How the Challenge has helped James

James is a child who really struggled to read music.  He is very aural and didn’t want to look at music which was a big frustration for his teacher.

James was the reason why his teacher ended up purchasing a digital piano with a recording/USB function, so she could record his pieces for him to listen to at home.

As you can imagine, James’ progress was quite slow.

The 40 Piece Challenge has really inspired James. He is loving it and is really motivated by the competition and reward aspect of the challenge, which his teacher has set up within her studio space.

The challenge has:

  • Facilitated greater self learning opportunities and accountability for his own learning, as the weekly challenges are levelled at his skills and abilities enabling him to work alone to learn and play pieces
  • Provided a forum for James to ‘learn’ key practice strategies (which he usually ignores! but non-the-less!!)
  • Provided a very personalised repertoire able to be tailored to teach specific skills; build strengths and focus on weaknesses
  • Created an incentive to learn pieces faster
  • Reinforced the idea that no matter how good you are, every piano player goes through a process to learn and play new pieces

James’ teacher is happy to report that he is now way ahead of everyone as the leader of the 40 Piece Challenge in her piano studio!

Inspired at the APPC

Earlier this month teachers from across Australia (and some from around the world) met in Toowoomba for the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference.

There was lots of chat at the conference about the 40 Piece Challenge and how it is changing the lives of young piano students and changing the way piano teachers teach.

Here are just some of the things that challenge teachers are saying:
Sight Reading has improved – almost EVERY teacher who spoke to me or who has written to me about their challenge progress has mentioned this.
Students are eager to learn more music – some teachers were surprised by this. If a child is into Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or the Hottest 100 or if they love Disney Movies or whatever there is a print music book available for them. I am guessing that piano teachers are not necessarily recommending pop music to their students, but surely anything that encourages more time spent on the piano has got to be good!
More confidence – students showing more confidence at their lessons both as piano players and as humans
Improved skill and coordination
Happy parents! Parents are obviously happy because they are not just listening to the same 4 pieces over and over again. Happier parents will surely mean that students are happier and more likely to learn and play for longer, which will hopefully make the piano teachers happier!
Coming to lessons prepared – well, that’s got to be a bonus for teachers!
Enjoy playing the piano more – hallelujah!
Better exam results – all good all round I would have thought!

Loving the Challenge in NSW

We love reading feedback from teachers about how the challenge is working for them. Piano and violin teacher, Lorraine, recently wrote to tell us this:

I love the challenge. I have at least 7 who have already completed the challenge and I’ve moved them up to the 100 piece challenge which they are happy to do.

I have made a list of my top 10 students and they have been working hard competing with each other in terms of completing the most pieces.

I have a violin student that just started with me middle of term 1 – he struggled for the 1st month of learning. But since then he’s been crossing off piece after piece. He has now completed 85 songs since March and I’m very happy about that.

As for my other students who have completed the challenge (mainly piano and violin), their sight reading has improved and they are eager to learn more music and get new books which is the first time I’ve experienced this!

Filling them with confidence

We love hearing about how the 40 piece challenge is changing your teaching and your students!

Carol from Victoria writes:

We started earlier this year and everyone is loving it.

It is filling them with confidence and helping them with sightreading amongst other things.

I am keeping track of what and how many pieces they play by writing down the title and adding a sticker to the page for each tune accomplished. I have also taken the liberty of giving them an even greater incentive by offering them a small trophy at the end of the year, plus something extra for the student who learns the most pieces.

I wonder how many other teachers are discovering a newfound confidence in their students?

Result – improved skill and coordination!

A first term review from one of our Melbourne participants: 

Well nearly the end of term and some of the kids are right on target! That doesn’t mean that the others can’t catch up!

Who knows what can happen down the track?

It’s just wonderful observing the development in some of them. One girl in particular, is highly creative and has an innate sense for structure and harmony at a tender age! I count her original pieces as well.

Others are busy tackling new challenges and together we work out ways to deal with them. Result – improved skill and co-ordination!

Josie Thomas

Piano Teacher…what they’re saying

What they’re saying…
I already have a student on 15 pieces in three weeks. She has been learning in the past one piece a fortnight and uses piano adventures and grade 1 AMEB Other students working hard and the learning output has doubled. I have awards for the first to 15, 20, 30 and 40 with names up on the wall. They are eating it up!
Deanne Scott Calamvale

Just letting you know I am up for the 40 piece challenge next year, and really excited about implementing it with my students!

I really don’t think there is going to be an issue for most of my students. I do need to push some of the transfer students out of their comfort zones, but most of them have accepted the challenge, especially when I explained how it is going to work. Most of the students who started learning this year have finished 2 sets of books and are well into their 3rd set – this equates to more than 80 pieces each. Not a bad effort, and they were very proud of themselves when I pointed that out to them and have no qualms with the challenge.
The kids have the 40 piece challenge, do you know what that means for me? I currently have 65 students ….. 65 x 40 = 2600. That is a lot of music …. what have I got myself in for?

I really love the idea of 40 pieces challenge, so we will give it a go.
I have always been getting my students to learn extra pieces, but not that many! Giving them easier pieces than what their exam level is will definitely be more fun and give them real satisfaction. I was quite excited about this challenge and started to look for some fun repertoire to even improve some technical points.

I only have a few students, but all are keen to give it a go and some have started already (even with the Christmas carols). It is also great to start now, after they have done their exams and the school holidays are coming up ( although we will start to count them in 2013).

I would like to reister for the 40 piece challenge you have advertised in your last magazine. I already do a similar project with my students now and I have noticed a huge improvement in the student’s sightreading and enthusiasm for learning more pieces.
To make the challenge more official will hopefully mean greater committment from my students.
Tracy Meyn Cre8tive Kidz Pty Ltd

I’m very interested in this idea-it’s such a good one, I can’t think why I didn’t think of it myself years ago. I’ll bet everyone says that! I’ve spoken to the Head of Music here at school and he’s keen for all piano teachers to be involved so I’ll keep you in touch with how it goes.

I have been speaking to my students about the 40 piece challenge and they are all excited for it! I like the idea of it because I might actually make use of some the books I have here that never get used. I think it might also motivate a few of the stragglers who are driving me nuts. It is interesting to note the ones who struggle the most are the ones who have come from other teachers and whose reading skills are not so strong. Obviously they are the ones who will most benefit from doing this kind of thing.

We have over 60 students and they are all going for the challenge, Thanks for the great motivational idea!

We’re going to do the 40 piece challenge. I’m going to let the students start on the holidays to encourage holiday practice:)

The Tim Topham article was inspiring and I’ve decided to take up the 40 pieces challenge for myself, and my students.
I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ready to challenge my students.

I have been challenging my students in 2012 to a 50 page challenge. Already 20 students have completed this and 3 of those have also completed 100 page challenge and working on their 150page.
It is a great idea and works extremely well.

At my studios we had introduced this challenge to a few students this year. Some have really taken to it, others petered out early and thought it all too hard to go on!
Would like to really make it a big part of next year.
Saw the ad in Piano magazine so thought I would give you a shout!

Well, this is some challenge! As I am asking my students to do this, I will also put myself out there and see just how much effort is required!
Not sure how many will actually take on the challenge (especially as I has mostly young pupils in the earlier stages)…but it is worth a try.


Not only practicing but they are practicing properly!

WOW! Just had this update from challenge teacher Lorraine. I am sure you will be just as impressed as I am – especially love the last line. Thanks for sharing, Lorraine.

Keep those stories coming everyone!

Just to update you that I have about 95% of my students who has committed in trying out the challenge. Most of my students that hardly practice in the past now come to lesson prepared and are enjoying playing their instrument more. They are amazed at how far they can go with putting that extra effort in their practice which makes them practice even more. They are not only practicing but they are practicing properly. All of my student’s parents are on board of this challenge and acknowledge the tremendous change in their child’s playing.