Price vs Value of Books

I frequently hear piano teachers say that they simply cannot ask parents to buy books of music as the cost will be beyond the reach of the family budget.

Meantime, I’ve never once heard a parent complain that they wanted their child to learn to play the piano without using (or having to buy) music. It’s an interesting sociological divide: the parent who is keen to provide educational opportunities for their child, and the teacher who is fixated on providing a budget experience.

There are two implications, educationally speaking, when a teacher limits a student’s exposure to musical scores:

  1. The student has limited reading opportunities (with the predictable result that the student does not develop excellent reading skills).
  2. The student has limited musical performance experiences (with the predictable result that the student struggles to bring context and nuance to their performances as they reach Grade 4/5/6 standard).

I’ve never met a parent who wishes their child to experience these educational limitations.

What parents do want for their children?

  1. An enjoyment of playing the piano
  2. An ability to play all kinds of music
  3. Piano playing skills they can use for the rest of their lives, in both social and individual settings.

And parents just expect that once a child has been taking piano lessons for long enough that they will know how to read music.

So while teachers are busy saving parents money by using the absolute minimum of books, those same parents are off scouring print music shops looking for new material they’d love to hear their child play. Why? Because parents think that fresh and fabulous music will contribute to their child’s enjoyment, help develop their ability and facilitate their child using their pianistic skills in social settings.

And you know what? Parents are right! AND playing more music develops reading skills in a way no sight reading tutor can rival. There are amazing print music (and other!) resources we can use with our students these days – it’s time for piano teachers to start acting as advocates for educational opportunity and to leave worrying about the bills to the parents.

What’s Wrong With Just Using Photocopies
• It limits students’ musical experiences to assigned repertoire.
• It reduces opportunities for students to explore and read new music.
• It’s stealing from composers who struggle to make a living the same way you (and the parents of your students) do.
• It’s unethical to use something without permission or payment.
• Publishers cannot continue to publish new music unless consumers continue to purchase.
• It’s a criminal offense.

Two Top Tips for Teachers
• Tell parents at the start of the year how much they should budget for music purchases throughout the year. $150 per annum is a good minimum figure, and better students might need to spend $200-250 per year.
• Never apologise for assigning a new book! That would be like apologising for giving lessons! Students want to learn new pieces (and parents are grateful to listen to new music during practice sessions!).

You can read more from this article by Elissa Milne over on her blog at Elissa Milne.

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