As a music teacher, your job is not only to educate but also to inspire. To truly connect your student to music, you need to know a bit about them. What kind of music do they like? Do they have favorite artists or genres? But what about the earliest experiences of music?
Preschoolers and young children are usually blank slates with little music exposure and are looking to you to introduce them to the world of music. It’s your job to play, perform and recommend playlists for them at home. The huge success of the Suzuki method is driven by the use of the pre-recorded music that you “program” the child from an early age, just like listening to a language tape.
I created some suggested listening and singing songs for young children a long time ago. These were all songs I sang to my son when he was a toddler and what they share are simple melodic structures and very simple harmonies, often just two chords, the tonic and the dominant. They are also just great for introducing early students to listening to music and eventually learning these tunes on their instruments.
After folk songs, an introduction to early Classical and Baroque music is a great choice. Actually, following the full history of music makes a lot of sense as it is builds upon itself developing greater harmony, color tones, length, etc. And, you are doing a wonderful history of music in a nutshell, whether the student knows it or not.
I used to be a VJ for MTV. (That’s Video Jockey for Music Television for those of you who weren’t around when the television channel actually played music videos all day, everyday.) What most people didn’t realize, I had no influence on what was played and when. It was all done by the “programming department” who decided which videos to play and what order to play them in and how often.
“Programming” is what you are actually doing by introducing great music to your students.
A real DJ (or VJ) would be making song selections based on mood, audience and the emotional arc desired. I’ve done this a few times in my life, and it’s a thrill to see how you can shape the crowd based on song selections and timing. You can really bring a crowd to a frenzy!
Well, the same thing happens when you are planning your lessons. After a while, say a few months, you are going to have a good feel for who your students are. You should be noticing what types of pieces they really respond to and start offering more in that direction.
Older students are usually beginning to show real preferences and some may have a favorite artist, rock band or Broadway Show with songs they want to learn.
This past week, as I’ve been prepping for lessons, after many students took the summer off, I’ve gone through my past lesson notes to see what could be that perfect next song for the student? What song would offer a new challenge that is not too overwhelming? And I realized, it’s just like being a DJ, only on a longer macro scale.
My 11 year old piano student K was learning “Titanium” by David Guetta which led me to “Flashlight” performed by Jesse J as heard in the movie Pitch Perfect 2. A perfect segue!
My 8 year old piano student L was so into “Maps” by Maroon 5 and “Happy” by Pharell Williams…what should come next? Hmm. Still programming that one for later today.
What songs have you used to inspire and what did that lead to? Please share in the comments below.