|Image from Wikimedia Commons|
After spending the past thirteen years declaring quite strongly that I could never teach a class in college, I have recently found myself in quite the interesting little spot. A local university approached me in the middle of the summer and asked me if I would be willing to join their music department as an adjunct faculty member with the hopes that I could work with their students on a topic I feel so passionately about - practicing and learning music more effectively. I've sort of shocked myself by being so excited about this new avenue but I do think that's a good thing.
This first semester I have been asked to teach one course that is called "Piano Accompanying" but I should say right off the bat that this isn't the type of piano accompanying class I'm used to. It is a required course at the 400 level for music education majors but is also open to graduate students, most of them vocal majors who have taken 4 semesters of the required piano proficiency courses. In other words, these kids probably won't be accompanying any instrumentalists on the Franck violin sonata. The main purpose of the course is to get the kids ready for when they are teaching in schools, more often than not conducting choirs. Being able to play from the piano and to read choral scores or to simply accompany kids auditioning for all-state choir is almost mandatory these days with budgets rarely allowing for a person whose sole job is to accompany ensembles and choirs. So my job will be to help these students get the skills they need.
Wow. This will be interesting. I think it will also provide me with a wonderful place to test out some of my thoughts about teaching piano sightreading and some of the other skills that go hand-in-hand with being a well-equipped musician that's able to work anywhere anytime and with anyone.
In preparation for teaching (which starts next Tuesday!) I pulled out a paper I wrote back in my Eastman School of Music days when I was assigned to teach the piano sightreading class that the freshmen piano majors were required to take. I had gone through the class myself and unfortunately by the end I felt that my mind had been played with so much that I could no longer sightread as comfortably as I did when I went into the class. I tried teaching the class the traditional way for a semester or a year, I can't remember, but was very frustrated with how it was turning out so I signed myself up for some cognitive science classes and some human development and education classes hoping that those would inspire me and give me some knowledge to base some change on. One of the results of all that work was this paper that I wrote, Redesigning the Piano Sight-reading Class at Eastman. If you're interested in reading some or all of it, please do click on the title - it will take you to my paper as I wrote it way back then. Re-typing the paper into my blog was a good way for me to get back into thinking about the whole topic and to remind me of the some of the conclusions that I had gotten to after teaching the class for a while.
So here's hoping.
I'm also reading Leonhard Deutsch's book, Piano Guided Sight-Reading, which is proving to be an interesting but perhaps controversial read. It was written back in the 50's but I don't believe I had ever heard about it before. I'll be going through another reading of the book soon so I anticipate at least one blog post on the subject before long.
If anyone out there has any comments, suggestions, stories, or recommendations of books to read, by all means, please do pass them on here. I'd appreciate any input.