A Pianist’s Approach to Research



We would like to thank Carla Salas-Ruiz for this contribution on writing articles for research publications such as the Journal of Piano Research. Learn more about the Journal of Piano Research by clicking here.

Writing, akin to music, provides a platform for self-expression. It also fosters critical thinking and enables us to articulate diverse perspectives, integrate information, and contribute to the advancement of our discipline. Yet, it’s common for many of us to feel a bit lost, unsure of where to even start. Have you ever found yourself facing a blank page, unsure of what to write or how to transform your project or research study into a compelling and engaging work? I have experienced this scenario several times. However, it wasn’t until I drew parallels between piano practice, lesson planning, and writing that a breakthrough occurred. I am excited to share these connections and encourage you to view academic writing as an art form for which you already possess all the necessary tools. Now is the time to leverage these tools and recognize writing as a creative exploration, where intentional choices and practice yield inspiring outcomes, similar to performing a piece or teaching a lesson.

Engage with Others’ Work

When practicing any musical piece, it’s crucial to grasp the composer’s expressive ideas and the essence of the composition to shape the interpretation effectively. To do this, we listen to recordings from other performers and study the musical language of the composer throughout their repertoire. Similarly, in writing, the initial step involves gathering exemplary articles from various sources such as journals, magazines, books, and other publications to identify essential elements like structure, language usage, and coherence. Deconstructing these articles, akin to dissecting a musical composition into sections and phrases, facilitates targeted writing practice. Analyzing the author’s intentions behind effective writing serves as a guide in crafting our roadmap. Additionally, extensive reading enriches our understanding and fuels creativity by exposing us to diverse viewpoints and encouraging critical thinking.

Craft Your Concept 

Having learned from the insights of fellow writers, now is the ideal time to establish a method. This is similar to creating a practice log, focused solely on the concepts pertinent to your topic. During this phase, your reading should be targeted towards understanding existing discussions relevant to your chosen idea. It is essential to adopt a systematic approach, meticulously extracting key concepts from authors and documenting them methodically. I recommend constructing a table with columns for the source, author’s name, key quotes, year of publication, and page numbers.

After completing your reading journey, it is crucial to define your idea or research question through discussions with peers, similar to seeking feedback on a musical composition. Sharing your ideas with others can be tremendously beneficial, as they serve as a sounding board, potentially providing invaluable clarity to your thoughts. For instance, during my time in graduate school, my focus was on studying motivation. However, given the extensive literature surrounding the concept, it was only upon encountering the theory of Interest Development1 that I could delineate the scope of my idea and purposefully devise a roadmap to satisfy my curiosity. This process was greatly facilitated by continual discussions with colleagues, friends, and professors.

Carla Salas-Ruiz

Develop a Method

With our ideas taking shape, we transition into methodological design, akin to selecting the appropriate techniques for musical expression. This time is about crafting a research question and defining a plan to answer that question. Establishing a robust research question is imperative, as it serves as a guiding beacon amidst the myriad of available methodologies, including quantitative, qualitative, ethnographic, historical, and/or philosophical approaches. Developing a method involves meticulously outlining the research design, methods, and techniques employed to satisfy your curiosity. It will outline your plans for data collection and analysis. In an academic context, this comprehensive plan encompasses critical decisions about how we chose participants or composers we’ll study, what tools we will use to gather information, how we will analyze that information carefully, and what conclusions we will draw from it. We will also look closely at what the findings mean and how they add to what we already know, the ideas we are working with, and how they can be useful in our field. This thorough analysis involves looking at the results in connection with the questions we asked at the start and the big ideas we are exploring, while also thinking about what they might mean for other important areas. Collaboration could be key in this step. Just as we gather to play beautiful chamber music, collaborate with colleagues that may have additional knowledge in this area, approach them and develop your idea in a multidisciplinary way. 

Create a Writing Roadmap

Creating an outline for presenting your writing is essential to maintain clarity and coherence throughout your work. Remember Step 1? This is where your grasp of writing structures and tendencies becomes invaluable in organizing your writing process effectively. Consider these questions to initiate an initial outline: 

  • What is your idea? 
  • What sparked your interest in it? 
  • What insights have other authors or performers shared? 
  • How did you approach your methodology? 
  • What data did you collect, and how did you analyze it? 
  • What were the key findings, and how do they contribute to our profession? 
  • Why is it important to disseminate them? 

Ensure you iterate through several drafts and seek feedback from peers and mentors. Crafting a roadmap for written contributions ensures that our ideas are effectively communicated with clarity and impact, much like crafting engaging lesson plans or conducting focused practice sessions. Once you feel confident with your outline, begin writing without self-judgment; allow yourself to simply type! Stick to your outline, but don’t hesitate to make adjustments for better flow if needed. Much like practicing an instrument, this stage represents full engagement in practice: experimenting with specific strategies and refining particular sections.

Decide Where to Publish

Just as we can sense when our repertoire is ready for the stage, we also know when our written work is prepared to be shared. Whether through academic journals, book chapters, or magazines, sharing our work enhances communication skills, professional growth, and advances our field. Similar to selecting the ideal venue and format for a recital, deciding where to publish prompts us to find platforms where our contributions align well. After completing our written work and reflecting on “Step 1,” we can determine which journal or magazine best suits our work. There are research-specific journals as well as those catering to practitioners. Understanding the purpose of each publication can assist us in making this decision. In the music field, there are a number of journals, including Piano Magazine and the recently launched Journal of Piano Research. We should consider all options, and after reviewing previous research, we can gauge the expected contributions and target audience. 

Recognizing writing as an art form encourages us to engage in a journey of creativity and purposeful expression. Through the process of exploration, refinement, and sharing, we achieve transformative musical and teaching outcomes. Just as musical performance brings compositions to life, as writers we can give vitality and resonance to our ideas, enriching our collective discourse and advancing our field.

Go to journalofpianoresearch.org/ to learn more about this new publication!

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notes
  1. Suzzane Hidi and K. Ann Renninger, “The Four-Phase Model of Interest Development,” Educational Psychologist 41, no. 2 (2006): 111-127.

Walk a mile in your neighbor’s shoes: Diversity in the teaching studio



We would like to thank Bennyce Hamilton and Rachel Kramer for this insightful article on diversity in the teaching studio. Want to learn more about DEI? Check out our new course, Piano Teaching through the Lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The course is now available for presale purchase. Click here to learn more.

Connor Chee, Ann DuHamel, Leah Claiborne, and Sara Davis Buechner at NCKP 2023: The Piano Conference.

Music is the universal language.

This phrase has been in my vocabulary since I was young enough to understand what it meant. As I have become a performing musician, music educator, and community arts participant, I continue to believe the statement is true. However, as I look at the faces in my studio and consider the studios of my colleagues, I wonder just how “universal” we really are. Who exactly has a seat in our studio? Are there more seats for students of a certain background? For most of us we set a table of convenience, with seats for those in our immediate community who are interested, educated, and able to pay. While it is not our intention to exclude anyone or refuse students, to diversify means that we must do so with intention. Take a moment to consider the faces that populate your studio. What percentages are white, Christian, educated, heterosexual, and middle class? Whether you know the number or have not thought about it— the time for an honest, reflective conversation is long overdue. We need to address diversity deliberately and intentionally within our everyday lives and within our studios. Maya Angelou may be right when she said, “We are more alike than unalike, my friends.” Our understanding and appreciation of diversity remains a crucial step in building and maintaining community. How do we find common ground? How are we being mindful of the differences that exist? How can we change our mindsets to be more inclusive? Our own educational background is heaped in the traditions of Western music. Does this limit our vision or the population of our studios? 

Let change begin

Change begins with awareness of ourselves and of our communities. Initiating conversations about diversity may be the first actions we take. Dr. Bennyce Hamilton is the Regional Director of Diversity for Miami University of Ohio. Her work in leading workshops, providing training, and developing “common ground” understanding helps people recognize different points of view and see what it feels like to walk in another’s shoes. Dr. Hamilton’s dissertation presents the idea of becoming a reflexive, culturally-relevant practitioner. Based on her research and current work we will lay the groundwork for all of us to become more intentionally inclusive in our studios. —Rachel Kramer

Where to begin

Beginning the work of inclusion and diversity means that we acknowledge that there are students who are from all faiths/beliefs, races, and socioeconomic levels. This could mean that we need to change our registration forms to say “Guardians,” instead of Mom and Dad. This could mean that we need to change or add to our recital themes or holiday breaks. We must be intentional and purposeful. It is not enough to think or say that you want your business to reflect a diverse population. We must actively seek out those who are not represented. Thinking about our current students: Do they all come from the same neighborhoods and schools? Are they all white? Are they all Christian? Can they all afford music lessons? Do they all have a Mom and Dad? It is only after we have addressed these kinds of questions that we can begin to operate differently. Intention means that we go above and beyond our usual way of conducting business. Intention means that we are deliberate in how we find students, the materials and methods we use, and how we retain students. We must acknowledge that we do not have all of the answers and that we can ask for help.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Bennyce Hamilton and Rachel Kramer’s article “Walk a mile in your neighbor’s shoes: Diversity in the teaching studio.” You can learn more about diversity in the teaching studio by purchasing our newest course, Piano Teaching through the Lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Learn more by clicking here.

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Reflections on the Postgraduate Teaching Program



We would like to thank Allison Shinnick Keep for this insightful article on The New School for Music Study’s Postgraduate Teaching Program. Want to learn more about the Postgraduate Teaching Program? Learn more and apply by clicking here.

There are experiences in life that change you slowly over long periods of time, and others that seem to change you in an instant. My experience as a postgraduate fellow at The New School for Music study somehow did both. I experienced daily “lightbulb moments” while observing my mentors and colleagues and felt instantly changed. And yet, I was still surprised at the conclusion of the year: I had transformed. Not only had my teaching transformed, my approach to living life as a musician had transformed. Slowly, day by day, through teaching, observing, reflecting, and engaging, I was growing into a musician and teacher I’d only previously dreamed of becoming.

At the conclusion of my masters program, I found myself burnt out, tired, and aimless, as many young musicians might experience at the end of a degree. Even though my studies had been full of inspiring lessons, collaborative performances, and new teaching experiences, years of academia and striving for the next degree left me with a weary spirit. I knew I still loved and desired a life full of music, but I wasn’t sure how to keep on without burning out even more. Today, I enjoy a life that is filled to the brim with music teaching and performing, and I often forget that I faced those dark feelings nearly eight years ago. My time at The New School reignited my passion and provided me with pedagogical and professional tools that I continue to apply in each new iteration of my career.

Several mentors had encouraged me to apply for the Postgraduate Teaching Fellowship (now the Postgraduate Teaching Program) and I was well aware of the school’s reputation and deep pedagogical history. Even though my future was unclear, I thought “I know teaching piano will always be something I could do, so I might as well go somewhere I know I’ll be taught to do it well.” I can now confidently say that not only did I learn to do it well, but now teaching piano is indeed what I want to be doing. I laugh at my initial reluctance to move across the country, for what unfolded over the course of the next year became the most life-changing experience of my 20s.

I could compile a list of teaching tips, lesson plan guidelines, or favorite teaching repertoire—all of which I certainly gained through my time at the New School and utilize daily in my teaching; however, none of this could encapsulate the magic that’s found inside the walls of the New School. The most impactful aspect of the postgraduate fellowship program was being immersed in a community of loving, encouraging, and inspiring colleagues.

I was especially struck by the integrity and camaraderie of the faculty. Each faculty member is an outstanding teacher in their own right, yet among them you find true humility and a desire to share in the journey of teaching. The faculty at the New School are uniquely collaborative. As a fellow, I wasn’t considered second-tier, but I was immediately embraced as a member of the team. By co-teaching group classes and observing many different colleagues, I gained a coveted look behind the scenes of not just one, but of fifteen master teachers.

With a shared mission of excellence in teaching, the faculty at the New School are one in spirit and always willing to lend a hand or offer advice. As a young teacher, my knowledge of repertoire was limited, but when I had questions about appropriate pieces for my students, fellow faculty members were eager to offer suggestions and tips. I was inspired to see that though teachers set high standards for their students, joy was also found in the small victories in lessons with beginning and advanced students alike.

Prior to my fellowship year, I felt comfortable teaching particular pieces to particular age groups. By the end of my fellowship year, I felt equipped to tackle lessons with students of any age playing any level of repertoire. Through the generosity of my colleagues and their enthusiasm for sharing their own teaching expertise, in a year’s time, I benefited from decades of thoughtful, dedicated teaching practice.

Though life has now taken me away from New Jersey, the New School will always feel like home. It’s where I grew up as a teacher and inside it are many colleagues who have become life-long friends and mentors.

My time at the New School changed me. I truly cannot imagine what my life would look like had I not been a fellow at the New School. Not only did I gain invaluable practical skills and professional connections, I also absorbed the energy and love of teaching that surrounded me every day. I will be forever grateful for the mark that the New School has left on my life.

Learn more about teaching and professional development opportunities at The New School for Music Study by clicking here.

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Cultivating Brave Spaces in the Piano Studio Using DEI Repertoire and Practices



We would like to thank Penny Lazarus for this insightful article on inclusive programming. Want to learn more about Penny Lazarus’s work in DEI and her thoughts on inclusive programming? Lazarus is a contributor for our new course, Piano Teaching through the Lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The course is now available for presale purchase. Click here to learn more.

I am an independent music teacher with a 45-student piano studio in Newburyport, MA. Like you, I always wanted our piano recitals to engage and help my students connect expressively with their music beyond just notes on a page. I think you will recognize the recital themes I used before 2015.

Previous Recital Plans: “Beethoven and Friends,” “History of the Piano,” “Water Music,” “Carnival of the Animals,” “My Favorite Things,” and “Pictures of an Exhibition.”

In 2016, a new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, came out. I created a practice challenge based on that movie, pretending “The First Order” bans all music. Our students had to preserve the world’s music until “The Resistance” could find Jedi Luke Skywalker and restore the universe. For every piece learned, my students added a glow-in-the-dark star to the ceiling of my studio. They tended to group their stars into distinct separate “neighborhoods” representing individual symbols of achievement. Dismayed by these walled-off individual neighborhoods, the following week, I laid out a map of our solar system. From then on, students placed their stars to match the constellations of our universal night sky. We celebrated music making together in an informal recital under our glowing stars and a feeling of community in the studio was born.

Penny Lazarus

Profound Purpose and Piano Study: Parallel Paths

I couldn’t shake the feeling that entire countries had cultural bans in place that severely limited the study of music, art, and literature. The following year, 2017, I decided to explore Eastern European music, a topic I knew little about except the work of Béla Bartók. It takes some trust in the universe “to go where one hasn’t been before” as a piano teacher. But it is invigorating to explore a new topic. I mentioned this to an acquaintance and learned her husband was working with the Peace Corp in Albania, a country in the Balkans. He had befriended a wonderful Albanian composer Alban Dhamo. I learned Albania only recently emerged from five decades of an oppressive dictatorship that banned all cultural practices. Alban and his wife Erinda Agolli, an opera singer, helped launch the Lincoln Center for the Arts, named after Abraham Lincoln, in the capital city Tirana, to restore piano lessons for local children. The school had only a few electric keyboards and little music. We created a cultural exchange: Alban wrote twenty pieces for our studio, based on Bartók’s Albums for Children, using Albanian folk melodies. We raised money to send over a hundred leveled-music books. Alban’s Balkan rhythms were tricky, but I witnessed new energy from my students who practiced harder than ever, because they had a personal stake and a responsibility for engaging with a living composer in another part of the world. When they played Alban’s pieces during a Facetime recital, the composer was brought to tears.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Penny Lazarus’s article “Cultivating Brave Spaces in the Piano Studio Using DEI Repertoire and Practices.” You can read more by purchasing our newest course, Piano Teaching through the Lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Learn more by clicking here.

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Spring 2021: Pupil Saver: Adagio in F Minor by Chevalier de Saint-Georges



We would like to thank Leah Claiborne for this insightful article on Chevalier de Saint-Georges’s Adagio in F Minor. Want to hear more about Leah Claiborne’s research and work at the Center? Check out the latest installment of the Piano Inspires Podcast. In this episode, Craig Sale and Leah engage in an inspiring conversation about her musical and personal journey. To learn more, visit pianoinspires.com. Listen to our latest episode with Leah Claiborne on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or our website!

Can you imagine performing a piece by a Black composer who was born into slavery? What a piece of history you would have at your fingertips!

Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799) was a virtuoso violinist, conductor, and composer. Born in Guadeloupe, his father was a wealthy plantation owner and his mother was enslaved on the plantation. His father took him to Paris, France when he was seven years old to further his education. He became a leading concertmaster in Paris, performing his own violin concerti, and concerti that were dedicated to him by other leading composers of the time. Some of these composers include Antonio Lolli and Carl Stamitz. Chevalier de Saint-Georges composed operas, solo vocal and instrumental works, chamber music, and symphonies. All of the music that this composer created is hardly ever performed, but that can change right now by incorporating Adagio in F Minor into your repertoire.

Adagio in F Minor is a solemn, expressive piece that would be a wonderful predecessor before a student tackles Clementi sonatinas. It can be challenging for teachers to find music that bridges the gap between method book repertoire and sonatinas, as well as the transition from sonatinas to sonatas. Adagio in F Minor fits perfectly into an early-intermediate pianist’s studies. This piano piece in F minor features a melancholic melody with expressive harmonic support (see Excerpt 1). The musical maturity needed for this piece often makes this a favorite amongst intermediate adult students as well. 

Excerpt 1: Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Adagio in F Minor, mm. 1-4

CHALLENGE #1

The student is asked to perform scale passages in thirds in the right hand (see Excerpt 2). The thirds in Adagio in F Minor are beautifully intertwined with the melody and should be voiced to the top note. A similar example of right-hand thirds being used as the melody in the teaching repertoire is found in Czerny’s 100 Progressive Studies, Op. 139, No. 38 in G major, which can be a great companion etude when a student is learning this piece (see Excerpt 3). 

Excerpt 2: Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Adagio in F Minor, mm. 8-10.
Excerpt 3: Carl Czerny, 100 Progressive Studies, Op. 139, No. 38, mm. 1-4.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Leah Claibornes’s article “Spring 2021: Pupil Saver: Adagio in F Minor by Chevalier de Saint-Georges.” You can read more by clicking here.

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A Valentine’s Tribute to Transformational Piano Teachers



Share the love this Valentine’s Day by honoring piano teachers who are working every day to make the world more kind, inclusive, and connected through the transformational power of music. We welcome you to celebrate your own teacher by sharing a tribute with us and donating to the Frances Clark Center. Students, parents, and colleagues are honoring piano teachers from their communities as part of the “Power of a Piano Teacher” campaign.

Paula Flynn with her teacher, Eric Unruh.

The teachers featured here are making profound contributions to students at all stages, from the youngest beginners to college students, and to those who study later in life. These inspirational, personal stories testify to the timeless impact piano teachers have on their students and their communities.

Join us by honoring your teacher today through the “Power of a Piano Teacher” campaign.

Barbara Gill honors Vedrana Subotic from Salt Lake City, UT

From studio to stage, Dr. Vedrana Subotic has been such a caring mentor and friend to me for over 20 years. Her artistry, pacing, and tone distinguish her as a fabulous performer, and her kindness and concern for her students extend past graduation. A life lesson she taught me was to follow-through whether it was in a crescendo to an arrival or in life. If I said I would do something, she expected me to do it! Vedrana was the first teacher to make me practice in front of her. She taught me to think of how simple the piano is to play (left, right, or hands together), and yet how many colors can be made on the instrument. I love that Dr. Vedrana Subotic came to Salt Lake City many years ago and I’d like to think it was just for me!

Jeremy Adriano honors Eileen Evans from Surprise, AZ

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the wonderful Eileen Evans as my childhood piano teacher. When I think back to my time in her studio, I remember a cherished home. The atmosphere was consistently warm and inviting, creating a sense of coziness that made playing during my piano lessons a truly relaxed experience. Inspired by those fond memories, I’ve crafted my own home piano studio with the same intention—ensuring that my students feel the same comforting warmth, coziness, and relaxation during their lessons.

Paula Flynn honors Eric Unruh from Casper, WY

I had been teaching piano in my home for about 16 years when I decided to go back to college and seek a degree in music education. I was a 37-year-old, non-traditional student at a community college. I had it in my head that I already knew what I needed, I just needed the degree. I declared the piano as my primary instrument and was thankfully placed in Dr. Eric Unruh’s studio. During the first week of class he assigned me Mozart’s Piano Sonata in F Major, K.332. I went home and quickly devoured the first movement, arriving back in his studio the following week ready to “show him a thing or two” about “all that I knew.” He offered me, instead, the opportunity to eat a heaping helping of humble pie. I had all eight pages ready to go, but we didn’t move past page one. Every Mozartean nuance was found on that first page and we grilled and drilled. After my first lesson, I realized how much I still had to learn, that I had an excellent and kind teacher ready to help me grow. His patience with me, his use of metaphors, his references to Jane Austen novels and so much more helped me discover a deeper level of music making. I cherish his continued friendship all of these years later. I still seek his counsel on pieces as I now realize fully that I still have so much to learn. Thank you, Eric! Much love!

Wendy Bachman honors Louise Goss

From the first moment that I stepped into my teaching audition at The New School for Music Study in 1988, Louise’s big smile made me feel at ease. Her positive tone of voice and willingness to help was a constant. When working with the students and modeling how to teach concepts, she always conveyed the utmost in enthusiasm. My favorite way of teaching triplets with the full-body arm swing is from Louise. Every time I teach it, I always tell my students, “This is how Louise taught us” as we enthusiastically say “1 a la, 2 a la.” As a graduate student in the Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Performance program, I was preparing to get married the same day as I graduated! I was busy with my studies and had not given a lot of thought to the wedding plans. Louise kindly stepped in and asked if she could help me plan my wedding! We drove out to have lunch at the place she thought would be perfect for the reception. I was more than thrilled that Louise Goss and Frances Clark could be guests at my wedding. The years after graduation we kept in touch with cards and gifts as our family started. Louise’s words of encouragement still mean so much as I read those cards today. I am grateful beyond words. 

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Vision, Dedication, and Multiplication: Honoring Janet Tschida



We would like to thank Makayla Stevenson for this tribute to her teacher, Janet Tschida. As we continue the season of gratitude and giving, we pay tribute to piano teachers from around the country who are transforming the lives of their students. Students, parents, and colleagues are honoring piano teachers from their communities as part of the “Power of a Piano Teacher” campaign. We welcome you to celebrate your own teacher by sharing a tribute with us and donating to The Frances Clark Center.

Makayla Stevenson with her teacher, Janet Tschida.

“Students don’t learn because of what teachers say. Students learn because of what teachers have them DO!” Three years after completing my undergraduate degree, Janet Tschida’s words replay in my mind, reminding me of the influence that we as piano teachers can have in the lives of our students.

Residents of Watertown, Wisconsin know Janet Tschida as associate professor at Maranatha Baptist University and director of Maranatha Music Prep School, the community’s music education program. Maranatha Music Prep School is uniquely structured to allow pedagogy interns from the university to teach local students, providing undergraduate students with valuable teaching experience and fostering connections in the community.

As a piano pedagogy graduate of MBU and an intern at the prep school, I had the privilege of gleaning from Miss Tschida’s wisdom, knowledge, and experience almost daily for four years. As I reflect on what she has imparted to me and countless others, three words come to mind: vision, dedication, and multiplication.

Janet Tschida taught us to see beyond the four walls of the music studio. She, like Frances Clark, taught us that as teachers, we teach the student first, music second, and piano third. Miss Tschida may teach in a small town in the Midwest, but her vision is global and generational. She has the unique ability to be in the moment and see beyond it, to teach Baroque performance practice while understanding that she is influencing the destinies of generations to come. At the end of my freshman year, I met with her to discuss dropping my pedagogy concentration, as I was not particularly interested in teaching music. She kindly but firmly informed me that I had great potential as a teacher and that this was not a decision to be made hastily. As a result of her input, I reconsidered my decision and am grateful that I did. As a visionary, she could see what I could not, and she taught me that day to always see the potential in my students just as she had seen it in me.

If there is one word that consistently describes Janet Tschida in the minds of those who know her, it is dedicated. She has high standards of excellence for herself, and she encourages her students to strive for the same. One of her educational pursuits is to research topics from other disciplines, often entirely unrelated to music, and apply those insights to music education. She would encourage us to do the same: to always be learning something new, to glean from other fields, and to continually evaluate our own progress in every area of life. As students, we saw Miss Tschida exemplify this dedication to excellence. She would teach long days, pour into her piano students and interns, complete never-ending administrative tasks, and gladly repeat the process the next day. Perhaps it was her vision, her dedication, or both—but somehow she seemed to accomplish more in a year than most people do in a lifetime.

Or perhaps it was that she knew the power of multiplication. Janet Tschida knew that when she taught her classic “Prepare, Present, Practice” lesson to the freshman piano pedagogy class, she was actually changing the lives of twenty-second and twenty-third century musicians. She knew that every time she met with student interns to discuss their weekly teaching videos, she was training the next generation of educators, performers, researchers, and innovators. She knew the power of multiplication—that what she taught would change lives in the generations to come.

Janet Tschida taught me the influence that one teacher can have. She encouraged me to have a vision greater than the present reality and to dedicate myself to the pursuit of excellence. In so doing, she taught me that a piano teacher can truly make a difference, one student at a time.

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Carla Salas-Ruiz holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Costa Rica and a Master’s and PhD from Louisiana State University. She is a piano instructor at Brazosport College, dedicated to fostering a supportive, inclusive, and stimulating learning environment. Her research focuses on motivation, interest development, and effective practice strategies in piano education. Carla has presented her research at national and international conferences and contributed to research journals.

The Gift that Keeps Giving: Honoring Marvin Blickenstaff



We would like to thank Arlene Steffen for this tribute to her teacher, Marvin Blickenstaff. As we continue the season of gratitude and giving, we pay tribute to piano teachers from around the country who are transforming the lives of their students. Students, parents, and colleagues are honoring piano teachers from their communities as part of the “Power of a Piano Teacher” campaign. We welcome you to celebrate your own teacher by sharing a tribute with us and donating to The Frances Clark Center.

Sometimes you get a gift and you don’t really realize its value initially. When I studied with Marvin Blickenstaff at Goshen College, I didn’t realize the many gifts I was being given—gifts that have appreciated over time—gifts of training, mentorship, collegiality, and, most of all, love and friendship.

Marvin invests not only in his students’ musical growth and development, but in the person, the relationship.

As a freshman listening to students in the practice rooms, I knew I didn’t measure up, but when I had my first lessons, I knew there was a chance I could get better. The first week of the semester, Marvin asked me to come in for three lessons. He was investing in my future as a musician, but he also began building my self confidence. Each lesson he met me where I was and gave me the encouragement and affirmation to move forward. His door was always open to help me practice or to give advice. 

Marvin Blickenstaff with Arlene Steffen.

Marvin never misses an opportunity to tell you how much he values you. He always wants to know what’s going on in your life both professionally and personally. He’ll hit you up for a recipe, tell you about his latest family gathering or trip, praise your recent accomplishments and take you to dinner. He’ll ask your recommendations for music to play at church, admire your latest studio project, and offer prayers on your behalf.

Every time I step into my studio, I do my best to channel his gracious spirit, his insightful mind, his ability to ask just the right question, and most of all, his pursuit of beauty through music. 

While the public sees a gregarious man full of enthusiasm, knowledge, and skill, what really is on display is love, a direct result of his deep faith in God, handed down to him from his loving parents and molded through a lifetime of hard work, difficulties, disappointments, and joy. He gives tirelessly, knowing that serving others is the best way of showing love.

Marvin taught me to be not only a better musician, but a better person. 

Marvin is the gift that keeps on giving. His legacy lives in every student he has taught, and through those of us who teach, it flows into the lives of our students.


The Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence

In 2023, the Frances Clark Center established the Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence in honor of his legacy as a pedagogue. This division of The Frances Clark Center encompasses inclusive teaching programs, teacher education, courses, performance, advocacy, publications, research, and resources that support excellence in piano teaching and learning. To learn more about the Institute, please visit this page.

We extend a heartfelt invitation to join us in commemorating Marvin Blickenstaff’s remarkable contributions by making a donation in his honor. Your generous contribution will help us continue his inspiring work and uphold the standards of excellence in piano teaching and learning for generations to come. To make a meaningful contribution, please visit our donation page today. Thank you for being a part of this legacy.

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Remaking Ourselves and the Standard Canon: Perspectives and Resources for Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Classical Music



We would like to thank Nicholas Reynolds for this insightful article on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the classical music world. Did you hear about our new course—Piano Teaching through the Lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? Join us on February 21st at 11:00am ET for a discussion of this new course in our webinar titled: Introduction to the Frances Clark Center’s New Online Course: Piano Teaching through the Lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Learn more and register by clicking here. You can also purchase the course on presale! Click here to learn more.

The life-altering events of the past year have been a wake-up call for all of us to reassess our values and practices as artists and educators. Our musical community has developed a collective sense of advocacy and accountability that has been tremendously overdue, geared towards a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable field of music. Many of us may consider ourselves supporters, advocates, and allies, but how do we ensure that we use our good intentions to become true and respectful agents of change? Our language, tools, resources, and approaches need constant internal and external reassessment; our goal is a moving target that we must always and continuously strive towards. A good place to start is a common understanding of the language—what do the terms diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to each of us, and how do we make sure we are constantly upholding these values?

The term diversity embraces not only the equitable representation of people of different backgrounds, lived experiences, and perspectives, but also the way we understand and honor the ways in which people are unique. The diversity that we strive for in our communities can be reflected in our musical lives as well, from the repertoire we perform and assign students, to guest artists we invite to our schools, to hiring practices at our institutions. However, diversity in itself is insufficient unless it is in tandem with the values of equity and inclusion. Equity ensures that all groups and individuals have what they need in order to be successful; it also recognizes the agency of those who are under-represented and marginalized and respects their role in decision-making situations. Inclusion invites us to listen to our differences and treat others with respect regardless of those differences; it means choosing a language that doesn’t inadvertently exclude or insult others and striving to be informed and respectful of our differences.

Racial and gender diversity have been at the forefront of the DEI movement in classical music given the historically perpetuated marginalization of BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) and women composers. To Brazilian pianist Daniel Inamorato, founder of The Toy Piano Sanctuary and Neurodiversity Music Institute, the conversation about diversity in classical music should not only include racial and gender identity, but also diverse physical and neurological abilities. Based on his experience working with students of many such backgrounds, Inamorato reminds us that students and artists can possess one or a mix of distinguishing traits, and it can be insensitive and alienating to categorize them based on one single kind of diversity. Avoiding assumptions and stereotyping, as well as being invested in their individual identity, is a mindset we can constantly advocate for in every aspect of our musical and personal lives.

Both music and society have changed immensely in the past 400 years, yet the repertoire in our traditional canon still includes very few works by historically underrepresented composers and new compositions. Rethinking our traditional repertoire selections, even one bit at a time, can have a great potential to reflect the changes we want to see in our society and to inspire and empower future generations of artists, teachers, supporters, and leaders. However, when it comes time to program a concert or assign pieces to students, many of us may struggle to find inclusive and diverse elementary and intermediate repertoire that is age and level appropriate. 

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Nicholas Reynold’s article “Remaking Ourselves and the Standard Canon: Perspectives and Resources for Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Classical Music.” You can read more by clicking here.

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Celebrating Black History Month



From February 1-29, we celebrate Black History Month, a time to honor and reflect upon the remarkable music and contributions of Black people. In this Discovery Page post, we have curated a collection of Piano Inspires resources to help everyone discover something new. From our international webinar series, to articles in Piano Magazine and Piano Inspires Kids, to our online course, Unsung Heroes in Piano Pedagogy: 20 Pieces by Black Composers to Use in Your Studio Now, there is so much to discover! In March 2024 we will release a new course: Piano Teaching through the Lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which is currently available for presale purchase. We hope these resources will provide useful tips and ideas to help you incorporate music by Black composers into your recital programs, lesson plans, and more.

Courses:

Unsung Heroes in Piano Pedagogy: 20 Pieces by Black Composers to Use in Your Studio Now is a fully online course exploring classical piano music by Black composers from elementary to early advanced levels. This course is designed to help remedy the lack of inclusion of piano music by Black composers in the standard teaching repertoire, and the music heard on the public concert stage.

Piano Teaching through the Lens of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will be released in March 2024, but is available for presale today! This course aims to equip teachers with knowledge on how to evaluate their teaching material and how to effectively incorporate diverse literature into the teaching studio. In addition, it provides examples on how various teachers have created more opportunities for diverse populations to gain access to piano instruction. 

Inspiring Artistry Video Series:

From the Artist Bench Series:

Magazine Article: Awadagin Pratt: Pianist, Conductor, Music Education Advocate by Artina McCain

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing concert pianist, conductor, and professor at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Awadagin Pratt. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Awadagin Pratt has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins, an honorary doctorate from Illinois Wesleyan University, and an Avery Fisher Grant. In November 2009, Pratt was one of four artists selected to perform at a music event at the White House that included student workshops hosted by the First Lady, Michelle Obama. He also performed in concert for guests including President Obama. He has played numerous recitals throughout the United States and internationally, including four tours of Japan. We had a great chat about his historic career, the competition his foundation will sponsor, and—BBQ!

Artina McCain

Tell me about your early exposure to music.

Awadagin Pratt

My father listened to classical music in our home. He was a nuclear physicist, but he loved music and actually played the organ as a child. He would often record from the radio to the old reel-to-reel tape machines. It was the only music in the house, and I liked it. My parents started me with piano lessons when I was six, but when we moved to Brazil for a year, I stopped taking lessons. I restarted piano lessons when I was eight and then began taking violin lessons when I was nine.

Read more of Artina McCain’s interview with Awadagin Pratt by clicking here.

Teacher Education Webinar Series:

Piano Inspires Kids:

In Autumn 2023, the Frances Clark Center launched a new initiative, Piano Inspires Kids, a magazine for young pianists developed by Editors-in-Chief Sara Ernst and Andrea McAlister. Through each quarterly issue, readers explore piano playing, composers, music from around the world, and music theory. The format is engaging and varied with listening guides, interviews, student submissions, music in the news, and games. The magazine includes an array of musical styles and genres, both from the past and present day. In addition, creative skills like improvisation, playing by ear, and composition are explored in step-by-step processes. Young pianists are directed to curated online content to deepen their engagement with the piano community.

The latest issue celebrates Florence Price. The issue includes a biography of Price along with an introduction to some of her piano works including the Piano Sonata in E Minor and her pedagogical piece The Goblin and the Mosquito. It also includes a short interview with pianist Karen Walwyn, a champion of Price’s music, along with new music composed by Artina McCain! To learn more, or to subscribe, go to kids.pianoinspires.com


Novembro de 2023: O Corpo e a Pulsação: Desenvolvendo Ritmo através de Movimento Consciente

O movimento, para as crianças, é necessário para a aprendizagem. Os corpos jovens são receptores sensoriais afinados que coletam informações, curiosos e ansiosos para explorar o mundo ao seu redor.1 A criança está em um período de sensibilidade para adquirir consciência cinestésica e sensorial, juntamente com a consciência de seus próprios pensamentos e emoções – que às vezes parecem excessivos. Aprender através do movimento permite que as crianças se envolvam em experiências alegres e intuitivas que levam a hábitos auditivos produtivos. Este envolvimento lúdico mantém os alunos atentos aos seus corpos, ao mesmo tempo que permite que conceitos abstratos como a notação rítmica cresçam a partir de experiências naturais.

A alegria de se mover e responder à música é inata, como pode ser visto em bebês que dançam movendo seus corpos ao som da música, antes mesmo de saberem andar. Existem fortes conexões bidirecionais no cérebro humano entre nosso córtex auditivo e o centro de controle motor.2 O impulso rítmico é a força motriz por trás de toda música, e os alunos que não desenvolvem um forte senso de pulsação no início de seus estudos musicais poderão mais tarde carecer de fraseado, fluência e impulso; em suma, eles não soarão musicais.

No entanto, para muitos professores, a forma como trabalhamos com o ritmo é mais matemática do que musical; os alunos podem aprender a “contar”, mas não a sentir verdadeiramente o impulso rítmico em seus corpos. A ênfase não deve ser apenas na leitura rítmica, mas também na escuta e na resposta aos padrões rítmicos. Embora qualquer conceito musical possa ser experimentado como movimento de todo o corpo, ele é ideal para a internalização da pulsação e a experiência de tempos, métricas e padrões rítmicos contrastantes.

O movimento não é apenas uma forma de proporcionar uma “pausa” na aprendizagem; além disso, é crucial para o desenvolvimento do cérebro da criança.

Os benefícios do movimento consciente

Quando a prática rítmica é combinada com movimentos lentos e integrados, e particularmente quando usada correlativamente com a respiração, os benefícios são ampliados. O impacto positivo do movimento consciente nas habilidades cognitivas, físicas e emocionais foi bem documentado em pesquisas, com benefícios físicos incluindo melhor coordenação, consciência corporal e estabilidade postural.

O movimento consciente também aumenta a concentração e a atenção, aumenta a memória e melhora o conjunto de habilidades mentais chamadas “habilidades de funções executivas”, que incluem a capacidade de planejar, organizar e manter o foco nas tarefas enquanto resiste às distrações. Ele aumenta a mielinização entre os dois hemisférios cerebrais, permitindo o processamento integrativo em todo o cérebro, e alivia o estresse, resultando em melhor audição, compreensão e retenção de conceitos.3

Existem benefícios musicais também. O movimento consciente aumenta o processamento auditivo e a capacidade de resposta, e auxilia no desenvolvimento do sistema vestibular ou do ouvido interno, que está envolvido não apenas no equilíbrio e na orientação espacial, mas também no processamento da linguagem e na discriminação sonora. Com estes benefícios, o movimento consciente é particularmente benéfico para crianças com necessidades especiais, incluindo aquelas com TDAH, transtorno de processamento sensorial, ansiedade e autismo.4

Progressão do Desenvolvimento

Num processo conhecido como “progressão do desenvolvimento”, as crianças utilizam primeiro os músculos maiores do corpo, como os braços e as pernas, antes de desenvolverem força e destreza nas mãos. Nas aulas de música, as habilidades motoras finas se desenvolvem a partir de movimentos grosseiros de todo o corpo, que podem ser integrados a conceitos musicais que melhoram a discriminação auditiva. Os alunos podem aprender a internalizar o pulso usando movimentos como caminhar, balançar, pular, saltar, correr, chutar, bater os pés e balançar os braços ao som de uma peça musical.

Ouvir e responder a padrões rítmicos através do movimento leva à capacidade de traduzir símbolos na página como ritmos audiados – ritmos que são ouvidos na mente. Audiar ritmos internamente nos ajuda a criar música que tenha um forte senso de pulsação e fluência; um aluno que pratica definir o andamento “contando” um compasso que ouve em sua mente está audiando. A prática precoce da regência aprimora a audiação; os alunos que regem em tempos binário e ternário aprenderão, por contraste, a “sensação” desses diferentes padrões métricos. Os alunos podem usar habilidades motoras grossas para reger usando todo o corpo através de uma combinação de movimentos dependendo da métrica, podendo incluir mover os braços lateralmente ao corpo, amplamente para o lado, para a posição de oração e acima da cabeça (ver Figura 1 para um exemplo de movimento ternário).

Figura 1:
Pose de Montanha
Pose de Oração
Pose “Saudação Ascendente”

Desenvolvendo Fluência Rítmica

Alunos normalmente aprendem o conceito de pulsação (pulso), que pode ser comparado a um batimento cardíaco, antes do conceito de duração, muitas vezes começando com semínimas e depois passando para mínimas. Mas a ênfase na batida em si, normalmente através de palmas, não incorpora o movimento em direção ou além do pulso, da batida, que é o que faz a diferença entre uma performance metronômica e uma performance rítmica e musical. Como uma criança pulando corda, o pulso seria a corda batendo no chão, mas o movimento de aproximação e afastamento desse pulso ocorre em um movimento circular. Uma sensação de movimento para o próximo pulso forte dá energia a muitas peças, como na música de J. S. Bach.

Um conceito fundamental na euritmia de Dalcroze é que o fluxo musical ocorre a partir da sensação de três partes do pulso: anacruse (preparação); crusis (a batida); e metacruse (seguimento). Dalcroze também disse que o pulso têm três qualidades: tempo, espaço e energia.5 O movimento proporciona uma maneira ideal de sentir o espaço entre os pulsos porque os alunos podem experimentar como seus corpos devem se preparar, rápida ou lentamente, para cada pulso. Em vez de bater palmas, um “fluxo de braço” ilustra o ciclo de uma batida dentro de um padrão métrico: os alunos podem começar com os braços ao lado do corpo e gradualmente levantá-los acima da cabeça e depois colocá-los em posição de oração no centro do coração para um compasso completo (Vídeo 1; visite pianoinspires.com para ver os vídeos associados a este artigo).

Equilibrar o peso de todo o corpo movendo-se no espaço e transferir o peso de um lado para o outro do corpo durante a caminhada também ensina os alunos sobre o fluxo de energia. Os alunos podem mover-se perante a uma performance improvisada pelo professor, em tempos rápidos, médios e lentos, para experimentar como a mesma quantidade de energia pode ser usada para passos cada vez mais rápidos ou para passos mais longos, mais lentos. Para adicionar variedade com movimento integrado, os alunos podem usar de forma semelhante um “Walking Warrior”; com os braços acima da cabeça, eles colocariam um pé na frente do outro com o joelho dobrado na pose de ioga “Guerreiro I” para atravessar a sala enquanto ouvem a performance de um aluno ou professor (Vídeo 2; Figura 2).

Figura 2
Guerreiro I

Os alunos que começam a ler diretamente novas peças ao piano sem ouvir e cantar a música primeiro, terão maior probabilidade de tocar de forma não musical – com igual ênfase em cada pulso, num ritmo correto, mas metronômico, sem um sentido de direção para a frente. Em vez disso, os professores podem utilizar as três fases de preparação, apresentação e reforço para garantir que os alunos tenham um modelo auditivo forte de como a peça deve soar, talvez mesmo antes de a verem na página. Ao serem apresentados a novas peças, os alunos podem se movimentar enquanto ouvem a demonstração do professor; na fase de reforço, eles podem se mover enquanto ouvem a performance de um colega. Cantar letras bem escritas enquanto se movimentam ajuda a reforçar ainda mais a forma e o fluxo de cada frase.

Alinhando Respiração e Corpo

Cantores, instrumentistas de sopro e metais usam a respiração como um componente natural e intuitivo para formular decisões quanto ao fraseado. Infelizmente, os pianistas podem fazer música sem considerar a respiração, o que significa que muitas vezes perdemos esta oportunidade de sentir desde o início a configuração da frase e a estrutura rítmica nos nossos corpos, desde o princípio. Toda respiração pode ser praticada em correlação com o movimento consciente e a prática rítmica; no fluxo de braço mencionado acima, por exemplo, em vez de cantar, os alunos podem inspirar ao levantar os braços em duas semínimas e expirar ao abaixar os braços em uma mínima. Quando respiramos conscientemente enquanto nos movemos, aprendemos a prestar atenção à respiração, ganhando maior controle sobre ela em situações de performance quando os níveis de estresse são maiores.

Em conexão com o movimento, os alunos normalmente devem inspirar para levantar e expandir o corpo (como ficar de pé ou estender-se para trás) e expirar para abaixar, fechar ou manter a extensão axial. Tipos específicos de respiração podem ser usados para aumentar ou diminuir a energia. As técnicas que provocam a resposta parassimpática são apropriadas quando o nível de energia da turma é muito alto ou quando os alunos parecem ansiosos ou frustrados. Com a “respiração de balão”, os alunos podem imaginar encher um balão na barriga a cada inspiração para uma respiração diafragmática calmante, talvez enquanto batem ritmos na barriga. O “bafo de coelho”, por outro lado, aumenta a energia; envolve inspirar três vezes e depois expirar continuamente pelo nariz contando até três (Figura 3). Os alunos podem praticar esta respiração enquanto regem ou tocam padrões ternários.

Figura 3:
Inspirar-Inspirar-Inspirar | Expirar
Bafo de Coelho

Movimento Translateral

Os terapeutas ocupacionais referem-se à atividade de mover uma parte do corpo para o outro lado do corpo como movimento “transversal lateral” ou “cruzamento da linha média”. A “linha média” é uma linha vertical imaginária que separa as metades esquerda e direita do corpo. As crianças que têm dificuldade em cruzar essa linha muitas vezes têm dificuldade para ler, escrever e sincronizar as habilidades motoras finas e grossas. O movimento transversal fortalece as vias das células nervosas que ligam ambos os lados do cérebro através do corpus callosum.6 Esses exercícios, que podem ser usados como “pausas cerebrais” no meio de uma aula, são particularmente benéficos para a integração do cérebro e ajudam a desenvolver a coordenação e foco.

 Os movimentos físicos solidificam novas informações nas redes nervosas.

Os alunos podem movimentar-se através de poses trans-laterais em resposta rítmica a uma peça musical, regendo, dançando com lenços em um movimento de figura 8 ou batendo palmas com parceiros ao som de músicas como “Hot Cross Buns” ou “Pat-a-Cake”. Os alunos podem mover-se ao ritmo de uma peça em pé ou sentados na “pose de borrifador” (Figura 4) e girando de um lado para o outro com as mãos nos ombros. Na “cegonha marchando” (Figura 5), os alunos batem uma mão de cada vez no joelho oposto enquanto marcham no ritmo. Em vez de caminhar, os alunos também podem praticar “natação”, onde dão um passo à frente com um pé e “nadam” o braço oposto para a frente ao mesmo tempo. Para facilitar o aprendizado, os alunos podem colocar adesivos coloridos em mãos e pés opostos. Canções folclóricas conhecidas também podem ser usadas para vincular o movimento ao canto; por exemplo, os alunos podem ficar em “pose de estrela” (Figura 6) com as pernas bem afastadas e colocar uma mão de cada vez no chão enquanto cantam “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.

Estabilidade Postural

Algumas habilidades básicas que precisam ser implementadas para o desenvolvimento de habilidades motoras finas incluem força e estabilidade do ombro, cotovelo e punho. Nos músicos, uma estabilidade central permite uma postura mais equilibrada, maior liberdade e amplitude de movimento dos membros, mais potência para controle do som e redução do risco de lesões. Para reforçar a estabilidade postural enquanto seguem ao som de uma canção folclórica bem conhecida, os alunos podem sentar-se em “postura de barco” (Figura 7) com os dedos dos pés fora do chão  ou no chão, para estabilidade, e remar com os braços entrelaçados de um lado para o outro, enquanto cantam “Merrily We Roll Along” (Vídeo 3). A “postura de sapo” (Figura 8), um agachamento baixo, também desenvolve uma força central e a estabilidade postural.6 Os alunos podem praticar saltando da posição de agachamento para a posição em pé; este movimento poderia, por exemplo, ser usado para ajudar os alunos a sentir as “grandes batidas” (ou os tempos fortes) em compassos 6 por 4 (Vídeo 4).

Movimento Translateral
Figura 4: Pose de Borrifador
Figura 5: Cegonha Marchando
Figura 6: Pose de Estrela

Estabilidade Postural
Figura 7: Postura de Barco
Figura 8: Postura de Sapo

O movimento não é apenas uma forma de proporcionar uma “pausa” na aprendizagem; além disso, é crucial para o desenvolvimento do cérebro da criança. Os movimentos físicos solidificam novas informações nas redes nervosas. Se aproveitarmos as inclinações naturais dos nossos jovens alunos para se moverem e responderem com curiosidade à música que ouvem, podemos ajudá-los a internalizar a sua compreensão da pulsação, do gesto rítmico e da musicalidade desde o início de seus estudos musicais. Os benefícios a longo prazo de tal abordagem incluem maior prazer no estudo musical, bem como a capacidade de tocar com facilidade, fluência e musicalidade.

Se aproveitarmos as inclinações naturais dos nossos jovens alunos para se moverem e responderem com curiosidade à música que ouvem, podemos ajudá-los a internalizar a sua compreensão da pulsação, do gesto rítmico e da musicalidade desde o início de seus estudos musicais.


REFERÊNCIAS

1 Carla Hannaford, Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: Great River Books, 2005), 92.

2 Adriana Barton, Wired for Music: A Search for Health and Joy through the Science of Sound (Berkeley, CA: Greystone Books, 2022), 36.

3 Lesley McAllister, Yoga in the Music Studio (New York: Oxford, 2020).

4 Lisa Flynn, Yoga for Children: 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises, and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children (Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2013), 56.

5 Julia Schnebly-Black and Stephen F. Moore, Rhythm: One on One (Van Nuys, CA: Alfred, 2004).

6 Flynn, Yoga for Children, 32.

7 Dee Hansen and Elaine Bernstorf, “Linking Music Learning to Reading Instruction,” Music Educators Journal 88, no. 5 (March 2002): 21–27.

8 Danielle Bersma and Marjoke Visscher, Yoga Games for Children: Fun and Fitness with Postures, Movements and Breath (Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publications, 2003).


LESLEY MCALLISTER, DMA, NCTM, é professora de pedagogia de piano e diretora de estudos de piano na Baylor University em Waco, Texas. Escritora e clínica ativa, ela publicou dois livros sobre o bem-estar dos músicos: The Balanced Musician e Yoga in the Music Studio.


A Tribute to Marvin Blickenstaff and his Pedagogical Legacy



We would like to thank Sara Ernst, Jane Magrath, Karen Zorn, Joel M. Harrison, Marianne Williams, Zack Kleiman, Henry Banta, Anya Smith, and Nina Austria for collaborating on this tribute to Marvin Blickenstaff. Interested in learning more about Marvin Blickenstaff and his teaching? Marvin’s latest book, Inspired Piano Teaching, is coming soon and is available to preorder now. If you want to learn more about Marvin’s book, you can read more here.

A Tribute to Marvin Blickenstaff and His Pedagogical Legacy

Marvin Blickenstaff has been a pillar of the North American piano community for more than five decades. His dedication to outstanding teaching, learning, and performing has been honed through his work with innumerable students and their teachers. Anyone who has witnessed Marvin working with young pianists understands why his work is so powerful. He demands excellence from his students and colleagues, is persistent but kind, and is always eager to continue his own musical learning. His dedication to our profession is as evident today as it was in the 1970s, at the outset of his teaching career.

Students clamor to study with Marvin Blickenstaff and teachers flock to his numerous workshops, seminars, and conference sessions. Marvin was among the first associate editors of Keyboard Companion, one of the precursors to the Piano Magazine, and he has taught at the New School for Music Study in Kingston, New Jersey for over twenty years. The Frances Clark Center (FCC) is honored to present this tribute to Marvin Blickenstaff to  commemorate his continued contributions to the piano teaching and learning community. After presenting highlights of Marvin’s career, we share tributes from former and current students. We hope that this tribute inspires you to refine your piano performance and teaching craft, and to continue your own learning journey as you read the additional articles about teaching, learning, and performing within this magazine.

Professional Pianist

By Sara Ernst

Marvin Blickenstaff is beloved by piano students of all ages and teachers across the world: it may be how he cherishes his time spent with every student, his deep expertise in music and artistry, or the sage pedagogical advice that he freely offers. As the late Louise Goss (d. 2014) stated:

He has a solid-as-gold national, international really, reputation…[an] incredible amount of knowledge, incredible desire to spread that knowledge…and he just loves it so much that it just spills out of him in bursts of joy…What you would hope a great master teacher would be, he’s the model, and they broke the mold!1

– Louise Goss

One of the unique qualities of his teaching is his uncanny ability to work with a wide array of pianists. Nelita True aptly articulated:

I don’t know of anyone else in our profession who can handle all levels…advanced teaching, he does intermediate, he does beginners…[and he] teaches through a kind of empathy with the student that I find extremely effective and very desirable.

– Nelita True

We hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from “A Tribute to Marvin Blickenstaff and His Pedagogical Legacy.” You can read more by clicking here.


The Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence

In 2023, the Frances Clark Center established the Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence in honor of his legacy as a pedagogue. This division of The Frances Clark Center encompasses inclusive teaching programs, teacher education, courses, performance, advocacy, publications, research, and resources that support excellence in piano teaching and learning. To learn more about the Institute, please visit this page.

We extend a heartfelt invitation to join us in commemorating Marvin Blickenstaff’s remarkable contributions by making a donation in his honor. Your generous contribution will help us continue his inspiring work and uphold the standards of excellence in piano teaching and learning for generations to come. To make a meaningful contribution, please visit our donation page today. Thank you for being a part of this legacy.

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sources

1 Louise Goss, interview with author (Kingston, NJ, November 18, 2009).

2 Nelita True, interview with author (Telephone Interview, April 9, 2010). 

Marvin Blickenstaff: Cheerleader Extraordinaire



We would like to thank Sara Ernst for this tribute to her mentor, Marvin Blickenstaff. On January 30, 2024 we are hosting a virtual Publications Party to celebrate Marvin Blickenstaff’s new book, Inspired Piano Teaching. Click here to register for this free event! If you are interested in learning more about Marvin’s book, you can read more here.

Marvin Blickenstaff, Sara Ernst and family, celebrating the end of her time at the New School for Music Study, 2013.

Marvin Blickenstaff is amazing in so many ways, as pianist, pedagogue, mentor, colleague and friend. I have had the pleasure of knowing him in all of these capacities, and my life has truly been transformed because of this. Among the many attributes Marvin possesses, I wish to celebrate in this tribute is his role as cheerleader extraordinaire. Whether for his students, colleagues, or friends, Marvin will be the first to congratulate the successes of those around him. I have heard his boisterous cheering and applause from the audience, I have heard his heartfelt speeches congratulating others in our profession, and I have received his personal emails commending my professional accomplishments. His genuine love and support of those around him is unparalleled and contributes immensely to our community. Being a musician, pianist, and educator can be difficult (while being tremendously rewarding), and we all need those in our professional lives who reflect to us our own impact and worth. He has provided a tremendous model to me of what that means and how important this is—this is one of the most significant ways we ensure the future of our profession. I encourage us all to follow his example, to project this enthusiasm for piano and teaching into the world, to support our students and colleagues, and to delight in the successes of all those around us.


The Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence

In 2023, the Frances Clark Center established the Marvin Blickenstaff Institute for Teaching Excellence in honor of his legacy as a pedagogue. This division of The Frances Clark Center encompasses inclusive teaching programs, teacher education, courses, performance, advocacy, publications, research, and resources that support excellence in piano teaching and learning. To learn more about the Institute, please visit this page.

We extend a heartfelt invitation to join us in commemorating Marvin Blickenstaff’s remarkable contributions by making a donation in his honor. Your generous contribution will help us continue his inspiring work and uphold the standards of excellence in piano teaching and learning for generations to come. To make a meaningful contribution, please visit our donation page today. Thank you for being a part of this legacy.

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