Embrace the Experience

By Lou Ann Pope, Tonara Creative Education Specialist

One of my favorite radio shows is John Tesh’s Intelligence for Your Life. I have learned so many interesting tidbits, but the best piece of advice is “Don’t buy your children things; give them experiences.” So started the first of many trips with my three children. Instead of purchasing needless gadgets, which were only to be quickly tossed aside and soon forgotten, we traveled to Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, and Venice, Italy. In the same vein, no rewarding my piano students with a pencil adorned with music notes; I would rather create experiences for them. Enter Canva and inspiration.

Let me first set the stage. As a Tonara Creative Education Specialist and a huge fan of the platform, I have turned my group chats into a Performance Room.  I have found that this is the best place for me to present motivation for my students. In response, they have played Mother Goose Rhymes by ear, (one delightful student played 6 childhood gems!), composed about the things they love (a Valentine’s Day Challenge), and have written rhythms in the snow and shared their “experiences” with their like-minded peers. Don’t have any snow?  I’ll bet rhythms in the sand would be just as enriching. 

Creating Community: Pandemic or Not!

During the pandemic, my students have enjoyed the connection they have with their musical friends due to the challenges.  Some of the challenges I have presented to them have been seasonal, others have addressed an issue several students were battling. But my favorite challenges have been student-driven. If the students create the challenge, then they tend to take ownership. Here are a few creatives my students proposed. The Challenge to play 5 pieces in one video was dubbed the “Nickel Challenge.”  I had one over-achiever who produced a “Dime” video which espoused 10 videos! How about Play your Favorite Piece with a Background Beat (hence becoming one of Lucy’s Beat-Nic’s)? “And if you don’t have a keyboard with beats, just let Ms. Lou Ann know the name of the piece and she will send you one on Tonara.”

Each of these experiences and a myriad more have been enjoyed by my students. They feel a connection to the students who are embracing the challenges. I love watching them discuss the performances and posts.  “Wow! Good Job! I love your piece.” This is the type of comment that typically graces the Performance Room stage. The students also love sending stickers to the performers. The camaraderie that this “experience” builds is unmatched by any chart I have ever created for my studio. This is not to say that I don’t create charts, but instead, the addition of the Performance Room literally brings the chart to life! Students are not only experiencing their own creativity but also enjoy everyone else’s experience, thus multiplying their motivation!

How YOU Can Access These Challenges (with More to Come!)

If you are a Tonara subscriber, you, too, have access to these challenges. Look in the Tonara Repertoire and scroll down to the bottom tab labeled Tonara Creative Challenges.  The beauty of these challenges is that you can send them at any time to any group of students. If you decide that you would like to challenge only a small group of students, then group your students into “Practice Buddies.”  (There will be a future blog about this!) These Creative Challenges are geared towards students in Elementary and Middle School.  The next project I’m working on is a group of weekly challenges that are created for High Schoolers and up.  Even Millennials and Baby Boomers alike will love them! Stay tuned.  

If you would like to learn more about my challenges, click HERE for a link to sign up for a Creative Demo of Tonara with me. I would love to share my experiences with you as your Creative Coach. And If you aren’t yet a Tonara Subscriber, I recommend you sign up for a 30-day trial. I challenge YOU to try a few of the challenges with your students to give your students a new experience.  I also highly recommend a trip with your children! John Tesh would be proud.