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Emails to Colleen and Her Answers (Continued)-Part 2

Subject: Need Help FAST!
Hi Colleen,
I need your help- fast!

I am speaking to a college class this afternoon on the way I teach- ie: group lessons. The professor and I are friends. He teaches piano pedagogy and he wanted me to come in and tell about how I teach. I'm a little nervous because I know that I'm going to be asked WHY I teach that way. College students can "eat you alive" if you aren't careful. I'm really nervous.

I have a lot of answers, but what would you say to convince college students that group teaching is awesome?

Also, can I show your book and method to the class?!

Thanks so much!!!!

Dear L,
You asked, "what would you say to convince college students that group teaching is awesome?" I'd start by telling them that it is fast-paced and fun! Full of games and laughter.

1) Read the Muse News ® articles on our website (on the home page, there is a black key on the keyboard to the left that says Muse News®). I think there are 4 or 5 articles in there that would be helpful to you.

2) Mayron has published articles about this very subject.

3) Also, following is a portion of a newspaper article that I wrote for our local school paper. It explains why I teach in a group:

Piano Lessons for Modern Kids ©

Piano Lessons have been considered an essential part of children's education for hundreds of years. In addition to learning the skill of playing music for friends and family, piano students learn problem solving skills, perseverance, patience, eye-hand coordination, and most importantly, self-confidence. Although the art of playing the piano has not changed over the centuries, the method of teaching piano has progressed with technology.

The age-old solo hobby of playing the piano has evolved into a modern education for our twenty-first century kids. The development of electronic pianos has enabled a shift from private lessons to group piano classes which are energetic, fast-paced, and fun. Colleen Cole of Piano Bayou in Canyon Lake asks, "Think about it. Why would piano lessons have ever evolved as a solo activity? Everything else is taught to children in groups: karate, ballet, soccer, even reading and math. What made learning to play the piano so different?" Quite simply, the piano itself. Cole points out that in the past a piano teacher could only afford to own one acoustic piano. "They are big, expensive, and loud," states Cole. With the development of electronic pianos, however, everything changed.

Electronic pianos enable Cole to teach children in a small class environment; and children simply learn to play the piano better when they are taught in small groups. When children are having fun, they pay attention to the activity at hand. "I use board games to teach new piano concepts," states Cole who explains that she asks the children questions pertaining to the music they are learning that day. When the children answer correctly they roll the dice and move on the game board. "We have so much fun that they don't even realize that they are learning difficult piano concepts," Cole says. During the game, Cole reviews everything about the music she is teaching that day: how to count the rhythm for each note, the keys on the piano, the patterns in the pieces. She completely dissects the music for the students. Then when they sit down to play the pieces on the piano Cole puts together everything they have learned about the music during the games. Also while playing the pianos as a group, Cole enables the students to learn to play with other musicians which develops rhythm-counting skills, sight-reading skills, and performance skills. In addition to playing solo music simultaneously a as a group, Cole teaches the students to play in ensemble. Each member of the class learns a different piano part and rehearses playing together in class - like a piano band. Playing an ensemble is a very difficult task since each musician is reading a different piece of music. In the past, pianists only learned how to play solo. However, if piano students are ever going to play with singers or other musicians, they need to learn how to do so from the beginning of their piano education.

4) Furthermore, if these college students that you are lecturing to are considering teaching piano, point out to them that we piano teachers have about 4 hours after school and before dinner during which to teach kids and that's for only 4 afternoons a week (no one wants to take piano on Friday afternoons). That is only 16 possible hours a week to teach. If you teach private 1/2 hour lessons, you can teach a maximum of 32 students. Tuition prices vary greatly around the country, but let's say just as an example that you charge $60 a month for piano - 10 months a year. With 32 students, that's a maximum of $19,200 a year that you can earn teaching piano. On the other hand, if you teach in groups for 45 minutes per class, in 16 hours you can teach 21 classes. If you have an average of 6 students per class, you can teach up to 126 students in 16 hours of work which adds up to $75,600! Not bad for a part-time job. Of course, not all of your classes will be always be full, so let's say you have an average of 4 students in a class. You can teach an average of 84 students in 16 hours. At $600 per year tuition, that is $50,400. Or, let's say the the 32 private students you have represents the number of students that the market will bare for your area. You feel that no matter how much advertising you do and no matter how great of a teacher you are, you still won't be able to break that 32 student barrier. If you teach those 32 students in classes of 6 students each, you can teach those same 32 students in 4 hours - that's 1 afternoon a week for $19,200!

I'd be happy for you to show our method to the class.
Hope this helps! Best of luck this afternoon! Let me know how it goes.

Dear Colleen,
I got your info. It's great. I'm finalizing as I type right now and I really needed this.
I LOVE your music!

HI Colleen,
I went and it was great! There only about 15 there. (they knew the professor wasn't going to be there.)

I don't have pictures because we started so fast and it was like a whirlwind. There was so much to talk about and I shared your website and showed them your music and how I teach. It was actually quite fun. I wish I had taken pictures but it just didn't get done.

Thanks so much for your help!

RE: THREE Questions from a teacher who has recently started teaching our material
Hello Ms. Cole,
My name is L-----, (a piano teacher of 25 years as of this May) and I'm considering changing my teaching program to your group teaching method, and I have a few questions regarding your material. First, here is my rather unique situation:

I have been a Suzuki teacher all these years (rest assured that I teach reading music from the first lesson) and although I've enjoyed the benefits of ear training, I have never been pleased with the reading ability of any of my students - no matter what method I use! ... What it boils down to is that I end up teaching mini-private lessons in a group setting AND writing different level parts for all my students to "fit" where they are reading level wise, which is very time consuming. I ordered your training DVD and manual and some books as well and after one group lesson using your stuff - I AM SOLD! I am planning to keep my private students for now and ease them into your program. All new students will go into a group. Here are my questions:

1. Can I change my private students reading material (Faber, Francis Clark, etc.) which is all based on INTERVAL reading and finger numbers (a major crutch in my opinion) to your non-spatial approach without confusing or really messing my students up? In other words, is it best to start from the beginning with your method or have you had success with changing mid-stream?

2. I am planning Blast-Off this summer and have had several 13/ 14 yr. old beginners that have called to start. Do you find that this age is successful with your method in a group setting? And does it move fast enough for those impatient teens?

3. And lastly, if I have already completed your training manual and DVD, would it still be beneficial to attend your convention in July? I will have already "blasted off" in June, by then.

Thanks for taking the time to hear me out and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

In Song,


Thanks for your kind words! We are so glad you are SOLD on our method!
To answer your questions:

1. Whether you should leave your private lesson students in the method they are in or change them to our method would depend on how advanced they are. Students that read finger numbers are so dependent on that crutch that they cannot move into our advanced music that requires them to read the notes. They would have to go back to the beginning of our method to learn their staff notes by sight or at the least they would have to go back to the beginning of Level 2A which starts teaching the lower bass clef notes. Advanced students usually get mad if you tell them they have to give up their crutch even if its holding them back, so unfortunately advanced students usually have to stay in the methods they are in. But, you could move your fairly new beginners (first or second year students) into our method without any trouble.

2. 13-14 year sold love taking piano in a group since they are so social at that age! They will move through "Blast Off" VERY quickly (in 2-3 lessons) so you would need to also have something else planned for them. You could do one of 2 things depending on how long the course will be:
One option would be a 5 lesson course (same length as the "Blast Off" course for the younger kids) where you teach the "Blast Off" book in 2-3 lessons then put them in the "Sing-A-Long Favorites Folk Songs" book for the other 2-3 lessons of the course.
The second option would be an 8 lesson course. Instead of putting them in the "Blast Off" book, put them directly in "Older Beginner A" which kids that age can actually finish in 8 lessons. Of course the "Older Beginner A" book is more expensive than the "Blast Off" book so make sure you price your class accordingly to cover your costs.

3. We have developed the 2007 convention to cater to new group piano teachers as well as established studios so there are many different types of seminars to choose from - a total of 25 seminars. The training seminar that is on DVD is just one of them. From what you have told me about yourself, here are some other seminars I think you might enjoy: "Training Seminar for Teaching Mid-Level Students" which is the sequel to the DVD you have; "Converting a Private Lesson Studio to Group Piano;" "Ideas for Summer;" "Sample Advanced Class;" "Thinking Outside the Box Roundtable;" among many others. There is a full description of each seminar in the brochure. Let me know if you don't have a brochure and I can mail one to you.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Colleen Cole

RE: Moving up talented students & Summer Operettas

Dear Colleen & Mayron:
One of my outstanding students, J-----, is practicing non-stop. His Mom said he's up at 6am playing piano and any free time he has he's practicing. He turned six on May 10 and his class is on "Busy Bee" in Menehune. If I were teaching him alone I would give him at least five songs a week. I have a Level 1A group that I think I could move him up to so he would be more challenged but he just turned six and I'm worried about the age gap. I did suggest that the parents order the Christmas book and the Folk Tunes book for supplemental material. Do you think the age gap will cause problems if I move him up?

Also, I'm interested in doing an Operetta this summer. How many sessions does it usually take to put together "Jack and the Beanstalk?" Do you have any other suggestions about how I could make money over the summer. I don't want to do Blast Off because I have plenty of students and don't see where I could add them to my full teaching schedule. I'd really just like to give my current students some summer options.

Thanks for your support!
J. Hicks

Dear J. H.:

(1) Yes, move the young J---- up into a more advanced piano class. But first, discuss this possibility with his mom. She might like to keep him where he is (good friends in his class/car pools, etc.). But if she is agreeable and Jimmy is agreeable--than move him up. He is young but is functioning at an older level so it should work out fine!

(2) An operetta will be fun for your students. Try Jack and The Beanstalk. My students put on operettas for many summers and their parents were grateful for something for them to do. We did an operetta in nine one-hour rehearsals (Mon-Wed-Fri for three weeks.) We learned to sing/dance/act. If you want a longer program, kids can even make costumes. Get some of your teenagers to help. I gave the teenagers free piano lessons as pay. They taught the kids the dances and were my Junior Directors. They put on costumes and were "village folk" in the play and the smaller kids were happy to have them. Let me know if I can help more.

Re: Simple Problem to You - Complicated to Me

(Editor's Note: Tuition rates vary greatly throughout the country. You should determine what tuition is appropriate for your area and your studio based on what you believe is appropriate. The tuition amounts discussed by this teacher and Colleen may be too high for some areas and too low for other areas of the country.)

I started teaching in the middle of Sept. I am charging $68 for group lessons. People that registered in September paid me $68 in September and $68 the first of October. The total cost for the 2006-2007 school year is $680.00. I divided that into 10 monthly payments ($68 a month). This included 34 lessons plus 2 free lessons (Sept.-June).

I have several people wanting to start the first of November - how do I charge at this state of the game ? On my policy paper I state that lessons are $20 per lesson, but I also state that they are paying for 34 lessons. Also I have a group that will start the first week in January?????''

Thanks for making this simple for me.
T. M.

Ok, the full course is 34 lessons for $680. For those starting in Nov, I would figure out how many lessons at $20 they have missed (say 8 for example). Eight lessons at $20 is $160; subtract that from the full amount of the course ($680-$160=$520). So, they will be taking 26 lessons for $520. Now, you want them to pay $68/month usually. So, for Dec-June they will (7 payments of $68 is $476). That leaves $44 for November. If they've missed 8 lessons, tell them that their pro-rated tuition for Nov is $44, and tuition for Dec-June is $68.

For students starting in Jan you will do the same thing. But, keep in mind that they should only receive 1 free lesson since they are only taking for 1 semester. So, when you are counting up how many Fall semester lessons they missed at $20 each, be sure to count 1 of those missed lessons as one of the free ones, otherwise you will be shorting yourself out of a $20 payment.

Hope this helps. Without having your teaching schedule in front of me, it's hard to give specific details. If you want to send me the actual # of lessons that your Nov starters and Jan starters will be missing, then I can give you concrete amounts.

As for now, please let me know if you have any other questions.

Colleen Cole
The Mayron Cole Piano Method

OK - if they start in November they have missed 7 lessons. 7 x 20 =140. 680-140=540 . The pro-rated tuition for November is $64.00. The tuition for Dec.-June is $68. Ya or Na?

Yep, you got it. Let me know if you need anything else.

Subject: E-mail bouquet from a parent to a teacher.

Dear Mayron and Colleen,

Last night I started a Menehune group. Read what one mom wrote! (Below)
At the end of class I asked the children what they thought about class - they were all positive. One girl even said she wanted to live at my house.

I love teaching group and I love your method. The kids want to be there and they have so much fun. I have noticed a big difference from the years of private lesson teaching I have experienced! The excitement usually wore off right away.

My students that took a break over the summer have been so happy to be back to piano lessons! I'm having fun too and making more money than before. Thank you!

Jennifer H.

-----Original Message-----
From: xxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: xxxxxxx
To: Jennifer H.
Subject: Feedback

Hello Mrs. H.!
Just a short note to let you know that David thoroughly enjoyed your class tonight. When asked to tell me his favorite part of the class, he replied that he didn't have a favorite part because "it was all good."

He insisted we listen to the CD in the car on the way home, and he sat down at home and practiced for 20+ minutes, unprompted by Joe or I, until I insisted he go to bed! He asked if he could practice first thing in the morning tomorrow as well.

I look forward to next Wednesday and I thank you for using your talents to educate children in music.
Thank you,

Subject: EZ Keys or Menehune ?

Hello there,

First off, I want to thank you for a GREAT summer! I ran two weeks of Blast Off this summer, and they went great!

Now... I'm two weeks away from opening my piano studio for the Fall. I could not be more excited. I have passed out lots of business cards with suckers at our local Farmer's Market... and advertised a lot through friends' word of mouth. I have 23 students so far, including 4 adults!

My question for you is this... I've got 3 groups (4 kids each) that consist of 6 & 7 yr olds. I'm wondering whether you favor EZ Keys over Menehune or vice versa. After looking at the materials, I think I favor Menehune for the mixed age groups of 6 & 7 yr olds. But, what do you think? Several of these kids did Blast Off and it seems like the first several weeks of EZ Keys is pretty much what they learned in a week of Blast Off.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. I will be placing my order soon... but just wanted to check with you on this first before I do!

Thanks so much! I love the curriculum!

Skyla M.
Piano Wise

Skyla: Colleen and I both agree with you that you should start the students in Menehune Music. We are thrilled at your success! Try to attend the National Group Piano Teacher's Convention in San Antonio, TX next July.--mc


I didn't even know there was such a thing as a National Group Piano Teacher's Convention! Sounds fun! We'll see how much of the vacation budget is left by then.... we're going to Florida in January and Alaska in June!

Thanks for your input. My order will be coming soon!


Subject: Keyboards and Restrooms

Dear Colleen and Mayron,
Thank you for being willing to answer questions! It is such a blessing! I have a couple more questions....Do I need to use an 88 key keyboard in my classroom? Can I use a 61 key keyboard since I will be starting mostly 5 and 6 year olds....I will be purchasing 5 keyboards. Smaller electronic ones are cheaper than the full size 88 key keyboards.

Also, my studio is in my daylight do teachers handle little ones needing to use the restroom is upstairs. Do I have moms sit in class in case of this need arising, or do I have them wait outside in their cars and call them if I need them? Strange question, but if anyone has any ideas I am open to suggestions!

Thank you for your help!

M. K.:

Colleen is on vacation this week so I will answer what I can. You do not need 88 keys on your keyboards for your young students. In fact, you can teach fairly high levels with 61 key keyboards. So buy the cheaper keyboards to launch your studio. Most teachers start their keyboards on a budget.

The "bathroom" problem is a new one for me. But I can well imagine that if one kid needs to go upstairs to the bathroom, then everyone in the class will quickly "need" to go to the bathroom. Ask the mothers to have their children tend to their bathroom needs before piano class. I rarely had a child who needed to go to the bathroom during piano class. (I'll ask Colleen her thoughts on this when she returns.)

Subject: EZ Keys - length of lesson

If the EZ Keys doesn't have theory sheets, are the lessons 45 or 30 minutes long? I know your mother might answer this in the DVD, but it is bugging me today.
I am planning on using the EZ keys for the 4 year olds in Pre-K (our area has formal schooling for
4 year olds). We do not have Kindermusik in our area, so this program is much needed.

I am ordering my start up materials today.
Thank you

That issue actually is not addressed in the DVD because we
don't recommend teaching piano to kids that young (EZ Keys was written for 5 year olds). But, I do know that plenty of teachers out there do use EZ Keys for the 4 year olds anyway; so it can be done. I think with kids that young you might be better off with 30 minute classes - they just don't have the attention span for 45 minutes. During game time, you'll want to let them move around so they don't get too restless. The questions they have to answer to get to advance on the game board could be something like, "Billy, take this drum and march around the room playing and counting 'play-fast' notes." Or, "Suzie, go over to the pianos and play one D key on each piano." That will allow them to get out of their seats. There are no worksheets in EZ Keys because the kids are too young to read and write, but there are still activities you can do in the books. You can have the kids turn to the homework from the previous week and have them circle all of the quarter notes with a blue crayon, all of the half notes with green, and so on. When they are done, they can color the picture. As you get into the swing of it, you'll come up with other ideas that will work for the little ones. Hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Colleen Cole

Subject: Two EZ Keys questions

Dear Mayron and Colleen,
1. I just finished EZ Keys 1 with a 4-5 year old class. A parent (also a pianist) is happy with the foundation in rhythm but wishing her child could play some recognizable tunes that many other children that have studied for that length of time can play. What do you suggest? Should I consider getting her a supplemental book?
2. This same parent is also concerned that the children are always counting 1, playfast, etc. and don't use "quarter" "half-note" etc. She is worried about how it will translate into future music study with other instruments. Do they eventually really focus on the "real" note names?

Thank you much!
"Without music, life is a journey through a desert." -Pat Conroy
Where words fail, music speaks.” -Hans Christian Andersen

Sounds like all went well with your EZ Keys class. As for the questions your parent asked:

1. When we are teaching new concepts, we don't teach songs that kids know how to sing on purpose. If that child knows the tune, she will play the rhythm she is singing in her head instead of READING the rhythm on the music in front of her. By giving her music she has never heard, the child is learning to read what is written on the page. As for her friends, some other methods teach songs the kids know how to sing to gloss over the fact that the students don't know how to count rhythm. Other methods teach children to play by rote - playing what they hear from memory. The problem with both of those types of methods is that the students have NO IDEA what they are doing! They are just copying what the teacher did. They will NEVER be able to sit down in front of a piece of music that they have never heard and play it by reading the music. The goal of our method is to teach these children how to READ music which will enable them to be musically independent so when they get older they will be able to play ANYTHING at their level.
That is why the text books have very few pieces the children recognize. But of course, it is always fun to learn how to play the songs you know how to sing. So, now that she has learned the pre-staff note reading concepts, you can give her our Sing-A-Long Favorites Folk Songs (for pre-staff note reading) as a reward. I use that book of "recognizable tunes" for my SUMMER classes as something special that the kids really look forward to.

2. The goal in EZ Keys is to teach the students how to count rhythm, the keys on the piano, how to track with their eyes, and develop eye-hand coordination. That is A LOT of information for a 5 year old to grasp. We don't want to throw too much at them at once; they don't know the meaning of "half" or of "quarter." These children have not studied fractions, yet. As they become more advanced (Level 1), we teach them that those notes have names. It is very easy for them to learn that the name of the note that we hold down for the count of "1" is called a "quarter note" - I've never heard of anyone having trouble with that. We also gradually segway into counting eighth notes as "1+" without any trouble.
Hope that helps.

By the way, in July 2007 we will be hosting The Group Piano Teacher's National Convention in San Antonio that will consist of 25 seminars to choose from! You will get to attend up to 11 events during the 2 day convention. It will be a wonderful opportunity to receive additional training, gain new insights, and network with other teachers! We will start sending out more information towards the end of this summer so keep an eye out for it.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Colleen Cole

Hi Colleen,

I appreciate your quick response. You are so supportive and helpful.
I have made the decision not to accept new 4-5 year-olds but will continue with the group I started. They are too distractible and busy. If I could teach them at 9am rather than 4:30pm I think they would be better to work with. It has been exhausting and frustrating. I now tell parents that I believe age 6 is the best age to start group piano. Live and learn. (Ed.: CLICK HERE to go to an e-mail from this teacher written about 4 months before this.) One of my main goals in switching to group was to make piano lessons more fun for the students and for me and to make more money teaching. These things are definitely happening.
Sometimes I worry about the kids that aren't practicing and how they are holding back the group. That is probably the greatest challenge I face. There is always that one child who isn't practicing enough. I'm sure I'll improve in dealing with this difficult situation as I get more experience. The convention will give me a big boost and keep me excited about my career.

Thanks for all that you do!

If you've tried everything to bring non-practicing students up to the level of the rest of the class and they just consistently won't practice, they will probably quit soon anyway - piano is not for everyone. So I keep the class going at the pace of the good students since they will be your students for a long time. If you have a few slow students that are close to the same level, you can put them all in a class together. Whatever you do, don't give non-practicers private lessons. If they won't practice with a group that they have to keep up with, they will come to a grinding halt in a private lesson - no need to waste your time. Focus your attention on the students that want to succeed.

We are excited about The Convention, too!
Keep us posted on how things are going.


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Subject: Re: Bingo Games

I just wanted to let you know how much fun we had with the bingo games this week! We had so much fun and laughter today that parents were wondering what we were doing! The kids anxiously asked if they could play them again next lesson. One girl wanted to buy the game for home.
Thanks so much! The laughter and excitement which encourages students to return to lessons is so important.
Thanks again for the time you invested in these wonderful games!


Thanks for your sweet e-mail! I'm so glad your students are enjoying the new bingo games! Learning to play the piano should be fun as well as educational.
We are very busy creating even more new products in addition to organizing The Group Piano Teachers National Convention that we will be hosting in San Antonio, TX next summer on July 13-14, 2007. The convention will consist of 25 seminars to choose from - it'll be quite an event! We will be posting the information about the convention on our website towards the end of this summer, and will be placing a brochure in every order that we ship out so keep your keep an eye out for it.
Thanks again for your kind words!
Talk to you soon.

Subject: keyboards
What do keyboards need to go along with this program? Do they need a special drive? for a floppy or cd drive?

Your keyboards do not need any special drives. We sell midi disks and CDs that have orchestrated accompaniments, for those that have sequencers or CD players. The CDs can be used on any CD player.
As for the keyboards you will need, that will come down to how much you want to spend. We recommend that they keyboards have full size keys. Touch sensitive keys are good, but not required. A pedal is good, but not required. Weighted keys are good (and expensive), but not required. Once students begin staff note reading, you need to have a keyboard for each student in the class. Before they start staff note reading, you can put 2 students at each keyboard if you want to. Keep in mind that each student will be using your keyboards for only about 30 minutes each week, so they don't necessarily need to be top-of-the-line.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Colleen Cole

Subject: Blast Off With Piano
I have a couple of questions about the PIANO BLAST OFF courses.
1) I will be doing these for a "summer session" to get more students into my studio. I plan to run them 5 consecutive days, as suggested. Is it still necessary for students to have a keyboard to do at home practice? Some parents do not have a keyboard, and just want to see if their child will be interested in the instrument. (I am thinking, maybe not...but it would be a good idea)
2)My next questions is regarding grouping the students. I will be doing PIANO BLAST OFF JUNIOR and PIANO BLAST OFF. How do you suggest "grouping" the students for these 5 sessions-according to age or grade level? Is it ok to do this:
Piano Blast OFF Junior: AGES 5-6 (one class)

AGES 6-7
AGES 8-9
AGES 9-10

Thank you in advance for your help!
O. D-M

In response to your questions...

1) Since you are teaching the classes in 5 consecutive days, the kids don't have to have a keyboard. They should remember what they learned from the day before, even if they do not practice in the evening. For those that don't have a keyboard, you can give them a paper keyboard to practice on (just draw the keys on a piece of paper and photocopy it) so at least they will have something to reference at home. We sell 49-key mute keyboards at a steep discount, too. You should consider purchasing a few of these keyboards to use as "check-out" practice keyboard for the students to borrow or rent.

2) Your plan for grouping the kids looks great, but I would put the 6 and 7 year olds in Blast Off Junior as well.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Colleen Cole

Subject: What to do with students that are not moving forward
Hello Colleen,
Attached is an article about me and my studio. Your method is mentioned.
Things are going fairly well. My favorite classes are the Menehune.
I could use some advice on how to deal with a student that is just not practicing or moving forward. I don't want to keep the whole group back for them. Out of desperation, I did a private session with one such student and his mother. And, now I'm doing another one this afternoon for a different child. This probably is a bad precedent to set, but how else am I going to help them to understand what to do?


Wonderful article! Very exciting! Glad to hear things are going well!
As for the students that can't keep up, the solution depends on why the kid is falling behind.
The first thing you should do is talk to the parent about the child needing to practice more. You only have the student for 45 minutes a week. The child and parents have to do their part for the rest of the week.
If the student has a great attitude, is practicing, and is trying to do well but just takes a bit longer to grasp the information, then every now and then at the end of class, you can have the rest of the class work on theory sheets in their books while you spend 5 minutes alone with the child that is behind. Sometimes a student is just confused about 1 concept that is holding him/her back. For example, I had a first grader last year who was a wonderful student until the middle of the spring semester when she just couldn't play anymore, and stared developing a worse and worse attitude. I was very confused, couldn't figure out what had caused such a change in such a great student, and even asked the mother if there was some problem in her life outside of piano that she was having to deal with. I thought about it and thought about it and realized that everything changed with this student when we started reading both staffs together - maybe that was the problem. So, at the end of the next class, I had the rest of the class work on theory sheets while I worked with her alone for 5 minutes. I showed her how your eyes scan both staffs as you read from left to right and she literally exclaimed, "Oh! That's so easy!" From that moment on she has been back to her normal self; that was a year ago.
If you have a few students with good attitudes and are practicing, but just can't keep up with their classes, reschedule the classes and put all of the slow students together. Then they can all move at the same slow pace and have a great time.
The other kind of problem student is the student that has a bad attitude and won't practice. That kind of student needs to be let go. It is impossible to teach someone who doesn’t want to learn. As Mayron always says, "every now and then you have to shake the tree and let all of the bad apples fall out."
Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Colleen Cole

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Subject: Need Ideas for Summer Classes?
Hello, Mayron,
This is now my second summer coming up; and, in addition to Blast Off, I wanted to give current students that wanted to continue through the summer an option to do that. I’ve heard on your video about the idea of having ensembles, but I’d like to know the logistics of how you or other teachers have offered those ensemble classes — it looks like your ensembles allow several levels to do the same song, but what about the amount of lessons? Do you just give packages like “Midnight on Boggy Creek ensemble will be X amount of lessons for $XX”? Any ideas you have would be a great help!!


The summer classes that I offer are 4 lessons (twice a week for 2 weeks) for the cost of one month tuition - makes it easy since parents are used to paying that amount - plus the cost of music. If you want to teach ensembles in the summer, I would just say that you will be offering an Ensemble Camp, wait to see who signs up (at what levels), then pick an ensemble that will work with all of those students. With ensembles, it is a good idea to plan a small performance at the end of camp, even if it is just to have the parents come in for the last 5 minutes of the last class. Another idea for summer is our Sing-A-Long Favorites book for pre-staff note reading students. We are also coming out with a Sing-A-Long Favorites book for Level 1 which should be in stock by summer (2006). (
ED.: It's here now. Sing-A-Long Favorites Level 1.) I use the Sing-A-Long Favorites books in my summer classes. I tell all the kids and parents that in the summer we get to learn some of their favorite songs and all the kids get excited about it. The class is very popular. In addition, we have a Summer Stunners book which has some simplified arrangements of classics.
We have prepared a web page with suggestions for summer programs for absolute new beginner students and for graduates of our early levels. This should be very helpful to you also.
When planning summer classes, keep in mind that most students travel and have other activities and therefore can't commit to multiple weeks of piano. I would recommend either 4-5 days in one week or the twice a week for 2 weeks.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Colleen Cole

Subject: How Do I Place Kindermusick Graduates in Your Method?
I have been teaching Kindermusik for 12 years and a private piano teacher for 'forever'. I am looking for a group piano method for my kindermusik grads. I asked on our Kindermusik Teacher Lounge who might be doing this and what method they used, and received a response that several KM teachers use your teaching method.
Is it possible for you to send me some information/materials to review?

Thank you so much!

Thanks for your interest in The Mayron Cole Piano Method. The best place to preview our materials is on our website at Kindermusik grads who already know how to count rhythm will start our method in EZ Keys 2 which starts teaching the keys on the piano. (The EZ Keys series was developed as a segway from Kindermusik into our piano method). Menehune, which moves a little faster than EZ Keys, is also a pre-staff note reading book that you might be interested in. On the website, there is a small picture of each book next to the listing, click on that picture to view a page from the book.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Colleen Cole
Mayron Cole Music Conservatory, Inc.

Thank you fo much for getting back to me.
It is so good to hear that you have knowledge of where Kindermusik kids are and where to place them appropriately! That has been one of my concerns -- my private students who begin piano after Kindermusik are SO MUCH further along and move so quickly that I know I need something that's not for 'true' beginners.
I will review the materials you suggested.

Thanks again!

Subject: How Do I Become a Certified Teacher?
I am a piano teacher who is looking for a way to teach group piano....I found your website as I searched the web and was so excited! I've taught piano privately for 14 years and am ready to "branch out"! How do I become a certified teacher so I can use your methods?
Thanks for the help!

We are so glad you found us online! We have a 3 hour training seminar that is available on DVD or VHS for $49.95 that walks you though teaching in groups. It comes with a training manual. At the back of the training manual is a written quiz that you take after viewing the seminar. When you return the quiz, we will certify you.

We also have a "Studio Start-Up Kit" for $299.30 that includes the seminar DVD/VHS along with beginner books, teachers manuals, accompaniment CDs, and games. The items in this start-up kit value $400 when purchased individually, saving you $100 when purchased as the kit.

Also, keep in mind that we are not a franchise, we are a music publisher. Most teachers who use our method prefer to be certified, but certification is not a requirement to purchase and teach our material.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Colleen Cole

Subject: Different Ages in the Same Class

I have a 6 year old who will be 7 in Feb and a 7 year old who will be 8 in Oct. This is 1 yr and 4 month difference. Do you see any problem grouping them for a partner lesson. The 7 year old has been waiting for a while. I can't seem to get the right call. What is your opinion?


Not a problem. They will be great together!
Let me know if you have any other questions.

Colleen Cole

Subject: Marking Assignments
I’m sorry to keep bugging, you, but I have lots of questions right now as I’m trying to organize my studio again. I always do a little something different each year to see if it works.

I have my students use binders with your music. I tell them what needs to be done, but the parents are always asking what they should do. How do you keep the dialog going between teacher, student and parent? Do you ever have the students write down their assignment for the week? I just don’t know how to go about doing that without spending too much time on it. I thought about having the student individually write down what they were to do, but then that takes so long with beginners- writing and all. Any ideas on that?

When I taught privately I had an assignment sheet with all the scales listed and other stuff we were working on. It helped a lot because I could see what we needed to go over and what they got done. Have you ever done that with your group lessons? Sometimes when I say practice it all twice I’m not sure they understand what is expected of them and some can just run through it in two minutes. Is that ok? What are your feelings on that? I know that I need to work on being more specific on assignments. I’m really trying to do that.

Thanks for your time,

Try purchasing some giant, colorful plastic paper clips at an office supply shop. My students put the clip on the beginning of the pages to be reviewed/new music. This is a quick way to "tell" the students/parents what has been assigned. The students are to play each composition 10 times before the next lesson (that's two times a day, M-F). Also, a teacher told me that she uses the cardboard page (at the back of each level) as a marker page. The students put that page at the beginning of the pages to be reviewed/practiced. She said it works great. She says she merely instructs, "Get out your marker page and put it behind page 56 (or whatever!). Practice from there to the end of the music."


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Subject: Confusion about Which Book I Need
We are just starting a studio with Blast Off this Summer.

We won't need lesson books until the fall but, I have a question about the Level 1A and 2A. The 1A says for ages 7-10 beginners, 2A for ages 8-10.

How do you know which book in which to start the 8,9,or 10 year old?


Level 2 comes after Level 1. Your 8, 9, 10 year olds will start in 1A, then go to 1B, THEN go to 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, etc. (Our levels were so big we had to break them out into 2 books A and B.)

If you have kids older than 10 or so you can put them in Older Beginner A which is virtually the same as 1A, it just moves a bit faster and doesn't have as many theory work sheets. That series goes Older Beginner A, Older Beginner B, Older Beginner C, then they go into 3A, 3B, etc.

For kindergarten (and maybe 1st graders), you can start them in Menehune, then go into 1A. I say "maybe 1st graders" because it’s not an exact science which book to put them in. I have some 1st graders that are doing very well in 1A and some 1st graders that are struggling though Menehune. EZ keys is another pre-staff note reading program. It’s for Kindergarden – some people use it for 1st grade, too. EZ Keys is easier than Menehune, and it doesn't have any theory sheets.

The ages we list on the website are just a general guide line. As you get used to our method, you will get a feel for what book you like to use for the different age groups. For now, if you feel that students are in a book that is too easy, go ahead and put them in the next book (parents love to hear that their student is SO good that they need a harder book). You can still use the easy book as supplemental material for review throughout the year. If you feel students are in a book that is too hard, put is aside and put them in an easier book. When they finish the easy book, they will be ready to back into the harder book.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Have fun this summer teaching Blast Off!


Subject: Question about the 28-week course
How do the students who begin later in the school year finish the 28 week
course? Thanks, Mayron and Colleen for all your help so far!



They don't have to finish the entire student book within the school year. If you start them late, just go as far as you can with them then at the beginning of the next school year you start back up where they left off.


Subject: Blast Off With Piano
Hi Mayron & Colleen,

Thank you so much for your quick and great reply. I really appreciate it. I know you're busy and I so much appreciate your time and hope I'm not bothering you too much with all my questions.
Just one more question, please.
I know the Blast-Off program is designed to be done every day for a week, but I was wondering if it would also work to do it spread out once a week instead, like 4-5 Mondays, for example. Would there be a loss of continuity or enthusiam, or would it work out OK that way also? Or do you think people would have scheduling problems with summer vacations if it's spread out? I want what's best for the learning situation and for the students.
Depending on how many sessions they will let me run, it might be more efficient for me since I have to drive 25 miles each way, carry in and set up and take down all the keyboards. It just might be easier on me if I could focus on just a couple days a week, considering all the physical work of loading and carrying everything in. (hmm--hope to someday have my own place!) But I'll do what it takes for a successful program.
Oh, one more thing--do the CD's run in a portable CD player, or are they only CD-ROM computer CD's, needing a computer to play it?
I'm looking forward to what's ahead! Thank you so much for your wonderful program!
Thanks again.


If you are teaching Blast Off in the summer, I encourage you to teach the program in one week because:
(1) The students know nothing on Monday--but on Friday they are giving an ensemble recital! The impact of that really hits the parents! Most of them sign up for piano because of it.
(2) Spread out over several weeks really does loose the impact. "Good grief! They should be good. They've been taking piano for the past six weeks!" (This was actually said to a teacher who tried to teach Blast Off over six weeks!) Instead of, "My word! All of this and in only ONE week's time!" You get the picture.
(3) I know it's more work for you, but I truly think it will pay off!
(4) Most people can block out a week for piano in the summer. The other way (see #2 above) they have to block out six weeks.
(5) The CD can play on any CD player--we use it on an inexpensive one we purchased at a drug store.
Let me know if I can help you further.


Subject: Training Seminars/Workshops
I have recently spoken with a teacher in my city who is very excited about your methods and uses them to give private lessons. She was so enthusiastic, I'd like to inquire about your training schedule. When and where is training offered? Costs? Length of seminar? Etc. I have 30 students and I'm about to burn out with traditional teaching methods. Any info you might provide would be much appreciated.



Thank you for your interest in our piano method. A few summers ago, we hired a filming crew to film our all-day seminar in Houston. That film has been professionally edited down to a three-hour VHS video or DVD and is for sale at $49.95. (That price includes a follow-along seminar training manual.) Teachers have reported to us that they really like the seminar being on video (or DVD) because it can be played at any time and can be re-viewed many times. Also, they say the training manual allows them to follow along and not have to take notes. Please contact me if I can be of further help.


Subject: Scheduling Blast Off Classes:
Dear Colleen & Mayron,

Thank you very much for your answer about the seminars. I will be ordering the video shortly.

I would like to ask you a few more questions:

1. Since I don't have a location for conducting group lessons yet, I am going to run classes through the local Parks & Recreation department this summer. Should I just do Blast-Off repeatedly, or do I actually start into the EZ Keys and Menehune classes? If a student completes the Blast-Off week early in the summer, should they wait until September to start up the EZ-Keys, or is there something else that could be taught afterwards until the Fall? What is the best way to handle summer if it is the beginning of my group teaching experience outside of the private school I teach at? Is it appropriate to teach the other levels in the summer or should I wait until school starts?

2. Does a child go from Blast-Off to EZ-Keys, or can they possibly go to Menehune?

3. I'm confused as to the calendar or length of the courses. How many weeks are they designed for? Do they fit a September to May type of schedule--what's the best way to structure them? How many weeks is each level designed for?

I wish I had known about your curriculum before I started teaching this last September in the after-school program. I'm new to the group teaching scene, but love it

Thanks again for your wonderful materials.

M. K.


1. Just do Blast Off repeatedly. You want all of your students to be at the same place at the same time when fall classes begin. That way, you can more easily group them. Your students should wait for piano classes to begin in the fall after they complete the Blast Off course.
1A You should only teach Blast Off. (See the above reason).

2. A child may either go to Menehune ;1-A; or Older Beginner A upon completion of Blast Off. It depends on their ages. This is the way most teachers break it down: Kindergarden goes into EZ Keys; Kinder/1st grade go to Menehune; 1st grade-4th grade go into 1-A; 5th grade on up go into Older Beginner A.

3. The school year courses are designed for 15 to 30 lessons (half or full school year). You can expand or accelerate the courses any time you want. Most teachers begin in September and end their teaching in May with a 28-30 lesson course. If you have fast learning students, you'll want to go through the material faster than with "normal" students.

We have great teacher manuals that help you structure your lessons and schedule. Let me know if I can help you further.


Subject: This is my first week of teaching:
Hello Colleen,

I am so excited about your method and love your music and lesson plans.

First I had a 6-7-year old class of three girls that went beautifully! Tonight I teach another class of 6-7 and then a class of 8-9.

Yesterday, I had a class of 4 and 5-year olds (2 were girls and 3 were boys). My confidence was shaken as I had a difficult time controlling my classroom. The children didn't stop moving their bodies or their mouths. The only thing that went well was that they started and stopped their pieces on cue.

Game time was something else. They were wiggly, chattering, touching each other, sometimes leaving the circle. The child who won gloated, two of the others pouted. I wasn't convinced they were learning the concepts I was trying so diligently to teach them. It made me wonder what they ate before they came to class. Even the marching activity was uncontrolled. Some of the kids were twirling in circles, running etc. Was it just the excitement of their first class? I don't know.

I see potential in these little ones but I'm desperate for advice on how to keep them focused and on task.

Thanks so much!


…..4-5 year olds have never been to school, so they have not been trained how to behave in a class. Here are a few things I can suggest:

1. Train them how to behave in a class. Tell the kids up front what kind of behavior is acceptable/unacceptable. At their first lesson, the kids are feeling out what they can get away with. If you don't put a stop to the craziness soon, they will always think they can walk all over you. Don't be afraid to be strict - kids like boundaries. Show them that you are all going to have fun, but they WILL follow your rules. You could set up a system for grading their conduct (I use 4 colors) and mark it in their book at the end of class. You can use that grade as a bargaining chip throughout the class. Just yesterday I had to tell a class that the next person to fall out of their seat (3 fell off their stools in a matter of 2 minutes) would get a red mark for the day - they straightened up right then and there. I didn't get upset, they didn't get upset - I told them the rules and they followed them.
2. Create activities that allow the kids to move around. In game time, have 2 teams (so the kids don't have to wait so long for their next turn). Each team has one pawn, and you can refer to the teams by their pawn color (Red Team, Blue Team, etc). With my Kindergarteners, I put a little toy keyboard (we sell one if you don't have one) next to me. When it is time for a team's turn, they all come up to me, stand in line, and show me what I ask for on my keyboard (like: "show me all the D's" or "tap and count this rhythm" and I show them a line from a piece we are learning that day). Or have the team stand up and march quarter notes around the pianos while they count the rhythm out loud, or eighth notes, of half notes, etc. (if they start to go out of control while marching tell them if they don't do it correctly they will miss a turn in the game). Then they go back to their seats to roll the dice. I hold the dice until it is time for a team to roll, and I give the dice to the specific child who will be rolling for the team. When playing in teams, make sure that one rolls the dice while the other moves the pawn (teams of 3 have to alternate who rolls and who moves). Playing in teams also gives you another bargaining tool when discipline problems come up: say to the misbehaving kid, “if you do that again your team will miss a turn.” The other teammates will then make sure that student starts behaving. As for the winner who gloated, if it happens again explain that gloating is mean, and mean behavior will result in a bad conduct grade.
3. Have alternate activities planned. I assume you are teaching EZ Keys which does not have worksheets. But, you can come up with other activities with the books. Get some crayons. You could have them turn to a piece they learned last week and put one circle around each quarter note with one color crayon. After everyone is done, put the crayons back in the box, pick out a different color and put a circle around each set of 2-eighth notes, etc. When they start learning the different keys, you could draw a keyboard on a piece of paper (can be a rough hand drawing) and make lots of copies. Have them color all of the D's with one color, all of the E's with another color, etc. You can do that every week if you wanted to. If you still have 5 minutes left over, just let them color the pictures in the book.

I always find the first lesson to be the hardest to teach. I don't know the kids, they don't know me. Each lesson will get easier as you all get to know each other. Also, each year of teaching gets easier as you get more experience with different situations.

Hang in there! You'll do great! Keep me posted on how things are going.

Colleen Cole

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