2010 MTNA Conference – Monday Early Afternoon

Alfred Exhibitor Showcase Piano for Busy Teens
by Melody Bober and Gayle Kowalchyk

Melody Bober and Gayle Kowalchyk launched this workshop with a lively duet performance. Ms. Kowalchyk addressed the changing culture of teenagers in the 21st Century, in particular due to the impact of technology. She referenced a show on Oprah some time back in which a family was asked to live without any technology for an entire week. They hardly knew how to live their lives! Teenagers’ attention is also divided with homework, after-school jobs, community involvement, sports participation, and more. Consistency in practicing is the key! Practice time is limited, so giving students effective practice strategies is essential.

The impetus behind the Piano for Busy Teens course was observing the study guides that school teachers sent home with students prior to a test. As piano teachers, we are typically a small slice of a student’s life; this is, nevertheless, an important slice of their life! The three books in the afore-mentioned series include a Study Guide with a 1-Minute FYI, a 5-Minute Warm-Up, a 15-Minute Practice Plan, and a 5-Minute Finishing Touches.

Melody Bober took over at this point, and walked attendees through the books, explaining the layout and concepts of each piece. Each book contains jazzy styles, famous masterworks, themes from Classical works, a “showstopper,” a technical exercise, and a duet. She performed several selections from each book and the music is wonderful!

After the overview of the Piano for Busy Teens series, Ms. Kowalchyk introduced a series of books by Mike Springer called Not Just Another Scale Book. The book contains pieces that utilize each of the scales as a way to encourage students to practice and master their scales. Each book also contains a scale that has three recordings for each scale. The first is a piano solo and orchestrated accompaniment at the performance tempo. Next is the orchestral accompaniment alone at a slower practice tempo. The third is the orchestral accompaniment alone at the performance tempo.

The final part of the session was an overview of the newest recital suites that have been published by Alfred. These include: The Dakotas by Melody Bober, The Carolinas by Dennis Alexander, Tennessee Treasure by Martha Mier, Along the Mississippi by Wynn-Anne Rossi, and The Grand Canyon by Catherin Rollin. Melody Bober played us parts of each of the movements from the suite she composed. She shared an idea she received from another teacher to give a different state to each student and have them choose one of the movements to prepare. Then she [the teacher] played the part of tour guide and put together a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted information about each state. Their studio took the tour “on the road” to nursing homes – a great idea! Dennis Alexander then took the stage to play his suite for us. Next up was Martha Mier, playing her suite. It was a really nice touch having each of the composers present to play their compositions for the group.

The workshop concluded with an ensemble rendition of Fiesta Cha-Cha, complete with Alfred’s own Mariachi band. 🙂

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