Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to get your students to like (classical) music.

To be honest, I haven't completely figured this one out yet. Kids aren't born with an innate love of any type of music; their taste develops based on what their parents listen to and as they get older, what their friends listen to. And let's be honest folks, that's not normally classical music. Over and over I've seen students who are really interested in learning to play an instrument, but not interested at all in listening to the music written for the instrument. I find this to be pretty strange, but I've accepted it as reality and learned to view it as a challenge for my teaching skills.

Last week, in honor of it being a leap year AND Rossini's 220th birthday, Google put up an awesome doodle.

I thought that this would be a great opportunity to teach about Rossini, and in particular, his orchestral overture La Scala di Seta. I think one of the best ways to get a student to connect with symphonic music is to let them listen to an excerpt where their instrument really shines.  So, I went on Youtube and found some examples of the piece. I had originally planned on just using one recording, but in my search I found this great recording of The New Dutch Academy playing La Scala di Seta on period instruments. BAM!! A teachable moment (courtesy of Google) had just turned into a powerhouse opportunity to talk about a composer, difficult pieces for our instrument, modern orchestras, baroque/classical orchestras, and period instruments. I wish you could've seen their faces light up when they heard the fast part of this excerpt.

Now, I believe part of my job as a private teacher is to be producing life-long lovers of music. They may not all end up as professional musicians, but I want all of them to be in the concert audiences of tomorrow. The hardest part of this is getting them to attend live performances. I have students who ALWAYS go to concerts and students who NEVER go to concerts; I'm sure most of you have the exact same mix in your studios.

For a while, I had been kicking around the idea of an incentive program for concert attendance. The idea was that every time a student attended a concert (that they weren't playing in) they would get a "Reed Bucks" card that was worth $5.00 in the studio. Once they got three of these cards, they would get a free reed, which they can use whenever they want. I knew I would get frustrated trying to design this, which is when I realized that I have a budding artist right in my own studio. Here is what she designed for me:
Image courtesy of Karly Andreassen
Isn't it great? I tiled them onto a business card template in Microsoft Publisher and printed them back and front on heavy business card stock. This happened last week, so I'm still waiting to see if it increases concert attendance in my studio, but I'm pretty positive that it will. A free reed is a free reed, and as one of my best friends says "Free is my very favorite price." Now, will I lose out a little bit on these free reeds? Absolutely, but in the long run it's not really that much, and I think the reward of having kids who are really engaged in the music that is written for their instrument will be well worth it.

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