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Louise Goss: In Memoriam

Louise Goss: In Memoriam
In April, the world of piano pedagogy lost a legend. In the following pages, friends and colleagues of Louise Goss pay tribute with remembrances and recollections.  In the "old days," all senior piano majors at Oberlin were required to take piano pedagogy. I will never forget the excitement our professor exuded when she presented to us the bra...
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Prelude Sets for Every Occasion

I first encountered the fascinating "prelude set" genre, like a great majority of pianists, through Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op. 28. After thoroughly exploring and enjoying the Chopin Op. 28, I was hooked and simply had to find more! The features of this genre are simple enough, yet capable of incredible diversity: a collection of twenty-four sta...
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Teaching Tips from Louise Goss

Teaching Tips from Louise Goss
Louise Goss was a superb clinician and speaker. She had great clarity in her thinking about musical learning and an extraordinary vocabulary, but the quality that stood out above all else was her immense practicality. Most of these quotes are excerpts from transcripts of her public lectures delivered to groups of piano teachers.  I often wish ...
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The Professional Contributions of Louise Goss

The Professional Contributions of Louise Goss
The professional contributions of eminent American piano pedagogue Louise Goss are countless. Her tireless efforts, along with those of Frances Clark, include the establishment of arguably one of the first piano pedagogy programs in the United States at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, the creation of the New School for Music Study, the development o...
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Lesson Planning: A Teaching Essential?

Road maps and detours by Craig Sale One of my worst nightmares is arriving at the school where I teach to realize I have left that day's lesson plans at home.  On the rare occasions when this has happened, I have managed to conduct a reasonably structured lesson by following the student's last assignment in their notebook. Generally, I remembe...
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Questions and Answers

​Q:  Recently I've noticed that creativity as a theme for conferences and workshops seems to be coming up more and more. What are your thoughts on creativity in piano lessons for the average student? A: I'm glad you asked because I'm on a mis-sion. First, I believe (no, I know ) that all children are naturally creative—until we teach it out of...
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Dot spots

Add improvised pizzazz to the easy rhythms found in beginner tunes by asking your students to identify "dot spots." These are places where students can substitute dotted rhythms in place of quarter notes. Instead of this: Students play this: Listen and play It's not necessary for students to know how to read dotted rhythms prior to exploring their ...
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Preparing an Audition Program

As the conservatory audition season cycles in once again —as predictable as the ice and snow that always accompanies it in my neck of the woods—it has occurred to me that a simple checklist for teachers might be useful in preparing guileless students for what lies in store. Thus the following brief suggestions for "less pain, more gain": 1) A year ...
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Hand position basics

When hands are hanging loosely at the sides of the body, the fingers are in a "natural curve," which is a perfect hand position. The finger are not extended but in their natural, relaxed state (see Example 1). (Natural curve varies from person to person.) ​ Try This : Extend your fingers straight, and keep them there (see Example 2). Within a few s...
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Questions and Answers

Q:  ​What does the Teaching Artist movement have to do with me as an independent piano teacher? A: In the last column (November/December 2013), I responded to a question about Teaching Artists. We discussed the underlying value of "engagement before information" and briefly examined two types of activities pioneered by Teaching Artists: Intera...
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Learning Bach's Short Preludes: A Sequential Approach

Johann Sebastian Bach's Eighteen Short Preludes are exquisite miniatures and exceptional teaching pieces that provide a necessary stage of development from the shorter works in the Anna Magdalena Notebook  to the Two- and Three-Part Inventions and other larger works of Bach. Far from easy, they are often glossed over in favor of studying the I...
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Stretching a Lead Sheet

So, your students can play the melody and chords in a lead sheet...now what? Played at a medium tempo, this classic tune lasts about thirty seconds: How could this be stretched it into a complete performance? For inspiration, we can turn to legendary trumpet man and singer, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. When asked about his ability to spin seemingly e...
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Minor scales: a hug and a kiss, or just a handshake?

During my first ten years of piano study, starting at age five, the term diatonic scale was never taught to me. Nor had I realized that there existed an entity called a natural minor scale, inasmuch as I had been directed to practice only major, melodic minor, and harmonic minor scales as part of my daily practice regimen at the keyboard. Additiona...
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Piano Music Inspired by Art

Piano Music Inspired by Art
Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art. Claude Debussy With the rise of program music in the nineteenth century, composers of piano music turned to the visual arts for subject matter and inspiration. This reflected the Romantic concept of combining arts, culminating in the Gesamtkunstwerk [total work of art] of Richard Wagner. 1 Ge...
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Twenty-First Century Pedagogy: A Whole New World Again

Do you have an iPad or some other type of tablet? How about a smartphone? Do you use them in your lessons? A large number of responses would probably be in the affirmative, but how are university pedagogy programs training the next generation of piano teachers to use these and other technologies? Are collegiate piano pedagogues grappling with new w...
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What Do We Do When Our Students Forget?

At my house, it takes a ladder to reach Richard Chronister's book, A Piano Teacher's Legacy . It is on the top shelf of the floor-to-ceiling bookcase next to my grand piano. This seems like the perfect resting place for it, because I always did put Richard on a high pedestal. I still do.  This fall I began my forty-fourth year of teaching. My ...
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Warm Music for Cold Days

Catherine Rollin's early-intermediate solo Winter Waltz (Alfred) is a heartwarming way to welcome the coldest season of the year Its mature sound will inspire students to stay inside and practice. The A section looks easy to learn; nonetheless, it is loaded with wonderful technical opportunities for the student. Set in A minor, the left-hand melody...
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Playing in "Country Swing" Style

Country songs often use quite simple chords, so let's start with a very straightforward chord progression ​using only chords I, IV, and V (including inversions to create better voice leading). Play with your right hand only: To get a country swing feel, you can split the right-hand chords up, with the bottom note of the chord alternating with the o...
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Piano As Art: An Interview with Shauna Holiman

Piano As Art: An Interview with Shauna Holiman
Fascinating for anyone interested in the piano, music or art..." wrote John Rockwell, former Arts Critic of the New York Times. Brian Levine, Executive Director of the Glenn Gould Foundation, called Piano as Art "a wonderful re-imagining of the piano as sculpture, architecture, and the stuff of mythic creatures." What are they talking about? It's a...
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The Other Pupils

In a perfect world, our only preoccupation as teachers would be with training our piano students. Unfortunately, we live in an environment where there is little available time for music-related activities, and we often find ourselves battling against soccer and baseball games each time we plan our weekend festivals and piano recitals. Yet, despite ...
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