With the exception of fruit roll-ups, “See Spot Run”, and Beanie the class Bunny, I don’t remember much about Grade 2. I’m sure we did reading, writing, and arithmetic, after all, I turned out pretty SMRT… but I can’t remember specifics. Like I said, I remember eating fruit roll-ups, possibly doing some reading, playing with Beanie, possibly doing some writing, and then heading outside for recess.
What I do remember as clear as day, however, is that we NEVER learned reading and writing together; they were always separate entities. Not until my husband became an elementary teacher years later did I come to realize the disservice being done when the interrelationship of these disciplines is not recognized by classroom teachers.
Now, let’s leave the classroom and jump to the piano teaching studio. Is a parallel disservice making an appearance here too?
Of course! How many pianists have grown up learning to read music, but never having written a single composition? Too many!
For years, the emphasis on piano lessons has been placed on performance preparation. Students dutifully learn, practice, and perform the pieces of legends such as Bach, Beethoven, and Listz. And then they move on to learn, practice, and perform more pieces by Bach, Beethoven, and Listz. Before long they’ve morphed into a classical jukebox.
A World Without Composers
Can you imagine if legendary composers like Bach, Beethoven, and Listz learned to play without learning to compose? Without composers there would be no piano compositions, and without piano compositions, our students would be stuck playing Gregorian chants. But teaching kids to compose is about more than just writing music for others to play. In fact, teach composing and you will rid your piano studio of:
1. Yawning – Kids are egocentric. If it is about them (as composing is) they’ll be interested.
2. Eye-Rolling – Composing is theory’s really cool uncle. Nobody roles their eyes at the cool uncle.
3. Forgetfulness – Kids who compose never forget to practice… they’ll be composing and playing all week long.
4. Crying – Have a student who’s struggling with a certain topic? Get them to write a piano piece that somehow includes their roadblock.
So let’s learn from the mistakes of our language arts instructors. If two entities like reading and writing or piano playing and composing are so closely intertwined, let’s teach them together. After all, what better way to add excitement to piano lessons, all the while ridding your studio of yawning, eye-rolling, forgetfulness, and crying?