My mom is an amazing cook. This means I am in the fortunate position of sampling some pretty amazing culinary treats… (Mom: if you’re reading this, we’re free for dinner tomorrow by the way. Just sayin’) So when I came across this video from the New York Times the title grabbed me immediately. The premise of the video was to invite a group of 2nd graders to one of the fanciest restaurants in New York City; treating them to a 7-course $220 meal and filming their reactions to the food.
If you have the time, I highly recommend watching the 7 minute video below. Watch it not only for the hilarious facial expressions and comments, but for a really valuable piano teaching insight.
What I Learned About Teaching Piano From This Group of Kids
In my quest to be unique, relevant and interesting as a piano teacher this was a great reminder that “unique, relevant and interesting” doesn’t always mean I need to do away with the tried, tested and true. It’s easy to assume that all children today would rather play the Frozen soundtrack than they would Mozart… but this isn’t always the case. If you noticed, some of those kids in the video actually liked the caviar!
And so rather than lump all children into the “Ewww that’s gross!” category where they’re all fed a familiar and comforting “diet” of what’s assumed to be preferred by children, it’s a good reminder to be varied in my piano teaching offerings.
And varied doesn’t just have to apply to repertoire selection, but rather to learning styles, teaching methods, teaching materials, piano games, method books… everything.
And while it’s always easier to feed kids a “peanut butter sandwich” of familiarity, it’s worth it to throw in some gourmet cuisine. Because if we don’t… our students may never know what they’re missing!
Offering “Gourmet” To Your Piano Students
So how do you go about offering this variety to your piano students without causing them to wrinkle their noses in distaste? Let’s look to the video for further inspiration.
1. Create an atmosphere of mutual respect. The children in this video were created as grandly as any New York millionaire. If your piano studio is a place where they feel valued and as though they are entitled to having opinions that matter, then they will be more likely to take risks with their selections.
2. Pair choices with information. As you present alternate choices, be sure to include relevant and interesting information. When presenting repertoire, tell them a bit about the composer. When presenting an alternate learning method, discuss how it could make new connections in their brain. When presenting a piano game, discuss the learning outcome. Just as the children were told the ingredients of each dish they were presented, arm your students with the information to make a decision.
3. Present unfamiliar options with a flourish. The children’s dishes were “plated” beautifully (note the child’s remark that it “It looks like a little forest!”). Ensure that the options you are presenting to your piano students are presented with reverence, and significance…as though you are bestowing a gift that they may accept if they so choose. That which is unfamiliar becomes intriguing instead of threatening when it is presented in a special way.
Some Will Say “Ewww”, But Others…
Will your “$220 dinner” offerings go to waste? It’s likely. Not all children are willing to take risks with their choices (that poor little blonde boy in the video looked as though he’d give his right arm for a chicken nugget). But you may be surprised at how many pick and choose from your offerings and discover a hidden delight. And it is in those moments, when you’ve sparked a new interest, that you have the potential to shift your piano students’ future at the piano. So pop on your chef’s hat… and give it a try!