articles Blog Mindset Music Teacher Secrets Professional Development Successful Teaching Business Teaching Methods Technology For Music Teachers

How Open-Minded Are You as a Music Teacher?

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” -Frank Zappa

How open-minded are you?

It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t say they’re open-minded.  But in reality, it seems very few teachers are.

Look at the glacial pace of change in education across the world.  Every other field is experiencing massive disruption and great leaps forward due to the embrace of new ideas, new ways of doing things, and new technology.

This is costing our very livelihoods as educators.  In school systems, music and arts are being cut everywhere- it’s seen as non-essential.  For those lucky enough to keep a classroom music teaching job, they are now being asked to cover lunchroom duties or schoolyard monitoring- non-teaching administrative functions!

And in private lessons, it’s not much better.

Students are looking to learn to play music because they listen to it everywhere.  But when they go to their first lesson, they are given complicated, boring exercises only useful for prodigies.  It’s no wonder so many students walk right out to never return!

The problem is that many of these old guard teachers believe that there’s only one way to teach.  It’s a traditional model that has lasted for hundreds of years! Just think of it, these traditional methods are the same method books that were being used when we were wearing wigs!

It’s a big disconnect.

Everywhere we turn, there’s music.  Every hip new restaurant has a hip new playlist.  Every retail store has a designed music ambiance. Even political candidates have a playlist.  Did you see the recent NY Times article that details each Presidential hopeful and their playlists?  Fascinating.

And yet, so many teachers can’t seem to deliver lessons that connect with the continued love and enthusiasm for music.

So what’s the solution?

Give the people what they want.

And that begins with opening the minds of music teachers.

I’ve been interviewing teachers for my school.  One of the questions I always ask is,

“What are you listening to these days?”

It’s a simple question, but if you ask many music teachers, it seems their playlists got stuck on their old Victrola.

It’s fascinating how many say they are open-minded, but upon further digging, it’s like they could be living in 1819, not 2019.

A simple way to start cracking open the door of your mind is to start listening to other types of music.

I read on another music teacher forum recently a teacher saying, “I have no time to listen to music!”

How sad.

If music has lost its spark for you, how can you light the candle of your student?

I encourage you to reinvigorate your musical life.  Listen wide, deep, and often. Subscribe to streaming services.  Did you realize how much music is available in your pocket?

And if you need some inspiration, here’s some recent listening according to my playlist history:

  • Bomba Estereo – Ayo
  • Harry Belafonte – Angelina
  • Eric Whitacre  – Lux Arumque
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Jeff Beck – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
  • Louis Vierne – Messe Solennelle – Kyrie
  • Steel Pulse – Earth Crisis
  • Louis Prima – I Wanna Be Like You
  • Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere
  • Sebastian Yatra – Un Año
  • MC5 – Kick Out The Jams
  • Santana – Soul Sacrifice from Woodstock
  • Pedro Capo & Farruko – Calma remix
  • Benjamin Britten – Peter Grimes

Listen to something different today.

I’ve been mentoring music teachers and business owners for years.  I have a few openings.  If you’d like to book a free breakthrough call with me, click here.

It’ll be the best 45 minutes you’ve ever spent on your business.  It’s free.

Best practices Mindset Professional Development Successful Teaching Business

How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. – Steve Martin

Too often, I hear music teachers say they are struggling to pay bills and can’t seem to attract enough students.

And I get it.  Most of us teachers starting teaching out of a love of sharing our gifts.  We studied music, theory, composition, pedagogy, and history – but not business.

It’s similar to dentists.  They go to dental school and learn all about taking care of us, their patients.  It’s incredibly difficult and specialized. But as soon as they graduate, they are thrust into building a practice.  Or they go and try to work for someone else. No one ever told them about how to start a business.

I think entrepreneurship should be taught beginning in grade school.

Some kids get it.  They start lemonade stands and then move onto other products or services.  One of my neighbor’s kids knocked on the door one Sunday morning and asked if we would like to buy breakfast services for the next month.  She was only 8 years old! That’s cool.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. –Benjamin Franklin

In this article, I want to share with you a roadmap to a successful teaching business that anyone can do, whether you are just starting out or have been teaching for years.  Along the way, we’ll discuss some limiting beliefs that can block your way to success as well as some empowering mental models that will accelerate your progress.


Over the last decade or so, I’ve built a successful teaching business.  It wasn’t always easy and not everything worked. I’ve also taught this process to other teachers as a one-on-one coach and also in online training programs.  

Here’s a visual overview of a successful teaching business.  

Think of it as the map of the territory. The thousand foot view.  This first part is what you need to set up.


How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss p1
The Setup Phase and Key Decisions


And once you have it started and running, here’s the next phase – operations.

How To Run Your Teaching Biz Like A Badass Boss p2


To be really useful, you should know where you are in the journey of your business.  

Are you just starting up?  

Have you already found a core ideal audience and now need to tweak the operations?  Are you looking to scale your success outside your geographic or client base area? This is a great article about stages of business.

Each one of these areas can be fully explored in a book, course, or months (years?) of coaching.  The problem arises when one goes to find help on starting a successful small business, and they are inundated with very specific help in a very specific area.  Usually, it’s one small part of this big picture. I wish I had a vision of this when I was just starting out. It’s my hope that this roadmap can be a guide for helping to know what you know and don’t know so you can  then seek further information.

I have helped many music teachers and school owners around the world with problems on this map.  Some needed help with the whole thing. Others just needed to tweak a small strategy within a small section.

Save Yourself Time, Energy and Frustration

Below are some recommended books that I think can eliminate much of the clutter.  It’s the 20% that will give you the 80% effectiveness. The signal from the noise. Mindset is a big part of it and shifting from a habitual state of lack to abundance is key.  But even as a self-directed learner, I believe if you are serious about your success, you need to invest in coaching.

By working with a coach you can greatly accelerate your progress and avoid the many pitfalls and dead-ends on your journey.  If you would like to discuss private or group coaching, please contact me here.

Some Recommended Books and Resources

About The Method Announcements Blog Mindset Professional Development Successful Teaching Business

Carol’s Students Learn Faster and Have More Fun With Color

Though she had already been working with young music students, Carol found that it was often difficult to transition them from early childhood classes to learning to read and play instruments. That’s when she came across the idea of using color as learning scaffolding and The Musicolor Method Masterclass.

Carol has since adapted the Musicolor Method to work with her youngest preschool students, as well as some of the elementary school kids. She loves how they take to color and can learn to play faster and with more fun.

Carol Koczo
Manassas, VA

First instrument: Piano
Age I started playing music: 8
Other instruments: Voice
Number of years teaching: 35+
Number of current students: 15 

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Currently listening to:

All kinds of music: pop, Broadway, classical.

I’ve taught music as a side job for years

Many times, I was also involved in choral groups. I have always been involved in music in some capacity. For a long time, I might have just one music student while I was working outside the home.

I got really interested in History Preservation, and I got a degree in it, but it didn’t really help me get into the workforce. I kind of fell back into music again and started focusing on it more.

Right now, I teach all levels

I know one of Andrew’s philosophies is to focus your attention on one set of students.

For a while, I has a school like that. I had been focusing mostly on the 8-12 year olds.

When I started as a private contractor with Take Lessons, it opened the door to any age from as young as 5 to 60. That kind of changes with teaching also. In some ways, it makes it more challenging and a little harder to keep track of who is where and when.

I wanted to focus more on younger students.

I started searching for something to make it easier for me to teach younger students, because they were so challenging. I hadn’t really taught that age before. So, that is what led me to The Musicolor Method Masterclass.

I spent a lot of time looking at and reading some of his articles about his philosophy and his approach.

I was searching for something that would help me, and I think it was during those articles I began thinking this may be something I am interested in.

I just knew it. It was a gut feeling that this was something that I thought I could work with, I liked the overall approach, the structuring of the program. I think it was, you know, I think I just thought this is pretty neat. So I am going to jump out of my box and try it.

I started using the color for different ages

I started using it with 8 year olds and even one of my 12 year old students. I adapted The Musicolor Method to different ages. Most everyone of them really took to the color really quickly. It was like “Oh, that’s easy. I can identify that the red is C and I can look at it and match colors.”

It was so easy for the kids, and I kind of thought they would take to it easily.

Prior to finding The Musicolor Method, a lot of what I had seen with the color was connected to rhythm—like with Boomwhacker sticks. They’re long tubes, and what you can do is use them for counting and for music.

That is another reason why I decided to take The Musicolor Method Masterclass. I realized that Andrew had actually put color into a piano format and he had evolved it so that we could use both hands.

The business lessons helped me think differently about my teaching

I am an analytical person. I think reading some of his thoughts, how he wanted to approach and structure the program and the philosophy behind it was beneficial. It helped me organize and look at my teaching in a different way.

I noticed right away that the program was very organized. Very thoughtful in the way in which he put together his program. I did like the approach overall.

It’s been well worth the investment

I know he has added things since I took the Masterclass, for example, when to buy your first piano and a few other things. All of this is helpful.

He created the whole package. He is always making changes too, and he is always presenting information differently. I couldn’t quite believe how much information and work he had put into his program. It’s been worth the investment.

Overall, I am a big fan.

Another thing that I liked that I haven’t done, is I like that he included some of the other string instruments in the program. It’s something that’s just a little different for younger students to be exposed to. I like that the information is available if I do want to use it.

I know this is a complicated process, but I am very pleased with everything he has done and continues to do. I am glad I did it.

Why I’d recommend The Musicolor Method Masterclass

I never realized when I was taking piano that it was that hard to teach. There have been a few times that I have looked at students and said, “Hmm. How did I learn this?” I think it is harder to teach than one would think.

I think Andrew’s approach has made it easier. You don’t have to use so many words, you rely more on the visuals.

There are a lot of layers to the Musicolor Method. Andrew has put a lot of thinking into, how and when you want to bring a certain idea into the lessons.

I think putting all this together into this format has been really good. I don’t think I could have done it.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

Read Carol’s product review of The Musicolor Method Masterclass on Tim Topham’s website 

Click here to see Carol’s profile

About The Method Announcements Blog Mindset Professional Development Successful Teaching Business

Anne Reinvented Her Career With The Perfect Part-Time Piano School

After a long recovery from surgery, Anne was wondering if she would ever be able to have the stamina and drive to teach music again. She reconnected to her love of early childhood education, and her passion for playing, when she came across the Musicolor Method.

Now, Anne has reinvented herself as a private music teacher to preschool and elementary age children. She’s got a thriving, part-time business with a waiting list of eager students.


Anne Vardanega
Sydney, Australia

First instrument: Piano
Age I started playing music: 7
Number of years teaching: 38
Number of students before The Musicolor Method: 3-4
Number of current students: 14, plus waiting list

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Currently listening to:

Bohemian Rhapsody movie soundtrack.

I’ve loved music since childhood

I started learning piano at 7 years old. I studied for 5 years, and I took exams for it in high school for what we call here in Australia, the HSC. In the U.S., I suppose you would call it your high school graduation.

I didn’t actually think I was clever enough to study music to graduate from high school. But I was encouraged by an inspiring and dedicated teacher who told me that I could do it.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher

At University, I studied early childhood education, and I included music in my teaching studies.

I was actually a musicology major. I didn’t have to actually do a performance, but I had to do musicology arranging and composing. I absolutely loved it.

Professionally, I focused on classroom music. I played the piano, the guitar and sang with my students.

I had my son when I was 30. I taught early childhood music classes with him. He was able to come along when he was 2-5 years old.

My son’s early music lessons were a disaster

He started at age 4 with the piano, and it really didn’t work. At that time, there didn’t seem to be childhood classes that bridged early music and formal lessons. If he had the Musicolor Method back then, he would have loved it.

My son started studying guitar in school. Now, he and his wife are professional musicians living in New York.

I started performing later in life—teaching was always first

My son inspired me to learn bass guitar and voice and start performing in my 40’s. I was the bass player, backup singer, and music director of the church.

When my son was older, I got a job at his school teaching High School music and as the performing arts convenor. It was a role that I loved.

I was helping students perform for their exams, their performances and prepare for their graduation. At the end of the year they were doing performances.

My son and his fiancee (now wife) said, “Why don’t you start off because you have your early childhood background, your general education background. Why don’t you start teaching piano?” So I taught Kinder Music and Music Theory after the school year was over.

The Musicolor Method created the next phase of my career

I was recovering from hip replacement surgery, and I was actually feeling quite down and out. I was thinking that I might not be able to teach any more.

Andrew contacted me through LinkedIn, and he sent me information about his program.

As a parent and a teacher, I already knew there was a gap for young musicians. That’s what I had experienced with taking my son to piano lessons at age 4 – they were way too hard and really turned him off learning piano.

I could see the value in the Musicolor Method right away.

Plus, I have always loved color. If I showed you around my house see you got  bright color paintings. The creative use of color in the Musicolor Method really appealed to me too. And  it has been fantastic.

The kids are engaged and excited by the colors

I just loved the colors, and the children took to it straight away. My students started singing a lot more, which appealed to me as an early childhood teacher.

We love singing songs and they loved collecting the ribbons. I made a fun folder for them. We could go slowly through it, it didn’t matter how long a child had to stay. I could slowly go with the child depending on how they were developing.

It bridges beautifully with the early childhood years of music with 3-4 year olds. It’s the perfect solution until they’re a little older and can go on to reading music.

I believe there are still not a whole lot of good resources that bridge that Kinder music phase in young children. A lot of books have young students playing on the black keys. I do utilize that as one tool for visualizing different positions on the piano, but it gets boring, and it is not as creative as the colors.

The colors inspire creativity and compositions

I do integrate composition a lot in my lessons as well because the colors make it so easy for the children to write something. I am putting together a book actually, to show Andrew what our studio here has composed.

The kids get inspired by something that happened at school, or being on a holiday, or even by the stuffed toys I have in my studio. They use all of them to write song.

Even if they are struggling with playing with five fingers, they can still be creative. I love that. If they were learning traditionally they wouldn’t  feel so good about themselves as musicians.

My part-time roster is full

I have students from age 4-9 on the Musicolor Method, and I have some older students who have gone on to other instruments but they come back to practice with me. But they actually started with the Musicolor Method.

I use it to build that transition solidly so that my students don’t lose that love for music or say it’s too hard.

The Musicolor Method helps connect with older students too

One student is turning 11 this year. I have actually said to him, “I think you need a better piano teacher now because I just focus on early childhood.”

But he’s still with me, learning harder songs like Star Wars and Harry Potter. We’re also learning chords, Beatles songs, and having fun singing together. I think that is quite interesting that he could really go to a different teacher, but for him, it is about the connection and the fun and creative process. He can play without the colors, but he still enjoys that creative side.

There are two older girls, and they are playing clarinet and saxophone. They are in grade 6. They are both in bands and they come back to me to practice. I don’t play clarinet or saxophone, but they feel confident enough with me to come back for me to help them practice. Their moms pay me to help them, I feel that connection is there to support them in their music journey.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

  Visit Anne’s studio website here. 


Announcements Blog Professional Development Successful Teaching Business Teaching Methods

Brett is Teaching Full Time After Doubling His Roster

While he started teaching music to make some extra cash, Brett quickly realized that he had a knack for connecting with students. The only problem? Getting enough students to pay him for regular lessons to quit his extra part-time jobs.

Within three months of going through The Musicolor Method Masterclass and being coached by Andrew, Brett doubled his student roster and became a full-time music teacher.

Brett Crudgington
Brooklyn, New York

First instrument: Saxophone
Age I started playing music: 9
Number of years teaching: 10
Number of students before The Musicolor Method: 12
Number of current students: 33 and counting, plus waiting list

Interviewer: Christy Goldfeder

Current listening to:

Glenn Gould to calm myself down. I have also been listening to and playing a lot of Brazilian music, classical dances and samba.

I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember

I have been playing instruments since I was 9 years old, I started on the saxophone. I was at the piano one day when I was really young, and I just started playing melodies. I was copying what I knew from playing the saxophone.

My parents thought that was a little brainy to be doing. So they asked me, “Do you want piano lessons?”. I started with 30 minute piano lessons with a teacher down the road, and I took them for 3 years.

Early lessons were somewhat disorganized

My teacher would give me books to work through, but she presented the lessons in the

method books, in a haphazard way. They were a little confusing, It was very disconnected.

There wasn’t a ton of structure early on, but I did survive with my sort of natural playing talent. I still learned a lot, but it could’ve been better. I also didn’t practice a whole lot.

When I started high school, I realized I needed to practice and needed structure. I went to college in New York, and I started playing classical music. I had four years of classical training after a bunch of Jazz training.

I went pro in Brooms

In my early to mid-twenties, I worked with a project called Brooms. It was a singer/songwriter duo, me and another guy. We were composing and producing albums.

We did a lot on Spotify. We produced four albums, and we got some traction. I got a couple songs featured in commercials, which was really cool.

These days, I’m focusing on running a business and keeping my skills up.  

I didn’t take my music business seriously at first

I saw music lessons as a way to make a living, but I didn’t like the business side of it. I loved playing.

I was juggling another job, and I had 12 private music students. I kept getting calls for students, and I thought “Okay, I gotta figure this out. I can’t do both.”

I had no business background, no corporate experience, no marketing or formal training. I didn’t take any classes. I was drowning in hours of teaching, and trying to manage it all. I needed to tighten up my communication and what I was offering.

The Musicolor Method came along at the right time. Andrew offered me coaching sessions along with the Masterclass, and I was like “Great! Sign me up.”

The Musicolor Method doubled my student roster

Since we started working together, I’ve been teaching full time. No more juggling another job. That’s it!

Before I started using the Musicolor Method Masterclass, I had 12 students. Within about 6-9 months, I doubled my student roster. I used his excellent product to help a lot of young kids who can’t read, to help them play these songs.

Andrew’s course gives teachers a way to translate the value of what his method gives, to the parents themselves.

It shows you exactly how to structure a lesson plan, writing lesson notes to families and communicating in a consistent way. It helps you run a professional business and show the value of what you’re providing.

He simplifies the process of running a music lesson business.

It saved me years of frustration and struggle

There are many resources out there, and they are all pretty great. But it’s different to work with somebody and get the right structure at the right time.

You could have 100 things to do as a business owner, and a consultant will come in and say “don’t do that, don’t do that and just focus on these 10 things”. It saves you like years.

It’s a genius way of approaching a 4-year-old mind in a very intuitive way.

The Musicolor Method lets young students go home and rehearse these songs on their own, without needing a parent there to help them out. They can figure it out on their own.

I didn’t know what to do with very young students before Andrew came along. Quite frankly I didn’t have the time.

Andrew spent some time in the library reading up on this, and he has tried a lot of the stuff out. So what he has done is created a great, intuitive way to reach these kids but do it in a structured way too.

It’s just unique because he has information design background too. So he was able to kind of go, immediately see the problems and address those problems.

Parents love seeing their kids succeed

I think the parents appreciate the approach. It’s intuitive and their kids have fun playing right away. They really love seeing their kids succeed. The kids are enjoying it, and the parents don’t feel lost either.

Parents are not worried about, “Are my kids retaining any of this?” As long as the teacher kind of addresses that consistently and says “Look, this is how we’re moving and what we expect over the next 3-6 months.”

It helps you, as the teacher, to be very clear about the pace and structure.

What I’d tell you about taking The Musicolor Method Masterclass

The Musicolor Method Masterclass will give you the structure you need to make your lessons.

Especially, if you’ve been teaching for a few years, but you still need help structuring your lessons. This can transform your business.

If you have a little success from teaching and you enjoy it, this can be the game changer.

It will give you the marketing skills you need to treat it like a business. You won’t feel like you’re getting swallowed up by your business. Instead, you’ll learn how to manage it in a way that suits you.

And because this method opens up a whole new market to me (4-6 year olds) I can suddenly take on all of them and it works amazingly for them. It’s saved me a lot of time figuring out what works.

Now I have a different class of problems. I am managing 33 students, and now I have to figure out how to scale and manage a full roster of students.

Learn more about the Musicolor Masterclass here

Visit Brett’s studio website here.

Best practices Professional Development Successful Teaching Business

What Is The Best Type Of Music Teacher To Be?

In this short video, I explain a useful way to think about your teaching practice.  It helps both with being the best teacher you can be, as well as a more successful business owner.    And it may surprise you why…

Transcription below:

Hello, welcome.

This is three types of music teacher, which one are you. I’m Andrew Ingkavet that’s me on the right, down there and I wanted to introduce you to this idea of three different types of teachers.

These three teachers, I’m going to represent them just as basic shapes.

We got the circle, square and triangle. So we can also call them Type I, Type II, and Type III. What I’m meaning about these three types is that there’s a different focus for each one. 

The first one Type I, the circle is the foundation builder.

This is the first music teacher, the one that’s going to be introducing all the basic concepts, techniques, introducing styles and genres, and hopefully instilling the joy of music and a life long love of music.

Type II is the next level

As the talent is rising and we’re going to take that student to go to a higher level.

Then Type III is when you’re getting more specialized focus in a specific area.

So you can see that these three types are actually in a specific order, and you can also think of it as that Type I is working with beginners, Type II is intermediate, and Type III is advanced students. 

This is pretty basic stuff but there’s a lot of myths about being a great teacher, a great music teacher, and one of the most common myths is that you have to be all three types. That might have been the case back in the day where you had these small towns when you were the only music teacher in town and you had the one room school house and had to serve all different levels at all different times. This is actually quite difficult because you have to think about all the different needs for the different groups, the different levels, and maintaining lesson plans and curricular for all three types is quite a lot of work. Also, some of us are just better at one type than the other type. Some of us want to work with young beginners and other ones want to work with more advanced. 

If you think about it, there are teachers who teach specifically first grade. These teachers are different focus than those who teach high school English. There’s a huge difference in the type of focus and the curricular they have to learn to work with those groups of students. So the more specialized you are, the easier it will become because you will be actually getting better at serving that audience, and also you might prefer to work with that student subset. 

Now it’s the same thing as you were thinking about your teaching practice from a business standpoint. They always say to specialize to have a narrow focus a niche. You’ve heard there is a niche market, the narrow the niche it’s a smaller pond. You become the big fish in the small pond, you can stand out, you can be a more dominant force. It’s also much easier to communicate to one audience than many. 

So if you’re working just with say grade school kids, talking to parents who are the most likely client for that group, is much different than say talking to an adult audience who wants to come back to learning piano after many, many years away from it. Or they already had some training. So every audience has a different way of speaking to them, a different messaging and you can stand out much easier by just narrowing the focus. There’s less to worry about. Then you get to work with your ideal students. The ones who you really most want to serve and are best suited to serve.

Let’s go back to that graphic of the three teachers. Which I or II or III maybe, maybe you’re all of these.

So some of us actually are a multitude of these because say we play one instrument at a very high level. I know somebody who is a great cellist, who can take a child at the very, very beginning and can take them up to the next level and can even take them all the way to level III, the Type III teacher. But for piano, who wants to introduce the basic foundations of music through the piano is probably best suited to work with just in the beginner area as a Type I teacher.

If you’re a Type I teacher working with a beginner student, there’s a lot of benefits that you may not even realize that can come from working with this group. There’s the possibility to start very, very young and keep them much longer than most other teachers can, because this group is usually less busy, there’s less competition for their time. I start teaching kids at 3 1/2 to 4 years old and I can tell you a little bit about how I do that a little bit later, but this way I can keep these students with me until they’re 10, 11, 12, even 16 years old. This is over a decade with me.

This group of students also is glad to have structured lessons. You can have much more structure curriculum and lesson planned than when you get to working with the other groups where you may be working on the fly a lot more. This is the group that you are really looking to spark the joy of music. As early as possible in a multitude of ways through listening, playing, performing and all kinds of fun activities to show that music can actually teach life skills that are vital to success in life. Things like focus, grit, goal setting, public performance. All the things that parents want from their children. 

So the Type 1 teachers, many of them have tried using traditional music method, so they need to start around 7 or 8 years old when children can actually read. But, I have created something that’s called the Musicolor Method® and this is very suitable for pre literate kids, even special needs kids, kids on the autism spectrum, and Asperger. They all respond very well to it because we are using color as educational scaffolding. Meaning, we don’t have to read to play, we can get kids playing right away. 

I encourage you to check out some of our other videos, subscribe to this channel, and also check out our website. We also have a full comprehensive training program for professional music educators and school and studio owners called the Musicolor Masterclass. Take a look at that and I’ll see you in the next video. 

Blog Mindset Professional Development

How to activate creativity, innovation and invention?

“What do you think?”

When was the last time someone asked you this?  And if you answered, did you just regurgitate what you heard some other expert say about this topic?

When was the last time you asked your children or your students this question?

There’s a problem in that the school system of today was created over a century ago to fill factories with workers who could follow direction.  The modus operandi: We know everything; Fill your head with facts; Follow directions.

In other words, shut up and follow orders.  Color in the lines, not outside. Do this, not that.

When I was young, I thought my father knew everything.  Anything I asked him, he had an answer for. Even when he would say, “Because I said so.”

But this mindset doesn’t work in today’s world.  We need curious, passionate, questioning people. These are the people who will be leading corporations, governments and shaping the world.  Every company, organization, the government is seeking problem solvers. People who ask questions that lead to innovation, invention and improvement.

It’s a shift in how we teach.  Instead of automatically giving facts, data, answers, we use questions.  And it’s best when it’s an open-ended question.

An example of a closed-end question is one that can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”  It’s a question that has a definite answer and usually does not provoke discussion.

An open-ended question needs more than a single word to answer and often leads to even deeper questions.

In my music lessons, I try to answer questions with my own questions. They often produce a surprising answer.

I asked one of my young students how you would describe this music I had just demonstrated.

“It’s like a fight between left hand and right hand!”

Such a memorable and exciting way to describe music.

Another came up with a hysterically funny way of describing dotted half notes as “the one with the poop behind it.”

Another time, I asked a student what they thought the song “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers was about.

“Maybe this person couldn’t walk too well and they had to lean on their friend.”


These kinds of insights are much more meaningful and memorable than anything I could have said.

But as students get older, I’ve noticed that they are less likely to give an answer or even ask a question.

It’s as if school has taught them to wait for the right answer.

Sometimes I push further and say, “But what if you did know?”

We’re rapidly moving to a world of artificial intelligence.  Machines that have all the answers. Every child now knows how to ask Alexa, Google or Siri about so many things.  But these are all factual. Without the ability to think and ask new creative open-ended questions, what kind of jobs will be left?

In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, researcher Kai-Fu Lee writes

“While AI is great at optimizing for a highly narrow objective, it is unable to choose its own goals or to think creatively. And while AI is superhuman in the cold-blooded world of numbers and data, it lacks social skills or empathy—the ability to make another person feel understood and cared for…

What does that mean for workers who fear being replaced? Jobs that are asocial and repetitive, such as fast-food preparers or insurance adjusters, are likely to be taken over in their entirety. For jobs that are repetitive but social, such as bartenders and doctors, many of the core tasks will be done by AI, but there remains an interactive component that people will continue to perform. The jobs that will be safe, at least for now, are those well beyond the reach of AI’s capabilities in terms of creativity, strategy, and sociability, from social workers to CEOs.”

Social-emotional skills are what separates us from the machines.

We need to encourage thinking.  Encourage questions. Kindle curiosity and wonder.

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” – Socrates

Here are some questions that you can use to generate original thinking and more questions:

  • What do you know about this topic?
  • What do you want to know?
  • What have you learned about this before?
  • How do you know this is true?
  • How do you feel about this?
  • What actions should you take?
  • What new questions do you have?

What questions do you use?  What do you think? Please share below.

Professional Development

How To Spark Growth, Friendship & Love with A Mentor Program

We recently returned from an amazing trip connecting with my father’s roots in Thailand. My wife Monica and I lived and traveled throughout Asia in the early 1990’s. But this was our first time back in 25 years and it was a wonderful way to introduce our son Alejandro to his Thai family with grandpa at his side.
It also made me reflect on an idea from our time in Asia, a mentor program!

Summerbridge HK

While living in Hong Kong, Monica became the first international director of San Francisco based, Summerbridge (now called Breakthrough Collaborative.) The program’s mission: to “bridge the summer” with a unique summer school. The teachers were gifted high school and international college students. The students were elementary school students from lower income housing estates.
As these teachers were just a few years older than their students, there were lots of opportunities to build rapport through shared pop culture references, food, and the recency of having just learned what they were teaching. And even though the focus was on the younger students, we witnessed incredible growth in the older “mentor” students.
This idea is applicable to your music student community.

A Music Mentor Program

When Alejandro was around 9 years old, he began weekly visits to several of my students at their homes. He would sit with them and help them to practice. It was the same idea as Summerbridge HK.

He had a lot of rapport (and respect) from kids who were just a few years younger than him. He would help them practice, demonstrate certain techniques and encourage them to go further. It was super successful especially with recital preparation. And, he was happy to get pizza money for “his job.”

We recently kicked this off in my school, Park Slope Music Lessons. It was received with great enthusiasm, and newfound friendships and mentorships are taking place. Music is a social activity and can open the doors for so many. Plus, it fosters an even greater sense of community around your school and teaching. It’s a great gift to your students.

Chloe and Alejandro in our first version of the music mentor program in 2015
Chloe and Alejandro in an early version of the music mentor program

Here’s how to create a mentor program for your students

  1. Send out an email with the subject: Music mentor opportunity for your child
  2. Set up a sign up sheet using Google Docs or similar with child’s name, parent’s name, contact info, ages, instruments and whether they want to be a mentor or mentee. (Be sure to set a cut-off date)
  3. Do some matchmaking introductions and give them a simple structure.

Here’s a sample email for matchmaking – the key to the mentor program


Hi ___
I’m introducing you two as you both expressed interest in the Music Mentors program.
I think K can be a wonderful mentor for C.
K is 10 and plays piano and drums.
C is 7 and plays piano, drums and guitar

Here’s what I suggest.

Get the boys together and let them hang out and show each other stuff. Then go into more structured music time.

  • Introductions, show me your instrument, rapport building, and adults leave the kids.
  • Why don’t you show me a song?
  • Do you want me to help you practice?

After the first session, set a time/date for the next session.

These sessions may work better as a kids-only experience after initial introductions.

I recommend a payment of $5 for the mentors.

It’s a small stipend and just enough to really motivate and show them they can earn money by helping others. And, they can get a slice of pizza and a drink

How does that sound?

As I said, we just started this. But within a few weeks, I’ve already heard enthusiastic responses from the kids and the parents. If you do try this, I would love to know how it works for you and your students. Drop me a line.

Looking for more teaching ideas?  Download these free music alphabet flash cards with activity ideas.

Professional Development

This is what I learned at NY EDTech, and it was great

This week my wife and I went to the NY EDTech 2017 conference held at my alma mater NYU.   Below are some of my notes from the opening morning show.

If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard, EDTech has been  a booming billion dollar industry for about a decade now.  I’m happy to say that New York University, and New York City in general, have been at the forefront of this innovation.  

But there are problems.

Most of the companies in EDTech focus on the use of technology to replace the human element in teaching with computers and apps interfacing with students.   While this can create a personalized learning experience and provide valuable, measurable data, it’s a big difference from working with a teacher with whom you have a great rapport with and who really knows  you.


The morning program featured a keynote from Alicia Glen, deputy mayor of New York City, who touted some great figures about my hometown.  

NYC Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen at NY EDTech Week 2017
NYC Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen at NY EDTech Week 2017

“New York City has the largest public school system in the world with over two million students, 300,000 teachers and over 2700 schools,  so it’s a fantastic place to try out these new systems.  It has also led the venture financing with over $1 billion committed to EDtech since 2008!”


Dr. Michael and Olga Block founded the BASIS Curriculum Schools ( which have come to dominate lists of top high schools in the USA.

In the 1990’s, both were teaching at prestigious Universities and noticed that their best students were not the local Americans, but rather international students.  They began to realize that it wasn’t a genetic or cultural factor, but rather a better curriculum.  They designed a curriculum that could take a child from kindergarten to high school that would allow them to compete at a global level.

Dr. Michael and Olga Block of BASIS Curriculum Schools
Dr. Michael and Olga Block of BASIS Curriculum Schools

The secret to their success?

A great curriculum and great teachers.  

And yet, it’s surprising how many teachers, both in school and in private practice, do not follow a curriculum.  The curriculum is what makes for a successful transfer of knowledge.  

They use technology to make their school scalable and reproducible.  The core of this is a centralized course catalog, a sort of intranet for all the teachers.   The software shows what needs to be taught and when, with lesson plans and materials.  But it’s also flexible.  Each teacher takes the lesson plan and can modify or adapt it.  If the results are better than the original, the new lesson plan becomes the standard.

In my own music school, Park Slope Music Lessons,  we use the Musicolor Method curriculum,  but it’s not dogma. It’s a flexible spine.   Teachers are free to modify, adapt and change things as long as they cover the content.  

Great teachers know when to go faster or slower.  And if in doubt,  we have provide a seven step framework to help the teacher evaluate themselves and their lesson plans to improve the learning experience.  



Next up was Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academies, who has been criticized by the media lately.  

But I found her to be compelling and agreed with many of her points.

I do not believe that most of the current EDtech will give us excellence and equality.  Education is fundamentally a human endeavor as inspiring a passion for learning.  Teachers will always have the most important role to play.”

Success Academies Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz
Success Academies Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz

She also mentioned how the education industry is far behind other areas.

“The education space is way behind every other sector in thinking how to make things faster, better and cheaper.

There is a whole host of infrastructure that needs to be automated and digitized.”

And I concur.  If the overall educational industry is behind, music education is even further – especially classical music education!  It’s as if many teachers in the classical realm should still be wearing powdered wigs!

Moskowitz lists her three areas of focus as:

  1. content and curriculum
  2. parental involvement
  3. rigor as an overall mindset

She goes on to say that at Success Academies they are using technology tools to support the teachers.  Here’s two examples:

  1. “What we like about Google classroom is that we can improve the quality of teacher feedback to students.  ‘Good job’ is not very helpful or instructive.”
  2. “Books on tape.  We use Audible.  Incredibly efficient and helpful logistically.  Listening to books it can help hear the voices of the characters in the books.  Consumption of books and quality of reading improves dramatically.”

I,too, am a big fan of Audible!  I have read so many more books in the past year because of the use of audio books while doing other chores like walking, driving etc.

And the whole thing about “Good job,” is something that is near and dear to me.  I wrote an article about this here and also include it in the Musicolor Method Masterclass.

And yes, even though I am an early adopter of technology, I see it as enabling, only replacing human functions that are repetitive, droll and boring.  In other words, replacing tasks no one wants to do anyway.

Right now in my private lessons, I often use a “flipped classroom” model where I will send home materials as videos or pdfs before or after the lesson to support the student at home.  This has never been easier with just a smartphone and file sharing.

I am grateful that there is positive momentum in the world of education and that there are others who believe that it’s not just technology replacing people, but technology empowering people.  

Have a fantastic holiday and new year!  I hope you spend some quality time with people you love and turn off your devices…at least for a little while.


Professional Development

Rapport and How To Teach A Student Who Doesn’t Look Like You

“I’m black so my teacher needs to be black.”

Nobody said this, yet.  

But, a study has found a correlation between the performance achievement of black children and whether or not they had a black teacher.  The results seem to suggest that black children would fare better if taught by a teacher that looks more like them.  

“There’s mounting evidence that when black students have black teachers, those students are more likely to graduate high school. That new study takes this idea even further, providing insight into the way students actually think and feel about the teachers who look like them and those who don’t.”  Read more at

While still not conclusive, the studies do suggest something more than chance is happening.  

But hold on.

Is it just the race and color of the teacher that is truly affecting results here?   Because if so, it sounds like we should all be living in segregated communities!   

Looking deeper, I’m wondering about several factors.  

First, the curriculum that was used by the teachers – was it any different for different populations?  Could it be that the curriculum was better suited because the teachers understood their students deeper?

What about rapport between the teachers and students?  

Not every teacher knows how to take time to build rapport.

It’s like a salesperson who doesn’t take the time to know what you are looking for and repeatedly shoves their product in your face.  If the teacher were to be successful with selling their information (the coursework), they would need to take some time to understand their customers (the students.)

Start With Rapport

In the Musicolor Method®, we begin with seven core principles.  It’s a framework for teaching.  Number one is the importance of Rapport.  Without rapport, you have no trust and no flow of information.  We discuss this in detail in the training.  

Think about the best teachers you have had in your life.  No doubt, there was a rapport between them and you.  Rapport is more than looking like your teacher.  It’s about caring, honesty, and trust.  

Mr. Andy Blackett

The teacher who made the most difference in my life was not Asian, not Caucasian, but African-American.  I’m Asian.  Maybe I was attracted to him because we were one of the few non-whites in the building.  But why he so thoroughly affected me and changed my life was all down to one thing.

He cared.

He cared about me more than just doing well in his class.  He cared about me as a person.  And thus, he knew how to help me with issues far beyond knowing the correct voicing of chords or how to read figured bass.  

He gave me confidence and helped me to build a mindset of competence and perseverance.  And through this trust, I flourished as a student in his class and all of my classes.

Here’s what I think.  

If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of your students, it doesn’t matter whether you look like them.  It matters whether you care about them.  We’re all human with the same needs, desires, fears, and dreams.  Show your love and it will transform their lives and yours.

What are your thoughts?  

Please share in the comments below.