Many piano teachers are asking how they are supposed to help their students to compose. Many of us haven’t had any education on teaching composing. There are composing teachers. Shouldn’t we leave it to them?
I have thought about this long and hard. I had a bit of a crisis myself at first, because I didn’t think I’m able o teach composing. At that time I didn’t even compose myself. Now, a many years later I can honestly say, that it is easier to compose with students, if a teacher composes also, but it isn’t necessary. More important thing is that the teacher tries these tasks him/herself and improvises with them. That way the teacher will get ideas, how to help a student in a composing block.
I have learnt that the most important thing I can so for my students, when they compose, is to be enthusiastic about the composing project and the music they have created, give a huge amount of positive feedback, never criticize harshly and encourage students to try out and show me the musical ideas they have. That might sound easy, and in fact it is. Students have ideas, they make music that is theirs and my main job is to get them started, lift the motivation if it somewhere in the process momentarily sags and the rest of the time just stay out of the way.
At first it’s not always easy, at least it wasn’t for me. When I had an idea for the composition, a student could go to a whole another direction. I had to learn to accept that. But when the composition was finished, students ideas fitted to music perfectly and made the music really different I had ever heard before. We have to let our students to find their own voice!