Mix up the degree of difficulty
If your students are accustomed to learning 7 pieces each year during their exam preparation, it would be ridiculous to expect them to learn 40 pieces at their current level. Assign the long term program they require to prepare for the next exam and then, in addition, each week assign repertoire at lower grades.
Consider a range of material
Consider assigning a sight-reading book, a popular repertoire book, a jazz play along, a book of classical or standard repertoire and a book of studies or technical exercises in addition to their exam repertoire. That way you will have a slew of material to begin with and endless repertoire to explore and discard on a whim takes you.
Allow students to select their own repertoire
This can be a great learning experience for students as they will understand that the whole point of the challenge is to succeed, so they will quickly learn a lot about selecting appropriate repertoire. However, do proceed with caution as students have a tendency to select music that is too hard, and poorly arranged music with limited pedagogical interest. We will update lists of material suitable for each grade level here and on the Australian Instrumental Music Teachers’ HUB Facebook group.
If a student is struggling, assign MORE pieces
Sometimes if a student is struggling to achieve weekly goals we decide to back off and assign less work. What happens then of course is that the student thinks “well, I don’t have a whole lot to do, so I can just get away with practising the day before”
A special note about your beginner students
Use a method book with new beginners. No need to go it alone and re-invent the wheel. Modern method books have been tried and tested with students and each exercise is included for a specific pedagogical reason. Most method series have a Book 2 and Book 3 so keep assigning pieces from Books 2 and 3 even as you move into exam repertoire. Not only will they have an instant set of pieces to add to their challenge lists, but they will continue to learn all sorts of useful technical stuff! (Hurrah!)
Budgeting for the Challenge
Make sure your student understands the cost of books for the year. We usually recommend that teachers tell families to budget $150-200 per annum for books. The beauty of the 40 piece challenge is that they could conceivably learn every piece from each book they ever purchase. And, if they discover a piece they don’t like it will not especially matter because they will have mastered and moved on from it quickly. If you are worried that you couldn’t possibly expect parents to purchase more than one book each year, consider this: The parent has charged you with the responsibility of teaching their child to play a musical instrument. This involves providing an instrument, a music stand and music. It also requires parents to help their child timetable in practice and provide support and encouragement. Unless the parent is only signing their child up for music lessons as very expensive babysitting or a tick the box (everyone else is doing it) situation the parent will understand that without the right tools their child will never succeed.
Never apologise for assigning a new book (especially given that now you will be confident your students will learn every piece in the book!)
Don’t photocopy music. It is idiotic and devalues the business you are in (that being the music business).