In this issue...
The Future of Piano TeachingClavier Companion begins a series of articles that will address the future of piano teaching from a variety of perspectives.
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An Interview with Hélène GrimaudMulti-dimensional artist Hélène Grimaud is recognized for bringing a strong sense of individuality and innovation in her performances. Leonne Lewis joins her for an exclusive interview. Photo by Mat Hennek/DG
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2014 Collegiate Writing Contest Winning EssayWe extend our congratulations to Wen Ling Chua, whose winning essay A Closer Look at Strategies for Memorization appears in the November/December 2014 issue of Clavier Comapanion.
Have you ever dreamed of playing your instrument on a thousand foot cliff, inside an ice castle, or on the Great Wall of China? ThePianoGuys have done it all, along with most any other feat you can imagine. Their videos typically feature piano and cello performances in spectacular natural settings. If you haven’t seen or heard them yet, watch out—their videos are spreading like wildfire on the internet!
Recently, we had the chance to have an exclusive chat with pianist Jon Schmidt. Schmidt had already been performing his new-age classical style music for twenty years before ThePianoGuys came to life. Their story is an interesting tale—one that might teach musicians a thing or two about creative marketing! We are thrilled to share our conversation with our readers.
You started recording videos as part of a marketing campaign for a piano store. How did that lead to becoming a YouTube sensation?
Paul Anderson is honestly the nicest piano store owner on the planet. I first met him in St. George [Utah] when I did a concert at the outdoor amphitheater there. He supplied the piano and we hit it off. I went to his store to practice for the concert. As I was trying to find creative ways to market music, he rolled out the red carpet for me. He had a YouTube channel and wanted to do some unusual marketing for his store.
I know the last time I promised to report on the book Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning and I do plan do that, but, for the moment I will do it in bits and pieces. Let’s start with some quotes from the chapter entitled “Embrace Difficulties” and put them together with a few other thoughts.
“Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution (italics theirs) leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.”
“Learning always builds on a store of prior knowledge.”
“Elizabeth and Robert Bjork, who coined the phrase ‘desirable difficulties,’ write that difficulties are desirable because ‘they trigger encoding and retrieval processes that support learning, comprehension and remembering. If, however, the learner does not have the background knowledge or skills to respond to them successfully, they become undesirable difficulties.’”
My dear friend, James Sherlock, a young (30) and intensely gifted British pianist/organist/conductor (look him up—you won’t be disappointed) gave me this advice: “Your teacher is someone who is there to be a supportive presence on your journey.” He also said “The people who are unable to learn to play the piano fail because they won’t take an hour or two to solve every problem as it comes up.” (He is also a hard grader.) It was on James’ recommendation that I found my piano teacher.
As I reflect on changes I would like to make in the new year (aka New years resolutions), I’d like to share something I’ve noticed about piano teachers. At the risk of ruffling a few feathers, I’m just going to say it:
Piano teachers tend to be workaholics.
Perhaps that’s too much of a generalization and perhaps I think this because I tend to be one myself. But I think it’s safe to say that anyone who works from home has a tendency to be a workaholic. It’s just difficult to separate ourselves from our work when we work from home. Take a moment to do some inventory:
- Do you frequently find yourself thinking about piano related things on the days you are not teaching?
- Do you teach more than 5 days a week?
- Do you have any large blocks of time during the week in which you are not thinking of music related matters?
- Do you have any free evenings when you can go out with friends who are not self-employed?
- Does your family complain that you work too much?