Classical Repertoire that Appeals to Teens

First, congratulations to Sara, Chris and Leticia for winning a free code to Waay–a hip app that teaches the theory behind songwriting. This tutorial app passes the hard-to-please teen test. Check it out here.

Speaking of teens…

In this recent app giveaway, I asked readers to leave a comment about how they inspire teens. Most everyone commented on the importance of building a relationship with teen students. Did you know that your relationship with your students is one of the five key factors that impact student motivation? I’ve recently developed a new presentation called “Nurturing Potential into Passion” and found some fascinating facts about motivation. Relationships matter!

More on that later as I want to get to another topic of discussion in the comment section: finding repertoire for teens and specifically repertoire from the Classical genre.

Other teachers have asked me similar questions. What Classical pieces do you recommend to students? Which ones will appeal to teens? In what order do you teach these pieces?

In response to these questions, I’ll be starting a page dedicated to repertoire that stands the test of time AND teens.

Here’s a short list to get it started. These pieces featured below came to my mind immediately because for at least one student on my bench, they were a game changer and catapulted a pianist into a new level of inspired playing.

I would GREATLY appreciate your input. In the comments below, let me know if this list would be helpful. If so, I’ll flesh it out more with links to books, etc.

Next, if you like this idea, I’d love for you to contribute. Leave the title, composer and if possible, the book or collection of your favorite classics that connect with your students. I hope to grow this list into something that can be helpful in a pinch.

From the Classics

Early Intermediate

“Arabesque” by Burgmueller

“Wild Horseman” by Schumann

“Sonatina Op 36 No 1” by Clementi


“Ballade” by Burgmueller

“Avalanche” by Heller

“Solfeggietto” by CPE Bach


“Nocturne” in Em by Chopin

“Prelude No 1, 2 and/or 3” by Gershwin

“Fantaisie Impromptu” by Chopin

“Sonata K545” by Mozart

“Golligwog’s Cakewalk” by Debussy

“Arabesque No 1” by Debussy

Fresh Arrangements of Classical Literature

Why not introduce the classics via a fresh arrangement like the Piano Guys do!

“Winter Window Frost” by Vivaldi arr by Leila Viss (the studio license is down to $4.88 right now so get it here.)winter-frost-copy

“Winter” by Vivaldi arr by Lorie Line

Big Publisher Finds

These titles may not be considered “Classical” but, I still want to create this list because the work of some terrific composers often gets buried under the mounds of sheet music from larger publishers. And, these titles are teen tested and approved!

“Impressions on Red” and “Impressions on Yellow” from Impressions on Color by Kevin Olson

“Jazz Suite” by Glenda Austin

“Firefly” by Billotti

This is just a start. MANY titles are missing as well as the links to where to purchase. Please let me know if such a list would be helpful to you. Next, please let me know what you would add to the list!

Looking forward to hearing from you,


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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • You are SO right that teens require special consideration with regard to repertoire (and everything else!). I have also experienced the “game changer” phenomenon with one piece turning a teen completely around to enjoy piano on a new level. Love all of your suggestions! Kevin Olson’s Sonatina in Colors and also Sonatina in Seasons have both been very successful with tweens and teens. Martha Mier’s Jazz, Rags, and Blues series in all levels has saved many a student from quitting piano.

    With introducing classical repertoire, I think it is all about the presentation. “Not every student can play a Bach Invention—-I only teach this to the ones who I think are capable” etc etc

    I LOVE Glenda Austin’s Jazz Suite and have taught it at least three times through the years.

    Thank you for this thought provoking blog!

  • Leila, what a great start to the list–a list that’s needed!

    Here are my contributions, which were student-savers for me when I was not motivated by the pieces in the Thompson book. They can all be found in Piano Pieces for Children (Everybody’s Favorite Series No. 3, edited by Maxwell Eckstein), first published in 1934 by Amsco, surprisingly still available, and very reasonably priced. They can also be found at IMSLP or elsewhere online, as well as in other collections. The grade listings are from the book and correspond well with the Thompson grading system, not to be confused with the levels found in today’s method books or the grade levels from any exam boards.

    “Knight Rupert” (or “Knecht Ruprecht”–from Album for the Young) by Robert Schumann, Grade 3, dark & angry, fast & furious, contrasted with sweetness & light, very easy to “tell the story” with expression. (Knecht Ruprecht, a figure from German folklore, often appears today as a companion and helper to St. Nicholas, but he was originally an intimidating, frightening figure meant to scare children into good behavior. I didn’t know that when I was learning the piece–I was actually a little disappointed to learn that years later–it meant different things to me, and I just loved playing it–still do!)
    “Ecossaises” by Ludwig van Beethoven, often listed as “6 Ecossaises for Piano, WoO 83”, Grade 4, rondo form, each section so different, all of it so engaging and compelling–and the most fun part keeps coming back again and again!
    “Aragonaise” from Le Cid, by Jules Massenet, Grade 4, very dramatic–powerful, big chords, sounds harder than it is, good work with inversions, fun to play
    “Elegie” (Melodie Op. 10) by Jules Massenet, Grade 4, great for LH voicing and expressive playing
    “Le Coucou” by Louis-Claude Daquin, Grade 4, somewhat plaintive, fun to play, great for discussing patterns, form, related keys and transpositions; absolutely wonderful on the harpichord, for which it was written
    “Gertrude’s Dream Waltz” by Ludwig van Beethoven, Grade 2, another one that sounds harder than it is, easy to analyze the chords

    “Für Elise” (Grade 3) and Ellmenreich’s “Spinning Song” (Gr 3), Bach’s “Prelude No. 1 in C” (Gr 4), Burgmüller’s “Arabesque” (Gr 2), Heller’s “Avalanche” (Gr 2), Chopin’s “Funeral March” (Gr 2) as well as a couple of Preludes (Gr 3), Yradier’s “La Paloma” (Gr 3), Brahms’s beautiful “Waltz in Ab” (Gr 3) can all be found in the book, as well as dozens of other pieces–over 100 in all.

    “La Paloma” is a good intro to 3 against (partial) 4 and a bit of 3 against 2, by the way–and thanks for the chart, Leila–wonderful!

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