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 I could see my students every day,
the way public school teachers do. But, this is a practical world, so we have to find ways to follow through at home, to be with them in every practice period, even without being there personally.
At the New School we believe our students can be successful in any assignment.
when they are ready for that assignment—that they can greet new sounds, new skills, new concepts, new music eagerly when they are ready for them. When we present the new to students who are not ready for it, the result is frustration, for us and for the students.
Readiness consists of a balance be-tween security with what our students already know, and the challenge and adventure of the "new" that lies just beyond that readiness. What they already know is their security. What they don't yet know is their challenge and adventure. Our success as teachers and their success as students lies in our ability to strike an ideal balance between readiness and challenge.
Practice is the purposeful repetition of accuracy,
with the goal of arriving at a full musical interpretation as rapidly and securely as possible.
Rhythm is not recognizing notes,
call-ing them by their correct names, knowing how long each note lasts, or holding each note its full value, important as that is. Rhythm is life, breath, motion, swing, and fl ow. Rhythm is not just knowing, recognizing, and understanding time relationships. It is nothing until it moves and we are not rhythmical until we move.
What do we mean by "becoming a true music maker?"
Certainly one of the main elements in music making at the piano is physical freedom—the kind of freedom that makes it possible for students to move over the entire keyboard easily, naturally, with confidence, and security.
When asked how long students should practice,
Louise always replied, "Practice is not a matter of time spent, but a matter of mind spent"*
*This quote is also frequently ascribed to Frances Clark. It is not possible to determine whether she was quoting Louise or Louise was quoting Frances.
At the New School, each Spring we asked our graduate students to review their teaching
during the past year and to make a list of everything they would do differently next year based on what they have learned. Here are some of their comments.
I will begin the year expecting a lot more from each of my students.
I will try to listen to my student's playing with the same ears I use to listen to everyone else's students.
I will talk far less during my lessons this year. Recording myself and listening to the lessons made me realize how much I talked.
I will not assume that a student has mastered a particular rhythm pattern just because she can play it correctly in the piece of music she is working on.
I will spend more time on tone production—on playing with full, rich tone and developing the ear to distinguish between harsh and rich tone.
I will have a more definite idea of each piece I am teaching. I will not only study and analyze it more carefully, but I will be willing to sing it, conduct it, verbalize everything about it—rhythm, phrasing, dynamics, tempo, touch, and tone.
I will begin to judge my success as a teacher by what my students can do on their own without any help from me.