We are really excited to debut the 40 piece challenge in our studio this year, which has been steadily gaining global attention. It was created by Elissa Milne, who is a piano teacher in Australia. I first learned of the challenge in April when I attended Elissa’s presentation at the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) conference, and I was very impressed with the results in her own studio. The following excerpt is from Elissa herself:
“Once upon a time I was a teacher in Australia teaching my students the way teachers in exam-oriented and competition-oriented culture have always taught – spending between 4 and 9 months working with students on their exam/competition repertoire and then having a few months per year for “fun” pieces that weren’t “for” anything. Students working this way would be learning between 6 and 10 pieces a year total, as a rule. The more students progressed in degrees of difficulty the more their sight-reading skills lagged behind. And at the end of about 10 years of serious study throughout their childhood the students would cease lessons with a slew of certificates and awards and probably never really play very much again. The students who could play quite well by ear tended to be the ones who kept on playing after formal lessons stopped. And that struck me as signalling that there was something very wrong, possibly even unethical, with the way I was teaching. Shouldn’t 10 years of serious study equip you for a lifetime of engagement with your instrument?”
With an exam-oriented and competition-oriented approach, I think the answer to her last question is no. What I like about this approach is that it shifts the focus of learning challenging pieces that take months to learn to reading new music and material constantly. I’ve always felt that it is more important for students to learn shorter, easier pieces that they can sightread fairly easily to build their skills. If sightreading is too much of a struggle, they are not independent learners and are more likely to stop playing altogether. I believe the 40 piece challenge will help students stay motivated throughout the school year, all the while gaining self-esteem and pride once they’ve completed the challenge.
The 40 piece challenge is not suitable for all of our students, but for some it could be just what they need to reach the next level. If your child is a good fit, your teacher will bring it up at your lesson to discuss possibly participating (it’s a great sign that your child is accelerating!)
For more information about the 40 piece challenge, visit the website at https://elissamilne.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/where-did-the-40-piece-challenge-begin/
click here to see the list of students who have completed the 40 Piece Challenge!