Claude Debussy, piano

Teaching the Language of Debussy in Reverie

Yesterday afternoon I found myself mentoring a student about the nuances of a composer’s language and style in the Impressionist genre.

Claude Debussy’s Reverie, with its palette of blended colors was on display–naturally intoned in vowels rather than consonants, while its liquid phrases begged for supple wrist and relaxed arm infusions of energy. My pupil’s steely bright Yamaha upright piano which was far from the purr–fect vehicle for the creation of a veiled effect, had to be “tamed” through compensatory physical motions. These precluded any form of an articulated legato that would upset the outflow of horizontal lines.

As the lesson unfolded, the activity of SINGING–(myself and pupil echoing measures between California and North Carolina) provided the most significant translation of how we could shape notes/phrases without obtrusive accents. Through many repetitions in the opening bars and a bit beyond, we accomplished incremental refinement that was satisfying for its progress toward natural grace and fluidity. In addition, prompts fueling the imagination filtered down to the keyboard in soft, cushioned landings, advancing expressive playing.

The exchange, captured on video, communicated far more than words could express.

Below is a prior “dreamy” teaching encounter that explored rolling arpeggios in Reverie’s bass, with an infused harmonic analysis.

***

Finally, here’s an additional sample of Debussy’s veiled expression wrapped in tonal colors:

The Girl with the Flaxen Hair.

former piano students

My Piano Students of Yesteryear: Where are they now?

Over decades of teaching, and with relocation being the norm for students and mentors, it would have taken a bit of research to track down all my beginner, intermediate, and advanced students dating back to 1968 (NYC); and from 1979 (Fresno CA) to 2011, before my 2012 move to Berkeley, California.

What I discovered in a retro-journey to my very first students in Manhattan post-Oberlin Conservatory graduation, was mind-boggling! To think that my earliest pupils are now in their 50s!!

I’m not ashamed to admit that Naomi and Annie Ehrenpreis were 5 and 7, respectively when I set out as a traveling teacher in Manhattan. (It was by Washington Square Park, in a luxurious high-rise)

As a fledgling mentor, I shunned method books but found sanctuary in Robert Pace’s uniquely creative materials. They became the springboard for composing activities that filled one full hour of lessons, divided in half between the sisters. As little children enrolled in the Ramaz school on the East side, and as the grandkids of a great Talmudic scholar, it was natural for them to be quite attentive; to have a singular motivation to compile a decorated collection of their own pieces that had original rhyme schemes. And with words scanned into iambic pentameter, they appreciated mood shifts from “Major to minor” that kept interest aflame through our time together.

***

Looking back, I often wondered where these first students were today?

Would they remember me and my efforts to enrich their imagination?

I tried contacting them through Facebook but was stunned by their silence. Would their knowing I had named my first child,”Naomi” in honor of the younger sister have altered such indifference?

Without further word, I took it upon myself to check Google and Linked-in to satisfy my curiosity:

“Ann Ehrenpreis Scherzer” is a Judge of the New York City Criminal Court in Bronx County, New York. She was appointed to this position by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013, and her term will expire in 2018.

Sister, Naomi E. Voss graduated Harvard, and subsequently relocated to Israel as a Computer Software Professional.

Did one or both sisters return to the piano as adults, or had their children been music students? I would never know.

***

I fast forwarded to 1985, six years into my relocation to Fresno, California from New York City.

As I perused a self-published 1985 collection that contained student names attached to their individual compositions and companion illustrations, I found these entries:

composing children

Jason H. was 15 in 1985 when he composed “Scottish Highlands,” which would make him 46 years old today! I happily discovered that he’s a pediatrician in Kaysville, Utah, having graduated Brigham Young University and the University of Utah School of Medicine. Bravo J.! Naturally, a large family is woven into his many accomplishments.

Scottish Highlands crop

Michelle S. who was age 6 in 1985 when she composed “Music Box,” is now a Central Valley California-based M.D. Anesthesiologist. Her father, I recall, was a physician specializing in lung diseases.

Paul M. who is not represented in the album, but was one of my first piano students when I arrived in Fresno in 1979, (he was about 7 at the time) stayed with the piano until he entered UC Berkeley. He’s in the Engineering field, but I haven’t specifically tracked him down. His mom was a Nursing Professor and Administrator at Fresno State University when her son studied with me.

Melissa S. age 9, in 1985, and composer/illustrator of “Windsor,” is Executive Administrator of Bain & Co., previously employed at Goldman Sachs.

Windsor Pic best

Windsor music crop

Julia Dahl (real name disclosed as I’m sure she’ll appreciate the exposure) is a novelist with a commanding website.

http://www.juliadahl.com

In 1985, at 7 years old, Julia composed “Clouds.”

***

Becca Wong was a diligent piano student in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s who became a dance accompanist.

When we reunited as Facebook friends, I took the opportunity to interview her about her fascinating career.

Becca

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/a-former-piano-student-carves-a-unique-life-as-a-dance-accompanist-or-is-it-freeway-gypsy/

Amy B., 12, was immersed in Burgmuller pieces, Op. 100, in 1990, as she continued her musical journey with dedicated practicing. Today, she’s an intellectual property attorney working in the Silicon Valley.

Valerie F. studied with me years later, in 2009, and was an entrant in two MTAC piano local branch competitions. Attached is one of her recorded performances of “Golliwog’s Cakewalk,” (8-12 year old competitive division). Though the video is grainy, the audio track is a testimony to her splendid musicianship.

In 2011, older sister, Stacey (also a student of mine) performed the Fugue in C minor, by J.S. Bach BWV 847 at a Baroque Regional Festival.

Valerie and Stacey are currently students at Brigham Young University.

***

David Su was age 6 when he began piano studies. He’s now a software developer in San Francisco, having completed his graduate work at UC Berkeley. His, sister, Stacey, not a student of mine, who won many Local Fresno-based and Statewide piano competitions, is a practicing physician in the Department of Surgical Oncology, Division of Thoracic Surgery, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadephia, PA.

Not to overlook, Mark C. an adult student who studied piano with me in Fresno for over 6 years! At the time, he was a Federal Attorney, who managed to sandwich in practicing between jaunts around the country.

Most recently, he sent me an email about his promotion to Judge, an appointment made by Governor Brown! A big Congratulations!

Michael

There are many other pupils whom are not as easy to locate given the passage of years, but it’s apparent that many have carved out successful professional careers, perhaps owing in part to their piano study.

May the love of music embrace them for a lifetime!

Claudia,6,onstaircaseafterrecital
***

LINK:

Shrinking Degrees of Separation in the Music World
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/shrinking-degrees-of-separation-in-the-music-world/

China, Lang Lang, Lang Lang critics, piano, piano blog, piano blogging

The Lang Lang controversy

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.48.42 AM

World-renowned pianist, Lang Lang has attained rock star status in China, whereas here in the U.S., a sizable contingent of serious mentors in and out of the conservatory milieu register outright disdain for him. Many detractors publicly post their objections to LL’s approach to music-making, citing his exaggerations, flamboyance, extraneous gestures, and erratic performances in their total renunciation. (Add in a commercialized packaging that offends many who would prefer music to be a purist, Art for Art’s sake undertaking.)

A recent FACEBOOK posting of a BAD review generated through the London press, drew a cathartic sigh of relief among LL critics, as if the “chickens had finally come home to roost.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/classical-music/lang-lang-royal-festival-hall-review-nice-programme-pity-about-t/

EXCERPT:

“Lang Lang was at the Festival Hall to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K 491, a surprising choice of composer for a musician more used to bringing his show-off brand to the warhorse Romantic concertos. Yet he got off to a good start, producing a beautiful crystalline tone and a focused musical line.

“That impression didn’t last long: he quickly reverted to his attention-seeking mannerisms, miming tai chi between the piano’s entries and flirting with the front row like a wannabe pop star.”

The balance of the review careens downhill as rapidly as a motorcycle out of control!

***
Amidst a whir of PR surrounding a pianist who has ignited interest in the piano among the Chinese youth; who has played in the Olympic spotlight with flashing, multicolored beams, and who’s been the star attraction at the Queens Jubilee concert, any criticism of the pianist and his career choices should be weighed and measured accordingly.

Seymour Bernstein’s comments about the pianist form a category that epitomize the essence of anti-Lang Lang sentiment.

A pianist, teacher, composer, NYU faculty member, and celebrated author of WITH YOUR OWN TWO HANDS, Seymour forwarded a copy of his letter to Marilyn C. Nonken, NYU administrator, after she had announced ticket availability for “A Conversation with Lang Lang,” taking place at the 92nd Street Y. (2012)

Nonken’s note to NYU students and faculty bearing an attached flyer, read as follows:

“Every so often we put on an event that goes down in history… a conversation on stage where audiences get a rare glimpse into the mind of a person who is currently shaping our world. Our October 14th event falls into this category because we are bringing Lang Lang on our stage to offer music lovers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about him as a person… how he thinks, how he works, and what moves him.”

image001

Bernstein’s personal response was immediate before he drafted a substantial email to NYU principles.

“To be blunt about it, this outraged me!”

He subsequently forwarded what he’d sent to Dr. Nonken, and Robert Howe, Ph.D., Chair of NYU’s Dept of Music/Performing Arts Professions:

“Marilyn, I see that this notice is signed “Holly,” and also has Robert Howe’s name attached to it. Do they, and the SONY Corp. actually think that Lang Lang is “shaping the world?” The bazaar photo of him with the banner “92Y TALKS” across it, bespeaks the antithesis of true art. I spend a lot of time with my serious students and colleagues discussing the pros and cons of Lang Lang’s playing and his subsequent success…

“He is, of course, a formidable pianist. And I have heard him play gorgeously at the early stage of his career, his absurd physical movements on stage, notwithstanding. But in my opinion, he has fallen from grace, so to speak, and caters now to audiences with vulgar tastes, as do certain rock stars. As such, I feel that the course he has chosen in his career is to be avoided, and not emulated.

“What in fact can our students learn from such a virtuoso who places glitter, speed, and extroversion above the essence of what we have come to believe is musical art?”

As an antidote to these criticisms, Lang Lang cites the support of musical notables, Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach and his Curtis teacher, Gary Graffman.

Barenboim: “He has extraordinary facility, and very unusual sensitivity to harmonic and mood changes.”

Graffman: “I knew immediately that he was a major talent, (at the age of 14) and was happy to have worked with him for five years.”

Graffman’s study with Vladimir Horowitz filtered into lessons with Lang Lang, as he focused on the singing tone and taught the youngster how the vocalist’s breath was central to expressive music-making. (one can easily hear Lang Lang’s well-synchronized breathing into fluid phrases)

Eschenbach remembered hearing Lang Lang in a gathering arranged by Graffman.

“From the first note, I was fascinated… I felt immensely moved that a 17-year old could have such deep insight into the center of the music and what the music wanted to say.” (Rada Bukhman, pianist, teacher, and author, Discovering Color Behind the Keys: The Essence of the Russian School of Piano Playing, heard Lang Lang perform at this very life juncture. “I was very impressed, he was absolutely natural…the music flowed from his heart)”

As to the dating of these superlatives, perhaps they would more aptly frame Lang Lang’s Carnegie Hall debut held back in 2003.

As validation of an array of kudos, LL’s Liebestraum filled the space with relentless swells of beauty.

In retrospect, many may ask, was this the voice of the pianist’s seasoned past, not wholly brought fruitfully into the present?

I offer two comparisons of the same work played by Lang Lang and the late Arthur Rubinstein:

The Chopin Grande Polonaise Brilliante

Initially, I was taken by LL’s “crystalline” tone that the London critic, John Allison, had fleshed out in his review, but after expanding my horizons with a serving of Rubinstein’s performance, my opinions were a tad altered. (Don’t misunderstand, I think Lang Lang has electrifying energy, a gorgeous sound, technique in bundles to spare, enthusiasm, sometimes over the top, as with some of the ultra FFF attacks in the Chopin Grande Polonaise Brilliante, but he can quickly offset these with a pure, velvety singing tone, making big mood shifts that are very seductive, but sometimes incongruous and jarring.)

The Liszt encore (Consolation No. 3) offered by Lang Lang seemed to be more consistently balanced, redeeming him. It evoked the pianist who introduced himself in a different mode (1973), one I would dote on when it applied.

Rubinstein:

Finally, in his defense, many Lang Lang fans the world over will credit him with being a global ambassador for piano study. Look how many Chinese kids are taking piano now under his influence, and how piano manufacturing is booming in the pianist’s home country! For this alone, we owe Lang Lang a big dose of appreciation!

But will his enthusiasm filter down to American kids who are journeying afar from Classical music by their habituation to Rap and Pop through Mp3’s and 4’s at loud, ear-piercing electronically channeled levels!

Regardless, LL detractors will prefer to place music study above the fray, granting it an almost “elitist” status.

you tube

The “Talent” equation in piano playing/learning

Music-Learning-800

Last Wednesday night, Indre Viskontas, opera singer and neuroscientist explored the many facets of Creativity in a City Arts “conversation.” And because a roving MIC didn’t quite reach my section of the San Francisco Nourse Auditorium during the Q and A, I managed to continue the discourse Online at Indre’s blog site.

It’s a no-brainer that talent is not enough to grow musical development. In fact from my end of the teaching spectrum, I don’t include the word in my vocabulary because it’s not relevant to my work with piano students.

What’s more fundamental is a pupil’s LOVE of the learning environment and a determination to take a deep-layered musical journey without short-cuts. This requires a commitment of time, energy, and loads of patience.

Viskontas pointed out that those who are especially “creative” and high-performing, practice obsessively on a daily basis and endure “failures” along the way.

I think she meant that experimentation is part of the creative process that includes trial and error efforts. The creative student, for example, may try a multitude of approaches, some which may work and others not, but he attaches no value judgment to weeding out what doesn’t work. In fact, it becomes satisfying to eliminate what was blocking a passage from smooth execution through an ongoing, self-charged feedback that includes analysis, correction, and refinement. (I add bio-feedback to the mix–or muscle memory)

Viskontas and I were certainly in harmony in this universe of exchange, and she particularly impressed me with her assessment of those who have been told from early childhood how “talented” they are. It seems research studies validate that these individuals have difficulty in the long-term at colleges and conservatories where there’s keen competition. Unfortunately, their eyes become focused on external feats of accomplishment, without having nourished an internal, self-satisfying joy of learning.

(That’s why it’s better to have had parents who rewarded children for their enduring work invested in any creative undertaking, rather than having relentlessly exposed them to WINNING as the ONLY end result)

Beating kids down for making mistakes or telling them they have a pre-destined path of success based on their “talents” will more than likely have the opposite effect than intended.

***

On some other points of discussion, Indre and I did not completely concur. She talked about “empathy” in music appreciation and included the word “narrative” in her discussion of musical performance.

Here are her comments following mine, as published at her blog site.

“Indre, as a performing pianist and teacher, I have some issues with your having used the word “empathy” as an ingredient of musical appreciation. Seems to be a modern day catchword. I’ve never used it in my teaching Bach, Mozart, Chopin, et al. but phrasing, structure, mood, nuance, sequence, the unexpected, harmonic rhythm, changes, etc. are my particular explorations. (I refer also to Leonard Meyers, Emotion and Meaning in Music)

“Narrative” was another word that did not resonate with me, insofar as every performance has to “tell a story.” When I listen to Perahia or Sokolov play a Bach Partita, the narrative if STRETCHED in meaning refers to the performer’s understanding and communication of form, structure, and emotion. Yes, emotion but not necessarily tied to a story-or trying to be overly SUBJECTIVE. Your comments however on talent and creativity were those to which I shook my head affirmatively.”

More elaboration from my perspective–un-published

Mood, affect, emotion and their communication are intrinsic to beautiful music-making, and perhaps with teacher prompts like “rolling” or “floating” motion (triplets) or a minor-mode shift reminder evoking a particular affective response, these become their own “narrative.” But imposing an artificial story line on a piece of music, not including, of course, an opera score that has its own libretto, plot, etc. doesn’t sit well with me, especially when playing Mozart Sonatas, Bach Inventions, from the Classical and Baroque eras.

As for “Empathy,” again when stretched in meaning I can empathize with its usage. But bringing concepts down to earth, I think attentive listening goes a long way in the music appreciation universe side-by-side with an understanding of form, harmonic rhythm, phrasing, sequences, and what is unexpected.

INDRE VISKONTAS:

Hi Shirley –

“Thanks for coming to City Arts and for checking out my blog!

“I appreciate your discomfort with the overuse of buzz words like empathy and narrative. But I also have to say that I stand by my comments. Now there’s no need explicitly to use the word empathy when working with your students, but I would argue that what you are training them to do is all about eliciting empathy in their audiences. Empathy, after all, is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – figuring out what they are feeling. Isn’t that exactly the point of musical expression? to communicate feelings and ideas? if so, then we’re talking about empathy.

“Now narrative, in my view, means that there is an arc to the piece – it goes somewhere. There’s a beginning, middle and an end. That’s the first element of musicality, in my opinion, and the element that is most often missing in ‘cold’ performances. Teaching your students phrasing and nuance ultimately reaches the same goal, but they might find it easier to understand and to implement if you couch it in the form of a story. I’d love to have you try it and see if it’s effective for your students! It certainly is for mine and for all the chamber groups that I’ve worked with, not to mention, of course, every piece of vocal music I’ve ever heard or sung. If the emotion is presented on its own, with no where to go, the sound often gets stuck and the performance becomes less musical.”

For more about Indre Viskontas and her work, visit her official website:

http://www.indreviskontas.com

OTHER: 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/

classissima.com

Piano Lessons: “My kids don’t practice so what can I do about it?”

bigger frustrated at piano

The latest piano forum quandary surrounds daily practicing. Parents are wringing their hands as teachers impart the latest advice of the week.

Even adult students are plagued by “shoulds” and perfect routes to success, planted in their psyche in early childhood.

They’ll cancel their own lessons if they didn’t get to the piano every day.

Take it one step further,” An EVERY other week student might never show up given such a perfect personal practicing paradigm. (I call it “pppp,” and it corresponds with super duper soft playing–the type that’s very inhibited and boxed in)

On that low note, I have a pupil who shows up if the weather is cooperating, relatives have departed, she’s touched the piano each day, and it’s been recently tuned–all requirements having been met for a positive lesson, on her terms, with a heavy control component.

(She thinks she won’t PLEASE ME, otherwise) It goes with the punitive parent syndrome…”pps”

But Piano lessons SHOULD NOT be orchestrated to be END-oriented in the first place. They SHOULD be PROCESS-centered.

It means a child or adult comes to lessons to learn more about himself, and how to express profound emotions through music.

Keep it SIMPLE and not saddled with baggage that should have left when the last cousin visitor hit the road.

It’s common sense that if students spend the week following a lesson typing out notes mindlessly, even daily, it does not amount to a form of creative self-realization….

Which draws on my own personal musical development: I practiced whenever I was so inclined as child, and my parents, non-musicians, did not put me under strict surveillance. I was not FORCED to practice, or threatened with loss of lessons if I didn’t. Why inject intimidation into music study even with a Cold War backdrop? (Krushchev pounded his shoe at the U.N. and Sputnik launched an insidious space RACE in my day)

Fast forward to the mega sports Millennium:

Kids who might want to practice now and then, are IMPEDED by an impossible after-school athletic itinerary.

If they manage to sit down in between activities, it’s going to be a quickee race to the finish line..

One parent placed an egg-timer on the spinet beside a ticking metronome. (the antithesis of a music-loving journey)

Obviously, it didn’t work and the child gave up piano, never returning as an adult. I call those individuals “pcbr.” (Permanently crippled and beyond rehab)

***

In my considered opinion, the only way to motivate thoughtful, self-blossoming practicing is to model it as teachers and parents in our daily lives, not just in our professional undertakings.

Loving what we do, and embracing time spent, being inquisitive, focused, and patient are transferable to our children in any number of activities.. You can say, by osmosis, we learn ways of knowing, experiencing, embracing.

If I love my work, if I love daily expression, if I can live in a non-combative environment and grow in increments, but not by perfect measurement, then I will have nourished a part of me that enriches my life.

Youngsters today are on a quick gratification treadmill; they communicate by cell phone; drag iPods around, barely making it to the next sports romp.

How can they begin to practice piano in an environment that is not harmonious with artistic expression?

There’s little more to be said and lots to think about.

***

LINK:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/overscheduled-piano-students/

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Quality spot-practicing by an adult student: Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” (Video)

Marie, a motivated adult student, revisited piano studies after a decades-long hiatus. When she resumed lessons about 6 years ago, she made “Fur Elise” her goal-setting piece.

Following long-term scale and arpeggio exposure accompanied by a detailed focus on minuets, short character works, sonatinas and the Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous, Marie made a smooth transition to learning one of the most popular pieces in the piano literature.

Here’s a snatch of her spot-practicing tricky measures 68-69 in the “stormy” C section of the composition.

Quality time spent isolating voices in slow tempo, listening attentively, and sculpting phrases with relaxed arms and a supple wrist advances fluidity and a beautiful singing tone.

Spot-practicing measures that need extra work and refinement, gets to the heart of learning, moving a student into a new universe of enjoyment.

LINK:

“Fur Elise” at POWHOW: LIVE webcam piano classes

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

Journey of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Journey of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, music education, pianist, piano, piano instruction, piano playing, piano teaching, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Suzuki, Suzuki piano instruction, Suzuki piano method, suzuki violin method, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com

The Suzuki Method for Piano, Pros and Cons

The traditional Suzuki method, devised by its pioneer advocate, Shinichi Suzuki applied originally to violin instruction. Students as young as 2 or 3 learned to play their instruments in the way language was acquired, through imitation. (I recalled black and white film footage showing hundreds of Japanese children lined up in rows with baby-size violins, bowed in unison. It looked like a holiday celebration)

The music, a CD package of folk and classical offerings, featured “Twinkle, Twinkle” as a primer favorite. It gave impetus to volumes of published Suzuki albums that were hot-sellers almost overnight!

David Cerone, a violin teacher at the Oberlin Conservatory during my undergraduate years was the official player-soloist on all Suzuki recordings, making his effort a lucrative one.

The philosophy of Suzuki instruction embraced an early immersion in instrument study without exposure to note-reading. The latter would be shelved for a future time. It mimicked the sequence of language-learning with a delayed development of writing skills.

Part and parcel of the Suzuki construct was aural absorption of recordings to the point of saturation. The child would listen to pieces he was playing and basically “copy” the melody, tempo, phrasing, nuance etc.

During private or sometimes group lessons, the teacher was the leader with her copycat student as a full-blown follower. And mom or dad’s required presence at lessons was a mandatory prelude to a pulverizing and feeding process that took place during the week.

Peers, teachers, parents, and an assortment of relatives, provided a solid support system for the “method,” which could take on village proportion.

***

Ironically, the Suzuki Violin method one day was magically transferred to the piano, with its original precepts remaining.

Some Suzuki piano teachers, however, integrated traditional methods into their approach, while others were more strictly orthodox. (religious wars in the making?)

From my personal experience, piano student transfers who had been immersed in a pure Suzuki learning environment from age 4 or 5, turned out to have poor note-reading skills when I interviewed them at age 9, 10 or 11.

One 12-year old admitted that her “Suzuki” piano training made her resistant to reading music. (she definitely displayed a lag)

I did, however, notice her physical comfort with the piano. She had a nice hand position, supple wrist, graceful, relaxed arms and could be easily prompted through any technical routines. (A tribute to her teacher’s technical skill and agility in the modeling process)

****

Disadvantages of Suzuki instruction:

1) note-reading was far too delayed.

Because a child relied on copying the teacher or parent during his formative years of study, there was no particular motivation to read music.

The Suzuki-saturated students had considerable difficulty psyching themselves up to the cognitive challenge of staff note identification–A predictor of permanent “notation avoidance pathology”–N.A.P.

COPYING

2) While it was valuable to have a good pianistic model for the physical side of playing, I’m not sure making a child ingest one particular way of interpreting a piece, or standardizing it made sense.

3) Having students churn out the same pieces at recitals fostered comparisons of performance between students.

I once attended a Suzuki recital in four parts that lasted for three cumbersome hours. Pieces like,”Twinkle, Twinkle” were played relentlessly with little relief, though by and large, the Suzuki miniatures were delightful.

4) Enlisting parents to be surrogate teachers during the week could be a living nightmare for some children!

How many moms or dads would have enough emotional distance to mentor their own kids? Too many had little patience and made unrealistic demands on their children to play perfectly.
***

On the positive side:

The idea of mirroring back a good physical relationship to the piano in the earliest years of study was sound, but traditional mentors could provide the same, while integrating elements of note-reading into the lesson.

Depending on a child’s age and readiness, a teacher could expose children to parcels of notation in digestible form, as I had done with Rina when she started lessons with me at age 4.

My approach to a child this young would be creative and innovative— borrowing materials from varied sources where it applied. (For example, I used Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey as my springboard) but on my own, I developed simple duets based upon transcribed versions of Saint-Saens, Carnival of the Animals.

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

I didn’t adhere to any deadlines, preferring to take cues from the child. Any other instructional modality, whether it be PURELY Suzuki-based, or a strict instructional path with little room for variation, didn’t seem to work.

Why, then, I asked myself, were piano teachers so dependent on organized teaching materials instead of tailor-making a learning journey to suit each child’s needs?

Food for thought.

***

Comments from Suzuki-schooled students

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/450485/Suzuki%20method%20of%20piano%20instruc.html

LINK:

Suzuki Association of the Americas

http://suzukiassociation.org/about/

Mark O’Connor blogspot and his interchange with Suzuki Association about alleged fraud of founder S. Suzuki

http://markoconnorblog.blogspot.com