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A Concerted Effort

A transcript of some thoughts which we shared with the audiences at the end of our final pupils’ concerts. A playlist from the concerts is included at the end.

After our first pupils’ concerts over 30 years ago, I remember saying to Archie how well they had turned out and how we mustn’t hold them too often or they would stop feeling special. Yet, somehow, we found ourselves having at least two, if not three, concert days a year and holding at least two, if not three, concerts on each of those days. Continue reading A Concerted Effort

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I wish it could be Christmas every day (Roy Wood)

For most children, the real proof that you can play the piano is that you can play tunes that other people recognise. Each week, one of my young pupils used to say to me ‘This is just made up music. When can I play real music?’

And you know what they mean. The spark of recognition and enthusiasm to have a go when children reach the tunes, Twinkle Twinkle, Row Row the boat and This Old Man in our course makes me plumb my mental music library for how to devise a course which consists largely of tunes that everybody knows. But that’s the problem. Everybody doesn’t know the same tunes. Those tunes, which we imagine we imbibed with the mashed carrot and apple of our first taste of solid food, keep changing for each generation. You can no longer assume that every child will recognise Yankee Doodle, O when the Saints and Kum by ya. And when faced with their quizzical gazes as you sing the tunes to them, you can see why…

Continue reading I wish it could be Christmas every day (Roy Wood)

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Comin round the mountain

One of our former students, now at university, wrote recently to tell us that he had started to do a bit of piano teaching himself. He told us that he was enjoying it, but was struggling to keep the lessons captivating. Did we have any tips?

Tips on teaching are a bit like tips for a happy marriage or long life. It seems that the successful aspirant thinks up the most unlikely habit of a lifetime and attributes their success to that. ‘I never argue with my spouse’, says one happily married octogenarian, while another insists that a ‘bit of strife helps keep the wife’. A daily glass of red wine for the last 80 years is one centenarian’s recipe for long life while another swears by never touching a drop.
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Performance is special…

Saturday 12 November 2016 was a Pupils’ Concerts day. As usual, there were two concerts with a full range of ages and stages in both concerts. Also, as usual, everyone rose to the occasion. It is remarkable how it is in the nature of performance to make a special occasion of each and every performance no matter how simple or complex the music, no matter how old or young the performer.

Here is a YouTube playlist for many of the items from both concerts.

Enjoy! Esther Cohen, Archie McLellan

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How much to practise

Everybody has to decide for themselves how much practice can be fitted into their lives and family routine, but the mastery of any skill involves constant repetition. It follows that the more frequent reinforcement there is, the quicker the development of the skill will be. The important thing is to make practice a matter of daily routine, not an optional extra. In an ideal world, children would practise frequently and spontaneously. But even with the best will in the world, not to mention swimming, dancing and what-not to be fitted in, it sometimes happens that the day is over, it’s long past bedtime, and no practice has been done. Agreeing a routine helps make a habit of practice, so that it is done with a minimum of fuss and is fitted into the gaps of the busy after-school schedule of many of today’s children.
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