There are many choices for a teacher to use when introducing a child to the piano. Some have been used and proven for decades. Some concepts just continue to work from year to year. The most respected methods have continued to adjust and develop their method to reach each generation of children.
Piano Fun for Kids is yet another way to introduce children to the piano. While some children have a piano at home waiting for them to learn, other families are concerned about purchasing a costly instrument only to find their child has lost interested in a half of a year. Often times, they settle for a second-rate digital instrument or worse yet, an untunable cheap instrument they found online.
Piano Fun for Kids is about introducing the piano in a fun and enjoyable way even if the child does not have an instrument to practice. The end-goal is to help a child discover a love for music-making and a love for the piano and giving the parent confidence and even assistance in their musical instrument investment.
Piano Fun for Kids is designed to be a group experience. Classes are high-energy and the songs the children play are accompanied with fun accompaniment tracks. Six-week mini-semesters are purposefully designed to be to allow the child and family to make small achievable commitments. Each semester only has one book to work through so instead of purchasing four books as most piano methods require upfront, the family only invests in one book at a time. Each book comes with the same accompaniment tracks we use in class so the student can practice with them developing their rhythmic understanding and simply making piano playing fun.
After four mini-semesters of Piano Fun for Kids, the student is well-prepared to continue in piano privately or they may choose to move on to another instrument and the strong musical foundation they have developed in Piano Fun for Kids will help them achieve.
Piano Fun for Kids classes are offered at the Wausau Conservatory of Music in Wausau, Wisconsin and the curriculum is available to any teacher who wants to utilize it for their own group piano classes.
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Over the years I've taught piano, the lesson I've personally learned over and over is that "one size doesn't fit all." Students are different. Interests change. Students of today have a different learning style from the students I taught when I first left college. While the piano method I taught from at that time is still a good option for teachers, I no longer teach that method. In fact, I don't even teach from the method I used after that!
I'm particular as I choose resources for my students. I have learned that the resources I choose play a very significant role in the success of my teaching.
When I started to teach Recreational Music Making group piano classes, I quickly identified a set of resources that work wonderfully for adults. The adults love them and I will continue to use them. But, I was disappointed in the options for children. There were some standouts. I tried one which did not work for the classes I taught. I reviewed several other options including adapting private-lesson curriculum and even adapting adult curriculum, but I did not find a resource that would engage children at their level, keep their interest, be fun, and allow a student to learn and progress, yet creating a learning environment that was built on the purposes of Recreational Music Making.
I wanted a resource that provided a strong foundation for reading music notation, yet would take a young student to that point in an enjoyable way. I wanted a resource that would challenge the student to improvise and create. I wanted a resource that would challenge the student to listen to the music around them. I wanted a resource that would build a strong rhythmic foundation and challenge the student to read and play from chord notation. I wanted a resource that would give a student a vision for all the possibilities playing music on the piano gives them including musical opportunities in school, building a strong foundation to transfer to other instruments, and creating a music lover. On top of all that, I wanted a resource that would allow a student to have a productive mini-semester or two of piano lessons even if they didn't have an instrument at home. One that acknowledged that as a possibility and provided assignment options that could be done without an instrument in addition to assignment options that required a piano or keyboard. Think of the mistakes that could be avoided by parents who rush purchase an inferior instrument so their child can simply start lessons rather than being able to advise them in making a great instrument choice as their child is already learning and developing a love for making music.
Piano Fun for Kids is specifically designed for group lessons. As a distinction from private lessons where most of the student's progress takes place through regular practice at home, in Piano Fun for Kids, most of the student's progress and development takes place within the class. Lessons are short and engaging. Songs are performed together as a class with great accompaniment tracks and these tracks are available for the student to use at home if they wish. The curriculum can be used in private lessons, but it is designed for Recreational Music Making group lessons. There are a total of 8 mini-levels, each takes six-weeks to complete. In most cases, this would be a two-year progression of study. At any time, a student would be able to easily transition into private lessons and after completing the two-year progression, the student would be at a level of expertise where private lessons would be more beneficial than further class study.
The pilot program for Piano Fun for Kids will be offered beginning in the fall semester of 2019 at Wausau Conservatory of Music. A 3-week introductory program called Piano Fun for Kids-Explorers is being offered multiple times during the summer of 2019 as a way to test portions of the curriculum in a class setting and to allow students to try a piano class at no obligation. Families in the Wausau area can sign up for the free classes by clicking here. To sign up for the first level beginning this September, contact the Wausau Conservatory of Music.
As the school year comes to a close, I really love to look back on all of the opportunities I had to collaborate with students, professors, and others professionals over the past weeks and months. In each case, there are the great memories of performing a piece and of course the journey to get there. Sometimes that journey is easier than others, but it always results in a learning experience and I believe in every case, a great feeling of accomplishment for both the soloist and myself as the collaborator. This list is not exhaustive, and I'm sure I forgot about a few wonderful pieces we performed along the way. I also did not include performances with choirs, vocal jazz ensembles, instrumental jazz ensembles, Southern Gospel groups, or music from church services. In addition, I didn't include the repertoire from a CD I recorded and released this year. Yes, it has been a busy and productive two semesters!
Another enjoyable school year of accompanying some great repertoire. Of course, there were many other great pieces that could be added to this list of solo repertoire with church, choral accompanying, Wisconsin Choral Directors Association performances, and jazz vocal ensembles.
It is always fun to look back at pieces practiced and played during the last school year. Much of the instrumental repertoire is quite challenging to play, but I really enjoy accompanying students on this repertoire even though it takes me more time in preparation than vocal repertoire. This year, I had a good mix and looking back at these titles brings back some great memories of student performances throughout the year. I did not try to include choral accompaniments and that would add many more pieces to the list. Only solo repertoire and one duet are included here.
Here is the 2016-2017 list: