Leia's Corner: How Do You Choose Repertoire?
Leia, a fine, energetic, determined teacher from India attempting to be "the best teacher she can be" has been exchanging emails with me (Leila) and asking some poignant questions. They are anything but easy to answer. She's interested in knowing if I use method books, what supplementary books I recommend and when do I move out of the method-book routine? In my attempt to tackle these questions, I thought it best to begin my answer by unearthing a blog I posted a couple of years ago at MusicTeachersHelper.com after I attended a Randall Faber workshop. Dr. Faber's presentation just made so much sense to me, I had to write it all down to make sure I remembered it for good.
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Stickers, games, prizes, music money, or competitions...is that what it takes to lure students to stick with an instrument? Is the magic triangular support of student, teacher and parent a promise of guaranteed success?
Dr. Randall Faber claims that teaching an instrument is completely dependent upon students' level of engagement at weekly lessons. As teachers, we must be involved more in the learning that is going on rather than the teaching. Monitoring students' emotional engagement is the key to making the unfamiliar familiar, and the biggest motivating factor.
At a recent workshop, Faber listed the "facilitating factors of motivation", in other words, the ages and stages of motivation. His insightful expertise validated and inspired how I teach. For those interested in the scientific facts of his findings see http://pianoadventures.com/about/pdf/MotivationA4.pdf
So...what does it take to motivate? First: KNOW the STAGES of Motivation:
I Can DO It! Ages 4-6. Activities during lessons must be engines of FUN which generate learning. Fun or "play" magically holds the students' attention and the motivation to "DO it" (again and again) keeps the kiddos coming back for more.
I CAN Do It! Ages 7-13 At this stage, students become aware that they are capable and see that their practice pays off. Those who are not as industrious may feel inferior to their peers and may doubt their ability and in turn lose interest. Students are motivated by connecting what they achieve with their personal EFFORTS. Positive reinforcement from teacher and parents is critical at this stage.
I Can Do It! Ages 13-20 Students eventually realize how important playing an instrument is to their self-esteem and it becomes part of their IDENTITY. Motivation is sparked by the passion for making music which in turn becomes a crucial part of the individual's personality.
So...what does it take to motivate? Second: KNOW your STUDENTS
1) Design lessons around each student's ages, needs and interests. Can you spell "FUN"?
2) Gather attention with "play" and follow the lead of the student in lesson activities and skill-building.
3) Continually reinforce concepts to build skills and positively acknowledge practicing efforts vs "talent". Offer rewards for individual PROGRESS made rather than just the amount of practice time.
4) Find MUSIC that inspires the student (provide selections that are pedagogically sound AND stylistically attractive to the budding musician).
5) Consider revising the coined "magic" triangle of student, teacher and parent with student, teacher and music. Parents and teachers are to encourage the budding musician to take ownership of his/her skills and develop his/her OWN passion for music and making music.
We must continue to use positive reinforcement through fun and games to keep up students competence. Confidence in skills builds self-esteem, and then identity as a fine musician follows for a life-time. If the lower level of the "hour glass" deflates (skills become rusty, the fun or joy is lost, negative feedback, etc) the passion and self-esteem can crumble.
Faber emphasized that the dedication and focus learned while playing an instrument (what we as teachers nurture and develop at each lesson) transfers to every other area of learning. Perhaps one reason why so many musicians head to the medical field?--high expectations and engaged, focused learning are nothing new to a musician.
Games, stickers, activities, standard music selections and sequenced lesson plans can be very useful tools; however, in addition, make sure to base the focus of lessons on the individual student tastes and engaged learning. Consider how you can inspire your students from playing an instrument to being passionate about music. Plan now to know and implement what it takes to motivate!
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The point of re-posting? Although the method book, the teacher, the parent may be important to a child's experience at the keys, it seems that if these are not combined with pleasing and engaging MUSIC, there will be no need to plan for music beyond the method books. I'll talk more about my experience with finding the "right" music for each student in the next post.
Please share your answers to Leia's questions?
Would love to hear your method for choosing repertoire for your students.
FYI: Thought I'd include this video of Brittany--the gal in the pic above and to the right. During her lessons in high school, she played the classics and "followed" the rules but found her taste gravitating towards artists like Nora Jones. In college, she enrolled as a piano major but soon realized this was not a good fit. Three years later, she is now majoring in Communications and Media Arts and minoring in music. Brittany discovered her love for singing and sings regularly with her duo called "Lucky South".