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SPOTLIGHT: Hazel & Violet's Multi-Year Practice Streak

Spotlight: Violet and Hazel both have practice streaks of over 1558 and 1685 days (as of April 23rd) - that’s over 4 years of practicing every day!

Can you imagine practicing every single day for a year? (Yes, like that New Year’s resolution that you abandoned in the 2nd week of January.) Really picture it: through your sick days, 14-hour school/work days, vacation days, you would have to practice.

Can’t picture it? Same.

Now, can you imagine getting your students to practice every single day for a year? What about every day for 4 years? Impossible, you say? I thought so too. That is, until we noticed several incredibly long practice streaks (streak = consecutive days practiced) logged in Better Practice. Even more incredibly, a large number of these daily practicers came from the same studio! We were so impressed we had to reach out and see: What were they doing right?

First we hear from Hazel and Violet, the two sisters with the current highest streaks: over 1300 days and counting! Then we asked their teacher, Amy Pennington of InJoy Music, how in the world she was getting such engaged and motivated students. (It turns out she does not have a magic piano that consumes any and all that come in contact with it with the intense desire to practice.)

HAZEL AND VIOLET have always been daily practicers; Better Practice just happened to capture a 3.5-year portion of it!

Hazel: I have practiced every single day since my very first piano lesson. We didn’t start using Better Practice until I had been taking lessons for awhile. I like the app better than using paper, because it is better for the environment. My piano teacher told me that I should practice every day that I eat. I took that seriously. Once I started my practice streak, I didn’t want to stop because it just kept getting longer and longer. Now it’s been more than 1000 days, and it doesn’t really feel like that long.

Violet: I started doing daily practice before we started using Better Practice. My younger sister, Hazel inspired me to practice daily after she built up a long practice streak.

Hazel, who has been a daily practicer since starting at InJoy in 2014!

How did your practice habits change with Better Practice?

Hazel: I have been practicing every day since my very first piano lesson, but I like using the Better Practice app because it is so easy to log everything.

Violet: Better Practice has helped me to be more organized in the way I practice. I like how it shows me which songs I haven’t played in awhile, so that I don’t forget to play them. I try to make sure I don’t have any songs on my “no practice” and “needs more practice” lists. My teacher keeps me motivated to do this by having me check these lists at the beginning of each lesson. Before we started using the app, I would sometimes realize I had completely forgotten a song I used to play really well, simply because I had forgotten to practice it for awhile. Another thing about Better Practice that has improved my practicing habits is the ability to easily message my teacher through the app when I get stuck on something and need help. Before the app, I used to just leave questions until the next lesson, which meant I sometimes couldn’t progress on a song I was working on. Now I don’t wait to get answers.

Violet, who was inspired by her sister to keep a practice streak going!

Did you hit any hardships in keeping a streak?

Hazel: Sometimes, when we were traveling, I would be in a place where there wasn’t a piano. So I would just practice on my lap.

Violet: There have been times when I realized late at night that I forgot to practice. Fortunately, I remembered in time and was able to get my practice done. The other things that get in the way of practicing every day include being sick, or traveling. I think the app helps me to maintain my streak, even when it’s difficult to practice, because I know it is recording whether or not I practice.

Thank you Hazel and Violet! Now we switch gears over to their teacher Amy...

AMY PENNINGTON: teacher and owner of InJoy Music, where there are many students with practice streaks from a couple hundred to over a thousand days long!

Firstly and most importantly: what do you DO to get such committed & motivated practicers?

Each May, we do a 30-day practice challenge. Our studio recitals are always at the end of April/beginning of May, so the students are already motivated and excited about their progress. May is traditionally a busy month with school activities, and historically, summer practice has been sporadic. Encouraging our students to practice 30 days during a busy season helps launch them into a more productive summer. When they achieve their 30-day streak, they write their name on a star and it gets hung on the wall. They also earn a ticket to an ice cream social that summer.

The practice wall!

Many of the students loved seeing their name up on the wall of our studio, so we took it a step further and hung a “timeline” of practice streaks. Now the streaks are celebrated and encouraged year-round! Students love advancing their names across the timeline as they achieve longer streaks. What I love just as much is the ability to coach my students through breaking their streak. It happens! Life happens! Letting them know that I am proud of their efforts no matter what, and that a lengthy streak doesn’t define them as a person is a valuable teaching opportunity.

Has engagement changed with increased practice?

In my experience, engagement and enthusiasm is always increased with increased practice. However, we’ve taken it a step further in our studio and I have the students look up their insights report before their lesson each week. More important than a practice streak is their management of their playlist. Looking at their 30-day practice list each week helps them understand the effects of keeping their playlist alive, and gives me a built-in opportunity to discuss the long-term relationship on a regular basis.

How did you transition your studio into using Better Practice? Many teachers find it difficult to get all of their students on board in the beginning.

I just made it mandatory! I increased my prices that year to offset the cost of the app and included it as a benefit of membership to my studio. I made sure to take plenty of time to introduce its features gradually and intentionally. It has become a terrific time-saver for me as an educator, and a tool that I feel is integral to the success of my students.

What is the most helpful part of the app to get students practicing?

The ability to access Simply Music videos directly through the app, instead of running back and forth between the piano and the DVD player. Also, the ability to message me directly with questions or concerns has empowered the students to take responsibility for their success, instead of either waiting for the next lesson or asking their parents to contact me.

On a fun note, they LOVE complimenting one another, and are highly motivated to compete with one another to earn Top Practicer each day and each week!

What was the most helpful part of the app for you, the teacher?

Lesson planning, for sure! The ability to plan out my lessons digitally and have the video chapters and assignments written in advance has saved me a huge amount of time. Additionally, being able to view my students’ practice and their song ratings (or lack of!) during the week gives me the opportunity to predict what I’ll need to help them with when they arrive.

A big thank you to Amy, Hazel, and Violet for answering our questions and letting us share their stories! If you are interested in music classes in the Kansas City area, you know where to go.

InJoy Music was founded in 2003 as a way to reach children of all ages through music. We offer Kindermusik classes for children ages 0-7 and Simply Music group piano lessons for children starting kindergarten and older. Our educators’ combined experience contributes decades of experience in musical education, therapy, performance, and pure enjoyment!
Our goal is to provide a lifetime love of music in each one of our students. InJoy Music is consistently ranked among the top Kindermusik and Simply Music programs in the world, reaching hundreds of families in the Kansas City area each year.