And the Winners Are…

The winners of the In Search of Composer DVDs are…

#58 – Cherisse

#52 – Wendy M.

Congrats! You will receive either the In Search of Beethoven or In Search of Mozart DVD from Seventh Art Productions (just e-mail me with your full name and mailing address!)! Thanks to everyone who participated. In fact, as a special way of saying “thank you,” Seventh Art Productions is offering a special deal for all Music Matters Blog readers. You can order your own copy of one or both of these films at 25% off! Just send an e-mail to and mention Music Matters Blog to receive the discounted pricing. Music educators may also request the corresponding PDF study guide and public viewing license for the films at 25% off.

Stay tuned for another great giveaway next Tuesday!

Conference Freebies!

One of the things that I’ve told friends in the past is that if they go to one of the MTNA Conferences, they are guaranteed to bring home enough free materials to almost cover the cost of the conference! This year proved to be no exception. Between the Exhibit Hall and the Exhibitor Showcases, you accumulate enough books and other goodies to necessitate at least one additional piece of luggage. 🙂 I tallied up my take-home stack and the retail value of all the books and sheet music came to right around $155. And if you factor in the wonderful handouts prepared by most of the presenters, well…that’s priceless!

I’ll try not to talk about the conference [too much] any more, but in case the notes from all the sessions didn’t convince you to put the conference on your schedule next year, I thought maybe seeing all these freebies would do the trick. 😉

The Conference-Goer’s List of Essentials

As we wrap up the wonderful week of the 2010 MTNA Conference, I decided to make a list right away (before I forget!) of essential items that any conference-goer should include on their packing list. I forgot some of these, so I decided it was time to make an official check-list so that that doesn’t happen again. However, I would love it if you would contribute any additional items you can think of that should be included!
• business cards – exchange these with other teachers so you can keep in touch, check out their websites, etc.

• mailing labels – to fill out all the prize drawing coupons (it’s a pain to fill out all your contact information 50 times!).

• rolling bag – so you don’t kill your shoulder carrying bags full of all the free and purchased materials!

• camera – to take pictures with new and long-time friends and of any materials you want to have pictures of for future reference.

• small lunch bag/cooler – I typically pack my own lunch and then eat out for dinner with friends or other groups.

• notebook and pen or laptop – this is pretty much a given, but I figured I better include it since it is definitely an essential!

• list of specific products you want to look at and/or purchase – it helps to think through this ahead of time so that you can refrain from buying lots of stuff that you don’t really need just because the [sales] presentation is so convincing! Along those lines, even if you have a general idea of what sort of materials you’d like to look at, that can be very helpful (e.g. something to help students develop better listening skills, games for group classes, pedagogical books for personal development, etc.).

• phone numbers of people you want to meet up with during the conference – it can be surprisingly difficult to track someone down amongst the 1,000+ conference attendees; better to be intentional rather than just hope that you will happen to run across each other sometime during the conference!

Alright, that’s all I can come up with for now. Leave your suggestions in the comments below and I’ll update this and create a master list! Incidentally, for those who want to get it on their calendars, the 2011 MTNA Conference will be in Milwaukee, WI March 26-30. (And…even better…we found out that the 2012 MTNA Conference will be held in New York City! :-D)

2010 MTNA Conference Blog Index

And that concludes the 2010 MTNA Conference! There are a lot of sessions to navigate through, so I thought it would be helpful to put together this handy index so that you can see them all at a glance and quickly get to specific topics. I hope you all have enjoyed attending the conference virtually!

Opening Session – Welcome and An Evening of Chopin

Morning – Hot air balloon excursion in Albuquerque, Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World!
Early Afternoon – Exhibit Hall and Kjos Exhibitor Showcase
Late Afternoon – Develop Active Listeners through a Dynamic Series of Group Piano Activities by Cindy Tseng
Later Afternoon – Group Piano Games by Erin K. Bennett, NCTM
Dinner – Division dinner at Tucanos Brazilian Grill
Night – American Pianists Association Recital

Early Morning – Exhibitor Showcase FJH Succeeding at the Piano by Dr. Helen Marlais
Mid-Morning – Not Only Fur Elise: Gorgeous Unknown Compositions by Well-Known Composers by Dr. Peter Mack, NCTM
Late Morning – Sight Reading Strategies for the Beginning and Intermediate Student by Dr. Pamela D. Pike
Early Afternoon – Alfred Exhibitor Showcase Piano for Busy Teens by Melody Bober and Gayle Kowalchyk
Mid-Afternoon – Efficient Learning and Memorizing when Practicing to Perform by Barbara Fast, NCTM
Late Afternoon – Independent Music Teacher Forum and Survey Results
Early Evening – Exhibit Hall wanderings
Dinner – Get-together with virtual friends!

Early Morning – Exhibitor Showcase The Frederick Harris Music Co.: Inspiring Creativity at the Piano with Pattern Play – A Look at the Complete Series by Ray and Akiko Kinney
Mid-Morning – Creating Learning Communities for Young Students by Stella Sick and Kristin Shoemaker
Late Morning #1 – Let’s Play Chamber Music! A Guide for Young Pianists by Carolyn Bridger
Late Morning #2 – Free Piano Teaching Resources Online! by Michelle Gordon, NCTM
Noon – Poster Session and More Exhibits
Early Afternoon – Exhibitor Showcase Alfred Publications: Exploring Piano Classics by Nancy Bachus
Mid-Afternoon – Everything You (and your students) Should Know About Pianos by Clarence Zeches
Late Afternoon – ConferenceXP: A Versatile Video Conferencing Tool for the Performing Arts by Jose Feghali
Early Evening – Reception for Nationally Certified Teachers of Music
Late Evening – 19th-Century Salon Recital of the Works of Frederic Chopin

Early Morning – Total Body Integration for Pianists by Paola Savvidou
Mid-Morning – How Did They Teach? Ideas from the Past about Keyboard Instruction by Sandra Soderlund

2010 MTNA Conference – Wednesday Mid-Morning

How Did They Teach? Ideas from the Past about Keyboard Instruction
by Sandra Soderlund

Initially, the organ was the only “real” keyboard instrument. The smaller clavichord and harpsichord were developed as practice instruments for organists because playing the organ required having someone pump it for them.

M. de Saint Lambert – Les principes du clavecin, 1702
Stated that lessons were best begun when a student was a young child.

Francois Couperin – L’art de toucher le Clavecin, 1716
“One should not begin to teach notation to children until they have a certain number of pieces under their hands.” Believed that young children should not practice in the absence of the teacher. Carried the key to the instrument to prevent students from practicing without him, “lest they should undo in an instant what I have so carefully taught them.”

Jean Philippe Rameau – Preface to Pieces de clavecin, 1724
One of the first to recommend modern fingering.

Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg – Die Kunst das Clavier zu spielen, 1750
Friend of the Bach family. Both French and German experience. Gives ideas on teaching children how to read music. Advocated for hands alone learning first, then together. To avoid the exercises being committed to memory, he suggested having new reading exercises every day. Wrote on different types of touch that could be used in playing. Addressed what we know as finger-pedaling (similar to Alberti bass patterns with a slur, which indicates that all the notes should be held).

J.S. Bach – Clavierbuchlein vor Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, 1720
A biography about Bach describes the style of his playing, emphasizing the touch that Bach used to play his instruments. He was very deliberate in teaching this touch to his students. In particular, they were required to practice all ornaments in both hands. The above book is the only one he himself wrote. It contains his famous chart of ornaments. The book still used early fingering, which seldom employed the thumb.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – Versuch ober die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, 1753
J.S. Bach’s son/protégé. He loved the big clavichord and began to stress the pianoforte. Three elements contributing to the art of playing:

1. Good fingering

2. Good embellishments.

3. Good performance.

Bach discussed the snap of the finger that produces a slight accentuation of the following note. An incredibly useful technique!

Daniel Gottlob Turk – Klavierschule, 1789
The clavichord is still seen as the primary teaching instrument, but the principles should be applied to the organ and now the pianoforte as well. The note following a suspension or appoggiatura should be played more softly. Dissonances should also be stressed.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Nannerl Notebook by Leopold Mozart contains a variety of technical exercises that were probably used in preparation for playing extemporaneous cadenzas. The Mozart Letters were recommended. Ms. Soderlund read several excerpts, which were often humorous. She then went on to play a Trill Exercise that she recommends to everyone and said that if you practice it every day with a very even rhythm, you’ll never have trouble with ornaments again. Hummel lived and studied with Mozart from age 11-13. It is probably from him that we get the Trill Exercise and several other Etudes.

Muzio Clementi – Introduction to the Art of Playing the Piano-forte, 1801
Clementi is considered the “father of the piano.” Clementi published music of many of the composers of his day and also built pianos (Ms. Soderlund has played one of his pianos and said that it was lovely!). He was the first to recommend legato as the normal touch. He describes three kinds of staccatos – wedge=1/4 value of the note; dot=1/2 value of the note; dot with a slur=3/4 value of the note.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Czerny studies with Beethoven. Beethoven agreed to take him on as a student, but insisted that he get C.P.E. Bach’s book on playing. Czerny later took over the teaching of Beethoven’s nephew, Karl. Beethoven encouraged Czerny to focus especially on interpretation of the music.

Felix Mendelssohn
Started the Leipzig Conservatory even though he himself didn’t teach a whole lot. At the age of ten, he wrote a fabulous work for two pianos. His sister, Fanny complained that her fourth and fifth fingers weren’t strong enough, so at the age of twelve he wrote an etude for her to help strengthen those fingers. It’s a killer!

Friedrich Wieck – Piano and Song, 1853
Friedrich was Clara Schumann’s father. Expressed that he tried to excite the pupil’s mind and teach neither too much, nor too little, during the lesson time. He also advocated teaching students by rote. From early on, he taught students harmony and had them play cadence patterns with figures. Pianists of this era could improvise very well because they practiced so many harmonic progressions and exercises that gave them the experience and technical skills they needed to improvise fluently. He stressed that scales should be practiced hands together until mastered. Another great idea he had was that a student always had one piece that was considered their “friend and companion.” They were to practice it every day so that it was fully mastered and could play at all times. He greatly disliked the pedal and minced no words in expressing his thoughts on the matter!

We ran out of time for the following composers/pedagogues that were included on the extensive handout. More information may be read in Ms. Soderlund’s book, How Did They Play? How Did They Teach?

Robert Schumann – Album for the Young, 1848
Frederic Chopin
Franz Liszt
Johannes Brahms
Anton Rubinstein: “Why are my pupils afraid of me? All I do is stand on their feet and scream at them.”
Claude Debussy
William Mason – Touch and Technic for Artistic Piano Playing, 1889, 1900-2.

The session concluded with Ms. Soderlund playing a lyrical one-finger etude by William Mason to illustrate syncopated pedaling.

2010 MTNA Conference – Wednesday Early Morning

Total Body Integration for Pianists
by Paola Savvidou

Scott McBride Smith, Conference Planning Committee Chair, greeted attendees and introduced the presenter for this session.

Ms. Savvidou began by giving us a little bit of information about herself, especially noting her involvement in dance and how this has influenced her piano playing and teaching.

Body in Performance

What does the audience experience in a performance? There are aural, visual, and spatial components that contribute to the experience. The goal is to find a way for all movements to enhance the musical outcome. We want to synchronize our movements with the sound – with the rhythm, flow, and phrasing. When considering movement and gesture, we can categorize it into three areas:

  1. Universal Language – movements that are understood by others
  2. Foreign Language – understood differently by people of different cultures
  3. Private Code – specific to the performer

We should seek to understand how specific movements are understood by others.

What Is Gesture? It is connected with actions of the body as well as with expression. Types of gestures:

  • Emotive
  • Emphatic
  • Outline Shapes and Structures
  • Accompany Sound
  • Modify Sound (use of pedal)

In a research project, performers were asked to play a piece three different ways, with varying levels of expression. When queried afterwards, audience members, particularly non-musical ones, were able to effectively understand the intent of the gestures that communicated musical expression. Playing the piano differs from vocalists or instrumentalists in that we don’t directly connect with the sound we are creating.

Communication Loop

Mind/Intellect > Body > Piano Mechanism (keys. hammer, strings) > Sound Production (critical listening by the performer) > Audience Listening and Perception.

The goal is to reach a state of flow, where it feels effortless to move through this communication loop. As teachers, our goal should be to help our students learn how to do this as well.

There have been a lot of whole-body approaches throughout the 20th Century:

  • Dalcroze Eurhythmics (Emile-Jacques Dalcroze, 1865-1950)
  • Feldenkrais Method: “Awareness Through Movement” (Mosche Feldenkrais, 1904-1984)
  • Alexander Technique (F.M. Alexander, 1869-1955)
  • “Deepening Musical Performance Through Movement” (Indiana University Press, 2007) (Alexandra Pierce b.1934)

There is still work to be done to combine both an expressive and utilitarian purposes in piano playing. Kinesthetic awareness: Kinesthetic Perception Loop

Outside information: light, pressure, sound, etc. > Sensory input (extroceptors & proprioceptors) > Brain (decision-making) > Message to muscles, tendons, ligaments.

Principles of Alignment

At the piano, you should never feel uncomfortable. Instead of referring to “good posture” which can have a tension-producing effect, Ms. Savvidou suggests “flexible alignment” as a preferable alternative. We have to ground our weight and release it into the ground, not holding it up at any point in our body. To illustrate this, the audience participated in a movement activity that included lifting each leg one at a time and then letting them drop into the ground, rocking from side to side being aware of the placement of the pelvic bone, raising and then dropping shoulders. When working with students, after they finish a piece, she often encourages students to “come back to center” as a way to check in and make sure that they still feel comfortable. The goal is to balance centers of gravity over a center of support: Head-Torso-Pelvis-Feet. Ideally, we want a posture-to-gesture merger. All parts of the body should work together to support the movements of each individual part.

Expressive Movement

Laban Movement Analysis: Rudolf Laban (1879-1958)

A system of analyzing and notating all human movement (similar to Music Theory). Many different fields use these principles; some companies include it as part of their interview process to ascertain characteristics of the person based on their movements. There are four categories:

1. Body (further developed by Irmgard Bartenieff, 1890-1981)

2. Effort

3. Space

4. Shape

Goals of Bartenieff Fundamentals

  • Total Body Connectivity
  • Grounding
  • Stability – Mobility
  • Breath Support
  • Developmental Progression
  • Intent (Effort Qualities)
  • Inner Intent – Outer Expression
  • Function – Expression
  • Exertion – Recuperation
  • Phrasing
  • Personal Uniqueness

Body – Bartenieff Fundamentals: Based on six Human Developmental Patterns

  1. Breath – close your eyes and be aware of your breathing, release any tension in the should muscles on the exhale; do the same with the jaw.
  2. Core-Distal Connectivity – connecting the core with the six limbs (2 arms, 2 legs, tailbone, and head); breathe in and extend each limb in turn on the exhale.
  3. Head-Tail Connectivity – imagine the pelvis as a bowl; tip backward and feel the sequence go through the back to the head; tip forward and feel the sequence go through the back to the head; repeat several times, then return to “center.”
  4. Upper-Lower Half Connectivity – pianists tend to forget that they have a lower half because they use it so seldom! Place one foot in front of the other and stand palm to palm with another person, letting the weight push forward into the palms. This helps the pianist experience the weight that is available through the legs to aid in the playing.
  5. Body-Half Connectivity – integrating both sides of the body, even when only one hand is playing.
  6. Cross-Lateral Connectivity

Effort = Inner Intent Towards Movement

Factors Qualities: Indulging Qualities: Condensing
Flow Free Bound
Weight Light Strong
Time Sustained Sudden
Space Indirect Direct

Ms. Savvidou had us experiment with each of these extremes while pointing out occasions in our playing when we might use them.

Expressive Movement = Total Body Integration

Suggestions for Practical Applications

Melody: Flow and Space

She played through an excerpt of Schubert’s Sonata in G Major, D. 894, Andante, and had us see if we could identify which of the above factors were necessary in the performance of it.

Rhythm: Weight & Time

She has students sit on a big exercise ball and bounce through the rhythm to experience the rhythm through weight and time.

To conclude, Ms. Savvidou described a case study she did called “Making the Music Dance Project” in which pianists and dancers worked together to better understand the movement of the music.?

2010 MTNA Conference – Tuesday Evening Recital

After a wonderful dinner with a couple friends from Kansas City, we made our way to the final recital of the conference – a 19th-Century Salon Recital of the Works of Frederic Chopin.

To create a more authentic, and intimate, setting, the piano was moved off the stage onto the floor and extra chairs were gathered closely around it. Kevin Kenner served as the host for the evening, and also as the exquisite pianist providing both solo and chamber works. His solo selections included a handful of Waltzes and Mazurkas, Andante Spianato in G Major, Op. 22; Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54; “Reminiscence” Nocturne; and Souvenir de Paganini.

He was joined by cellist, William DeRosa for the performance of Chopin’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor and Polonaise Brillante for Cello and Piano, Op. 3.

The other artist was mezzo-soprano Marta Wryk, who sang six of Chopin’s songs: Moja Pieszczotka, Sliczny, Zycenie, Smutna Rzeka, Gdzie Lubi, and Nie Ma Czego Trzeba.

2010 MTNA Conference – Tuesday Evening Reception

The Piano Technicians Guild hosted a reception for all the Nationally Certified Teachers of Music this evening. There was a lovely array of vegetables and crackers and cheese.

They also used the occasion to announce the winners of the scholarship grants provided by the Piano Technicians Guild for two certified teachers who have submitted applications for continuing education. The drawing for a free certification application fee was also drawn and announced. I enjoyed chatting with others at my table while munching on a few goodies.

I also enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and visit with Dr. Gary Ingle, Executive Director & CEO of MTNA. He was glad to hear that I had taken to heart his directive that we take a hot air balloon ride! 🙂

2010 MTNA Conference – Tuesday Late Afternoon

ConferenceXP: A Versatile Video Conferencing Tool for the Performing Arts
by Jose Feghali

Bits and Bytes
Computers understand 1 and 0
11111111 = 255 (one byte) smallest unit that a computer can understand; a byte is a unit for information; communication across the internet happens in bits

When you are sending a signal from one computer to another, you are sending a series of 1s and 0s. Internet “speed” is a misnomer because the speed is always the same; it’s the amount that changes (e.g. water flows at the same speed, but the size of the pipe determines how much water flows through at once).
Internet2 – the sky is the limit!
Normal T1 – 1.5 Mbps up/down
Only I2/NLR have multicast
Modem – started around 300 bps
Really Good Modem – 56 Kbps
“Normal” T1 – 1.5 Mbps up/down
ISDN – 128 Kbps DSL ~ 6 Mbps
FIOS/DOCSIS3/UVerse – >50 Mbps
Internet2 – 100Gbps [!!]

Multicast x Unicast
With unicast, there must be a single connection between each client and the stream source. Multicast, on the other hand, enables the sending of a webcast from a stream source to an Internet mcast “Cloud,” which each client can then tune into – much like a radio. Because there is still a desire to receive payment from those tuning into webcasts, multicasts are not currently extensively used.

DV Video = 30 Mbps
SD Video = 120 Mbps
HD Video = 1.5 Gbps
HDV Video = 22 Mbps
HD @ Home < 10 Mbps CS Audio = 1.5 Mbps Normal MP3 = 128 Kbps Sound is much more difficult to compress and maintain quality with than video. Required Bandwidth Stereo (2 channel) CD Audio = 1.5 Mbps (need to be able to handle at least this in order to give virtual lessons with quality audio transmission) DVD (compressed) video = 2 to 5 Mbps DV Video = 30 Mbps Variable codec = 50 Kbps to > 50 Mbps
Windows Media (CXP) = 50 Kbps to 5 Mbps
Required bandwidth for good quality work (500 Kbps video + stereo CD audio) = 2300 Kbps or 2.3 Mbps and +
How about MONO? – 1 channel CD quality audio = 750 Kbps (0.75 Mbps)
Required bandwidth for good quality work = 1500 Kbps or 1.5 Mbps and +

Max “speed” doesn’t mean average
Major metropolitan centers = jam
Time of day/major webcast event
Quality of line (distance from “box”)
Cable – amount of people on group
Virtually nobody guarantees speed
The more “headroom,” the better!
Read forums and users’ reports!

Mr. Feghali then proceeded to give a demonstration of ConferenceXP with a student at his studio in Texas. You can use multiple cameras on each computer. Initially, the sound was compressed, so he worked with Microsoft Research to get the necessary 1.5 Mbps CD quality audio. This is currently the only program in the world that can do this. The program can be used in a professional setting with very high bandwidth and at home with low bandwidth (it will be necessary to send with the audio uncompressed, though). It can also be used with both normal Internet and Internet2. ConferenceXP uses uncompressed audio with compressed video. Amazingly, the software is available for free for educational and research use! Definitely worth checking out!

Source code:

Also, watch for the forthcoming Classical Geeks website that Mr. Feghali is in the process of developing!

2010 MTNA Conference – Tuesday Mid-Afternoon

Everything You (and your students) Should Know About Pianos
by Clarence Zeches

Mr. Zeches began the session by taking a quick survey to find out in what setting each of the attendees teach – collegiate, high school, private studios. In his 30+ years of tuning pianos, he has been surprised at how little most pianists know about their instrument, especially in comparison to most instrumentalists. He asked if we would know what to do if all of a sudden before a performance something was to go wrong with the piano.

He shared about a university that decided to save money one year by turning off the heat in the music building during Christmas break. When classes resumed and the heat was turned back on, all the pianos went crazy! Some were found to be 30 cents flat. A half step on the piano is 100 cents. Temperature fluctuations can drastically affect a piano.

Mr. Zeches continued with a history of the piano. It was invented approximately 300 years ago by Cristofori. Originally called the pianoforte, it was different from the harpsichord in that is used a hammer action as opposed to using a quill that plucked a string. How much tension is there in an average piano? About 36,000 pounds! A concert grand Steinway has approximately 39,000 pounds of tension. If a harpsichord had that kind of tension, it would implode.

He periodically gets calls from people who have dropped pianos while moving them, to see if they are able to be salvaged. Sometimes this is possible, if the cast iron plate in the piano is not broken. He went on to discuss another common complaint from pianists:
Rattle in the keys – check for paper clips, coins, pencils, etc. These often fall into the piano when an item is placed on the fallboard and then the fallboard is opened. Usually you can remove the fallboard to check for lost items (don’t, however, try this on a Steinway, because it is screwed in from beneath).

Pianos used regularly for performing should be kept close to concert regulation. The more pianists can learn to recognize problems they observe with their pianos, the more effectively they will be able to communicate with their piano technician. Things to watch for:
Sluggish Action – play several keys simultaneously, then watch the response of the hammers to see if they function congruously.
Bleeding Dampers – ringing sounds; dampers that are bleeding often cause notes in the harmonic series to play.
Mice in Piano – place course steel wool to cover openings under the pedals and casters.

Heavy action may be the result of humidity that is causing every one of the pivot points to slow down a little bit. Technicians can use a procedure called, “weighing off an action” to determine how heavy the action is and figure out how to deal with it. Some technicians have received special training on changing the geometry to take weight off the action.

As a general rule, Asian pianos are brighter than European and American pianos because the hammers are harder. Technicians can use a voicing procedure to needle the hammers (inserting needles into the felt hammers to release some of the tension). There are certain places on the hammer that technicians insert needles to address specific problems. Technicians also commonly use lacquer to make the hammers harder, thus creating more brightness. It’s advisable to wait at least until the instrument is in its permanent location to make changes to the voicing. Some technicians recommend even waiting 2-3 years to give the piano a chance to settle.

Audience members asked a variety of questions related to maintenance and care. One question was in reference to humid climates and full humidity control systems for pianos. The main advantage to these systems is consistency. It prevents the soundboard from rising and falling. 42% is the ideal humidity for a piano. If you can consistently (less than 10% fluctuations) keep your house at 50-52% humidity, though, it will probably be okay. You must ensure that this is installed properly in order for it to be effective (there are horror stories of pianos growing green stuff under the soundboard because of improper installation of humidity systems!).

Piano Technicians appreciate having the pianists express problems they are experiencing so that they know specifically what to look for as they work on the instrument. Mr. Zeches concluded his session by recommending Larry Fine’s book and website that contain a wealth of information about purchasing new and used pianos.