Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What to do with piano lessons?

Colleen performs her arrangement of "Misty" with her jazz combo.
I recently had a couple of students ask what they can do with piano lessons other than practice at home and come to the lesson. Good question. What does a child do with piano skills? What does an adult student do with piano skills? Of course there are the usual recital formats associated with lessons, but here are a few change-ups. Consider them my two cents worth:

1. Play at church
Many churches permit students to play during offertory or other services. This a is a great opportunity to perform in front of others and share your gifts.

2. Hold a family recital
What's wrong with having your own solo recital at home? Have students choose their favorite pieces from lessons and create their own program. Set up chairs in the living room and dress up. Invite the family to come at a scheduled time and start the show. Make popcorn and drinks for your refreshments after the recital. (It sure beats sitting together in a room silently, each on their own electronic device....)

3. Learn a new instrument
Are you kidding? As we all know piano is the BEST foundation for learning any new instrument. I am a HUGE advocate for encouraging my students to learn as many instruments as they can get their hands on. This is not a threat to my business, on the contrary, this make them better pianists!

4. Join Marching Band
As a 5-year veteran marching band mom, I can ASSURE you that these kids not only love what they do, they are fantastic musicians and you don't have to worry about them hanging around with a goth crowd or piercing their faces. Junior and Senior Drum Corps is quite another matter.....

5. Learn the Tuba and join a community band.
I don't think I've met a band director yet who doesn't desperately need low brass. Community bands are loaded with adult music students. They generally have a great time and there usually aren't too many egos to check.

6. Wine and Cheese Rep class
This is a huge hit with adult students. Once a month or every 2 months hold what is essentially a cocktail party for adult students. NO spouses allowed! Allow the students to play without a critical audience. Just let them have a glass of wine, eat some hors d'oeuvres, and play whatever they are working on in lessons (no matter what condition its in) and enjoy an evening of new friends and music.

7. Play at an Open Mic night
Adults and children alike can play anytime at the Music & Arts open mic night. There is usually a good crowd and students really have fun playing their pieces.

Susan runs through "Don't Know why" at Open Mic to prep
for the Cabaret.

Allison performs her arrangement of "How High the Moon"
with vocals and jazz combo.

8. Play at a club that has a piano. 
My adult students participated in this last fall. Families could come in and order coffee and lunch, while the adult students performed "Autumn" pieces on the piano.

9. Accompany for a vocal instructor.
Vocal teachers don't always accompany their own students. This is a great opportunity for more advanced students to utilize their piano skills.

10. Accompany for school chorus.
I know lots of students who have done this. Generally, the chorus teachers allow piano students to accompany a song or two for concerts.

11. Play with your church praise band.
I have an intermediate student who learned "He is Exalted" so well and beautifully, that she is prepared to play with her praise band. What a great opportunity to play with a group of professionals!

12. Play at a Bed & Breakfast
Will (adult student) performs "Satin Doll"
on piano with his jazz combo.
Last summer my students took part in a summer cabaret at the Annapolitan Bed & Breakfast in Annapolis. They had the chance to actually play with several professional musicians at this event. We learned to comp from a professional jazz player and to play from a lead sheet. A few of my students have the talent to sing and play at the same time and they had the chance to showcase this talent at the cabaret.

Then we worked on some jazz tunes and at the end of the summer, performed for a crowd of over 100 people!! It was an unforgettable event!

Susan sings and plays "Don't Know Why" at the Cabaret.


  1. These are great ideas. This summer my daughter, 8 years old and playing the fiddle, had a number of performance opportunities. First, her teacher organized some group practices to prepare for the Highland Games in Maxville Ontario. They were going to perform as a group there -some solos too. As well, some of the kids learned the Massed Fiddle tunes that would be performed by about 80 fiddles on the Friday night of the games. She went to those practices as well which were a lot of fun with fiddlers of all ages participating. And then on Tuesday nights during July there are ceilidhs at the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame where any and all fiddlers are welcome to come out and play. It was so much fun for her - and wonderful that older fiddlers were happy to see her and encourage her. She learned a lot of new tunes - developed her ear quite a bit and found purpose in her playing.

  2. What a wonderful opportunity for her! Maybe you can make it an annual event.

  3. This happens every year here... you can google the Maxville Highland Games... I think it's the North American Championships especially for bagpiping. A number of years ago a fiddler got on the committee and lobbied for the celtic fiddlers to have more of a part in the games. So Friday afternoon is dedicated to the youth fiddlers and Saturday is more for the adult fiddlers... and then there is the Massed Fiddlers. 46 youth fiddlers performed this year. And you can also google the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame in Williamstown. That's where the ceilidhs are held. This is the second year that Evelyn participated in the Massed Fiddles (she was the youngest last year at 7 years old - and also this year) And it was the 3rd year that she's gone to the ceilidhs. All the "old" fiddlers love the young ones to come out... it's packed with people every Tuesday night. Lots of fun.