About The Method Announcements Lesson Plan Ideas Mindset Teaching Methods Video

How to Combat Imposter Syndrome For Crazy Good Recitals

Beware Of The Fraud Police 

Did you ever have the feeling that even though you are achieving your goals, perhaps you have gone further than you should have?  That at some moment in the very near future you are going to be found out?  That the “fraud police” would come knocking and expose you for the phony that you are?

As a music teacher, did you ever feel that you weren’t qualified for the student in front of you?   Maybe you didn’t quite know where to take them next and you would be found out?

This feeling is more common than you think.  I have experienced it several times in my life.  When I was chosen to be a VJ for MTV, I thought for sure, they’re going to figure out that they made a horrid mistake and send me packing.  It had all happened so fast, surely a mistake had been made.  All kinds of self-doubt crept in and it took me months of doing the job before I actually got pretty good and built up some sense of confidence.

Beware the Fraud Police - imposter syndrome

Who do you think you are?  Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome?



In her new book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self To Your Biggest Challenges,  Harvard professor Dr. Amy Cuddy examines the ideas behind her now super popular Ted Talk about “Power Poses.”  She discusses more than just a simple presentation trick about gaining confidence before an important meeting, event or performance.  She delves deep into the concept of presence, which she defines as inhabiting your full authentic self and being fully present.  It’s part zen, part charisma, part deep listening and being mindful and grounded in your body.  

Imposter Syndrome

But it’s also so much more.  Her fellow researchers  Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes , published a seminal work where they studied high achieving women and discovered something they called “Imposter Syndrome” in 1978.  Since then, it has become an influential body of work and recognized as not an illness or sickness or malady, but a feeling most of us experience at some time in our life.  By the way, it is a universal phenomenon that affects both men and women.

From Wikipedia:

Imes and Clance found several behaviors of high-achieving women with impostor syndrome:[2]

  • Diligence: Gifted people often work hard in order to prevent people from discovering that they are “impostors.” This hard work often leads to more praise and success, which perpetuates the impostor feelings and fears of being “found out.” The “impostor” person may feel they need to work two or three times as hard, so over-prepare, tinker and obsess over details, says Young. This can lead to burn-out and sleep deprivation.
  • Feeling of being phony: Those with impostor feelings often attempt to give supervisors and professors the answers that they believe they want, which often leads to an increase in feeling like they are “being a fake.”
  • Use of charm: Connected to this, gifted women often use their intuitive perceptiveness and charm[2] to gain approval and praise from supervisors and seek out relationships with supervisors in order to help her increase her abilities intellectually and creatively. However, when the supervisor gives her praise or recognition, she feels that this praise is based on her charm and not on ability.
  • Avoiding display of confidence: Another way that a person can perpetuate their impostor feelings is to avoid showing any confidence in their abilities. A person dealing with impostor feelings may believe that if they actually believe in their intelligence and abilities they may be rejected by others. Therefore, they may convince themselves that they are not intelligent or do not deserve success to avoid this.

While studies have primarily focused on women, one recent study has suggested that men may also be prone to impostor syndrome on similar levels.[4]

See full article at Wikipedia

Life Skills Through Music

Last week, my students performed at our Spring Music Recital.  It was a resounding success and possibly my best recital ever.  What made the difference?  I recently re-addressed my mission statement.  My mission as a teacher at Park Slope Music Lessons is to teach successful life skills through music.   With this newfound clarity, I realized that recitals are a huge part of this experience of music education.  But, to not only focus on the content and the technique of the performance, but to also address the mental demands of performing.  In short, to focus on the mindset psychology of successful performance – to quash the “imposter syndrome!”

Core Principles of the Musicolor Method™
Core Principles of the Musicolor Method™

Fake It Until You Make It

Four weeks prior to the recital, most of my students had a pretty good comfort level with the notes, memorization, and lyrics (for those who were singing.)  They could probably get through a recital as in the past and we would clap and cheer no matter what.  But as I noticed in the past, there was always some level of tentativeness and in some cases, crippling stage fright  present in many of my students.   The vast majority of them were at a 50 to 70% performance level.  So what would it take to get them to percentages of  80, 90 and above?  We would rehearse the body language of confidence.


I spent the last 4 lessons working on mindset.  We stopped working on the content, but rather focused on the psychology.  We practiced visualization of themselves performing well – seeing themselves on stage, feeling the clothes they would be wearing, seeing their families and friends in the audience.  I brought out the digital piano we use for recitals, the microphone and we rehearsed how they would be called up from the audience, walk to the stage.  We practiced bowing and curtsying – something I still need to work on with them as so many ran away as soon as they finished!  They would practice the performance and keep going if they made a mistake.  

Cheat Sheets and Crib Notes

And there was some pushback.  A few of my students begged for using some kind of sheet music or lyric cheat sheet or chord charts.  I relented in a few cases, but in watching the recital, most of those students hardly referred to the printed page.  It was just a comfort thing, a security blanket there to keep them warm.

We talked about connecting with the audience (see my previous article on How to sing and perform better by connecting with spirit) and practiced making eye contact when singing.   

As Dr. Cuddy says,

“It’s not about having a memorized script;  It’s about having easier cognitive access to this content which frees you to focus not on what you fear will happen but on what’s actually happening…

Preparation is obviously important, but at some point, you must stop preparing content and start preparing mindset.  You have to shift from what you’ll say to how you’ll say it.

The results were fantastic!   Here’s a video from the show.

You can see the whole YouTube playlist of our Spring 2016 Recital videos here.

You Can Learn This

The emphasis on Life Skills through Music is one of 7 core principles I train other music teachers in.  The new mindsets and techniques are available in an online course for the Musicolor Method™.   We’re opening our course for new students in about a week, so join our waiting list here.

imposter syndrome - Who's behind the mask? Are you an imposter?
Who’s behind the mask? Are you an imposter?

Are You An Imposter?

Have you ever felt imposter syndrome?  Or have you helped others overcome it?  Please share in the comments below.


Best practices Successful Teaching Business

What Is The Best Music Teacher Marketing? Hint: It’s Easy

So what is the best music teacher marketing?

Many independent music teachers are always asking me how do I get more students?  There are many avenues for music teacher marketing, but let’s first start with your current clients.  If you are doing a great job with teaching, your current clients will naturally tell their friends, family and neighbors.  Your best clients are always your current clients.  Treat them like VIP’s!  They will naturally send you more business.  And one way to celebrate their success with you is through public recitals.

(Above photo credit:  ElizaC3, Flickr.)

Recitals are unique

Recitals allow you to gather all of your fans in one place.  It’s a unique moment that many other types of businesses do not have.  Can you imagine a dentist having a kid’s picnic for her clients?  (Hmm.  Actually, that could be a great idea!)  If you are not currently holding at least one recital per year (I recommend two at minimum) then you are missing out on a wonderful and easy way to meet more prospective students.   The recital will give you massive exposure and the opportunity to take lots of photos and videos.

Get The Word Out

If you have a local newspaper that lists events, what better music teacher marketing than a listing in the newspaper?  I’ve also seen home-made laminated posters pinned to the fence of my local playground.  Other ideas are to make postcards to place at local shops and bulletin boards.  It’s just like promoting your band.

What about space?

This coming Saturday is my spring recital.  I will be using my local public library which has a public auditorium that anyone can sign up for free.  I do have to bring all my gear, instruments and set up the room which is a bit of pain.  I know other teachers rent out churches, dance studios, coffee shops or event spaces, but I prefer supporting my library and it is a central location in my neighborhood.

Nerves and photo-Ops

I anticipated from my very first recital that kids were going to be nervous.  Nervous enough that  they wouldn’t be able to perform well.  One thing that has helped is to create a reason for everyone to get on stage at the very beginning of the event.  This helps relax their nerves as we are all standing on stage together, and gives me a wonderful photo opportunity for marketing!  To have photos of students who are happy, performing well and smiling is great for your message:  you are a teacher that can make this happen!

Awards and recognition

I create an individual personalized award certificate, suitable for framing, for each and every student.  They are beautiful and my son (my first student!) has a wall full of them.   Plus it has my name and the name of my studio clearly printed on it.  I call out each child’s name and they walk down the aisle (to thunderous applause) to receive their certificate.  Then, they stay onstage until all performers are standing together.   

I tell them, “Look, you’re already up here.   This is a safe space.   I’m here, and your family and friends are here – we’re all here to support YOU.  You’re going to do great!”  

And then we start the show!

best music teacher marketing
Handing out award certificates before the recital.

Invite new and prospective students

Recitals are an excellent way to introduce yourself to more people.  As more and more friends come to the recital, they get to see you, meet some of your other students and get a sense of how learning from you will be.  It’s the same reason big companies offer free trials and samples at the supermarket.  They want you to experience their product in advance.  After all, the best marketing is having the experience of your product or service!  And recitals are just that.  They see you in action and see your great results!  


For years, I have been video-recording all my students and posting them to my YouTube channel for Park Slope Music Lessons.  I only list the child’s first name out of privacy concerns.  At first, I thought many parents would object to this.  But it is actually a wonderful service that they appreciate.  Not everyone is technically savvy enough to shoot a quality video, post it online and then share it with everyone.  By doing this, it is easier for them to just forward a link to grandma or Aunt Sarah.   I don’t charge for this service because I don’t want to guarantee a video that may or may not come out well.  Plus, I post them on my website which gives me more social proof that I am transforming the lives of my students and their families.  It’s right there in the video.  Now if you don’t have the skills or equipment to shoot video, you can easily find an event videographer on Craigslist who would do a great job for a reasonable fee.  

Conclusion: What is the best music teacher marketing?

To conclude, recitals are an essential (and I think the best!) part of your music teacher marketing.  You need to be holding one, two or more events every year.  And you need to capture images and video from these events to place on your website, social media and newsletter.  Be sure and get permission from your clients first.

I hope you found this helpful.  I look forward to your comments and if you have other suggestions on how to make recitals even more effective.


Best practices Lesson Plan Ideas Mindset Teaching Methods

How to sing and perform better with spirit

“I almost never listen to music for my own enjoyment…”

This is a quote from a music teacher posting in a forum for music teachers.  There was a consensus among the hundreds of posters that they were just too burnt out from playing, singing and teaching all day, more music was just too much after a long day.  

This is one of the saddest things I’ve heard.  To me, music is life, spirit and emotion –  all one and the same.  When the very people who are passing on this gift   are burnt out and cannot even enjoy it, it is a problem.  But I think it may be solvable.

Music is unlike other jobs like, accounting or working on a factory line.  It’s something that most of us would do even if we weren’t paid to.  

My student

I have a student who is still very young, but who has been studying with me for about 6 years now.  She started with me learning to play piano using my Musicolor Method™ before I even had a name for it.   Within about a year, we moved to singing and playing pop and Broadway show songs.  About two years ago, she added guitar.  What impresses me so much about her is her pure love of music which then leads to an absolute focus and commitment to the music.  

A few years ago, at a recital, she performed two songs.   She used a lyric sheet for the first song, even though I said no sheet music on stage.  Somehow she snuck it up there and before I noticed it, she was performing.  With the lyric sheet in front of her, and her nerves going, she held back and played it “safe.”  You could hear it was “good” but something was missing.  After that song, I rushed up and pulled her music away despite  her protests.   I told her, “You don’t need it!”  

For a few seconds, she looked quite upset and angry at me, but then she smiled and composed herself.  She started the second song,  and although it was a little rocky at first soon she deepened her connection with the song and there was a moment of pure spirit.  She forgot about the audience, the lights and her nerves and the song just poured out.  It was pure magic and you could feel it.  The audience was on their feet applauding like mad.  

The Magical Connection

This connection  to spirit and emotion is a very difficult thing to teach and I’ve rarely heard it discussed in education programs.  Even on the popular talent shows like American Idol and The Voice, you only hear whispers of it.  The coaches and judges all know it when they hear it, as do we, the audience, but how do we get it?  That magical connection?  

To me, this connection is pure unbridled passion and joy.  It happens when there is a complete commitment to the performance.  You can see and feel it in all kinds of human endeavors from sports to music to theater to public speaking.  

How To Connect To Spirit

I want to share a few ideas I’ve used to help teach this connection to spirit.  

Focus outward – Connection happens by losing all self-consciousness and focusing only on the content

Choose wisely – The music that you choose must move you –  then you can explore why it does.  The music needs to resonate deeply with the performer.

Make the piece your own – play it faster, slower, all staccato, all legato, in a different style  – reggae, rock, jazz, etc.  Then bring it back to the way you now think it should sound.  It will have changed and deepened into your own.

Use the power of story – even if the music has no programmed story or lyrics, you can use the power of visualization to create a storyline that you can then set and tell through your performance.  This has been a wonderful way to bring instrumental pieces to life for my young students.

The Run On Sentence – If the music has lyrics, try writing out the lyrics over and over as one long run-on sentence without punctuation.  This is an old actor’s trick that I used quite a lot in my days in off-Broadway theater.  When you do this,  you start to break the habitual patterns and phrasings of what you heard before.  It becomes fluid and molds itself to your emotional state in that moment.  When you return to singing and playing the song, it will be a very different experience.  It’s like running water over the stones of your emotional states.

Repetition exercise – I learned this in the acting classes taught by  Phil Gushee, who was a student of Sanford Meisner.  He taught a simple basic technique called the repetition exercise.  The basic premise is two actors sit  across from each other and one of them says something. The other actor must then repeat the phrase, colored only by their own emotion. They go back and forth until they feel the impulse to say something else.

This can be something like:

“It’s late.”

“It’s late?”

“It’s LATE!”

“It’s late! Yeah you should have been home hours ago!” and then we’re off with a completely connected improvised scene.

You can apply this to music by having the performer play  a phrase or the whole piece over and over while the teacher/coach   randomly calls out  different emotions:  happy, jaunty, silly, depressed, shy, etc.   I did this with a young boy playing a ragtime piece on piano and we turned it into the funniest circus music. It got to the point where we were just laughing so hard.  This definitely lightened the mood when the recital came and we had this inner secret of the circus clown version to help calm our nerves!

Emotion Cards

You can make yourself some index cards listing  emotional states that you can pick at random.  Send them home with the student to have his or her family pick out the cards.  Talk about a fun practice session!

Get Back In The Game

Here’s a quick playlist of the human spirit.  All of these “performances” contain the key ingredients of complete focus, full commitment, passionate ownership and abandonment of any sense of self-consciousness.  So when you need a jolt of spirit or you’re feeling like you need some rejuvenation, try this playlist of committed passion and connectedness.

A brief Spirit-giving playlist

I’d love to hear your comments and any other ideas you may have on teaching this very subtle skill.  By the way, I go deep into seven key “soft skills” in the Musicolor Method™ online training which is opening for another class in July.  You can register for the wait-list here. 

I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it. I circle around God, around the primordial tower. I’ve been circling for thousands of years and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song? – Rainier Maria Rilke



Music and Science

How to raise your IQ by 7 points

I came across this article in Inc magazine yesterday.  And it was surprising especially since the headline didn’t reveal the “secret.”

Want to Raise Your IQ? Neuroscience Says to Take Up This Easy Habit

It’s probably not what you think, but it’s scientifically demonstrated to improve how you think.

Most of us think of IQ as a fixed thing, like an SAT score. You take a test, they tell you how smart you are, and that’s that.

Turns out that’s wrong.

Neuroscience is demonstrating that brain functioning is actually far more fluid than previously believed.

For example, research out of the University of Zurich shows that doing one simple thing can actually raise a person’s IQ. And we’re not just talking about children, whose brains are usually considered more pliable than those of adults. This works for both kids and adults – even those of advanced age.

So what’s the trick? Is it using flash cards to learn more advanced words?

No. It’s also not meditation, solving a Rubik’s Cube, or taking ginkgo biloba (though none of those could hurt).

It’s learning to play a musical instrument.

That’s right — playing music significantly improves brain functioning, and can raise your IQ by seven or more points.

Read the full article at Inc.

This is just the latest in a series of studies proving the connection between mental development and music education.  I have a roundup of articles that all prove the benefits of learning a music instrument.