Around the Piano is a resource for teachers and team leaders that uses music as a catalyst to get young people talking, writing, singing and creating about character. The workbook includes an original collection of short, easy to learn songs along with demonstration audio, lesson plans and ideas.
During my years of teaching Middle School Choir in Spokane, Washington, I found that my students loved coming down around the piano and singing easy versions of songs like, “Glory, Glory” and “This Little Light of Mine.” They sang with full voices and without the usual shyness that was the norm for many of them, especially the boys. When they were around the piano, we got the feeling of singing around the campfire or in the living room during the holidays. Students sang with ease and confidence. I started letting them take turns with solos and duets and small group singing. This became one of our favorite things. We added percussion, movement, harmonies, and improvisations. Eventually though, we grew tired of singing the same few songs over and over again, and I was inspired to write my own “Around the Piano” songs.
In my classroom, the space around the piano became a safer place to sing out and to make mistakes, a place where only encouraging comments were allowed. “Around the Piano” became a cue to be more friendly and more brave. With ATP, the piano is not the important thing. Songs can be accompanied by any instrument or sung a ‘Capella. Your “around the piano” space might be a corner in the back of the room or a circle on the floor. It can even be as simple as a decreased formality and an expectation of welcoming behavior and acceptance.
I used these songs in my classroom to help establish a healthier climate and give students a foundation in concepts of good character which they could build on into adulthood. Themes of good character are embedded in the “Around the Piano” songs.
The ten songs in this volume were written specifically to appeal to older students. They are less sing-songy than what I might write for elementary students. However, they are not at all hard to learn. I have used ATP successfully with elementary, middle school, high school, and adult participants. I have used ATP in and outside of the music classroom. One of my favorite experiences was using ATP with several 8th grade English classes in Mead, Washington.
The ATP lessons help teachers and team leaders use the songs as discussion starters/conversation prompts that lead students into story telling and writing lyrics. When students share and sing each other’s lyrics, some very powerful insights and interpersonal connections are made. Increased empathy and improved climate are the main outcomes, but the benefits of group singing, discussion and lyric writing can be observed over multiple curriculums.
I hope you will spend some time on this website, and feel free to contact our team with your questions, and comments. Please consider organizing an AROUND THE PIANO training for your staff, school or district.
In the meantime, sing your heart out, and someone will hear you!
Frankie Valinda Ghee