Rhythm Boxes – Understanding Rhythm and Counting

A resource that will be great for everyone!

You simply print out the pages. Keep the first page as it is and then the next pages you can cut out the notes. They will fit into the boxes. The number they start on helps with counting. 🙂

You may want to laminate the pieces if you intend to use them repeatedly in your studio.

Click here to see the resource on TeachersPayTeachers!

Posted in General Music Methods (K-12) Notes, Lesson Plans & Ideas, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reader Input Desired!

In my previous post I had mentioned that I was beginning a fantasy novel. Naturally this means that I have had less time to blog and create other resources for my followers. (Granted, not a huge following, but I get usually over a thousand views a month.). If there is something you would like help compiling information on, musically, please leave me a comment so I can keep that it mind!

My book is geared toward younger readers, in the middle to high school age range. My characters range from age 11 to early 20s (for the primary characters). There are dragons and other fantasy elements, but I am attempting to keep things as real as possible otherwise, so that it will seem as though this is a past that could have happened.

Culturally the world is distinctly Anglo-Saxon, with other characters of Celtic  (Welsh/Pict/Celtic) and Eastern (Arabic) ancestry making appearances.

I would love your input on:

  1. “Lessons” you might like to have included in a story of this type.
  2. Elements you love to see in fantasy novels.
  3. Elements you hate to see in fantasy novels.
  4. And elements that you love to hate in fantasy novels. (Example: George R.R. Martin is excellent with plot twists and killing off unexpected and seemingly necessary characters, and it makes for great story telling, but I still hate it!)


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Branching Out: Fantasy Novels

Happy New Year everyone!

Sometime in October I decided to branch out in my creative endeavors (which are quite diverse) and begin writing a novel that I have had in my head for over ten years — before I had even decided that I wanted to pursue a music degree!

I can’t tell you much at this point, for fear of revealing  too much of the plot (spoilers and thieves!). But what I can tell you is that it is set in the past, or at least in a setting very like our past that this story could very well have happened. There will be dragons, and mystery, and music will be a part of the story. The book is geared more toward an upper middle school age range but should be fun for all ages.

I would love for my followers to answer these questions:

  1. What is something you always enjoy in a fantasy novel?
  2. What is something new or unique you might like to see in a fantasy novel?
  3. What is something you hate seeing used (or overused) in a fantasy novel?

Having a little bit of input from different perspectives might be a positive factor in this writing process. My goal is to create something that is deeply satisfying to the soul (good guy wins, redemption, etc.) without being predictable, while adding some unique or unusual elements that are not typically seen in stories of this ilk.

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Good News in a Scale

Also called “The Christmas Scale.” This is a cute video, and can also be used to explain why it’s important to learn scales and correct fingerings. Merry Christmas! Enjoy!

The Christmas Scale: Good News in a Scale



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What do I give my music teacher: Holiday Gift Giving Guide for Music Teachers

Hi all! It’s that time of year when we ask ourselves, “What can we give to our music teacher to show our appreciation without breaking the bank or giving them something that they may not like?” I have not taught as long as some teachers, but having taught in public school and private lessons, I have a reasonably good idea of what gifts I find useful and nice. Some of my favorites have been the unique ones, or the ones that showed a student knew me well. Here are some ideas and tips!

  • Teachers love to know they are making a difference, so always include a handwritten note if you can!
  • Price range: some public school teachers feel uncomfortable accepting larger gifts, so $50 or under is recommended (though sometimes you can give things that the teacher has no idea how much they are).
  • Student created gifts are great.
  • Gifts that show you know the teacher’s likes and interests are a plus.
  • Gifts from a student’s travels are also neat.


If your teacher is a young teacher, chances are they do not have a lot of music-themed wearables. Some good ideas for a female teacher: music jewelry (more on that in a bit), a musical scarf (I have one from HotTopic.com), music wallet, other quirky clothing items like shoes or a skirt (be sure you know they would wear such a thing). If getting clothing and unsure of the size, be sure to get a gift receipt and it’s always better to get a size too small than too big. Regarding jewelry, take note of what color she typically wears (silver or gold), what types she usually wears (I rarely wear bracelets), and if she already has a bunch of jewelry with music. I got my first treble clef necklace from my aunt when I was in college, for my junior recital. I now have about 5 silver treble clef necklaces, all of them different. I have also heard of musical jewelry made out of piano wire or violin/cello strings. This is unique and interesting without being overtly musical. (Check Etsy for these) Ideas for a male teacher: musical ties (be sure they wear them), socks (these are fun because they can hide them if they like), a phone/tabletcase with music or their favorite thing on it. If you know their favorite sports team or if they are particularly into something (like Marvel, for example) that may be a good place to start.

My favorite wearables I have received: cello dangle earrings from a craft fair, treble clef earrings (these were simple metal, no gems) that matched a necklace I already had (I only have one pair of TC earrings), jewelry with my first initial, and a tiny little heart necklace I got from one of my quiet theatre/orchestra boys. I also received a beautiful bracelet made of carnelian and other stones that a piano student brought back from Wales. I love that one because it is unique and thoughtful (and I love Celtic anything). The same student brought me a Doctor Who shirt from one of his travels with his family. (They have family in the UK.)


Many teachers are watching what they eat these days, so while candies are always appreciated, sometimes they are not eaten. I’ve seen some really adorable presentations of goodies that I enjoyed: a sparkly wine glass filled with hershey’s kisses and some decorative stuffing, or candies made to look like a sleigh, kisses made into rose buds, etc. If you go the candy route, I suggest the creative displays, or a small amount of really GOOD chocolate. If you travel, bringing back something from somewhere unique is also nice. Many holiday candies have added sugar, and most teachers would prefer a $10 box with 5 chocolates in it than a $10 box with 50 that are overly sweet. What’s even more precious is the homemade goodies, either made by kid or mom. I’ve had a student bring me a cupcake she made, another student brought one she bought. Both were lovely and appreciated. Once I had a student bring me a coolatta (the frap from Dunkin, whatever it’s called!) because she had gone to get one for a friend’s birthday and thought of me. That made my day! If  you know what the teacher likes or dislikes (or is allergic to) that’s a plus, but it will be appreciated even if they aren’t able to eat it. (I share mine with my husband sometimes!)

Consumables can also include candles, lotion, scented hand soaps, or perfume. It is nice to have something that you can use and use up that won’t clutter up the house. Over the years I have received all of these things and they are used and appreciated. Be careful with perfumes or very powerful scents though, because something that is overly strong may not be useful. When in doubt, go with something mild like vanilla, or cinnamon. I once had a student give candles to myself and the adjunct who worked with me. The adjunct was a classy lady who was in her 70s, she was given a floral scented candle with a floral holder. I was told, “I got something spicy for Miss ——“and received a spiced candle (which I prefer!) with a zebra print metal candle holder. It fit me, and also the student too.

Decorative Items

Decorations are great, but can be tricky because you don’t want something that is just clutter and won’t be displayed. It helps if you know things your teacher likes, what theme they have in their house or classroom, or favorite colors. Christmas ornaments are great ideas. One of my favorites was from a student who knew I liked birds, she gave me an ornament with three parrots on it wearing Christmas hats and scarves. (This was the same girl with the frap and the TC earrings. Very thoughtful!) Handmade ornaments are also cute, and musical ones as well. I have also received some cute holiday decorations that I use in my house and studio. A piano student gave me a candle holder that was snowmen around a campfire, and another time gave me a snowflake candle holder, along with some little candles. One is at my house, the other at my studio.

Even better is something a student made that the teacher can display. Any time a student drew something for me, I hung it up in my office. I appreciated their thoughtfulness, time, and effort, and they loved that I hung it up and kept it there. At my work studio I have a picture of the pigeon (don’t let him drive the bus!) that a 5 year old made, and it is cute and gets many compliments. Last year I had a very talented viola student who was a 6th grader, she would draw beautiful things with great detail and shading. I suggested she draw a viola, and at the end of the year she gave me a wonderful colored pencil drawing that hangs in my studio area at home. Other students marvel at it daily.

I have some students who travel, and I have received a little decorative elephant from India, jewelry from Wales, and other things kids have gotten from their adventures. It’s very touching to know you were thought of.


This can be difficult at times without breaking the “not too expensive” rule. Generally expensive sports tickets might be nice, if you know the sport they like (if any) and know there aren’t any guidelines against taking expensive gifts. Something better might be tickets to a performance, especially one that you might know they will enjoy. If I received tickets from a student I think I would like tickets to see Josh Groban, an opera, or an orchestra concert (Video Games Live is a good one). Other experiences might include gifts to a spa, or to get a massage, etc. Think of things the teacher may like but might not be able to justify spending the money on.

Useful Items

I have received personalized mugs from students in the past, which is great for taking to work, especially if you don’t have one you can travel with (I don’t take my ceramic tumbler to work). One student of mine had a parent who worked for a hair company. I have long hair and the student gave me a wet brush (it is magical) and some hair product. This was very nice and an excellent product too!  Other ideas: letter opener, bookends, mouse pad, magnets, umbrella, etc.

Gift Cards

You can’t really go wrong with a Starbucks gift card, unless the person really hates coffee AND tea. I also enjoy Barnes and Noble gift cards, because rarely do I spend money on a new book (you can also get other things there, if your teacher is not much of a reader). Some other ideas: Target, Wal-Mart, movie theatres, restaurants, online music stores (they can pick their own music themed thing), Michaels crafts, or home goods stores (better for women). Chocomize.com sells a gift certificate you can print/email and the teacher can design their own chocolate bar. iTunes cards are good too, but be sure you know that the teacher uses iTunes (I did not, but now I do, so I have a collection of cards to use.) If your teacher is into something special like technology or a particular hobby, gift cards to Best Buy or a hobby shop are great. If you feel like you don’t want to get a gift card because you can’t spend a lot of money, even a $5 gift card to Starbucks is nice because that will buy a drink or two and shows you are thinking of your teacher.


Whatever gift you give, no matter whether it is their “thing” or if it is used, it will be appreciated because it came from the heart of a student they care about. 🙂


Merry Christmas!

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New Product: Bowing Bingo!



In an attempt to make some extra money, I have been designing lesson plans, worksheets, and activities to upload to the TeachersPayTeachers website. TpT is a great website with resources designed by teachers for teachers. You can be sure that whatever you are buying is made by someone who knows their stuff and has used it successfully in their own classroom.

CLICK HERE to check out my newly created bowing bingo game, featuring basic rhythms, bowings, and some fun special effects!I have over 30 other products available as well!

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My Next Adventure: Lessons and Housewifery

Well, I did it. I quit.

I was teaching middle school, and most of the time it was a reasonably good experience.

Except when it wasn’t.

This past year I taught two classes each of chorus and orchestra (what I refer to as my primary classes, as both are full programs in themselves), plus an “extra” class of guitar (I say extra because most teachers have one class beyond the programs they run – theory, music appreciation, guitar, keyboard, etc.). I also had a class of what was supposed to have been musical theatre. I was to team-teach this with the school’s drama teacher, but he left for a full-time high school position at his alma mater (I can’t say I blame him), and I was stuck with this drama class.

At first I was rather excited to teach this class. “This could be fun, I thought!” There are lots of drama games, and we could do fun skits and activities. I knew I would need help and a curriculum, but I was still excited. Well…come the first day of school, I realized that only about 5 kids really wanted to be in the class (I had about 38) and the previous teacher was apparently not very strict. (I heard lots of “we learned this last year!” but the kids had trouble completing worksheets and testing on information that they had supposedly learned twice.) It was very difficult to even get them to do something as simple as watch a movie or fill in the blank on a worksheet. Their behavior was regularly disruptive, and students were added to the class fairly regularly (I had several fights occur in my class too). The end of 7th period left my classroom with chairs askew, and papers littering the floor (when the room was neat the class period before). I finally was able to get a drama resource book, but much of it was rather out of the scope of this class, but I did use the book in addition to internet resources. The school was also able to get a drama coach to come out, but he was only able to come out once a week, and he could barely get the students to PLAY GAMES and behave. When we had a troupe come from the high school to show some skits and play games it was not much better. (And before you say, “You must have poor classroom management”, my other classes were not like this, and I did everything in the book to manage the class!) I often spent many hours (as many as 6 sometimes!) on the weekend planning for the theatre class, plus the other classes. Last year I had I think about 8 concerts, 2 competitions, 3 field trips, and I planned the entertainment for a “showcase” of our local schools. (I came up with the schedule, contacted all the teachers, etc. and my kids performed.) I got a small $250 stipend which is allotted to chorus teachers.

Near the end of the year I expressed interest in dropping the drama class in favor of trying to create a separate girls’ chorus and boys’ chorus; it’s developmentally appropriate, and would allow students to learn in a comfortable environment while also allowing more advanced singers to either take a class with fewer performances or to take more than one chorus class. The administration was not on board with this (“We are not going to separate the classes.). I was told that I would be teaching drama next year (16/17), a class that is out of my certification, which is at the very least unethical, if not illegal. (They said 60 kids signed up for drama. 60!) I told them I would not be teaching drama and I was asked if I was resigning. I said, “I suppose so, if you’re going to force me to teach drama.” I offered to teach part-time and that was declined, so I mentally started planning to do lessons in my home. Later I was told part-time might be an option. I offered to teach two classes of chorus, and two of orchestra, WITHOUT a paid planning period. I was told they would look into it, but nothing ever came of that. (Only being allowed to teach three classes with a paid planning would mean that my orchestra would be down to one class, like they were in 14/15, and that my 8th graders would be going through book 1 a THIRD time). I also noticed that, for the second year in a row, the coding for the drama class was changed to be the code for a music class. In my state teachers are not allowed to teach out of their certification for more than one year. Anyone auditing our classes would never know I was out of area. I’m not sure if it is illegal, but it’s certainly unethical, and not supportive.

Please, don’t get me wrong, I understand that administration often has a hard time with what they are dealt, and maybe I wasn’t always the easiest to get along with, but I felt entirely unsupported in this environment. There were a lot of other issues too, beyond the scheduling…like, I was asked if concerts were a part of the curriculum! On top of the out-of-certification issue, and the other issues (which I will not mention now), the best AP left in May, one of the guidance counselors was forced to leave, and the Spanish teacher (who was one of my few friends) were also leaving. It was time for me to go as well. So far, I do not think they have found anyone to take over the class, and school started today!

My next adventure: teaching private lessons and being a housewife! I have two little birds, and a husband who works hard. I truly think that this part-time option is where God wants me to be. This will allow me to maintain my household (my house has been clean for weeks in a row!), reduce stress for my husband, prepare healthier meals, cut down on gas and car wear, and allow me to spend time with my little birds. I currently have about 20 students (I’ve had up to 40 before!) and am teaching both from a studio and my house. I love it! I don’t have anxiety attacks every time I think about going to work, I don’t have to spend hours planning on the weekend, and if I have a particularly difficult student I can “fire” them.

I hope someday I will be able to look back on this time and say, “This is one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

meeting josephine and rochester



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