We must be nearing that time of the year again. I recently had a conversation with a couple of other teachers that started with a question that seems to be (in music teacher circles) as seasonal as pumpkin pie.
“So… what are each of you getting your students for Christmas this year?”
Some ideas were tossed out, and with each one we all proceded to do the mental math and figure out just how expensive anything meaningful or useful would cost when multiplied by a studio full of students.
When I first started teaching, I took the time each Christmas to make some sort of hand-made musical ornament for each of my students – personalized with their name, the name of a piece they were playing, a picture of them at the piano, etc. I figured by the time they left home and made their way to college, they’d have enough of a collection to hang on a little dorm room or apartment tree! That idea was a great cost-effective solution for a handful of years… until it got to the point that I consistently had a studio full of 40-50 students. There are limits to how much hot-gluing can be done during the month of December!!
It dawned on me one year, while I was puzzling over what to do, that I could let my students do all the work! What better gift to a student and their family than a recorded CD of the student performing? The first year I tried this idea, all of my students started in early October and worked up a collection of Christmas repertoire. By the second week of December, they each recorded a handful of pieces. I transferred the pieces to a CD, and designed a bright colored cover, song list for the back cover and labels.
Each student received one copy of their CD as their gift from me. The last week of lessons before Christmas, we turned our group lessons into CD release parties. Students munched on Christmas goodies while they took turns playing highlights from their CD for each other.
I gave parents the option to order additional copies to give as gifts to grandparents or other family members at a small fee (enough to cover the cost of the CD, color cover, etc.), which turned out to be a BIG hit. I spent a LOT of late nights burning CDs and cutting and stuffing covers!
After that first Christmas, we turned the recordings into a year-long project. Students recorded all of the pieces they played at concerts or recitals through the year, plus any other favorite pieces. One of the instruments I use in my studio is a Yamaha Clavinova digital piano, so students even created fun, multi-layered performances with drum tracks, accompaniments and a variety of instrument sounds to include on their CDs.
It’s a fantastic encouragement for students to receive their CDs at Christmas time each year and be able to hear the progress that they’ve made from January to December. It’s especially fun for those who have been in the studio for several years to listen back to old recordings and hear just how far they’ve come!
(Note: This seems to be a highly discussed topic this time of the year. I’d love to hear replies with any other creative ideas for student gifts!)