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Classically Trained to Creatively Curious | Exploring Creative Piano Teaching

By Tim Topham | Creativity

Feb 02 2017

classically trained creative piano teaching

This month’s theme is all about helping ‘classically trained’ teachers feel more comfortable exploring creative ideas in their teaching.

PS: Want to see how to teach a more creative lesson? Tune in to a free online training webinar and see how I do it by clicking here.

Whether that’s a few off-bench activities, exploring the ingredients of pieces or dipping your toe into some improvisation, I know that this month’s suggestions will have a big impact on both the way that you teach, and the outcomes for your students.

I’ve found that students love it when teachers go ‘outside the box’ and break their expectations of what a music lesson is all about.

Yes, you’ll probably have a couple of epic fails (I still have them!) – and students will love you even more for it!

By surprising students with a small composition exercise based on elements of their pieces or throwing-in a session on the blues after a recital or exam, students become more engaged in their lessons and more motivated to explore and practice.

Creative teaching also encourages students to be more curious in their practice: “If I can make this up and it sounds good, what if I…”

Why is creativity important?

Today’s students are different to kids of 10, 20 or 30 years ago. They are impatient, technology-obsessed and know what they want.

They expect instant results and a fast pace that’s often incompatible with traditional teaching that focusses on reading and technique, year-long goals and incremental progress.

Kids today also expect to have some say in what they learn.

I know from experience that if we can reach out and meet our students somewhere in the middle – giving a little bit of this, grabbing some of that, exploring a bit of what they want while also doing what we know they need – we’re in for a far more successful music education experience.

Students stay motivated longer, they become more engaged and they want to practice.

They’ve entered the automatic practice/motivation cycle.

What “creativity” is not about

I’m not suggesting that you completely revolutionise your teaching this month.

The way that piano has been taught for 200 years still has merit, however our students need more variety of experience so I just want to encourage you to consider mixing things up a bit.

If you tend to teach solely from a reading perspective, then just try one or two of the ideas this month with a couple of your students and see how it goes.

Got some teens or adults who you find really hard to keep engaged? Try some improvising or pop teaching with them.

Taking on a transfer student? Why don’t you explore some blues to assess their listening and musicality?

I’m going to be giving you lots of step-by-step instructions and hand-holding along the way 🙂

What’s the point?

The whole goal of a more creative, curious and exploratory approach to piano teaching is:

  • To learn and experience along with your students (yes, you will make mistakes and that’s OK!)
  • Trying things that you’ve never tried before
  • Giving the kids some quick wins while working on their longer-term skills
  • To keep your own teaching fresh and inspired
  • To try out some new music and ways of teaching
  • To assess whether you feel this style of teaching has merit too!

“By giving kids some quick wins while working on their longer-term skill development, we can significantly increase engagement and motivation.”

Free Online Training: Improv and Blues

My first online training of the year is now available and it’s a great way to start off your year.

I’ll be focussing on how you can get stated teaching chords and basic jazz improv to any student of any level without any books!

You’re going to totally love it!

I’ll be at the piano and ready to answer any questions so make sure you turn up and watch live.

There are plenty of bonuses including full lesson plans and your certificate of professional development.

webinar teaching image

Click the button below to grab your seat and I’ll see you there!

SAVE MY SEAT

This Month’s Resources

88 Creative Keys Workshops

Keeping with the creative theme, I’m very excited to have been invited by Bradley Sowash and Leila Viss of 88 Creative Keys to guest lecture at their 3-day workshops in Denver Colorado this Summer.

creative piano teaching workshops

Bradley and Leila from 88 Creative Keys

I literally can’t wait to head back to the USA to work with Bradley, Leila and a small bunch of committed teachers on everything creativity-related in teaching.

These workshops are an invaluable way to not just learn about creative teaching ideas but to be fully immersed in them, with other teachers and instructors for a few days. There will be plenty of playing, lots of practical action-taking and a heap of laughs!

The best way to make on-going change in your teaching is to form habits. Being able to actually try things out on the piano as you’re learning about them sets these workshops apart from any others.

Find out all the details below. Check out an introduction to your workshop presenters below.

PS. As a follower of my blog, I can offer you an Early Bird Discount if you take action now.

Workshop details

When: July 19 – 22, 2017

Location: Colorado Christian University near Denver, Colorado.

What is it? At 88 Creative Keys workshops, we teach teachers to improvise, use technology, lead off-bench activities, direct group teaching, and acquire updated business skills with today’s leading pedagogues. Themes will include Creativity, Group Teaching, Technology, Business and much more.

There are three options:

1. Keyboard Creativity 3-day workshop

Click here for more details.

$500.00 $450.00

Tuition includes light breakfast, full catered lunch, and resources.

Discounts

  • Early bird discount – The sale price above only applies to the first 10 to register. Act soon to take advantage of this offer!
  • Professional music educator – Email a picture of your trade association (MTNA, MENC, ASTA…) membership card to tonya@88creativekeys.com and we’ll send you a $50 refund.
  • Discounts may be combined.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE 3-DAY WORKSHOP

2. Keyboard Creativity & Studio Business 4-day workshop

$650.00 $600.00

Tuition includes light breakfast, full catered lunch, and resources. You get the full Creative Keys Workshop PLUS an extra day to focus on strategies for attracting and retaining engaged and dedicated students and building your business.

Discounts

  • Early bird discount – The sale price above only applies to the first 10 to register. Act soon to take advantage of this offer!
  • Professional music educator – Email a picture of your trade association (MTNA, MENC, ASTA…) membership card to tonya@88creativekeys.com and we’ll send you a $50 refund.
  • Discounts may be combined.
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE 4-DAY WORKSHOP

3. Studio Business 1-day workshop

Click here for more details.

$150.00

Tuition includes light breakfast, full catered lunch, and resources. This is just for access to the business-focussed workshops on Saturday.

(Discounts do not apply to this one-day workshop.)

I really hope you take up this offer and I look forward to seeing you there!

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE 1-DAY BUSINESS WORKSHOP

Conclusion

I can’t wait to see what you create this month in your studio and how much fun you and your students will be having!

Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

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Tim Topham

About the Author

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.