Book of the Month: March 2021

As I write, it is one of those perfectly rainy days. I don’t want to be outside – it’s wet and cold. And the mood just screams that I should grab what I’m reading, find a cozy chair, and curl up for the afternoon. Growing up everyone thought I was so strange for liking raining days. But my love of reading took away the sorrow that others often feel when the sky is gray and everything is drab.

Charles Scribner Jr. remarks that, “reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” And because I grew up delighting in the chance to read, I also delighted in Ohio’s frequent rainy days. My hope is that whether for your students or yourself, the books I share today encourage you to take the time to sit and appreciate the gift of slowing down to live in other worlds in the midst of our hectic lives ๐Ÿ™‚

For Students

Music history is so important. And if taught correctly will lead to inspiring our students instead of putting them to sleep. Alfred Music carries a wonderful two-volume collection called Great Music and Musicians. Book 1 is an overview of music history, and book 2 is an overview of keyboard composers and literature.

Each book contains information about composers and music styles from history covering all the way back to the Greco-Roman Era to present day. Guided listening, summary activities, and important cultural context is accompanied by rich and engaging art that make this series timeless. Perfect for all ages, and easy to use as a send home book for your students or for a quick discussion and review in lessons, these are two books you will want to have on your shelf ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ll see –

These books are available at your local music store or on the publisher’s website.

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For Teachers

Do you ever feel like you need a creative spark in your teaching? Have you resorted to the same techniques for each student? Do you joyfully address new and different problems as they arise for various students, or find yourself frustrated and stumped?

The crazy thing is that although we can predict some of what will come our way as we teach, each student is very different. They will have different likes and dislikes and different strong and weak points that come along. You will likely have one student who struggles more with notes and another who can’t seem to feel rhythm. The next student will have those down pat but can’t seem to remember to play with strong, curved hands.

Piano teaching needs a healthy dose of creativity to solve the random and predicted problems that will inevitably arise as you teach. And this month’s book is here to help!

This month’s book is Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity by Keith Sawyer.

This book was an easy and enjoyable read, with applications that will last far beyond a read through. In it, Sawyer argues

  • “you already have what it takes to be creative”
  • “creativity [does] not descend like a bolt of lightning that [lights] up the world in a single, brilliant, flash.”
  • we need creativity in every part of life.
  • there are 8 steps to creativity. when you learn how to easily and consistently zig and zag between these steps, you will be at your fullest creative potential.

Sawyer also points out two mistakes that we often make in understanding creativity.

  1. Thinking that you only need to be creative occasionally. “This process can help you respond to a sudden challenge, but the real benefit comes when you practice the eight steps every day.”
  2. Hoping there’s one great idea out there. “Wouldn’t it be better to have these small sparks happening all the time, and accumulating before you face a serious problem? Imagine having a backlog, a notebook of good ideas that you could draw on whenever you needed it. The eight steps teach you that kind of proactive creativity. It’s already in your power to produce this type of creativity, and it’s far more effective than reactive creativity.”

Bottom line?

He then spends the rest of the book not only explaining the behaviors that lead us to the greatest creativity, but also giving practical, everyday steps that will take you there.

So why does this book matter for piano teachers? You may think of yourself as wildly creative and engaging, or you may be find yourself ensconced in your teaching routines. Either way, we have the excitement of being presented with new problems and difficulties throughout every day, for every lesson.

  • An adult student is having trouble remembering which C to play on the piano. How do you make this easier without resorting to childish ideas?
  • A teenager doesn’t want to quite piano, but isn’t able to find practice time in their schedule. How can the two of you come up with a creative solution to fit practice in?
  • A child gets upset whenever they have to repeat a song for another week of practice. How can you instill in them the importance of sticking with it and getting better? Without a temper tantrum? And somehow still generate the feeling of accomplishment and moving forward?

These scenarios are just the tip of the iceberg. You also have to figure out how to deal with difficult parents, rude coworkers, and how to be paid on time. One student will come in with flat fingers while the other is too rigid. You have a baby and suddenly your schedule needs to look different, but you don’t want to lose your students!

Sawyer believes that we all have what it takes to be creative, and we all need to tap into that no matter what stage and season of life you find yourself in!

So this month, I encourage you to invest in yourself and your business by tapping into your creativity. This book has my mind swirling and I’m sure you’ll find it a fantastic place to start ๐Ÿ™‚

Zig Zag Creativity Cards

Looking for more? The book is full of practices you can do to be a perpetually creative person. I also purchased the accompanying creativity cards to give myself a quick go-to option each day! It contains 48 exercises and 4 games to get you there ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Reading!

Interested in what else we’ve been reading this year? Check out January’s and February’s Books of the Month for more reading inspiration ๐Ÿ™‚

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