More and more students are coming into their piano lessons with sheet music from Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Christina Perri, Taylor Swift, etc. and I love it! Here’s why:
- Turns out that most students practice the music they like and, the more they practice, the more their overall piano playing improves. Just like in any other type of music, popular music has many rhythmic and technical issues for students to work on.
- As a teacher, I look forward to my students coming into their lessons with in an engaging performance of a song by Lady Gaga or Coldplay, as opposed to yet another unenthusiastic (sometimes pedantic) performance of a Clementi Sonatina.
- I have no doubt that the same students that learn to play the piano by playing the music they enjoy, will not hesitate to open up a book of Bach Preludes and Fugues when they “discover” Bach or a book of Mozart Trios, when they decide to get together with some string students.
- And finally, I can be certain that the students who are enthusiastic about playing popular music truly love playing the piano. They are not being pressured by their parents or by unrealistic goals and they have no plans to major in music in college. But, unlike some of these other students, I can be sure they will be playing piano for the rest of their lives.
I can still remember my favorite pieces from that stretch from 6th grade to 9th grade – the theme from “Born Free,” the “Maple Leaf Rag”, and “King of the Road.” The one piece I did NOT like during those early years was the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata. In fact, that piece almost drove me away from piano all together. So anyway, what do I have out on my piano right now in preparation for a 2011 Salon Concert? The Moonlight Sonata, of course, and I’m loving it.
Thanks to classical crossover groups like the Australian group, Aston, young students see that just because they’re taking piano lessons (or violin or cello), it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to work for hours and hours on music that doesn’t speak to them. By working on the music they love, they are putting in their 10,000 hours and working on the same musical and pianistic skills they will need regardless of what type of music they end up playing.