Blog Post Share: 15 things to know to support your child learning to play the piano

This is one of the best blog posts I’ve read on the subject of how to help and support your child, written by another piano instructor, Elissa Milne, who lives in Australia. I agree with every one of these 15 things! 🙂

Here are the absolute basics that you need to know to be able to support your family’s journey into profound musicianship.

15 Things You Need to Know About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano

Piano Parents: “15 Things You Need to Know…

…About Supporting Your Child Learning to Play the Piano”

Here’s a wonderful blog post by Elissa Milne, a fellow piano teacher whom I “met” in one of my online pro piano instructors’ groups—she’s quite a teacher, and lives in New Zealand! So cool to now have input from teachers from around the world. 🙂
She has a lot of other informative posts for parents, too, on her blog.

8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently (from creativity post website)

This is an article about a study done at the University of Austin to learn more about specific practice habits of piano majors—who were the best players and most effective learners. Really cool.

Granted this is a study with collegiate piano majors, but I think these findings are good tips for all of us, young and old alike!

Check out the top 8 strategies that led to the most success. (I also like the part about instilling kids with some sort of a work ethic that comes in handy in the future. Totally true.)

What I especially find interesting is the part about how many times the participants played the passage incorrectly: “the more times they played it incorrectly, the worse their ranking tended to be.”

“The researchers note that the most striking difference between the top three pianists and the rest, was how they handled mistakes.”

Great quote at the end of the article:

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”
—George Bernard Shaw

And this one is one of my favorites, I think about it a lot:

“Man has no nobler or more valuable possession than time.”
—Ludwig van Beethoven

8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently (from


Practice for the Elephants Contest Begins April 8!

The Practice for the Elephants Contest starts again next week and runs for 6 weeks through May 23rd.

For my students new to piano this year:

Students practice and earn two cents for every minute practiced over the course of 6 weeks. At the end, we total up the funds we raise, and foster orphaned elephants, that is, we will continue to support the elephants we began to foster last year. If there are extra funds (it’s $50 a year for each elephant) we will foster another baby elephant. These elephants have been orphaned due to the illegal poaching of elephants for their ivory. The use of ivory for piano keys once contributed to the ivory trade. Of course, ivory is no longer used; polymers and mixtures of plastics are used instead for the key tops.

Printed handouts on the contest, as well as the practice sheets, are in the studio. Click here for the PDF with more details on contest, and and why we do it!

Here are our three adopted elephants, all doing well!, with updates:

Chemi Chemi: Keeper’s Diary update
Barsilinga: Keeper’s Diary update
Lominyek: There is no Keeper’s Diary update for Lominyek, as he is now, happily, living in the wild with other elephants in Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Because he is, we will be transferring our donation to another younger orphan who needs us!

Click here for more information about the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This wonderful contest was created by fellow piano instructor, Penny Lazarus.

Want to sponsor a student? If you’re not a part of the studio, click here. If you are, let me know in the lessons and I’ll pair you up with a young student!

Barsilinga and Lemoyian playing in the puddle.
Barsilinga and Lemoyian playing in the puddle.
Chemi Chemi (left) playing with a friend.
Chemi Chemi (left) playing with a friend.
Lominyek with his keepers.
Lominyek with his keepers.

10 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Music Practice

This is a great article from Deceptive Cadence, an NPR program—a wonderful, brief 10-item list of ways to get the most out of practice, good advice for kids and for adults. There was also had a link to an article—“Getting Kids to Practice Music – Without Tears or Tantrums”—which I found very helpful.

All 10 tips are wonderful, and contain advice and direction I give the students, but I really like No. 4 and use it in my own daily practice:

Begin with the end in mind: Have a goal for each practice session before you start playing. Just playing through your music isn’t the same thing as practicing.Before you start, think: What do I want to accomplish today? If you’re not sure what you need to focus on, ask your teacher for a few concrete goals to work toward before the next lesson — and write them down so that you can refer to them during your practice sessions.

Another item talks about how a good, “working” practice involves analysis of and then solving problems, which is most of what music practice is! Spills over into other areas of life really nicely, great for developing these skills in children!

Recently I did No. 9 on the list; I took my music that I was going to play on the street pianos in Boston with me on the train and reviewed it while riding in. 🙂

10 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Music Practice
The Young Person’s Guide to Making Music


Adult Students (and kids!): How Much Should I Practice Each Day?

A question I get a lot, from both my young students, and  from my adult students as well, is “How much should I practice each day?”

My answer: “As much as possible!” 🙂 But not mindlessly, but mindfully.

Truly, there isn’t enough time in the day to practice, or to do everything we want to do. I guess it boils down to priorities.

Especially for working adults.

Whatever you can do, do it. Even if it’s just 30 minutes a day, make it 30 minutes every day to start (and try to work up to 45–60 minutes, if you can). Establishing a routine is critical for success.

How much do I practice? My goal is an hour in the morning, and an hour at night, as these are the times I am the most focused. And I do entirely different activities during these sessions. I also squeeze in mini-sessions (10–15 minutes) of practice on breaks between students during the day. (Piano is my living, so I have more time for it.)

But there is a way to practice. And that is, as the article below discusses, deliberately. Personally, if I am not focused, I just leave the piano. After over 40 years at the piano, I still work on passages slowly and repetitively. I analyze what I am doing: and since I’m a very analytical person, I enjoy this work and look forward to it, at every practice session. If you find you are frustrated or not focused, get up and take a break, or come back later.

Ok, I gotta run, time to practice!

The below article is a great read on this very subject:

How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?


Practice for Elephants Contest begins this week!

Kids, young and old!

Practice for Elephants Contest begins this week. We’ll practice for 5 weeks, me included!, and the money we raise—2 cents for every minute—will help to adopt an orphaned baby elephant in Africa.

I’ve put the link below to the program, and will have your practice charts and info sheets in the studio this week!

Here is the website to follow yourself at home!


Spring Practice Contest Announced: Practicing for Elephants!

Winter Quarter Practice Incentive Contest
This week I’m collecting the practice sheets and the memorization sheets to do a final tally for the Winter Quarter contest (grades K-5). Please make sure both are in the binders and times are all signed off!
(Mon/Tue students are all set. I have yours.)
The prizes/awards for this contest will be given at the Annual Spring Recital (date TBD; probably either the first or second weekend in June—in fact, if you KNOW NOW that you have a conflict with one of these two weekends, now is a good time to let me know, thanks!, as I’d like to have 100% participation!)
I still expect all my students to practice!! These contests have been a very good incentives; until the new contest (see below) gets going, students maintaining at least 30 min a day, 5 days a week, still get a bench prize!
Spring Quarter Practice Incentive Contest – all ages are encouraged to participate! (K-12)
The next event is our Practice for Elephants contest. Info on this charity contest (adopting an orphaned baby elephant in Kenya! to help save them, see website: will be coming later this week, hopefully by Friday. Basically, the kids will practice for pennies, 2 cents per minute, with sponsors (parent, grandparent, friend of family, older sibling, etc.). We’ll get going soon, and the contest will run from 4–6 lesson weeks.
I’ve decided it’s a good idea for the students to do one contest per school year that is not just “materialistically” motivated and that helps others, animals, etc. This is a very good cause that I think students of all ages will appreciate. Also there is the tie-in that ivory used to be in the manufacture of piano keys (some of the kids may not even know this!), and now of course it’s illegal to use ivory for anything.
—Miss Julie

Bench Prize Practice Contest!

Kids! You might win a grand prize at the end of the contest!

The contest begins next week Week of Monday, Oct. 8: Monday kids: even though you don’t have a lesson because of Columbus Day, I’ll still check your practice sheets on the following week, so don’t take a break from practicing! 🙂

Weekly: Each week, if you have earned a bench prize you’ll get a star  in the week next to your name. At the end of the contest (end of Fall Quarter) a grand prize will be given out at the Holiday Piano Party to the student with the most stars! Good luck!

(The numbers below indicate the lesson week we’re in in our Fall Quarter.)

Bench Prizes for Practice

Starting this week, piano practice bench prizes!

For every week in which practice is done for the practice goal (weekly and daily), students will receive a prize from the piano bench!

I’ll keep a tally on the bulletin board of weeks earned by students; at the end of the quarter there will be a grand prize for the student with the most earned practice minutes!