Keeping the kiddies happy

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    megan-reeve on #83239

    I have a few younger students (aged 9-12yrs or so) who have no issues with declaring standard teaching material is boring and they only want to play current pop stuff. I’m more than happy to have a balanced diet of music for all players, but the problem I face is that these younger ones don’t have the technical abillity to play anything beyond 2nd or 3rd grade pieces and don’t have fully levered harps. So I need to find suitably recent music which is very accesible and has no sharps or flats.

    Any suggestions?

    Jessica A on #83240

    Maybe you could tell them once they’re out on their own, they can play whatever they want.

    Amber M on #83241

    Nothing wrong with trying to find stuff they actually want to play…goal is to KEEP them wanting to play, right? Maybe try some of the easy piano books and modify them. I know they have movie soundtracks and such. Or maybe if they like a particular pop song, you can find something that sounds similar. I think it’s great you’re trying to work WITH them! Good for you!

    sherry-lenox on #83242

    Duets! Look for things that you can share, you taking the chromatic parts and students taking bass line, ostinato for harmony, etc.

    Use only for dessert, after the meat part of lesson is done.

    As a second alternative, select a small piece that they like and offer it as a challenge- if they can play a four measure phrase in their lesson, they can add four measures the next week.

    Always be sure that what they are choosing is a very small part of lesson time and make it clear that choice time is strictly a privilege and not automatically a part of the lesson.

    Elizabeth L on #83243

    Imagine a student sitting there telling Salzedo the music is boring.

    diana-day on #83244

    So true, Amber. There are a lot of children (and adults) who don’t respond positively to rigid lesson plans and an authoritarian teaching style.

    Julietta Anne Rabens on #83245

    You could challenge them to pick out some of their favorite tunes by ear and then talk about adding chords during the lessons and then do that in addition to the regular repertoire. Another option for dealing with students declaring music “boring” is to have them first learn it as written and then let them make their own arrangement of it. See if they can articulate what would make it interesting and work towards adapting it.

    There are times in which the resistance is more of a game for the child than an actual reaction to the music presented. That is one reason why I try to place the responsibility on them to make the music “interesting” by challenging them to make their own arrangement. Whether or not it is a game it makes them think about what they value in sound and to explore ways to create a unique voice. It can enhance their musical development along one avenue, and it is sometimes the only avenue they are able to explore at a particular time in their life. It can help to establish mutual respect which can then lead to a broader range of concepts which they can be taught. A student cannot fully learn until that resistance is addressed, and that can be the hardest part of the process. They are bringing in baggage they have gathered from other experiences with authority figures and so it can help to create a different dynamic than they have encountered before, although each case is unique and will require different strategies.

    As a teacher it helps to maintain an even temperament and make a joke when possible.

    Julietta Anne Rabens on #83246

    I’ll share one anecdote from my twenty years of music teaching. Years ago I had a really cute eight year old student come into her lesson, look me directly in the eye and declare, “It is easy to break a teacher!”. I responded by declaring her name in a dramatic, mock horror which sent her to giggling and dispelled all the tension. She reacted negatively to her pieces as “boring” and such as you have mentioned. I used the approach I described a bit with her and made some progress, but it is also worth noting that it isn’t possible to get through to every student. As teachers we can do our honest best by thinking positively of the student even when their behavior could elicit a negative response, and by being aware to understand something about the context of their behavior. The little girl I mentioned needed an adult to set clear boundaries for her, to be non-reactive, and to be a strong role model. I figured something of this out and tried to give her that in a way that maintained positivity.

    I wish you good luck, and I’m sure you will learn a great deal from working through this.

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