When I mentioned to some fellow piano teachers that I was willing to teach a few of my older students “by appointment”, rather than locking them (and me) into a weekly time slot, they were appalled. I have not changed my mind about teaching “on demand.” In fact, I see two distinct advantages. Teachers have a more flexible work week and students come to their lessons when they are ready to learn.
To take this idea one step further, I’ve been coming across the idea of pop up schools recently. A pop up school is different, relevant, surprising, challenging and agile. Good Cities describes the concept of pop up schools like this:
Learning could happen everywhere through pop-up education. Much like TED Talks, pop-up education opportunities would be produced by experts, professors, and every individual based on something they know well and can train others on. They would pop up in locations like theaters, YMCAs, elevators, break rooms, restaurants, and wherever there is “wait time” or an equal opportunity for boredom, or when our technology infrastructure realizes an enhancement opportunity—like you might learn about safety while waiting at the DMV. In addition to lessons, the idea would be to provide study and learning tips to effectively train people to be better students at any age.
As an adult I grab my musical inspiration and instruction on the fly. I feel privileged to have online access to excellent piano master classes by Gyorgy Sebok, Maria Joao Pires, and Stephen Hough among others. Why should we teachers be surprised to learn that our students may actually prefer to learn the same way…in short, concentrated bursts?
Some may argue that it takes years to build a solid foundation of finger technique and an extensive varied repertoire. But I’ve seen students make very quick progress when they are motivated by a piece they love, a performance deadline, their friends, or a combination of all three. Besides, there’s no guarantee that the student won’t follow all of his teachers rules and advice only to be asked later by his conservatory teacher to unlearn what he’s learned and start over with Hanon #1 using some new form of wrist rotation, balance, or arm relaxation technique!
What can a student learn in a pop up piano lesson?
A lot. I usually spend one lesson with my high school students explaining major/minor scale construction, key signatures, and the circle of fifths. Still have time? Explain chords and inversions. Give them the basic information and today’s students will take what they need to know and apply it as they see fit. Another idea for the pop up music lesson – devote the entire time to quick and dirty tricks for basic piano technique. Or how about a lesson in sightreading? Or an impromptu performance class?
Looking for examples of pop up education in action? Check out these links:
- Felix Glenn describes what happens at his pop up school of rock at Thomas Tallis School in London.
- The Stephen Petronio Dance Company pop up school at Joyce Soho in December.
- The Pop Up Art School at Huddersfield University in the U.K.
- And for a look at pop up performance spaces read about what’s happening in Dublin.