February 2023 Newsletter

It’s February and LOVE is all around us. Is your LOVE of music showing in your teaching? Do your students LOVE to take music lessons?

As music teachers, we are on a quest to pass on a skill that gives us joy, fulfillment, confidence, and a sense of purpose. But it’s not always easy. Many children today are overworked, overwhelmed, over-scheduled, and time deficient, which often leads them to make practice a low priority and to approach lessons with dread or apathy. We have all had students who are low on motivation at one point or another. It’s not always easy to keep students practicing week after week. One of my students is a high school sophomore who just finished a rigorous football season. I’ve noticed that recently he seems to have lost his excitement about piano lessons, and he has been showing up to lessons with little or no practice during the week. I’ve been thinking of ways to reignite his desire keep music in his life.

Here are some ideas I found for motivating piano students:

(Many of these ideas come from Joy Morin, “9 Ideas for Motivating Piano Students, Color in My Piano blog)

1. Build a good relationship with your students (LOVE them)

This lets them know that you like to be with them and that you care about them. Show interest in your students’ lives outside of piano. Ask questions to get to know them and listen to their answers. Be aware of what is going on in their lives and adjust accordingly. (a rigorous sports season, starting a new school…) Connecting with your students allows you to have greater influence on them, and they will be more motivated to learn.

2. Be sure to give them a good variety of repertoire

Find out what types of music they like. Supplement their method book(s) with new age piano, hymn arrangements, jazz/blues, pop music, soundtrack/music theater music, or whatever is currently popular. Always make sure they are working on something classical too.

3. Be silly (some of the time)

Playing an instrument requires hard work, concentration, and determination, but students won’t engage well if it’s all work. Choose appropriate times to have some fun, high-five, celebrate successes, be animated, and laugh.

4. Start an incentive program

Incentive programs can help to not only give your students a goal to work towards, but also to reward their hard work and good behavior.

5. Try playing more music games in the lesson

Not all students will become concert pianists. For many students, it may be more than enough to become functional pianists who have a strong, life-long appreciation for music. Try giving an extra emphasis on theory or ear training games. This might revive their interest in practicing their pieces.

6. Try doing more creative activities involving improvisation and composition

This helps communicate that creativity is important. Try to help them figure out what the composer of a piece might have been thinking or help them create a mood or story with their playing.

7. Find ways to increase studio camaraderie

Help students make “piano friends” by providing occasions when your students can meet and interact with each other. Assign duets between students, enter them in Cavalcade, or hold group lessons where they can play games and work together in small groups.

8. Provide regular performance opportunities

In addition to your annual or semi-annual recitals, you can also add low-stress performance opportunities such as Halloween/Christmas parties or a recital at a local senior center. You could also have studio performance times during monthly group lessons. Hearing other students play may motivate them to improve their own playing or to someday work on the same repertoire they hear from other students.

9. Have a talk with Mom or Dad

Often the problem is that the student needs to practice more. Ask mom or dad to give the student a gentle reminder each day. Suggest that they make a set routine or practice schedule. Ask the parents to occasionally sit at the bench with the student and ask them about their pieces and what they enjoy about them. Suggest they walk through or sit when the student is practicing and occasionally give praise and compliments to encourage them. This shows the student that practice time is a priority and something worthwhile and even enjoyable.

10. Let your LOVE of music show

Emotion is contagious! Take the opportunity to communicate often about what you love about music and playing the piano. Make sure to draw their attention to a beautiful melody, a catchy rhythm, a unique chord, or exciting passage. Ask them what they like in their pieces. Remind them how lucky they are to have music in their lives. Play for them often and share your favorite pieces with them. Encourage them to listen to all types of music.

#1 and 10 are probably our most important tools to keep our students motivated and LOVING piano lessons. Remember we are teaching students to be life-long musicians. Have a wonderful month and don’t forget to let your LOVE of music show!

Tammy Shorts
DVMTA President 2022-2024

General Meetings

Our February General meeting (Feb. 24 @ 9:30 a.m.) will be fabulous! It will be at My First Piano, 1818 E Southern Ave., Suite 5, Mesa.

Our very own DVMTA teachers, Hong Zhu and Jessica Heidt will be sharing their knowledge of era-specific piano literature. Hong will help us understand Baroque music, and Jessica will enlighten us with some guiding principles of the classical and romantic eras.

Come join us as we learn together, not only in our teaching sessions, but in conversations with other teachers in the group. It is always fun to share our ideas and learn from one another each time we attend a meeting.

See you there!

Toni Tetreau, Vice President

Shop with Amazon Smile is Ending!

DVMTA was officially signed up to receive donations from Amazon Smile, but this fundraiser is ending Monday, February 20th.

Please feel free to continue any donations desired this weekend as we will continue receiving funds from purchases made through the link below until the cutoff date.

Just as a reminder: All you need to do is visit and choose Desert Valley Music Teachers Association as your charity.

Thanks for all your support!

April Brunch

Come join us for April Brunch! It’s always a great time to just get together and chat as we start to wind up the school year.

It will be April 28th at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1315 S 24th Street Mesa at 9:30 am.

Kelli Riding, Chair

Cavalcade of Rhythm

Land ho! Our Cavalcade performance is coming up on February 25th at 7:00pm. If you’ve never participated in Cavalcade before, we suggest you attend one of the shows and see what fun it is. You may even find some pirate treasure! Our ship will be sailing from Skyline High School (845 S. Crismon Rd in Mesa). Thanks to all who are helping with rehearsals. Please remember that if you are a group monitor that we need you at the Saturday morning rehearsal, as well as the performance. Thanks for your flexibility and willingness to help.

Students will be given a Saturday schedule, with the morning rehearsal times, performance dress requirements, ticket information, etc. at their first rehearsal. Please review that with your students. It’s available at if you didn’t get one. Make sure they understand when to be there, what to wear, how they should behave, etc. The Saturday morning rehearsal is mostly logistical, making sure students know where they sit in the auditorium, how to get onstage, which piano is theirs, how to bow, and how to get back to their seats. Parents can see where their children will be on stage and can choose a seat for the performance accordingly.

Please consider purchasing a congrats gram or business ad, and sending the information to your piano families. The form is on the website and they are $20 each. The proceeds go straight to our student award fund.

Thanks again to all our directors, our volunteers who have been and will be helping, and to The Music Store for all their help. Thanks also to all teachers and students for helping to make our Pirate Partners a successful event!

Carolyn Eldredge, Cavalcade Captain

Crewmates: Lisa Hunt, Sara Pratt, Charles Newton

Awards in Excellence



As with figure skating, it seems that many piano teachers are in the thick of competition and festival season right now… and for many others, exams are right around the corner.

So as your piano kids polish and memorize and perfect, we thought we’d share 5 little (yet important!) details that you may not have thought of when prepping your piano students for competitions or exams.

1. Confidence when speaking – In a competition, piano students often need to announce their selection and composer. It makes a fabulous first-impression if your piano students can do so in a confident way. Rehearse for weeks before hand, having your students announce their piece to you in a clear, pleasant and confident way while pretending to make eye contact with an adjudicator.

In an exam situation, students don’t often need to introduce their piece, but your piano students can practice speaking confidently for those times when they may be asked “How are you today?” or “What will you be playing for me next?” as they so often are.

2. Safety Zones – In the weeks leading up to a big performance, help your students create several “safety zones”. These are places in their pieces where they can easily return to if a memory lapse or stumble occurs. And be sure to actually practice making a stumble and using a “safety zone”. It’s one thing to have these safety zones, but it’s another to really practice using them. A performer who has a clear strategy for dealing with troubles makes a great impression.

3. Know Your Stuff – I have seen many piano students who, after being asked a question by an adjudicator or examiner, stand in stunned silence with absolutely no idea how to respond. We can’t always predict what our students will be asked, but we can absolutely make sure they know their composer (and a bit about him or her), what all of the markings on their piece mean, and which key their piece is in. Exam students should know their program order, and the time period that each of their pieces is from. It’s always better to be over-prepared.

4. Appear Organized – Prepare your students’ music by having a clean copy marked with a post-it notes to avoid having your students frantically flip through their books in search of a piece when it’s their turn. For exam students, also use tags or post-it notes to mark the examiner copies. This may seem trivial, but an examiner who is listening to the wonderful skills of your students is way more valuable than one who is searching through pages to find each piece or who is distracted by messy music with tons of writing.

5. Teach Good “Music-manship” – This has nothing to do with marks, but competitions and exams are a great opportunity to teach your students to be gracious competitors and performers – consider it sportsmanship training for pianists. I was taught to make a point of saying something nice to at least two of the other piano students in my festival classes and to congratulate whomever won. I teach my own students to make a point of saying “Nice to meet you” when the piano examiner introduces themselves followed by a sincere “Thank you” with eye contact to their examiner when their exam is over.


These small tips will help your piano students enter into their competition or exam with confidence and with the air of a well-seasoned performer. Coupled with your fantastic teaching and preparation… they’ll be set-up for success!

Registration for Awards in Excellence is due February 24th.

Claire Westlake, Chair

Achievement Day

The registration deadline, March 31, for Achievement Day is coming up soon! There are a couple of different ways to complete your registration. You may submit a paper copy along with your check to me at the March 31st General Meeting or to my home address listed on the registration form. You may also fill it out digitally and send it to my email address You may turn in or mail your check separately.

New to this event? Here are some tips on registering. You will need to decide whether your students are planning to do expanded or standard requirements so that you can submit the proper registration fee. (See the “Description and Requirements” document on the website for more details.) Every student must be registered for a theory test. In addition, all expanded students are required to choose either ear training or sight reading.

All students must also choose at least one optional event. You may want to have students register for an additional option for the following reason. If a student fails to pass one option, a second passed option can fill the option requirement. However, a second option cannot be used to replace a theory test or a required option. This means that expanded students need to pass either ear training or sight-reading, but if they are signed up for both options plus Composer reports, for example, a pass on Composer reports could stand in for a failed sight-reading test as long as the ear training test is passed or vice versa.

Your students’ choices are not in stone. If after registering, the student decides to change an option, that is perfectly acceptable. It is also acceptable for a student to drop down to the standard requirements at the last minute. This comes in handy if students are having difficulty memorizing three pieces. Unfortunately, a refund cannot be given for dropping to standard requirements or for missing Achievement Day altogether.

You are required to volunteer for the event if you enter students. This event takes a lot of volunteers to run! You will earn 5 service hour credits toward next year’s Awards in Excellence requirement if you anticipate participating in that event! The registration asks you to indicate the levels you feel qualified to evaluate. We will need approximately 10 evaluators, but will also need volunteers for administering theory or ear training tests, listening to composer/written reports, etc. If you have a particular area you would like to work in, please indicate that on the form.

Please contact me with any questions! I want everyone to have a successful experience!

Carolyn Rooder, chair

Awards Plus

This year we will be recognizing a possible 15 Devoted Performers and 5 Senior Scholars. Thank you, teachers, for your hard work in preparing students for so many events over the years!

Awards Plus is DVMTA’s way of recognizing those students who have gone above and beyond the average student, participating in 4 of the 5 DVMTA events in three years (within a 5-year period). These students will receive a cash award and will be recognized by their teacher at the Awards Plus ceremony. What a great boost to their confidence and their desire to continue practicing!

Even if you do not plan to put students in Awards Plus, it is strongly recommended that you keep track of all students who participate in DVMTA events every year. You can use whatever system works for you, but make sure you’re keeping accurate records. Who knows, three years from now this could be one of your students receiving this award.

Jenna Hartley, Chair

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