Jingle All The Wayby Alison Lund on 01/06/14
As is only fitting in the land of Ms. Alison, the obvious time to write a "Back to School!” entry is, naturally enough, halfway through the school year. So, in the spirit of retrospective introspection, I took a comprehensive survey of a representative population sample as to what their favorite things were about piano this year. Ok, so it was only last Saturday’s kids, as my guilt about finally writing an entry sometime before the end of the year evidently failed to occur until, well, the very last day of the year.
They were profoundly unhelpful. “I don’t have a favourite thing about piano” was the standard response. This was discouraging, until the rejoinder, “I like all of it”.
The cognitive dissonance between these assertions and the inevitable roadhumps encountered during the semester was most intriguing. Other than the possibility that all my students have barely functioning mid-range memories (one can only conjecture), I can only attribute their sanguine response to The Jingle Bell Phenomenon.
The even more evil twin of The Fur Elise Phenomenon and its diabolical sidekick, Carol of the Bells, Jingle Bells is one of those pieces students and parents view as gratifyingly tangible evidence of progress and achievement. To that end, I have taken to turning this occupational hazard into an asset by making it an annual milestone.
“Jingle Bells Then and Now” is actually really fun! Juxtaposing last year’s minimalist one handed melody with this year’s harmonized and rhythmically interesting equivalent, followed by next year’s sophisticated neo-classical, blues and/or pop variations, is something students look forward to all year. Making their own arrangements is even better, and pedagogically very useful. So, in this case, teacher pain is definitely worth the motivational gain.
But be warned. This cunning tactic tends to bring out their inner show-off, resulting in persistent nagging for a Jingle Hell Recital. Um, bells. I meant bells. Really.