classissima.com, early music education, Irina Morozova, music education, piano blog, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano pedagogy, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, teaching piano to young children, The Special Music School/Kaufman Center

A six-year old child is awakened to the singing tone and how to produce it

The earliest exposure to the piano in the primary lesson learning environment comes with an opportunity to teach the singing tone– to sensitize young ears to the instrument’s capacity to resonate with beauty. It’s not just an ear-training experience. The exploration of physical/musical expression, with imagination intertwined, can fill a very young child’s lesson with the most essential ingredients of learning. These lay the groundwork for further growth and development over time.

Irina Morozova, an inspiring pianist and teacher, invited me into her elementary learning sanctuary at the Special Music School/Kaufman Center. It was on a balmy autumn Monday afternoon that I propped my tripod in a crowded corner of a room with two grand pianos; a small child perched at the Steinway; her dad watching, and a camcorder in automatic recording mode.

In the morning I had observed advanced instruction with Olivier and Daniel. The latter, a sixth-grader, had been mentored by Irina since Kindergarten so I was about to understand how a student could progress from musical infancy to a level of conspicuous maturation under the wings of a great teacher.

In summary, a rich musical journey taken in baby steps becomes meaningful when all the senses are tapped into, and imagination infused. Even the very youngest piano student can absorb what it means to “sing” through the piano, and how to enlist graceful, supple wrist fluid motions to create beauty and experience sensory fulfillment.

Thanks to Irina Morozova and Hana’s parents for permitting this glimpse at a lovely work in progress.

Links:


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/manhattans-special-music-schoolkaufman-center-has-a-wealth-of-gifted-students-and-teachers/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/irina-morozova-pianist-waxes-poetic-about-phrasing-chopins-music-in-words/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/the-right-chemistry-between-piano-teacher-and-student/

During the interview below, Irina Morozova discussed her approach to teaching Daniel from the very beginning of his studies. (included is a 2012 sample of her student’s artistry)

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/pianist-irina-morozova-blends-a-satisfying-career-of-teaching-and-performing-videos/

BIO: Irina Morozova

Piano; B.M. with Honors, Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music; M.M., Manhattan School of Music; piano studies with Vladimir Shakin, Galina Orlovskaya, Arkady Aronov; performances include Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, New American Chamber orchestra; participated in Film America’s “Music in the 20th Century” series; awards include Frinna Awerbuch, San Antonio International Piano Competitions; teaches, performs at International Keyboard Institute and Festival in NY; faculty, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan school of Music, Special Music School.

“Irina Morozova made her New York debut with a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in 1996 after winning Artists International Auditions. Critics raved, “Morozova possesses an astonishing beauty of sound and power of ideas…she is the sort of pianist who can turn a simple phrase into magic….”

“Born to a musical family, Irina Morozova began her musical studies at the Leningrad Special Music School for Gifted Children and graduated with honors from the Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music where her major teacher was Galina Orlovskaya. Studying with Vladimir Shakin at the Saint-Petersburg Conservatory, she performed in the concert halls of Saint-Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, and many other cities in the former Soviet Union. She also toured former East Germany and appeared with the Berlin Radio Symphony in the famed Schauspielhaus.

(A list of performance credits is too long to tabulate, though they encompass a variety of international venues.)

“Ms. Morozova received her Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Dr. Arkady Aronov. Since 1997 she has been on the faculties of Mannes College of Music and the Special Music School at Kaufman Center.”

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The piano learning process at all levels of study

In spite of my having studied piano for decades, each learning experience is filled with challenges that I must approach with a glut of patience. A new composition has its own form, architecture, harmonic rhythm, fingering that requires a big reserve of self-acceptance in a deadline-free frame.

To the contrary, many of my students, who are 95% adults, have a built-in timetable plaguing them from day one. “How long will it take me to learn this piece?” They demand certainty about reaching a tangible goal on a fixed schedule. The End result is what most matters.

Since we live in an information age, strategies of mastery are in vogue along with a mandatory guarantee of knowledge acquisition in so many weeks. “Quick,” “easy-fix” consumption are the Millennium’s catchwords. CD sets are compiled and promoted to learn piano “in a flash.”

***

I have a pupil, who epitomizes the insecure student, searching for a micro-wave cooking equivalent for learning piano.

She’s an accomplished writer and retired lawyer. On more than one occasion she’s confessed to doing “everything well” except for piano. “I just don’t understand why my wrist can’t roll forward, why I stumble, stutter at the piano.”

If she stepped back and thought about how many years she’s been writing and practicing law as compared to playing the piano, she’d acquire instant insight about her personal quandary.

Irina Gorin, inspired piano teacher and author of Tales of A Musical Journey has often said, “We’re not born playing the piano…. we have to learn to physically relate to the instrument.”

That’s why she starts her kids young, using silly putty to dip tiny hands into. They experience “touch” as deep, densely probing, and sinewy, to produce the singing tone, not a poked out, pencil point sequence of notes. Dipping into jello is Gorin’s metaphor, nicely channeled into the keys:

The time old analogy of crawling before walking applies, yet so many adult students, will obsess about how long they have been working on a piece without the advances they expected of themselves.

Yet, if I think about the students who have made the most gains this year, it’s been those who accepted the baby-step paradigm without precondition. They learned to love the journey with its precious awakenings along the way.

Examples:

A pupil is shown working on a section of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” absorbing a sound image before translating it into physical expression at the piano. She practiced separate hands, behind tempo. Call it mindful practicing; attentive listening. They belong together.

***

An adult student embarked upon the Chopin Waltz no. 19 in A minor.

Sight-reading was not a parcel of our work.

It was delving into the fundamental bass, measure by measure in slow tempo.

What was the relationship of one note to the next as each was played? Lean on some, relax others.

“Feel,” “hear” and know at the same time.

Then practice the melody at snail’s pace, but with a singing tone–no delay in contouring. The shapes must seep in from conscious to unconscious.

The student explored wrist motions to curve and shape lines. These poured out of her scale work.

Where an arpeggiated figure appeared, all her caring and conscientious practicing of buoyant broken chords, bristled with relevance.

In graduated steps, the after beat sonorities were separated, and played with a “spongy” feel. We thought of a “lighter” third beat. Not a parade of downbeats.

In time the layering process followed as melody, fundamental bass, and after beat chords came together.

As I look back on this step-wise progression and its implications for the musical development of the Waltz, I can say with confidence that the student eventually played it with a wonderful sense of personal mastery and joy bundled together.

Patience and self-acceptance at every stage of the learning process was our paradigm.

If considered a mantra, it becomes a reminder of what teachers and students need to embrace.

LINKS:

How Long Should a Student Stay with a Piece?

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/how-long-should-a-piano-student-stay-with-a-piece/

Quality Spot Practicing by an adult student, “Fur Elise.”

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/quality-spot-practicing-by-an-adult-student-beethovens-fur-elise-video/

The Value of Slow Practicing

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/piano-learning-and-technique-the-value-of-practicing-in-slow-motion-or-behind-tempo/

Out of a Rut with Quality Spot Practicing
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/piano-instruction-out-of-a-rut-with-spot-practicing/

RECOMMENDED READING


Just Being at the Piano
by Mildred Portney Chase

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A Purr-fect sedative for a Cat

After a long day of teaching and house hunting, I settled down at my Steinway grand piano to play Burgmuller’s “Harmony of the Angels.”

An enchanting character piece in the Romantic genre, it’s the perfect sedative for humans, cats, dogs, even birds who skim the branches of my fertile fig tree for a treat each August.

Late last night Aiden soaked up the lush harp-like figures of this musical gem from his cushioned seat beside my upright piano. The cover is soft enough to lure him from his favored nesting place at the Haddorff console. Only when the piano room is insulated with heat, my furry feline will return to Haddy, the “singing nightingale” where he’ll cool his belly on its polished wood surface.

The morning after, the wandering minstrel finds a new home on the Steinway piano bench:

Music that calms

“Harmony of the Angels,” when played as a prelude to Rina’s early piano lessons, was the perfect accompaniment to her floating movements across the room. With her fluid arms and wrists moving gracefully in soft curves, she enjoyed an entree to the main course– a feast of melodies at the primer level, rendered with a beautiful singing tone.

***

For my adult students, this divine musical creation is a favorite that has drawn videos of lessons-in-progress.

From California to London, England, its undulating figures bathe players in rich sonority, if their wrists are “spongy” while arms melt phrases in wave-like motions.

In this videotaped instruction, an adult pupil and I explore an early layer of learning that focused on legato flowing hands, supple wrists, and relaxed arms. (Chord blocking was enlisted to acquire a “feel” for the keyboard landscape as the piece unfolded)

***

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Growing piano technique in baby steps: Rina, 5, advances to hands together five-finger positions (adding in 10ths)

Rina may not know the words “pentascales” and “tenths,” but she has the intelligence to notice when her fingers move up and down together, playing the same notes an “octave” apart. With a sound knowledge of the music alphabet in both directions, she has good cognitive reinforcement. (She also knows “running notes” or 8ths, “long sounds”–half notes, “short sounds”– quarters, and “half-note dot” is a dotted-half note.)

But note-name recognition and having a concept of rhythmic values are just part of the learning process. She needs to cultivate the singing tone wedded to limpid phrasing–a dimension of playing we’ve explored from day one embracing Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Music Journey philosophy.

In this regard, Rina is working on softening the impact of her thumbs, so she can nicely roll into her LEGATO five-finger positions and smoothly taper them. (LEGATO means smooth and connected, finger-to-finger)

She has progressed from having played each hand alone through five notes ascending and descending, in a “conversational” way, to synchronizing both hands at the same time in parallel motion.

She also creates an “echo” effect on a repeat and we make sure to include the parallel minor in her playings. (Black notes also belong to the keyboard family)

Next, I thought to introduce a bit of “magic.”

How about starting the Right Hand on E while the Left Hand remained on bass C. (still five notes up and down but spaced in 10ths)

Rina took to it like a duck in water especially with an enticing harmonic landscape.

Here are two snatches from her lesson, starting with the first (both hands playing same notes in legato)

In the second video, she plays in 10ths:

Our next piece is “Little March” by Daniel Gottlob Turk. This follows Minuet by Reinagle of which Rina is separately studying the bass part. In addition she’s rendering it in the “minor,” enlisting a “B flat.” (She performed the melody on our recent Spring Recital) The Reinagle piece came with its own new landmark: Rina played detached and legato notes in one selection.

I’ve prepared a video to assist mom with ear-training experiences for “Little March” during the week. Rina will be saturated with listening; doing hand signals for melodic shape; singing notes and then rhythms. (phrase one) This is the first stage of her learning process.

***

LINK:

Rina plays at the Spring Recital


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/rina-5-performs-at-our-spring-recital-after-8-months-of-piano-lessons-video/

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, Irina Gorin, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano lessons, piano teaching, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, teaching piano to young children, word press, wordpress.com, you tube

Looking back to early piano lessons with Rina, 5, with a solid musical foundation to build on (And now the present) Videos

I’m glad I videotaped many of Rina’s early lessons, (from age 4) since I have a tendency to be creative, and take liberties with any instruction in book form. It’s a great reference repository and springboard for new ideas.

To start with, Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey, has got it right by its saturation of the singing tone and how to produce it. The piano IS a singing instrument, and from the start, a child (or adult) should be exposed to its universe of tone color, nuance and musical imagination.

That’s why computer-based learning where tots, toddlers, and pre-schoolers are hooked up to typewriter-like electronic keyboards won’t imbue sensitivity to tone and touch.

***

FLASH BACK:

Early movement warm-up to lesson: August 2012 (Rina’s first month of study)

***
Rina’s third piano lesson:

Instruction using Tales of a Musical Journey: Exploration of two-key black notes with graceful weeping willow arms, relaxed wrists and rainbow motions.
Identifying C, D, and E

Dec. 11, 2012 (approx 4 months into study)

I enlisted my staircase as a “playground” preliminary to teaching “Frere Jacques” in a single finger, detached-note style.

Once Rina sat down at the piano, our work encompassed singing, “feeling,” tone, touch, a “singing pulse” and all the ingredients of artistic playing.

April, 2012 (starting 7th month of study)

Rina played “Frere Jacques” with the sad minor added. (legato–smooth and connected playing)

More Staircase activity in the present followed by a transfer to the piano. (Minuet by Reinagle)

At the piano

Rina has advanced along from detached-note playing to LEGATO, preserving what was embedded from day one. It’s a nice catalog of progress to draw upon as we head into the future.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/rinas-lesson-in-progress-from-the-staircase-to-the-piano-reinagle-minuet-in-g-videos/

LINK:

“A CREATIVE NEW WAY TO TEACH YOUNG CHILDREN” (I will be using Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey Instruction)

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, Irina Gorin, Minuet by Reinagle, piano addict, piano instruction, piano lessons, Piano Street, Piano World, POWHOW, POWHOW.com, Shirley Kirsten teaches classes at POWHOW, Shirley Smith Kirsten, teaching piano to young children, teaching Rina piano, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, yout tube

Rina’s Lesson-in-Progress: From the staircase to the piano (Reinagle Minuet in G) Videos

Rina, 5, has embarked upon her 7th month of study and is scaling my staircase before settling down to the piano. I’ve used this routine to imbue a sense of music’s topography before a keyboard transfer. It’s working.

Videotaped samples:

On the stairs:

At the Piano:
(with a preliminary five-finger position legato roll between the hands starting on G)

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/teaching-piano-to-young-children-a-creative-new-approach/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/piano-lesson-rina-5-learns-to-play-legato-across-five-fingers-from-c-to-g-and-back/

BEFORE LEGATO PLAYING: DETACHED-NOTE STUDY

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

OTHER:

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten