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· Practical Pedagogy

Teaching Into the Future

Going places: Whether you are a new and inspired teacher, or a seasoned and (hopefully still inspired teacher) we all have our own way of taking our students places. Whether that be to 19th century Russia, 17th century Germany or to what's current in American pop culture. As we continue to have more information coming at us than ever before from sorting through all the new music or methods, combing through information is now a skill that we need to sharpen or we will end up in the black hole of too much, too often, all the time. Do we jump on the newest music? Do we try new teaching techniques? Do we stick with the same old thing? What about that new method that came out? What am I missing if don't try it? Weren't there 10 new apps I wanted to try that I brought home from the last conference? And...we know what works for us, so what exactly are we trying to figure out by trying these new things? The answer is easy: Growth. To teach into the future, WE grow. This potentially involves failing. I always say fail fast, and fail forward but most importantly, keep trying new things. I keep this mantra close, for my students, as well as myself.

What's the goal? As a teacher, I am working toward bringing fulfillment to my students, and I use music as my toolbox, with all kinds of tools and gadgets inside. How can I help guide and make more meaningful connections to my students' lives and the music they learn? Music is unique; to one person it means one thing, and to another, it means something entirely different. How we each listen is also unique to the listener. Welcome to art! Creativity can be perceived as messy, non-linear and it's always in motion. Much like life. Our careers as piano teachers I would hope are also 'lived in' with a multitude of cultures around us, a wide array of musical styles that go beyond western classical music, and with students who learn in a variety of ways. In order to keep growing, we need to keep trying, and when we do this, some of us who have high achievement and perfectionist tendencies would often times rather not even open ourselves up to trying because that could mean 'failure'. I'm here to reassure you that 'failing' is part of teaching, and in order to be a great teacher, we need to learn and live the lesson of failing fast and failing forward. Think of your students or children and how many times they have to try at the latest video game. How many times do they "fail" at the first level before moving on? How they learn new pieces each week and jump into that process is hopefully parallel to the way they learn new games and apps. They keep trying. If one way doesn't work, they try another way. Same goes for us in our teaching. For me to teach fulfillment, I am going to keep trying new things and while some of those things might work, others might not and that's the beauty of enjoying the process of learning, and living. Staying in motion.

Challenge: As we are more open and understanding of learning styles, music from different cultures and student autonomy in the musical choices of our own students, to continue to be thriving teachers, it seems like it would be in our best interest to see what we can do to bring out our uniquely human characteristics and strengths and let 'the robots' do what they do best. It's one way to grow. Let's explore some of the most amazing teaching tools we have available to us with our computers and iPads with one caveat: I'd like to challenge you to try TWO new services/ideas below. It may not go as you plan the first time, but keep trying and see if there is something you can find that excites you to continue to grow.


  • SuperScore - the most advanced music reading app on the planet. Check out this video from Shana Kirk here! See this short video demonstrating Kristin's arrangement of Ode to Joy which can be purchased in the Super Score App. 
  • Google Play - digital distribution service that includes music books. I have The Music Tree library on here, as well as Gillock pieces and lots of other music as options to buy. No more waiting on music to arrive!
  • Scribd - digital library with over 60 million documents, including musical scores
  • MusicNotes - incredible online resource in particular for popular/current music. Works as a website or an app. Check out a short demo here 
  • ForScore - the most transformative music app of my career! Make your life easy with scores on your iPad; everywhere you go without having to keep track of your crazy amounts of music. Fully customizable, editable and just like a piece of music without all the page turns (p.s. buy the pencil)  Check out this quick 5 min video here!
  • Some teachers struggle with popular genres to play, so I wanted to make sure I included The Royal Conservatory's Popular Piano Music Syllabus here. It's a great starting point!


  • Online - Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or FaceTime
  • Video Lesson - This is when I use the time where the student's lesson is on my schedule and for whatever reason they cannot make it. I provide value by creating some meaningful content and then upload to YouTube or Vimeo. Here is an example of a technical segment I created for a student who couldn't make it to her lesson, and another example for a student who was sick one week for Gillock's Drifting Clouds (I think this would have been his 2nd or 3rd lesson on it.) Then, consider including a specific assignment/expectation for the next lesson to maximize your time. 
  • Video Library - Check out this example here of a possible idea. Housing the videos with a private link on YouTube or Vimeo is what I find easiest to do. Consider having a video library of pieces you introduce and walk through to send to students if they are absent, in lieu of a makeup lesson. 
  • DocScan - the app I use to scan my music into ForScore. Works better than a camera because it makes your music a PDF file, which is far clearer and easier to read than a simple image.
  • SuperMetronomeGroovebox - this app is a beat (instead of a metronome) when playing scales or more contemporary styles, it makes the music far more engaging! Here is a 15-second video of my student playing If I Ain't Got You with a steady beat.
  • EduCreations - check out this 2 min Tutorial on the Treble Staff. 
  • Canva - to make your designs look professional. Consider using for Recitals, Summer Promotion, Special events,'s free! Try it out and 'play' with it a bit to see if you like it. 
  • Slack - a collaboration work hub, perfect for schools, associations and committees to get things done in an organized and efficient manner without clogging up emails and texts
  • Strikingly - if you don't have your own website, I highly encourage you to check out this amazing service that looks as incredible as it is easy to use (this is where was built by me, and I am NOT a website builder) 

Looking ahead using Video-on-Demand

As I look ahead in my own career as a pianist, teacher and artist, the more I see my future including video that goes beyond inspiration and recommending students watch certain things. I am talking about Video as in using it as a tool for instruction. As some of you know, I created Musical Minds Online with the intention of taking my lessons to a global market, using video-on-demand. This means that you can learn how to play piano (from me) anytime, anywhere, and across all app platforms, or using the www. The two reasons I 'jumped' so to speak at this time, is because I was inspired by the fitness industry and how amazing their videos were. I ended up taking two weeks off to spend time with my family as we took my dad to the Mayo Clinic, but I needed to keep moving. I realized how far we have advanced by the level, quality and effectiveness of these videos. Why can't I take what I think is the best of what I have to offer, streamline and offer it to a global market, to bring as much music at an affordable price to as many people as possible? That to me is growth, and what my future looks like. What does your future in piano teaching look like and how will you continue to teach into the future?

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