Get Inspired! Episode 6: A Gift That Keeps On Giving

As the season of gift-giving and holiday performances approaches, in my teaching experience this means: preparing and perfecting holiday music (myself and with my students), printing recital programs, finding that sherbet punch recipe, wondering if "Susy" is actually going to get "Jingle Bells" performance-ready in time for the recital, deciding what I should give my students as a gift and....the list goes on. What' the purpose behind of all this holiday recital frenzy? Oh yes, sharing the gift of MUSIC! It's amazing how the clutter of  the holiday season hides the true reason of why my doors are open for pianists from 6am to 6pm Monday through Friday, why parents submit monthly tuition payments, sometimes equivalent to a car payment if they have multiple children enrolled, why I schedule performance opps and, why I write this blog: MUSIC!

Earlier this summer I was fortunate to attend SMU Piano Institute for Teachers in Dallas. While shopping at the Pender's Music Co. exhibit, a book caught my eye: What Music Means to Me. The picture book includes large pages with stunning images that capture the essence of various gifted musicians. Alongside each photo is a personal, touching essay about the profound impact of music on their lives.

Bonus features:

1) Poetry by Barbara Kreader (composer for Hal Leonard and one of my favorite authors at Clavier Companion)

2) Forward by Brian Chung (excellent speaker and General Manager of Kawai America Corporation.)

3) DVD which includes photos of the featured musicians along with them reading their own essay.

4) Can't-put-a-price-tag-on-it bonus: I met the photographer in person, Mr Richard Rejino. Although I was unable to attend his session at SMU-IPT (I heard it was full of inspiration), my book includes his autograph.

(FYI: the book/DVD is available in hard or soft cover at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or check your local music store.)

So how does this book fit into this blog about holiday hustle and bustle?

Well...perhaps you know a special feature of is the "Get Inspired" Episodes? I designed a special holiday edition. In it, there are videos of some of the musicians featured in What Music Means to Me. The intent is to have my students read/listen to essays found in What Music Means to Me watch the videos of the holiday episode, and then respond. How?

First: Pianists decorate a blank card and on the inside write a note to their parents describing what music means to them. Of course adding a huge THANK YOU to end of the note.

Second: My holiday gift to each student is a craft. The craft includes decorating and assembling a unique ornament that they then give to their parents along with their card.

Here's a pic of the finished product:

Hobby Lobby is amazing. I'm not a crafter but I found everything I needed in one stop (and on sale, too!).

Here's your shopping list:

  • Blank Cards
  • Glass ornaments
  • Paint Markers for drawing on ornaments: black, gold and silver
  • Nice markers for drawing on cards
  • Silver and Gold Ribbon: cut into 8 inch strips
  • Gold and silver stickers to be placed on ornaments or card envelopes
  • Unwanted music books, preferably yellowed from old age
  • A good friend who owns a shredder. You'll need to shred about 20 pages--feels weird shredding print music, but....isn't there at least one book on your shelf that could be used for a noble purpose such as this?


  • decorate the outside of the ornament with paint markers and stickers
  • stuff some shredded music in the globe
  • assemble the ornament
  • tie a ribbon so that the ornament can be hung on a tree.

The ornaments will be individually wrapped in a small bag and labelled.  I will set them out on a table at the Christmas recital and after a pianist has performed, he/she will stop by the table, pick up the hand-made gift and note and proudly pass it along to beaming parents.

So, my students

receive an assembly-required gift from me,

express their deepest sentiments about what music means to them,

serve as a conduit for my "thank you" to supportive parents,

AND give a sentimental token to beaming family members

all wrapped up in one gift!