PRESTO Framework Case Study: Newbie Nora

PRESTO Framework Case Study: Newbie Nora

Nora was a new piano teacher. She’d made the leap to leave her job at the shoe store to start teaching the piano full-time. She was happy with the decision, and her husband was more than supportive. But comments from people in her life made her feel like an imposter. Like she didn’t have a real job. That was until she found the PRESTO Framework.

Table Of Contents:

  1. Infuriating Interactions
  2. Was It The Right Decision?
  3. Something Needed To Change
  4. “Hi Everyone, I’m Tim”
  5. How The PRESTO Framework Helped Nora
    5.1 P stands for Pedagogy
    5.2 Next, we’ve got R, which stands for Repertoire.
    5.3 E – this is a good one! Educational Journey.
    5.4 S is for Studio Set Up
    5.5 T for Technique!
    5.6 O stands for Outreach

Infuriating Interactions

“So what do you do?” asked Nora’s student’s mum.

“I’m a piano teacher,” replied Nora, bemused. She’d just given this woman’s daughter a piano lesson. Surely it’s obvious what she does.

“But what’s your real job?”

Nora sighed.

“How’s your little hobby going?” quizzed Nora’s aunt.

“My baking? I haven’t done any for a while, I’ve been busy!”

“No, no. The piano thing.”

“My job?”

“No, no, not your job. You work at the shoe shop. That thing you do where you teach little kids to play Twinkle Twinkle or whatever.”

“I stopped working at the shop last year. I’m a piano teacher now.”

“Surely not!”

These infuriating interactions were happening too often for Nora’s liking.

Sure, ‘piano teacher’ doesn’t tend to be an option in form drop-downs. But there are plenty of jobs that don’t appear on the list. Do people judge those professions too?

Was It The Right Decision?

Fed up with not being seen as having a “real job,” Nora took herself on a walk.

She thought about what she could do to change people’s perspectives. How could she be taken more seriously?

Suddenly, a wave of doubt washed over her.

“What if they’re right? Was quitting my job in the shoe store a mistake? Am I even any good at teaching piano? Or is it a waste of everyone’s time?”

She started feeling less and less confident in her ability.

She’s amazing at playing the piano. Everyone tells her that. But can she teach it well? She doesn’t have any qualifications. She has no prior teaching experience.

“Am I an imposter posing as a piano teacher? Am I trying to tell people what they should be doing when I don’t have the first idea myself?”

She thought back to her lessons the previous week.

  • How proud Judi was when she put both hands together for the very first time, thanking Nora for being the ‘best teacher ever’
  • Overhearing Fern’s teenage brother telling her her piece was sounding awesome – the look on Fern’s face at the thought of impressing her older brother!
  • The video normally-nervous-Mel’s mum sent her of Mel performing Happy Birthday at her grandma’s 80th birthday party

“I must be doing something right,” Nora thought. “And I absolutely love it. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. But I just don’t feel like a piano teacher should.”

a new piano teacher's confidence levels

Something Needed To Change

Nora headed home and sat down at the table with a notebook.

At the top of the page she wrote the heading, “How To Make Piano Teaching My Proper Job”

  1. Get more students. If I had a really busy studio, people would have to take me more seriously. It wouldn’t look like ‘Nora’s little hobby’ anymore.
  2. Feel more confident teaching theory. I know I know the answers, but there have been certain things I’ve tried teaching that have just confused the kids. I need better ways to teach things.
  3. Have a better plan. With some students, I feel like I’m just winging it, and it’s unsettling me. I need a plan.
  4. Appear more professional. At the moment, everyone pays in cash for each lesson. But sometimes they forget to bring the money, so I have to remind them, and it gets awkward. It doesn’t come across as professional, but how do I change that?
  5. Keep the teenage students. I’ve had a couple of teenage students leave in the past month because they’d just lost interest. It’s hard not to take that personally – am I not giving them interesting enough lessons? Are they bored of what they’re learning?

She looked at her list and felt instantly better just getting it all out.

“This seems fixable.”

She thought back to her time at the shoe shop. If she needed help, she’d ask her colleagues. She never had to figure things out herself. She looked around her empty music room.

“Can you help me?” she asked Monty the Cat, who was rolling at her feet.

“Hi Everyone, I’m Tim”

Nora had a sudden recollection of something she’d saved on Instagram.

She scrolled through photos of cats and cakes until she found the reel she was looking for.

“Hey everyone, I’m Tim Topham, and I help music teachers teach better.”

“Hi Tim, I hope you can help me!”

how to teach piano after discovering topmusic

She watched the video about Animal Improv, an idea she’d then carried out in her lessons and her students had LOVED. She clicked on TopMusic’s profile.

“Ohh, I love that song!” she told Monty the Cat, as Tim started playing Heatwaves by Glass Animals.

“Wait, I think Brett likes that song. He was humming it when he walked in last week. OH! I could teach him how to play it! He’d love that!”

She carried on scrolling.

No Book Beginners? But what do you do with a beginner if you don’t have a book?”

She typed in the address Tim mentioned in the video and started reading.

“Monty! It’s like a light bulb has turned on in my brain! Why DO you need to start a beginner on a book straight away? They should be exploring the piano and learning the love music. That’s what it’s all about! Oh, it makes so much sense!”

She carried on browsing the TopMusic website.

“PRESTO Framework… Monty, I’m gonna need my notebook.”

She ushered the cat off her notebook and dusted off the cat hairs, ready to start making notes.

How The PRESTO Framework Helped Nora

“Monty, this is so good. Everything I need help with is right here. I don’t have to guess anything or try to work things out myself.”

Monty the Cat looked up.

“Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you all about this PRESTO Framework!

P stands for PEDAGOGY (presto framework)

P stands for Pedagogy.

Don’t you love the word Pedagogy, Monty? It covers so much – it’s basically everything we do as teachers.

Before today, I thought teaching piano was just…

  1. Decide what to teach
  2. Teach it
  3. Move on

But it’s SO.MUCH.MORE. It’s all about teaching with an integrated method – being creative!

TopMusic has shown me already that teaching is actually…

  1. Decide WITH YOUR STUDENT what to work on. We’re not solely in charge. We should work with the student and focus on things they’re interested in
  2. Teach it in fun ways. Use games, use different activities, watch videos, and ask them questions rather than just tell them the answers
  3. Explore. When the student has learned something, don’t just move on. Stay with it for a bit, have fun with it, and get creative.

And I know that might sound a bit overwhelming, Monty, but don’t worry. There are SO many things to read and watch and listen to. I’m gonna become a pedagogy star!”

Monty curled up on the window sill next to Nora.

“I’m glad you’re getting comfy. I’ve got so much more to tell you.

R stands for Repertoire (PRESTO Framework)

Next, we’ve got R, which stands for Repertoire.

I’m really excited about this one. It’s really opened my eyes to new things.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always just thought I should use the same method book I learned from. I have absolutely everyone learning from that book, ’cause that’s what I did! But one size does not fit all!

Monty! Look! Pop songs! And even more excitingly – pop songs BY EAR! I play like that all the time – why had it never crossed my mind that I should teach my students to do that too?

I guess it just never seemed the “right way” to do things. But TopMusic is showing me there is no set “right way”. What’s right for one student isn’t necessarily right for another student.

MONTY! IDEA! Pop songs – that’s how I engage my teenage students! Rose came in last week wearing a Taylor Swift t-shirt. Can you imagine how excited she’s gonna be tomorrow when I tell her we’re gonna learn Anti-Hero by ear? OH! I can’t wait!

But also, Monty, get this.

You know my oldest student, Mae? The one who’d had lessons before she came to me? She’s good. Like, reeeeeeally good. And she loves playing classical pieces, which is great.

We’ve been playing our way through a book her old teacher gave her, but that’s all we’ve been doing. Just playing.

I’m learning that repertoire is more than just that. It’s about analyzing the piece and thinking about the choices the composer made. Searching for musical elements, making connections, and finding meaning.

SO, let me show you this Intermediate Repertoire Bundle! It shows you how to teach your more advanced students the kind of pieces Mae just LOVES. Ohhh I need this – Mae won’t know what has hit her when she comes for lessons and I have all these suggestions for her AND the newfound confidence to really teach them.

Hmm, this bundle is free to TopMusicPro members… I might have to come back to that…

E stands for Educational Journey

E – this is a good one! Educational Journey.

What do we mean by educational journey, I hear you asking, Monty.”

Monty turned to face the window to watch a bird on the bird feeder.

“Thank you for your question. I’ll tell you!

Every student is different. They all like different things, learn differently, and want different things from their piano lessons. SO why should I be teaching them in the same way from the same book? It makes no sense when you think about it!

You know Ed? He’s always noodling around on the piano, coming up with cool-sounding pieces. I’ve always pushed them to one side, telling him he needs to focus on the piece in the book.


It’s clear he wants to improvise and compose. I should let him. Embrace his creativity!

But I’ll be honest with you, Monty. That’s a bit out of my comfort zone. My teacher never let me do anything like that. Composing was something “professional composers” did. Not students.

Maybe Ed is destined to be a professional composer. OR maybe he just wants to express himself through music. Either way, I can help him!

Or at least, I’ll be able to help him when I’ve read some blogs, watched some videos, and done some courses… I really need to look into that TopMusicPro membership.

I also want to get some more tips about teaching sightreading. Greg always wants to play as many pieces as possible, so if he can just sit down and sight-read with no problem it’d be an absolute game changer.

Ohh this is great! I’m exploring different paths on my teaching journey in order to help my students on their educational journeys.

Listen closely, Monty. This next one is very exciting.

Yes, I know I’ve said everything is very exciting – that’s because it is!

S stands for Studio Set Up

S is for Studio Set Up

This is the area I wish I’d found before I started teaching. But that’s okay – it’s never too late to get organized!

You know what I’ve never done, Monty? Sat down and thought about who I am as a teacher. I know it’s still early days – I’ve only been teaching for just over a year. Now is the time to really think about my teaching philosophy. I’ve got a lot to think about.

I’m definitely happy with teaching from my home studio, but you know something I’ve never thought about? Group teaching!

I know, I know. Lessons would be even louder with more kids here. But you’ve got your little bed area upstairs, so you can hide there!

It’d also mean I could teach MORE students, which is great for loads of reasons… And you know what more students means? I can buy you that fancy cat bed you’ve been eyeing up on Amazon. AND some fancy cat treats now and then!”

Monty’s ears pricked up at the mention of treats.

“You’re sold on group lessons now, aren’t you Monty? Well luckily, TopMusic have got LOADS of things about group teaching…Including this Growing A Group Teaching Studio bundle…Free to TopMusicPro members. I’m really gonna have to look into this TopMusicPro membership, Monty! I’ll have to tell James all about it.

The more I think about it, I think my lack of organization and systems is stopping me from being seen as a professional business owner.

I need to pull my socks up and figure out actual systems and policies. Maybe then people will stop asking me what my ‘real’ job is.

LUCKILY I’ve seen lots of business talk on TopMusic, so I’m 100% sure they’ll be able to sort me out.

In the meantime, let me tell you about…

T stands for Technique (PRESTO Framework)

T for Technique!

What do you mean you’re not sure what technique is, Monty? You’ve never seen me teach it before?

Yeah…Okay. You’ve got me there. It’s certainly not something I make a big deal of. But having a look through TopMusic’s tips on technique, I definitely should!

Even with beginner students, I can show them the proper way to sit at the piano, which is definitely not crossed-legged as I keep reminding Sara!

Ohhh, I definitely need to brush up on technique. Then, if my students perform in front of people, they’ll look like proper pianists and everyone will be so impressed!

Okay, last one Monty…

O stands for Outreach (PRESTO Framework)

O stands for Outreach

THIS one I’m very excited about!

Yes, I knowwww, I’m excited about everything! TopMusic was a very exciting find!

But this one, Monty. This is how I get known.

How I make a name for myself in our community.

And how I grow a busy and thriving studio so people stop asking me, ‘But what do you do?’

MONTY! I should set up social media accounts for my studio, and post what we’re getting up to, share stories and studio news. That’ll stop people asking me what I actually do with my time. They can see it!

Yes, I can also share photos of you when you’re sleeping on the keys. You know I would!

See, I told you it’s all very exciting!

Now to wait for James to get home and tell him about me becoming a TopMusicPro member…

Georgina Wilson

Georgina is a piano teacher who loves making learning fun and enjoyable for both the student and the teacher. She is often found pestering her cat or creating music resources for BusyLittleTurtle

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