Confessions 4: Choosing music with each student

Guest Author: Simon Reich   “Confessions Series

Following on from his warmly received guest post “Confessions of a Piano Student“, Simon Reich invited teachers from around the world to answer 8 Questions.
In this series he shares their answers…

Question 4

When I had lessons as a young man, my teacher had a set, worn path of selected pieces, so the answers to this question interested me no end.

“Are the selection of music to be learnt, important to maintaining the interest of a student? Do you tailor the music to each student?”

Ioana Andreea Boancă : Definitely. When I was in the music school we had to learn certain pieces (a baroque piece, a classical, a study, romantic or modern and scales). And we never had a choice, I’d find myself liking other kids’ pieces and wonder why I couldn’t have it. So now even though I still choose music from various ages to get them to be used to it, I always offer options, and the kids get to choose which one they like best and still have a complete repertoire stylistically speaking and yes, I personalise my piano classes to each student…some are fast learners, some are slow, some are just lazy, I’m letting them go in their own pace.

Nikolas Sideris : Heck yes! In fact I tend to compose for my students (being someone with a PhD in music composition). However, some control has to be forced, otherwise one might end up with a continuous stream of new age music!

Jenny Walker : I do. Some like jazz and improv and I respond to that. Sometimes they’re surprised at how much they enjoy classical pieces too.

Jimmy Rotherham : Yes, absolutely, to both questions. Like Nicholas, I compose for my students and play and improvise with them.

Donal Gormley : Yes to both. If the music doesn’t connect, student will lose interest.

Joanne Snowden Yes and yes. I learnt the hard way when I lost a couple of students because their music was boring. Now I select from a wide range of music and books for each student.

Sarah Martin : Yes it’s important to engage the pupil’s interest but also to broaden it and introduce them to music they don’t know and may not experience. I always try to let pupils learn something they want to learn alongside the more standard repertoire.

Naomi Craddock : I like my students to choose the pieces they will learn, and make sure they cover a wide range of styles.

Alison Mathews : Absolutely, the music must motivate the pupil and there is so much choice available that good repertoire, no matter what the style, isn’t hard to find. I know my pupils tastes but will always share something new and something I’m excited by as even if it isn’t something you think they’d like, you never know! I do also think it’s important to share a variety of music and widen pupils experience and outlook but above the pupil must connect and engage with the music.

Frances Magdalene Wilson : Absolutely. I quickly get to know the kind of repertoire which individual students enjoy and I encourage students to select their own repertoire (with guidance if necessary). They progress more quickly and remain more fully engaged if they are playing music they like. This is true of adult students too


It was greatly encouraging to read the answers to this question and to even hear that teachers questioned their students, trying to ascertain genre interests and then tailoring music content to individual students.

This is such an obvious way to engage a students interest and longevity in attending music education.

Next:  In the next instalment Simon asks the teachers group how they would respond to a student who listens to Heavy Metal music or asks to play the synthesiser…

Simon Reich

Simon is a pianist and award winning composer from Victoria, Australia.
Further information : Simon Reich Music
Simon is a regular contributor to Pianodao.

Please leave a Comment:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.