Musical Amnesia

It happens every September. Sometimes even in late August.

Piano lessons resume, students file into the studio and choose their keyboard.  You greet them happily and chit chat about how big they’ve grown and what grade they are now in. When all these pleasantries are done, you ask for keyboards to be turned on and “Let’s play a D major scale together”.

And that’s when the blank stares appear.  And the questions begin….”Is this C?”, “Are we going up or down?” “Does C major have any black keys?”….

WHAT??????? I quietly whisper to the air….  Or even worse.  I don’t react.  I just expect it. I already know.

Every year during the month of May  I let go of a group of wonderfully capable piano students who have at least a repertoire of 6 to 7 memorized pieces, can play 5 different scales (major or minor), have learned to write simple songs, can harmonize with 3 different chords and improving their note reading every week.  And then for some “WE NEED A BREAK” reasoning they do not continue lessons during the summer or practice on their own and 80% of what was learned during the school year goes down the drain of forgetfulness.

But …we  can’t afford it!

Parents might think that I am whining about loss of income during the summer months. Not at all. My Boss owns everything in the known and unknown universe.  I will not worry.  Plus I also enjoy a more flexible schedule in the summer to spend time in the pool and catching up on all those books I started reading and never have time to finish.

But do parents realize the loss of money they incur while their children sit away from the piano for 8 to 10 weeks? This is exactly where musical amnesia sets in.  Students are no longer plugged in to their routine of practice, singing, listening, dancing and playing instruments, and the connections, those vital pathways that we worked so hard to attain, quietly disappear.

Is there a solution?

Of course there is!

When students are not coming to the studio on a regular basis parents must provide consistent and varied practiced times at home.  If they have sacrificed during the school year to provide musical training, they should find a way to continue when they decide to “take a break”.  Parents owe it to their pocketbooks and to their children.

There is always the  option of scheduling lessons during the summer.  That is the ideal.  But if families are traveling all summer, involved in too many other activities, struggling with carpool issues or other conflicts, it would be wise for teachers to provide a way for them to keep the connections plugged in.

Here are a few things you can offer your families (besides a flexible summer schedule at your studio):

  • online assignments (click here)
  • Youtube tutorials (check out ellenjoh’s tutorial)
  • general assignments written in their assignment books
  • computer theory assignments (such as Music Learning Community)

Help your students prevent musical amnesia…

By providing and encouraging various ways to stay plugged into the musical skills they have already acquired!