I have been thinking a little more about curriculum. My younger students typically work through a method book with additional repertoire and activities added. My older students choose several pieces to work on through the semester/year, discuss theory/musical concepts in their pieces, work through a theory book, and typically do scales or other technical exercises. Do you have any set “curriculum” you follow as far as what you expect students to learn/cover over the course of a year?
This question has been sitting in my inbox for about six months now (sadly it’s not the only one…), but I’ve been intentionally delaying answering it because this is an area I’ve been really wanting to improve in my teaching. Sequencing and repertoire selection seems so much simpler for elementary students than it does for those at an intermediate level. There are so many musical possibilities, so many skills to be learned, so many pieces of repertoire to be discovered…and only so much time to work with each student. What to focus on? And how do you know if you’re covering the most important things?
Well, I finally decided to post this question, not because I have a brilliant answer, but to share some resources and ideas that have been helpful to me in my quest to learn to teach higher level students more effectively. And in hopes that some other more brilliant teachers will pass on their knowledge in this area! In this response, I’ll be dealing specifically with repertoire selection for intermediate level piano students. Next week I’ll address other aspects of the “curriculum” for teaching intermediate level students.
For starters, here’s what you’ll need:
1. The Pianist’s Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature by Jane Magrath – this is a must-have for every piano teacher! I cannot even imagine what an enormous task it was to compile a reference book of this magnitude, but I love having a handy place to look up specific composers and their works, read a brief overview of the piece, and see an approximation of what level of difficulty it is.
2. Spotify – Ever since I first posted about Spotify last fall, I have fallen more and more in love with it. (You have to have a Facebook account to set it up, but it is well worth it!) You can do quick searches to find nearly any piece of music, listen to several recordings, click through to discover new albums and artists and repertoire, subscribe to playlists that others have created, and create your own customized playlists. For example, as I did lesson planning and worked on selecting repertoire for several late intermediate students this spring, I put together a Student Repertoire Spring 2013 playlist so that I could quickly access pieces I selected for individual students for my own reference and to play recordings for them at their lessons. For students who are also on Spotify, you can easily share links to tracks, albums, or playlists. I would definitely consider this another must-have for music teachers today!
3. Excellent compilations of intermediate literature. Here are some of my favorites:
- Early Advanced Classics to Moderns edited by Denes Agay
- Masterpieces with Flair, Volume 3 edited by Carole L. Bigler and Valery Lloyd-Watts
- Encore, Book 3 edited by Jane Magrath
- Piano Literature for the Intermediate Grades, Volume 3 – edited by James Bastien
4. IMSLP Petrucci Music Library – It’s great for students to be able to play familiar, tried and true piano classics, but I love to find lesser known and played pieces for the students to learn. Especially when they will be performing for recitals, adjudicated events, or auditions, it’s fun to find new pieces that will capture the student’s (and audience’s!) imagination and inspire them to develop their skills and musicality to new heights! IMSLP is the perfect place to find just about any musical score (that’s in the public domain) and download a temporary copy to see if it’s what you’re looking for and whether it will work for a particular student.
5. A cup of hot tea. Definitely a necessity for long hours of poring over musical scores and listening to recordings, trying to find the perfect pieces for each student!
Now it’s time for others to share their brilliance. What resources or tips do you have for selecting repertoire for intermediate students?
Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!