A Fun Back To School Piano Lesson

Piano Key Lights

As the awesome piano teacher you no doubt are, you want your first piano lessons of the new school year to be spectacular! So, allow me to suggest an idea from www.teachpianotoday.com. I call it “Light Up The Keys”.  All you need is some glow sticks (purchase at the dollar store) and a concept or song to review. To review 5 finger patterns, I had my student turn off the studio lights and place glow sticks on the notes for the patterned I called out. I called out 5 different patterns, and she was able to win a glow stick for each pattern that she correctly placed.

We had so much fun that we decided to use the idea with a song. We decided to have Christmas in August and play the beginning of  Jingle Bells.  See how it went below for this 4-year-old.

Non-Traditional Performance Opportunities

One of my goals in teaching piano is to help my students integrate music making with everyday life. When students realize that they can play their instrument for more than just an annual recital or formal concert, lessons become more meaningful. More meaningful lessons means more dedicated students!

As music educators we realize that music is everywhere. Our students, however, may not be consciously aware of this fact. It is up to us to help them notice music that is in their everyday lives. One way we can do this is to seek out non-traditional performance opportunities for our students. One of the best ways to do this is to consider the other activities in which the students participate. For instance, I have several piano students who are also studying dance. Dance classes are perfect performance opportunities for piano players! Who says dancers have to use pre-recorded music?

The picture above shows one of my students (in this instance, my daughter) accompanying at a dance class. This was a great opportunity to gain experience working with other kids in the arts. The fact that the dancers were friends of hers was also very encouraging and it made it seem more like “play” than performance or practice. (Isn’t that what music making should be?)

From a piano pedagogy standpoint, the piano student who accompanies dance classes can gain a deeper understanding of rhythm and the need to keep a steady beat. Watching and being aware of the dancers’ movements also helps the student feel the pulse of the music. What about helping with expression? Yes, of course! Having someone dance to the music as a student plays can help the student play more expressively and improves phrasing. These things are possible because suddenly the music has a purpose beyond the physical acts involved in playing the instrument.

An added bonus for this non-traditional performance opportunity is the student’s interaction with the dance instructor. In this type of situation the student must be able to receive direction from a teacher other than the piano teacher. This is so important for helping the student broaden his or her idea of what it means to take piano lessons. Sometimes students place their lessons in a box where they only use their skills for their piano teacher. Playing for a teacher in a different area of the arts forces the student to become the expert concerning the music they are playing. They must use the knowledge that they have about their instrument and apply to what the dance teacher is asking them to do. This translates into higher levels of confidence which of course makes better performances possible.

Finally, an added benefit of this non-traditional performance opportunity was that some of the dancers became interested in playing the piano!

If you teach music or have a child who takes dance classes, I would highly recommend you speak with a dance teacher in your area about the possibility of your students accompanying for the dance class. Accompanying for the warm up section of the dance class can be a great way to start.

What are some other non-traditional performance opportunities that you offer your students?

Supply and Demand 101: Music Teacher’s Edition

 

This morning I received a very thoughtful email from a parent thanking me for the music books I had chosen for her daughter. As music teachers we spend a lot of time searching for just the right method books to use. I like to use Faber Piano Adventures, and I know that there are many teachers who would either agree or disagree with me about my choice for various pedagogical reasons. But this post is NOT about what method books are the best! This post is about why music teachers should be more concerned about the type of music their students want to play and the type of music the families of their students want to hear.

Now, the parent who sent me the email wasn’t concerned about the brand of method book. She was appreciative of the STYLE of music that was in the books. One of the first questions I ask parents and students when beginning lessons is, “What music do you like to listen to?” Another question I often ask is “What TV shows do you watch and what is your favorite movie?” These are research questions that help me determine what songs I will use to teach them how to play the piano. This approach to teaching piano is definitely more time-consuming than the traditional way of teaching, but it is absolutely essential for success with students and families. People want to learn how to play the piano in order to play their favorite music, not ours!

This is where the Law of Supply and Demand comes in. What do you think would happen if you got a student who always dreamed of playing Beethoven’s music but his piano lesson only consisted of learning blues songs? Or what if you had a student who loved pop music (and most students do), but the piano lesson only consisted of learning classical music? Well, the answer is simple – the student would most likely quit as soon as he is allowed to do so.

Now, as music teachers we have several clients for each student we teach. Yes, the student is a client, but the student’s family members are too! Remember that the family members have to listen to – or endure in some cases –  the practice sessions! Consider two scenarios – Student 1 is learning music that the family members enjoy   and  Student 2 is learning music that the family members either can’t relate to or don’t enjoy. Which situation would most likely result in more diligent support of practice at home? Of course it is the scenario where the student is learning music that the family enjoys!

So, the Law of Supply and Demand for music teachers –

Supply students and family members with music they love to hear and the Demand for your lessons will go through the roof!

 

 

A Piano Student’s Thoughts on Playing

One of the misconceptions about piano lessons is that they are only for girls. This amazes me since most of the very famous composers were men – hello Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, etc. Also, most of your top concert pianists and jazz pianists are what? Men. Don’t get me wrong – I know that women can hold their own at the piano. I’m a living breathing example of that! However, this myth that piano lessons are a girl thing to do is far from the truth and it has to be stopped. Listen to what one of my rising 6th grade male students has to say about piano lessons. When I heard this, it made me so proud to be a piano teacher.

App of the Week: Beat Sneak Bandit

Thanks to one of the teachers in the Music Teacher’s Group on Facebook, I learned about this great music game! Wonderful for working on rhythm without even realizing it! Available on iTunes. I used it with my rising 6th graders in Music Camp this week (all boys) and they loved it!!!