When Do You Dump the Method Books?

Michael Peterson Going to State!

I lie in bed fighting off the bronchitis that followed my case of flu and suddenly the phone rang. It was Michael calling to tell me he placed a rating of #1 at the KSHAA District Competition at Winfield, KS. I wish I could have been there. He said he was rather nervous, but he pulled through with a fine performance of Chopin’s E flat Nocturne. It may be a bit overdone, the piece, but he wanted to do it and he learned it well, so I figured experience is sometimes more valuable than running with the strategy for trophies. So Michael encountered his first judge. I await to read the comments. We both prepare for the next level.

Love vs Tradition (and Method books)

Michael came to me two years ago. The shy, soft-spoken young man whose mannerisms try to hide a good intellect and the uncommon sensitivity rarely seen today almost hid his love for music. It took me a few months to see the awe and joy on his face created by the mystical sound of a deceptive cadence. As a beginning piano student, I was determined to get him to read and play the grand staff notation and grow in hands-together coördination, but his love for music and the drive to move on made me finally abandon the method books. When is it wise to set aside the “normal” curriculum?

The more experienced teacher will be sensitive to cues of boredom and frustration and quickly adjust materials to keep interest up. This is common and I did as much when I showed my grandson some level 3 jazz to bribe him to continue lessons. (We should probably explore teachers’ motives in the future). Michael, however, was wanting to play classical and specifically Mozart’s Alla Turka with less than just one year of lessons. So I decided to only use original versions and went with the following:

Hanon                  selected exercises, arpeggios and interval runs

Chopin                 A minor waltz

Joplin                   Maple Leaf Rag

Clementi              Sonatina in G major

Mozart                 Alla Turka Rondo

Burgmueller       Ballade

Bach                       Musette in D major

Beethoven           C sharp min (Moonlight) Sonata, 1st mov.

Bach                        Invention in F major

Rachmaninoff     Op 3. No 2 (C sharp min Prelude)

Chopin                   Op 9 No 2 (E flat Nocturne)

So after he did one movement of Clementi, I let him play the original Mozart and he did it well. He played it with the Maple Leaf Rag for the studio recital and did just fantastic. He is a senior this year, so you see we were up against the clock, so to speak, and he wanted to try at least one competition. So in addition to some lessons in improvisation, drills in sight-reading a lot of technique and theory, and a couple of fun songs (Super Mario’s soundtrack music), I’d say he’s building a well-rounded repertoire and still maintaining his love and interest in music in spite of the lessons in Common Chords and Harmonizing a Melody. If I had more time, maybe some Schubert or Debussy and more Baroque…..

I am interested to hear from other teachers who had to throw out the method books very early and really customize the lesson plan.

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About Holly

Music, art and writing are my ways of expression. Thank you, God. Cooking, needlework and caring for my family, border collie, Kansa and caring for the poultry fill my days.
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