Creative Arts Pianistry Wellness
What is Pianistry Wellness?
Pianistry is a term my friend and I came up with about four years ago that merged “Piano” and “Artistry," which I was using as a business name at the time. (Piano Artistry Lessons.) But that description didn't really fit was I was doing. So the merge happened. When I Googled the term Pianistry four years ago, I found that it was used in the jazz piano context as a sort of synonym for musicality, musical expression, and musical artistry in jazz music. I sort of meant these things, but I also meant incorporating piano with other arts. And I am not a jazz pianist at all, so I meant the musicality, expression and artistry in a classically trained, all genres of popular music, ambient music, and world music sort of way, rather than specific to just jazz music.
I have been incorporating creative arts into my non-traditional piano lessons for over five years now. I specifically incorporate free-form visual arts, but also crafts, Play-Doh creations, descriptive writing/verbalizing, and free-form movement while I play piano for my students, or while I interact with them. And we improvise and compose music at the piano too.
Pianistry, my definition
Pianistry, to me, means the holistic understanding and connection between all arts and how they apply to life and life experiences. Learning piano is the tangible core that connects both brain hemispheres and can make creative arts a tool for monitoring one's own well-being. I highly encourage my students to expand their own creativity through these creative arts, and then bring them back to the piano and re-enter the left brain's forte of learning the new language of music to balance out the right brain's creativity.
What I Do With Pianistry
Through my 21+ years of teaching, I've seen that brain integration and development, gross motor skill development, memory and reading skills, and fine motor skill development benefits happen whether or not one is learning scales, arpeggios and traditional classical repertoire, or if it is more popular songs and the concepts of Western tonal music introduced in small doses as the opportunities arise. The fine motor skills needed for high-level classical repertoire playing develop much more strongly with traditional style lessons and hours of practice each week. But they still happen during my non-traditional style of teaching, in addition to many other benefits not usually realized during traditional style lessons. These benefits include a more approachable understanding of music, a more complete understanding of arts as a whole, and a different take on how music fits in as a part of that whole as well as what playing music means to kids in their individual lives. If what folks are looking for is the usual kind of piano lessons, there are wonderful colleagues of mine around town who do an outstanding job of teaching traditional style lessons and I'm happy to refer people to my colleagues in these cases.
My Pianistry Teaching Style
In my non-traditional teaching style, I emphasize the important elements of fun, spontaneity, and playfulness (which kids are great at!) as strengths and skills to help guide me to what the student most needs to learn in any given session. Usually they guide me to something musical, but sometimes people just need to create, integrate, and make connections within themselves through creative arts other than learning piano. I have been amazed at the difference this freedom makes in people's overall learning of piano when we go back to it.
Primary to my teaching style is creating a safe, nurturing, fun, and individually-based learning environment where each student’s strengths, skills, and especially their mental readiness that day dictates how each Pianistry Wellness Session happens. Students lead me and I follow along and fill in where it's needed. This is primary to me because I see and care deeply about each student as a whole person, and their overall well-being more than I care about whether they will be a traditionally trained musician.
My thinking is that very few piano students will go on and study music as a college major, or be a professional musician in any capacity. That students learn piano is important to me, of course. But I would rather that I use the precious time I have with them to focus on instilling a love of music and playing music through combining creative arts and through using holistic concepts in such a way that they remember music lessons fondly as a fun and unique experience throughout their lives, in addition to introducing the concepts of Western tonal music through building them a strong foundation of proper technique, a solid connection to the keyboard, a thorough understanding of notation and musical structure. I firmly believe that if students are tapping into their innate playful nature through the combination of these things, they will learn better, more efficiently and effectively, and more thoroughly. My environment is structured, yet spontaneous; safe and nurturing, yet encourages creativity and innovation; and allows concrete learning through fun and playfulness.
Playing piano can be a tangible experience and skill students can draw on and remember fondly for the rest of their lives, or it can be an unpleasant memory of something they didn't like doing. And a fond memory of doing something fun and well gives them confidence. This tangible experience can happen whether they’re learning Let It Go, from Disney's Frozen and going back and forth between learning piano, creating arts, and improvising and composing, or if they're solely focused on learning to play J.S. Bach’s Minuet in G. The kids who want to learn classical repertoire, I'm happy to teach them that. I'm flexible either way. The important thing to me is that they are creating a love of music, learning about themselves and their capabilities, and growing as people all at the same time as learning to play piano. This is where the Wellness factor comes in.
Creative Arts Pianistry Wellness
All of the combinations of arts, wellness, and holistic concepts are important to me because they have taught me how to accept myself, my unique strengths and skills, and how to live more peacefully in a world that is often in conflict with itself. I bring this holistic thinking into my non-traditional teaching style with the intention that others might benefit similarly. And so you have Creative Arts Pianistry Wellness.