The final post of the Group Teaching series written by guest contributor Marissa Erekson
I held two recitals each year – one before Thanksgiving and one in the early Spring. My students also participated in the Piano Festival in March.
As I had several students, I would schedule several short recitals within the time frame at the recital hall. This gave them a larger performance audience in comparison to the group at the weekly lessons (which often included parents and siblings when I scheduled them to perform at the end of the lessons), but not so large that they were stressed or bored with playing in front of super large audiences or in long recitals.
In the fall recital, group students typically played songs from the lesson and supplemental books that they had been working on already in lessons. This included playing the songs as solos or as “monster” duets where they all simply played the same thing at the same time. In the Spring Recital the students had 2 solos and one ensemble with their group class in which there were 2 or 4 different parts (depending on if it was a 1-piano-duet on 2 pianos or an actual quartet). The Spring Recital allowed the students the opportunity to play two additional solos in front of a judge and others of compatible levels who studied with other teachers. They played one Classical piece and one buy a living American composer.
Group Classes for Continuing Students
During the summer I offered group classes in specific musical areas (theory, composition, pop chords, history, jazz, ensemble, etc) in which students would come to class a few times the same week. This worked best in regard to working around vacation schedules. This created opportunities for students to expand their knowledge and skills in a specific area. I worked to include each of these areas in lessons during the school year, but time was always short and there were so many things to cover already. The students loved having the extra time to focus just on these specific skills.
I also had students who continued private lessons.
Group Camps for Beginner Students
I held beginner group piano camps during the summer. The camps lasted for 50 minutes a day for 5 days. I found that it greatly aided the students to have concentrated time with me for one week. We were able to cover many of the basics of piano education. There are many concepts that take a lot of lesson time, but don’t necessarily take a lot of practice time during the week in the beginning. Because of this, we were able to progress through the fundamentals quickly. We would typically cover in the one-week what would have been covered in the first couple of weeks of regular lessons. I used the lesson book that they would be using if they
continued during the school year.
This also gave both the parents and myself the opportunity to see if their kids were ready to begin lessons. I had a mix of over eager parents whose kids weren’t ready but typically came back a year later, and parents whose kids progressed more quickly then they imagined and enrolled for that school year. Parents liked to have the opportunity to expose their kids to music in a concentrated setting to see if their kids were interested and ready to sign up for regular lessons. Many of my students came from families where they did not have a lot of exposure to classical music or musical training on any instrument.
Marissa - thank you, thank you for sharing your thorough and organized approach to teaching group lessons! I am sure that many of us will benefit from your wonderful suggestions.