Piano Lessons: More than a commodity

While the vast majority of my students (and their parents) over the last quarter century have been appreciative and respectful, as well as being generous toward other students in my practice, there’s been a very small minority who seemed to have different priorities.

In this article I will examine what happens when a student or parent treats piano lessons purely as a commodity. I hope that teachers will come away feeling more able to spot the signs, and better empowered to develop a piano teaching practice that works well for the benefit of all.

For the purposes of this article I will call these parents and students ‘super-consumers’. If my portrayal is somewhat a caricature, it is for the purpose of emphasis, so that you can spot the problem signs more quickly and easily.

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“La La Land” Music Books

Sheet Music Review

Damien Chapelle’s La La Land has proved to be one of the most talked-about movies of 2017, garnering 14 Oscar nominations and picking up six, including Best Original Score by Justin Hurwitz, and Best Original Song for City of Stars, composed by Hurwitz with lyricists Benj Hasek & Justin Paul.

One talking point which will particularly interest readers of Pianodao is that lead actor Ryan Gosling learnt to play the piano music for his role (wholly by rote) in just three months before filming, performing it with no stunt double. It’s a remarkable achievement both for Gosling, and for the teacher who worked with him.

Learn more in this short radio interview from the BBC4 Today programme – it’s fascinating and thought provoking, although we must bear in mind that Gosling was working at the piano for several hours a day, with two-hour-long daily lessons five days a week.

The results are certainly inspiring – as a student of mine put it, the piano playing is one of the best parts of the film!

And now – for those who can’t copy Ryan Gosling by setting aside the time and cost of learning daily by rote – Faber Music bring us the sheet music for the film’s great songs and key moments.

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Jevdet Hajiyev: Piano Collection 1

Sheet Music Review

Ahmad Jevdet Ismail oglu Hajiyev (June 18, 1917 – January 18, 2002) was one of the major Azerbaijani composers of the Soviet period.

with-shostakovitch
Hajiyev with Shostakovitch

A student of Shostakovich, Hajiyev composed eight symphonies, three poems, the opera Veten (“Motherland”) (in collaboration with Gara Garayev), string quartets, solo piano music, choral and vocal works. He also taught at the Azerbaijan State Conservatory for more than four decades, while serving as a Rector from 1957-1969, and as Professor of Composition.

In 1997, the President of Azerbaijan bestowed upon Hajiyev the country’s highest accolade, the Azerbaijan Order of Glory, on the occasion of his 80th Jubilee, commemorating ‘60 long years of fruitful work which is highly appreciated by the nation and the State’.

To celebrate the centenary of his birth, the Muradov Family Archive has released Piano Collection book 1, with a series of concerts to be held in some of the finest concert halls around the world.

Piano Collection book 1 is brought to us via the ever-enterprising EVC Music Publications in the UK, and can be purchased from the EVC Music website here, where you can also listen to audio samples of most of the pieces (these are MIDI versions rather than performances).

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Online Piano Teacher Training with the RCM

Guest post by Garreth Brooke

“Like many other piano teachers I have studied music but not pedagogy…

When I first began teaching after finishing my music degree this did not seem such a problem, and certainly it did not stop me from finding work or  my students from telling me that I’m a good teacher. Increasingly, however, I’ve realised that if I want to be a great piano teacher I need to be trained both as a pianist and as a teacher. It doesn’t matter how much we know about music or how well we can play, we have to also understand how to communicate that knowledge effectively to our students.

A 2014 survey on the UK-based Cross-Eyed Pianist blog of private piano teachers revealed that less than half of the respondents had teaching diplomas, and only 30% had training in music pedagogy. This is understandable. Piano teaching often comes as a result of a passion for playing the piano, not because we have always wanted to be a teacher. I’m certainly true in that regard, and indeed actively avoided teaching until forced to by circumstance, when I realised to my surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In an ideal world, once we realise we want to be a piano teacher, we’d all be able to afford to take 3 years off and get a degree in music pedagogy but unfortunately that’s rarely – if ever –  realistic. Luckily there are several options for part time study for teachers who are based in the UK or who use the UK examination boards, including studying for a diploma with an exam board like ABRSM or Trinity, getting a qualification from a pedagogical group like Suzuki or Kodaly, attending the EPTA’s Practical Piano Teaching course, or signing up for the Curious Piano Teachers.

None of these, however, allow you to get a qualification from a recognised examination board from the comfort of your own home and I was therefore excited to learn about the RCM’s Online Piano Teacher Specialist Course. (NB for Brits – this is the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music, not the Royal College of Music).

I eagerly signed up and I am just beginning week 3 of a 10 week course, and I’m thrilled to have been invited to share my first impressions with you on Pianodao.

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Four Musical Treasures

Sheet Music Review

Regular readers will know that I have huge admiration for the independent up-coming publisher Editions Musica Ferrum, whose publications consistently bring high-end quality and creative originality.

In recent months EMF have been adding to their range of publications suitable for intermediate, and younger players, building on the success of their best-selling Cool Beans series by Ben Crosland, and EMF founder Nikolas Sideris’s outstanding Fairyland in Treble. Among the most recent releases, I’m going to take a look at four real gems:

  • Alison Mathews:  Treasure Trove
  • Simon Hester:  Megabytes I: The Private Life of Bugs
  • Barbara Arens All Beautiful & Splendid Things
  • Bonislava Taneva:  Sound Stories

These are all available for immediate purchase worldwide, directly from the publisher’s website here.

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Using Rounds in Piano Teaching

Guest post by Karen Marshall

I was first introduced to singing rounds as a very young child at Primary school…

It was much later in life that I realised their potential for instrumental use. I can remember being quite miffed that – even though I learnt three instruments – I’d not played one round during any of my instrumental lessons.

I try to incorporate rounds into my piano teaching along with using them constantly in my choir and whole school singing assemblies (I work as a music specialist in a Primary School along side piano teaching).

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