piano-4-806512-m“I’m so proud of myself!,” said Marty. She has been taking class piano since August. Before that, she had a few lessons, played the violin, and taught herself the basics.

The class is a mix of community members and general students. The levels vary widely. I’m challenged to come up with a format that will allow us to do some group activities and leave me the ability for some one-on-one time as well. This semester, the levels range from complete beginners to the famous Liszt Consolation in Db. So, we do a mix of large group, small group, and individual activities.

We improvise together using activities such as those in the Kinney’s Pattern Play books. This lets those with more experience use more intricate melodies and accompaniments and those with less experience keep it simple. This semester we have completed 2 improvs. The first used a chromatic bass (single notes or intervals/chords with one note changed at a time) and a minor melody in the style of Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28 No. 4.  At the midterm, some of their improvs sounded more like Philip Glass (see below) than like Chopin, but that’s OK. The one we are currently completing for the final is one I created. It is based on a Japanese scale and we are taking it up a half step onto the black keys for a bit of variety.

We have also been working as a group using the matched pattern fingerings (featured here in a recent PA post) to learn hands together scales.  This is also something that everyone can do together. Some play one octave in one direction only, others do multiple octaves.  It works out great and is the most fun when we do it round-style in 3rds or 6ths.

I go around a do mini-lessons (5-10 minutes) with as many students as possible. Did I mention this class meets for 2 hours once a week? I try my best to get around to everyone every week. Sometimes we start with the mini lessons. Other times we do them in the middle or end of class. I also send them off to the practice rooms in pairs to play for and help each other.

Back to Marty. She has come a long way. She has learned to harmonize a melody and use a system for rhythms rather than just guessing at the subdivisions. She has done some imaginative improvisation, and gotten her fingers to obey mostly her every wish. She has learned to take and to give constructive feedback.

She is proud of herself. I’m proud of all these students. The fact that the class meets only once a week means that they truly must discipline themselves to work daily on something that is not their major or day job and take ownership of the process. Marty knows that she is the one who did all the work and has the confidence that comes with that knowledge.

I’m proud of me for that!

If you are a fan of Philip Glass or are looking for a Christmas Gift for someone who is, check out Jeremy Limb’s new album, The Piano Music of Philip Glass. The album is available from Amazon and the iTunes Store and many other retailers.


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