It’s easy for piano teachers to inhabit a comfortable space, teaching mainly repertoire that they’ve well learned, put away and brought back for review. It can perpetuate a stale process of retreading “old” pieces without posing a refreshing self-made challenge to learn a complex “new” work from the ground up side-by-side with a pupil.
About two weeks ago, one of my adults, asked to study the J.S. Bach Allemande from the composer’s French Suite No. 4 in Eb, BWV 815, a composition I had never studied. At first, I thought to counter with another Bach offering that was at least familiar to me through years of practicing and teaching.
But I stopped myself from such a knee-jerk avoidance of what was unknown to me, and prodded myself to map out my musical journey in the company of an enthusiastic pupil partner. Call it a true Adventure par duo.
In truth, there’s nothing more rewarding than sharing mutual epiphanies about a composition from the emotional charge spurred by poignant harmonic progressions, to the contrapuntal interchange of voices that are newly discovered.
Fingering choices, choreographies, passing dissonances/suspensions, counterpoint, become a collective focus with a first sunrise dimension as an intense examination unfolds in layers. It encompasses decisions to be made about dividing a voice between the hands; what notes should be tied over as suspensions without an extra inserted beat of sustain; and what FINGERINGS work or don’t. (There may be optional choices to explore–or changes to be made after finger assignments.) In truth, the student is a full partner to these decisions and the teacher is open to his/her ideas and suggestions.
Naturally, the learning process for both is magnified in SLOW practice tempo, without deadlines of achievement or embedded expectations. Both musical journey companions are PATIENT and unencumbered with value judgments.
Finally, through the launch of this latest Bach adventure, I found myself summarizing a lesson that had taken place as an initial encounter with the Allemande–the ingredients of which were a potpourri of shared epiphanies.
A few days following this posting, I was able to move the Allemande into tempo. I attribute this advance to a thorough, intensified learning experience sparked by my student.