Purrfect Practice ‘Technique Trainer’

Purrfect Practice was created by Australian piano teacher Jackie Sharp. Her new Technique Trainer 1 is intended as the first volume in a three-part series of e-books of technical and musical exercises that develop the many skills necessary for achieving excellence and artistry at the piano.

With an engaging and accessible design, Technique Trainer covers all the main technical aspects of piano playing, including advice on correct hand shape, together with an understanding of the importance of the involvement of the wrists and arms in piano playing. There are attractive illustrations to demonstrate key points and 25 exercises to enable students to practise the techniques outlined in the book. In addition, there are 25 bonus “learning activities” to help students increase their awareness and apply the techniques studied in their practising. All the exercises encourage students to assess their playing as they tick off completed goals. The book also includes links to video demos made by the author which offer visual guidance and help reinforce each exercise.

The book packs a lot into its 60 pages and some of the technique covered is quite advanced, including using arm weight to create dynamic shading, different kinds of staccato and detached touch, voicing chords, poly-rhythms, and trills. For younger or less advanced students, the book would work well if used by the teacher in conjunction with other repertoire as a way of teaching and reinforcing aspects of technique. The older or more advanced student would probably be happy to work through the book independently and in their own time. All the exercises demonstrate how technique is used as a foundation for developing artistry and expression at the piano.

My only reservations about the book are occasional technical terms which are not fully explained or clarified (e.g. “mezzo staccato“) which assume a certain level of knowledge. The quality of the video clips is rather patchy. But on the whole, Technique Trainer offers a very useful and clearly designed tutor book for piano teachers and students alike.

For further information about the book and its author, please visit www.purrfectpractice.com.au

Future books include ‘Scales – the Purrfect Practice’

Summer piano courses at La Balie, France

La Balie is the brain-child of Fiona Page, a high-flying former CEO and amateur pianist. After a busy and satisfying career in finance, Fiona felt the tug of a change of direction as she approached a significant birthday. Here she takes up the story of how La Balie came to be: 

I was CEO of another successful independent business that I’d really enjoyed building, but I was increasingly looking for other interests and a better balance – I’d started learning the piano and had been thinking for several years of buying a house in the sunshine. So at 49 I set myself the target of buying a house in France by the time I was 50. I thought I’d spend long weekends exploring different areas and looking for the perfect house: as it happened, I chose a few properties off the internet, went to France for one rainy, foggy, November weekend and came back with a house!  The house was La Balie – a collection of 7 stone farm buildings dating from the 16th century.  

When I bought La Balie it had three little cottages that were used for summer rentals. I continued with that for the first summer but then started to think about what else I might use the cottages for. It was an easy process for me: there were four key areas that I was interested in and when I talked to other people everyone seemed to agree that music, well-being, cooking and some corporate stuff would be interesting and fun. And that’s how it started!  

Along my travels I met concert pianist James Lisney, who I was lucky enough to persuade to lead the piano courses and we were off! This summer we’re offering three weeks of courses – the first open to pianists of all levels and the second and third dedicated to advanced pianists. The ethos of La Balie is to play serious music but in a relaxed environment: the day starts with a breakfast of fresh hot croissants, local breads and home-made organic muesli, class starts at 9.30 with 4 students having the opportunity to play prepared pieces for James and the rest of the group. A lazy lunch is at 1.00 with the rest of the afternoon free for sightseeing, relaxing by the pool, practice or further individual lessons with James. We gather again around 6.30 for a chilled glass of something and an evening recital either from James or one of the course participants.

The opportunity to perform has been a great attraction at the La Balie courses and there has been serious competition for the available slots!

Dinner is either on the terrace at La Balie watching beautiful sunsets or at one of the many local restaurants. All the classes take place in The Studio, a beautiful old barn, now converted and equipped with air-conditioning, an acoustic ceiling and audio visual equipment which we use to record performances and some classes. We are lucky enough to have two fine grand pianos in the Studio, with four further practice pianos located in each cottage and in the main house.  

The courses:

Piano Foundations – one-week piano courses for both intermediate and advanced pianists with the aim of consolidating technique 

Advanced Master Classes – in-depth study of prepared pieces. All classes will be limited to ten participants, giving each student the opportunity to work closely with James Lisney to enhance, deepen and improve their musical ability as well as to share musical interests with the other members of the group.

More than just a “piano holiday”, La Balie offers participants expert tuition in a beautiful and convivial setting.

For further information and booking, please visit http://www.labalie.com/about-2/

Is the “10,000 Hours Rule” a Myth?

A guest post by David Milsont

The “10,000 hours” rule was first brought to a mass audience by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. In this book he states that this is the amount of time it takes to achieve mastery.

This of course wasn’t just a number that Gladwell made up. A study carried out in Berlin, Germany documented the practice habits of a group of violin students, throughout their childhoods, adolescence and then adulthood.

When asked how many hours they had practiced, over the entirety of them playing, results showed that whilst times were similar in childhood, the most elite players had accumulated more than 10,000 hours individually by age 20.

This strong correlation between time spent rehearsing and level of ability makes a very strong case for the 10,000 hours rule and Gladwell brought the idea to a larger audience.

Famous faces such as The Beatles are often used as an example of the theory but what is the argument for natural talent? The study conducted on the German violinists had no evidence to show that talent was enough to reach the level that they did. So, from novice to expert, the 10,000 hours rule backs practice all the way.

It could be that those who have a natural talent or interest in a particular activity practise more because they are passionate. When we are good at something and enjoy it, practising is not a chore. Therefore it can make an individual look as though they were born with an innate ability to thrive at their craft. You could be born with bags of talent but without working on it, you may never develop to the level that you potentially could.

So, where does that leave you and your piano? The key is to practise with purpose. 40 hours practise over five years is going to give you your 10,000 hours. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to improve to elite level. If you make the same mistakes every single time you sit at your piano, hitting your target hours becomes less relevant.

Achieving your 10,000 hours needn’t be out of your reach but aim for quality over quantity. Not all practice is created equally. Purchase a good piano from a trusted dealer and invest time in finding a fantastic teacher. Every great sportsman started with a coach. Every great musician should have an accomplished teacher to guide them, recognise areas for improvement and track progress.

No matter what you are doing, it’s going to take a lot of time to reach a level that you are satisfied with. The key is to enjoy playing piano, learning, rehearsing and eventually improving. There’s no magic formula to getting the best out of your piano, or any other activity or hobby. Although there are differing opinions around the 10,000 hours rule, all of the research agrees on this: passion is key.

About the Author: 

David Milsont is an avid pianist. He deals with Broughton Pianos and writes in his spare time. 

‘The Virtuoso Teacher’ seminar with Paul Harris

Renowned educator, writer and clarinetist Paul Harris, author of innumerable books on sight-reading, music theory and music teaching as well as original compositions, led a seminar based around the ideas set out in his seminal book T’he Virtuoso Teacher’ (Faber, 2012).

The book focuses on the core issues of being a teacher and the teaching process. By examining topics such as self-awareness and the importance of emotional intelligence, getting the best out of pupils, dealing with challenging pupils, asking the right questions and creating a master-plan taking the stress out of learning teaching for the right reasons, Paul Harris offers an inspirational and supportive read for all music teachers, encouraging everyone to consider themselves in a new and uplifted light. The book formed the basis of Paul’s presentation, with plenty of opportunities for discussion during the breaks and in a Q&A session at the end of the seminar. I read Paul’s book when it was first published and found it very empowering, yet much of what he suggests is both simple and easy to put into practice in the teaching environment.

These are my notes taken during the seminar; by no means comprehensive, I hope they will provide a useful overview of Paul’s approach and the philosophy of the Virtuoso Teacher.

Definition of a ‘Virtuoso Teacher’

  • Not someone who teaches virtuosi
  • Nor a virtuoso player themselves (as Paul said, virtuoso players may be fine instrumentalists, but are not necessarily the best teachers)
  • A virtuoso teacher takes teaching to a virtuoso level through being collaborative, imaginative, engaging, non-judgmental and energetic.

Just as a virtuoso performer has qualities such as a sense of communication, secure technique, and a sense of artistry so the virtuoso teacher has the same qualities. But instead of playing to an audience, the virtuoso teacher works with students.

The virtuoso teacher has a heightened awareness of what is happening, is mindful, has a profound understanding of the instrument, technique, musicality and a deep knowledge of our pupils. The virtuoso teacher encourages pupils to reach their own infinite potential.

WHAT WE DO

The special things….

  • Teach music for its own sake
  • Guide pupils
  • Show possibilities
  • Open minds
  • Enable pupils to become independent learners and teach themselves

The word “teach” comes from the Old English world tæcan (“tee-shan”) meaning to “show”, or “point out”, but not “tell”.

The virtuoso teacher does more than teaching the instrument and pieces: the virtuoso teacher encourage pupils to really know music and enable all pupils to achieve, taking into account the needs and desires of all our pupils.

For the virtuoso teacher the process is more important than the outcome (i.e. exam or competition results, assessments or performances, all of which are stressful situations and which lose the enjoyment of “now”). For the pupil, learning to play an instrument or sing should be a happy experience. Unhappy or stressed students don’t learn (physiologically, the brain stops releasing hormones which enable us to take in information when we are stressed). We develop our pupils’ self-responsibility and turn mistakes into opportunities. We share our love of music and encourage our students to develop this love too. We make our students confident and independent.

Personal qualities of a Virtuoso Teacher

  • An excellent communicator
  • Certain, but never absolutely sure
  • Open-minded
  • Adaptable and flexible
  • Still learning
  • Focused (on the pupil)
  • A good role model
  • Good-humoured
  • Patient
  • Proactive
  • Innovative
  • Having good judgment, but never judgmental
  • Kind and caring
  • Reflective

How we teach

The “process” of the lesson

  • Warming up (e.g. stretches away from the instrument or use an aspect of the first piece as a warm up exercise)
  • Find ingredients and connections within the piece
  • Offer achievable, well-explained instructions (done well, this is unlikely to lead to mistakes, or will reduce mistakes)
  • Give well-expressed, clear feedback
  • Ensure the lesson is energising and always moving forward

When giving feedback, first wait and then notice the way the pupil reacts to the feedback. Positive feedback motivates and allows us to be effective because it empowers the pupil. We need to nurture, not control. As a result, pupils are

  • Confident
  • Happy
  • Enthusiastic
  • Motivated
  • In sum, the “virtuoso pupil” knows how to learn.

Dispelling the “myth of difficult”

  • Learning how to achieve
  • Removing obstacles
  • Encourage through a thorough and meticulous approach
  • The quality of our students’ understanding is better than the quantity of their work.

High-satisfaction teaching allows the lesson to flow and for pupils to be musical. They will also make fewer mistakes, feel less stress, feel less constrained by structure, which allows them to achieve. Lessons become positive with a spirit of discovery.

  • Simultaneous learning and simultaneous practising:
  • Teaching proactively
  • Making connections using the “ingredients” of the piece
  • Positive
  • Non-judgmental

Pupils need to practise in a way which matches this

  • Integration – refer to practising during the lesson
  • Representation – make practising interesting and engaging
  • Connections – ask how the practising went in the intervening week between lessons

This enables pupils to see how lessons and practising join up.

 

Teaching a new piece using the Simultaneous Learning process

Know the ingredients of the piece:

  • Key
  • Rhythm
  • Pulse
  • Time signature
  • Dynamics
  • Character

Don’t overload the pupil with information but know how much the pupil can take in.

Allow the lesson to unfold around the ingredients using various element, e.g. improvisation based on a rhythm or short motif within the piece.

Use Q&A and demonstration. Talk about practising as you go along. Practising should be fun, engaging and collaborative.

  • Don’t hurry
  • Make connections
  • Empower the student
  • Check the student has understood all the instructions given
  • Teach the right things at the right time
  • Be imaginative
  • Encourage flow
  • Collaboration
  • Encourage students to know their music
  • Encourage students to become independent

 

WHO WE TEACH

We need to get to know our pupils (but never interrogate them!)

  • Interests
  • Prior learning/knowledge
  • Vocabulary (important – so that we can communicate with them at the right level)
  • Preferred learning style, i.e. visual, auditory or kinesthetic
  • Gender difference
  • Relative speed of learning
  • Level of motivation
  • Expectations (pupil’s and parents’)
  • Psychomotor skills (e.g. finger dexterity)
  • SEN
  • R/L brain development
  • Experience and background
  • Maturity
  • Parental involvement

Having this information allows us to personalize our teaching to be more effective.

 

Managing expectations

We live up and down to expectations (the ‘Pygmalion Effect’)

“As the teacher believes the student to be, so the student becomes” (Rosenthal & Jacobson)

 

  • We should have high but appropriate expectations and the student will live up to them.
  • We have different expectations for different students
  • Don’t base expectations on pre-determined criteria (e.g. exam results)
  • Don’t compare students, especially negatively
  • Discourage pupils from comparing themselves to their friends/peers – explain to a Grade 1 student that the Grade 7 student is not “better”, just “more advanced”
  • Focus on achievement rather than attainment: pupils can achieve continuously
  • Encourage self-comparison: “How am I doing?”
  • Encourage students to hear friends playing in a positive context: peer support is very important.
  • Celebrate every student’s strengths
  • Have positive and appropriate expectations
  • Create a positive teaching environment
  • Labels are not helpful – there are no “bad” pupils! (but there are plenty of bad teachers!)
  • All pupils are able – different, but able

 

Giving praise

It needs to be appropriate and appreciative. Judgmental praise causes dependency and builds up an ego which can produce anxiety

 

Examples of appreciative praise:

“I enjoyed that”

“that was really accurate/musical”

“That practise has really made a difference”

 

This allows pupils to draw their own conclusions about their playing

 

Praise what they are doing or their effort, not the ego or talent.

 

Praise followed by criticism is not helpful.

 

Sincere praise goes a long way and creates a sense of trust.

 

 

Using questions in lessons

Good questioning is very valuable and can be used to

  • Check knowledge and understanding
  • Encourage understanding
  • Encourage recall of facts and information
  • Diagnose difficulties and involve the pupil in the “cure” (e.g. tension, problematic fingering scheme etc)

 

Questions also encourage students to think, engage, apply and reflect. Use open-ended, thought-provoking questions, e.g. “What do you like about this piece?”

 

 

Getting the best out of our pupils

 

  • The way we are and how we respond to our pupils
  • The way we manage expectations (of pupils and parents)
  • The care we invest in teaching methods
  • The level of positivity and love of our subject
  • Ensuring pupils understand what they are doing

 

 

In conclusion

 

Our values and beliefs colour the way we are and drive our thinking and teaching. We should be certain, but never absolutely certain, and we should always look outwards.

 

The present

  • The Power of Now
  • Living in the moment
  • Grasp opportunities and run with them, while always keeping an eye on the future
  • Using aspects such as applied psychology and physiology (e.g. understanding the reasons for warming up before playing), and using technology to enhance our teaching (e.g. internet, apps).

Teaching now

  • Teach laterally and holistically
  • Be proactive
  • Take care of our personal accountability
  • Make connections
  • Understand and appreciate what our pupils need
  • Use wisdom – how do we use our knowledge? We guide our pupils to enable them to progress.
  • Be honest (i.e. honest evaluation of our students, and in our dealings with parents)
  • Have courage – take risks and be prepared to tackle issues
  • Give our students our unconditional support

The Virtuoso Teacher wants to create well-balanced musicians who are driven by a love of music and a desire to sustain this great art.

 

Never forgot – teaching is A PROFESSION!

More about Paul Harris and his publications and other resources here

 

 

40-Piece Challenge

piano_hands.jpgThis excellent initiative was started by Australian piano teacher and composer Elissa Milne and was taken up by the music publisher Hal Leonard Australia in 2013. The purpose was to promote and implement the concept of students learning a huge quantity of piano pieces in one year. The main purpose of this exercise was to encourage students to learn, experience and perform far more pieces than our exam-focussed culture tends to allow, and equip students with improved sight-reading skills, encourage independent learning, and enhance their musicianship and music appreciation by exploring a wider variety of repertoire. By broadening the student’s experience of piano music, hopefully they will feel inspired to continue to play the piano for the rest of their lives regardless of what grade exam they achieve before they stop taking lessons.

The exercise reminds me of something I did when I was studying the piano as a teenager and preparing for my Grade 8 exam. My then teacher felt that I needed to spend as much time as possible at the piano, regardless of what I was playing (i.e. not necessarily practising my Grade 8 pieces and technical work). To achieve this, I took a Saturday job as pianist for a local ballet school where I was required to play waltzes, polonaises and mazurkas for a group of pink-tutu-clad little girls and a teacher who was straight of out ‘Fame!’. My sight-reading skills, which had always been pretty good, were much improved by the exposure to new repertoire and I became adept at learning music quickly, skills which I have retained, despite a long absence from the piano in my 20s and 30s.

Another similar initiative is the Go-Play Project, in which US pianist and teacher Catherine Shefski set herself the task of learning (or relearning) a piece of piano music each week over the course of a year (she recorded the pieces and uploaded them to SoundCloud). Like many piano teachers, Catherine felt she was not spending enough time at the piano for herself amidst all the teaching and admin that goes with running a piano teaching studio. I followed Cathy’s project with interest and discovered some new repertoire myself through her initiative, including a Rachmaninoff Etude-Tableau which I included in my LTCL programme (G minor, Op 33). Cathy has extended the project beyond the sphere of music, applying the concept to other areas of creativity.

I think the ’40-Piece Challenge’, ‘Go-Play Project’ and similar initiatives are wonderful for piano students and pianists of all ages and abilities. As pianists we are spoilt for choice: the piano has a huge and varied repertoire, but sometimes this embarrassment of musical riches can be daunting. Where to start? What to play? By setting reasonable parameters, the project is both possible and enjoyable. (For example, one is under no obligation to play “difficult” music, and much pleasure and satisfaction can be gained from learning relatively simple pieces and playing them really well). The object of the exercise is to experience many musical idioms and forms, from Baroque to contemporary classical, jazz, world and even duets or two-piano works. Mix the difficulty and genre of the pieces you attempt: by keeping the repertoire varied, you will find the exercise enjoyable and challenging. Record yourself and use the recordings for self-evaluation and critiquing of your playing. Even if you are working on larger-scale works or studying for an exam or Diploma, there is no reason why you shouldn’t engage in this exercise as a supplement to your main learning and as a way of ensuring you retain your interest and excitement in the piano.

The exercise is also brilliant for piano teachers: we expose ourselves and our students to a wider variety of repertoire while challenging us as teachers – can we actually teach 40 pieces to each of our students in a year? (I have in fact adapted the project and will be challenging my own students to learn 20 pieces over the course of 2015.)

Some repertoire suggestions for more advanced pianists:

J S Bach – Kleine Preludes

Chopin – Preludes, Waltzes

Beethoven – Bagatelles

Schubert – Moments Musicaux, Ländler, Waltzes

Heller – Etudes

Rachmaninoff – Preludes, Moments Musicaux, 6 Morceaux Op 11, Etudes-Tableaux

Scriabin – Preludes, Etudes and other shorter piano works

Prokofiev – Visions Fugitives

Bartok – Mikrokosmos (later volumes)

various – Variations for Judith (a delightfully varied collection of contemporary piano music based on a Bach Chorale)

An article by pianist and teacher Graham Fitch on how to improve your sight-reading

Trinity College of London new piano syllabus – an overview

In July 2014 the new Trinity College of London (TCL) piano grade exam syllabus was released. I have enjoyed teaching the TCL syllabus and my students have enjoyed learning the pieces: some highlights of the previous syllabus include Fanfare for the Common Cold (Grade 2), Allegro Non Troppo (Grade 2), Song of Twilight (Grade 3) and Tapping Heels (Grade 4). To assist in my preparation to teaching the new syllabus, I recently attended a presentation for piano teachers given by Peter Wild, Associate Chief Examiner, and Govind Kharbanda.

One of my main reasons for switching from ABRSM to TCL for graded exams is that TCL focusses on the individual, and the exam structure offers flexibility and choice to enable students to play to their strengths. Part of my teaching philosophy is to encourage students to play with expression and confidence, and I am keen to help them develop performance skills. Performance is at the heart of the TCL graded exams, and the pieces carry a maximum of 66% of the marks available in the exam.

Pieces

Unlike ABRSM exams where students must select a piece from A, B and C sections (traditionally divided approximately into Baroque/Early Classical, Classical/Romantic and Modern/Jazz/Pop), TCL offers students up to Grade 3 free choice to select pieces which suit their individual strengths and allow students and teachers to create an interesting programme. This helps students understand how to build a contrasting concert programme and is particularly useful for students who wish to study for a Diploma at post-Grade 8 level. All the pieces offer contrasting moods, tempi, character and technical demands, and the syllabus combines well-known works and composers with music by lesser-known composers. There are always pieces with a Jazz-leaning and also some contemporary classical pieces. Arrangements of well-known jazz standards and songs, for example, are always good-quality arrangements. Right from the earliest grade, the pieces offer plenty of opportunities to explore aspects such as dynamics, tone quality, articulation and expression, and the pieces are chosen to encourage further listening and “listening around” the pieces to give students a broader frame of reference and set the music in context. In TCL the emphasis is very much on performance and students are encouraged to consider aspects such as stage craft and presentation. A duet option is also available in the early grades.

In marking the pieces, the marks awarded are subdivided into three areas:

  1. Accuracy & notational fluency – or “me and the music”
  2. Technique – “me and the instrument”
  3. Communication and interpretation – “me and the audience”

Supporting tests

There is also a choice of supporting tests and up to Grade 4 students may select two of the following:

  • Sight-reading
  • Aural
  • Improvisation
  • Musical Knowledge

I have found that many early and younger students find sight-reading at Grade1/2 level very daunting and I prefer to teach it within the context of learning new music, allowing students to develop their sight-reading skills at their own pace.

Musical Knowledge is a useful option and gives the student the opportunity to learn some music theory within the context of the pieces they are playing, thus making the theory relevant.

Many students, particularly boys, find singing in aural tests excruciating, and so in Trinity aural tests there is no singing (except at Grade 1). The test is designed to explore musical understanding, awareness and perception.

Technical work and exercises

Technical requirements in TCL exams are less onerous than in the ABRSM syllabus. Scales and arpeggios are relevant to the pieces, and TCL encourages students to take a musical approach to scales, demonstrating that they can play with fluency, accuracy and good tone. From Grade 4 students must play scales and arpeggios legato and staccato, forte or piano, and from Grade 5 students play scales in major thirds, and arpeggios of the dominant and diminished 7th. In my experience, most young people who want to learn the piano simply want to be able to play well and enjoy playing the piano. For the more serious pianist, the technical requirements in the ABRSM syllabus, where by Grade 5 the student will have learnt scales in all the major and minor keys, is more useful.

For each TCL exam, the student must prepare three short technical exercises. The exercises focus on aspects of technique such as balance, tone, voicing, coordination, and finger and wrist strength and flexibility. The exercises related to various pieces in the syllabus: for example, A Lucky Find (3a, Grade 6) is useful in enabling the student to shape a good cantabile line in Chopin’s Cantabile in B-flat and practises playing chords as an accompaniment. Music lies at the foundation of all the TCL technical requirements, and indeed the entire exam.

Exam report and results

All candidates receive useful feedback on each element of the exam, and results are released quickly, usually within a week of the exam date (certificates take somewhat longer).

I know some teachers hold strong views about the usefulness of exams, and the individual exam boards. At the end of the day, I feel it’s important to find pieces and technical exercises/supporting tests which allow the student to explore a varied range of repertoire and techniques and, above all, to enjoy playing the piano.

Resources

Trinity College London – syllabus support

Trinity College YouTube channel – includes an introduction to the grade exams and sample exams to show how the actual exam is conducted

 

Small people at the piano – a student concert

Learning PianoThis weekend I had the great pleasure of attending a concert given by students of my friend and piano teaching colleague Rebecca Singerman-Knight. Based, like me, in Teddington, SW London, Rebecca specialises in early years’ piano tuition, as well as children and adult beginners and returners. Most of the children performing in her concert were very young and some had only been learning the piano for a few months. However, each child stepped up to play with confidence and evident enjoyment, and each performance was received with enthusiastic applause by parents, grandparents, siblings and friends. Rebecca’s cheerful, smiling and encouraging manner ensured the atmosphere in the church hall was friendly and supportive. In addition to solo performances, some children played duets, with Rebecca and with other students, and at the end of the concert Rebecca herself played two Visions Fugitives by Prokofiev. Contrasting in mood and character, before she played she asked her students to think of titles for the pieces, thus involving the children and encouraging them to listen carefully.

I cannot stress too highly the importance of encouraging children to perform, no matter what their age or level of ability. Performing breeds confidence, an important life skill, and endorses all the hours spent practising and studying. For students, parents and teachers, performing demonstrates that piano lessons lead to real, noticeable achievement, and hearing other students perform different pieces is inspiring and exciting. Above all, performing reminds us that music was written to be shared. It is also very important that teachers perform: by doing so, we show our students that we know how to practise properly, that there is a difference between practising and performing, that we can manage our performance anxiety, and that our study of the piano doesn’t stop when we become teachers.

All in all, it was a lovely occasion, which I felt privileged to attend. I very much look forward to seeing how Rebecca’s students develop as young pianists at future events.

More on the value of performing here

Piano with Rebecca Singerman-Knight

Professionalism in Private Piano Teaching – a presentation for The Oxford Piano Group

I was delighted to be invited to contribute to a very interesting and stimulating discussion on the subject of professionalism in piano teaching at the The Oxford Piano Group  on 29th October 2014. Other contributors to this important debate were Nigel Scaife (Syllabus Director, ABRSM), Lucinda Mackworth-Young and Sharon Mark-Teggart (Evoco) who each gave presentations which explored the many facets of professionalism, including proper accreditation, good business practice, membership of professional bodies and minimum standards of qualifications for piano teachers. After the presentations, there was a round table discussion about professionalism, which touched on other important aspects, including the setting of fees.

My own presentation was based on my personal views on this subject, discussions with friends and colleagues in the profession, and the results of my recent survey Perceptions of Independent Piano Teachers.  The slides which I used as a starting point for my presentation and discussion are below, and you can read the text on which I based my presentation here: OPG presentation (click to download the PDF file)

 

Arvo Pärt at 80 – a special Set Pieces class at the Dulwich Piano Festival 2015

The 2015 Dulwich Piano Festival is celebrating the 80th birthday of composer Arvo Pärt with the inclusion of his piece “Für Anna Maria” for solo piano. 

Arvo Pärt is a composer whose creative output has significantly changed the way we understand the nature of music.

To honour the composer in his 80th year of life, Universal Edition will be collecting performance dates, reviews, CD releases and more on a dedicated blog. The Dulwich Piano Festival is paying tribute to Arvo Pärt by including his beautiful piano piece, Für Anna Maria, on its syllabus. The class is open to pianists playing at a novice/intermediate level – all ages welcome. The class is not suitable for pianists who have progressed beyond Grade 5 level.

Entries are now open via the online entry form:
dulwichpianofestival.co.uk

The class will be adjudicated by pianist, piano teacher and blogger Frances Wilson. Here, Frances discusses the piece and why we have chosen this piece for the festival.