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TC188: Inspiring Students with Interest-Based Learning with Tony Parlapiano

By Tim Topham | Creativity

May 01 2020

interest-based learning instructor Tony Parlapiano

What if you created a studio experience where instead of lesson books, students study based on their preferences? In this episode, I chat with Tony Parlapiano, who focuses on interest-based learning. 

Tony is definitely doing something right because his student retention is off the charts with most families staying until the end of high school. Amazing right? This is probably an approach that not many teachers are practising. That’s why it’s really interesting to dive deep into the set-up and structure of these lessons. 

We talk about the way he teaches, incorporating basic and theoretical topics in lessons, not having recitals, dealing with learning plateaus, and so much more. Whether you’re teaching classical or pop, there’s so much to learn from Tony’s experience.

And, P.S. I know you’re wondering too – YES, that is his real last name! 🙂

Transcript of the show

If you’d like to download a PDF transcript of this episode, please click below.

In this episode, you’ll learn more about teaching students through interest-based learning

  • [06:30] Tony’s current studio and students.
  • [08:38] His experience with lessons when he was a kid.
  • [11:01] Learning to play the piano at a later stage.
  • [13:13] The story of how he started teaching music.
  • [14:53] His approach to teaching students.
  • [19:13] Incorporating basic and theoretical topics while teaching students.
  • [24:46] Recitals, performances, and concluding studies.
  • [26:02] Teaching students based on their interests.
  • [30:11] Dealing with students who experience plateaus in learning.
  • [32:39] Having good student retention.
  • [34:54] Tony talks about popMATICS.
  • [39:26] His way of teaching students to compose or play pop music.

Links mentioned

About our guest

interest-based learning course author Tony Parlapiano

Tony Parlapiano is a piano instructor and the creator of popMATICS, a concept-based music curriculum that approaches learning by listening and reading through writing. Tony resides in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and carries a copy of his birth certificate for anyone who questions the authenticity of his last name.

Thank you for tuning in!

In conclusion, there are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, and I’m grateful that you’ve chosen mine. Whether you’re at the gym, on the bike or in the car, I know that you and your students will get lots out of what you learn in the long run.

Just make sure you try out some of the ideas before they get lost in the business of your next lessons!

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About the Author

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at 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.

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