4 FUN Tips For Group Teaching: Marie's MTNA 2016 Report Part 1


It is with extreme gratitude that I include the next series of posts. Marie Lee--she was first featured in a past post here at 88Pianokeys.me--received a significant scholarship to MTNA's 2016 Recreational Music Making track. For a number of reasons, I did not attend this year's conference but I wanted an inside scoop.

Marie looking spectacular in San Antonio

Marie kindly offered to fill me in and graciously let me share what she learned with you. Below you'll learn details about her scholarship and four REALLY cool ideas she gathered that YOU and I can use in future private lessons, group lessons or summer camps. Read on...

Each year the National Piano Foundation offers scholarships to MTNA piano teachers interested in learning more about Recreational Music Making at the Pedagogy Saturday RMM Track at the MTNA National Convention. Besides submitting a short application and resume, an essay was required, demonstrating my understanding of RMM teaching, its philosophy, why I wanted to pursue RMM teacher training, and how I planned to implement an RMM piano program in my local community. I applied and was thrilled to be awarded a scholarship. I spent Saturday, April 2nd, learning more about RMM from inspiring presentations. But even more significantly, I learned what RMM is NOT:

  • Recreational Music Making is NOT just for piano; it is available for all instruments.
  • Recreational Music Making is NOT just group classes; it works extremely well for private instruction.
  • Recreational Music Making is NOT just piano for adults; it works for all ages.
  • Recreational Music Making is NOT a method; it is a philosophy.

A Recreational Music Making piano teacher is one who offers individual or group lessons with a focus on student goals in a fun and relaxed environment. These goals usually include learning to read music, play music of the student’s choice and to play lead sheets.

Recreational Music Making (RMM) Top Ideas

In this session, 11 teachers had four minutes each to present a creative idea that has had an impact on their group piano teaching. Then they let the audience vote on the top three and presented gift card prizes to the winners. Most of the presenters were college students and I was impressed with their creative approaches. All of these ideas could easily be adapted to private teaching, as well. Here are four of my favorites:

Classes Take Planning: 

After an 8-week session of piano classes, the teacher asked an adult student what he enjoyed the most about the session. He said nothing about the repertoire, the backing tracks, the teacher. He mentioned these three interesting things:

  1. Sharp Pencils
  2. Cold Water
  3. Flowing Praise

The teacher probed further and found out the meaning behind them. He realized they were all things that took planning and preparation on his part before class:

  1. Sharp Pencils--teacher was prepared
  2. Cold Water--student felt comfortable and welcomed
  3. Flowing Praise--teacher was free with praise and encouragement

Engage the Brain in Multiple Ways to Learn a New Song: 

This teacher had huge success in introducing "hands together" pieces with this technique.

  1. Class sings/hums the melody only
  2. Class plays the accompaniment only
  3. Class sings/hums the melody while playing the accompaniment

4 P's to Motivating Teens:

  1. Piano Guys https://www.youtube.com/user/ThePianoGuys
  2. Pentatonix https://www.youtube.com/user/PTXofficial
  3. Pitch Perfect https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nhvYBvw3yE
  4. Postmodern Jukebox https://www.youtube.com/user/ScottBradleeLovesYa

Classical/Pop Mash-Up:

Teacher found a way to get her teens excited about classical music. She let the student choose a classical piece to study (from a list she'd previously prepared so she was still "guiding" the selection) and then they found a pop song the student liked in the same key. Student learned both pieces and then put together a mash-up of the two, intertwining both songs into one, like the 4 P's above.

My favorite. . .

Piano Date Night:


Think of the painting/wine parties that are so popular for adults nights-out. This teacher offered a Piano Date Night for adult beginners. She was targeting college students so they made it affordable. It only lasted an hour but involved some easy improvisation activities from www.TeachPianoToday.com (I'd also use Forrest Kinney's Pattern Play books https://forrestkinney.com/books/) and teaching chord shells to play with popular backing tracks. Great way to introduce adults to your studio without a long-term commitment. Could be a fun way for singles to meet, as well. FYI: She was not able to serve wine because they held it at the college but I'm sure you could adapt this to make it work--add hors d'oeuvres too!

More to come from Marie!

If you want to feel fully equipped teaching with an RMM approach, you need to attend 88 Creative Keys Keyboard Improvisation Workshop. We follow a similar philosophy with a strong emphasis on creativity. AND Debra Perez (specialist in RMM) will be our guest faculty this summer.

Please take two minutes and watch the video below to learn more. What's more recreational than freeing the mind of the printed page!

If you want to attend but require some help with finances, then apply for your scholarship here.

I can't wait to finally meet Marie in person as she'll be there. It would be great to have you join us!