Omitting components of the program

Stephen R., California

I’m just curious to know if anyone ever omits a part of the program if a student doesn’t like it. I have an older senior that doesn’t like accompaniment, wouldn’t sing for himself or know anyone else that would. He hasn’t been using the audio at home. We talked about it today. Just wondering how to handle this with this student! I mentioned how foundational the entire program is and how accompaniment (and chords) are developed over time. Has anyone had success long-term leaving off this part or any part of the program?

He’s 93 years young. We’re in Level 1. He’s not a regular weekly student; he travels a lot, so he’s more on-call. Not something I would normally do, but he was really interested in the beginning. I think he’s going through personal family stuff at the moment, he told me. I think he gravitates towards classical music too.

Annette S., Hawaii

At that age I think I’d help him define his goals and help him reach those goals. Maybe just let it be fun for both of you.

Rebecca G., Colorado

I have a young student on the autism spectrum who was miserable in the accompaniment stream. I want lessons and playing to be a source of joy and refuge for my students, and in this particular case Accompaniment was a huge barrier to that. It turns out that this student is lightning fast in learning the chords themselves, and he really enjoys the challenge of playing through them as fast as he can using flash cards. So now I’m just teaching him the chord types one by one, knowing he’ll still use them/see them all over the place in music as he plays non-accompaniment styles.

Vicki L., New Zealand

I have recently had this very issue. My 86-year-old student actually burst into tears at the lesson and I wondered what on earth I had said or done to upset her. She said, “I’m sorry, but I just hate the Blues songs – they jar on my ears”. I have absolutely taken it on board, and at her age feel she should be playing the music that SHE likes. The fact that she comes every week, after losing first her husband, then more recently her son, speaks volumes of her determination to have piano as a friend.

So I’ve told her that she will never have to play a Blues song ever again if that’s what she wants. The relief just washed over her. It must have been really worrying her. We are having enormous fun with modifying sheet music as part reading projects, part accompaniment, and part good old patterns and shapes for some of those very old songs we all used to sing around the piano, and she is happy! That’s all that matters.

Missy M., Iowa

I recently had a student request that we not focus on the blues. I let her skip one song in Foundation 4 but then presented a blues exercise as a way for her to “understand song structure”. She actually liked it. She was in a tough spot and I believed more in the long term process than the immediate song so I went with the request. It worked well!

Joanne D., Australia

I believe the accompaniment program is a diamond in the Simply Music curriculum and would never want to omit this as it can help with many things down the track. Perhaps you could cut back a little and do only one song to process the chords for each key and alternate. I.e. Amazing Grace in C, Auld Lang Syne in D, Amazing Grace in E, etc, and spend more time on just knowing chord shapes.

I definitely have different standards for my senior students, i.e. those above 75 years. I currently have three of them in their late 70s, and only one of them is keeping a decent playlist of songs alive, and even so he can’t play too many of these songs without mistakes. He loves it though and has joined my community group where we play at senior centers and nursing homes, and he sings with the group and always plays a solo. I’m doing all streams with him.

The other two senior students have only a few songs on their playlists and they are happy with that. We are only doing Foundation but one is in Level 8 and the other is in Level 9 (they have done the reading programs and Time for More Music). I asked them to keep their favorite songs on their playlist so they have a few songs to play at any given time. One of these ladies has a partner with dementia who is now having to go into care, so life is very difficult. I want the music to be something that they can enjoy without too much pressure at this time in their life. In saying all this I would never accept this from my younger students and do all streams with the others.

Marcia V., North Carolina

If someone is miserable, I let them pick and choose from Accompaniment but insist, of course, on the chord instruction (which everyone loves). I do, however, ask students in this situation to bring in songs they love, or choose selections from one of my song books, as a tool for practicing the chords via Accompaniment. Also, all of my students are working on their own compositions and so learning chords is something they can immediately make use of as they compose.

Laurie Richards, Nebraska

Normally I would not allow it, but with a 93-year-old I would tailor the program for him to help him get as much enjoyment as possible from his lessons.