adult student

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Yes. By all means, YES! Here are 10 reasons why I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to teach those who are 18 and above and even those who might be considered “chronologically challenged.”

Posing proudly after a No-Worries Workshop

1. Lesson Time: Adults are able to schedule lessons during those hours when most K-12 school students cannot attend.

2. Income: Because adults can come during “off hours” weekly income is expanded.

3. Friendship: Every time a new student enters the door a new relationship is established and inevitably a friend as well.

4. Variety: Each adult student arrives with a unique and distinct musical background and agenda. While some desire to master Mozart, others want to learn note names, while others wish to play current pop hits. Because of time limitations, I have not initiated a Recreational Music Making (RMM) class but this could be a possible option for your studio. This program, that emphasizes recreational and not traditional lessons for adults, continues to grow in popularity. For more information check out the Recreational Music Making Handbook. [···]

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One of the major differences between teaching children or teaching adults is that children in general are dependent on their teacher for what to learn, how to learn, and how to apply their knowledge for a longer time period than adults. Adults, on the other hand, have a need to be self-directed and problem-solve for themselves.

It is a goal of mine to have my adults learning pieces autonomously as soon as possible, and this is a good indication that I am equipping them with the right skills to learn music for life, rather than just being able to play the pieces they learn in the lessons. It’s not about me wanting to become obsolete, rather that I wish to become a ‘guide’ rather than a ‘teacher.’ 

When I get a new adult piano student that has no musical experience whatsoever, we always take the time to plan some goals – both long and short-term. It is important for them to cover the foundation repertoire and skills; however, it is important to their motivation and to my lesson planning to know what direction they wish to head, and what music inspires them. Of course, they will be dependent on me at the start, as I need to teach them the language of music, but the sooner they can apply their new-found knowledge on their own, the better for their self-esteem and desire to continue.  

When teaching a beginner adult early repertoire, we don’t just go through the notes and what to play, we also talk about the make-up of the piece (this is also useful for younger students). To show the transference of skills from one piece to the next, I always relate new pieces to ones they already have a good grasp on that contain similar pedagogical ideas. By analyzing the chord structure and repeated patterns before they have played a single note, they have set themselves up to approach the music with more success than just randomly playing note-to-note. As soon as they are ready, I aim to supplement their method book with other pieces, to keep them challenged and motivated. These pieces generally take them longer to learn than the small pieces in the method book that can be turned over in a week or two. These are always chosen by the students from a listening list that I supply, giving them more control over their repertoire. 

At the end of each lesson, I aim to give my adult students a ‘challenge piece’ – i.e., a piece that we haven’t had time to cover in the lesson.  They each have a sheet of paper explaining how to find patterns and break down pieces, and this serves as their guide at home. By getting them to tackle these pieces without guidance, it reveals their weaker areas; be it following fingering or noticing a change of hand position or key, and leads the way for what we work on in the next lesson.  

I find teaching adult students extremely gratifying, especially as they learn to enjoy the process, as well as the end result of finishing a piece of music. By giving them the skills to continue the process on their own, they are more likely to become long-term musicians.

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During the school year. I host 3 recitals. Most of my students are kids, and I have about 6 adult students. I understandably find that the adults are uncomfortable performing in these recitals. I came across an idea a few years ago online for getting some performance experience for adults. The idea was to create a casual music night at your house (or someone else’s.) The idea is to create a casual, non-judgmental get together where each adult gets to perform one song for the group. I was thinking about also organizing a group jam session that everyone would be able to participate in. I’ve only mentioned this to one of my adult students, and she’s really excited (and relieved about not performing in the kiddie recital.) Of course there will be drinks and food, and it will be just like a party. Students can bring their spouses, and we would all have a good time. I would also play a song on my new instrument: The mandolin. Since I’m new (and I’m not very good), it would be a good opurtunity to see the teacher learning something new.

Do you have any creative ideas for including adults in the performance part of their education? If so, what do you do? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated by all of the teachers here at Music Teacher’s Helper.

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