When I taught piano, I noticed something about my students’ learning. The first two years were easy and a student got satisfaction quickly from playing recognizable melodies.
Year three, however, separated the long-term gain students from the others. Pieces are more difficult at this point and practice time is lengthier than 15 or 20 minutes a day. The student begins to learn more serious piano literature. Practice sessions involve more technique with exercises to improve the fingers and the ear.
Most parents can tell the difference between their child suffering through learning an instrument they dislike, and one going through growing pains. If you think it’s growing pains, encourage your child and help them to stick with it. Here’s why.
A child engages both sides of the brain when they study piano. Both hands and all fingers learn to operate independently. They problem solve, they learn creative interpretation, they develop listening skills, and they learn tenacity. Research reported in National Geographic calls piano study a “cognitive training program” that later on benefits aging brains.
After the year three difficulties, there’s smoother sailing, and your child learns that effort and stick-to-it-tive-ness pays off.
When I teach science, I look for opportunities to integrate the arts because the arts are means of expression for everyone. To me, it doesn’t matter if you know much about classical music. It’s more important to use music and help others to enjoy it by making direct connections with other disciplines.
You can do this, too.
For example, The Planets, composed in 1914-1915 by British composer Gustav Holst, is a suite of pieces inspired by his understanding of astronomy and astrology. My favorite piece is “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” because its musical themes are recognizable to many.
After learning about the solar system, I’ve asked children to listen to “Jupiter,” had them evaluate what they hear in the piece, and then determine if it expands or deepens their understanding of the planet. This is quite sophisticated for children of any age, but I’ve been astonished at the insights of even young students.
You can follow the lead by listening to the great Leonard Bernstein speak about The Planets. “Jupiter” begins at about 24:58.
Some time ago, my husband and I agreed to stop spending more than $2.00 on a card. Later on, we scratched even the $2.00 and resumed our note writing. I say “resumed” because back in college, we wrote love letters to each other every week for two years.
I saved every one of his. Forty years later, I discovered them bundled together in our cellar.
His handwriting hasn’t changed much. He used his own voice, wrote in his style, from his heart. His love sings clearly and he writes about specifics—what he’s thinking of me as he rushes off for work, how he feels as he drives home. The letters said things that were meant only for me. Above all, he took the time to send it in an envelope with a stamp, something rare today.
Believe it or not, there’s a parallel here to home and the classroom. We educators are taught to give specific praise to a child. “You chose an excellent synonym for ‘yellow’” helps the child more than the generic “Good job!” Not that “good job!” is wrong, but it can mean anything to anyone.
It’s the same thing with Valentine’s Day cards. Why purchase generic messages? Write a handwritten love letter to your child, full of specific things that only you know and notice.
Also, remember that the best love letters are personal. In forty years, your child might even have a bundle of them, in their own cellar, to rediscover.
“It’s Shark Week!” The radio voice awakened me with this news, which I thought was an awesome way to start the day.
This tooth is more than an inch long and still quite sharp. (K.Nollet 2015)
Sharks thrill us with wonder, curiosity, and fear. Once you learn more about sharks, though, the fear usually turns to respect. That’s how I feel when I visit the beach in Venice, Florida.
Notice the different colors. (K.Nollet, 2015)
Prehistoric sharks’ teeth wash up everywhere. One look at these shiny dark triangles and my mind starts organizing a math lesson. Or a science project. Or writing and art. You get the idea.
This summer, why not collect objects from the natural world to bring to your children? It doesn’t matter if they’re from your local park or someplace exotic. Display your finds at a child’s level, add a few books, and watch their curiosity grow.
N.B. Shiver refers to a group of sharks.
My children attended a high school that encouraged its students to listen to music if it helped them focus on their work. Neither ear buds, nor phones, nor iPods were banned.
Do you prefer piano music? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)
I like this philosophy of beginning with trust. It shows both faith in a student’s ability to make appropriate choices, and then values the student’s choice.
Note the suggestion of raindrops in Chopin’s score.(Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)
Students who were distracted by music received help or support depending on their needs. The teachers’ overarching goal was to help students learn what worked best and helped them concentrate.
For me, it depends on what the task is, so I adjust my environment accordingly. Favorite musical soundtracks, jazz, or early music are some of what I use. Today, I offer Frédérik Chopin’s (1810-1849) Prelude No. 15 in D-flat Major, also known as the “Raindrop.” How does this piece work for you?
Posted in Arts, Common Core, Grandparents, Music, Parents and children, Teaching and Learning
Tagged Chopin, education, elementary, learning environment, middle school, secondary education
“Yodel-ay-hee-hooo!” sang my mother in the car. She had a natural talent for it, learned it as a camp counselor, and once she got going, she’d spin the yodel part like this:
After The Sound of Music movie came out, and Julie Andrews sang “The Lonely Goatherd,” it was fun to have a mother who could yodel on request. No one else’s mother could.
Yodeling originated in the Alps as a form of communication, which makes this Jimmy Fallon/Brad Pitt Tonight Show video even more hilarious: