Group Music Lessons
Keyfest for Kids: Program Facts
Keyfest for Kids is the primary, core program which we strongly encourage all new young students to consider when beginning music lessons. Research has clearly shown that most accomplished musicians have learned in group formats throughout their entire musical journey, especially when they are young. Although many parents assume that one-on-one instruction produces better results, the overwhelming evidence shows the exact opposite. The program’s two decades of research and development, by some of Canada’s leading music educators, have built an international reputation, and unmatched track record.
- 11 month program
- Offered for first four levels
- Start in September/October, or January February
- 1 Hour Classes
- Maximum 8 Students / Class
- All classes have same age / same level students – NO MIXING of ages
- Weekly Parental Involvement
- Comprehensive curriculum, teaching the 9 areas of musical literacy
Why We Offer It
Merriam’s Signature Group Piano Program has been one of our most significant contributions to music education in our 26 year history. Universities including Queens, Western, Wilfrid Laurier, and Ottawa have studied and teach the Merriam Group Program curriculum as a part of their undergraduate pedagogical studies, and the program has even been featured in Music Inc. magazine, a leading international publication on the music industry. With it’s continuing development, the Signature Group Piano Program can boast some impressive accomplishments:
- A 91% Annual Retention Rate
- The youngest age at which a full curriculum is taught
- More graduates of the Merriam School of Music start in Group Piano compared with any other program
- Highest mandated rate of parental involvement of any major curriculum in Canada
The Group Advantage: Beating The 6 Month ‘Hump’
The biggest challenge with learning any skill, music included, is that students’ excitement level always precedes skill build, and skill build always precedes internal motivation. It is extremely rare that students can bridge that difficult gap between their initial excitement and a meaningful skill-build on their own.
In our experience, the initial excitement that many students have when starting music lessons tends to wane after 2-3 months. This happens to nearly all students (of all ages), and has nothing to do with talent or skill level. However, this tends to discourage as many parents as it does students.
“I Want To Quit”
This drop in interest is very expected and natural. The student doesn’t yet have the skills to start sharing music with friends, and they aren’t yet able to play their favorite music, and they are starting to realize that learning an instrument is probably harder than most other activities their participating in. And for all that work and focus, most students aren’t going to sense a lot of reward at that stage… hence, “I WANT TO QUIT.”
And The Research Says…
This is where group piano comes in. Research from several studies, including the University of Ottawa, have found that external motivation (typically the need to please a parent, or to avoid being reprimanded by a teacher) is least effective in keeping young students engaged at this stage – many will start to dread all activities that they associate with learning music.
But, when a student associates their musical activities with meaningful social interaction, their learning becomes internally driven.
Group piano helps to accomplish this by:
- allowing students of the same age and level to ‘make friends’
- creating low level competitiveness between classmates
- weekly performance infront of classmates
- quarterly streaming to ensure that no student is too far ahead or behind
- involvement of the parent in the learning process so that there is family ownership of the outcomes
Because our group program places a heavy emphasis on the social element, many parents often ask questions about the skills we teach and the structure of the classes. We’ve assembled some of the most commonly asked questions regarding our Signature Group Piano Program, and we hope you find them helpful!
Group Piano FAQ's
Q: Will my child learn as much about music in group as in private lessons?
A: Yes. In fact, they’ll probably learn more.
One of the most helpful concepts that a parent can internalize is the idea that music is similar to a spoken language. As any parent who speaks more than one language knows, a spoken language is best absorbed and taught in an environment where the use and practice of the language is relevant. For young student, there is nothing more relevant than the need to communicate with people of their own age, and begin to figure out how to express themselves.
The Signature Group Program works on two levels though. Not only are we creating a desire and real-life need to learn the language of music (by giving them an environment in which they actually perceive a need to learn it), but the structure of that learning is incredibly comprehensive. All 9 areas of musical literacy are explored – even in year 1. The majority of private music lessons deal exclusively with technique and repertoire in the first year and beyond.
Technology / Instrumental Integration
Q: Music lessons should teach discipline as well – aren’t private music lessons better for that?
A: This is a complex question, but the ‘short answer’ is no. Here’s why:
For a student in private music lessons, there are two reasons why they might successfully complete their first year of lessons:
- They had an incredibly supportive family and/or had meaningful and fun musical experiences OUTSIDE of the lesson (in other words they were creating their own group-piano like experience without realizing it)
- They developed (or already had) a very high level of personal discipline, which allowed them to maintain their practice regime even though there was no natural inclination to do so, and very little internal interest.
Unfortunately an extremely small number of students in their first year will fall into either of those two categories. Most will become part of the large statistical majority of students who quit during their first year. The intention of the parent may have been absolutely correct, but the result is a negative experience with few take-aways.
On the other hand, our Group Piano program has demonstrated over 26 years that we can consistently instill many positive traits in our students. However, teaching them to battle through a long-term task that they absolutely hate isn’t one of them
- personal pride
- delayed gratification and a measured skill build
- an excellent foundation for a lifetime of musical enjoyment and learning
- increase in cognitive performance
- improvements in memory
Q: “I want my child to complete exams, so aren’t private lessons better?”
A: This is a complicated question to answer, because many parents are confused as to what “exams” in relation to music means. Most of the time we hear this question, the parents actually mean that they wish their sons or daughters to receive some type of official recognition for their progress, or that going through an exam system will deliver a more legitimate lesson program. So firstly, it is important to know that lesson structure, curriculum, and exam systems are not the same things.
What “doing exams” means…
There are several musical exam systems throughout the world. One of the most familiar here in Ontario is the Royal Conservatory of Music, as well as the Canadian Conservatory, and Keyfest Certification. These exams mandate that certain levels of skill be met in specific categories, and administer the testing of students a few times a year.
Exam systems DO NOT however dictate how and what material will get taught during the lesson. In fact, the use of an exam system, on its own, is a very poor predictor of the credibility of the lesson or teacher.
Preparing for an exam is really about building a set of skills to a measurable level, working towards a goal, and receiving positive recognition for having achieved that goal. And in this respect, we know of no other lesson program in the world that builds as comprehensive a skill set as our Signature Group Piano Program, and does so in a supportive, structured, and fun environment.
A student finishing Jr. 1 Level in our group program would be – at minimum- as well prepared to write a Rudiments RCM exam as someone specifically focused on ONLY writing the exam with a private teacher.
Q: If I start my son or daughter in group lessons, can I switch to private later?
A: Absolutely. We recommend that group lessons be taken for at least the first year for non-piano players, and the first two years for piano players.
The objective of Keyfest for Kids has always to infuse the maximum level of excitement, engagement, and relevance, at the most difficult time of the learning curve. It is by no means the ultimate solution for a student’s entire skill build, but we consistently find that Keyfest for Kids is able to sustain the most number of students, at the highest levels of interest, through the critical first 4-5 years.
Keyfest For Kids Request Form