Do you have students who love to doodle around on the piano (or, as one student once declared to me, he liked to “type around on the keys sometimes” :-)) and do all sorts of things at the keyboard besides practice their assignments? Or perhaps you’ve encountered the student who can play up and down the keyboard with ease, but struggles to read the most simple hands together pieces? I’m sure I’m not the only one with students like this!
The solution I’ve come up with over the past several years is what I call the “Any Song” assignment. That’s about all there is to it! I write Any Song… 🙂 in the student’s assignment book and tell them that they can prepare anything at all that they want and surprise me with it the following week. For someone like me who loves to sight-read and stick to the printed page, an assignment like this would be nerve-wracking, but for students like I mentioned above, this is like giving them a bucket of candy to munch on. They love it!
I was actually inspired to do this by the older brother of a student that I started in lessons a couple of years ago. He made a point to tell me one day that his younger brother was capable of playing much better than he had demonstrated up to this point at his lessons. A desire to encourage his natural musical gifts while still developing other important skills is what prompted the implementation of the Any Song assignment. He’s been surprising me with new songs almost every week for a couple of years now, and I’m convinced that he’s never going to run out! I’ve since used it with several other students, also with great success.
In fact, a few weeks ago, I introduced the concept to a high school student who has been studying with me for about a year and a half. I knew he enjoyed doing creative arranging and such, but for some reason it just occurred to me recently to try the Any Song assignment. Once he clarified exactly what it was, he got this huge smile on his face and exclaimed, “You’re going to let me play any song that I want to? I love you!” Oh what fun it is to discover the things that excite our students!