Teen students are often the most at-risk for quitting piano lessons. They are just… so… busy. But, because I love teaching teens, and because it is way easier to keep current piano students than to have to find new piano students, I go to great lengths to seek out ways to inspire my teenagers.
Fortunately, from time to time, the tools for inspiring teenagers find me!…
My daughter’s school recently started a student tutoring program where kids in primary grades can be tutored at lunch by kids in grades 6 and 7.
I initially assumed that trading lunch for math would be the last thing a primary student would consider. But I was wrong! The chance to have one-on-one attention from “the big kids” caused a “primary student stampede” the first day it was offered. Not only were the younger kids excited about getting to spend time with the much-admired older kids… but the older kids were pretty stoked to be treated with this celebrity-like status.
The result? The younger kids were doing more homework and the older kids were becoming more invested in their educational experience at school.
So naturally, I thought… surely there must be some application for this in a piano studio…
Teen Mentoring In Your Piano Studio
I’m always looking for powerful ways to connect my teens with their piano lessons. Typically this includes a lot of creativity and self-expression, and a lot of collaboration with their same-age peers.
But what I realized I have been missing out on, was the mentoring factor; the opportunity for my teens to step into a leadership role where they are passing on their own passion and knowledge.
So, I sat down to brainstorm a bunch of opportunities that would allow my teen piano students to become studio mentors. I’ll be testing a lot of these in the coming months with my own students.
6 Ways Teens Can Become Piano Studio Mentors
- Group Piano Class Assistant: Each time you have a group piano class or party, choose one of your teen students to be your assistant. Have her help by planning activities, assisting with set-up and providing an extra set of hands during the actual event.
- Recital Buddies: Assign each of your teen piano students a “recital buddy” (a younger student in your studio). The role of the teens is to greet their buddies at the recital, sit beside them during the performances and accompany them up to the piano (if they are assigned a student whom you, the teacher, would normally have assisted).
- Composing Assistants: I’ve started this already in my studio and it’s working well. My younger students begin a composition and then leave it in their “Composing Assistant’s” folder. My teen students then offer feedback, praise and suggestions on what was created and then enter the final product into a music notation program for them (Hello in-context theory!)
- Practice Helpers: Opening your studio doors on a day you do not normally teach for “practice assistance” could really be a win-win for everyone involved. Have your younger students sign up for 20 minute sessions with your advanced students for supervised practice. There is no actual “teaching” involved – simply a friendly ear to play for and someone to help with basic instruction and organization of practice time.
- Recital Duet Partners: Instead of playing teacher duets yourself during a recital, teach the duets to your teens and have them accompany your young beginners at the recital. The younger students AND the older students will look forward to the practice sessions together!
- Piano Theory Peers: Host a “Once a Month” Piano Game Night and pair up your teens with your young students for some fun team competition! Not only will your younger students love the opportunity to play with the teens… but your teens will be reinforcing those early theory concepts that can always use a bit more speed, finesse and recall.
Thinking of hosting a Game Night? Check out Teach Piano Today’s PianoGameClub, where we send our members 4 new games every month for just $8 US.
Making It Work… In Real Life
Before you jump head-first into offering opportunities for teen mentoring, here are some tips I’ve learned from past experiences:
- When having teens assist with piano parties or group events, it may be best to have only one teen helper. Often the introduction of a second teen leads to a modification in the way both teens will act towards the younger students… often because they’ll want to appear “cool” to the other teen student.
- Keep all opportunities with teen mentors optional and free for the younger students in your piano studio. Ensure your teens know this is a volunteer opportunity and then choose the ones who are excited to participate.
- Choose your teen participants wisely – however, give the ones you may not immediately gravitate towards the chance to mentor as well… you’ll be surprised at who comes through when given the opportunity to be a role model.
- When employing Recital Buddies and/or Piano Theory Peers, keep the same kids paired up repeatedly so that they get to know each other. These “studio connections” help kids feel like part of a community, which is bound to lead to better retention rates year after year.
Do you use teen piano mentors in your studio? Tell us all about it in the comments below.