Welcome to what I hope will become a trusted resource for exploring teaching materials that you have not yet found (or maybe just forgotten about) to help you find the perfect supplemental piece for all of your piano students — from elementary through advanced.
Where Did The Idea Come From?
I love teaching beginning and intermediate students who are just beginning to find the joy of playing the piano. Like most teachers, I mostly rely on solid published piano methods to sequence my presentation of concepts. From time to time, I will use the performance book associated with that method. But I don’t want every student’s experience in my studio to be identical. I want them to explore the variety of sounds that comes with being exposed to multiple composers. There is nothing quite as fun as matching my students with supplemental materials that capture their imaginations and challenge their abilities while developing their musical sensitivities.
If you are like me, you probably find yourself returning to a few trusted resources over and over. You find a series or composer that matches your pedagogy and you run with it. Let’s admit it…..sometimes there is so much music available that it is completely OVERWHELMING! Rarely do we have the time to spend hours in a local music store pouring over the stacks in search of a hidden gem. Looking for repertoire online can be even more challenging. It can become so easy to scurry down rabbit holes and ultimately forget the title of the piece that you discovered earlier that would fit the bill for your student “if I simply can’t find a better option.”
While visiting my parents over the summer, a friend who owns a local music store told me that her staff had discounted a large amount of supplemental and classical repertoire that had been in stock for a very long time and simply was not moving out the door. I set aside an afternoon to visit the store (wearing my mask throughout the visit — we are experiencing a national pandemic, after all!) and waded deep into the stacks. I was searching specifically for materials for late elementary and intermediate students. After coming away with a massive haul that cost me less than $20, I began to discuss with my friend why she thought the music was not selling. Her response shocked me. “No one knows it is here. Few teachers have time to shop, so everyone just keeps buying the materials with which they are already familiar.”
That’s when I saw an opportunity to contribute to the wonderful community of piano teachers at large. What if there was a place that would focus on a couple of works each week that included video performances and brief reviews of each piece? That sounded like something that I would consider a valuable resource that could help me sort through the massive repertoire available while building a digital archive of my discoveries. Honestly, if it helps no one else, this project will help me become more aware of the resources available and give me a place to store my thoughts about the pieces I find. If I’m going to archive the material, I may as well share it so others can use it as well.
What’s the Plan?
This is the part that sort of scares me. I have a plan, but I’m not entirely sure how it is going to fit into my regular routine and responsibilities with my professorship at Wayland Baptist University. But….I feel that putting the plan out there is important to keep me accountable and so you know when to expect new material.
I intend to publish a new post each Thursday afternoon. As I get into the semester and the certain craziness that will be involved as we begin teaching in our new COVID-19 reality, I will find my routine and establish a consistent time to publish each week. For right now, let’s just say Thursday afternoon.
Each week, I will focus on a specific category of repertoire. One week will be devoted to music for elementary students. Another will be devoted to intermediate pianists. Some weeks will focus on upcoming holidays — such as Halloween and Christmas — while others will have an overarching theme — sonatinas or music representing foreign lands. As a pianist with over 20 years of service to church music ministry, there will be significant attention to hymn arrangements appropriate for the professional soloist as well as our students. Lastly, one week of each month will serve as a “throw back” — an opportunity to explore some forgotten treasures from the past as well as lesser known pieces from the classical canon. Because I am also an avid reader, there will be the occasional review of books that have shaped me as a performer, collaborator, and teacher and hold a prized position on my personal book shelf. (Book reviews are planned to appear on the 5th Thursday of the month.)
Posts will include publication information as well as a brief explanation of the primary musical concepts I anticipate addressing and/or reinforcing with each piece. I will also include a video performance (normally by me….maybe featuring one of my students) of the piece. In the case of a collection, I will include a couple of videos of representative works from the book.
What’s Coming in August?
Here’s the schedule for the August posts:
- August 6 – Intermediate solos by John Thompson, Mary Leaf, & Arlington J. Jones II.
- August 13 – Sacred Collection for the moderately advanced pianist by Tracey Craig McKibben
- August 20 – Elementary solos by John Thompson and others
- August 27 – Throw Back – Overlooked sonatinas by the masters
Subscribe and Comment
The best way to make this a useful resource is to let me know that you are reading the blog and what you are interested in seeing on these pages. Your comments help keep me focused and exploring. Are you looking for movie music or Broadway show tunes? Let me know and let’s see what we can discover together. Have you assigned one of these pieces I’ve mentioned to one of your students? I’d love to hear about your experience and the student’s reaction. Need a piece that shifts between the major and minor modes and uses lots of descending scales? Ask! I can’t promise that I can come up with a solution right away, but I will definitely be on the hunt so we can all learn and grow together.