Based on a Novel Idea by Wendy Stevens.

In her recent website newsletter, Wendy Stevens described a holiday project she designed. She asked her piano students to learn the theme of the “Jingle Bell” chorus and create a variation. Each arranger was filmed debuting his/her arrangement and made into a lovely video.

Fortunately, Wendy shares her marvelous teaching ideas and inspirations on her unique website Subscribing to her free newsletter provides me with numerous ideas and resources. I must give full credit to her for the subject of this blog and am so thankful to find her as a continual resource of inspiration.

The Plot

When preparing for the upcoming holiday recital, lesson time can be zapped by ironing out wrinkles in performance pieces or drilling the performance etiquette routine. Little time is left for covering new concepts or new pieces. This calls for an assignment that captures the students’ attention, challenges their creativity and that can be accomplished in a short amount of time.

 The Production

The following steps were taken to prepare students:

1) A lead sheet featuring the melody and chord symbols was reviewed. Early level students were provided with a simple LH version.

2)  For inspiration, students were asked to listen to Mozart’s Twelve Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” and follow along with the score. Next they watched the youtube video of Wendy’s students. (As I offer 30-minute lessons with a 30-minute lab time, this was assigned during the lab time and did not take away from lesson time.) [···]

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Jerald Simon is obviously passionate about music, creating, and teaching. It is also clear that he wishes to motivate his students and other teachers, to develop these same passions.  In his Music Motivation Series ® and website, Simon shares his unique methodology. The series includes three focus areas: Theory Therapy ™, Innovative Improvisation™ and Innovative Composition™.

His website states: “One of our primary goals is to help prepare the next generation of composers, arrangers, musicians, music teachers and musicologists to use their music and their love of music to make a difference in their own lives, their community, and the world.”

From the extensive information Simon offers–motivational tips, published books featuring his organized methodology, free downloads, videos and more–he is well on his way to this respectable goal.

I have only perused some of the books in the series and have not used most with any students. However, just today an adult student of mine was thrilled with the visuals and charts found in the Introduction to Scales and Modes book (see below for more details).  Below are some of my early discoveries.

GENERALLY, what you will find in the Music Motivation Series®:

Exciting music which stimulates, motivates and inspires.

Original solos usually power-packed with large chords, demanding rhythmical variety, and uplifting patterns.

Books and the website include an encouraging tone which attracts musicians of all skills levels and their teachers to keep moving forward. A favorite tip for teachers to motivate students: “Ask your students what they want to learn and teach them what t they want to learn.”  I agree–I’ve noticed that customizing lessons attracts and retain students.

Theory explanations that are in-depth but not cumbersome. [···]

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Just what are the chances that your students may someday be asked to play or sing for a wedding? Probably pretty good! A couple of years ago one of my 11 year-old boys was asked to play for his cousins’ wedding. I couldn’t imagine how that was going to happen, but it did!!

A couple of my graduating seniors will continue on through the summer months before heading off to college. I am so grateful to put off having to say good bye, but I know my time left with them will go by really fast. The other day, it occurred to me that one last thing I’d like to do for these students is to prepare them for the inevitable… [···]

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