inspiring teenage students

Posted by: Melody

inspiring teenage students - 02/03/02 06:45 PM

I have several jr high students I've been teaching for anywhere from 4 to 9 years. They are all about the same age (6th-7th grade) and all seem to be losing interest. Contest aren't exciting for them. I give them a rich variety of music, but very little seems to excite them. Parents are starting to talk with me about letting them quit because they are tired of arguing with them. I get along very well with everyone, but can't seem to find the right motivation. It has been suggested that I help them accompany school choirs or create a recital at an area rest home. Has anyone tried these ideas or have any ideas to offer? I don't to lose these kids. They are all very talented and have a lot of promise!
Posted by: Jalapeņo

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/04/02 06:14 AM

Some ideas: Would any of them be able to play for church (not necessarily for Sun. AM service; maybe Sun. PM or Wed. PM or any special "Talent Night" the church might organize) or school (talent show, perhaps)? Parents might could set up some opportunities for them. How 'bout the Mall or the local music store? (This would be great publicity for you, too). Would it be possible to prepare a recital to give at those locations? ...anything to get the kids performing in public without the pressures of contests...
Posted by: Carole

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/04/02 10:08 AM

Yes, getting them involved in church or other out-there activities is great. I have three teenage girl-students and try to keep them going doing the music they want to play. Two are learning Fallin by Alicia Keys. One requested a Britney song, etc. I don't mind if it keeps 'em playing.
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/04/02 12:53 PM

Maybe instead of calling what they do a recital call it a musical (and turn it into one!), and maybe don't pick a nursing home as the only place to do it at. Some place more glamorous. And rather than have them just learning pieces to perform, have it involve costumes and painted sets and things that can draw out their other talents. Go to the Mayron Cole site and check out her musicals and ensembles. Even if you can't stand her method, her spirit of how to put fun in piano for kids is awesome. You could also ask a local music teacher for resources/ideas for something like this.

If any of them have keyboards, you could have them form a keyboard band or orchestra. I went to a Roland conferences several summers ago where Dawn Costello Miller was featured. She had two books called Fresh Mix and Baroque Mix (Kjos Publishing) that were ensembles for synthesizers and electronic keyboards. We played her music in concert and watched videos of her students doing the same. Like playing in a band!!! It was awesome, and I'll bet there's tons more stuff out on the market now. Rhapsody??? John???

What also works at this age is putting them into partner lessons. It can bring out competitive streaks that spur them on and motivate 'em. Plus there's a lot of fun ensemble out there that they would probably like. Mistakes from not practicing enough can even be fun when you can crack up about it with a partner!

You also might think of adding creative groups lessons for this age group only. Make it feel like their private club/party when they meet. Give it a cool name and serve excellent refreshments.

Another idea would to get some kind of Big Sister program going where they get involved with younger children in your studio. If they feel important about what they do and offer, they will feel more motivated about piano lessons!

I could probably think of more, but I just did a weight workout and my triceps are shaking so hard I can't type anymore!

[ February 04, 2002: Message edited by: Lisa Kalmar ]
Posted by: Jalapeņo

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/04/02 03:29 PM

Now you're cookin' with gas, Melody! \:D

If you're going to have a musical, [great idea, btw! ] I'd suggest inviting all of them to your house for a get-together so you can get their input & make plans. They might wish to come up with a theme for the musical; they might come up with some creative, brilliant ideas. At any rate, their feedback is important, 'cuz pre-teens & teens like to have their say. ;\)

This would be a great time to give them some ensemble experience. If you can pair any of them up to perform some duets, [assuming they want to, of course! ;)] it would be great.

I can't think very clearly today, either. I have a miserable cold. \:\(
Posted by: MeLisa

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/04/02 05:09 PM

[ 08-02-2002: Message edited by: MeLisa ]
Posted by: Melody

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/04/02 06:10 PM

Thanks for the great ideas! I talked with a couple of the teens today during lessons. Most seemed excited. Only one student didn't seem enthused. She has a hard time performing anywhere but recitals. Please keep the ideas coming! The brainstorming is great and gave me the boost I needed to keep trying with these kids!
Posted by: Vivace'

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/06/02 07:55 AM

Great ideas everyone!
My students enjoy monthly music club meetings where they are responsible for planning the meetings and programs. Students are involved in presenting composer profiles and then playing a piece by the composer.
Each year they decide on a theme for the year and make a scrapbook, etc. This year, the theme has been "Culture Colors Music: America - The Melting Pot ".

October meeting was "American Indian Music"
November - "Church music of Early America"
December - Sharing our gifts of music with others. Christmas Music at the Retirement Center.
January - "Appalachian Music's Contribution"
We had a program on wood, strings and dulcimers.........
February - "Parade of American Music Month"
Home on the Range: Music of the Old West.
March - "New Orlean Jazz and Blues"
April - SCFMC Convention "Stars and Stripes Forever" We will be having a hat contest at the convention luncheon. The students will be designing their own hats using music and red,white,and blue.

The junior club is federated with the SCFMC and they work for points on the achievement records, etc. They also perform each month on the programs, etc.

I'm rambling and sure everyone has heard enough. BUT my students are also involved in at least 3 auditions each year and set goals to prepare for them . I think "goal setting" is an answer for progress.

They also all perform a national,10 piece program each year for the National Guild of Piano Auditions. Goal Setting!!

They must practice a minimum of 3 hours each week for me to enter them in these auditions. I can't prepare them for competitions without dedicated practice.
They want to be a part because they earn points for gold cups ( NFMC ) and studio awards at the recital..........

Teachers must be motivated to motivate students......... just get busy.
My students, remember, don't bring popular music to class ( comic books ) and they get excited about the different periods of music, the style, learning about the composer's life and preparing for Music Club.

I'll stop because I realize I live on Fantasy Island.............
I've missed all of you so I had to write an extra long post!
Posted by: Jalapeņo

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/06/02 11:52 AM

Viv: I live on Fantasy Island, too. I keep thinking that, one of these days, some students who love classical music & are serious about learning to play the piano will enroll in my studio.

Until that day arrives, I do the best with what I have to work with, using "comic books" (& whatever else I need to use) to keep students coming to lessons & practicing the piano at least a few minutes a week.
Posted by: Vivace'

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/06/02 06:19 PM

I know how you love the "comic book" comment so I added it just for you!
It just seems a good way to explain why the students are required to read valuable literary works and learn to play great piano literature. Comparing poorly written music and comic books is just a way my students identify with my reasoning.
I never intend to offend anyone with my comments........... \:\)
Posted by: Rhapsody

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/06/02 06:54 PM


Your music club meetings sound like so much fun that I want to live on Fantasy Island, too. Or at least visit once in a while. Are the meetings open to visitors? \:\)

I always love your "comic books" and "appliances" comments. Please share additional phrases whenever you like. \:D


Could it be just the winter "blahs" :p \:\( that both you and your students are going through? To perk up a dark wintry lesson, a little dance music can work wonders. At the beginning of the lesson, have the student play (or with you as a duet) a rollicking jig (or gigue) or Hungarian Dance or Slavonic Dance. Doesn't it always seem from the dance music that the peasants had a lot more fun than the aristocrats?

There are so many ways to spark interest and motivate, and it varies so greatly from student to student, but sometimes it's really simple. Just a little something new or even simply a reordering of what's done when in the lesson can liven up things a bit. Keep striving to motivate and inspire and it will happen. \:\)
Posted by: Vivace'

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/06/02 07:37 PM

Visitors are always welcome at club meetings, ya'll come on down heah.
Posted by: Jalapeņo

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/07/02 06:25 AM

Originally posted by Vivace:
I know how you love the "comic book" comment so I added it just for you!

I know. \:D No offense taken. ;\)

Actually, for the most part I agree with you. What I do is explain to students that the core method books (lessons, technique & theory) comprise the "Main Course" (meat & potatoes) & that the supplementary books are "Dessert." Sure, I'll work with them on music they want to play. Why not? But in return, they must use the "Main Course" books & complete all their assignments. And the "Main Course" is always offered before dessert, not after! \:\) Most people respond favorably to this approach because they see that I'm flexible & willing to work with them, but that at the same time I am a conscientious teacher who wants to make sure that they learn what they're supposed to learn. \:\)

Living on Fantasy Island has its drawbacks. We're not close to civilization; the PA NR shipments arrive so late that when we see the boxes we exclaim, "Da books! Da books!" \:D

[ February 07, 2002: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]
Posted by: Chanson

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/07/02 06:13 PM

I would like very much to know how to get to the Mayron Cole site. I would like to learn more about her ideas for musicals.
Posted by: Rhapsody

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/07/02 06:19 PM

Just click and you're there. And welcome to our site, Chanson.
Posted by: Chanson

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/07/02 06:22 PM

Thank you so very very much.
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/10/02 08:19 AM

For whatever it's worth...I recently spoke with an out of state friend who's daughter is taking piano lessons. I was asking about her teacher, methods, etc. and learned something quite intriguing...this teacher, as part of her policy, offers two different piano courses of study for students beyond the elementary method level.

The first one is the traditional course. Here the student follows a typical course of study with Classical music as the core repertoire, theory, basic supplementary stuff from the jazz, sacred, etc. genres. This course requires a certain amount of practice weekly and allows the student to participate in regularly scheduled recitals. Also, as part of this course, the last lesson of each month is used for games, theory & composition work, etc. in lui of a regular lesson.

The second course is called Piano Explorations and is designed as a less intense approach. It is geared more for students who need a continuation of piano study, but have little time or motivation to practice. The students in this course do not perform at recitals or contests, Guild, etc. and the students can work on lighter fair along with music ed. games, software games, etc. They participate in sightreading activities as well. Basically, this course is for those who want to keep taking lessons but are not too motivated to put much into their practicing. They don't even have to practice during the week since most of the activities are prepared during the lesson. Evidently everyone realizes that their playing progress will slow down big time. But it may be what they need to keep them coming and learning something.

Now, the neat thing I learned is that students and parents can decide which curriculum best suits their needs and are free to choose one or the other. Also, they can switch between the two as needed. However, it is assumed that students using the "lighter" course will eventually switch to the traditional one in time.

Personally, I like this idea and think that the Explorations course could prove valuable for those students who need a more relaxed curriculum for a time.

Posted by: Melody

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/11/02 10:58 AM

This past weekend I went to a music seminar for contemporary Christian music in church services - Praise and Worship. I talked with one of the keyboard speakers who encouraged me to begin teaching my jr. high students chording. He said much of today's music deals with chording and improvising and kids want to play music they are familiar with.
I've been teaching chords - triads and inversions - but he suggested showing them how to improvise. Anyone have any experience with this?
I use chording and improvising in church, but it is something I picked up on my own. To plan lessons to teach it to someone else is going to be a challenge. I do find that I enjoy the times I just sit and play whatever comes to mind. But, I also enjoy sitting down and learning an actual piece. I would like to balance both types of training in a lesson, but it's going to take a lot of trial and error.
Posted by: Jalapeņo

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/11/02 11:23 AM

My piano teacher taught me basic chords & inversions, then taught me various "runs," "fills" & "intros." After that, she taught me how to modulate from one key to another; this skill is important, because many song leaders like to string choruses together, & they frequently change keys as well. Also, the sooner your students can play in all keys, the better. Some song leaders (esp. in pentecostal circles) just start singing, & the pianist is left to figure out which key s/he is singing in, & start accompanying. One last thing I might mention is that, when accompanying congregational singing, it's best if the pianist emphasizes the melody so everyone stays on track. Some pianists just chord along, & that's okay, but sometimes it confuses people. It's better to include the melody in whatever accompaniment you come up with, & make sure it's heard. Even if your church has an orchestra, the pianist generally takes the lead. The only exception would be if there's an organist playing hymn style, loud & clear; in that case, the pianist can take more liberties & leave the melody completely out if s/he wants.

Hope this helps. \:\)

Jalapeņo "Been There, Done That" Pepper
Posted by: Joy123

Re: inspiring teenage students - 02/16/02 02:55 PM

Melody, I have done this type of thing for years myself and have also taught it. If you want an easy to follow METHOD for chording and improvising on church music that will save you valuable time, check out THE HENRY SLAUGHTER GOSPEL PIANO COURSE.
Posted by: Carole

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/05/02 10:23 AM

I have read this thread with great interest. I also have an 11 yr. old student who is losing interest in piano. Her grandmother just called and spoke to me on the phone about it. I was unaware she was wanting to quit although I didn't see that "spark" very much. She has been making steady progress (is at the end of PA 2B) and is very gifted, pleasant to work with (altho a little hard on herself), but I have never felt she really "loved" piano. I have allowed her to always choose her music except for methods books. I have also wondered if her busy sports schedule hasn't often overwhelmed any thoughts of other things. The grandmother says her mom wants her to stay in piano over sports. That is unusual to hear! Anyway, I will take to heart some of the above suggestions, which are terrific, but if anyone has other ideas, please speak up. (BTW, I already give them opp. to play in public besides recitals). Thanks.
Posted by: Jalapeņo

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/05/02 12:29 PM

Are kids biologically programmed to have attitude problems around age 11 or so? I wonder sometimes!

I've been going round & round with Piano Kid (who, btw, will turn 11 in September). Last year she wanted to perform an all-Bach repertoire program for Guild, so I enthusiastically started working with her on that. Then, all of the sudden, she decided that she most definitely was not going to participate in Guild. I suggested that she simply cut back on the amt. of pieces or perform simplier repertoire. But no! She didn't want to do that. :rolleyes: First it was all, then it was nothing. There was no way I could persuade her to just change her program & participate. At the same time she decided to forget about Guild, she also decided that every single assignment I gave her was "too hard." :rolleyes: I backed off & allowed her to work out of BigTime pop rep. bks. & whatever else she was interested in, because it was all I could do to get her to want to practice. For months I've been hearing "Rock Around the Clock" & similar songs, over & over & over again until I think I'm gonna puke. Nothing wrong with pop music, mind you; I just don't want a steady diet of the SOS week after week, esp. if it's not classical. Anyhoo, guess what she wants to do NOW? She has up & decided that she wants to work through the PA4 curriculum (lessons, theory, T&A plus performance bks. along with Developing Artist Piano Literature Book 3) so she can earn a $10.95 plaque from Friendship House! Of course, inwardly I'm jumping up & down because she's decided (for herself, with absolutely no pressure from me) to continue with her regular studies. If a $10.95 plaque will motivate her to work, I'll buy it for her. \:D But this rollercoaster ride between not wanting to do anything & wanting to do everything is getting on my nerves.

The only advice I can give, Carole, is to try to keep your student going the best way you know how, by hook or by crook. God only knows what she really wants to do. She may not even know herself! Good luck.

[ April 05, 2002: Message edited by: Jalapeņo ]
Posted by: Carole

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/05/02 02:14 PM

I also had a talk with her mother this morning. She said her daughter just does not want to have to WORK at anything. If she can't pick up something fairly easily, she doesn't want to do it. This seems to be very common with many kids these days. During practice, she plays through a piece a few times, starting from the BEGINNING each time a mistake is made. I have drummed how to practice into my students over and over but goes in one ear and out the other. So, what to do? I already have her doing a 3 person duet for the recital, which is unique and fun. She doesn't mind playing in public as long as it is not her peers, so we will do more of that. She attends a contemporary only church, so I will find music of that kind to play. She has a good ear, so maybe putting notes to what she has heard on TV, etc. on paper. At the music store each summer, they have a Rock Project-groups of kids that form bands (instructor led) and play (even making a video at the end). She might enjoy that. Any other ideas are welcome. We just have to really use our imaginations to come up with creative ways to keep these youngsters in music. Jala, sounds like you are doing the exact right thing with your daughter.
Posted by: Jalapeņo

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/05/02 03:43 PM

Originally posted by Carole:
Jala, sounds like you are doing the exact right thing with your daughter.

Piano Kid says she doesn't want to perform for anyone except me. Short of choking the livin' daylights out of her & having to ask God for forgiveness afterwards, \:o I have no choice but to ride the rollercoaster with her & pray that I can keep her going.
Posted by: alidoremi

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/05/02 05:41 PM

I've found that my Jr Hi students DO NOT like to perform in recitals, festivals, and the like, but they LOVE to get together with the other kids in their group piano class. As one earlier contributor mentioned, the competition among this age is intense.

As I do mainly group instruction, I've found that I have to veer from the required curriculum and come up with "catchy" stuff every now and then to keep them motivated.

I know this might get me in hot water with copyright infrigement but...
I like arranging tunes like "Star Wars", "Chariots of Fire", "Axel F" (from Beverly Hills Cop movie) on my computer for my students' levels. We even do a rendition of "Tequila" (remember that one?), only we call it "Taquitos". I use my Yamaha digital keyboard, pick a "style", turn on the single-finger-chord, and we're cookin'!

Some kids at this age are also learning a band instrument at school, so we add that to our little musical group.
Posted by: Kola

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/05/02 07:03 PM

My daughter quit at age 12 after 6 years of lessons, the last year all coaxing from me. I was told that she was very talented by all her teachers...but I think that's when she noticed boys, or they her. I would've given my eye teeth \:D for her to continue. I tried bribing her :p and would've tried just about anything for her to continue. Her great aunts all played violin in major orchestras and I think she inherited the genetic talent for music, but could not hold on past age 12. She's 35 now. I gave her her old piano after purchasing mine recently and she swears she's going to go at it again when her life slows down some. If her last teacher had tried harder, or maybe we had the wrong teacher. Hanging on to this age group ought to be a subject in itself for the piano-teaching students.
Posted by: Amily

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/10/02 08:56 PM

I've been dealing with this age group experiencing spring fever the past few weeks. Problem is we have three performances coming up in the next two months and I expect them to work hard on their songs.

So I decided to go with a theme for our summer recital (thanks to things I've read on here and other places). I picked a "star" theme, but since none of my students are playing songs about stars I looked around for a song for me to play. I ended up choosing "Little Star" by Jim Brickman (it's so pretty, and I think the kids will appreciate it.) I got my inspiration from the Robert Frost poem "Fireflies in the Garden". The first line of that poem is, "Here come real stars to fill the upper skies..."

I chose to put this under "inspiring teenage students" because I decided to get my pre-teen and teenage students to help me out with planning this recital. Even though everyone is already working on their recital songs, I have asked some of my pre-teens/teens to play "star" songs at the recital in addition to their songs. So far I have one girl who is going to play "Second Star to the Right" from Peter Pan, one is going to play, "Evening Star" by Wagner, one is going to play "Under Starry Skies" by Kevin R. Olson, and I have another who wants to play a song, but we don't have one picked out yet. There are a couple other kids who I might ask also, but I need to come up with some other star songs (I have a really pretty arrangement of "When You Wish Upon a Star", but it's a little too hard for any of them.)

So far these girls are really getting into this. They are excited to be taking part in planning and putting on the recital. I've also asked them to help decorate. We're going to make star decorations (out of chipboard, very inexpensive), use balloons (blue and silver, of course, much prettier than yellow), and we'll string up some blue and white Christmas lights so we can dim the lights and shine the spot light on the piano.

They are really excited about making the decorations and helping me set up before the recital, and they seem to be getting motivated to really work hard for this recital (I hope they stay excited, and not just let it wear off after a couple weeks).

One thing they like though is that we are keeping it a secret from the younger students. It'll be a fun surprise for the little kids to show up to the recital and find that it is all decorated up!
Posted by: John

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/10/02 09:35 PM

Amily, do you have any young students?

Mine ABSOLUTELY LOVE "Star Quest" in HL Lesson Books 1 and 2 (same piece; different arrangements). It needs the CD/MIDI to get the full "pseudo-Star-Wars" effect.
Posted by: Amily

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/10/02 09:51 PM

Half of my students are under 9 and the other half are 10-15. The youngest just turned 5 a couple months ago.

How would you compare HL levels 1 and 2 to PA? My two youngest students (5 and 6 yrs. old) are both in PA level 1 about halfway through (and they get their songs perfect every week \:D ).

I do have a 9 year old who struggles a lot, but would be thrilled if I asked her to help out (thrilled enough to devote all of her free time to a project like this ;\) ), and would practice her little heart out on a song about a star, especially if it was to help me out (I know we're not supposed to pick favorites...)

I'll look at those songs! I need as many options as possible so if one song doesn't work out with a student, I can just pull out another one. Gotta love options.
Posted by: John

Re: inspiring teenage students - 04/10/02 11:29 PM

If you can afford it, buy the LESSON/CD packets ($7.95 each) for books 1 and 2; it's a great deal and will provide an excellent resource for guided sight-playing, improvisation, and fun!

Your 5-6 year olds will easily play Book 1; Book 2 is a nice supplement for Faber Level 1. You'll get to have more pieces with 4ths, 5ths, sharps, and flats, all introduced in HL Book 2.

Just got Alfred's 2003 catalog; other "star" pieces:

Star Light, Star Bright (EE)
Starlight Dreams (E)
Starlight Mood (LE)
Star On Broadway (EI)
Start Gazing (1p, 4h) (I)
The Star of Blandford Alley (I)
Stars and Wind (I)

(I can't recommend any...just finding titles)