How to use LessonMate for more than just make-ups

Leah and a few of her students

by Leah Rockweit

Like many music teachers, I’ve spent the last two years experimenting with ways to connect virtually with students and families: emails, Google Drive folders, a variety of apps. I’ve found that LessonMate stands out as an amazing tool for enriching my teaching and my relationships with students.

Though LessonMate is primarily meant to replace canceled lessons, I’ve found some unconventional uses for the program that you may find useful, too!

Note-taking during remote lessons

It’s so easy to take notes in LessonMate during a remote lesson, and it doesn’t add any time to my day. I simply keep a LessonMate open during the lesson and write notes like I would in a notebook. The lesson ends and boom, notes are sent!

Parents also appreciate seeing a record of what we’re working on remotely, and it’s a reminder for the students: “Johnny said he doesn’t have anything to practice? Check out the LessonMate!”

Sharing music between lessons

When my students and I choose songs together during our lessons, it’s super easy to upload audio or video files to LessonMate. This way they can start listening and watching digitally instead of waiting a week until I return with the sheet music. Nothing makes me happier than walking into a lesson to find my student’s ahead of the game!

Staying connected between lessons that I need to cancel

As active working musicians, sometimes we just can’t work around canceling a lesson. Even though it’s not required, I’ve used LessonMate to send a few “sorry I needed to cancel this week, keep up the hard work, see you next week” videos to families who weren’t interested in remote lessons. Recording these takes a little time (around two minutes per student), but it’s worth it to maintain a regular presence in my students’ lives.

Using LessonMate to create incentives

I am all about incentive programs! I call one of my newest the “Rockweit Raffle” (based on my last name), created from my need for a program for teens and adults. (Because let’s be real– even older students love incentives!)

Basically, great work equals a ticket to the raffle, where students can earn prizes like books, sheet music, etc. I do a raffle roughly every four months. When it comes time to announce winners, I record a video and send it via LessonMate for students to watch and see who won.

Using LessonMate in out-of-the-box ways might be a little confusing for families initially. I’ve gotten a few texts or emails saying, “Wait, we didn’t miss a lesson, was this sent by mistake?” But now that they’ve grown to occasionally expect it, I see more people viewing their LessonMates. And I truly find that the more I use it, the more frequently I see the videos not only viewed, but valued.

Stories of Piano Power Parents Who Play in Recitals

Adult woman playing the piano at a recital

Stephanie Petrusha

Most of our students are kids, so our recital participants typically comprise the 18 and under set. However, there are a few brave, grown-up souls who place themselves (willingly!) on the roster of recital performers.

Stephanie Petrusha says playing her first recital made her a “nervous wreck”, and Katie Licup says being a litigator is nothing compared to playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in front of a group of strangers. But both women agree that the belly-butterflies were worth the growth and exhilaration that followed.

Here are their stories.

Stephanie Petrusha, piano student

After Stephanie Petrusha inherited a piano from a family member, she decided to start lessons for her son. Like a lot of kids new to lessons, he became frustrated because he wasn’t immediately great at it. Practice dwindled.

Stephanie wanted to show her son that learning something new takes work, and that piano isn’t easy. So at age 38, she signed up for her very first piano lesson since the fourth grade.

Two and half years later, she’s still at it.

“I found piano therapeutic,” Stephanie writes in an email. “I’m at ease knowing this is something I will enjoy and build upon even as I grow older.”

I asked Stephanie (and Katie, whose story follows below) a few questions about what it’s like to play in Piano Power recitals. Here’s what she had to say.

What motivated you to play in a recital?

Performing in a recital is definitely out of my comfort zone. There is a lot to be said for leading by example, though. How could I expect my child, who was hating piano at the time, to perform if I didn’t do something uncomfortable for myself?

Little did I know how rewarding this would be for me in return. I had done it! And the years of lessons my son took gave him the confidence that has helped him breeze through the middle school keyboard curriculum. And he’s the best french horn player in beginning band at his school.:) These are my motivational reasons to do it.

How would you describe the experience of playing a recital?

At my first one, I was a nervous wreck! I have never been more proud of myself after the second one.

Would you do it again? Why or why not?

Yes. I will continue to force myself out of my comfort zone, mainly because it forces me to practice a lot more. I am determined to sit down at a piano someday and look at a sheet of music that I have never seen or heard before, and immediately be able to play the song with the right rhythm.

Piano lessons have taught me a lot more than how to read music and play the piano. It has helped my chaotic life seem calm, and I can share it with my children and friends. Piano is my outlet. It has made a huge difference in my life, and I will forever be grateful.

Katie Licup, former piano student

Katie Licup and her son

Katie Licup and her 8-year-old son started piano lessons at the same time. He wanted to explore piano and drums, and she was interested in the “creative and mental ‘workout’ learning a new instrument would give.”

But like Stephanie, Katie also wanted to set a good example for her son. He’d tried piano once before, and became discouraged when he discovered how much he had to work at it.

“I knew I wouldn’t be very good at this, and thought it would be good for him to see that even adults need to exert effort to improve their performance,” Katie writes in an email.

What motivated you to play in a recital?

My teacher didn’t tell me I had a choice! 🙂 Also, I thought it would be hypocritical for my son to play and for me not to.

How would you describe the experience of playing a recital?

All the fear and adrenaline of playing violin recitals as a kid came back to me. I am a former litigator and a leader in the Fortune 500 office I work at now, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been as nervous as playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in front of 30 people at the recital! But I felt proud and exhilarated after it was over! (And I even messed up a couple times.)

Would you do it again?

Yes. But practice really does make perfect, and so it requires time and commitment, which can be in short supply as a working parent.

Piano Power did a fantastic job of preparing both my son and me for the recital, and while I know my son was proud of his performance, we each were also very proud of each other. It was a bit of a role reversal having him cheer me on!

Want to read more about why it’s great to take music lessons as an adult? Check out 8 reasons you’ll never regret taking adult music lessons!

Moms share the benefits, challenges of music lessons

Mom and daughter at piano

Music teacher Jacqueline enjoys musical quality time with her daughter.

Gaea Gomez Fidler loved music as a kid, but found lessons boring. Her more musically experienced siblings, some of them classically trained, pressured Gaea to level up.

And so, like so many kids who don’t get what they need from lessons, Gaea gave up rather than level up.

But now as an adult, enrolling her son Jamie in piano lessons led her to “making friends” with the piano again.

Initially, she took lessons as a way to help Jamie develop and stay motivated. But as his lessons progressed, she recognized her own relationship to music was improving.

Through more positive, engaging lessons– and less external pressure– Gaea has rediscovered the joy of music.

Whether inspired by their own children, redefining their relationship to lessons, or enjoying precious solo time, Piano Power moms find so many benefits to studying an instrument.

A meditative state of mind

Gaea finds that along with the mental challenge of learning music theory, relearning the piano has a meditative effect. Playing piano, she says, relaxes her brain.

“For a little while during the day, I tune out external distractions and focus on what is in front of me presently,” Gaea says. “Maybe it’s a stretch, but playing piano is like an active meditation for me with similar benefits.”

It’s not a stretch.

As Melissa Venditti writes in The Mindful Word: “When I play, I can feel the sensation of my fingers pressing against the keys or strings. I can become actively aware of my own emotional reaction to the music on a beat-by-beat basis.”

Others have noted the meditative, relaxing effect playing music has on their consciousness, a benefit of music study that may be particularly valuable to busy moms.

A connection to the past

Parent Alyse Gamson’s story is similar to Gaea’s. She signed up for lessons after becoming “completely entranced” while witnessing her son’s lessons. Now she enjoys the peace she’s found in playing.

“When I’m in a good practice rhythm and playing a song that I love, it immediately puts me in a wonderful, meditative state of mind,” Alyse says. “If it’s a classical piece, I’m completely enchanted and feel a connection with the past.”

Making time for learning

Unlike Gaea, Alyse had no experience with studying music before taking adult lessons. Initially her goal was to sight-read easy music. She then moved on to intermediate songs.

But life can easily get in the way of goals. With three kids under nine and a business to run, Alyse’s biggest challenge is universal: making time for practice.

“It’s important to practice regularly, ideally at least five times a week,” says Piano Power founder and director Abraham Levitan. “But the length of practice doesn’t matter nearly as much as regularity. So if all you can manage is five minutes a day, you can still progress if it’s a daily habit.”

For parent Mindy Ingersoll, knowing she’s investing money into lessons motivates regular practice.

“I’m not stressing out about finding time to practice, but at the same time I’m using ten minutes when dinner is cooking to play a little bit,” Mindy says. “Instead of checking Facebook I’m playing the guitar. It’s definitely a better use of my time.”

Reconnecting with songs you love

Choosing to learn favorite songs with a personal connection can help motivate practice. Learning the classics is wonderful. But like working out to a good mix, it’s the songs we really love that move us.

Learning easy versions of songs by her favorites (like Jason Mraz, Imagine Dragons, and Elvis Presley) was the jolt Alyse needed to make time for practice.

The accessibility of at-home lessons

Taking private lessons at home has been key for Gaea. She describes her son as “pokey” when it comes to leaving the house. Add that to the time-sucks of getting dressed, gathering supplies, and hustling in and out of buildings, lessons can quickly devolve into another chore.

With lessons at home, Gaea says, “It’s no longer an event. It’s just another thing we do, like eating our dinner or brushing our teeth.”

The most important thing to know about practice

Sometimes, you’re just not going to do it.

That doesn’t mean you should give up, or not take lessons at all. Parent Taryn Fisher says that flexibility is key to balancing work, family, and personal time.

“I am not going to pretend that I’m a poster-child for the ‘mom who does everything,’” Taryn says. “Accepting that this is something I am doing for myself– a treat, something to look forward to– is important. Which means not squeezing it into an already stressful day. But I’m also not putting it last after everyone else’s needs are met.”

Learning to learn again

Buddhist teacher and monk Suzuki Roshi said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Kids are masters of “beginner’s mind”. Constantly learning new things, they’re well-acquainted with being new to something. But adults? Our egos cringe at the sound of our own amateur playing.

“I do feel a little vulnerable as an adult not feeling like I’m entirely competent as I’m learning a new piece,” says parent Lindsey Harrington, who is also a middle-school teacher.

But rather than letting that feeling of incompetence stop her, Lindsey lets it deepen her compassion for herself and her students.

“It’s always good to remind myself of the various learning styles and give everyone, myself included, a bit of grace during the learning process,” says Lindsey. “It takes different people different lengths of time and a variety of methods to figure things out. It’s good to be reminded of that.”

Jacqueline Arrigo, a Piano Power teacher who also cares for her infant daughter, has played, taught, and performed piano for years. She recently started guitar lessons to challenge herself with a new instrument.

“[As a music student in college], I just never had the motivation to practice guitar, especially with my shiny piano sitting right there,” Jacqueline says. “But as a student now, it’s fun, challenging, and empowering to learn. In the end the goal is the same for me– to always be learning.”

As Taryn puts it, why do only what comes easily?

Creating community with family

As a new mom, Jacqueline struggles with “mom-guilt” and falling behind on chores. But she loves the ways music enriches her relationship to her daughter. It’s a benefit worth delaying the laundry for.

“Livvy loves music and always hangs out with me in our music room while I’m playing,” Jacqueline says. “She has her own mini-piano and other percussion instruments that keep her busy while I practice. I want her to be surrounded by music, and this is a perfect way to do it.”

Several moms mentioned playing with their kids, including songs their kids wrote for them. They report being delightfully surpassed in skill by their children. And they let lessons drive what the family listens to together.

Rekindling sparks with your spouse

After helping her husband find a guitar teacher, Mindy realized she wanted lessons, too. They’ve now found that playing together helps connect them as a couple.

“It’s hard to find time to practice at the same time, but when we do, we start laughing or smiling because we messed up,” Mindy says. “And it’s fun when my son walks in and wants to take out his guitar. He’s not taking lessons yet but it’s getting him interested.”

It goes to show that once someone in the family starts lessons, a passion for music begins to catch.

“My husband started taking piano lessons this year, and our youngest can’t wait for lessons,” Alyse says. “Music is such a gift. We hope to inspire our children so that they’ll want to learn instruments at a young age.”

Taryn grew up in a musical family. Her brother went to a music conservatory, her sister is a professional performer, and her parents play together as a duo. She easily envisions a family band in her future. Once the least confident musician in the family, now that prospect excites her.

Feeling like yourself again

Momhood is equal parts joy and pain, euphoria and exhaustion. What time we may have once had for soul-searching, creative expression, or intellectual pursuits, is replaced with caring for our kids.

“The creative part of me had been missing for almost a decade, and that can be a sad loss,” Taryn says. “Tapping back into making music has been so refreshing, like, ‘Oh, it’s nice to see creative Taryn again’.”

Before we become parents, we understand that parenting involves sacrifice. But when the sacrifice becomes real, seeping into our daily lives, we can begin to feel starved. Music lessons — with the social and introspective opportunities they offer– can be a marvelous antidote.

Want to learn more about adults in music lessons? Check out 8 reasons why you’ll never regret taking adult music lessons.

Are Group Piano Lessons Good for Your Child?

Piano Power don’t offer group piano lessons, but that doesn’t mean we don’t endorse them! Parents and students should definitely weigh all of their options before starting lessons, and sometimes group is the way to go. This article by Jennifer Hughes of Know Your Instrument will help you decide the ideal learning setup for your budding pianist.

by Jennifer Hughes

When you think of piano lessons, the one-on-one setup– teacher sitting with a learner at the piano, guiding their little fingers on to the keys– might be the first thing that comes to mind. But don’t forget about group piano lessons!

While both scenarios have their pros and cons, in this article we’re looking at how group lessons can benefit a young piano player. Some questions you might have are:

Will my child be able to focus in a group social setting?

In most cases, there are at least four students and one teacher in a group piano class. For younger students, activities might include group games that develop rhythm, movement, pitch matching, listening, and music appreciation- all of which are necessary before learning the more technical aspects of piano playing.

A good teacher, supportive peer environment, and well-structured program will help your kid stayed focused. Be picky about the class you sign up for. Don’t hesitate to talk to teachers in advance of signing up for their class, and parents of students who took the class previously.

With that support in place, a group class will cultivate social skills like:

  • Making friends
  • Taking turns
  • Practicing patience with other kids
  • Offering encouragement and support to others
  • Will being in a group class help my kid develop the confidence they need, or will they get lost in the group?

    In a group class, your student has a built-in audience. It’s likely they’ll have to play in front of their classmates as well as the teacher, and possibly in front of an audience at a recital. Playing in front of their peers may help them break out of their comfort zone, and motivate them to keep on practicing.

    A shy student may feel more comfortable playing with others at first rather than solo– especially if they get to play duets, or an ensemble with the whole class. Some children build confidence when they know there are others doing the same thing.

    All in all, group piano lessons enable children to experience the joy of learning and making music together. This not only does a lot in building confidence and social skills, but also in increasing motivation to make progress. For a more intensive and specific piano training for your child, you can always supplement group lessons with private instruction.

    Still have questions? You might also be interested in: How to Decide Between Group and Private Lessons.

    Music Education: Celebrating the Science-Tested Benefits

    young girl hands playing keyboard

    Music offers children important opportunities for self-expression, and can be an empowering force in their lives. They’re often some of the most eager participants in World Music Day. This annual celebration of musical creativity invites musicians of all stripes to take to share their talents.

    The event, celebrating its 38th anniversary this year, originated in the streets of Paris, France. Since then it has become an internationally-recognized testament to the unifying power of music.

    World Music Day is on June 21, and taking note of the significant developmental role played by music education seems a worthy celebration!

    Here are three key ways that learning about, playing, and even listening to music can benefit kids:

    1. It helps them handle difficult emotions more easily.

    Fear, sadness, anger, and disappointment are tough emotions to handle, especially for kids. Their brains are still developing, and they don’t have the same resilience as a healthy adult.

    Instrument training is linked to more rapid maturation of areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation, including the ability to manage anxiety.

    2. It helps them feel good about themselves and others.

    Low self-esteem can make it hard for kids to feel confident when interacting with their peers. This can limit their social lives. Musical training is linked to boosts in both self-esteem and empathy, making it easier for kids to make and keep new friends.

    3. It boosts test scores across the board.

    Turns out hitting the books isn’t the only way to make report cards shine! Music education is correlated with improved scores in school subjects and on standardized tests.

    The list of things to love about music education certainly doesn’t end there. We The Parents have created an easy-to-read infographic detailing the way music benefits kids and the studies that prove it, so take a peek!

    Learn more about the science behind music education at We The Parents.

    Music Education: 17 Science-Backed Benefits

    Introducing Studio Power, Our New Virtual Rock Band Program!

    How does it work? 

    Students choose a song, learn their parts virtually in lessons, and participate in Zoom meetings with their bandmates and teacher.

    Students experience a safe and healthy rock band experience, and leave with an amazing video like the one our (fabulous!) teachers created above.

    If your student is really bummed about missing Basement Band— or if live recitals aren’t your kid’s thing– Studio Power is the perfect alternative. 

    Sign up here!

    How to Prepare for a Top-Notch Online Piano Lesson

    The verdict is in: for most people, online piano lessons have been a huge success! Our teachers and students have been surprised to find out how productive, comforting, and fun virtual lessons can be.

    The following info will prepare you to rock your next online piano lesson. But if you only have time to read one thing, we recommend the following advice: make sure your lesson takes place in a very quiet room!

    What device(s) to use?

  • The bigger the screen the better, although older laptops probably aren’t up to the task.
  • External microphones/webcams/headphones/headsets can make a huge difference in sound and visual quality.
  • A bluetooth speaker to play songs can be really helpful too, but you might need a second device/phone to play things.
  • Zoom is the best conference app we’ve found so far. A lot of the other products (like Facebook/Facetime/Google Hangouts) just aren’t up to the task yet. It’s free, so give it a try!
  • If you’re using Zoom on a laptop/PC, download the program rather than running it in your web browser. (You can select “Download Zoom Client” under the Resources tab.)
  • Having trouble hearing or being heard?

    Audio can be tricky for conferencing, especially if everyone is using their built-in microphone and speakers. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure your student is in a quiet room. Conference software can broadcast only one sound at a time, and it picks the loudest sound in either room. Noise that seems quiet on your end– fans, shuffling papers, or walking around– is a lot louder on a microphone than it is in person; it will end up being the only thing that can be heard on either end.
  • Have your student put on earbuds/headphones. This cuts down on the noise coming out of your speakers, which can mess with the microphone. If you’d still like to listen in, you can ask your teacher to record the lesson for you and send you a copy–or you can try setting up a separate set of earbuds.
  • Mute your own sound when you can’t hear the teacher. Again, loud noises on your end will make your teacher’s sound go away. Your teacher can also do this on their end.
  • Try “preserving original sound” (this may only work on a laptop):
  • Open the settings menu –> Go to “audio” –> In the bottom right hand corner, go to “advanced”
    and make sure this option is on: “Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone” –> In the meeting, click the Turn on Original Sound menu item in the top right corner and see if that improves things for you and your teacher.

    Having trouble seeing or being seen?

  • Set up the camera before your lesson. Ask your teacher where they would like to be placed.
  • Put your camera where your teacher would normally be sitting. Around head level is probably ideal.
  • Use bright lighting. Webcams still aren’t very great in low light, so making things as bright as possible can be really helpful.
  • Having trouble with the delay?

    Delay is an unfortunate inevitability with the internet, even with the fastest connections. Here are a few workarounds if it’s especially bad.

  • Make sure you’re on a good connection. Try switching to a different WiFi network if you can, or try moving your router a bit closer.
  • Try restarting your device, or the program you’re using.
  • Work around it. Teachers and students won’t be able to play along with each other at the same time. It’s probably not possible without quantum teleportation, and we’re a few decades away from that!
  • Here are a few other solutions:

  • Have your teacher record themselves playing a duet part, and your student can then play along later on.
  • Have your student play the song they’re working on through a speaker in your home, that way you can both hear it and your teacher will be able to hear how you’re keeping up with things.
  • There’s a bit of a learning curve here, so with some patience and a tiny bit of work we can all emerge from our homes soon with a wealth of new musical skills.

    Happy learning!

    Adult Student Profile: Alysia Stiles Kinsella

    “I allow myself room to take things at a pace I can handle so lessons don’t become stressful.”

    After her kids started piano and voice lessons, Alysia Stiles Kinsella got a hankering for lessons of her own. She’d taken piano once in her twenties, but it was time for a fresh (re)start.

    After her teenage daughter decided to take a break from lessons, Alysia slid into her spot with piano and voice teacher Audie Lomboy. Her daughter’s break didn’t last long, but Alysia enjoyed her lessons so much that she kept on, too.

    Read on to learn more about Alysia’s experience, and her advice for other parents suffering from music-lesson-envy!

    What’s your favorite thing about piano lessons?

    First, I just really like to be able to play songs on the piano and have them sound like actual music. I enjoy that I am able to play something that sounds pretty.

    Second, I enjoy working with Audie because he lets me determine what I want to accomplish without undue pressure. He makes the whole process enjoyable.

    What’s your favorite thing to play so far?

    I am only in my second book, so I don’t have too many favorites. I enjoy when I first start a song and it doesn’t sound like much, but as I continue to practice, it turns into a song I actually recognize.

    Audie is going to arrange Fix You by Coldplay for me, which is one of my favorite songs so I am looking forward to learning that. (My daughter played and sang that a year or so ago.) Hopefully I can get it down well enough that I can play and she or my son can sing.

    What’s a challenge about taking music lessons as an adult?

    Time! I am a full-time working mom plus have a dog who seems to be mostly my responsibility. 🙂

    I travel sometimes and have a lot going on. Plus we have to fit three people practicing on the piano, and no one wants to hear piano all night (as much as we might enjoy it)!

    Do you think there are any special advantages to taking lessons at this stage in your life?

    I allow myself room to take things at a pace I can handle so lessons don’t become stressful. The point is to enjoy them. If that means one week– because I was travelling or had something else going on– my first practice is my next lesson, it is what it is. The next week I try to do better.

    Any advice for other adults thinking about taking lessons?

    Just try it for a month or two. The worst that can happen is that you decide it isn’t for you, or it isn’t for you right now. As we get older, it’s important to continue to try new things and learn new skills. It keeps us sharp!

    Check out another great adult student profile with Keith Weinberg.

    How to Inspire a Bored Music Student

    Photo by Ana Carolina from Pexels

    by Abraham Levitan

    No one is good at something all of the time.

    Writers, artists, athletes, business owners and employees all go through dry spells– we’re uninspired, our work stinks, our performance suffers, we dread practicing. In short, we’re just not feeling it.

    This is “The Dip” as characterized by Seth Godin in his popular 2007 book “The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)”, and anyone who pursues an art, hobby, even a job, goes through it.

    Including music students. Including your music student.

    The dip may manifest in any or all of the following ways. Your student may:

  • put up a fight about practice or refuse to practice
  • stop looking forward to showing teacher their progress
  • stop looking forward to lessons – period
  • become less interested in music overall
  • complain that playing the instrument “isn’t fun anymore” or lessons “are too hard”
  • claim they don’t have time for lessons or practice

  • Music lessons are well worth the challenge of slumps like these, because the impact playing music has on our brains, bodies, and souls is tremendous – whether we intend to become professional musicians or not.

    So how do we help our students rise above The Dip?

    1. Help your student recognize The Dip.

    Even young kids can understand this. Normalize what they’re going through, because it is normal. Tell them about your own dips and how you got through them. Reassure them they’re not alone.

    When you’re an adult in a dip, you can get through it by sheer endurance. You recognize that it’s okay not to be gushing with enthusiasm over your activity all the time. But kids might not have that kind of perspective, and they’re probably going to need some help.

    In that case…

    2. Find a reward system that works for your child.

    Take martial arts as an example. I guarantee you not every karate student is passionate about kicking and sparring, but every karate kid can tell you what color belt they are, and when they get to move to the next color or level.

    The system is brilliant, because even if a kid feels a dip, there is something cool, colorful, and public to mark their progress.

    Same goes for musicals. I’ve seen many students get really jazzed about moving from the chorus to a supporting role to (maybe!) a lead role.

    In these examples, the process, structure, or levels behind the activity become more important or exciting than the activity itself. What a way to pull through a dip!

    With private music lessons, sometimes it seems to a kid like they’re looking at a vast terrain of
    “I’m going to do this once a week forever. When am I gonna be able to do ____?”

    In that case, it’s time to create some levels or goals. Brainstorm what kind of reward system would work best for your child. However you want to frame it is fine, as long as you think, plan, enact, and track.

    Here are some ideas to consider:

    Personality type

    A type-A kid get might get really into keeping a practice chart, and beating his average practice time each week. (Think about the motivational power of wearing a steps-tracking device like the Fitbit.)

    Hobbies or interests

    You could customize an approach to your student’s own passions. A visual artist or learner may enjoy earning points toward decorating a practice notebook each week. A poetry writer could set poems to music, and work toward creating an album.


    Sports present a really obvious way of keeping a sometimes boring event engaging. We’ve all sat through uneventful or low-scoring games because the culture, competition, players, and strategy keep us watching. How can this idea be applied to music lessons? Could each song represent a different level of the playoffs? Can you work toward making a song ready for the World Series?

    For one soccer-loving student, former Piano Power teacher Jackie Arrigo drew a soccer field on a piece of paper. The rule was, for every flashcard the student got right, he earned a pass toward the goal, with five passes equaling one goal. Every flashcard he got wrong, Jackie got the pass.

    (A game like this could be used for any kid, even if they’re not particularly interested in soccer!)


    Speaking of games, phone apps are brilliant at taking “veggies” activities– good for you but not always thrilling– and game-ifiying. Here are some teacher-recommended apps to help spice up practice time.


    Piano Power teacher Andrew Doney once had five students (who didn’t know each other) poised to graduate from the same book at the same time. He told the students about each other and made an informal, friendly competition of it– a race to the end of the book. His students got really into it!

    Recitals or open mics

    Instant goal! For many kids, knowing they’re going to play a song in front of actual live human beings is enough to get them trotting through a dip.

    Parents have an advantage.

    Unlike teachers, parents have the advantage seeing their kid in a multitude of learning environments. They witness firsthand which activities connect and which don’t. So much of whether an activity connects has to do with the way the kid perceives the “rules”, format, and presentation.

    Does the experience makes the kid feel like a superstar, or does it cause them to bang their head against the wall? Can you determine why?

    Parental input is priceless if it extrapolates beyond “my kid likes soccer” to “my kid likes soccer because…” Give that information to a teacher and they will thank you for it.

    As a teacher or parent, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • After coming up with goals or systems, are you revisiting them to evaluate how your student is doing, and whether those goals are still exciting?
  • Are you actively encouraging them to explore music on their own — by asking them to write down songs they’ve been excited by recently, etc.?
  • Are you providing visual reminders of how much (or how little) they’ve improved over a period of time?
    Does the fun part relate to the progress/motivation part? i.e., when they achieve a goal (or make lots of progress towards it), do you do something extra-fun in the lesson to celebrate? Or do they feel like working on goals is taking away from their “fun time”?
  • Ideally, “the dip” is nothing but a natural reminder that it’s time to reconnect a student to their material in a more compelling way. Aim for robust teacher-parent communication, and a deep understanding of what motivates each individual student.

    Is your child still feeling The Dip? Check out 6 Strategies For Convincing Your Kid Not To Quit Music Lessons.

    Adult Student Profile: Keith Weinberg

    Keith (left) and his teacher Joe Meland

    “There is enough time, you just have to say ‘no’ to something else that probably doesn’t deserve your time and attention anyway.”

    Fourteen years ago, Keith Weinberg attempted to learn guitar from a book. Without the support and expertise of a teacher, he gave up after a week. Fast forward to 2019, and he’s thriving in guitar lessons with our teacher Joe Meland. It’s been 11 months and he’s far from giving up.

    Read our Q&A with Keith below. Whether or not you’re taking lessons (or just thinking about it), you’re bound to be inspired!

    What inspired you to take guitar lessons?

    I wanted something to clear my head from all my other responsibilities. I need something else active to think about besides work or social media to help relax and re-energize.

    Passive entertainments and distractions stress me out more— I actually need to do something concrete where I can make small bits of progress to feel energized.

    What’s your favorite thing about lessons?

    Joe’s a great teacher and I get to listen to and play other genres of music with a really patient guide.

    What’s your favorite thing to play so far?

    I really like playing an arrangement of “We’ll Meet Again” by Johnny Cash from American IV: The Man Comes Around.

    What’s a challenge about taking lessons as an adult?

    Making the time. There is enough time, you just have to say “no” to something else that probably doesn’t deserve your time and attention anyway. Any form of social media that is replaced with this is a double-win.

    Do you think there are any special advantages to taking lessons at this stage in your life?

    I don’t have the pressure to think I’m going to become a rock star, or that I need to be professional about it. I’m okay with being a beginner. Practicing automatically makes me better, slowly but surely.

    Doing away with the expectations makes practice and playing way more enjoyable.

    Have your expectations for yourself or about lessons changed at all?

    I’m expecting to be able to play more things now, but I’m not impatient about it. I feel like it’ll come with practice as long as I don’t place unpleasant expectations in the way.

    Any advice for other adults thinking about taking lessons?

    Think of it as a really low-stakes way to try something new and take time for yourself. Practice and play songs you like. You’ll fumble through things at the very beginning, but it doesn’t matter— you get to take a break every day. The expertise will come eventually too. That means you get something today and something tomorrow.

    Learning to play in front of other people is also an exercise in getting comfortable showing how you feel, and that you aren’t perfect at something. It can be nervous-making but it can be liberating, especially when you make a mistake and realize it doesn’t really matter— people are there for the good stuff and to support people trying. They brush off mistakes because mistakes aren’t the point.

    Check out another great adult student profile with Julie Bromley.