Mozart’s Favorite Movie is a ridiculous, purely verbal piano game that I play with kids when they need relief from the tedium of reading sheet music.
I pose a question, unexpectedly, putting them off guard, usually at a moment when they need a break.
“What was Mozart’s favorite movie?” If the child guesses “Batman” I say, “Yes, that’s it!” Any movie they’ve seen will do.
If the student cleverly answers, “There were no movies in Mozart’s day,” I reward them for their historical acumen. Perhaps then we’ll talk about Mozart, or how it was to live in a world without computers and digital pencil sharpeners.
I guarantee the child will be amused at this point. The questions are pointedly ludicrous.
I ask, “What was Mozart’s favorite flavor of Jell-O?” and the kids retort, “There was no Jell-O way back then.”
Play a piece of Mozart and try to make it Jello-ey. It’s supposed to be ridiculous.
But now the kids are interested in this Mozart guy. Batman? Jello? Who is this Mozart guy?
Soon they are refreshed by the humor, and the mood of tedium is broken. Now we can go back to work.
Parents say I’m like a shepherd, always letting the kids roam, but getting them back in line when it counts.
It’s important for kids to see a sense of humor in a teacher. It tells them that they will be allowed to be themselves and laugh as well as study.
It’s far easier to teach the piano to a child who is amused and smiling
A child giggling at the piano is ready for a bit more work.
Here’s another entirely silly game that I play with young piano students when all is not going well. If all goes well, I won’t waste their time with jokes, but sometimes a child just needs a break.
Then we take a minute or two and play a game such as this, and return refreshed to our work.
Let me say in advance that the reason such games are needed is usually the child’s fatigue, almost always caused by reading music.
So when the going gets tough, I get out Beethoven’s Bicycle.
I ask, “What color was Beethoven’s Bicycle?” If the child guesses “Blue,” I say, “Correct.” Any color will do.
If the child says, “There were no bicycles in Beethoven’s day,” I applaud them for their acute scholarship. This may lead to a discussion of Beethoven, or what it was like to live in Beethoven’s time with no television or cars.
But you’ll notice by now that the child is smiling. Who couldn’t help smiling at such absurd questions?
I ask, “What color was Beethoven’s car?” and of course the answer comes back, “They didn’t have cars back then, you silly!” Perhaps a quick performance of some particularly motoric Beethoven piano piece will lead to a further discussion of the qualities of musical sound.
It usually takes only two or three questions for them to be delighted, and as soon as they are delighted, I go right back to where we were in the lesson, or embark on some new, fun project.
In that sense, I am like a sheep dog, letting, my “sheep” get out of line occasionally, only to nudge them back towards the center if they stray too far.
Part of what delights the child is that the teacher, usually serious, allows humor and relaxation into the lesson. This, for most children, is always unexpected and refreshing.
You’d be surprised how much easier it is to teach piano to a laughing child.
Good mood equals good work, in all cases, especially at the piano.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press