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Musical Growth: A Natural Process

January 10, 2014

My second child turned one in October.  I am always amazed at how much a baby grows and changes throughout the first year.  I think back to Christmas last year and he was basically a newborn, sleeping most of the day and not very aware of his surroundings.  Only one year later he is nearly running, stealing ornaments off the Christmas tree, eating enjoying his first Christmas cookies (and demanding more!), and unwrapping his own gifts.  It really is unbelievable!


On one hand, helping him achieve this growth has been a lot of work.  He has needed constant care throughout the year, regular feedings and diaper changes, we have consoled him when he cried, made sure he got sleep when he was tired, and tried to keep him entertained.  However, on the other hand, I really didn’t have anything to do with all of the developmental milestones.  I didn’t force him to grow, we didn’t “practice” his new skills.  He developed them all on his own—naturally.


So it is with our students: it takes a lot of work to create the right environment for them to grow—we must carefully plan lessons, prepare new concepts so the student experiences the SOUND and FEEL before the name, create a balanced lesson plan (TERRAC:  see this blog: “What Makes a Balanced Assignment?” by Marvin Blickenstaff ) so the student develops into a comprehensive musician, and connect the technical side of playing to the emotional side of making music.  If all these things are in place, our students will flourish naturally.


Milestones are a great way for us to assess natural growth.  With children we celebrate their birthdays. In our Piano Detectives Class for kindergarten students, we celebrate the end of the year with a piano carnival!  Created by Janet Johnson of The Music Clubhouse, the carnival games are designed for students to use what they have learned through the year in the class.  In this way, we are able to celebrate how far the students have developed musically throughout the year!


In the first game, “Musical Symbol Fishing,” the students “catch” musical fish.  These fish have a picture on them that students should recognize by this point in the year.  There are pictures of the keyboard with an “X” on a particular note, pictures of intervals, or pictures of note values.  The students look at the picture and tell us what it is.



In the second game, “Landmark Lollipops,” The students choose lollipops with colored ends that correspond with a tool use to learn three landmarks on the grand staff.  The students were so proud to easily be able to find the landmark note on the piano.  And, they were happy to go home with a fun treat!



With lots of hard work and preparation, musical growth can occur naturally and be both fun and rewarding for the student.  It is exciting to celebrate this growth!


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This site is created by the faculty of the New School for Music Study, a division of the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy.

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