Parents/spouses often ask the teacher what sort of musical gift would be good. Here are some of the solutions I've offered over the years.
Sometimes, you can make a suggestion based on something the student the student said, and this nearly always means a happy recipient.
CDs or downloads by specific title or artist are always good. I like Richard Goode for Beethoven and Mitsuko Uchida for Mozart, for example, so I always recommend those. You know whose playing you admire for stylistic as well as artistic reasons, so recommend those performers by name. A gift certificate for downloads is also good.
An aside: if you are looking for the definitive recording of Messiah, I most highly recommend Johannes Somary and the Amor Artis Chorale/English Chamber Orchestra from 1970. This is the classiest recording I have -ever- heard of this work (and I've heard a whole bunch!). If I were stuck on a desert island with only one recording to last me forever, it would be this one. That's saying a whole lot. Listen to the way the ornamentation is done and is tossed back and forth. Spectacular! The one thing that keeps it from being 100% perfect is that the bass needs more power in places, especially on the first note of "Thus Saith the Lord." Just released on CD: Vanguard Classics. (Margaret Price, sop.; Yvonne Minton, con.; Alexander Young, ten.; Justino Diaz, bass; Colin Tilney, hspchd. and org.)
Another good gift is a music dictionary. I like the Harvard Dictionary of Music for a large one. I believe there is an abridged Harvard, too. (Of course, Grove's is the best, but it's "rather" expensive!) There are several keep-by-the-piano dictionaries, too, and many students start with one of these.
Scores are a good choice, especially expensive ones (such as Henle).
Some students would enjoy a book about a composer, a period, or even a specialized area of music (such as ornamentation, instrument-building, and so on). Usually these would be adult students.
Dover Books has some nice coloring books about composers. You know whether your child likes to color.
Dover also has inexpensive scores. Some are very usable. Some are reprints of some rather "tired" old plates and mostly of historical or scholarly interest, although they are fairly legible.
There are audiobooks, DVDs, and books on composer's lives, too. Consider these.
Especially with beginners, I highly recommend an ear-training game in which a series of up to four random pitches are repeated, and the player must remember and reproduce the order in which they were given. "Simon" was the original game (back in the 70s, I think!), but now there are knock-offs. I usually send my students to Radio Shack for this game. (Trick: keep it only for in the car! "Nope, you can't play this game at home. It is only for the car.")
Naturally, a new piano is a lovely surprise, as is any historical keyboard. I've had much enjoyment out of my Hubbard single-manual Flemish harpsichord, my Carl Fudge clavichord, and and my Zuckermann Italian virginal. All from kits. (I am getting no kick-back here for recommending these! Just a satisfied customer. They don't even know I've written this.) As far as I can find out (1) Carl Fudge's shop was taken over by someone named Wolff; and (2) Zuckermann no longer offers the virginal. I am in the process of hunting down this information and will update this file when I get the it. If -you- know, I'd appreciate an e-mail!
There are plenty of musical gadgets and accessorites that make good gifts: socks with a piano keyboard on them, metronome (heh heh!), pencils, and so on.
copyright 1998-2011, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
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