Which of the following do you consider essential for music students of any instrument?
Repertoire, theory, scales, improvisation and chord study, performance preparation, harmonization, playing by ear, composer study, technique exercises, music games, composing.
They say that whatever you spend time on is what you value.
Yikes! My weekly private lessons usually include scales, chords, 2 repertoire pieces, and a theory page. Sometimes we add in another activity such as harmonization or playing from a chord chart. But that's really all we have time for. And yet, I really do value all of those "other skills".
How can you possibly pass on all of the fun, challenging, and motivating knowledge that made teaching music become your passion in only 30 minutes a week?!
Have you ever thought of group classes? Not the kind where you set up multiple keyboards in a room and each student is forced to play the same piece, no matter if it is too easy or too difficult. This is a whole different animal!
Imagine a world in which your students had an unlimited capacity to learn and unlimited time for lessons and practice. And you had an unlimited amount of time to teach, as well as unlimited resources.
Let's do a quick exercise:
Things like composing, improvising, playing the 12-bar blues, accompanying, music history, games and activities, performance preparation exercises, performance etiquette and ensembles can become a reality. There are limitless possibilities!
There are three main reasons I started group classes in my studio:
Also, I have implemented group classes without adding more lesson time to my week and without changing my tuition structure for the last 8 years of my teaching and love it! More on that in the next post.
Before I give you the details on how to structure group classes, let's think about lessons from the student's perspective.
Why do students take lessons to begin with?
What would students play if put in front of a piano or violin or flute 5 years after quitting lessons?
Scales? Mary Had a Little Lamb? A Beethoven Sonata that was a long struggle?
OF COURSE NOT! Students don't want to struggle forever on a piece, only to forget how to play it in 3 months. They want to ENJOY music.
Here are some statements from research about students after they quit lessons:
Did you catch the theme?
One of the main reasons students take music lessons is to have fun!
Don't think students are only quitting music lessons. Another survey of 237 parents of children who had discontinued hockey frequently cited demand of other activities, lack of fun, and lack of interest as the reason for quitting.
So think about this ... how are we creating an atmosphere of learning wrapped up with a bow of FUN for our students?
One of my answers to that question was to create group classes. In fact, here is what one of my students said:
Attending group lessons and seeing my peers all at once is a lot of fun! We recently learned about performance anxiety and new composers. I truly love attending the group lessons because having private lessons all the time is great, but its fun having more people.
And an adult student said:
I loved the body percussion activity, as well as learning to improvise. I felt less isolated by seeing what other adult students were learning. And I appreciated learning new techniques and styles that I might not have tried otherwise.
So, what does this kind of group class look like? Read Part 2 to learn how to structure, plan, and schedule group classes in your studio.