A talented student is playing during his lesson – his parents and I are the audience, listening and melting with joy. The student is flushed, entirely empowered by his passion for playing, as if each sound is turning this God’s creation into a composer and interpreter. All three as a whole unite with the music. Sometimes you get goose bumps at such moments and life is worth living.
But the human being is a very social species. A gifted child wants to share his success. He wants to play for his friends, for acquaintances and strangers. He wants to share his talent with others to confirm that someone else appreciates his skills, too. He wants to make sure they are valued by more people than just his mom, dad and music teacher.
Let’s see what is in store for him – a talented child at the beginning of the 21st century. I am going to write about his experience in the USA because I live here and witness such stories over and over again. Perhaps in other countries everything is different, but I think difference is not very large.
“Who needs your talent?” – This is the first message that society gives to any talented performer. Buried into iPhones and iPads, we learn to “call up” any music the way Aladdin called his obedient genie from the lamp. “OK, Sweetie,” we say to a live musician, “Prove to us that you can produce something better than this digital device!”
Van Cliburn, Scott Joplin (Lady Gaga, Britney Spears – you name it!) performs THIS better then you! Don’t even try to pretend to be as great as they are! You are not an original – you are just a copy.
Therefore, talented kids and even professional performers mostly play in front of . . . an audience who eats while they listen. So what? While they are busy enjoying food and conversation, they also enjoy your performance as long as you are not too loud and/or impertinent.
“Keep playing, pianist, keep playing . . . Just don’t bother us while we eat and talk.”
Often I receive letters from the people that learn and teach to play piano and read music with my curriculum “Soft Way to Mozart.” And they’re not only from parents. Adult-beginners and even teens are also asking me the same questions: How do we MAKE ourselves study music on a regular basis? How do we maintain an interest in practicing now – in our busy modern times when “nobody cares” whether or not we play? How do we stay motivated for the chore of practicing in the summertime or on holidays, in winter and in spring when there are way too many activities and seemingly NO TIME and besides, “who cares”?
Here are some thoughts I want to share with you:
1. Power of Music. We should explain to our students while we keep reminding ourselves that music education is a tool for training our minds. The solution to ANY problem – whether logical or emotional – is easier to find if you can make music, play instruments; passive listening is not as effective.
You may push a button and pull a tune from your iPod - you may also sit and perform the same exact piece yourself at the piano. The quality of the performance is probably very different and most likely not in your favor. But the quality of the IMPACT on YOUR mind will be much stronger if you will make the music and interpret it by yourself.
The cells of our own cortex will be intensely stimulated emotionally and logically at the same time. And OUR mind will be able to find the most correct decision to solve your problems. Most importantly, by MAKING music by yourself with your own body, heart and soul, you are participating in a process of changing your own life and fate. You receive a very important message from your own subconscious: you are a master of your own life even when you’re play by notes written by another creator.
For children this is one of the most important lessons of their lives. It is no accident that Plato named music education the foundation of general study, and making music should be placed in front of all of the other subjects.
2. Surroundings. Russians have a saying that a really educated person ought to have at least 3 diplomas: his, his parents and his grandparents. Suggest to create a “cult of music education” in your students' homes. Do not be intimidated by the word “cult.” After the global pull back from music education, when music is gradually being squeezed out of public schools and pianos are given away for free to be replaced by pieces of furniture, it is time to swing the pendulum the other way.
Without a piano or even a digital keyboard, a home has no soul. This instrument has to have the most comfortable place in the house, accessible to all family members. This instrument should never collect any dust on it. If someone goes to play it, with or without headphones, everyone else should respect this creative act and never prevent it from happening.
3. Social communication. Encourage your students and their parents to find “brothers in music making.” Carefully look around in your child’s day-care center or school. Are there any other parents who understand the importance of music education and whose child is taking piano classes?
Ask them: 'Do you enjoy meeting people?' Suggest to initiate some meetings – evenings – parties, where children and adults will play music pieces for each other. Make it a tradition! Communicate, have fun, eat delicious food, let kids communicate with each other, too. Why don’t we add more flavor and meaning to your parties?
Such meetings can change the quality of your communication not just with other adults, but also with children – big time! Start with a little recital. When your little “pumpkins” and you play music pieces prepared especially for the event, the bond between generations will become much stronger.
4. Virtual communication. Internet communities. Interactive communication can also be a huge incentive for taking music lessons for your customers and their children.
A little more than a year ago, we founded the Soft Mozart community (a forum and network) for people who want to receive a good effective music education.
Our experience proved to us how important is it to be heard and to have the ability to communicate while receiving a music education. Even little children love to play for their peers from different countries as well as listen to their friends’ performances. They like to hear the pieces that they are learning as well as new ones. After that they suddenly say to their parents: “I am going to learn this song, too!”
5. Join our Soft Mozart community and share your students/children's You Tube videos. We developed our Academy with the goal of giving music educators not only an opportunity to communicate directly, but also to give their students a chance to get inspired by other learners and/or their parents. By being in touch with people who care about music education and who wants the best for their children and themselves, our community members receive positive reinforcement and strengthen their own motivation.
We send each participant a Certificate of participation and special gifts to build the strong motivation to learn how to play piano and read music.