I WANT TO PLAY THAT!

Carly McDonald
A boost for repertoire-rich learning.

Do you have students who like to get on the exam elevator and jump from one level to the next? That can cause some consternation if you are trying to implement a repertoire-rich approach for your students.

Whilst the idea of repertoire-rich learning isn’t new to studio teachers, it has certainly gained more popularity in recent years. This approach provides a wealth of benefits for our students and their musical literacy. Their sight reading skills, musicality, rhythm and understanding of musical genres get a significant boost when they learn more pieces with greater frequency. Weaving additional repertoire and resources into your students’ curriculum to ensure a rounded musical experience can be a challenge. Trying to combine our desire, as the teacher, to have wealth of materials available sometimes doesn’t marry up with parent expectations and budgets!

In my studio, students are challenged to complete 40 pieces in a year. Students at all levels exceed this goal by including a variety of music. Think of it like a buffet. Students have the opportunity to have some starters: sight reading exercises and small, easy-win pieces that take no more than a week. Then they have the smaller dishes: something a little more complex, that just takes a few weeks, perhaps something a couple of grade levels below where they are able to play. Next we add in the main dishes: a helping of their challenge pieces, perhaps for performance or an exam.

And of course, no buffet is complete without dessert! For our students this could mean a myriad of things: pieces of the students’ own choice, things they want to learn, lead charts, pieces for band, whatever takes their fancy. If our goal is to create musicians enabled with the skills to go on and enjoy music for the rest of their life, then students need a broad experience base to feel capable and confident in their music making.

I adore finding collections of graded repertoire that suit my students and develop their skills. My students’ parents appreciate it too! I also love it when students come away from a recital and excitedly tell me about a piece someone else played, that they now want to be able to play! Something in the piece resonated with them and they are now motivated to make it happen.

Last year, I was hunting for more material for my students and I came across some old favourites I adored as a child. Pieces that were these kind of excitable recital favourites, which it would have been wonderful to have all together in one collection rather than a piece here and a piece there. Thembi Harris and I got to chatting about it and contemplating the creation of a such a collection, and the I Want To Play That series was born. We wanted to create collections of repertoire to motivate, inspire and nurture our students’ broad musical skill base. Pieces that other students heard at concerts and went back to their next lesson asking to learn too!

We set about creating each book with an overarching goal to include a range of genres, crowd-pleasers, pedagogically-rich pieces, sound-scapes and pieces from our own childhood that have stood the test of time. There are creative challenges, duets and highly-musical pieces to engage our students, representing excellent value as a resource in their repertoire-rich learning while always keeping the parents in mind!

Each I Want To Play That book is a collection of ten graded pieces from pre-preliminary (Book 1), preliminary (Book 2) and grade one (Book 3) standard. Some students might use them as appetizers for extra repertoire, an entrée book for students who are perhaps a grade or two above the collection level, or the main course for our developing students. It really depends on where your student is at. They are excellent books for your students’ repertoire buffet!

Thembi and I are both so excited for our students (and yours!) to have these books as part of their learning, and we can’t wait to hear them say “I want to play that!” with each piece in the collection.

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