Ever since I started my piano teaching career at the age of 14, I’ve attempted to provide appropriate ‘waiting room’ materials for my piano students, things that are engaging enough to promote quiet waiting behaviour for the the 2 or 3 minutes (hopefully no more than that) that might pass between the student’s arrival and the start of their lesson proper.
Good and well, but finding books or activities that fit the bill is actually quite a bit more difficult than it seems. One solution, Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Cross-sections series, seemed ideal – lots to look at, an educational element, all the kinds of things that one looks for in this circumstance. But one day the students started giggling as they looked through, and giggled loudly enough that it was distracting to the student whose lesson was just concluding. Turns out Mr Biesty has incredibly included somewhere tucked away on every page of his cross-sections one poor soul caught in the act of using the toilet. Once the secret was out (and it soon was) this book was banished from the waiting area on the grounds of being so amusing as to be disruptive.
This year I’m discovering a range of children’s books that are absolutely ideal for this waiting room purpose, the first of which is the utterly wonderful Song of Middle C, written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Scott Menchin.
This is the story not just of middle C, but of a little girl who is practicing the piece “Dance of the Wood Elves” for her first ever piano recital. Her teacher, Miss Kari, tells her that it is important to play with imagination, and this book brings the little girl’s imaginative practice to life both through the text and the images. When it comes time to perform “Dance of the Wood Elves” at the piano recital, however, things don’t quite go according to plan (or the way the girl had practiced).
This book from Candlewick Press delivers a rollicking tale while at the same time reassuring young pianists that performance is about an awful lot more than playing the right notes, and this makes it not only great piano-teacher-waiting-room material, but an excellent gift for any young pianist preparing for their first recital experiences.
I would say it is an appropriate story for children between four and nine, with the story being simple enough for very young piano students to still relate to, but with quite robust illustrations that mean older beginners will feel in no way patronised.
Not only that, but the moral of the story is one that many a parent could do to be reminded of!