Active Repertoire: An Adult Student’s Perspective

Guest Post by Joni Hawkes

The recent articles on Active Repertoire on Pianodao have struck a chord with me … quite literally.

As an adult beginner into my third year of lessons, I have often found myself avoiding situations where I might be asked to play something, because I simply couldn’t play anything spontaneously without my trusty sheet music to hand.

The more pieces that I learned, the more they were becoming just a growing collection of stuff I couldn’t play.

The concept of Active Repertoire (always having 3 pieces that I enjoy playing, without notice, without embarrassment and without notation) has completely changed my approach to playing.

I now start every practice session by playing my 3 favourite pieces, and whilst I still have the book in front of me, I’m finding that with each session I’m increasingly looking away from the music as I play.

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Jazzin’ Americana

Sheet Music Review

Wynn-Anne Rossi may well be a new name to UK readers, but in the US she is a well known as a composer and dynamic educator. Commissions include works sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Composers Forum and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. She has over 70 piano publications, as well as original repertoire including orchestral and vocal works.

WynnAnneRossi.ashxWynn-Anne’s passion for promoting creativity in young musicians is reflected in her choice of publications with Alfred Music, which include the ’Musica Latina series of four repertoire and four duet books.

Her latest publications with Alfred are a series of four new solo piano books under the title Jazzin’ Americana, the subject of this review.

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The Piano Teacher’s Posture

All good piano teachers are concerned to teach and monitor good posture to their students, and as players we are hopefully equally aware of our own posture at the piano.

But how about our posture when we are teaching?
This, in my experience, can too easily be overlooked as a less important concern.

I am trying to address my own posture while teaching, so write this article to share my experiences and findings, while also suggesting a few easy tricks that other piano teachers can incorporate into their thinking and practice where helpful.

In this article I will hope to touch upon:

  • Should we sit less, and if so how?
  • What about good posture?
  • What other factors have an impact on our working environment?

Continue reading The Piano Teacher’s Posture

Pedal your way to Perfection!

Sheet Music Review

Over the last couple of decades I have enjoyed the privilege of teaching many teenage beginners, but have often found it difficult selecting the best material for them. These days we have become somewhat spoilt for choice when it comes to child-friendly beginner material, but music and method for the teenager remains a bit more thin on the ground.

Composer and teacher Marcel Zidani believes his new publication Hey Presto! Pedal your way to Piano Perfection offers a solution to the problem of older beginners losing interest due to musically dull method books. Describing the book as a “Fast-track Piano Method for ages 11 to Adult” which will help the beginner “sound like a pro in minutes”, he writes:

“You will find that this method is a modern approach to learning the piano and is designed to help beginner pianists create a professional sound very quickly. With the use of the sustain pedal, a good piano teacher and the creative writing of this composer, you will be inspired to complete the course.”

From the outset, it is clear that the unique selling point of Hey Presto! is the immediate use of the sustain pedal. But just how does this work in practice?

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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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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.

Continue reading Online Piano Teacher Training with the RCM