Many piano teachers, piano students, and parents of piano students ask me how or why I began creating the weekly “Cool Songs” from my “Cool Songs Annual Subscription”
). It began with my “Cool Songs for Cool Kids” Series (Primer Level and Books 1, 2, and 3), and my “Cool Songs that ROCK!” Series (books 1 and 2). To be honest, however, it actually began long before any of those books were created.
I began teaching piano lessons part time in 2003, I was newly married and was selling pianos in a piano store. I didn’t start teaching full time as an independant piano teacher until 2006. Between 2003 and 2006 I had a few different sales jobs I did as well, while continuing to do things on the side for my music career. In 2006 I created my music company, Music Motivation®
, at first for my piano studio and for me as a performing musician. I then felt motivated to come out with two books back to back. The first book I ever created was “An Introduction to Scales and Modes.” It is an in-depth tutorial of basic scales and modes in all key signatures. After that I came out with my second book, “Variations on Mary Had a Little Lamb.” This book has nine different arrangements I created using the children’s song, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” These are some of the arrangements in the book: Mary Took Her Lamb to a Swingin’ Jazz Club, Mary’s Lamb Had the Blues, Mary Took Her Lamb to a 50s Rock Concert, Mary and Her Lamb Live with Indians, etc., etc., until the last arrangement of: Mary Took Her Lamb to a Funeral.
These books were created to help students learn the theory and the practical application of the music. As a result of these two books, my piano studio more than doubled. At my most busy time in teaching, I had around 88 piano students. The majority were teenage boys (ages 11-19), and most of them wanted to quit piano lessons. Piano teachers and parents of piano students would send me their students who essentially wanted nothing more to do with the instrument. The parents and teachers said they didn’t want their students to quit and asked me to try to motivate them to keep playing the piano (I guess that is what I get for naming my company Music Motivation®). The students would not play from any method book past or present and would never suggest music they wanted to play. I needed to figure out how to reach these students and connect with them. I asked each of them what kind of music they enjoyed and asked them to bring it so they could work on it. The majority would not do it. I then asked them to challenge me to create or compose a piano solo for them during their lesson. They all found this very entertaining. I would tell them to choose a style of music, key signature, and the time signature. With some pieces, such as “Game Over” from “Cool Songs for Cool Kids” book 1, they even said I could only use four notes. It was a game for the students and a challenge for me. With each of these students, I composed a piano solo during their lesson time and even notated it in Finale. At the end of their lesson I printed off the music and sent it home with them. I challenged them to learn the piano solo and then let me know what they thought. I told them I would compose a new piece the following week during their next lesson for them.