Many people regard piano teaching as a vocation rather than a profession, including some who are active practitioners, and I have encountered many people outside of the profession of piano teaching who regard the role as some kind of superannuated “hobby”: on one occasion the parent of one of my (former) students actually said to me: “You’re so lucky to be able to do your hobby as a job”, thus totally overlooking the fact that I take my job as a piano teacher very seriously, and regard myself as a professional within the sphere of piano teaching.
Sally Cathcart, a musician, educator, researcher and director of the Oxford Piano Group, has been exploring the issue of professionalism and piano teaching in a series of posts on her blog The Curious Piano Teacher, and she poses some interesting questions about the definition of a professional:
The characteristics that make an occupation a profession have been the subject of much research and debate and in many respects what I am presenting here and attempting to relate to piano teachers is rather simplified and is, of course, from my own perspective. Hopefully, it does provide a more rigorous context for the debate to take place within.
Heisler (1995), having reviewed much of the literature, identifies five commonly applied traits denoting an occupation with professional status. He argues that a professional group has:
- a specialised body of knowledge and technique
- training courses that pass on specialist knowledge
- exams and tests that provide certification for practice
- monopoly to work by those with certification
- autonomy of practice for those with certification
Read the full text of Sally Cathcart’s article here
Links to Sally’s previous articles:
Being Professional – the beliefs and attitudes of UK piano teachers
Two Stories about Piano Teachers
Encouraging piano students to practice can be the bane of the piano teacher’s life and teachers regular seek new ways to encourage students to practice creatively, thoughtfully and intelligently. The practice notebook is usually the means by which the teacher records what he or she would like student to focus on in the intervening days between lessons, but I know I am not alone in wondering how many of my students (and even some parents!) actually read which I write in their notebooks from lesson to lesson.
The Music Me Piano Practice Workbook offers teacher, student and parent a new kind of practice notebook in an accessible and attractively-designed format. A spiral-bound A4 book, the practice workbook has pages in which to schedule practice and practicing goals, record practice notes, and cover aspects of technique and theory alongside practical piano study. In addition to weekly practice charts (which include sections on scales and arpeggios, sight playing, theory and general musicianship), a comprehensive reference section gives the student the opportunity to practice away from the piano and study aspects of theory (Circle of Fifths, degrees of the scale, note values, scale fingerings etc) which have a relevance in day-to-day practicing and weekly lessons.
The Music Me Piano Practice Workbook was created by Roberta Wolff, a Surrey-based piano teacher. In 2013 her students participated in the CLIC Sargent Practice-a-thon which encouraged her to think more closely about tailored individual practice schedules for her students, which would motivate and encourage them to practice every day to complete the Practice-a-thon challenge. The result is different to the standard A5 practice notebook such as the one produced by the ABRSM: it is a colourful, spaciously laid out book with charming illustrations by Claire Holgate. There is even a section where students can write their own notes about the form and style of pieces they have learnt, and plenty of blank manuscript pages to record exercises or even compose their own pieces.
Students often don’t refer to their practice notebooks simply because the design of the notebook is rather dry and unappealing, and there simply isn’t enough space on an A5 page for the teacher to note down the key things on which the student needs to focus in their practising. The Music Me Piano practice workbook’s clear design, with its appealing illustrations and cheerful, motivating comments at the foot of each page, will encourage students to be proactive in planning and recording practicing with the support of teacher and parents, and the format is such that students can plot progress throughout the course of a year of lessons (there is also a longer 42-page book).
What the book contains:
- Set termly Targets.
- Assess whether your student is on track at half term. Make weekly practice notes.
- Make weekly practice plans.
- Have parents check practice plans.
- Create Scale and Arpeggio practice charts.
- Draw Scale patterns onto keyboards to visualise scales.
- Find Scale and Arpeggio fingering charts.
- Log the scales which have been learnt on a blank Circle of 5ths.
- Fill in intervals of the major and minor Scales and Arpeggios.
- Chart the rhythmic patterns students have used.
- Make use of manuscript paper and note pages.
- Have students create their own Foreign Terms pages.
- List Student’s Repertoire.
- Support your teaching with short notes on The Art of Practice.
- Use The Stages in Learning to structure practice.
- Find helpful hints on using the book for teacher, pianist and parent.
- Find fun and thought provoking images on high quality practice.
For further information about the Music Me Piano Practice Workbook and to order copies, please visit http://www.musicmepiano.co.uk