybe I should have read my assignment sheet to see what my goals were”, “Maybe I should start memorizing my piece earlier instead of trying to memorize it at the last minute”- these are all things I hear after a poor performance. I reassure them that no one performs perfectly every time and that these are experiences that everyone goes through.
It’s also critical for students to learn how to recover from a mistake in the middle of a performance. To prepare for this, the student and I pick out a spot or two to start from again in case their memory slips or they can’t get past a troublesome passage. You can turn this into a game as well- I’ll point to a measure anywhere in the piece (usually in the middle of line somewhere) and ask them to start from there. Students that know their piece really well can do this fairly easily. Students that need to start from the beginning of the line or all the way at the beginning of the piece will need more practicing.
I think all teachers and parents want to prepare children to be successful adults and to learn how to deal with all types of positive and negative situations. Rejection and failure are real world experiences, whether at work, school, or even in relationships. We can’t ignore them because they are unpleasant to deal with, but we can be supportive and teach our students and children how to grow from them. Students who go through failure end up being the most resilient and prove to themselves that they can recover from a poor performance experience.
This blog has been mulling around in my brain for a while and I’m finally sitting down to write it out. I’ve had a lot of friends and students going through some pretty rough times here lately, and it has made me really think about how our children react and cope with life changes.
First, let me tell you a little about me and what I went through exactly 8 years ago. We had just gotten home from a super relaxing 3 ½ week trip to Greece. Dominic was starting kindergarten and Juliette was almost 3 years old. I started having some health issues and was going from doctor to doctor. My hands were completely swollen, my feet had blown up to practically the size of 2 tree trunks- I didn’t even have ankles. I had some of the worst doctor experiences ever and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. This went on for about 4 months. I was literally a basket case- crying all of the time, unable to move, I couldn’t hold Juliette, I was exhausted all of the time, and super small things like making my bed were impossible. My diagnosis eventually was Rheumatoid Arthritis. I started some pretty heavy medication, and it was months until I started feeling like myself again.
This situation for me and my family was incredibly stressful. I tell you this because as I was battling my everyday issues, I had to communicate with my kids’ teachers and my friends. I needed all of the help I could get to take care of my children and function. When children are affected by these things, they cope very differently. Some children act out for more attention. Some stay the same. Some simply need a little more love and maybe hold on to their teacher more often if they normally don’t.
Life changes are unavoidable and they affect our kids. These changes could be moving to a new home, separation/divorce, new baby, new job, loss of job, death of a family member or pet, change of schools, or applying to a new school. Anytime something changes in our lives, our children notice it! What should you do? I understand you don’t want to broadcast your life to everyone, but giving your teacher a heads up as to what is going on is incredibly helpful. Besides the teachers in your child’s life being there for your child, they will be able to watch for signs while they are away from you. Sometimes, no changes really happen, Other times, that child might just want to sit and chat. Or sometimes they are acting out, and we need to know why,
Being ill was not only stressful for me and my family, but it was a bit humiliating. I didn’t know what was going on or why. Plus, I had no control over what was happening (for those of you who know me know I like having control in my life!). I thought I had done something wrong, or wasn’t being “healthy”. It was hard for me to tell my kids’ teachers what was going on, but once I did, they were able to help me in different ways than I ever anticipated. They were a set of eyes when I wasn’t parenting. Some started giving me a little advice or pointing me in directions of others who were going through something similar. I began to not feel alone. The best thing I did was open my mouth and talk about what was going on with me. We are a community and the best thing about that is caring for one another. Never think you are alone. You need the support, and your children need the extra care. We teachers genuinely care about the well being of your child, and we want to be sources of support for your family when you need it.
We are so excited about our programs this summer! Now that we have our own studio space, we are thrilled to expand our summer programming (but still keeping our favorites from last year!) Here’s our full list of programs by age:
Mini Maestros and Treblemakers: Mondays (4:15-4:45), Fridays (10:15-10:45), and Saturdays (10:30-11:00) with Ms. Stathia
This parent/child music class is tons of fun! The class includes movement, playing simple percussion instruments, and lots of singing! We use music from all sources (MusicTogether, Kindermusik, and old favorites) and even explore music from around the world. Not only is your child beginning to learn about tonality and steady beat, but it’s also a great way to bond with them at such a young age!
Merry Musicians (weekly class): Tuesdays 3:30-4:15 with Ms. Meredith
This is our general music class for kids ages 3 ½ to 5 ½. Since our summer class is only 8 weeks, we are choosing our very favorite lesson plans from the school year, which are based on letters of the alphabet! We will be learning to sing a few songs, developing steady beat, and even learning note values and basic rhythm patterns. If your child is closer to 5 or 6 years old, this class will help prepare them for group piano or private lessons in the fall.
Group Piano (weekly class): Wednesdays 1:00-1:45 with Ms. Meredith
Group piano class is a great way to start your child’s piano journey! We will learn the basics of rhythm, how to read simple pieces, play listening games, and use our coloring book to help us learn more about the piano. Having a keyboard or piano at home is a requirement to enroll. This class is designed for 5-6 year olds who are entering Kindergarten or 1st grade in the fall.
June 3rd: Famous Composers (9:00-12:00) with Ms. Meredith and Presenting the Orchestra (1:00-4:00) with Ms. Logan
Sign up for just one or both to make a full day camp with lunch in between! We will meet some of the most famous composers, learn about the time periods in which they lived, and the music they wrote. In the afternoon, campers will learn about the instruments and their families, the conductor, and of course, famous symphonies!
July 15th: Musicals! (9:00-12:00) with Ms. Meredith
Movie musicals such as Mary Poppins, Annie, and the Sound of Music will be featured. Campers will love singing, dancing, crafts, and watching excerpts from the featured films!
July 29th: Music Around the World Pt. 1 (9:00-12:00) with Ms. Meredith and Pt. 2 (1:00-4:00) with Ms. Logan
This popular camp is back again this year, but expanded into an optional full day! Each half day camp will explore music, cultural traditions, and traditional dress from 4 different countries. We will even learn to speak a little of the language!
Each of our camps will include a snack and special craft daily!
Group Piano Performance (weekly class): Saturdays 2:00-4:00 with Ms. Chiara (June) and Ms. Ellie (July)
This class will explore pianists’ concepts of piano timbre in their expressive performance, identify the role of the body when performing, and different sense modalities such as touch. We will also work on performance anxiety and embracing the pressure that comes with it!
Broadway Kids Camp (Week of June 17th): 1:00-4:00 with Ms. Logan
Join us for a week of singing, acting and dancing along to Broadway’s biggest hits! Students will learn solos and group numbers from famous Broadway shows, write scenes to perform, and learn choreography. The week will culminate with a performance created by the class. Family and friends are encouraged to come watch the production on the last day!
Kids Guitar Camp (Week of July 8th): 1:00-4:00 with Mr. Brett
This course is a one week exploration of famous guitar heroes and songs that introduces young musicians to practicing and performing on the instrument. Students will learn how the guitar works and how to play songs from different styles of modern guitar. It’s a great kick start to a long term interest in music!
Group Guitar (weekly class): Tuesdays 5:45-6:45 with Brett
Regardless of what genre of music you’re interested in, this course will introduce you to playing the songs you like, and give you the tools to learn more music beyond class. We will cover how to read music for guitar, learn basic music theory, and apply this knowledge to songs individually and as a class. Each member of the class should come with their own guitar, acoustic or electric.
We can’t wait to see you all this summer at the studio!
For pricing, visit our website here: https://www.musicsosimple.com/summer-classes.html
To register, visit here: https://www.musicsosimple.com/register.html
It’s the end of January 2019, and I’m taking a little time to reflect on 2018. 2018 was a great year for MSS. We got a new studio, built up some classes, and added teachers to our MSS team! To date, we have 135 active students. At this time last year, we had 80. That’s unbelievable!! Last year we had 4 teachers and now we have 8. Those numbers are looking great, but since I am always trying to improve and be better, I’m setting up my goals for 2019.
Our Goals for 2019:
Bring on 2019! We are ready to continue working hard!! Thanks to our MSS families and student for helping us be so successful!
Q: Tell us about how you first became involved in music.
A: I started piano lessons as a young kid, probably at around 6 or 7. I picked up guitar and singing for my school/church worship team when I was 10 and have consistently been involved in worship music even into my career.
Q: Is anyone else in your family a musician?
A: No, actually! They’re all engineers. My brother-in-law plays French horn in the Amarillo symphony and is a co-owner of Houghton Horns in Coppell, but my immediate family is not particularly musical.
Q: Tell us more about your music education/background.
A: I was self taught on the guitar for 15 years. I had my first professional lesson when I was 25 and it completely impacted my feelings on the instrument and my capabilities. I studied under Noel Johnston, who is currently a professor of jazz guitar at UNT. Since then, I have chased every scrap of knowledge I can from successful online educators to local jam sessions and open mics, eventually to paid gigs that I learned from on the job.
Q: Did you have any influential teachers/professors who guided you towards becoming a professional musician?
A: When I was in high school, the Spanish teacher at Richardson HS was Mr. Wing, and I believe he still teaches there. His room on Tuesdays at lunch time was always a jam session, so I would bring my guitar and play. I was terrible, but he was always patient to play with us and let music be a part of our day. I never took a class in Spanish, but he gave me a taste for how impactful music is in community (and how important a patient teacher is). I have always grown as a musician primarily because friends and mentors share music with me.
Q: What is your personal teaching philosophy?
A: You can never do something fast that you can’t do slowly. Learning music develops daily over time, and practice should always focus on succeeding in small ways before moving on to bigger ones.
Q: What is your favorite part about being a teacher?
A: Cranking up the distortion on my amp so the piano teachers know guitar is vastly superior.
More seriously, I love that guitar is a versatile instrument adaptable to any style. My students are all individuals and each one of them develops an interest in completely different music, often teaching me something new. I have worked with some of the same students long term and seen them use music in their own lives as they are exposed to a variety of influences. I cannot overstate how valuable it is to watch them learn to love music outside of class, with their own families and friends involved.
Q: What are some of the skills that you hope our students will learn from you?
A: I prefer to learn music by ear, so that just by listening to a song I can jump in and play it. Reading sheet music is valuable, but the guitar is so portable sometimes it’s more convenient just to understand the mechanics of a song by hearing it. This takes practice and hard work, not just “natural talent”, but I certainly hope they learn that it’s entirely worth the effort.
I also want them to find and pick songs they want to learn for themselves, and develop a personal musical style, and even perform it! The best concert I could ever go to is one my students perform.
Q: What styles of music do you enjoy playing the most?
A: I have performed in several folk and jazz groups on acoustic guitar in the last few years, but Top 40s, funk, and rock tend to be what I play professionally. If I had to pick one I would say funk. The band Ripe or Cory Wong will likely be blasting in my room when I’m not teaching.
Q: When you are not teaching, what do you like to do in your spare time?
A: Honestly, more music! I love performing and rehearsing and practicing.
My son Oliver keeps me active and also encourages me to cook more to experiment on his weird taste buds.
My non-music hobbies include roasting/brewing coffee, playing tabletop games, and disc golf.
To see more about Brett, click here
We talk a lot about how many benefits there are for kids to study an instrument: enhancing language and math skills, developing “grit”, and learning to appreciate the arts, just to name a few. But did you know that there are several benefits for adults too? Many adults think they are too old to learn an instrument, but this is absolutely not true. If you are motivated to learn and have the time to practice, then it really is possible! Here are my top 5 reasons why adults should take up an instrument:
Whether you took lessons as a child and want to return, or you’ve never had a single lesson, we know how to get you started. Reach out to us if you have an interest in taking up lessons, and we will match you with a teacher that’s right for you and your musical goals. If you’ve always wanted to learn, you haven’t missed the boat on this rewarding hobby!