improving as a teacher, Motivation, Practicing

What Motivates Musicians and Music Students? – Part 2

This post is Part 2 of the two-part series: What Motivates Musicians and Music Students?  Here’s a quick recap and then the conclusion of the series:

This goal [creating students who can convey musical meaning] in itself is an intrinsic motivator, for even the youngest of students can appreciate the value of musical meaning and feel important as they learn to create musical meaning.  But to encourage this kind of mastery of the instrument, we need to make sure that our incentive programs are reflecting this goal.

Let’s first consider this:  What kind of student would be produced by an incentive program that is based upon the number of minutes practiced each day?  Answer: The student is motivated to spend more minutes sitting at the piano, but not necessarilyto spend their practice time efficiently and towards the goal of creating musical meaning.  To only encourage large amounts of practice time is missing the point.  So how do we create incentive programs that encourage students towards the goal of learning to communicate musical meaning?

The best idea I am coming up with right now is to base the incentive program upon how many pieces (or pages, perhaps, since some pieces are longer than others) the students “passes.” Since the teacher has ultimate control over when the student passes (or doesn’t pass) a piece, the student is encouraged to figure out what kind of things the teacher values in their playing in order to do well in the incentive program.  That is, the students are more likely to think about what the teacher wants them to improve on in their pieces while they are practicing (aka, the elements that contribute to communicating musical meaning in their pieces).  At this point, the student might even (**gasp**) crack open their assignment notebook and read what it says! — try to shape the phrases more, and think about using more arm weight in the forte section, for example.

What do you think?  Would an incentive program like this work?  What kind of incentive program do you find to be most effective for your students?

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3 thoughts on “What Motivates Musicians and Music Students? – Part 2”

  1. He Joy, I love your blog and all the material you provide. I hardly know you, but I can tell that you love what you do. I have just begun my(lifetime hopefully) music teaching career, and I am blessed to have found your blog. You have so much knowledge and wisdom from actually teaching the students, but you are obviously always researching new ways to teach and inspire.

    I love this motivator, I am going to get an incentive box as soon as possible, and start implementing an incentive program.

  2. Hi Joy,
    I found your website about a year ago, and I have really enjoyed the material you provide and your wisdom to piano teachers! I have only been teaching for a few years, and am still trying to find an incentive program that works for me and my students. I love this motivator! I have an incentive program for finishing theory homework and performing as well. Every time they complete their theory for the week or perform for someone (other than a family member who they live with), they get to put a sticker on their chart. Those stickers add up, and when they get to a certain number of stickers, they get a prize. It seems to work! I like this idea of switching from “minutes/days practiced” to “how many pieces they complete”. Thanks!

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