Back to lessons is just around the corner and I have been trying to blog great ideas and tips for helping your child have their most successful year yet in piano! The last three posts have been especially geared to that.
I do seem to be on a bit of a sports or fitness kick, though. Perhaps it’s the fact that I spent my summer running my son to field lacrosse practices and field days. In fact, all of our little summer getaways were kind of planned around those field days and where they would be. And, let’s face it, here in Canada we do love our sports! Almost every piano student I have plays some kind of sport, whether it be soccer, basketball or hockey and each of those sports requires some sort of equipment! Well, so does piano and I stumbled across this blog post by BC piano teacher, Andrea Dow, (have I mentioned recently how much I LOVE all her amazing teaching ideas) and I just had to share an excerpt from it:
Don’t Play In Figure Skates – How To Convince Parents To Upgrade a Child’s Piano
“I live in Canada… and hockey here is huge. It’s not uncommon for a 5 year old to be a member of a hockey team. Parents willingly drag themselves out of bed at 4:00 am on a cold November morning to make an early ice time. And sales of hockey gear must make our local economy go ’round.
So, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the verge of wrapping up, it seems like a good time to explore why an un-weighted 61 key keyboard with no stand from Future Shop is like sending your child to the hockey arena wearing figure skates…
To be fair, they both “do the job”; one makes piano-like sounds when you push the keys… and one gets your child from A to B in a skating fashion… but neither will help your child learn the appropriate technique or skills, and neither will result in a child who is proficient at their chosen activity.
It makes no sense to spend hundreds of dollars on hockey equipment and skating lessons and then not provide proper skates. Likewise, it makes no sense to invest in piano lessons without providing a decent home instrument. “
So, as we head back into lessons, I encourage you to take stock of the “equipment” you have provided for your child. I can’t highly recommend enough a good quality acoustic piano and if you are vigilant on kijiji, it really doesn’t have to break the bank! In fact, you can often find people moving or renovating who are willing to part with them for free to save the cost of moving it. The equipment you provide can be a key in your child’s success.
Seven years ago, I suffered from migraines. Horrible, debilitating migraines. They would strike at any time–in the grocery store, teaching lessons–and leave me feeling nauseated, drained and utterly useless as a parent and teacher. My doctor tried different prescriptions and some would work for a while and then stop. When the migraines increased to 3 or 4 or more a month, she sent me to a neurologist. He ran many tests and asked lots questions. Finally he asked me how much I exercised. Now I’ve always been proud to say that I come from a very active family. My parents strapped a pair of figure skates on me when I was 5 and I never looked back. My parents also loved hiking and biking and camping. Laying around at our house wasn’t an option. All through university, I skated and ran and biked and hiked and skied. So, I proudly told him that and that I also currently walked my son to preschool almost every day–a twenty minute walk there and another twenty back. He looked unimpressed and said, “Well, that would be great….if you were a senior citizen.” What?! He went on to tell me that I needed real exercise at least 3-5 times a week. Exercise like running, kickboxing or bootcamp. He told me he wanted me to try it for 3 months and if it didn’t help, then we would try Botox. I left feeling annoyed, but what other choice did I have but to try (although, I was secretly hoping for the botox). I tried running and,after a just a couple weeks, I could see improvement but I was bored and it was lonely and so easy to just skip it. My friend and I decided to try bootcamp classes at a local rec complex. It was an agonizing hour of torture and if I hadn’t committed to doing it with her there is no way I would have gone on my own. After a while another friend joined us and we’d have a quick coffee and visit after class. Now there are 5 or 6 of us and sometimes we do bootcamp, sometimes it’s spin and sometimes it’s just on our own doing a crossfit or workout of the week. We go pretty regularly and faithfully because we get to see each other. It’s social and there are things we can do together (partner exercises, spotting each other on weights) that we couldn’t do alone. Oh, and those migraines? Can’t remember the last time I had one!
So, how does this relate to piano lessons? The piano can be a solitary instrument. As you advance you take private lessons, you practice on your own….by yourself. I do enjoy running on my own–occasionally–but it can start feeling lonely and piano is the same way. This is why I do group lessons several times a year in my studio. It provides the students a chance to get to know each other outside of recitals, to build camaraderie, to know that they aren’t alone…..that there are others struggling with the same challenges and working towards the same goals. It also allows me to do activities or teach skills that I either don’t have time for in a private lesson or just can’t in a one on one situation….like improvising or “jamming” or ensemble playing or games. Since starting group teaching six years ago, I have noticed that my junior high students are no longer quitting in junior high! In fact, I just can’t seem to get rid of them! LOL! One of my students is heading off to university this year and still wants to take lessons with me! Why? Because they are involved and engaged, they feel like they are part of a family. They have friends and know that they are not alone, they feel safe and supported….and they are learning skills that will allow them to enjoy playing the piano for life either on their own or in a social situation. Being surrounded with friends with like-minded goals can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your success!
And just take a looks at sports programs. My son is in lacrosse. He loves it and wouldn’t want to miss a practice. Why? Because his team feels like a family to him.
Group fitness wasn’t what inspired me to start group teaching–a piano teacher named Melody Bober did–but being involved in a group activity myself has truly helped me experience the value of it. This week, I was able to listen to a podcast interview from another piano teacher who teaches studio group lessons for her private students exactly the same way that I do and with the same frequency….and in hearing that, I felt that instant camaraderie and support!
Words of Wisdom:
“Do you think practicing basic skills is boring? Get over it! Your piano playing will never be as good or as enjoyable as you want it to be if your basic skills are not excellent. Every athlete spends time on drills, exercises and warm-ups outside of the game. Pianists should too. When your piano fundamentals become strong, you will learn everything more easily and perform more confidently.” –Scott McBride Smith