Motivating Young Musicians, Part 1: Selecting Literature

I’m becoming convinced that one of the most important elements of motivating young music students is giving them music they want to play.

This is a pretty good representation of how I felt about teaching the Raiders Theme: Battered, bruised, but determined!

This is a pretty good representation of how my student felt about teaching the Raiders Theme: Battered, bruised, but determined!

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.

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2 thoughts on “Motivating Young Musicians, Part 1: Selecting Literature

  1. Hi Steve,
    I am very happy to see someone who is so passionate about engaging young students in music making. Thanks for the tips you provide- as a young teacher, I’m sure this will help me out in future experiences with students.

    I’ve started a website/blog “Music Education for All” at http://musicedforall.weebly.com and would appreciate it if you’d take a look at it.

    Thanks for being a positive contribution to music education!
    Dan

  2. Indeed, your idea can be a great way to motivate students. I just hope that you continue to share your tips and experiences in music teaching and might as well search for other resources in order to upgrade your skills in your chosen field.

    I would also love to share a software that can help you in many ways. Music Teachers Helper can help you in managing your studio – handling everything from billing and lesson schedules, to communication and tax reports. Feel free to visit their website and their Music Teacher’s Blog and see what I mean.

    Thanks! Keep it up!

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