Many students are timid about learning a new piece. Some are perfectionists who don’t want to make a mistake, even if they have never set eyes on the piece before! Amazing. ” This is a NEW piece. “How can you play it without mistakes?! ” I ask them. Sometimes they become downright unfriendly. Then I have to sprinkle that fairy dust and begin the teaching process.
First, we review key signature, time signature, dynamics, and repeats, endings before the student plays for the first time. I like the sight reading experience that is included in this process.
After the sight reading, we analyze the “hits” and “misses.” For the “hits” I compliment the student. Then, we analyze the “misses.” I can’t emphasize enough that this analysis is the most important part of the lesson. Most students will not take the time to do this alone.
Fingering, especially, is the key to being able to play the correct notes. Fingering seems to be the least important aspect of playing in a student’s mind. He thinks if he can play the notes, it’s not important how he got there. Sometimes, I’ve seen the unbelievable: they turn their hands palms up to reach a note.
Finally, I play the new song for the student. Modeling is very important to demonstrate the correct notes, counting, and dynamics of the piece.
I enjoy their reaction to the finished product. “How long have you played the piano?” they ask. “Most of my life,” I answer. ” So, how old are you?”
Somehow, I manage to dodge the last question.
Recently, the parents of three student recipients of Gold Cups, sponsored by the Gulf Coast Music Association, asked me about the benefits are of continuing to enter the Gold Cup Festivals. The answer is quite clear for those of us teachers who organize our yearly curriculum around the Federation Festivals Bulletin: Both teachers and students have a well defined goal and target date for which to prepare their pieces prescribed by the Federation.
The Federation Bulletin has compiled a thorough program to follow for teachers. It lists each Piano Event, i.e. Piano Solo Event, Piano Ensemble Event, and specific levels, i.e. Primary Class Piano. What are the parameters of the terms such as Intermediate and Advanced? In the Bulletin they are listed as Medium and Difficult with sub levels of Moderately Difficult I, Moderately Difficult II, etc. This information is very helpful for teachers who don’t have the time or resources to sift through music at the music stores or online companies to determine the levels of difficulty. In addition, new repertoire ideas are provided throughout the Bulletin, whether they are piano solos, hymns, duets, or patriotic and folk songs
Students benefit from this well prepared Bulletin as well as teachers. There is no guess work whether they are advancing at the proper level. Within the sub levels there are even more levels. For instance, there are some Primary Class Piano pieces more difficult than others. The idea is to stylize the selection to fit the needs of the student. Students will then learn the piece with confidence because the level is adjusted to fit their specific abilities.
The Gold Cup Festival is important in another way. It nudges the student to be ready “judgement day,” when an accredited educator will evaluate their performance. This is a real motivator, not just for the student, but for the teacher and parents as well!