Monday, July 16, 2012

"Five Core Values of Great Leaders" Applied to Piano Teachers

This morning as I was following my daily ritual of scanning through various social media sites of interest, I discovered this gem from Dave Ramsey's EntreLeadership Advisor: "Five Core Values of Great Leaders". Please take just a moment to read the article before continuing to read this blog entry.

Photo from
Did you notice how easy it is to apply those five core values to piano/music instruction? In a few words, here's my take on how these principles can be applied within the piano studio.

1. Love Your Team. First you must define your team. My team includes my students, their families, their friends, and any others who contribute to their musical growth. By building relationships with the families and friends who are part of your studio, you are letting them know that you care about them as individuals, and this will create a huge amount of trust within your studio. Recognize what they are going through, lend an ear when they need it, offer the best instruction possible, let them know you care about them, and they will be loyal contributors to your studio as well as the music community as a whole. Love your students.

2. Give Praise. As teachers, one of our jobs is to help our students become better musicians. To do so implies that we must correct the things that are incorrect and improve the things that need to be improved. Offering praise throughout these moments of correction can do a world of good for a student who is struggling with a passage, genre, fingering, etc., especially a student whose primary "Love Language" is words. (More about love languages in a later post.) One exercise I learned in graduate school and that my own college students have been required to complete is to think of as many different words of praise as possible, usually following the letters of the alphabet, and incorporating these words into their teaching vocabulary so that they always have a huge collection of praise words and don't use the same word twice within the same lesson. For example, A: Awesome, amazing, astounding. B: Beautiful, etc. Students will learn the hierarchy of the words you use, and they will recognize when something really is beautiful, for example, instead of just "good". Praise them for their efforts.

3. Seldom Use Your Power. Are you a boss, or are you a teacher who leads? Rather than ruling with an iron fist, so to speak, use your knowledge to explain to students the importance of what you are teaching and why they must learn what they are learning. This can persuade them that what they are learning is actually important, and you are not teaching it to them just "for your own health"! For example, if they are learning 5-note scales and are struggling to stay interested, rather than demanding that they continue practicing them, simply explain to them (in an age-appropriate way) how the 5-note scales will be beneficial to them in the future. Many students respond to this kind of instruction, and it can build trust and provide much-needed explanations to the students who, like me, always need to know what is going on and why. (Just ask my hubby how much I need to know what is going on at every moment!) Lead them to learn.

4. Surround Yourself with Rock Stars. In the music studio, lots of students consider themselves to be rock stars because of their talents, ambition, self-confidence, and motivation to succeed. However, not every student is willing or able to be successful at the particular level that their peers might view as successful. Our responsibility as a teacher is to surround ourselves with rock stars not only by accepting the "rock star" type of student into our studios, but by creating and building a studio of rock stars regardless of the level of talent of those who enroll! Can a student with a physical disability become a rock star? Absolutely! Is it possible for a student with a mental disability to become a rock star? You bet it is! It is our responsibility to take our students from where they are to where they can be and lead them to be successful. We must learn what their strengths are and offer activities and music that the student can complete successfully so that he learns for himself that he is a rock star. Build a studio of stars.

5. Cast Your Vision. "How do you let your team know they are doing something important? Repeatedly tell them what they're working for and why. Share your vision early and often." Do you have a vision for your studio? Is it succinct enough that if someone asks you about it you could tell them in a brief statement? If you don't currently have a mission statement, write one! Create your vision. Share your vision. Review your vision on your website, in your newsletters, on student assignment sheets, and via other recitals and events. Build community within your studio by sharing your vision with your team. Let your students and their families know what they are working for and why. The mission of my own studio is "to be an exemplary piano studio dedicated to encouraging musical growth and fostering lifelong musical fulfillment among students of all ages and abilities, and to be a place for students to discover inspiration to fuel their passion for music." Share your vision.


  1. Melody, I love your post here! I am currently reading Dave's new book!! I have never had a "vision" for my studio before. I really like that word and am going to start brainstorming. Thanks so much for this great post!!

  2. Thanks, Becky! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!