Take the 30 Piece Challenge!

Inspired by the brilliant pedagogue Elissa Milne, I am challenging each of my students to learn 30 new pieces this school year. There are so many great reasons for this challenge, and Elissa certainly has articulated these quite well in her article which you should read.

30 piece challenge - how to make it work plus FREE charts from composecreate.com


For the sake of brevity, I’ll just summarize what I think will be most important and exciting results of this challenge:

  • Students will gain a wide and practical knowledge and experience in a variety of music forms. Instead of learning 1 jazz piece, they may learn 5. Instead of 1 Baroque piece, they might learn 4.
  • Students will become more astute sight readers. The best way to improve sight reading is to not only do it, but read a variety of styles and formats of music frequently. The more repertoire that is “under their fingers” and “in their ears,” they more they can predict patterns and harmonies and improve their sight reading. Students also playing music from different composers and publishers will see a wide variety of notation styles and will keep them from getting “locked in” to a specific method.
  • Students will play more musically in part because these pieces will be learned well. The better students are at sight reading, the faster they learn the details of music, and the more time they have to spend developing the fine art of communicating their music through their musicality.
  • Students will be happier. The more music they can play, the more confident and proficient they feel, leading to a generally happier student.

How will we do this?

Again, I am following the great ideas expressed by Elissa.

  1. The piece will be added to the list when it is first introduced. This rewards starting something new.
  2. The piece will be removed if the student chooses to stop learning the piece or not learn it in a musical way.
  3. Pieces will need to be at least 16 measures (8 for beginning students) and at a variety of levels. Students should be learning pieces of three different level varieties: 1. Challenging, 2. At their level, 3. Easier, fun to learn pieces. They should also be learning pieces of differing styles.
  4. Students may choose and begin pieces on their own (especially older students concerned with learning too long of repertoire and not meeting their goals) so long as they are learning them with correct notes, rhythm, musicality, etc.

30 piece challengeHow Will You Keep Track?

Well, you know me. I can’t just use a plain piece of paper! You can download the fancy 30 and 40 piece challenge sheets that I will print on card stock and put in each of my students’ binders. I will be using one of the sheets in each student’s notebook, one of the charts in the studio so everyone can see everyone’s progress, and may use one of them as a card to stamp.

Is There A Reward?

We all know that the reward in a challenge like this will be that students will learn all kinds of wonderful music that they will want to play and will be able to play. But in the end, yes, I will give the students who complete the challenge something special at the spring recital. Elissa suggested a medal.

What Next?

Well, now I’m off to searching for great music for my students! I love that I can choose music at their level and significantly below as well to help them meet their goals and have fun playing. I will most especially be having some of my students work out of Elissa Milne’s Pepper books (here’s the Late Elementary Pepper Book, the Early Intermediate Pepper Book, the Intermediate Pepper Book) and Pepperbox Jazz – oh so fresh and fun!

Download the FREE 30 and 40 Piece Challenge Charts Here:

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