The Piano Teaching Professional’s Guide to Sanity

So often as teachers, we ask ourselves, “What kind of student do I want to teach?” Yet, that is only half of the equation. The other half, which often goes unanswered is, “What kind of teacher do I need to be to attract that kind of a student?” As we approach the busy enrollment season for music lessons (in the US, people become more “educationally conscious” from the months of September to June!) it’s very easy to get distracted by the “busy-ness” of the season and miss out on one of the keys to building our business.

I’m sure, as a teacher with integrity, you are always looking for ways to better your teaching curriculum for your students. You probably l read pedagogy books, attend workshops on technology, creativity, chord reading, early childhood learning, adult learning. Most likely you are also part of an on-line community (like iPiano!) that supports you. And those are all valuable pursuits as they fill our bank accounts of teaching knowledge. Yet the one thing I have noticed in my thirty year career as a professional educator and personal coach, is that the best teachers simply do not need the latest gizmos to keep their students and grow their studios. They do so because of who they are. They are beacons of light for their student’s potential and they do, in fact, have a secret. You see, regardless of what information you harvest to share with your students, it is still shared through you. You are the messenger. So ultimately, the information is delivered through whatever colored glasses your messenger is wearing, so it is your greatest interest to make sure your glasses are sparkling clear!

As a professional educator, you are programmed to give. You give your knowledge, your attention, your compassion. Your reward, in addition to the money you receive, is witnessing the progress and gratefulness of your students as well as receiving their accolades expounding what a wonderful human being and teacher you are. (Yes, that intentionally had a touch of tongue-in-cheekiness to it.) As a giver, it is very easy to fall in to the trap of completely depleting your emotional bank account, the bank account of M.E.W.B…My Emotional Well Being. You willingly and with great effort invest in your professional knowledge bank account, yet do you do the same for your emotional bank account, especially, at this time of the year when life makes much greater demands on you.

What is that secret I referenced earlier? Here it is: How well you take care of yourself is probably the single greatest factor in how you also experience your professional interactions and of how others experience you. Treat yourself with kindness and respect and your experience with your students will be one of understanding, compassion and joy. Treat yourself with frustration, fear and harshness and your experience with your students will be the same. So, first things first, be kind to yourself. Take care of you. Great teachers know that the must tend to their own well being before tending to anyone else’s.

Often when asked the question about who comes first in your life people will answer with words such as, “my spouse, my children, my parents.” Yet, as heart-warming and noble as that answer sounds, it’s not how you best get to serve those people. You cannot give them what you have not given yourself, even the airlines know that!

You hear the announcement at the beginning of every flight. The flight attendant, when arriving at the part of the in-flight presentation where the oxygen mask comes out, will say, “Before helping others with their oxygen masks, first secure your own. The message clearly being, you cannot help others if you first haven’t taken care of yourself. You cannot help others if you haven’t first taken care of yourself. What a wonderful life lesson to be reminded of each time we fly!

So what are going to do to take care of the most important person in your life? How will you let yourself know, on a regular, daily basis, that you are incredibly valuable? A massage? A daily walk? Some quiet time? A regular workout?

As a professional music educator, you are keenly aware that music consists of both sound and silence, and as I once read, “most composers do not know how to use the latter of those two.” The same is true with your life. If you are like most, you have too much sound, especially in today’s society of always being plugged in. Here’s a simple and extremely effective way to guarantee you put more silence in you life…schedule some active inactivity. That’s right, actually place in your schedule time to do nothing.

One of the things I encourage my private coaching clients to do is to take premium care of themselves. While the results of such an effort most often surprises them, these results rarely surprise me. You see, when you take premium care of your being, the universe aligns, not necessarily because it is magical, (although it might be!) but very simply, because you start making choices that bring you greater fulfillment and joy and that in turn continues to create greater fulfillment and joy which creates greater fulfillment and…well I’m sure you get the idea!

Part of the strategy for bringing yourself greater joy is bringing more space, AKA active inactivity, into your day. Active inactivity is the actual scheduling of time to do nothing. I know, I can hear your internal voice already, “I can’t just sit around doing nothing! That’s crazy! I have thirty students to schedule, lesson plans to make up, my own children to attend to, dinner to cook, shopping to do.

There’s no way I can schedule the time to do nothing! Heck I barely have time to use the bathroom.” And if that is what your inner voice just shouted in protest, more then ever, I strongly urge you to schedule active inactivity, the silence between the sound, into your day. I know this will sound like an

oxymoron, but the simple matter is, if you have the time to schedule active inactivity, you probably don’t need to do so! You need to do so, when you don’t have the time and you need to do so on a regular basis.

As the season of busy-ness comes upon us, take the time to invest in yourself, time to build a new skill or enhance one that you might already have. Here’s the skill: Treat yourself with the utmost of respect and care, all of the time. Take the ultimate care of you, all of the time. Schedule active inactivity. If you really take a moment to consider it, you are more valuable then the most prescious gem in the world, even the largest most valuable diamond is a diamond like other diamonds, but you are one of a kind. In the history of the world there has never been another you, nor will there ever be in the future. You truly are one of a kind. Feed your emotional bank account, invest in you. You deserve it and it’s imperative for you to excel in all you do for your family, friends and students. For as the great jazz composer Henry Warren wrote, “There will never be another you.”

Always focus on what you want.

Nick Ambrosino

Nick Ambrosino is a learning specialist and has worked in the field of music education since 1988. He has authored two parables, Coffee With Ray and Lessons With Matt (both available on Amazon and Goodreads) which contain the powerful tools of Diamond DistinctionsTM, communication strategies that instantly change your effectiveness. In addition to working with private students, he also coaches teachers, parents and professionals on how to create lives and careers filled with exponential success. To learn more about how you can quickly bring your dreams into your reality go to You can also follow Nick on his youtube channel “Inspirational Caffeine.” Or email him at nickambrosino63@

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