Have you heard the term “Secondary Gains”?

A secondary gain is a fancy concept I heard a lot in college. I was deep in the thick of music therapy classes, and we were busy learning how to track a client’s progress. In order to keep good records, we had to have identifiable goals. Lots of paperwork, but I had the opportunity to see some amazing results achieved through music.

We would identify one or two primary goals as we evaluated a client for treatment. What skill most needed work? But we wouldn’t stop there. As we created our treatment plans, we would have in mind secondary gains that might come from the primary goal we would be working on.

Fast forward to today. I am a piano teacher, NOT a music therapist. But everything I do is now seen through the lens of my music therapy days. They were so rich with wisdom!

As piano teachers, our primary goal is to teach our students to play the piano. The piano should be what brings the students back each week, and what keeps the parents interested in paying for lessons month after month.

But have you stopped to think through the secondary gains of taking piano lessons? Things like …

  1. Math skills
  2. Language skills
  3. Hand-eye coordination
  4. Fine motor skills
  5. Non-verbal communication
  6. Appropriate, adult one-on-one relationship building
  7. Perseverance
  8. Emotional awareness
  9. Multi-tasking
  10. Focus
  11. Problem-solving skills
  12. Self-confidence
  13. A constant in the midst of life changes
  14. An appreciation for beauty
  15. (this list can go on FOREVER)

Is our job to teach piano? Yes. Is it going to be a straight path as each student learns at exactly the right speed and never comes across issues in their playing? No. Should our students walk away with skills they may never even realize we taught them? Yes.  And the best way for us to accomplish this is to be aware of what we have to offer – both musically and in helping to shape the lives of those who walk through our doors!

Choose love and time with the hard student, and I guarantee that your teaching will matter more for humanity than if you keep yourself to the piano world. I don’t know about you, but I am pretty okay with that …

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