Organize for Success—Getting Ready for Fall Darlene Irwin     July 28, 2014

Summer is a great time to relax and enjoy the nice weather. But for music teachers, summer is also the time to prepare for the fall. There is always so much to do before regular lessons resume. Organization is the key to having a well-run business. With a little planning ahead of time, you can sail into September knowing that everything is ready to go! That way you will spend less time worrying about all the things that you have to do and more time enjoying the time off. I would like to share with you a few great organizational ideas that have worked for me.

  • One of the first things that I do when preparing for the upcoming season is to work on my Yearly Studio Calendar. I have an Excel chart that I use to generate a one-page Calendar for parents and students. I can use the same chart each year. I just change the dates and add all the important information that I feel my students and parents need to know for the whole year (i.e. master classes, recitals, festivals, holidays, deadlines, exams, upcoming events, vacations, etc).  In late August, I e-mail this to all of my parents along with a reminder of their first lesson date and time. 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 I can refer to it at their lesson throughout the year and highlight any upcoming dates. I've included a link to my original file for the Yearly Studio Calendar in this post. That way, you can download it and change the information to suit your own teaching year.
  • The iPad is an amazing tool. For me, it was definitely worth the investment. (See previous Blog Post called 'The iPad and the Music Teacher'). The Calendar App is one of the best studio organization tools on the iPad. I love how it backs up automatically to the cloud so that I don’t have to worry about losing my information. Entries can be colour coded to keep track of lessons that have been changed or missed. You can also write notes pertaining to a lesson directly on the  individual entires. The search function is fantastic. In an instant, I can see all of the lessons for one particular student for the entire year. I also find the Contacts App very useful for keeping track of all student information. My iPad has revolutionized the way that I organize my business. Here's a link to help you get started. This article will help you with the basics of using the calendar App.
  • I have a very handy ‘Performance Tracking Chart’ (Excel File) that I use to organize all student performances throughout the year. Once I’ve completed my yearly calendar, I set up this chart with student's names and dates of all master classes, recitals and other performances. Then I print it and put it on a clip board that I keep beside me in the studio. I can use this chart for performance planning throughout the year. In September, the first thing we do is pick a Master Class piece (for the end of October) and a Christmas recital piece. I will also use this to help plan performances for exam preparation. I can keep track of all performance pieces for all students throughout the year on these sheets. I find it easier to work with a paper copy in the studio. I can fill it in as I’m teaching. Every two weeks or so, I will update the chart on the computer with any changes or additions and print it again. This gives me a running list of all performance pieces being worked on by my students at all times. I also list the students' pieces in their own Organizer. There is a column in the chart for keeping track of the total playing time for pieces which is useful for timing recitals and Master Classes. Here is the original file of my ‘Performance Tracking Chart’. This will allow you to input the names, dates and events to suit your own studio.
  • The Student Music Organizer is another great time-saving teaching tool. Each September, my students start a brand new book. The book is written on 8 1/2 x 11” paper so there is lots of room for writing notes. It is is designed to last for an entire year of lessons so you don't have to buy 2 or 3 smaller notebooks. At the end of the year, you will have a complete record of what has been done for the entire year. Parents love it as well. If they have a question, I can tell them to check the Organizer! Here are some of the sections included in this great resource: 
      • Goal Setting Section — I do this on the first lesson so that we know how to plan for the year.
      • Favourite Piece Section — This is very helpful when planning recitals, festivals or exams.
      • Exam Planning — for students doing an exam in the upcoming year, we start planning right away.
      • Practice Planning — after we have set goals for the year, we then decide together how much time they will need to practice each week to attain these goals. This time can then be broken down into smaller sections so they know how long to spend on each aspect i.e. pieces, technique, sight reading
      • The Organizer contains 35 Assignment Pages. These sheets can be filled out during the lesson. Each page contains a chart for recording weekly practice. There is also manuscript across the bottom and the pages are numbered so you can refer back to a scale or exercise assigned earlier in the year.
      • The back of the book contains lots and lots of valuable reference material. You will find extra manuscript paper, a composer chart, summary sheets for musical time periods (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionism and Modern), music dictionaries, basic music theory reference guides and a wonderful comparative fingering chart for keyboard instruments.


      • ♫ A SPECIAL NOTE ♫…The Student Music Organizer Website is having a fantastic 15/15 sale! For the entire month of August, teachers will receive 15% off of their entire order if they order 15 organizers or more. Use the discount code AUGUST at checkout to take advantage of this terrific deal. 

Have a great rest-of-the summer AND have fun getting organized for September.

♥︎ Remember, Great Music Comes from the Heart ♥︎ 

♥︎ Remember - Great Music Comes From the Heart ♥︎


Photo credit: "Over the River and Through the Woods" by garlandcannon

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.