holiday break motivation

Me: This is our last lesson for 4 weeks – can you believe it?!
Student: Oohhh. (insert sad face here)

Colored pencilsYep, that was several students’ reactions during lessons this week. No joke.
Aren’t I a lucky gal?! Now, not every musician wakes up in the morning and thinks “I need to practice as soon as possible or the world is over.” (For me it is coffee first, and then practice.) So how to keep those cellists going over this holiday season? Answer: adult coloring pages! Here’s how it works:

Each piece/etude/scale series the student practices equals 1 small area of the coloring page. Practice French Folk Song 10 times in a row? Color 10 spaces!

Even my young adult/adult students were pumped. EVERYONE loves to color.

Here are a couple free pages that are super fun from The One and Only Colouring Book for Adults:

Coloring houses








Coloring waves








I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!


why should i practice?

Practice has 2 important purposes:

  1. To improve
  2. To enjoy

IMPROVING is necessary, and happens if you are practicing daily. When we improve, we ENJOY. Enjoyment also occurs when we feel good about what we’ve done, when we gain confidence in our abilities, and are proud about how we sound.

So, how do we improve while enjoying? Good question. First this…

New academic year


I have created a practice sheet to help my students with this (Though now that I think about it I should re-name it something ridiculously fun like “Improvement Inducer.” Or not — see, this is why I keep my creativity in processes and games, and not in naming things.)

weekly practice chart – full page

weekly practice chart - full pageAs you can see, things are broken down into key areas (listening, review, tone, reading/tech/theory, current pieces, goals) to help students focus on what they should spend their time on. It is vital for us to agree on the goal for the week, otherwise if you come to your next lesson having rocked something else but I asked for a flawless D scale to be executed, then insert crushed dreams here.

I know teachers have many tools they use to help students, and I’m always open to ideas! Maybe I should put staff paper on the back and create some composition/writing assignments…

practice recipe #9: go fish!

Fish1Games are fun – I don’t care how old you are. One of the favorite games I had as a tiny child was the fish game, and I remember never tiring of it. In the last few years I’ve heard of teachers using it in their studios, and I thought I’d give it a go. And…I LOVE it. Like Mr. Potato Head but a smidge more challenging for the student. Here’s how I use the mechanical fish game:

Each color of fish represents a section of our lesson (or could be used for sections of practice at home.) Example:

RED: review
LIGHT GREEN: technique focus (maybe finger dexterity)
YELLOW: theory
DARK GREEN: current piece

This creates a wonderfully quick way to structure home practice for littles! It helps students to see how many things they have left and they tend to forget what the colors mean and keeps the element of surprise! This can be used for older students as well to decide which technique to practice if they are dragging their feet.

So, go fishing (even though it’s January.) Fish2

one of my helpers

I don’t care how old you are, the PotatoHead family and Legos are things you don’t outgrow. Cowboy potato

In studio when students come in and have no energy or apparent internal motivation I will pull out my helper Mr. PotatoHead. For each “challenge” I set forth they get to blindly draw a body part to put on Mr. PotatoHead.


The amount of times Mr. PotatoHead has helped a lesson where a tired 3-year-old (“I don’t wanna play cello today!”) walks into my studio into a “But it can’t be the end of the lesson – he still doesn’t have arms! One more song!” is astounding. Seriously magical.


Do you have any other games that motivate your students to play?

technique can be fun…

I know you are laughing at that – I would have as a student. But this week we are making technique a game where it earns you an actual something at the end of our lesson!Image

At the beginning of lesson students draw one of the technique slips from the jar (CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD) and must spend the entire lesson showing the textbook definition of whatever technique they picked from the jar. At the end of the lesson if I can guess correctly what technique they were showing me they earn a treat from my fun cabinet!

This can be a fun way to focus on ONE technique at a time at home too!