Burgmuller, Burgmuller 25 Progressive Pieces, Burgmuller Inquietude, classissima, classissima.com, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano, piano instruction, piano instruction by Skype, piano instructor, piano learning, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons and parental support, piano lessons by Skype, piano lessons in Berkeley California, piano lessons in El Cerrito California, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, word press.com, wordpress, you tube video, yout tube, youtube.com

Sister and brother piano lessons in the Hills

second pic east bay

I enjoy my weekly journey to a home way up in the Hills of El Cerrito (neighbor to Berkeley) There, I teach Lucy and Fritz who play a lovely, resonant Baldwin Acrosonic that I advised mom to purchase (over at DC Pianos) Acros happen to be among my favorites in the spinet/console category.

Lucy at the pianofritz at piano
The Back Story

Lucy was a transfer student, coming to study with me at about 7, and at the time she’d brought the Bastien primer, and various binder-inserted patriotic songs with chord symbols, etc. (Throw in “Happy Birthday!”)

She played by finger numbers, since most method books are short-cut based, riveting students relentlessly to five-finger positions.

Going back five years in time, I recall finding Lucy beautiful music, leading within 12 months to the James Hook Minuet, that I sourced from the Toronto Conservatory series, making sure she began her one octave scales (FJH Classical Scale Book) in all keys framed by the Circle of Fifths.

Arpeggios were partnered, woven as broken chords, rolling through sound space.

Phrasing with a supple wrist, singing lines, shaping them, practicing with separate hands became our steady learning model and over months melting into years, I watched a little girl grow into a very expressively musical pre-teen. (Her scales rippled across the keyboard beside a splash arpeggios)

Lucy is now 12, and has more recently learned Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” (NO transcription), Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous, Ballade by Burgmuller, and now “Inquietude” by the same composer. This past week, she embarked upon Mozart Sonata 545 in C (first movement-Allegro) The latter will apply her dedicated scale work.

Both Lucy, and her younger brother Fritz, (who began lessons with me at 6) have done well, knowing that patient, baby-step practicing will reap long-term rewards.

Here are two sibling lesson samples from 6/7/2013.

Lucy is practicing “Inquietude” with an ear toward “harmonic rhythm” (staccato bass chord progressions) and an awareness of curvy groups of three notes, figured in the treble. (her flexible wrist nourishes a nicely shaped set of notes)

My Playing in Tempo: (Lucy will gradually inch up to Allegro agitato as the piece ripens) There is NO rush to the finish line. The process is what matters.

Background, Friedrich Burgmuller

Burgmuller (b. 1806, d. 1874) was a colorful Romantic composer who enticed students to learn his program-inspired music. The Op. 100, Twenty-Five Progressive Pieces that includes “Inquietude,” is a treasure trove of appealing miniatures framed by imaginative titles. (“Sincerity,” “The Clear Stream,” “Sorrow,” “Angels’ Voices,” among others)

***

Fritz, 9, is practicing William Gillock’s “Flamenco,” an engaging, rhythmically-driven piece with an ethnic Spanish flavor. (very popular among young piano students and adults alike)

In this pertinent video instruction Fritz demonstrates his parceled out learning coupled with a physical awareness of a supple, spring forward wrist for the opening section, and a rolling motion, for the contrasting middle section.

brige E Bay from Hills

William Gillock:

Born: July 1, 1917 – LaRussell, Missouri, USA
Died: September 7, 1993 – Desoto, Dallas, Texas, USA

“The noted American music educator and composer of piano music, William Gillock, learned to play the piano at an early age. He attended Central Missouri Methodist College, in Fayette, Missouri, where he studied both piano and composition with N. Louise Wright, who recognized his remarkable talent and encouraged him to make music his career.

“Even the earliest of his compositions show a rare inventiveness and originality of harmony and texture, as well as the Gillock trademark, melodic beauty. Called “the Schubert of children’s composers” in tribute to his melodic gift, Gillock composed numerous solos for students of all levels and ensemble music for students and their teachers to play together. He summed up his guiding compositional principle by saying that “melody and rhythmic vitality are essential to compositions that students want to learn.” This and others of his thoughts were transmitted to thousands of teachers and students through the hundreds of workshops he conducted over the years throughout the USA.”

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Minuet by Reinagle, phrasing at the piano, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano blogs, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano keyboard, piano lesson, piano lessons and parental support, piano lessson, piano playing, piano playing and breathing, piano playing and phrasing, piano playing and relaxation, piano playing and the singing tone, piano student, piano studio in El Cerrito, piano study, piano teacher, piano teaching, piano technique, Piano World, piano world-wide, pianoaddict.com, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing piano, playing the piano, playing the piano with a singing tone, practicing piano, practicing piano with relaxation, practicing the left hand at the piano, teaching piano, teaching piano to children, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube video, yout tube

Teaching piano to Rina, 5, with a supplementary video for mom that outlines our lesson plan and goals

Rina’s mother attends her daughter’s lessons, takes notes, and receives a follow-up assignment.

Today, I sent her a video that summarized what we had accomplished yesterday along with a goal-setting outline.

***

The child has been working on her legato which is a new and enticing musical universe. For the better part of 6 months she’s had considerable saturation with single, detached notes, using one finger at a time.

Last week, I felt it was the perfect moment to join notes in a connected fashion because I’d seen her do this on her own, and felt she possessed the musical and physical ability to move forward.

Here’s a snatch of Rina’s legato from her last lesson:

And her preliminary work on Minuet by Reinagle:

SEE LESSON PLANNING FOR A FIVE-YEAR OLD STUDENT:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/lesson-planning-for-a-5-year-old-piano-student-video/

She’s now playing her “Frere Jacques” in Major and minor (with Eb) using connected fingers (Legato)

In this regard, Rina currently “reads” a pre-notational form of music, where the notes in various rhythmic values float in space, going up and down in STEPS and SKIPS. Bar lines have been inserted along with letter names and finger numbers. (These pre-staff landmarks have been gradually learned)

EXAMPLE of the format with “Frere Jacques”

***

This latest video prepared for mom pertains to practicing an expanded five-finger warm-up in legato and the Reinagle Minuet in G Major.

NEW:

MY PREP VIDEO for the Reinagle piece, created earlier, encouraged ear-training, clapping and singing activity, etc. in readiness for playing.

***

For the intricate intervals in measures 13-16, I’d planned to enlist staircase activity which is demonstrated on video. (Note that a FLAT can be added for the Parallel minor, which I illustrated at the conclusion of footage)

***

Finally, here’s an overview of Rina’s progress before she embarked upon legato phrasing:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/rina-5-shows-outstanding-progress-over-6-months-of-piano-lessons-videos/

Elaine Comparone, Harpsichordist, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Lydia Seifter, Oberlin Conservatory, pianist, pianists, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano blogs, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons and parental support, piano lessson, piano pedagogy, piano playing and breathing, piano playing and phrasing, piano practicing, piano repertoire, Piano Street, piano student, piano studio, piano study, piano teacher, piano teacher and student relationships, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano teaching repertoire, piano technique, Piano World, piano world-wide, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing the piano, playing the piano with a singing tone, Seymour Bernstein With Your Own Two Hands, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, shirley s kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, teaching piano, teaching piano to adults, teaching piano to children, teaching piano to teenagers, teaching piano to teens, technique, the art of piano playing, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, You and the Piano Seymour Bernstein, You and the PIano Seymour Bernstein on You Tube

The joy and value of teaching a piano student over many years

Claudia, age 6 playing a duet with me

I recall Elaine Comparone, the renowned harpsichordist having described a student she had mentored for 35 years before a move cut short a lasting musical relationship.

“She was the real deal,” the musician insisted.

Seymour Bernstein, author, With Your Own Two Hands, often shared the joy of teaching a child into adulthood, expressing pride in the work accomplished in steady increments. He proudly watched a beginner blossom into full grown maturity, often as a performer.

Quite by chance, I’d noticed Lydia Seifter, pianist, featured at Bernstein’s You Tube Channel and the name rang a bell.

I remember her as an Oberlin Conservatory student during my years there, enjoying membership in our Jack Radunsky rat pack–a group that met in the Con lounge to rhapsodize about our teacher. We’d tell jokes that rang familiar, sharing our sometimes awkward efforts to please him. If nothing else, the camaraderie was endearing.

I’m guessing that Lydia eventually wound her way back to the East Coast after graduation and began study with Seymour. Perhaps they shared a professional association for at least a decade or more. Certainly her playing revealed a depth I had not known when she was at Oberlin.

***

I always felt short-changed that I only had three years of study with the late and beloved, Lillian Freundlich. By an accident of fate that I would meet her in the first place. The Merrywood Music Camp in Lenox, Massachusetts produced a friendship with her young nephew, Douglas, who steered me to his aunt during my period of despair.

At the time, I was at an extreme low point in my piano studies. Frustration enveloped me due to lack of insight about how to prepare a piece of music, and where to begin in the creative process. The fundamentals of producing a singing tone and the physical means to achieve it were sorely missing.

Often, I pondered how it would have been if I’d studied with such a gifted teacher as Lillian from my earliest years, growing into blossoming musical maturity in the long term.

Murray Perahia, poet of the piano, was mentored by one teacher, Jeanette Haien from age 3 to 18, and when we met at the New York City High School of Performing Arts, he was well formed as a pianist. No doubt, it was in large part due to instruction that was consistent, inspired, and devoted in the course of 15 years.

Most piano teachers relish such a long-range opportunity to nurture a student, and in my own experience, I can wax poetic about one particular enduring musical relationship.

Paul, the son of a University Nursing Professor, came to my piano studio when he was a cute, little 8-year old. In third grade at the time, he’d previously taken about a year of lessons in another city.

Nevertheless, as Paul’s new teacher, I had a ground-up instructional challenge before me.

I remember how I set aside his method books and embarked upon a repertoire-based learning journey with integrated five-finger technical regimens in all Major and minor keys. Imbuing the singing tone was my priority and it nourished his earliest pianistic efforts.

The first book I ordered was the Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto Level 1 Piano Repertoire Series. During his early months of study, Paul learned “Minuet” by James Hook, Schein’s” Allemande,” and Haydn’s “Country Dance” among selections that encompassed the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary periods.

After the child’s first exposure to pieces that had substance and beauty, he progressed to compositions with more technical challenges, such as Burgmuller’s 25 Progressive Pieces, Op. 100. These moved quickly from late elementary to early advanced levels, appearing deceptively easy. Yet the art of phrasing and nuance had to be learned, along with cultivating a broad dynamic palette and singing tone legato to realize Romantic period expression.

Over years, Paul graduated to playing Chopin Nocturnes, and Waltzes, having a bit of a starring role at student recitals. Most other pupils looked up to him, giving the youngster an iconic status. Yet in the glow of adulation, he always remained humble and self-effacing.

When Paul left my piano studio at age 17 to enroll at UC Berkeley, it was with a gulp of emotion. By this time he’d grown by leaps and bounds as a musician and was ready to leave the nest.

***

Currently, I teach two adults and one 11-year old who’ve been my students for over five years. In these relationships, there is not a trace of possessiveness or smothering.

Ideally, we can grow together and learn from each other as a plethora of ideas filter in.

Such is the joy of a long-lasting association that benefits two people committed to working in harmony toward the common goal of making beautiful music.

***

(Claudia, having grown taller than her teacher in this photo taken October 2011)

RELATED LINKS:

A Piano Student’s Milestones and Memories in Photos and Video

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/a-piano-students-milestones-and-memories-in-photos-and-video/

Taking Piano Lessons: Skimming the Surface, or Getting Deeply Involved

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/taking-piano-lessons-skimming-the-surface-or-getting-deeply-involved/

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, blogging, blogging about piano, blogs about piano, Dozen a Day by Edna-Mae Burnam, Faber Developing Artist Original Keyboard Classics (preparatory album), five finger positions at the piano, Irina Gorin, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, pianists, piano, piano addict, piano auction, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons and parental support, piano lessson, piano playing and phrasing, piano playing and relaxation, piano practicing, piano practicing motivators, piano repertoire, piano student, piano teacher, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano teaching repertoire, piano technique, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing pentascales, playing piano, playing staccato at the piano, playing the piano, Randall Faber Developing Artist series, Samuel Maykapar, William Gillock, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

The Formative Years of Piano Study and the basic building-blocks of learning (Videos)

Just as a child needs a wholesome diet from birth through adolescence to insure healthy growth and development, a beginning piano student requires the equivalent in musical nourishment.

Cocoa Puff pieces that squeeze out whole grain servings of the classics will not in the long term cut the cake. (And I don’t rule out compositions by William Gillock that include, “Argentina,” “Stars for a Summer Night,” “Little Flower Girl of Paris,”) as well as Samuel Maykapar’s “In the Garden,” a particular favorite.

***

Starting a piano student at age 6 or 7, requires a thoughtful menu of goals. As I define them, they would include teaching a physical relationship to the instrument and how to produce a singing tone.

Under the heading of tone production, the following should be nurtured from day one:

1) A whole arm, relaxed infusion of energy

2) A supple, “spongy” wrist

3) Arc-like, “rainbow” movements in octave spreads, one note sampled at a time, enlisting each finger (right hand, then left hand)

If these sound like they’re lifted from Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey, then you’re correct.

Ideally, musical symbols and notation should flow into a course of study, though some teachers may postpone these based on age considerations.

Proponents of the Suzuki method set aside note reading for years at a time, copying the model of language assimilation–where a child doesn’t read or write for the first few years of life but instead, is taught by imitation through parental interactions.

Gorin spends a good amount of time dwelling on the physical dimension of playing, using prerecorded music of high caliber as children tap individual notes to Russian themes from the classical literature as well as folk music sources.

I tend to favor a mixture of more than one teaching philosophy, though I can’t embrace Suzuki’s ultra-long tabling of music reading.

***

If I enlist a more traditional method book approach, I will modify it to suit the needs of individual students. In the same vein, if I draw upon Irina Gorin’s material, I might tailor it to include earlier exposure to notational symbols–one example is where I insert a flat to flesh out the minor mode, sooner than expected.

But above and beyond contrasts in teaching styles and choice of materials that might be of Major or minor proportion (pun intended) I insist on giving my students a serving of good music at the very beginning of piano study.

Sometimes, a parent will try to upset the apple cart, and egg me on to substitute the pop stuff for classical. In this lobbying effort, a pitch for pop might please the dad or mom, but it runs counter to what’s in the best interests of the child.

In such a case scenario I provide a simple reply:

The basic building-blocks come first with no room for the musical equivalent of a junk food filled menu.

Under the heading of a nourishing learning program comes intertwined technique advancement.

About 6 to 9 months into piano study (and it varies from child to child), I introduce penta-scales or five-finger positions, borrowed from Edna-mae Burnam’s Dozen a Day. (These precede full blown 4-octave scale and arpeggio romps around the Circle of Fifths)

The student will play Major and companion (parallel minor) ascending and descending, step-wise progressions in “Walking and Running” sequence and he’ll engage his whole arm and supple wrist in the process. Arc-like motions are likewise encouraged to realize faster note values.

In the video examples below, I first demonstrate the technical routine myself, followed by a second bit of footage that showcases an 8-year old student warming up in the same way.

In the repertoire arena, one of my Bay area beginners in his second year of study, is working on “Melody” by Beyer; “Ponies” by Low, and a third selection, “Circle Dance,” that has imitative counterpoint. All compositions are contained in Faber’s Developing Artist Original Keyboard Classics. (preparatory piano literature)

Contents: Allegretto (Köhler) • Ancient Dance (Praetorious) • Circle Dance (Beyer) • Country Ride (Köhler) • Echoes (Köhler) • Five-Note Sonatina (Bolck) • The Hero’s March (Vogel) • In an Old Castle (Beyer) • Little March (Turk) • Melody (Beyer) • Ponies (Low) • Sonatina (Wilton).

In between lessons, this student practices “Melody” together with my prerecorded secondo TEACHER part (uploaded to You Tube) giving it a grander, ensemble proportion. (His folks have recently made the connection between a companion CD and the Teacher accompaniments)

Faber’s choice of pieces in this particular collection is admirable though I always hunt down supplements from other sources. These might include the Toronto Conservatory Celebration series, or individual albums of Kabalevsky’s music such as the Op. 39 Children’s Pieces. “Joke,” “Melody,” and “Funny Event,” for example, are first and second-year appropriate repertoire choices that have musical substance while advancing technique.

For the most part, I tend to steer clear of musical cliches, harmonic formulas, and insipid arrangements.

In summary, the formative years of piano study require substantial musical nourishment. Imbuing the singing tone, teaching the physical means to achieve it, and selecting quality pieces for students, are ingredients that support a solid musical foundation.

***

An extra treat: Ilyana, 8, practices “Argentina” by Gillock, a favorite composer.

Add “Flamenco,” a show-stopper:

RELATED LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/taking-piano-lessons-skimming-the-surface-or-getting-deeply-involved/

Baroque era music, Chopin, Chopin Nocturne in F Major Op. 15 No. 1, classissima, classissima.com, harmonic analysis, harmonic rhythm, how to boos piano technique, Martha Argerich, pianist, pianists, piano, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons and parental support, piano masterclasses, piano pedagogy, piano playing and breathing, piano playing and phrasing, piano playing and relaxation, piano practicing, piano repertoire, piano repertoire for intermediate level students, piano student, piano students who drop out, piano studio, piano teacher, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano teaching repertoire, piano technique, piano technique and the singing tone, piano tutorial, piano world-wide, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing piano, playing the piano, publishers marketplace, publishersmarketplace, publishersmarketplace.com, Romantic era music, Romantic era piano repertoire, Romantic music, Scarlatti Sonatas, Scarlatti Toccata in d minor k. 141, Seymour Bernstein, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, shirley s kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Steinway M grand piano, Steinway piano, Teach Street, teaching piano, trills, Twenty five Progressive pieces by Burgmuller, videotaping a piano performance and self analysis, videotaping at piano lessons, whole body listening, whole body music listening, With your own Two Hands by Seymour Bernstein, word press, wordpress.com, You and the Piano Seymour Bernstein, You and the PIano Seymour Bernstein on You Tube, you tube, you tube video

Practicing knotty piano passages, and tips on how to avoid fatigue while boosting technique (Videos)

At my You Tube Channel site, I routinely pick up comments daily, and the majority center on piano technique. While I lay no claim to being an expert in this complex universe, my trial and error practicing over decades has come with insights that I enjoy sharing.

Earlier today, I’d noticed the following note posted at my site that referred to a devilish strings of repeated notes found in Scarlatti’s D minor Toccata, K. 141:

“My God!

“I can’t believe I’ve found this video—I’ve been killing myself trying to loosen up my 3-2-1 repeated notes for this EXACT piece!

“You’ve helped me to try out new ideas because I was about ready to give up as I no longer take lessons and kept tensing up. I just couldn’t figure out just how to fix myself.”

He referenced one of my comments in passing.

“You mentioned getting fatigued doing the repeated notes later on in the piece…do you think that no matter how loose you are you will eventually get somewhat fatigued by the end of this piece?”

***

Naturally, I answered his final question, emphasizing the dangers of over-practicing knotty passages, especially those with redundant motions that could cause an overuse injury.

It becomes quickly apparent that if you keep playing 3-2-1 repeated note combinations for hours on end, even if you execute them with a supple wrist and relaxed, flowing arm, the oxygen to the cells is going to give out at some point.

Veda Kaplinksy, a Juilliard School Professor of Piano, had driven this point home loud and clear in one of her media interviews.

From ingesting her words of wisdom, it followed that a player should know when it’s time to take a breather. A few hours or more of needed break time would allow the muscles a period of rest and repair.

In the meantime, I had revisited two of my posted videos that might help those agonizing about those time-worn, bummer sections that required renewed fuels of relaxed energy.

The first dealt with those dizzying repeated notes in the Domenico Scarlatti Toccata and how to approach them. I used Martha Argerich as my role model, watching her motions as she generated perfectly formed scads of them. It looked like she was sweeping or dusting the keys.

You can be sure after watching the You Tube video following mine, that her arms, wrists, and hands were very relaxed to pull off such an amazing performance!

In my second instruction, I used Burgmuller’s “La Chasse” as a springboard to explore ways of dividing the hands to advance articulation as well as an effective crescendo in an Allegro vivace frame.

After the introductory measures, I examined the repeated broken octaves in staccato and how to play them easily without tiring.

**
Amidst this whole terrain of practicing passages that require redundant motions with regular infusions of supple wrist-generated energy, I noted my last night’s revisit of Chopin’s Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15, No. 1.

Having already exhausted everyone’s patience obsessing over the “killer” MIDDLE SECTION, I still enlisted it as a potential overuse injury stimulant–that is, if rest and repair breaks were not taken, one’s hands could feel like they were about to fall off.

But before I was completely shut down at my sixth playing, I preserved the first, and uploaded it to You Tube, feeling some progress had been made.

There will be further attempts to unshackle the death-defying mid-section as time permits.

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/a-dreaded-killer-middle-section-of-a-chopin-nocturne-and-how-to-deal-with-it-f-major-op-15-no-1-videos/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/accept-where-you-are-in-your-piano-studies-know-your-limitations-but-still-strive-to-improve-video/

Baroque music, Central California MTAC Baroque Festival, classissima.com, J.S. Bach, J.S. Bach Prelude BWV 847, Johann Sebastian Bach, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, MTAC, MTAC Baroque Festival, MTAC.org, pianist, pianists, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons and parental support, piano pedagogy, piano playing and phrasing, piano practicing, piano repertoire, piano scales, piano society, Piano Street, piano student, piano studio, piano teacher, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano teaching repertoire, piano technique, piano warm-ups, Piano World, piano world-wide, pianoaddict.com, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Uncategorized, video performances, videotaping a piano performance and self analysis, videotaping at piano lessons, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Down to the wire: An 11-year old piano student prepares for a competitive Baroque event (VIDEO) with a tender flashback

Claudia has made significant gains this year. She’s shaping her phrases more, and becoming ear-attentive and physically responsive to the music she plays.

Today, she made additional headway with J.S. Bach’s Prelude in C minor, BWV 847.

Coming into her lesson with two introductory readings, she was bobbing her head up and down, reinforcing beats which impeded the bigger flow of phrases above and beyond these metronomic impulses. (The playing was initially VERTICAL and without direction)

In the video attached, Claudia had a bigger conception of the work, playing it more HORIZONTALLY, with an ear toward melodic contouring AND harmonic rhythm. To play this composition requires at least a two-tier understanding of their interaction, not to mention an absorption of form or structure.

The interluding ad lib sections, are in marked contrast to what unfolds in between, requiring sensitive tempo shifts.

In this arena, Claudia is developing her sense of a Baroque rubato without going overboard.

***

It’s always valuable for a teacher to sing various sections of a composition while the student plays, and to conduct, or use body language to help shape phrases along.

The big challenge on the day of the big event is for the student to have the presence of mind to communicate all that she has learned along the way.

Videotaping allows examination of what needs improvement, while simulating performance conditions as best as possible.

Flashback: Claudia, age 6, playing at her very first recital in my home.

LINK:

Claudia’s musical time-line

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/a-piano-students-milestones-and-memories-in-photos-and-video/

canceling piano lessons, Clovis California, Fresno California, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano drop-outs, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lesson dropouts, piano lessons, piano lessons and parental support, Piano Street, Piano World, piano world-wide, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, the neighborhood piano teacher, word press, wordpress.com

The neighborhood piano teacher lives on….

Well into the Millennium, the “neighborhood” piano teacher is in full bloom. Countless telephone and Internet inquiries about potential music instructors focus on LOCATION. “So where do you live?” (Not how do you teach?)

In the Bay area, one can be sure that Richmond and Oakland are off the map. Even Richmond Annex is considered a dark alley to be avoided. What’s going on? How about Richmond Point, a snazzy enclave with homes worth millions? Sorry, but it’s still “Richmond.”

Oakland has so many quaint streets and neighborhoods. OOPs did I say “neighborhoods,” an ugly label that’s fast becoming a stigma for so many fine piano teachers who’ve carved their sterling reputations over decades but refuse to leave their time-honored homes on the edge of town.

The same prejudice applies to Fresno, but in a different way. Well, not exactly. West Fresno is verboten and that’s ironic because our city has the highest car theft rate in the country, and its incidence and related crime are neighborhood-blind. For instance, my old Camry had been vandalized three times while parked on an upscale, tree-lined street. And my best friend’s Saturn was heisted from her driveway, in plush, Northwest Fresno.

On that somber note, do I dare advertise, “Experienced Piano Teacher in Northwest Fresno” at any number of websites with dizzying passwords. (numbers, letters, up and down, 7 or less, don’t capitalize.. oops one letter must be in CAPS) It really doesn’t matter.

I notice that a wave of Music Teacher listings have hit the Internet, and most, as far as I’m concerned, do not bring in the bacon because NEIGHBORHOOD is omitted. Everyone wants to know your personal business and where you landed in your life, on this choice street or the bad one.

In my own personal history, I’ve moved a few times, and happy to say that in the first five years of the century turn, students crawled into my cubicle with no sweat, squeezed into a narrow space and took their lessons with grace. (The living area was so crowded and claustrophobic that I slept on a futon under my grand)

BUT… I was teaching in the most prestigious area of the city, on VAN NESS EXTENSION and that made all the difference.

If I had listed my hovel off Blackstone, I’d have gone under with the cat, kit and kaboodle.

It’s all about neighborhoods and their disqualifying effect.

****

A Sample Phone Interview

I always make it a point to schedule a phone interview with a parent inquiring about lessons.

In some cases, if I’ve posted on Craig’s List, (did I say C.L.?) I always require MORE information. Oops that form of advertising has a BAD rep with all the stuff in the news about escorts leading to in-house murders!

Frankly, it’s gotten to the point that a prospective teacher either pays for a background check on herself, or produces one in advance–Okay fax it over, or better yet scan it to the super-vigilant parent, who considers where you live to be a top priority.

“Please describe your landscaping in detail.” And watch out if your lawn is NOT edged. In Fresno, anonymous notes are taped to your windshield that say, “If you can’t tidy up your borders, you’re not welcome here?”

Do I dare show up at the next block party? Or should I wear my Groucho Marks disguise?

Now that I live in a snazzy, RENTED townhouse, that used to be draped in trees, will I still attract a crop of new students? (Sadly the pine that provided shade on 100+ degree days was mercilessly cut down and sits as an ugly stump with carved letters, F—off!”) Will that devalue my place? Less so, than a RENTAL would. I’m supposed to OWN something of value. Doesn’t matter that three pricey pianos fill the downstairs space. (oops, I didn’t list my lease and its terms on the CL post) Wait, they require a telephone verification and secret code. Oh My Gosh! I misplaced the brain-defying number with letters and symbols. And I can’t read those crazy, scrawled letters that are spam eradicators!!

What about my mailbox that’s been vandalized one too many times? But this is Fig Garden and a prospective piano teacher can boast easy reach to upscale shopping within walking distance.

Did I say WALK in any shape, sense or form? No one walks around here. It’s a car culture, which makes me wonder why the NEIGHBORHOOD TEACHER is in vogue in the first place–especially the one who charges $5 per lesson, and lives next door. Most parents want to DRIVE, about 1 mile or less, so they can stop off at Walmart or Target.

Oh, no, Walmart is about 3 miles north of me. And they’ll have to take Shaw which is plagued by traffic!!!

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The NEIGHBORHOOD fixation, for the most part, may be exaggerated. For example if you think a NEIGHBORLY student will sign up for YEARS of lessons, you’re sadly mistaken.

I had one who literally walked under a weeping willow, with no street crossing to get to my piano studio. (Bay Area)

50% of the time, she was a NO SHOW! and by her sixth month of study (which equaled 12 weeks) she totally disappeared, not even leaving a few breadcrumbs of warning.

The old story.. piano lessons had bottomed out. Parents worked round the clock shifts and the “babysitter??” forgot about piano entirely with the TV blaring and Taylor Swift competing for attention.

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One last anecdote that ties into the neighborhood phenomenon, and whether it’s dying on the vine or not.

For purposes of I.D. the parent had a budding family of three children (one infant) when her talented 8-year daughter crossed my threshold. They all traveled in from Clovis, about 4 miles north and it was NO big deal. I had taught any number of kids from this area, cowboy boots and all, but truth be told, the schlep always created complications.

The child did exceedingly well in a few short months and was about to embark upon a journey into the classical repertoire when she was pulled from lessons.

I should have heeded the warning of last minute phone calls left as messages from the gas pump. Mom was overwrought. She was out of Huggies and had to stop off at Costco for a bargain. Fresh and Easy, a stone’s throw away, was too pricey.

Before long, I could tell by the ring of the phone that she was calling from a gas stop in Clovis 5 minutes into the piano lesson.

But I have one better: An adult student who lived a half-mile south of me, canceled by cell while parked in front of my house. The sprinklers were on full force dousing her Lexus.

Oh, I just give up! I’ll never live in the right neighborhood and it doesn’t matter. Those who really want to study piano will brave any and all residential challenges, side-stepping dog-poop to get to me.

So there!!!

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