Monday Mailbag – Milestones to Musical Mastery Practice Incentive

Last year, the students loved the Climbing the Ladder program so much that they keep asking what we are doing this year. We have started something called “Filling my Musical Toolbox” – an incentive program I devised for basic technique. I wondered if you can send me more info on your Milestones to Musical Mastery or if you sell downloadable files as you do for your other incentive programs.

Milestones to Musical Mastery is the first year-long incentive program that I developed for my studio. It wasn’t as fully developed as the programs that I do now, so I don’t actually sell the incentive package, but I am including several files that you can download for free if you’d like to use them in your studio.

Each student’s assignment book contained eight of the Milestones to Musical Mastery worksheets. A page with the Milestones to Musical Mastery Guidelines was placed in the front of the book to explain what they had to do to reach each level on the Milestone worksheet. On the studio wall, I had a thin black line (made from construction paper) that connected eight milestones, each of which had the name of a famous composer.

At the beginning of the year, each student selected his or her mode of transportation (I had a whole range of options cut from the die cut presses at our local teacher resource center!) and then began the journey to reach as many milestones as possible. Throughout the year, I held “Composer Tours,” where students who had reached the corresponding composer milestone were invited to come to a special event. We traveled back in time and learned about the life and work of each composer. Well, actually, we only ended up doing two of the composers, but they were very memorable!

For Handel, I bought a bunch of panels of royal-colored fabric and hung them from the ceiling to create the “Throne Room” of King George I. Each student got to take a turn sitting on the “throne” while eating grapes and being fanned by the other students. I also gave them a tour of the room, highlighting the various artifacts and pictures that were on display representing Handel’s life and compositions. For Bach, we climbed into our attic, played a game that required putting together Bach’s very extensive family tree, copied sheet music by candlelight, and munched on homemade German hard rolls.

This was a really fun year, and that’s what convinced me of the value of developing practice incentive programs that would inspire the students and encourage them to reach for higher levels of musical achievement. As I mentioned to a friend a couple days ago, I don’t see these incentives as a bribe for students to practice diligently or strive to reach certain goals. Those are things that I expect of them. This is just my way of creating a vibrant studio atmosphere and expressing my appreciation for their hard work. Not to mention that it makes teaching and running a studio more fun for me, too! 🙂

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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