4 Awesome Tips to Help Organize your Music Studio Darlene Irwin     September 06, 2016

September is here and that means it's time to get organized and ready to teach. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming because there is so much to do. In this blog post, I'd like to share with you four awesome organization ideas that can help you prepare for the fall. I've also included some free downloadable files.

 #1 Using an iPad (or other device) for Scheduling

There are so many different devices available with built-in calendars. If you haven’t done so already, now may be the time to embrace some of that new technology. I can only comment on Apple products because that’s what I have been using. My iPad has really changed the way that I organize my teaching schedule. The calendar works so much better than my previous hand-written sheets. Here are some of the advantages of this amazing tool.

  • You can set up your teaching schedule for the fall (lesson times and students). Once you have entered a student in the first week, you can have that event repeat throughout the year. Just make sure you go through the calendar and delete the lessons from the holiday weeks!
  • You can colour-code the entries. I use different colours for regular lessons, missed lessons, part-time lessons etc. (You'll have to delete that week's repeating entry and re-enter it if you want to change colour). As with any app, there's always a learning curve as you try to adapt the program for your own needs. But I can tell you from experience, it's well worth the effort!
  • At the beginning of each lesson, you can set an alarm to sound when the lesson is finished (with a 5-minute warning). This really helps you to stay on time.
  • You can add comments to specific lessons using the notes at the bottom of each event (i.e. reasons for missed or changed lessons)
  • Lessons can easily be moved around making re-scheduling a breeze.
  • The search function is fantastic. In an instant, you can see all the lessons for one student for the entire year.
  • The entire calendar is backed up in the cloud, so you won’t lose any information.
  • The calendar on the iPad syncs through the cloud with any of your other Apple devices.

       #2 Studio Events Calendar

      Another great tool is my one-page Yearly Studio Calendar. You can use the same chart each year. Just change the dates and add all the important information that your students and parents need to know for the whole year (i.e. master classes, recitals, festivals, holidays, deadlines, exams, upcoming events, vacations, etc).  

      This Calendar can be e-mailed to your parents. I place a copy of the Calendar on the bulletin board in my waiting room. I also tape a copy in the back of each student’s Organizer so that we can refer to it at their lesson throughout the year. 

      This year, I have 3 PDF fillable versions of the Yearly Studio Calendar to share. All you have to do is download the file you want and then add the information for your own teaching year. 

      File #1 - Studio Calendar with all RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) dates and Canadian holidays.

      File #2 - Studio Calendar with Canadian holidays only (for teachers who do not use the RCM system).

      File #3 - Studio Calendar with US holidays only.

      Note - PDF Fillable files that are sent by e-mail need to be opened with a program that reads the filled-in information such as Adobe Reader. Some e-mail programs will not show the filled-in information, however the information is still there.

       #3 Yearly Student Performance Tracking Chart

      I would also like to share my very handy ‘Student Performance Tracking Chart’ (Excel file) for organizing student performances throughout the year. You can add the student’s names plus all the dates for master classes, recitals and other performances. Then print this file and put it on a clipboard in your studio. This chart can then be used for performance planning throughout the year for your entire class.

      You can add pieces (in pencil) to the chart as they are chosen throughout the teaching week. I find that it’s faster in the lesson to work with a paper copy. Every 2 weeks or so, you can update the chart on the computer and print it again. That way, you'll know exactly what is being worked on for performances at all times. There's a special column in the chart for keeping track of total playing time for some of the pieces. This is useful when it comes to timing recitals, competitions or master classes.

      Here's the original file for my Student Performance Tracking Chart. You can download it and then add the names, dates and events from your own studio. I've also included 11 other worksheets for master class and recital program planning (see tabs at the bottom of the downloaded excel sheet).

       #4 The Student Music Organizer - The Complete Dictation Book

      Here are some of the benefits of using the The Student Music Organizer:

      • Saves time in a lesson. The book is so easy to use….all you have to do is fill it in and it’s designed to last for the entire year.
      • 8 1/2 x 11” format - there's lots of room for writing on each lesson page. Manuscript is also included at the bottom of each page.
      • Some sections included: Goal Setting, Favourite Pieces, Exam and Practice Planning.
      • Lots of History Reference Material: Composer Chart, Summary Sheets for Musical Time Periods (Baroque, Classical etc). 
      • Also includes Music Dictionaries (with terms grouped according to style, speed, touch, etc), Basic Music Theory Reference Guides and a very handy Comparative Fingering Chart for keyboard scales.

        Organization is the key to having a well-run studio. My students and parents especially appreciate it when they know exactly what is happening throughout the year. With a little planning ahead of time, you can sail into the fall knowing that everything is ready to go. 

        ♥︎ Remember - Great Music Comes From the Heart ♥︎ 

        Piano Photo by Miki Yoshihito

        Fall Photo by Darlene Irwin

        The iPad and the Music Teacher Darlene Irwin     January 05, 2014

        Today is my first time blogging... it’s a little scary, but here goes!

        My name is Darlene Irwin. I have a Bachelor of Music in Education and an Associate Diploma in Piano Performance from The Royal Conservatory of Toronto. I am a member of the Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association and have served as president of our local branch. I have been teaching piano for many years. It is my love and my passion. I am also the author of "The Student Music Organizer" along with many other great teaching tools and aids.

        I am very excited to begin my blogging journey. My hope is that this will be a place where music teachers and students alike can talk about and discuss the very important task of inspiring our students. I envision a place where we can share ideas and help each other along the way.

        If you would like to receive notification of new blog entries and be part of the musical discussion, then please sign up for our mailing list. Please pass this along to any of your friends, colleagues or students. This post is just the beginning of a musical collaboration.

        The iPad and the Music Teacher

        This post is the first in a series for music teachers about getting the most out of your iPad. The iPad is an amazing tool for teachers. I literally use my iPad EVERY DAY I teach! It really has revolutionized my teaching. In this post, I will talk about two of the apps that I use most for managing my music studio:


        You can use the iPad calendar for keeping track of your teaching schedule... everything you need right at your fingertips. You can also colour-code your entries. I have different colours for regular lessons, lessons that have been changed, missed lessons, part-time lessons etc. At the beginning of each lesson, I set an alarm to sound when the lesson is over (with 5-minute warning). This helps me keep right on time.

        The search feature on the calendar is also very handy. I number the lessons #1-35 for the year. I can then type in a student’s name and up comes all their lessons scheduled for the year. (Note: the calendar will only search for the past year, so it's not ideal if you are looking for something further back than that).





        I have all of my students grouped together in the iPad's contact list. That way, I have all of their information conveniently accessible in the studio. I have separate entries for the parents and for each of the students. I put the birthdays of the students right on the calendar. For parents, I store the names of both parents, phone numbers (home, work, cell), e-mail address, home address etc. In the notes section, I can put specific information about each student such as: age in September, school, school grade, piano grade, goals etc. I also keep their information for doing exams, i.e. exam number. I take pictures of each of my students on their first lesson, which can be added right into their contact sheet.

        Stay tuned for more posts sharing creative ways to integrate the iPad in your teaching.