The Studio App

I am very excited to announce the addition of a studio reference app to the App Stores for both Android & Apple. If you are interested in using it on an iPad, there is an option in the iPad app store on your device to search for iPhone apps only (by default, it chooses “iPad apps only”).

Additional comments can be found at this Facebook Studio post. I would love for you to try it out when you have the time. Reviews in those stores are greatly appreciated and very important. Please let me know if you encounter any problems along the way. Thank you!



Piano Posture Infographic

Fantastic! Thanks, Sara! :)

Sara's Music Studio

Do you teach “Piano Posture” in your studio? Some methods start their Primer books with a basic “this is how you are supposed to sit at the piano” model. Pictures might illustrate how far away to sit, or how a student should hold their hands. Pictures like this should look familiar to most piano teachers:

piano-sit It says “sit tall,” but do you see how much the head/neck juts out over the shoulders? This is the kind of posture that has gotten me into trouble over the years!

This fall I’ve decided to make “Piano Posture” a stronger focus during lessons. The typical drawings that you find in books sometimes don’t really cut it, and recently I came across a great infographic from Hoffman Academy that details the hows and whys of good piano posture:

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Where Lessons & Teaching Began for Kristin

The following is something I wrote early in 2010 & have since “updated” with more current information as much as possible… over 20 years ago, I began taking piano lessons… and almost 14 years ago, I began teaching piano lessons.  I quickly came to LOVE my job.  Read about it here.

(this cutie is my nephew about 6 years ago = 2010-ish)


Shopping List for Music Teachers

(to be updated) – what would you add to this list?

  • I love pedal extenders for my little ones! I require all students who are short in stature to purchase. They usually sell it once they don’t need it any more to an incoming student.
  • Melissa and Doug Band in a Box. Great price and awesome variety of quality instruments that I use for various rhythm activities.
  • Mini erasers galore, stickers, stickie notes, handheld white boards and markers, magnetic board, laminator, dice
  • Basket of high quality instruments from studio west, giant scarves, floor piano
  • Don’t forget to get the correct expo pens, so your white boards are not ruined. Please add expo cleaner and wash cloths to erase and clean the white boards. Ps. You don’t need an expo eraser. Wash cloths work fine.
  • White binders to make studio assignment binders with and to keep digital music in. Pencils. Highlighter markers.

“Hi Ho Cherry-O” Music Game

Hi Ho Cherry-O (music game) - Small Town Music Lessons

I recently rediscovered a photo I took of the adaptation of Hi Ho Cherry-O, and it has almost gone “viral” on Pinterest!  It’s wonderfully exciting :) But then, I realized I didn’t pin it correctly – and left anyone clicking through to the mercy of the search bar on my home page.  Sorry, everyone!  The original page with the photo (which I took during a student’s lesson – the table under the game is in the studio) is located…

Hi Ho Cherry-O is a fun game for kids, available in most game & department stores.  It is currently available at Amazon (click that link) for $10.03 (with possible free shipping).  My students enjoy the multi-color, multi-fruit option.  I threw out the spinner & puzzle.  For the colorful cubes (on which I drew… 1x whole note, 1x dotted half note, 1x half note, and 3x quarter notes), you can also find a great price at Amazon, currently @ $13.28 for a giant container of them.  I still have MANY of those awesome blocks blank & available, so I’ll often let a student draw those notes on the sides of the cube & bring the cube of their color choice home to adapt to other games.


31 Days to Better Practicing – AMAZING link & resource!

Johann Sebastian Bach

Many composers come to mind when I think of the Baroque era in music history, the time period covering 1600-1750 AD.  But perhaps one of the most well-known and diverse of the Baroque composers is the one known as J.S. Bach.  Even now, more than 300 years after his birth, his music continues to top the charts of enthusiasts around the world.


“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” J. S. Bach

Piano Pronto – I’m Abundantly Excited and Honored!

20140701-180705-65225200.jpgJennifer Eklund, the composer/owner of Piano Pronto Publishing, asked us to be her first Studio of the Month on her website and asked a fun series of questions. I am thrilled and excited to share the link with you, and will be adding photos of students with their books.

Click for the link to… Piano Pronto – July/August Teacher/Studio of the Month 2014 Interview (the link is currently broken, but the interview can be read below in this post)

I love sharing what I love about her music writing style, and how it has helped my students this past year. Thank you, Jennifer!

INTERVIEW with Jennifer Eklund at Piano Pronto for the Teacher Feature Page…

  • July/August 2014
  • PP = Piano Pronto
  • KP = Kristin Phillips


  • PP: Can you tell us a bit about your background and musical studies, as well as how long you have been teaching?

KP: I began lessons the day before my 7th birthday from my neighbor, Nilza. She studied music extensively in Brazil as the daughter of missionaries from the U.S. under very strict piano instruction. In my lessons, she was very thorough, obviously cared about my music future, and expected perfection – building a fabulous foundation and giving me all the tools I would need to become successful at piano & my future teaching. Her daughter later became my very first piano student at the age of 5.

I took lessons from her for about 5 years, and then transferred to a teacher, Hannah, who introduced me to the Oregon MTNA Syllabus program. My teacher completed through level 10 & I took levels 4 & 6 under her. She worked extensively on improvisation & classical music with me, and helped me become involved in the worship teams at my church.

As I entered my junior year of highschool, I switched from homeschooling to private school – and made the additional change from taking lessons under Hannah to taking lessons under Chantal, who continued me in syllabus at level 8. She pushed me in my piano studies, and my one-hour lessons often exceeded 90 minutes, occasionally approaching as many as 3 hours. Her tutelage helped me to excel in classical music and I saw my studio grow drastically during this time. She moved to Canada, and I had the opportunity to study under several more teachers through my college years… Julie, Monica, and others.

In 2007, I began classes in college as a music major, and graduated in 2010 from Portland Bible College with an Associates of Arts in Church Music & Vocal Performance, but I continued my piano lessons as well – and took classes at the local community college in the music program to supplement the skills & styles I wished to learn.

I began teaching in March 2003, one young student for free for approximately 10 lessons (my first teacher’s 5 year old daughter). After that time, her family referred me to another family. For the first year, I had 4 students, but by the third year, I had 18 students. I quickly learned teaching was my passion, and devoted many hours to learning how to improve & be the best teacher I could be.

Throughout college, I taught approximately 40 students. In 2012, a local Montessori school contacted me and requested I teach lessons there as well – a job I am thrilled I accepted! At my home studio, I’m kept busy with close to 36 students weekly, in addition to those at the Montessori school twice a week (ranges from 8-12 students). I hope to increase my student numbers to 50.

  • PP: Tell us about Small Town Music Lessons in Boring, Oregon. Do you cater to a certain type of student? How many students are currently in your studio?

KP: Initially, I called my studio several different names… a few including… “Boring’s Piano Studio”, “Boring’s Music Studio”, “Kristin’s Piano Studio”, “Kristin’s Music Studio”, “Mountainview Music Studio”, and recently settled quite happily on the new name “Small Town Music Lessons”.

It covers the bases, and reflects the beautiful, quaint town in which I live – a town by the name of “Boring”, surrounded by fields, nurseries, Christmas tree farms, agriculture, and rural neighborhoods/homesteads.

I prefer teaching students from “scratch”. Even though I don’t have problems with taking transfer students, I do know from personal experience that switching teachers is difficult – more difficult on the student than on the teacher. Styles & approaches are different, as are personalities.

My favorite students to accept into the studio are those who are brand new to music, piano specifically. I have taught students successfully & happily as young as 3 and as wonderful as 90, but my favorite age range for new students is between 6 & 16. Students can expect a strong classical music education, as well as the incorporation of pop and familiar pieces. This spring, 14 students requested & started pieces from the movie, “Frozen”.

Every student should have the opportunity and be taught the skills to tackle, conquer, understand, and beautifully play any music they desire – being guided by the decisions of their teacher.

  • PP: Tell us something unique about your studio that we wouldn’t know by just looking at your website.

KP: Students select their own pace. Many times, they decide how many pieces they’ll tackle during a given week. Students who have practiced thoroughly will often have the opportunity to play one of the many music-related games in the studio during the last portion of their lesson.

One adult student and dear friend brings a piece or two of music each week for me to play at the start of her lesson, we focus on music theory, and she plays the pieces she has tackled that week.

My goal is to inspire, to support, to encourage, and to direct. I am gentle, never upset, but I do expect dedication & hard work for their instrument from my students. They know they can comfortably & safely tell me if they had a rough week of practicing, but we move on and try again.

I can be strict with students, though, when I know they should be doing better – and we always celebrate in some way when they have a breakthrough.

  • PP: How long have you been using Piano Pronto materials? What is your favorite element of the materials?

KP: I began using Piano Pronto materials several years ago. Jennifer had been posting free samples for quite a while, and I saved a folder on my computer of pieces to try myself. Later, I decided to purchase the Piano Pronto Lesson Books in the unlimited licensing version (Prelude, Movement 1, Movement 2, and Movement 3) – printed them and put them in notebooks individually labeled & organized. I started using those with students and noticed their excitement. Very shortly after that, I completed the set by purchasing the unlimited licensing copies of Movement 4, Movement 5, Finale, and Encore. I instructed all my students to purchase & bring 3-ring binders and I would copy the next few pages for them at their lesson. The response to this was generally quite good, but a few students started requesting “real books”.

I purchased a complete set (one of each level) in the hardcopy book, signed by Jennifer – and those were a HUGE hit! Shortly after that, all my students had a small collection of Piano Pronto books.

Switching to Piano Pronto has been the best decision I’ve made for my studio. Students are focusing, laughing, playing faster & with greater ease, and finding that their music can sound beautiful without too much clutter. I love the simpler setup and visual appeal.

My students haven’t quite described what they like about it, but their delight is evident – and I haven’t had a single student “forget” to practice a Piano Pronto assignment. They love the pieces! After seeing the success of the method books, I also decided to purchase at least one of each other supplemental book & sheet music booklet. My set is nearly complete, and I’ll be ordering refills soon.

  • PP: Any fun Piano Pronto stories from your studio?

KP: There are so many stories! One is about 5 years old, and started with me at the age of 4. She’s always saying delightful things, has a vivid imagination, and doesn’t hold back when describing whether she likes or dislikes something. 

I’ve had SOOOO many very young (4, 5, 6 years old) students tell me initially, even about Piano Pronto, “this song is sooo hard!” only to return to their next lesson and announce, “this song was too easy-peasy!” and play it perfectly with either gusto or emotion.

  • PP: Can you offer some terrific tips for other teachers that have helped you over the years?

KP: Let lessons match the pace of your student. Research like crazy. Be inventive and silly. Ask how your student is doing… in life, in school, in piano, in the moment. Invest in and support the families of your students.

When you treat your students well and with earnest sincerity, parents see that – and they respect you for it. Don’t take your situation for granted – teaching is a privilege and a gift, but we are in a customer service life, and though families will come & go (hopefully years apart), we want to leave everyone with a great experience – feeling they got the greatest value for their effort, time, money, and investment.

Love your job, take holidays, get lots of sleep, drink lots of water, and find joy in every moment. Take photos, because even if they are only for your own memories & to share directly with the student’s family, those photos will be treasures for years to come.

Don’t let the business side of teaching overshadow your devotion to being the best teacher you can be – but be certain to live & teach professionally, taking seriously the job of fostering a love for music in the lives of 100s (perhaps 1000s) of students throughout the years.

Turning 100 this year – and a 10 year old miracle :)

On June 16th, 2006, on the way to my MRI appointment, my dad drove me first to the home of a wonderful lady to meet her baby grand piano.  I couldn’t walk without assistance, couldn’t see clearly, could hardly hear (everything was muffled), and felt dizzy with every little movement.  He helped me to her front door, and once inside, I remember a greeting and being led to the bench in front of her 1916 Francis Bacon piano.  The center three octaves were horribly out of tune, as she had played mainly hymns for the 30 years she owned it and never had it tuned.  The outer octaves were rich and beautiful, gorgeous to hear, and I knew instantly that I had found the piano of my dreams.  Literally, I dreamt of a piano just like this once in a room much like the one in which I found this piano, and now, I could almost grasp the magnitude of the reality.  Since my hearing was impaired with the mysterious swelling, and the piano was badly out of tune, we asked my music teacher at the time, to also try out the piano.  She was thrilled with it, and three days later, the piano was in my family’s living room.

In 2006, the evening of my highschool graduation party (five days after giving the only student speech at the senior class graduation from Open Door Christian Academy that year), I came down with a fever in the 102 range.  It had been an amazing day, filled with fun & laughter & friends & family & games & food & wonderful conversations.

Our guests were finishing the evening by watching the movie “Cool Runnings” when I went to bed with a fever in the 103 range.  In the middle of the night, I called my parents in the next room on my phone after finding my temperature was in the 104 range.


They worked to break the fever, stayed by my side, and comforted me.  I am forever grateful for their care.  In the morning on Monday, my mom called our doctor to make an appointment for that afternoon to be seen.  Shortly before going to the doctor, my fever broke, and we canceled the appointment.  We thought all was well.

That night, my temperature shot back up and reached 104.9.  It didn’t subside and I struggled with debilitating chills & severe sweating.  I was mostly unaware of my surroundings when early that morning (Tuesday), my mom drove me to the local Hospital’s Emergency Room.  After X-rays, a spinal tap lumbar puncture, an IV, blood draws, and many monitors were in place and taken, I was admitted to a hospital room.  That night around 2:00am, my blood pressure tanked, and I woke up groggy to a room full of doctors & nurses darting around shouting orders – and I was moved to the Intensive Care Unit downstairs.

The doctors thought I might have measles, be in shock, or have a failing liver.  All the tests in the initial days pointed to any number of terrible things.  On numerous occasions, I struggled to breathe and developed swelling all over.  My feet felt like bricks and I couldn’t move because of the headache worse than I’ve ever experienced before or since.  Because of this series of symptoms and a few others, I was moved to an isolation unit in the ICU with it’s own air supply & filtration system leading to the outside.

ICUWe never found out exactly what was wrong.  I had to have the room as quiet as possible (because sound felt like a stabbing knife through my head), and as dark as possible (because the same happened with any light).  Visitors had to wear gloves and masks.  I kept my eyes closed as much as possible and slept 20 hours each day – only to wake when I’d go into a coughing fit because the oxygen assistance wasn’t enough, or when it was time to have my blood drawn.  My cousin and sister braided my hair to keep it somewhat acceptable.

photo(3)It was an awful time, but through it all, I felt at peace.  My dear family, friends, church, students, and school were praying for me.  The overwhelming gifts of flowers (which were wonderful to receive when I returned home) and the cards were extremely special to me.  My school put together a poster of notes from teachers and classmates.  I still have every single card & this amazing poster sits safely in my room as a reminder of the gift of life & loved ones.

During that time, music was almost constantly in my head.  I wanted to compose, to sing, to write lyrics, and to play my piano.  At the time, and for the approximately 12 years since starting piano lessons, I had been learning on my mom’s beautiful Sohmer & Co upright piano.  But, for over a year, I had been searching high and low, near and far, for the grand piano of my dreams.

Piano Arrival Day :)



photo(2)After the horrible ordeal in the hospital, and with my blood tests still showing major problems the week after my release from the hospital, we set up an appointment with a rheumatologist, who scheduled a brain MRI.  She was concerned about the increasing headache, the dizziness, the swelling, the hearing loss, and the light sensitivity.  On the way to the appointment, 5 days after being released from the hospital, I was as weak as ever, and my dad had to make a stop.  Much to our amazement, he came across some friends/pastors from church, who volunteered to come out to the car and pray for me.  They did, and we went on our way to the MRI appointment.

At the doctor’s office, I needed some assistance getting to the MRI machine, but my headache had subsided for the first time in two weeks.  During the test (which was a closed MRI), I wasn’t scared, and I could actually have my eyes open.  My head didn’t hurt, even with the loud demolition-type sound of the photos it was taking.  My MRI photos are super interesting!  When it was over, I walked out of that room on my own, standing tall and steady (well, maybe a little wobble).  I have no idea what else happened during that time since running into our friends, but I know I was healed.  I know the Lord did a miracle in my head.  The MRI came back clean.

My sister was married the next day, and I was in the wedding as a bridesmaid.  During every major part of the wedding, I was there.  I took naps between the ceremony, the cutting of the cake, the toasts, the dances, and before they left on their honeymoon.  But, I was there and emerged for each activity.  Alive, and able to be there for my sister on her amazing day.

I am grateful for that – not only for myself, but for her.  To be in her wedding was an incredible gift to us both.  I know she feels that way too.

Two days after her wedding, with part of an inheritance from my granddad and some money from my first couple years of music lesson teaching, I was able to purchase the beautiful Francis Bacon.  Granddad would be pleased.  :)

In the months that followed, my hair fell out.  During the initial months, I wore bucket hats to church, college classes, and while teaching.  This photo was taken at a studio recital I held at Courtyard Fountains Retirement Community in December 2006, six months after the hospital stay, and about 2 months after the day I cut off the rest of my hair after it fell out in too many patches.  When it grew back, it was different – with curls, waves, and with red in it.

It is another reminder of one of the scariest times of my life.

The studio quickly grew.  In June, 2006, I had 8 students.  By the December recital in 2006, I had 18 students performing.  Today (2016), I see 40 students weekly, and couldn’t be happier.  Over the past 10 years since my 3piano blessing materialized, hundreds of students have played it.  Some know the story, and others have no idea.  I don’t tell anyone anymore, but every time I sit down to play, I am reminded that I almost never was able to play again.  I am reminded that life is such a precious gift, and we don’t know how much time we have.  When we encounter a crisis, and are surrounded by family & friends, we realize exactly how much we are loved.  I am incredibly thankful that music continues to be a gift, one I hope to share with those who come into the studio.  I am very, very thankful.

I found out my piano was made in 1916.  To honor the occasion of this 100 year anniversary, I thought I would share the story of this wonderful piano and blessing coming into my life.


I cried when the movers brought it in, and I cried when I first played it.  You can see my tears in one of the photos.  I am so grateful to be alive, to be teaching, and to be reminded every day that life is a gift.  Life is a gift, my family is a gift, my students are a gift, and my friends are a gift.  My piano is a daily reminder that I am alive today because I was given a gift of healing that year.

IMPORTANT NOTE = I originally thought my piano was made in 1914, so I wrote & posted this entry in 2014, but in 2015, my piano technician/tuner informed me it was actually made in 1916 (and I immediately archived this post – making it private).  Today, on 1/25/16, I am posting this again, updated and corrected.  I hope you enjoy having some insight into why music is so special to me.  Teaching is one of my absolute favorite things to do.  I teach and play music because I positively love it.  Thank you for being part of my journey! :)



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