As a piano teacher, I have found that one of the most effective motivational tools in encouraging my students to practice is by providing them with performnce opportunities throughout the year so that they have something that they are always working toward. In the next few weeks, I’ll be assigning pieces for our end-of-the-year recital, and I find myself spending a great deal of time selecting pieces that will fit students abilities and interest. Here’s a few tips for teachers as you seek to find appropriate performance numbers for the students at your studio, and please feel free to list any ideas that work for your students in the comments section below.
Assign something challenging:A performance piece should stretch your student a bit. You want to maintain his interest level, and if he can master the selection in a week or two, he’ll be bored with it before the performance. Strive to find a balance between a challenging piece that isn’t so beyond your student’s level it will cause him to give up. Find a piece that will require him to learn new things while still allowing him to be successful.
Assign something your student will enjoy: While you may not want your students to learn only popular music, if you have a student who is really lacking motivation, it may not hurt to find a challenging version of the Star Wars Theme to light a fire under him for the recital. Or pick a popular song from the radio to choreograph a dance number to for your studio’s ballet recital. This doesn’t mean you must always use popular or move soundtrack music — thought it may be fitting from time to time — but seek out composers and repertoire that your students will enjoy playing. If they enjoy it, they’ll practice it.
Assign something that involves accountability: Use duet, trio or ensemble repertoire for performance pieces. Your student will want to be prepared at his lessons each week so that he doesn’t let his partner(s) down come recital time.
Assign something with an added level of responsibility: Teach composition skills to your students and have them compose a selection of their own to perform at their recital, or assign each of them a certain part of a dance number to choreograph and teach to the other students. For an advanced student, assign a particularly challenging solo that will allow her to shine — such as performing an entire sonata or a concerto with you (the teacher) or another qualified musician.