I write pieces for kids. I write pieces for specific kids. Let me explain.
I have a particular student who defies a usual “music student” category. She is a tall, willowy 9-year-old. Her mother is almost six feet tall; I see that or more in her future. She is bright, an avid reader, has an excellent ear for melody and sings beautifully with a round, mellow tone. I’ve taught her for several years now and each lesson has been a challenge.
Why? Because she has attentional issues. She has everything she needs to play the piano beautifully, except that it’s really hard for her. It’s really hard for me to find “just the right” piece at any particular time. So I’ve taken to writing for her.
I write pieces for her with catchy rhythms, with patterned melodies, with challenging rhythmic accompaniments, but no small surprises. That’s not a typo. It’s the little things that trip her up. Give her a difficult chord progression and she’s fine. Give her continually slightly changing tasks and she’s bound to fail. Particularly if the changes are part of a large homogenous rhythmic structure. (All the notes look exactly the same, but they aren’t. Quite.) Think: needle in a haystack.
I recently wrote a piece, Vanishing Villain, for her. It was a success and gave her everything she wanted. She could move all over the keyboard in a predictable way, the middle section melody was catchy and best of all…there’s a great, big, fat disaster-proof glissando to end it all. What more could a kid want?
What interests me is this: What is it about this girl that inspires me to write for her? I could give up on her, I realize. I could give her to another teacher. But no, she’s mine and I love her and I will continue to write pieces for her that make her sound amazing.
It’s my job. I like my job.
The pieces I began writing, like Vanishing Villain, became my Attention Grabbers. Thanks to her and the rest of my challenging and wonderful students for inspiring me.