Whether you are a piano teacher or a student, chances are good that you’ve noticed a certain reluctance to attend lessons and practice during the summer.
The days are long and warm, and the opportunities for outdoor recreation are numerous. Moreover, school most likely isn’t in session, so there’s definitely a relaxation of the usual routine.
Still, students probably don’t want to lose the progress they’ve made during the school year, so it’s worthwhile to try some new and creative approaches to piano lessons and practice during the summer.
If you’re not sure where to begin, keep reading. Six creative and engaging lesson ideas are described below.
1. Experiment with New Arrangements
Encouraging reluctant students to compose can be difficult. However, pretty nearly every student can have fun playing around with arranging. You could ask each of your students to make their own arrangement on a familiar, summer-themed tune like:
- Yankee Doodle
- In the Summertime
- Battle Hymn of the Republic
- My Country Tis of Thee
Have each student begin by brainstorming all of the different ways that they can change the arrangement of the song of their choice. For instance, your student could consider creating:
- Unique harmonization
- A variety of endings
- Left hand patterns for accompaniment
- Several introductions
- Embellishments with the right hand
Feel free to toss in your own ideas if your student seems lost or stuck. If you have several students who can all come to the studio at the same time, they can have fun showing off their new arrangements to each other.
2. Plan a Concert or Special Event
You may not have enough students in town to organize a concert or recital at your studio, but even if you don’t, your students can still look for opportunities to perform.
A fun summer project for young musicians is to organize their own concert. Sometimes, they invite just their family, but some kids are much more ambitious than that. They might organize a neighborhood talent show or commit to playing in a contest or performance at a community event. Regardless of what the actual event is, this is a wonderful excuse to polish and perfect a piece on the piano.
Of course, there is a lot of knowledge and experience that are to be gained when kids plan and organize their own concert or talent show. This means that they have to set a date, extend invitations and maybe even post some flyers around the house or the neighborhood. The young musician gets to choose which pieces to play and can decide whether or not other performers will be invited to show off their skills.
Clearly, this is a lot of work for the student, but what better time to mount a huge project than the summertime when there isn’t so much going on? Organizing a concert calls on a lot of skills and requires a great deal of practice. With your assistance, your student could produce a really fun evening.
3. Work on Film Scores
Movies just wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for their incredible scores. Just try watching one of your favorites with the sound turned off. It’s just not the same!
Film scores are complex, evocative and fascinating. Plus, many of them are incredibly familiar to you and your students. Just think how much more your students are likely to practice when they get to study the score for Star Wars or Frozen.
Ask each of your students what their favorite movie is, then focus on learning one of the themes from the score. If you have a student who prefers Broadway musicals, then have them select a favorite show instead.
Usually, just asking your students to talk about their favorite films or Broadway shows will light them up from the inside. When you tell them that they are going to be learning music from one of their favorites, they are likely to glow for the entire summer.
One of the best reasons to focus on film music is that it provides an excellent opportunity to talk with your students about the dramatic elements in music and how to better convey those. Be certain to discuss what it is that makes a particular piece of music sad, happy or exciting and energizing.
At the end of the summer, consider having a “night at the movies” recital. Each student can play the movie music on which they’ve been focusing. Bonus points for having your students dress up as their favorite character from the film.
4. Focus on Duets
Chances are good that you do not often play duets with your students. It is probably even rarer for you to ask two of your students to practice a duet together. This makes summer the perfect time to focus on duets.
Playing a duet with your students is a great way to help them gain new skills and sharpen those that they already possess.
However, the best approach to this lesson is to have two of your student play a duet together. It’s really fun for kids to play the piano together, and motivation tends to stay high because each half of the duet doesn’t want to let down the other half. The outcome can be some really spectacular music.
Admittedly, scheduling sessions for both students to be at the studio at the same time can be challenging, but this is definitely an experience neither one will ever forget.
5. Organize a Scale-A-Thon
Are you looking for a creative way to get all of the students at your studio to keep practicing their scales, chords and even arpeggios throughout the long summer months?
If so, then a Scale-A-Thon is the way to go.
Think of a Scale-A-Thon as being a huge, studio-wide competition. Kids love competing and having the opportunity to be the best, so you’ll probably get pretty nearly everyone involved and practicing.
The event itself incorporates music games, presentations that are both educational and fun and some tantalizing prizes. Students are divided into categories according to their age or development group. They practice their scales, chords and arpeggios all summer with the goal of learning more than the other students.
To maximize the fun and involvement, consider teaming up with another teacher or studio to get even more kids in on the competition.
6. Let Kids Express Themselves
This can be a really fun exercise that lets kids experiment with composition and self-expression. Give them an opportunity to add their own flair or style to any piece of music that they currently are learning.
This is a rare opportunity, as most of the time kids are just trying to play the piece as it is written on the sheet music. As they struggle to get it “right,” they can sometimes feel stifled and frustrated. Consequently, it can feel really rewarding to take a few minutes for students to “go their own way” with a certain piece. Give it a try, and you just might be surprised and pleased by what your students create.
Get More Inspiration from Prodigies
At Prodigies Music, we think of summer vacation as being the ideal time to focus even more on music. From listening to the radio to taking piano lessons, summer is the perfect season for relaxing and getting creative.
Simply by listening to music and thinking about how it makes us feel, it is possible to learn and come to a fuller appreciation of music. However, it also makes sense to mix in a bit of formal music education so that kids return to school even more knowledgeable than when they left.
Just because music instruction is educational doesn’t have to mean that it’s hard work. The video lessons at Prodigies Music are designed to be fun and engaging even as they inspire and educate. If you have been considering some kind of music instruction for your children, then give our programs a try. Many music instructors also rely on us to provide supplemental materials and lessons to keep things fresh and interesting in the classroom or studio.