Learning in a group environment can be more fun, as well as more motivating and rewarding than taking individual, private lessons! One thing it does very well is keep students interested in music during the middle and high school years when competing and changing interests tend to cause them to drop out of music lessons. Students learn from each other, so that having additional students in the class actually enhance what the teacher can teach in a one-on-one setting. Multiple students can play ensembles together in their weekly lessons as well as in recitals and public performances which is not usually possible in private lessons. In my studio, we use The Mayron Cole Method, which provides wonderful and exciting supplemental ensemble music for students. I have a library of music in which students play one on a part – just like being in a band or orchestra! This is great fun, and can be very challenging to be able to count and play all notes correctly. Group lessons are appealing to students of all ages; students bond to their “groups” and want to stay together with them for years to come. Additionally, the use of technology such as midi files allows for development of greater musicianship with ensemble playing as well as increased interaction between students and teacher.
In the music studio we currently have 6 digital pianos (1 with a midi disc drive), and 1 acoustic Yamaha 6’1” grand piano. The studio also has a computer with music theory and educational games for use by students, as well as other musical games and activities.
Please feel free to review the articles below for more information about group lessons. I would be happy to answer any questions or discuss this possibility with you if you want to contact me.
Benefits of group lessons
By Mayron Ellis Cole
(This article appeared in “THE MUSIC & COMPUTER EDUCATOR”, Vol. 1, No. 7)
I first began teaching over twenty years ago in the traditional one-on-one manner, but about thirteen years ago, I took a careful look at myself, my goals, and my students. I thought about the fun I’d had playing trombone in my high school band and the valuable experiences gained through ensemble playing. It seemed to me that group instruction using electronic keyboards could duplicate that experience for my students, so I bought six keyboards, two Roland and four Baldwin electronic pianos, and launched my first “piano band.”
I arranged my electronic pianos in an “L” shape, so my students could face each other and interact with eye-contact. I devoted a large corner to a theory game area where students sat on the floor to work on theory papers and play theory games. I also painted bright murals on the walls and left the windows uncovered for a bright, sunny atmosphere.
Within weeks, positive results were evident. The students were learning musical concepts faster in a group, attendance was noticeably higher, and lesson preparation was at a maximum. I set aside a large portion of time for each piano class to play their lesson material as an ensemble. Soon, my students were sight-reading far better than I had hoped; and the group playing was turning all of them into relaxed performers. I also discovered what other group piano teachers had previously discovered: students will work harder to please their friends in piano class than they will work for a teacher at a private lesson! But who’s complaining? Good results speak for themselves!
Over the years the results have become clear. My students have enjoyed piano as I’d hoped, have continued lessons far longer than when I taught one-on-one, and have achieved a higher level of proficiency. Many o my former students are now high school choir pianists and have continued piano in college. My goals have been met, and even surpassed.
Review of the Mayron Cole group method
Reviewed by Patty Morell Bilhartz, M.A.
Director, Music & Arts Center of Huntsville, TX
The Mayron Cole Piano Method is a unique, innovative and enjoyable way for students of all ages to learn to play the piano. The author, Mayron Cole, developed and piloted this program in her own Houston studio. Hallmarks of the program include teaching the student to think for him/herself and developing musicality in each student. To achieve these goals, the author emphasizes note reading, consistent counting, and creative thought in each lesson. The Method currently contains nine levels, from Pre-Primer to Early Advanced, plus three Older Beginner levels. Additional materials include a 5-lesson “Blast Off With Piano” sampler, several operettas on varying levels, primer and intermediate level multi-piano ensembles, sequenced disks to accompany all levels and supplementary music, four games designed by the author, and inclusive teacher support manuals and teaching aids. The method may be used for teachers who offer private and/or group lesson formats.
The Pre-Piano level targets rhythm development in the young child. Students learn to count while discovering keyboard geography. Staff reading is reserved for Level 1. The Pre-Piano or “Menehune” (Hawaiian for “little person”) Level develops all fingers, and encourages the student to play at various locations on the keyboard.
Levels 1 and 2 continue the emphasis on counting and reading as notes are introduced one-by-one on the grand staff. Cole uses a modified middle C approach to note reading. Students are encouraged to play with different fingers and at different octaves using both black and white keys on the keyboard. No finger numbers are given in the first lessons to that students will rely on reading the staff. Students’ hand positions are allowed to develop naturally and correctly as students learn note-by-note reading. Level 2 concentrates on reading the bass staff, Level III works with the upper treble notes.
Enjoyable foci of each level are the “Fun Sheets.” Theory sheets in masquerade, the Fun Sheets make theory meaningful to the students by coordinating concepts directly with the pieces that they are playing. Before playing most pieces, the student completes a Fun Sheet about the piece. The Fun Sheet can cover anything from counts to notes to musical aspects such as language, dynamics, patterns, and form. Not only does the Fun Sheet teach the needed theory concepts to the developing student, it helps the student to discover “how” to practice the new piece by breaking the piece into small, more easily learned parts. At the end of each level, the student takes a quiz over the concepts learned. These “Finish Lines” are coordinated with each level of state theory tests.
The Method Books, while more expensive than traditional single method books, are all-in-one entities. Their loose-leaf page format allows the students to receive new music each week. Pages include pieces, theory, sight-reading, some ear training, and technique. Levels II and up include sheets of major and minor scales and cadences. The pieces in the upper levels offer edited classics coupled with the author’s own delightful compositions. “Midnight on Boggy Creek” and “Forever River” are favorites of teenagers in Level 6.
The Mayron Cole Method offers a wonderful change from the “traditional piano method” diet. Students who progress through each level will emerge as independent musicians who can read, write, and create music. And for those teachers who already are convinced of the power of group piano lessons, or for teachers who may wish to offer group piano lessons but aren’t sure how to get started, Cole’s method provides surefire teaching aids and pedagogical advice which are sure to be a success with both students and teachers.
For more information about group lessons please visit www.mcpiano.com.