I had an eight year-old piano student who sat down in the beginning of his lesson, looking defeated. "What's wrong?" I ask him. The child tells me "I need a vacation, I want to be on a beach." I ask him if he wants a snack first with his friends (my daughters) while I have tea with his mother. "Yes, please!" He perks up.
After a snack, we sit back down on the bench and I ask him to imagine his place on the beach. Then I ask him to use the notes on the C scale to improvise and create a melody which he sees as his beach. As he plays, I write down the notes. After his creation, I ask him to take the letter notes and create on them on the staff. He is exercising his note recognition in a creative, fulfilling way. After all the notes go on the staff, I add a base line and we play the duet. "I didn't know it would be so beautiful!"
We proceed on to practice the rest of his lesson, and by the end, he is a happier child. I tell him the next time he is stressed like that, take a deep breath, sit on the bench, imagine and then create. Thank-you, he says.
Teaching music to me is not just about the notes and rhythms, but it is about the expression of the spirit, the soul. It is about teaching students how to keep that music in their lives. It is a wordless form of communication that can move a whole audience to feel what the musician does. That, is just priceless.