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January/February 2019 Pupil Saver: The thrill of the risk

My student Katie, 17, enjoys playing the piano as much as she loves playing soccer. From what I hear, she is an aggressive, risk-taking soccer player. The same could be said for her piano playing: she is adventurous with tempo and sometimes  aggressive with sound. I needed a piece that would both capitalize on Katie's strengths while  enc...
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Pupil Saver: Set your alarm

Students are sure to make time for Kevin Olson's energetic early-intermediate piece Time's Up! (FJH). The imaginative use of changing meters and brisk tempo give this piece a delightful spontaneity and definitely make it an enjoyable introduction to asymmetrical time signatures. The A section, in 5/4 meter, uses the treble clef for both hands. Thou...
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Pupil Saver: Jamaican Rumba by Arthur Benjamin

Once again, my high school student—who seems to be involved in every activity possible—needed a unique piece. I had in mind what I wanted: The piece needed to be fairly short, patterned for quick and easy learning, impressive, and infrequently played (that last requirement was more for me than for the student). I found the perfect piece, Austr...
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Pupil Saver: Mendelssohn Song without words, Op. 30, No. 6

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Stress reduction at the piano It's  exciting to see a student advance after years of diligent work, but often the thought of moving on to larger works is daunting and stressful, especially for those students juggling too many activities. That big piece will never be finished, and interest wanes. One solution for student burnout is Felix Mendel...
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Pupil Saver: The Song of Twilight

The Song of Twilight," by Japanese composer Yoshinao Nakada (Frederick Harris Celebration Series: Piano Repertoire, Level 3 ), is an accessible and motivating piece for the late-elementary pianist. When I prepared students for the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program, many students chose this piece as their finale because of its soaring mel...
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Pupil Saver: Elephant Stomp! by Kevin Olson

If you are looking for music for students who can't sit still during lessons, or who bypass rests like they don't exist, Kevin Olson's late-elementary solo Elephant Stomp (FJH) might be just the thing. This clever piece uses two hands, two feet, and the vast imagination of the student, who must "stomp the floor!" like an elephant. Elephant Stomp is...
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Vivid imagery in a piece from China

The Chinese composition "The Young Shepherd with his Little Flute" (in Chinese Folk Music for Children , Schott/Hal Leonard) is not only accessible for late-intermediate pianists, but has a colorful image that will motivate students. When I presented a poster session about the piece at the Ohio Music Teachers Association Southwest conference, many ...
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Drive and surprise

Here's a piece that captures the attention of everyone from precocious seven-year-olds to late beginners of all ages.  Susan Ogilvy's Toccatina (Alfred) is suitable for students from the late-elementary to early-intermediate levels, is terrifically fun to play, and is often very easy to memorize. Most importantly, however, it sounds more diffi...
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A bravura piece for the left hand

M elody Bober's multivolume set of Grand One-Hand Solos for Piano (Alfred) offers some really cool pieces for the intermediate-to-late-intermediate pianist.  ​Although they are written for one hand (either right or left), the compositions are interesting, musical, and highly motivational. Many teachers will use this collect...
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What a Find!

My mother, who is also a piano teacher, enjoys finding and buying piano music for me —even to this day—and she usually finds really great stuff at her public library. Go figure! "Pizzicati" (a polka from the ballet Sylvia ) was one of her recent finds. Written by Léo Delibes and arranged by Hans-Günter Heumann, this piece of music was on the top of...
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Imagination and mischief

Students who love stories of magical worlds and mythical creatures will jump at the chance to learn William Gillock's early-intermediate "Elfin Pranks." This whimsical piece set in E minor and cut time is loaded with teaching opportunities. Although "Elfin Pranks" is available in solo form, I prefer to use the version in Gillock's collection Accent...
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A day at the beach

The Grade 2 Lessons Book of the Michael Aaron Piano Course (Alfred) is home to a tried-and-true pupil saver, "The Breakers." The piece is excellent for recitals, and especially appeals to older beginners who yearn for a more musical and difficult sound.  "The Breakers" is easy to learn and easy to teach. It is a good introduction to 6/8 meter,...
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Let's order in!

​Occasionally I have a student who is reluctant to move past the first method book, or is easily discouraged when things get the least bit challenging. Some are unwilling even to explore past a C-major pentascale. Fortunately, I discovered "Pepperoni Pizza," a captivating little piece from Mona Rejino's elementary-level collection, Just for Kids (H...
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A Party for the Fingers

Margaret Goldston's Jazztoccata (Alfred) has been a huge success with my late-intermediate students. The composition's strong rhythmic drive exudes energy, and the C-minor key gives the piece an introspective quality that my older students welcome. One student beamed with delight as she told me that it sounded like a piece a professional pianist wo...
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A Show-Stopper from Norman Dello Joio

Norman Dello Joio's Simple Sketches  (Edward B.Marks/Hal Leonard) provides a rewarding musical and technical challenge for the late-intermediate student. The collection contains three fairly short pieces, the first of which, Allegretto, is my favorite to teach. For some students, the quirky tonality—a trademark of Dell...
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