Read any piano forum or blog on the internet and you’ll find that one of the biggest issues facing today’s teachers is the retention of teenage students. In fact, amongst teachers, it is almost a given that many of their students will “pack it in” when they hit those formative teen years.
At our music school, this doesn’t happen. Instead, more often that not, we actually increase our teenage piano population year after year as word spreads about our school’s ability to connect with our teenage piano students.
Retention of our teens and tweens is based on many factors, but certainly our flexible nature towards their desire to participate in piano recitals contributes a great deal. Teenagers have a heightened sense of self-awareness as they try to carve out a niche for themselves in this world. Putting themselves “out there” in a piano recital is a huge risk for a group of young adults, many of whom are desperately trying to protect their fragile self-image. No wonder so many teenage piano students shudder at the thought of a piano recital.
To make an event such as a piano recital mandatory is a complete lack of respect for the difficult times our teenage piano students are going through. And unfortunately, this “mandatory” attitude by many teachers, forces our teenage students to give up on an instrument that can actually really help them wade through their emotions during these difficult years.
Music is a wonderful outlet for people to lose themselves in. How many great pieces of work have been written by artists in emotional turmoil? How many people turn to music to help them escape life’s pressures? The piano can be a wonderful counsellor for our emotionally fragile teenage piano students. It is in these years that teenagers need to escape TO the piano, not FROM the piano.
Don’t force them into piano recitals! When they have built up confidence in themselves and have etched out a place in this world, they will be ready to perform!