Many of my students and teacher colleagues will no doubt be breathing tired sighs of relief at the prospect that they will soon be “on holiday” … a time not just for sandy beaches, but for taking a break from the routines and responsibilities that can crowd our lives throughout most of the year.
Even those of us who continue teaching in some capacity throughout July and August will no doubt enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere and warm evenings over the coming weeks, and hopefully be able to catch ourselves at least some time away from the job!
But I noticed early in my teaching career that, come September, my returning students had often all but forgotten how to play the piano! So that’s a concern…
The relaxation of August can give way to a rather depressing start to the Autumn Term. Is there any way that as teachers (and parents) we can address this common problem?
One common approach is for teachers to set students a summer challenge of one sort or another – and for those students who haven’t yet developed an Active Repertoire this might be the ideal moment to introduce the idea…
What Can You and Your Students Play?
Teachers, parents, and players of all ages are disappointed when ground is apparently lost, and there are several important ways to foster ongoing learning.
Always keeping in mind the Three Treasures of Musical Learning, we of course want:
- Musical Essence to develop through plenty of focused listening over the summer months;
- Musical Technique to develop through ongoing practice over the holiday, including scales and appropriate exercises;
- Musical Understanding to grow through reading new pieces, catching up with music theory and discovering more of the background and history of music.
Projects can easily be suggested which will encourage curiosity and motivate learning through the summer months in each of these three areas.
But what of the music mastered in the last few months – will students still be able to play any of these pieces once the next school year gets underway?
The Active Repertoire Project
I have written here before about the need for pianists to enjoy playing the piano, not just working at it. One way that I address this through my teaching is to enthuse my students to develop an Active Repertoire.
Specifically, I encourage players to select three pieces that are performance-ready, and rather than ticking them off and leaving them behind, commit to:
- Play them regularly – if possible, daily. For most players this should only take a few minutes.
- Try to memorise them over time. Without a specific performance deadline, the memorisation process can be as natural and unforced as possible over the summer months.
- Play the Active Repertoire pieces to others – Encourage players to perform their three Active Repertoire pieces to family and friends as much as possible this summer. And perhaps while on holiday, on a course or at a summer camp, there will be an opportunity to play their Active Repertoire pieces to a brand new audience, whether on a stage, or even on the piano in a hotel lobby or on the station platform!
If you are a teacher, book in the first lesson of next term as A Performace at which your students will play you their three Active Repertoire pieces.
If you are a player, why not surprise your teach by showing up to the first lesson of the Autumn/Fall Term with three beautifully learnt and memorised pieces?
You can keep track of your Active Repertoire using this:
From Project to Challenge
For my own part, I am enjoying the opportunity to encourage players and teachers everywhere to have pieces they can sit down and play right now –
- without notice;
- without sheet music;
- and without embarrassment.
But it’s time, I think, to add a fresh Challenge to this Project …
Watch this space, because I will very soon unveil the Active Repertoire Challenge 2018/19.
You and your students will have a head start if you perfect and memorise an initial three Active Repertoire pieces this summer.
And in the meantime, be sure to also have a wonderful, refreshing and rejuvenating break!