„Let yourself be guided by the child!“ – is the motto of the Little Piano School and its founder Kim Monika Wright. For over 25 years the Italian piano teacher from America has been introducing small children to music and piano playing in a most engaging and imaginative way.
Wright’s approach laid the foundation for the Little Piano School in the Ruhr Region, which with the collaboration of Folkwang University of the Arts and Folkwang Music School was further developed into a pilot project for early-childhood music education.
Project film Little Piano School | © 2006
The Little Piano School is not an elite school for the pianistic child prodigies of tomorrow but an institution with an all-round approach to education. Everything stems from the specific needs and interests of children between the ages of two and six, their joy at playing together, their curiosity and the fun they have in discovering things.
“That’s why it’s my first priority is to get the children laughing, to make them happy and to strengthen their social skills”, explains Kim Monika Wright. In small groups and with the help of their teachers at the Little Piano School, the children discover the world of music on the piano. They experiment with sounds, sing and play short songs and melodies, and move to music. And at the same time, they’re being introduced to the basics of piano playing.
The approach taken depends entirely on the age-related needs of the children: “In my work with small children of a few months to three years old, I use all five senses,” explains the founder of the Little Piano School. “I feel, I see, I hear, I smell and I taste. If I want to teach a toddler to play the piano then I can only do it by appealing to all five senses.”
The central idea behind the Little Piano School is playful engagement with music. The piano is therefore not simply an instrument for the children but a fascinating toy, habouring a multi-coloured world of sounds. Through exploring the piano and music, the children discover their own skills. Then we have singing, rhythm, movement, listening and hearing musical notes in your head and other aspects of our teaching such as learning musical notation and simple theoretical principles.
One of Kim Monika Wright’s key ideas is the association of different notes with colours. This helps the children to first learn the notes in a playful way by assigning them to particular colours. All the other objects in the room are made into musical objects, too. A cuddly dolphin can represent a triad, a row of different coloured chairs can be seen as a scale or changed into a train, which the children can climb onto together to set out on a musical journey. At a later stage, the colours are phased back into normal musical notes.
A central pillar of the Little Piano School is working in groups. Instead of having individual lessons, children are taught in groups of three to seven. The children sing together, move in a group to music, improvise together or learn a song as an ensemble. That way they learn to approach and treat one another with respect, to listen to each other and to solve problems or carry out tasks together. An important goal here is to ensure that all the children feel at ease despite their differences.
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