Outreach Projects from Around the U.S.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), The Lorax (1971)

outreach

Thank-you, everyone, for all your stories of outreach. I love reading about everything teachers all over the U.S. are doing to make a better world for families. Together we are creating performance opportunities, reaching out to underserved populations and building communities. I’m grateful to each of you. You’re an inspiration!


The Mundi Project

The Mundi Project provides youth access to pianos and innovative performance opportunities that incorporate all the arts. They create these opportunities through their Piano BankPiano Ambassador, and the upcoming Harmony Hub.

Founded in 2006 by piano educator, Hana Janatova, NCTM, The Mundi Project has placed over 127 piano donations through the Piano Bank program. The Piano Bank Program places donated pianos in private homes to dedicated students that cannot afford them, as well as in public spaces all across Utah.

The Piano Ambassador Program enrolls youth pianists to perform in concerts and community outreach events. It uses the piano as the cornerstone instrument and incorporates other fine art disciplines in collaboration with local schools and arts organizations. Since 2007, the organization has presented 14 multi-disciplinary concerts, 16 education/ community outreach performances, a three-week intensive multi-disciplinary art workshop, 33 workshop series, and 3 piano monster concerts for Salt Lake School District students and the general public.

Salt Lake City’s first ever Harmony Hub is in the works and is scheduled to open this fall. The Hub will be a piano lab, music/arts exploration center, and community-based recording studio. The program will offer consistent after-school piano/music lessons on an annual basis for low-income students and the Utah residents.

Hana Janatova, NCTM, Utah

Paramount Chamber Players

I set up a non-profit ensemble, The Paramount Chamber Players, in my hometown of Bristol, TN and come back from my home in London, England to perform there three times a year. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary!

We’ve established three chamber music series with a fourth in development in the small communities of the Tri-Cities area of Northeast Tennessee. I discovered that people would not drive 30 minutes between the cities to attend a concert. So, we decided to take the concert to them!

We’ve grown from an audience of about 30 to a combined audience of 400+ and have developed a dedicated donor base of 100 individuals and a few select businesses in the area. We have commissioned several new works from composers who live in the area.

It’s been wonderful to serve these communities and on a personal note I’ve learned 175+ major works in the last 12 years and performed them – a second doctorate of sorts!

Hutchinson Area Piano Teachers Association (KS)

We, the two members of Hutchinson Area Piano Teachers’ Association have wanted to share our success story for a long time! As outrageous as this may sound we feel we are on a path to be the poster child of independent piano teaching in a community of 50,000 or less and we have the pictures to prove it.

If you truly want to see what happens when you follow the mission statement of the Kansas Music Teachers Association plus a mountain of articles from the MTNA magazine, you get us. Please go to www.hutchinsonpianoteachers.com and look for yourself. The plethora of pictures are not always flattering, some a little fuzzy but they all tell the story. Scroll through to see what happens when an organization partners with the Downtown Development Center for “Third Thursday Performing Opportunities”.

We partner with the Kansas Cosmosphere and Discovery Center, Dillon Nature Center, Hutchinson Art Center, Pianos Unlimited and the Hutchinson Parks Dept. We can bring as many as 65 students to any given event and they come with an entourage of supporters.  Win Win! We are partners with the local American Guild of Organists for a “Pipe Organ Encounter” and sponsor the Anderson Concerto Auditions for both pianists and instrumentalists, for which we received two grants and a gift of a Yamaha piano.

Wow, thanks A LOT!

Judy Blauer, HAPTA President

Beginning Rotation

Cat ToyPiano technic can be a tricky proposition. Getting just the right degree of muscle tonus 1 in some tissues while maintaining a different state of flexion in others is tough. Especially when one is trying to move at the same time. Too much tonus and movement is difficult or even painful; too little, and movement becomes impossible because too relaxed.

We’ve taken an important first step in working on thumb motion. Now let’s begin work on what I consider to be the foundational movement of piano technic: rotation. As I said in my first blog entry in this series, we try to base our piano-playing motions on the “natural” motions of our arm and body. Rotation is one of those.

In the history of piano teaching, rotation is often associated with Tobias Matthay 2 (1858-1945), the distinguished teacher of such legendary British pianists as Clifford Curzon, Moura Lympany and Dame Myra Hess, and a prolific writer on piano teaching and technic. Matthay stated that he based his ideas on observations of three great pianists who played in London in the 1880s: Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, and Hans von Bülow. 3

Matthay wrote in the spirit of 19-century scientific experimentation, in a technical language that, to me anyway, is difficult to make sense of. 4 The basic principles, though, are clear.

I begin by asking students to let their arms hang with their hands at their sides, as if walking. Notice that, in this position, both the thumbnail and radius bone are facing forward. In order to place our hand on the piano keys to play, we have to lift our arms (from the forearm) and rotate the forearm 5 so that the thumbnail and radius are facing medially, to the center of the body. This is called “pronation”. Pronation is not an uncomfortable position, but the arm naturally wants to rotate back to its initial position, with the thumb and radius facing upward. We want to take advantage of this natural inclination and use it in piano technic.

I use a cat toy to begin to explain the motion to students. Here are the directions:

  • Gently outstretch your arm
  • Hold the cat toy in your hand with enough muscle flexion to keep it in an upright position, but not so much that you squeeze the poor little cat too much and make your hand stiff.
  • Pretend the cat toy is doorknob, and you are going to turn it.
  • Turn it to the left, then to the right.

Congratulations! You just rotated.

Is it really this easy? Yes, in a way, as you get started (the nuances will take more time). Here are some things to check as you start to master the gesture.

  • Make sure the motion is initiated from your forearm.
    • The upper arm and shoulder support the motion, but do not initiate movement
  • Medial rotation (pronation) necessitates a slight repositioning of your elbow, out and up. But don’t let it waggle too much!

Practice with your own stuffed animal, or even a doorknob until you get comfortable with the basic movement. We’ll apply it to music in my next blog.

Notes:

  1. Friendly reminder: “tonus” is a word physicians use to describe a state of low-level muscle activity. I sometimes refer to this state as muscle “flexion”.
  2. There is a fascinating recent biography about Matthay by American Matthay expert Stephen Siek, England’s Piano Sage: The Life and Teachings of Tobias Matthay (Scarecrow Press, 2012)
  3. Alan Walker, Hans von Bülow: A Life and Times (Oxford, 2010), p.396
  4. In fairness to Matthay, as an Associate Editor for the magazine Clavier Companion, I well understand the difficulties of trying to explain piano technic in prose. I have learned a lot about Matthay’s ideas as a member of The American Matthay Association.
  5. Matthay was, perhaps inevitably, attacked by competitors, some of whom stated that the very act of rotation is impossible. Matthay responded (correctly, I think) that it’s impossible to even place one’s hands on the piano without rotation.

Notes & News: Research on Brain Development

It’s been a hectic Spring! Many exciting performances by my students and of course lots of behind-the-scenes work by me. The Music Teachers National Association Conference in Las Vegas was wonderful, my “high-tech” masterclass there a big success, according to the evaluations. But I admit it: I’m behind. Let’s get caught up!

Music Lessons Improve Children’s Brains

Music teachers know this already but families, school administrators and politicians need to be reminded.

Everyone knows if I lift five-pound, ten-pound, fifteen-pound weights, my biceps will get bigger. The same is true for the brain. We shouldn’t be surprised we can train the brain.”

James Hudziak, Professor of Psychiatry

Researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine analyzed the brain scans of 232 children aged six-eighteen. They looked particularly for signs of accelerated brain development in those kids who studied a musical instrument.

BrainAccording to James Hudziak, director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, they found it. “…the more a child trained on an instrument, it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”

Much of this group’s previous research had focused on issues of depression, aggression and attention problems. But not this time. “I wanted to look at positive things, what we believe benefits child development,” said Hudziak. “What I was surprised by was the emotional regulatory regions. Everyone knows if I lift five-pound, ten-pound, fifteen-pound weights, my biceps will get bigger. The same is true for the brain. We shouldn’t be surprised we can train the brain.”

On a charming side note, Dr. Hudziak reports that he has started taking viola lessons himself, at the age of 56. He describes his skills in this area as “horrible.”

Here’s a link to the study.

A New Faculty Member at Rocky Ridge—Me!

rrmclogoI’m a firm believer in taking on creative challenges at any age, including mine. I think it keeps you fresh, helps you learn new skills and builds forward thinking. So I’m going to follow my own advice.

I am proud and honored to inform you that I will be joining the faculty of the Rocky Ridge Music Center Adult Piano Seminar, for two sessions from May 30-June 7, 2015. I will be teaching lessons, giving masterclasses, a lecture on J.S. Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and offering a multi-part series of talks on “Fundamentals of Basic Piano Technique”.

Longs Peak, CO
Longs Peak, CO

Rocky Ridge is an extraordinary place. It is one of the oldest summer music programs in the country, located in the lovely Colorado Rockies at the foot of Longs Peak. Its natural beauty inspires even more artistic music making.

Amateur aficionados of the piano, piano teachers and college or conservatory students will all benefit from this program. I hope you’ll consider joining me!

Click here for more information, including an online application page.

MTNA: The Opportunities Continue!

Scott AwardWhen I started my campaign to become President of the Music Teachers National Association, my first blog was about opportunity: the opportunities I felt that MTNA has always given music teachers, and some ideas about what we need to do to build even more favorable possibilities for MTNA members—and the future members!—of our great organization.

As I write you today, I have accepted an opportunity of my own. I am honored and humbled to report that, at the Annual MTNA Business Meeting on March 24, 2015, my name was announced as MTNA President-Elect for the next biennium. I will become MTNA President in two years.

I want to thank every MTNA member who voted in this election, whether this was your first time, or the latest of many, as it was for me. I have the utmost respect for my worthy opponent, Martha Hilley, and I know we will work together to continue to move MTNA forward, as we have many times in the past.

Many thanks for your involvement, your suggestions and your support. I’ll need all three in the years ahead! Thanks again.

Update on MTNA Election Results

MTNA logoIn 1876, a group of music teachers met in Ohio to form an organization dedicated to making music available to every American. They called it the Music Teachers National Association.

Today, almost 140 years later, MTNA’s mission continues. We move forward because of the dedication of each and every MTNA member. It’s your commitment to our noble mission and your big, bold dreams that make MTNA such a profound force for good in music education. Thank-you for everything you do; I’m honored to be your colleague.

Many of you have written to ask about the election results. I wrote Dr. Gary Ingle, MTNA Executive Director and CEO, with the same question. He informed me that it is MTNA tradition to make no announcement until the MTNA Annual Business Meeting, which will take place this year on Tuesday, March 24 at 1:00 p.m. Naturally, I will respect this decision.

During the election process, I appreciated the chance to interact with so many of you through my blog. Let’s carry-on the dialogue, and continue our journey together into a bright musical future for all Americans. Your support means a lot.

Thanks for all each of you does for music, for children and for the future of music in the United States.

See you in Vegas!

Thank you…and let’s keep making music

My run for the presidency of the Music Teachers National Association has been an adventure. Today is the last opportunity to vote, and it’s been a positive experience. I’ve learned a lot.

To those of you who have voted for me: thank you! For those of you who are supporting my opponent, thank you, too. I appreciate everyone’s commitment to the important mission of MTNA.

To me, one of the most valuable aspects has been the interactions with my blog readers. I’ve enjoyed the feedback and your fresh and creative ideas. Win or lose, I plan on continuing a dialogue on the important issues that affect all of us.

Thanks for all each of you does for music, for children and for the future of music in the United States.

See you in Vegas!

Good Deeds in a Naughty World

My heading is a paraphrase of Shakespeare, from his play The Merchant of Venice, Act Five, Scene 1, the same scene in which Lorenzo (one of the male leads) says that no one who dislikes music should be trusted.

Many MTNA members that I know perform a lot of good deeds—and are very trustworthy! They share their love of music in their communities on many levels, and serve gladly in a variety of volunteer positions to further the MTNA mission.

The fact remains that, despite our best efforts, music study is not available to many segments of the U.S. population. How many people study music each year in the U.S.? The official answer is: no one knows. But I’ll give you my answer: not enough.

Today I’d like to tell you about two established outreach programs, and one that is just beginning. They share a common goal: to bring music into the heart of the community, and bring music study to underserved populations.

Keys for the City“Keys for the City” is a project of Music for Everyone, a non-profit group in Lancaster, PA, a city that bills itself the “Street Piano Capital of the World”. 2014 was the fifth consecutive summer that pianos were placed all over Lancaster, to be played by whomever wanted to perform. There were 12 available pianos, each designed and painted by local artists.

“Whether people stop by to play a few notes or an entire piece, there [are] thousands of magical, musical moments…” says John Gerdy, president of Music for Everyone. Local teachers sometimes station themselves near the pianos to give brief lessons. But mainly, people just jam, and have a great time playing.

The “Keys for the City” coincides with five “Music Friday” events in Lancaster, in which 40 music acts perform in bars, restaurants, galleries, and in the streets of Lancaster.

Lancaster isn’t the only town reaching out with music. 2015 is a big year for my home MTNA branch, the Kansas City Music Teachers Association. It’s our 100th anniversary! To celebrate our 100 years of excellence, KCMTA has set a goal of placing 100 ‘artistically transformed’ pianos around the Kansas City area during the summer of 2015. It’s part of a program called “Pianos on Parade”.

Local artists and kids will paint the pianos in May. Some will be stationed in high-traffic areas, others will pop-up at local fairs, festivals and sporting events. “Pianos on Parade” is a program of Keys 4/4 Kids, a non-profit organization that accepts donated pianos and uses the profits to fund charitable programs.

The last program that I would like to tell you about is close to my own heart, because it originates in the MTNA Student Chapter of the school where where I teach, the University of Kansas. This is a wonderful group of music students who are taking the initiative to do something really special.

They (with my help, since I am faculty advisor) have identified a group of students in a small Kansas town who have never had the opportunity to study any musical instrument. We are going to offer lessons to them, using the teaching skills of our KU students and the latest technology.

We’re busy checking, organizing and finalizing, so I better say no more right now. I couldn’t be more proud of this group of exceptional young musicians and I’m looking forward to sharing more information with you.

Is your local MTNA branch reaching out to the community in exciting ways? If so, I would love to hear about it! Leave me a comment, or send me an email.

How My Readers are Using Technology, Part 2

letter-writingHere is the second set of responses to my blog series on technology. Lots more good ideas—and some different viewpoints on the pros and cons of using technology itself. This, I think, is excellent for our ongoing dialogue.

I know and respect all four contributors, but the last entry, by Dr. Melissa Martiros, was submitted by special invitation (OK, begging!) from me. I heard Melissa give a very moving workshop on teaching piano to special needs students, and I was fascinated to hear how she uses the iPad.

As always, I am getting a lot of great ideas from everyone who writes in! Thanks—and keep sending!!

Music Teaching and Technology I have been teaching with computer programs hooked up via midi since 1984. A lot has changed since those first days, but a lot is the same too. Technology is a teaching tool for me. Students can drill sight reading, ear training, rhythm reading, basic theory, compose, learn about music history, etc. with head phones on while I teach other students the finer points of playing their repertoire and technique. I have an iPad too, but just haven’t added too much on with that since I was already set up with comprehensive computer programs doing the same things as most of the iPad apps, but with more power. I do love the price of the iPad apps vs. what I spent on computer programs.

Pianos, Keyboards and Disklaviers I teach with both acoustic pianos and digital pianos. The price range of many of the decent console pianos is out of the range of a lot of beginning students, or it is more than they want to spend until they find out the true interest level of the student. In most cases they are left with a choice of a poor used spinet or a digital piano. Thankfully, manufacturers have seen this need and have been steadily improving upon the digital pianos and most students can now afford a lot for their money. Plus, they don’t need to tune the instrument and it has a built in metronome, often a small choice of other instrument sounds and rhythm patterns. Some even have other teaching features built in. In my opinion, dollar for dollar a decent low priced digital piano beats a spinet that is in poor repair.

The “Gamification” of EducationWhen a concept is drilled with a great game, kids won’t want to stop playing and don’t realize how much that they are learning. It is the best tool. There are some nights, in the computer lab, that the parents have to go in to get the students because it is time to leave and they don’t even realize that much time has passed.

Technology: MTNA Into the Future Our daughter is in this age group. She opted for an Associate Degree in Art Illustration. When she started school, she was going to double Major in both Music Composition and Art Illustration. It soon became very apparent that the scheduling of classes was not going to allow this to happen. Also, she was seeing the employment opportunities for young graduates and decided that going for more education at this point would not necessarily land her a better job in her chosen field. Colleges, Universities, and groups like MTNA need to look more at how to train these bright young people to find the best jobs for themselves. It is a challenge. She has her degree in Art, but is currently working at a piano store.

LeAnn Halvorson, Music Perceptions, IL

So many new ideas are blossoming in piano pedagogy. Online teaching seems to be catching on all over. I’ve not seen so many games before that seem to work hand in hand with student’s books and sheet music. I have to familiarize myself with some of them from so many available choices.

Yes, I am enjoying online teaching very much as well as teaching locally. Teaching online brings out elderly people who always wanted to study piano but never had the time to do so until now. Their ‘aha’ moments are so wonderful to behold! One of the best things they like about taking their lessons is they don’t have to travel anywhere. Until I started giving online lessons I primarily taught school age children. I still enjoy teaching young people but also teach adults who never learned to play or who want to pick up where they left off 40, 50 or more years ago.

Along with the joy of giving lessons and seeing students beam with excitement of learning to play, sadly there are physical problems that many aging people have to face.  Some of my retired students have had to discontinue lessons from time to time when these problems prevented them from practicing and studying. Those who come back for more are so eager to learn to play music they love, especially songs from their youth. Surprisingly, some people have retained much of the music they learned years ago.

My teaching has taken on a whole new dimension. Within the past few years I studied website building and created my own website, www.piano-lessons-live-online.com so people can find me online. I tell students that they can supply the content of what they want to learn and I will teach them the concepts and skills needed to learn music that they love.

Carolemae Katz, Indepdendent Music Teacher, OH

I have long believed that the traditional classical-only approach is missing the boat and needs to be more inclusive as you advocate. I also continue to attempt to keep up with and incorporate the blazing speed at which music education technology is developing. It is a constant challenge to the brain and the pocketbook! Of course it also enhances the reach and efficiency of a teacher who is relieved of some of the challenges of repetition, time constraints and geography.

However I would like for you to consider an additional educational angle with regard to the technology revolution. As a teacher and grandparent of this generation of children who are so heavily exposed and often literally addicted to screens, I believe that off-screen, off-the-bench activities are now more important than ever for students. I was an early adopter of digital keyboards and group classes in my studio, and still use both on a regular basis. But along with the ubiquity of screens, I have noticed that children have recently become over-exposed and often under-enthused about online learning. They want and need live interaction and tactile learning activities of group and one-on-one. I would hope that in your advocacy of educational innovation you would point this out. (Disclaimer here: Music Educators’ Marketplace specializes in such hands-on learning materials, but we do so because we know that they are so effective in providing novelty, clarity, and enjoyment!)

Karen Koch, Coordinator, Music Education Marketplace, NCTM, IL and MO

Technology Use with Children with Special Needs

Technology plays a very unique and important role in my lessons with children with special needs. I embrace the use of technology in these lessons and have come to really value the role it plays instruction and learning.

I have found that many of my students with special needs are motivated by the iPad in the studio. The iPad serves as a strong positive reinforcer for my autistic students and others who have difficulty staying on task during an entire lesson.  At the onset of each lesson, the student and I decide on a list of activities to accomplish during our time together. If the student completes all of these tasks within the lesson time, he/she is rewarded with iPad use at the end of the lesson. This is not just free time—there are restrictions. I set the timer on my iPhone to provide concrete boundaries during this earned reinforcement time. And, in most cases, the student is limited to educational music apps and age appropriate music videos on YouTube.

As an educational tool, I use the iPad for both in-studio and at-home learning. This is especially useful when providing instruction to non-verbal and minimally-verbal students with autism. It is also useful for students with learning disabilities. When introducing new pieces, exercises, and/or scales, I will pre-record my hands playing from a birds-eye view and play the video as an additional mode of instruction during the lesson. I will then email the video to the parents for the child to view during practice sessions at home. I do emphasize note reading with all of my students. However, these videos serve as audio and visual practice aids for students who struggle with audio and visual processing. They are also incredibly useful for students who struggle with memory, as is the case with a current student of mine who is coping with the cognitive side effects of severe epilepsy.

Finally, I use the iPad for student self-reflection. In some cases, students are resistant to my entering their personal space on the piano bench and more responsive to video instruction during the lesson. If I’m working with a child who has trouble with the receptive and/or expressive language, I will record the student performing and engage in playback activities in order to provide the instructional guidance I may not be able to on the bench in the lesson. In this way, technology complements the work I do in the lesson and provides the student with a chance to self-correct. This technique works with behavioral challenges as well. Often, children who exhibit challenging behavior don’t fully realize what their behavior actually looks like to others. Videotaping these behaviors for playback and reflection can be a useful reflection and management tool.

Melissa Martiros, D.M.A., Assistant Professor of Music & Faculty Service-Learning Liaison, Martin Methodist College

See you in Vegas!

How My Readers are Using Technology, Part 1

Letter WritingThe best part of blogging is getting responses, and my four-part technology series has generated a lot! I’m impressed with my respondents’ thoughtfulness, and the wide range of their thinking on this important topic.

Over the next few days, I will be posting my readers’ ideas, with their permission, and adding a few comments of my own. But if you are looking for an all-knowing guru to endorse and promote, I encourage you to keep looking because I have not yet found one either.

My goal is encourage the dialogue about technology: what we think about it, how we use it and how it impacts our students. I invite teachers of all different viewpoints to participate. The publication of their ideas here, as always, does not represent an endorsement by MTNA or me. It’s all about the conversation.

Alison makes an excellent point that technology can never usurp the centrality of the teacher-student relationship. It’s a tool (to quote her) that should be used to enhance “the listening, the empathy, our ability to stay connected to the world.”

I do use some technology in my studio, but I never let it usurp the energy, power and centrality of the relationship between musician-teacher and musician-student.

I was the first (at least around here) to use computer-assisted music instruction, digital piano with recording, etc., but after a few honeymoon years, I found it unsatisfying in some ways.  Students began to have growing access to technology and they were easily figuring out how to use it (more easily than I ever could!) so I downplayed the role of it in the curriculum.

Of course, I use the ready technologies —  iPad, YouTube, recording software to make CDs, notational software for their composition books.  I mostly apply technology when we have special projects, or as homework assignments.  I do not have a lab set up in my current home studio (outside my own equipment.)  I am just now designing my own website.

Right now, I’m writing an article about remaining “relevant” as an independent teacher.  Many people automatically think that technology is the key to this.  I’m in diametric opposition. Relevance to me is about the relationship, the listening, the empathy, our ability to stay connected to the world.

Alison S. Barr, NCTM, MA

YouTube is so common these days that it’s easy to forget how many musical treasures are within. It’s a great tool!

Every musical element that I teach in my piano classes can be better understood with YouTube selections.  One of my favorite uses of YouTube is comparing the performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in the closing of the 1998 Olympics (Nagano, Japan) compared with a flash mob version and in the movie Sister Act II.  Students identify the repeating phrases higher and lower, louder and softer, and discuss the differences in each movie version. I also like students to identify 4/4 and 3/4 meters with a Sousa march, Morning has Broken by Cat Stevens, Blue Danube, and a Beatles song. YouTube makes it possible for me to use student preference of music (as well as my own selections) in lessons in a meaningful way. My goal is to engage students!

Pat Bissell, Gateway Community College, CT

Charlene, like me, uses pianos in many different ways. In my home studio, I have a beautiful small Steinway that used to belong to the famous conductor of the Chicago Symphony, Fritz Reiner; a Yamaha Disklavier; two Roland digital pianos; and upstairs in my living room, a superb Shigeru Kawai. I think it’s important for students to get used to hearing, and adjusting to, all different types of pianos.

I use technology for teaching sightreading. I have put my Yamaha Clavinova CVP 205 in the back room of my studio. This piano was purchased in 2000 so it requires a floppy disk, which is not floppy! The students walk in, get their chart from the file cabinet and pick up their sightreading book where they left off the week before, from a bookcase behind them. They are using different music than their private lesson.

Their instruction for the chart is to put down the date, what book & what page they were on when they quit.  There are two headsets so their mom can listen. I sneak in occasionally when the next student is late. They are to come a half hour early and go to the back room, scan the piece, tap it out and then start at a slow speed that they can handle. If that is reading is close to perfect, they are to keep moving the MM to the original speed. They can’t go on until each example can be played up to tempo with the disk accompaniment.  When they come in for their private lesson I ask if they had any problems.  If they can never get to tempo I ask them to go back and next week pick an easier book. Their sightreading improves almost 50% the first semester.

I also work on sightreading in each student’s private lesson. I use The Four Star Sight Reading of Frederick Harris Music and make home sightreading assignments. I started using them when it was just by Boris Berlin (at $2.95). Now they have been republished with Berlin and Markow with Scott McBride Smith as the editor.  Because students go through them so fast I keep several copies of the first few levels and 2 of the upper levels and then check them out, rather than have each student purchase their own.  With Scott’s careful editing they can be practiced at home and I just check the test piece in the lesson.  I tell parents that I check out music so they don’t have to lay out $13.50 (or more) every 10 weeks.  Also makes them feel better about my tuition. The only time I am involved in the back room half hour sightreading with Clavinova is if they get stuck.

Charlene Cox-Clifton, NCTM, NM

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