Recreational Music Making (RMM)

Houston Piano Company believes that children who study piano are better equipped mentally for challenges in school, and can apply this knowledge to other activities in their lives. Adults who learn to play the piano simply live happier.


It's NOT about inspiring extraordinary music-making.
It's about inspiring extraordinary living.

It's NOT about exceptional performance.
It's about exceptional support and personal experience.

It's NOT about teaching people to play.
It's about giving people permission to play.

Its best facilitators are NOT just talented musicians.

They are caring, compassionate and intuitive guides.
From RMM’s Philosophy 1
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A Not-So-Brief History

Recreational Music Making has its roots from the early work of Karl T. Bruhn, who is considered the father of the Music-Making and Wellness movement, and scientific research from neurologist in the field of mind-body medicine Dr. Barry Bittman, whose studies on music, particularly drum circles, demonstrated a link between playing music and the positive effects on one’s overall health—lowering stress, blood pressure, and heart rate.

All types of people participating in a drum circle sponsored by AARP.
Adults Of All Ages Join The Drum Circle, sponsored by NAMM/AARP. 2

Through their work they determined that playing music within the context of a group—in a pressure-free environment—could reduce stress at the DNA level. But Bruhn also felt that music making was for all people, not just limited to churning out professional musicians: "it’s about inspiring extraordinary living." [ 3 ]

According to Bruhn 'Recreational music making (RMM) encompasses enjoyable, accessible and fulfilling group music-based activities that unite people of all ages regardless of their challenges, backgrounds, ethnicity, ability or prior experience. From exercise, nurturing, social support, bonding and spirituality, to intellectual stimulation, heightened understanding and enhanced capacity to cope with life’s challenges, the benefits of RMM extend far beyond music. RMM ultimately affords unparalleled creative expression that unites our bodies, minds and spirits.'
Yamaha Institute 4

In 2006, National Association of Music Merchants, or NAMM, sponsored a Global Economic Summit where Bruhn and Bittman gave a presentation on RMM, defining it as: "a new strategy for enabling people who never before considered themselves ‘musical’ to discover the joy and wellness benefits of playing a musical instrument." [ 5 ]

This philosophy resonated deeply for a piano teacher from Texas, Brenda Dillon, who attended the Summit. She has said, the "presentation [which later] proved to be life-changing for me personally." [ 6 ]

As an experiment, she began teaching using the RMM model and found that she "never had so much fun teaching in all my life." [ 7 ] Shortly thereafter, she was able to formalize a teaching methodology that incorporated her many years of teaching with the RMM method of group classes. She first collaborated with Brian Chung and developed a handbook for teachers, then created Piano Fun for Adult Beginners on her own.

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The Benefits Of Group Lessons

The unique format of RMM is its emphasis on group lessons. The students, with the assistance of the facilitator (teacher), help to encourage one other, while developing camaraderie in a stress-free environment--where music is learned for its own sake.

RMM can…


a. Reduce stress.
b. Help develop social skills.
c. Help to develop strategies to deal with stage fright.
d. Help to learn ensemble play.
e. Create friendly competition.
f. Encourage students to learn from each other.
g. Engage students through the use of activities and games.
h. Be less expensive than private lessons.
i. Help with motivation.

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Some Early Pioneers

Although RMM was initially motivated by medicinal purposes the use of group lessons actually has a firm and solid academic beginning in the work of four American pioneers of the 20th century in piano pedagogy—Frances Clark, Ph.D (1905 – 1998), Guy Duckworth, Ph.D. (1923 – 2015), Robert Pace (b. 1924), Ph.D and Richard Chronister (1930 – 1999).

Frances Clark: "I have been interested in group teaching for a long time (40 years!). My belief in it and enthusiasm for it increase each year. A group method is a natural way to teach any subject, and it is possible to apply group teaching techniques most artfully and effectively to piano teaching..."
Practical Piano Pedagogy: The Definitive Text for Piano Teachers and Pedagogy Students by Martha Baker-Jordan Learn More About Frances Clark 8
Guy Duckworth: "[In groups, he] chooses his own methods, explores the material, makes his own solutions to problems. There are more chances for individuality when there are no hard and fast rights and wrongs."
"Piano Should Be Fun, Teacher Says" in The Milwaukee Journal by Jean Otto Learn More About Guy Duckworth9
Richard Chronister: "There is no activity in the piano lesson that isn’t made more important, more interesting, more educational, and more musical by making it a group activity."
"The Challenge of Group Teaching", in Clavier 15, No. 7 Learn More About Richard Chronister10
Robert Pace: "Through peer interaction in groups, teachers get feed-back on what students are actually comprehending… [] Students grow by helping each other as they learn how to make direct, positive, and thoughtful criticism. Students come in contact with more musical literature in group instruction, and have a greater incentive to be well prepared. Peer approval as a member of a group is a powerful incentive to 'keep going' and not dropout."
"Artist/Educator Archive Interview" in PianoEducation.org by Dr. John Zeigler Learn More About Robert Pace11

It takes time and patience to learn the piano. And it's the learning itself that makes it worthwhile.

End of Article

Page Sources

Bittman, Barry, Karl T. Bruhn.  “Recreational Music Making: Practical Considerations.”  NAMM Shows.  NAMM., n.d.  Web.  18 June 2015.
scottr.  “AARP Drum Circle.”  Photograph.  NAMM.  NAMM, 9 Nov. 2008.  Web.  18 Sept. 2015.  No Known Copyright Restrictions.
Johnson, Rebecca.   “Take Two Music Lessons and Call Me in the Morning: Interview with Karl Bruhn.”  Perspectives in Pedagogy.  Summer 2007, Vol. 18, #2.  Clavier Companion.  Web.  18 June 2015.
Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute.  “A Focus on Recreational Music Making.”  Yamaha Institute.  Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute, n.d.  Web.  15 June 2015.
Dillon, Brenda.  “Recreational Music Making.”  Brenda Dillon.  Brenda Dillon, n.d.  Web.  18 June 2015.
Dillon, Brenda.  “RMM – One Teacher’s Journey.”  Piano Notes.  NPF Piano Notes, Summer 2006.  Brenda Dillon.  Web.  18 June 2015.
Baker-Jordan, Martha.  Practical Piano Pedagogy: The Definitive Text for Piano Teachers and Pedagogy Students.  Van Nuys: Alfred Music Publishing, 2004: pg. 270.  Google Books.  Web.  18 June 2015.
Otto, Jean.  “Piano Should Be Fun, Teacher Says.”  The Milwaukee Journal.  10 July 1970: pg. 10.  Google News.  Web.  18 June 2015.
Williams, Marian Kay.  “An Alternative Class Piano Approach Based on Selected Suzuki Principles: A Dissertation in Fine Arts.”  TDL.  Texas Digital Library, Aug. 2000: pg. 18.  Web.  18 June 2015.
Zeigler, John.  “Artist Educator Archive Interview – Dr. Robert Pace.”  Piano Education.  John M. Zeigler, Aug. 2004.  Web.  18 June 2015.
Additional References:
  • Healthy.Net.  “Biography: Barry Bittman, M.D.”  Health.Net.  Health.Net, n.d.  Web.  18 June 2015.
  • Janis, Byron.  “A Healing Art.”  The Wall Street Journal.  Dow Jones & Company, 7 May 2014.  Web.  18 June 2015.
  • Reeves, Nancy J.  “An Analysis and Comparison of Two Recreational Music Making Adult Piano Curricula and Two Beginning Adult Piano Curricula.”  SFSU-DSpace.CalState.  San Francisco, Spring 2012.  Web.  18 June 2015.