3 Easy Ways to Engage Your Teenage Piano Students During the Holiday Season

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. For more information, read the disclosure statement here.

3 Easy Ways to Engage Your Teenage Piano Students During the Holiday Season - Piano Teaching Tips

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had difficulty keeping your teenage piano students happy and engaged all year long!

It’s no easy task, but especially during the busy Christmas season, there are definitely ways that creative piano teachers can “sneak” in a little fun and learning at the same time, without your teens quite realizing it!

Although I’m no expert on keeping teenagers entertained (in general), I have taught hundreds of teenage piano students over the years.

I’ve found that around age 13 – 14, many piano students are no longer really interested in that “Music Prize Box” that is filled with little candies and trinkets.

And those cute practice charts that you’ve carefully prepared often get ignored by teenagers.

Of course, I still offer to let my teenage piano students participate in studio-wide incentives.

However, if all they’re going to get is a choice of little prizes from the “Music Prize Box,” these students of a certain age usually just smile and decline the offer.

What are some ways, then, to get your teenage piano students excited about Christmas music and coming to piano lessons during the busy holiday season in general?


1. Ask Your Teenage Piano Students Often What They’d Like to Do

By “often,” I mean not just once or twice a year, but every week or every second week that you see them at their lesson. This seems simple enough, but you may receive “I don’t know” as a response.

On the other hand, your teenage piano students may well tell you, “I want to learn to play jazz” or “I want to learn to play pop songs.” Or maybe the want to learn “video game music” (read Inspire Your Teens To Level Up With Video Game Style Music).

Really listen to what they have to say, and then try to meet them where they’re at if at all possible.

I asked a 13-year-old student just last week what he’d like to play for the upcoming Christmas recital.  He replied Carol of the Bells, which surprised me.

I didn’t even think he knew that song! This is just an example of how asking a student what they’d like to do may help maintain engagement in piano lessons.

I quickly pulled a simple Christmas book off my shelf, found an easy version of Carol of the Bells, and we got started right away.

We scrapped the planned lesson (who looks at the Music Dictation Book anyway?), and by the end of the 45-minute lesson, he was able to play a simplified version of this fabulous Christmas carol almost to the very end.

And he was smiling! I’d call that a win!

And it all started with me simply asking him what he’d like to do.

Which brings me to my next point…


2. Keep a Wide Variety of Music on Hand for your Teenage Piano Students

If I didn’t have such a vast array of all levels of music on my shelves, I couldn’t immediately be able to meet the needs of my Carol of the Bells student, or any other teenager for that matter.

While it’s true that without the sheet music, you can always teach your teenage piano students at least the chords of Christmas carols, I like to send them home after a lesson with a bit more than that.

Also, before I teach teenagers the chords of any song, I warn them that they must sing with it, or the music won’t make any sense.

This is enough to scare off many teenage students, who may be too self-conscious to sing.

On the other hand, if you have the sheet music to a variety of songs and can quickly photocopy it (only if you have permission) or lend it to a teenage student, you can quickly fill their immediate need to play the music that they want to play.

Piano teachers who are just starting their career may be wondering if they can afford to amass a collection of sheet music.  Isn’t it expensive?

It can be, but most teachers start out with a small music book collection and gradually build up their stash over the years.  Here are some less expensive options I’ve used to build my piano library:

  • Scour thrift shops.
    • Take the time to leaf through the music books there, and buy only the ones that are in good condition and won’t require a lot of erasing.
  • Pay attention when a local piano teacher is retiring.
    • They may be selling all their music books, and you can get amazing prices on them.
  • Keep all your music.  Even if you are tired of it, you never know when you’ll need it again.
    • A teenager recently asked if she could learn Music Box Dancer.
    • First I had to conceal my shock that she even knew that very famous piano piece from the 70’s.  It turns out that her Grandma had introduced it to her.
    • Then, I was able to produce from my stash not one but two very old copies, one simplified and one full version.  Both of them were from my childhood collection.  So glad I kept them!
  • Attend local book sales and check the music book section as soon as the sale begins.
    • Snap up all the music books you can, again, only the ones in good condition.
    • As you consider what you’d like to purchase, think especially about what your current teenage piano students might like to play.
  • Join Facebook groups such as Piano Teachers Buy Sell Trade for great deals on piano books and sheet music.
  • Join Melody’s newsletter list so you’ll know of upcoming sales & deals


3. Host the Occasional Group Lesson for Your Teenage Piano Students

Twice per year, I offer Saturday group classes for all the students who currently take private lessons with me. The students are grouped by age, and the classes are small, about six to eight students per group.

For the teenage group, we each play a piece for the others to enjoy, we play a few games, time permitting, and we try out an ensemble piece.  What fun!

A good example of a motivating piece that your teenage piano students would surely enjoy is Santa Claus Is Coming to Town by Elizabeth Swift.



This lighthearted piece is for four or more pianists.  Two parts are elementary level, and two parts are late elementary – early intermediate level.

However, the arrangement is flexible.  The top three parts could easily be doubled for either in-person or virtual recitals if need be.

Also, the Piano 2 and Piano 3 parts could be played on the same piano if the octaves are adjusted.

Practice tracks are available too, so you can send the music and tracks home with your teenage piano students ahead of time.

Then, when they come to your fabulous group class, they’ll be motivated and excited to try it out as a team effort.

There are countless ways to engage your teenage piano students during the Christmas season.  What other tips do you have?  Tell us in the comments below!


More blog posts to build student rapport…

Here are even more ideas to help you with your teen students:

And if you’re still teaching beginners and need ideas for them, check out 9 Essentials to Include in a First Piano Lesson

Don't miss out!

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, join our Facebook group for piano teachers, and subscribe to the newsletter to get helpful teaching tips, resources, and tutorials delivered straight to your inbox every week. 

Picture of Celeste-tina Hernandez

Celeste-tina Hernandez

Celeste-tina is a Royal Conservatory of Music trained pianist and music teacher. She holds a B.A. in Music and Drama from Trinity Western University and an M.A. in Arts Education from Simon Fraser University as well as numerous teaching certificates. She is a long-time member of the British Columbia Registered Music Teacher’s Association and regularly contributes to Progressions, the provincial magazine for registered music teachers. Celeste-tina currently teaches 65 piano, voice, and guitar students from her home studio in Chilliwack, B.C. She enjoys teaching students from ages four to adult and people of all abilities, both individually and in groups. She counts it a blessing to be able to share her love of music with so many and can’t wait to get back into the studio every Monday morning to begin another fun-filled week of music making.

Leave a Reply


Hi! I’m Melody Payne, a pianist and piano teacher, educational resource author, a fun-loving wife to the most wonderful and talented hubby I could ask for, and a lifelong learner who loves to share. I want to make your life as a music teacher easier by writing and sharing helpful and relevant music teaching articles, and by creating educational resources with your very own students in mind. If you are a parent who wants to enroll your child in piano lessons, I’d love for us to get started building those skills that can give your child a lifetime of musical enjoyment!

Looking for Something?

Blog Categories

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Let's Connect

More Articles to Enjoy