The Benefits of Piano Ensembles Reach the Private Studio©

By Mayron Ellis Cole
(This article appeared in “THE MUSIC & COMPUTER EDUCATOR”, Vol. 1, No. 7)

I first began teaching twenty years ago in the traditional one-on-one manner, but about thirteen years ago, I took a careful look at myself, my goals, and my students. I thought about the fun I'd had playing trombone in my high school band and the valuable experiences gained through ensemble playing. It seemed to me that group instruction using electronic keyboards could duplicate that experience for my students, so I bought six keyboards, two Roland and four Baldwin electronic pianos, and launched my first "piano band."

I arranged my electronic pianos in an "L" shape, so my students could face each other and interact with eye-contact. I devoted a large corner to a theory game area where students sat on the floor to work on theory papers and play theory games. I also painted bright murals on the walls and left the windows uncovered for a bright, sunny atmosphere.

Within weeks, positive results were evident. The students were learning musical concepts faster in a group, attendance was noticeably higher, and lesson preparation was at a maximum. I set aside a large portion of time for each piano class to play their lesson material as an ensemble. Soon, my students were sight-reading far better than I had hoped; and the group playing was turning all of them into relaxed performers. I also discovered what other group piano teachers had previously discovered: students will work harder to please their friends in piano class than they will work for a teacher at a private lesson! But who's complaining? Good results speak for themselves!

Over the years the results have become clear. My students have enjoyed piano as I'd hoped, have continued lessons far longer than when I taught one-on-one, and have achieved a higher level of proficiency. Many o my former students are now high school choir pianists and have continued piano in college. My goals have been met, and even surpassed.

DO YOU KNOW?...........

A 2006 Gallup Poll indicates that 84% of those that didn’t learn a musical instrument wish they had learned to play one.

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