“Okay, get some lyrics written for your first summer lesson and we’ll get started,” I responded.
I love the opening lyric of the piece she worked on this week: “I play piano for a crowd, and everyone goes wild, and that’s who I am.”
Sounds to me like music might be kind of important in Dylan’s life.
She began by writing the lyrics. Then she figured out the chord structure she wanted to use. I showed her a long list of pop songs based primarily on the I vi IV V chord structure, so she liked the idea of starting with that, but she made quite a few variations, as well. Next, she recorded herself playing the piano part. Then she added a percussion track; and finally, she recorded her vocal part. She did all of this with the GarageBand app on her phone. That way she could go home and continue working on the piece after the time spent with me in her lessons.
Fun, creative project!
I could have insisted that Dylan continue working on repertoire and technique in her summer lessons, rather than taking on this project; but I’m guessing this affirmation of her innate creativity will have a bigger impact than learning another sonatina might have had.
“But it’s so hard to find clothes when you have a third arm,” I replied.
“I know!” she responded. “I used to have one, but it was too inconvenient, so we had it removed.”
Pretty quick wit for a third grader, I thought to myself.
My piano students often enjoy a bit of silliness, and I’m always happy to oblige. It can help make their lessons fun and memorable.
Yesterday, Elliot came to his lesson with his practice chart filled out, and a solid amount of daily practice recorded–enough to warrant a dive into the prize box. He chose this sticky, stretchy green hand as his prize, and you can see what he immediately thought to do with it. It was 60 seconds of silliness that made us both laugh. Not a bad way to start a lesson.
“My name is Sarah. What is yours?”
“My name is Mister Light. Don’t forget it!”
Embrace a bit of silliness, I say. Your students will love you for it.
Chase, age 12, was playing The Christmas Song. You know the one: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . . ”
The notes and rhythms were correct, but it was too fast, and it sounded mechanical and boring. There was no voicing of the melody, no breathing with the phrases, no rubato. It was dreadful.
“Listen to this,” I said, and pulled up Ella Fitzgerald’s recording on YouTube.
“Now make it sound like that,” I requested when we finished listening.
That was all he needed. He got it.
Do you teach on Halloween, or do you take the day off, knowing your younger students will want to spend the evening trick-or-treating? I’ve always kept Halloween as a normal teaching day, but I encourage students to wear their costumes to piano lessons.
“What’s your costume gonna be?” a student asked me this year. I have to confess, I just wore my piano teacher costume.
If a young student’s piano lesson falls during prime trick-or-treating hours, I encourage them to trade times with an older student who comes on another day. Most of the older students don’t participate in trick-or-treating anyway, so that often works to avoid lesson cancellations on Halloween.
This year only one student cancelled her Halloween lesson. Many years, we manage to work out lesson trading so that no one has to cancel. And the fun of having students come to their lesson in costume is a treat I always look forward to.