Several years ago, I recall Elvina Pearce (editor of Keyboard Companion) stating that summer was a time to look back and plan ahead: so this summer I made several summer “Resolutions”. The first one was to reorganize my studio (if that is possible) and begin the onerous task of reducing the paper “jungle” that has accumulated over the past decades. The second resolution was to take the Music Teachers National Association “Self Assessment Test” (published first in the 2004 August-September issue of The American Music Teacher and now available for purchase through the MTNA Marketplace) and be as scrupulously honest as is possible when evaluating yourself. The third resolution was to take time to browse and read some books that I “never had time” to read.
September is upon me and I have decided that the first resolution has had some success but that this is an on-going project … almost a career option. Time will tell if I can maintain the exhausting process of deciding what stays and what goes. “Hope beats eternal”.
The second resolution has proven that I am not the “Teacher of the Year” in more that a few areas such as Technology in my studio, Keyboard musicianship (although I do have the students transpose Hanon Studies, and some courageous souls do work on harmonizing a familiar tune, using lead sheet chords. I may take a gamble and see what happens to a harmonization of “O Canada”.) Some of the other categories are not for public disclosure yet.
Finally, the third resolution gave me great pleasure and I would like to share with you a “nutshell” review of some wonderful books by a variety of authors. Some are specifically focused on aspects of playing and teaching piano, but several are more general in nature and could be useful to all teachers of music.
Piano Notes, by Charles Rosen (Free Press) is relatively small (by comparison with his other books) and ranges from a discussion on choreography as related to different composers and their music, to conservatories and competitions. The final chapter called “Styles and Manners” I found to be most interesting because of the detailed discussion of performance practices (good and bad) for 300 years.
Etudes for Piano Teachers, by Stewart Gordon (Oxford University Press). This is a collection of essays that explore the many challenges involved in piano teaching from the technical to inspiring students – even career guidance. There is an excellent essay on “Neglected Skills” which discusses, sight-reading, collaboration, and improvisation.
The Practice Revolution, by Phillip Johnston (Practicespot Pro and also www.practicespot.com). Every teacher should own this book as well as his first book “*Not Until You’ve Done Your Practice*” The book is about what does and does not work and why!! It is not written with any specific instrument in mind and is a great read. I felt empowered … a bit.
Notes from the Pianist’s Bench, by Boris Berman (Yale University Press). The book is divided into two parts with Part 1 discussing what should be occurring in the practice room, such as producing a decent sound, technical problems, pedaling, and a final discussion about practicing. Part 2 discusses preparing for a performance and covers such areas as interpreting the composer’s score, what to do before and at the performance, and concludes with an inspiring essay on the The Art of Teaching and The Art of Learning.
FJH Music company has published three small books (more like pamphlets) by Mariane Uszler that discuss three specific problems that all teachers must deal with, regardless of what they teach. The books are clear, precise, and very practical. I recommend them highly because they are really good and are very inexpensive ($8.95 US):
– Play It Again, Sam. (What, Why, and When to Repeat)
-That’s A Good Question. (How to Teach by Asking Questions)
-Time Flies. (How to Make the Best Use of Teaching Time)
If you have heard of or have read some new (or not-so-new) books that would be of interest to us, just pass on the word. I can always add another bookcase to the hall!! In addition, contributions to Pedagogy Forum on any musical topic are appreciated: for example, some of you may have had even more “interesting” summer experiences. Welcome to September!