I’m becoming convinced that one of the most important elements of motivating young music students is giving them music they want to play.
One of my beginning saxophone students found some sheet music of the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” theme. If you know the music, you know that it uses a wide range of notes, and dotted eighth/sixteenth rhythms. When he asked me to teach him to play it, my first reaction was to say, “No way! You’re barely past page 6 of your method book. This is Book 2 material.” But he had obviously put some effort into it already, and was determined to learn it.
Mind you, I’m not a fan of teaching by rote. I’m a pretty Type-A logical thinker. So this was a very out-of-the-box situation for me.
Over the next several weeks, we devoted a portion of each lesson to the Raiders Theme. It took a great deal of effort on my part NOT to address every one of the myriad of mistakes he made. Instead, I tried to focus on one or two issues in each lesson. In one lesson, I taught him the difference between F# and F natural. In another, we focused on tone quality in the low range. In another, we focused on rhythmic issues.
After a number of months, my student is proud to proclaim that he can “beat it” (as in in beating a level in a video game).
I don’t necessarily plan to incorporate the Raiders Theme into my curriculum. But in this case, the piece definitely motivated my student in a way that most method books just don’t.