Aren’t the Olympics exciting?! I love how they bring people together – across nations – to recognize and celebrate hard work, excellence, and achievement. These are things I want to celebrate in my students! So, inspired by this year’s Winter Olympics and drawing on the symbol pictured above, I created a piano festival based on five key aspects of musicianship:
Blue – Sight-Reading Gold – Memorization + Performance Black – Aural Skills (clap-backs, sing-backs, play-backs) Green – Creativity (improvisation, composition) Red – Technique
This festival is based on a series of weekly “events” – students will have the opportunity to choose which events they would like to “train” for and participate in.
My goal is to focus on one ring at a time, for teaching efficiency and to keep students from getting overwhelmed. Together, we will choose events (2-3 per category); I will give students practice materials to take home so they can prepare for the events. Most events are designed to take place in the lessons. Once students successfully complete the required number of events for a given category, they will earn that Olympic ring. After all rings have been earned, the student will receive a certificate of achievement and perhaps a small prize for participating.
The events are as follows:
Olympic training (sight-play something new 7 days in a row)
Sight-Reading Events: Choose 2 – Halfpipe (sight-play two contrasting short pieces) – 500m Freestyle (sight-read two contrasting rhythm exercises, counting out loud) – Remix (sight-play a short exercise with RH, then LH) – Short Track Relay (sing, speak rhythm, and play new piece on your own)
GOLD: MEMORIZATION + PERFORMANCE
Olympic training (practice 7 days in a row)
Memorizing + Performance Events: Choose 2 – Speed Skating (polish and memorize 1-2 pieces from earlier in the year) – Giant Slalom (learn a continuous technique sequence from memory) – Semifinal (perform two pieces from memory for friends or family)
BLACK: AURAL SKILLS
Olympic training (copy tonal and rhythm patterns from recording – sing-back or clap-back)
Aural Skills Events: Choose 2 – Curling (perform two contrasting rhythm exercises, counting out loud) – Free Skating (create your own rhythmic series for practice – minimum: four bars) – Qualifying (sing and play a new song by ear – choose something you know)
Olympic training (transpose three short pieces to a new key this week)
Creativity Events: Choose 2 – Freestyle Skiing (compose a new piece) – Bobsled (perform a structured improvisation with teacher or family member) – Figure Skating (compose or improvise a duet with a friend)
Olympic training (practice a different technique exercise every day for 7 days)
Technique Events: Choose 3 – Ski Jumping (play five continuous 5-finger or one-octave scales in steady tempo) – Cross-Country Skiing (play three major/minor triads [Prep B/Level 1: with inversions], HS) – Biathlon (play one 5-finger or one-octave scale – one hand legato, one hand staccato, HS) – Snowboarding (play two 5-finger or one-octave scales, descending first, then ascending, HS) – Ice Dancing (play two 5-finger or one-octave scales in contrary motion, HT)
Download the Piano Olympics Planning & Resource Guide for helpful resources and materials for facilitating these events with Preparatory A, Preparatory B, and Level 1 students (based on the levels of the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Music Development Program).
Let the Games begin!
Resources that helped inspire this project: Gig Harbor Music Teachers Association Susan Griesdale Chanson Voice Studio Joy Morin/Color in My Piano Keyboard Musicianship for the Adult Beginner (Frances Clark) Music Tree Activities, Part I (Frances Clark) Royal Conservatory of Music, Music Development Program Developing Musicianship Through Improvisation (Azzara/Grunow)
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