Last weekend I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Ron Bishop, Professor of Culture and Communication at Drexel University, speak to prospective Drexel students and their parents. He spoke about his research for his new book, When Play Was Play: Why Pick-Up Games Matter. He spoke about his research and the stories he collected from people who remembered hanging out with their friends, playing ball in the streets, and inventing their own games such as “Tennocky” a tennis-hockey hybrid. He also talked about how the new generation of high school and college students have grown up with a full schedule of organized activities, leaving them no room for unorganized play or just getting together with friends to have fun, the truly “creative” activities.
Unfortunately, there’s no going back to “the good old days” when people hung out on the front porch until it got dark and kids ran around the yard playing kick the can and gathering fireflies in glass jars. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the students in this documentary.
But there are some ways that we can encourage creative play in the context of structured piano lessons.
- Teach five-finger patterns, chords and scales in all keys until it is second nature.
- Every couple of weeks pull out the fake books for fun.
- Match up friends to play duets together.
- Encourage your students to sing.
- Throw an impromptu piano party – everybody brings something to play.
- Throw a listening party. Listen and discuss.
- Recycle music books. Have the students trade method books and then skip through the book and only play what works!
- Learn a piece by watching a YouTube video.
Maybe someday (when the electricity is out, or the network is down) you and your friends will gather around the piano. Who’s going to be ready to play?