Well, last you hear, I had just completed my Yoga Teacher Training...and now, I just finished my Music Teacher Certification. Ha!! I told you I had been busy! And thanks to COVID for shutting things down, it helped me stay a little more sane!
So, what's all of this music teacher certification? Wasn't I already qualified to be teaching piano? Well, yes, I was and still am. However, I wanted my national certification.
We are all members of our local (Dallas), state (Texas), and national association, which is Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). Through MTNA, they offer a program for teachers to get their national certification, but it has nothing to do with how long you've been teaching or your experience. Once I applied to be certified, I had one year to finish five projects.
The 5 Projects were:
#1: My Teaching Philosophy and a statement of my Educational Goals. This was pretty easy and straight forward.
#2: Analyzing Four Pieces from different eras. (side note, this was probably the project I avoided the most! Each piece required 1,500 words, but it definitely tested my theory skills, and I really had to study for this one!)
#3: Present My Teaching. For this one, I had to get one of my students who would allow me to video tape and analyze, and state my goals (repertoire, theory, & technique) for him. I also had to submit past student theory tests, festivals and contest critiques, and student evaluations. I sure am glad I had always had those! Whew! In addition, I had to perform a piece of a certain skill level (I put that off too).
#4: Share Information about my Teaching Environment (which I'm sure they were totally jealous of in seeing our awesome studio space pictures! Ha!
#5: Discuss My Studio Business Ethics and Policies, including how I respond to parents and students about certain things.
I was able to send in the 35 page report by the end of April. My certification was confirmed at the beginning of July! I was so nervous waiting!!
So, why did I do this? I think it was the challenge! It wasn't easy! But the hardest part was probably just doing it and getting it done. There's never been a question of whether I have the education or the skills. But, knowing that I could be a nationally certified teacher just feels better. I like bettering myself with more continuing education, and I will have to in order to keep NCTM (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music) at the end of my name.
A few people I would like to thank:
My parents: Thank you for giving me an amazing education and always encouraging me to reach for the stars. You continue to be proud of me and be some of my biggest supporters. Thank you for teaching me how to work hard.
Navir: Thank you to the sweetest boy who allowed me to video tape our lessons. It was totally weird at first, but then we got used to it! Your practice habits make me look like an amazing teacher! And our last videos were taken via Skype! Ha!! Thank you for going with the flow!
Logan: Thank you for helping me with analyzing. Seriously, sometimes I felt like an idiot and you just laughed with me! Thank you for proofing! You are such a wonderful friend!
Meredith: Thank you for proofing the final draft!! You are literally the best proofer ever! And, thank you for being patient with me and then for celebrating with me!
My husband, Brian, and my kids: Thank you for giving me a little extra time on the weekends to work on this. I would often get up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to sit with my coffee and my computer and work on my certification, which would then last for hours.
When it comes to ordering music, we only shop local, and by local, we buy all of our music at Nadine's Music Manor.
Nadine's Music Manor has been around since 1972. I was first introduced to her in my first days at Dallas/Music. At one point, it was my job to order music and I would call her once or twice a week to order what we needed. Sometimes, I would go get it from her store, and other times, she had it delivered to us. I developed a personal relationship with her.
In the very early days of Music SO Simple, we decided to continue that tradition and order our music from her. We think it's much easier to buy our student's music and give it to them, rather than tell parents what to get. As a busy parent myself, I definitely don't want something else added to my plate!
Fast forward to today: Nadine's has been a life line for us! We have had to get extra music from her because we are teaching so many lessons virtually so that we can see what our students are practicing. She almost always has exactly what we need and we are so grateful.
When things clear up in our city, it would be fun for our parents to take our students on a field trip to a "real life" music store! Remember when we used to go and pick out records/cassettes/CDs? Do you remember that surge of excitement you would get just being there? Yeah, that's what it feels like! Something that Amazon simply cannot replicate!
Needless to say, that even though this may not be the best time to browse, knowing that we support our local music store means so much to me, and to her. Knowing that I can pick up the phone and ask her if she has a certain edition in stock, or where can I find a specific piece....well, that's worth so much to me.
This weird time of COVID has made me think about supporting the small businesses, like us. Know that when you see a music charge on your bill, it is the cost we pay to Nadine's Music Manor. We take no profit; everything goes straight to her. So, you too, are supporting her.
For those of you who know me well know I love my yoga! For the past 4 years, I have practiced a very regular schedule at Reef Point Yoga. They had a location at CityLine.. It was super convenient with my studio and teaching. I always joke, that if you need to find me, I either driving up and down Plano road going to Yoga or MSS! Ha! Before Reef Point Yoga, I did Bikram yoga, and well, as much as I loved the heat, I didn't like other aspects. The first time I went into Reef Point which was right when they opened, I was immediately hooked to their mirrorless studio, simple lines, and immediate calm. As of right now, I can see that I've attended over 520 classes with Reef Point. I became friends with the owner, Kathi. We had similar values in how we managed out businesses. We collaborated a few times with music classes and yoga classes.
Anyways, flash forward to this past December. My husband, Brian, bought me the 200-hour yoga teacher certification with Kathi for Christmas. I was shocked and so excited! I remember at the first training session introducing myself and saying I had NO idea how I was going to do all of what I was doing, but it was going to work!
A month into the training, the world shut down because of COVID-19. Our training paused for maybe a week or so, and then we started meeting via Zoom. We read a ton on our own, learned about the 7 Chakras, the Yoga Sutras, Swara Yoga, the 8 Limbs of Yoga, Sanskrit names of asanas, Mantras, Mudras, anatomy, and so much more. All via Zoom. We had to continue our own practices. Originally, we were supposed to take a certain number of classes per week. Some weeks during the pandemic, I did the minimum, and other weeks, I couldn't get enough. I NEVER had an at home practice before, but suddenly I was trying to figure out how to make my yoga practice at home work. I missed the "get away" to the yoga studio- it brought me calm, a release from the world as soon as I entered the studio, and just a general "safe" space to let all of the stress life go. That's really hard to recreate at home!
Before the pandemic, I had no desire to teach yoga. I went in thinking, cool, I'll just learn more about this thing that I love so much. But something changed. I don't remember when. I think once I "had" to start teaching a class or two, it just really made me happy- or happ-ier. I think the best part of this whole thing, is that YTT has complimented my piano teaching and made me an even better teacher! Who would've thought??
Fun fact: there are quite a few music teachers out there who discovered the amazingness of this combination already. :)
So, here I am. RYT200 certified...and now teaching a few classes each week! For now, classes will be donation-based. All proceeds from classes go to help many of our students stay in music lessons that were financially impacted from COVID-19. I know so many families, including my own, that have either lost part of their income or all of it. Any little bit helps! Plus, in taking a yoga class, you get a little self love back.
For more on our class schedule or how to donate, click here. I hope to see you in a class in the near future! Namaste
This month, we are 4 years old!! I seriously can't believe it! I think it's been 4 of the best years ever!
Recently, I have friended another music teacher who is going through the same thing I did four years ago. It has brought up many memories of what happened with me and how I started Music SO Simple, but honestly it's made me more thankful! Even in a strange and life-changing time like COVID-19, I am beyond grateful for having started Music SO Simple with a great friend, Meredith Manley.
Ending the spring semester with 165 students was truly incredible, especially during COVID! We've had to change our business model a bit and continue lessons via technology. Thank goodness for technology- it has truly been a huge gift. I think our virtual recitals were absolutely amazing- and if you haven't watched them yet, please do now!! It was super cool to see each student perform in his/her home setting and everyone worked so hard to make these virtual recitals extra special. They truly are a souvenir from our "shelter in place" time and will be cherished for a very long time.
Over this past year, we have welcomed a few more teachers and a few more students. I take pride in that we only hire teachers that are the best of the best. It has taken time to get to where we are! We have also been in our amazing studio space now for almost two years. I sometimes laugh, that 2 years ago, it looked like a completely different space! We now have so much art/student pictures filling the walls and furniture to host our waiting parents. During this time of COVID-19, it is so hard to see the waiting areas empty, but I know one day, we will be able to go back to where we were. Our entire mission was built on relationships, music, and families and our studio space was created to reflect this.
Thank you for being a part of our MSS family. Even those who no longer take lessons are still part of our musical family. The silver lining in our time is that we have really learned what matters to so many of us, and not surprisingly, music has continued to keep us going and brings us together like nothing else. This time will pass, but we will cherish everything we have learned and will continue to grow! Happy 4th birthday, MSS!!
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?