Disney + Piano = 1 Incredible Summer!

How is it already June 10th?? Feels like just yesterday it was the beginning of May and Abe and I were looking at our crazy May schedule and wondering if we could make it to the other side without crashing and burning. But May came and went in a whirlwind and here we are, in the good old days of summer, soaking up the sun and enjoying more free time!

Today’s post is about my summer theme for piano lessons…

Revealing….. My piano studio’s first ever summer theme….. DISNEY!!

First, I’ll tell you how I came to decide on such a pop-culture theme, and then I’ll show and attach some of the ways I’ve been incorporating it into piano lessons.

The idea slowly came to me over this past school year, when I had several students coming to me with these giant Disney songbooks, wanting to play one of their favorites for the end of the year piano recital. Due to the classical, formal nature of the end of the year recital, I gently denied them Disney and tried to lure them into more fun sounding classical pieces for the recital. I began thinking about how could I use/incorporate Disney music, or any fun pop music, into lessons. We spend a lot of time on theory, technique, and classical repertoire…all very much needed! But I figured there had to be some way to let the students enjoy the music they like to listen to and still get some type of beneficial skill training out of it.ย Even if just for a summer. ๐Ÿ™‚ A second reason was that this summer I am teaching solely out of my house, and I was unsure how many students would agree to the new location over the summer.ย Trust me…doing a Disney theme definitely helped keep the kids signed up for the summer!

So I brainstormed with my sister (an elementary ed major who is brimming with creative ideas) and came up with a plan for a Disney summer. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” I figured I will “let it go” over the summer and just go Disney crazy to get it out of their systems, and then focus back on the standard literature in the fall. The challenge for me was finding ways to make it beneficial pianistically. With Disney songs, they can work on:

  1. Bringing out the character and mood of a piece. (“Under the Sea” should be played in an entirely different mood from “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”!)
  2. Keeping a steady rhythm that someone can sing to. (Songs they know the words to = songs they can sing with!)
  3. Analyzing a composition–how did the Disney writer start out the song? (mood of the introduction) how did the Disney writer use harmony/notes/rhythm to paint a picture of the words? Do the words always go with the music style? (There are also several videos online about how Disney songs are made…It’s a perfect opportunity to talk about composing and the process of making your own music. What better way to introduce composing than with the favorite Disney songs?)ย 

These are just a few of the ideas I came up with. Now for the fun part… the part I’m not as good at… making all the ideas work in each lesson. I’m great at coming up with ideas, not always so great at actually doing them. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (yeah…I’m one of those people!)ย 

Thank goodness I have an incredibly creative sister who thrives on classroom creativity.

The extent of my creative ideas: let’s learn Disney songs this summer and call it a Disney Summer!

Tricia’s creative ideas: OK, we can do a party at the end of the year and have everyone dress up as the character who’s song they learned and play their pieces for everyone, and have Disney themed food, and have a practice contest where the prize is a Disney movie day at your house, and we can have a treasure box of Disney toys from the Dollar Store that they can pick out of when they play good, and the program for the Disney piano party can be a puzzle with the song titles and clip-arts of each movie, and the parents have to match the song title to the correct movie….

Wow.

I literally kind of stood there with my mouth open for a minute, mainly because those are all spectacular ideas, but also because not one of them would have ever entered my head! Except for the performance party at the end of the year where they play their pieces for each other…but I never would have thought about the costume part or the program puzzle… Again, I’m thankful for a sister in education! ๐Ÿ™‚

So here’s a PDF of our Disney Summer Details. I wish I had the skills to make it show up like a little picture and if you click it it becomes bigger and you can download…I have no idea how to do that, so here’s just a link to the PDF! Feel free to use it if you are a piano teacher reader!

Disney summer handout

If you click on the link, it will take you to another page on my site with the link again and a description of it. Click the link a second time, and it will come up in your browser as a PDF. Sorry it’s not a one-click deal…oh well! ๐Ÿ™‚

Basically it’s a two page handout, with lots of Disney character graphics and creative titles. “Disney Drills” is our practice contest–with no set number of days required each week (since it’s the summer!) The students simply get one “Disney Ticket” for each single day they practice, and then can redeem their tickets at the end of the summer for the prizes. The lowest prize, for a minimal number of tickets, is the “Toy Story Box”–simply a box with Disney toys (and other toys) that the students can purchase with their tickets. The next prize up is a chance to buy toys from the Toy Story Box, PLUS having ice cream cones in the last lesson. The GRAND prize is the one Tricia came up with–a Disney movie afternoon at my house, with popcorn and soda. The kids were all excited about each level of prizes!

The “Characters Concert” is what I’m calling the party at the end of the year. Each student will play the song they have been working on, and they may or may not dress up–it’s up to them. Some of the older elementary kids aren’t into dressing up…the boys especially! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m planning on using Pinterest to come up with cool food ideas and just go wild with Disney themed ideas! (They are ALL over Pinterest!) And I am planning on having the program puzzle…the kids will get it right away I’m sure, but the parents might not be as quick. I’ll have the student’s name with the song being performed, like normal programs, but over to the side I’m planning on having pictures of different Disney characters that everyone will have to match to the correct song. Maybe have a few cheap door prizes for those adults who get them all right!

I think that is the gist of what is on my hand-out. Needless to say, I am almost as excited as the kids are! It’s bringing out my inner Disney-obsession. ๐Ÿ™‚ Who doesn’t love Disney??ย 

Have you ever done a similar theme? Do you love Disney? I have gotten several flyers in the mail for the Disney Summer Music camps. I didn’t even realize they had music camps! That would be so awesome, held at Disney World! Unfortunately, there is no option for pianists–it is all vocal or band-instruments camps. Maybe one of these years I will do my own summer Disney camp….I will REALLY need Tricia’s help then to make it as magical as possible without actually going to Disney World. ๐Ÿ™‚

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, dreams are forever.” -Walt Disney

Hope you’re enjoying your summer!!

~Flossie

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