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Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind practicing. Deciding how and when to motivate our students is an integral component of teaching. The following five teachers give insights regarding their most effective motivation strategies and techniques for maintaining student engagement.

--Nan Baker Richerson, PhD, NCTM, is a member of the AMT editorial committee and teaches applied and group piano at Salisbury University in Maryland.

Finding repertoire students want to play is one of the most effective motivation strategies I have found. Asking myself the following questions helps make the most of this important concept:

* Do I know what artists, pieces and songs my students have on their playlists?

* If the person paying for the lessons (parent, grandparent and so on) is not the student, do I know what artists, pieces and songs are on that person(s)' playlists?

* If the pieces are not classical, do I know where to find arrangements of these songs?

* When choosing classical and standard pedagogical repertoire do I give the student choices from which to choose (creating ownership on the student's part)?

* Am I paying attention to what types of pieces the student seems to enjoy playing the most? Am I creating a list of similar pieces this student might enjoy in the future?

* Am I willing to hear students play pieces I have taught many, many times because that is what they want to play? Fur Elise is popular for valid reasons; I don't want to deprive a student from playing it because I'm tired of it.

A well-chosen piece of music or song arrangement can be like a moving sidewalk in an airport. The student and teacher are still working to make progress, but the enjoyment of the piece propels the achievement farther ahead. And, hopefully, this motivation is intrinsic, heightening the probability that it will last longer and more deeply in the students' lives.

--Steve Betts is a managing editor for Clavier Companion and, in July, will begin duties as dean of humanities at Southern Nazarene University.

Every efficacious teacher knows that motivational strategies must be tailored to each student. However, there are a handful of constructs that are widely beneficial in developing motivation. In addition to appropriate repertoire choices and successful practice strategies, peer involvement can be an essential motivational tool-especially for the student who is not naturally intrinsically motivated. Monthly group classes are a wonderful way to incorporate peer activity with weekly piano lessons.

In my experience, a combination of three activities can produce the most helpful results. Games that develop confidence levels toward challenging theory concepts can be a fun way to help students bond together-and often they're laughing too hard to realize they're learning! I love the Three Cranky Women games, which can easily be applied to many different ability levels. A section of the class should also be devoted to solo performances. Audience members give constructive comments after each performance, which encourages listening skills, and opens the door for many performance and practice strategy discussions. This also helps students feel accountable for practicing in between sessions. Lastly, group time must include ensemble work to help mold a concrete understanding of steady pulse, balance and phrasing.

Somewhere between healthy competition that arises among friends and an increasing confidence with general musical principles and performing on their instrument, new pianists appear! I have seen many unmotivated individuals turn into a totally different student after just a semester of group work- one that can't wait to get their hands back on a piano.

--Emily Book McGree, DMA, serves as the director of education at Parlando School for the Arts in Boulder, Colorado, where she also maintains an active studio of RMM and traditional students.

When otherwise dedicated students experience a temporary loss in motivation, it may take patience, but flexible teachers are usually able to bring them back to task with the right inspiration. The right combination of new repertoire assignments, ensembles or peer performances can sometimes do the trick. The real challenges, however, are the chronically unmotivated students. In many cases, these are the quick learners who are proud to say that something is "easy." Too often, parents and teachers praise children who learn quickly for being "smart" or "talented." While inborn intelligence may get these children far in their early years, it is task persistence that leads to success as they get older. Research has shown that students who believe success is due to inborn intelligence may begin to develop a helpless attitude to learning where they attribute failure to a lack of ability. These learners might even begin to avoid challenges because they want to appear smart.

The most motivated students believe ability is not static and inborn, but can be increased through effort. Students with these so-called "incremental beliefs" see challenges as opportunities to grow, and they develop practice strategies such as slowing down and isolating problems to overcome their difficulties. They believe that intelligence is malleable and therefore find challenges to be energizing rather than intimidating.

How do teachers help students to develop this mindset? A simple way to begin is to praise effort over talent, especially during the early years of study. Assigned repertoire should be appropriately challenging without causing frustration. Finally, time must be spent during the lesson working through practice strategies to show how problems can be mastered. As students set achievable goals, they will develop more confidence and gradually learn to persist through difficulties.

--Lesley McAllister, DMA, NCTM, is associate professor of piano at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. An active writer and clinician, her book The Balanced Musician: Integrating Mind and Body for Peak Musical Performance was recently published by Scarecrow Press.

Motivation strategies can vary as much as your students are diverse. Ideally, motivation should be something from within that engages a student in lessons, because he wants to learn. Unfortunately, that desire rising from within is not always so strong! External motivation, like stickers or studio incentive programs can work magic on younger students. Anything you can think of to "bribe" a student to focus or practice is fair game, and may ignite some motivation temporarily.

Somewhere between stickers and prizes, motivation should begin to grow from within the student for long-term commitment to piano study. One of the strongest forces I have found to nurture a student's intrinsic motivation is the repertoire. The vast repertoire of piano music is so rich that a student should be filled with excitement when playing. Captivating music can challenge a student and strike curiosity if it is at the appropriate level of technical and musical difficulty. If a piece is too easy, the student is bored. If a piece is too difficult, the student feels overwhelmed and anxious. A piece of the student's preference and at the appropriate skill level pushes the student and allows him to grow as a pianist. The reward for learning a piece is pride and a great sense of accomplishment. It is no small feat for a teacher to find the right piece for the right student at the right time, but the intrinsic motivation this can inspire in a student is priceless.

--Rebecca C. Bellelo, PhD, NCTM, teaches students of all ages in applied lessons and RMM classes in her multi-teacher piano academy Piano Pathways. She also serves as a lecturer of music at Southeastern Louisiana University.

As a teacher, I believe the first thing you need to know is your audience. What can the student accomplish and how? This changes from time to time (students surprise us) and that old saying that "there is more than one way to skin a cat" hones true to form in many situations. For example, if a student does not play scales well then find a way to interest him in music that will serve the same purpose.

Students are motivated and engaged when they learn effective practice skills. This promotes healthy piano playing and positive performance experiences. Arriving at this point requires:

1. Students have a balance of repertoire and activities.

2. Students are active participants in solving their own problems during a lesson.

3. Students are physically and mentally engaged through healthy gestures and positive affirmations.

4. Students leave lessons with a detailed practice plan they can accomplish.

5. Students learn to develop practicing strategies for small sections that are transferable to other situations.

6. Lessons are organized so students leave with a good feeling.

As a promoter of musician wellness, I strongly advocate taking time during each lesson for students to stretch, do some simple and quick breathing exercises, and to have the student articulate one positive affirmation of their work and progress. We are truly in the "cat bird's seat" if we have the ability to shift gears with students and always help them set new goals.

-Linda Cockey teaches piano and a Wellness in Performance course with an athletic trainer and clinical psychologist at Salisbury University. She is also an accreditation visitor for NASM and is a member of the MTNA e-Journal editorial committee and the NCKP's wellness committee. Cockey is the author of the MTNA Annotated Bibliography on Wellness Resources database.

By Rebecca Grooms Johnson, NCTM
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Title Annotation:Professional Resources; motivation for music education
Author:Johnson, Rebecca Grooms
Publication:American Music Teacher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2015
Words:1524
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