Song of Middle C

Ever since I started my piano teaching career at the age of 14, I’ve  attempted to provide appropriate ‘waiting room’ materials for my piano students, things that are engaging enough to promote quiet waiting behaviour for the the 2 or 3 minutes (hopefully no more than that) that might pass between the student’s arrival and the start of their lesson proper.

Good and well, but finding books or activities that fit the bill is actually quite a bit more difficult than it seems.  One solution, Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Cross-sections series, seemed ideal – lots to look at, an educational element, all the kinds of things that one looks for in this circumstance. But one day the students started giggling as they looked through, and giggled loudly enough that it was distracting to the student whose lesson was just concluding. Turns out Mr Biesty has incredibly included somewhere tucked away on every page of his cross-sections one poor soul caught in the act of using the toilet. Once the secret was out (and it soon was) this book was banished from the waiting area on the grounds of being so amusing as to be disruptive.

This year I’m discovering a range of children’s books that are absolutely ideal for this waiting room purpose, the first of which is the utterly wonderful Song of Middle C, written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Scott Menchin.

This is the story not just of middle C, but of a little girl who is practicing the piece “Dance of the Wood Elves” for her first ever piano recital.  Her teacher, Miss Kari, tells her that it is important to play with imagination, and this book brings the little girl’s imaginative practice to life both through the text and the images.  When it comes time to perform “Dance of the Wood Elves” at the piano recital, however, things don’t quite go according to plan (or the way the girl had practiced).

This book from Candlewick Press delivers a rollicking tale while at the same time reassuring young pianists that performance is about an awful lot more than playing the right notes, and this makes it not only great piano-teacher-waiting-room material, but an excellent gift for any young pianist preparing for their first recital experiences.

I would say it is an appropriate story for children between four and nine, with the story being simple enough for very young piano students to still relate to, but with quite robust illustrations that mean older beginners will feel in no way patronised.

Not only that, but the moral of the story is one that many a parent could do to be reminded of!

3 thoughts on “Song of Middle C

  1. Sounds like a great book Elissa. Where can you get it from?

    The idea of having books available for children waiting is great and something I encourage too. I teach from home and so have a whole wall full of children’s books. We began collecting when our children were young and have quite a range from Dr Seuss to Usborne puzzle books (they are quite a favourite too) and beyond. It’s a good thing in this techno age.

  2. Hi Gail! You could buy this book from all good bookshops, I would expect – I picked this up from my local bookshop where they have a great children’s section. It was only published this year so I’m sure any bookshop could easily order it in if they don’t have it on their shelves.
    My local bookshop now knows my taste and orders in books specifically to show me (knowing I will almost certainly make a purchase!).

  3. Thank you for this book recommendation. I had requested it from the library and received it yesterday. So enjoyable. My nine year old daughter also liked it. I’m considering using it as part of my group lesson next week when we are discussing performing. We’ll see if we have time. If not, I will just recommend it to my young students as a good read! Thanks again!

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