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The importance of community for personal achievement

Two years ago I started making the switch from a lesson structure based on one-on-one private lessons, to one based primarily on partner and group lessons. The change in students has been profound.

Students learn as much or more from each other as they do from a teacher. Sometimes they learn what to do from watching and listening to another student. Sometimes they learn what NOT to do from watching and listening to another student.

Students accelerate each other. With two or more students in a lesson, one student can play a melody and improvise, and the other can provide a harmonic accompaniment. Then they can switch. By engaging and involving themselves with each other in this manner, their progress to Hands Together playing by themselves is greatly facilitated.

When students perform with one another, both improve their understanding of rhythm immensely. Rather than having a teacher always there to catch them when they fall (rhythmically speaking), students are forced to engage and stay on their best game when they’re playing with each other. And they like it!

Working with other students helps them learn how to be musical ambassadors to their peers at school and elsewhere. In a one-on-one private lesson, the student is always the weaker musician in the room. They can never develop the confidence and level of focus that comes from learning WITH another person. They carry these things with them everywhere they go.

I’ve long believed that community is key to helping music learning survive. School soccer and mathematics and robotics teams thrive. Music needs the same thing. Especially piano students, who traditionally are isolated. I’m doing everything I can to change that.

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