A Comprehensive Curriculum

 

As I have often said, when it comes to planning a well-rounded piano pedagogy curriculum, no one could do it better than Frances Clark and Louise Goss. Both the certificate course offered at The New School for Music Study and the Master’s degree program that was organized as a joint program with Westminster Choir College were designed to prepare graduate students for the diverse demands of the teaching profession. Today, I am giving an overview of other requirements for the Master’s degree. This will conclude my blogs on the two programs.

 

To begin, I should name the classes that I have already described for anyone who has not been keeping track of my postings. All graduate students enrolled in the certificate course and degree program were required to attend several pedagogy classes. Here are the classes as listed in school catalogs: Group Teaching Techniques, Private Teaching Techniques, The Teaching-Learning Process and The Piano Teacher, Piano Literature for Pre-College Teaching, History and Evaluation of Piano Study Materials, and Studio Management Practicum. These classes were held at The New School with the exception of the literature class taught by Phyllis Lehrer at Westminster.

 

The additional course work that graduate students had to complete in order to attain a Master’s degree included specialized subjects. Most graduate students registered in the course, “Introduction to Musicology,” during their second year of enrollment. Class instruction included a study of materials and methods used in musicological research. Reference collections such as the Dissertation Abstracts Index and Music Article Guide were listed in a compendium of library resources. Databases available on the Internet were described. Graduate students became familiar with research techniques as they prepared oral and written reports on various topics. Upon completion of the course, students were expected to demonstrate an understanding of research procedures in historical musicology.

 

Two semesters of piano instruction were required for the certificate course offered by The New School, and four semesters of instruction were required for the Master’s degree program. Provided that permission was obtained from the teacher, every graduate student could study with any member of the piano faculty at Westminster Choir College. Faculty members at that time included: Laurie Altman, Ena Bronstein Barton, Ingrid Clarfield, Miriam Eley, Phyllis Lehrer, Lillian Livingston, Thomas Parente, Jose Ramos-Santana, and Betty Stoloff. Eugene Roan and Gavin Black taught harpsichord, an elective course that was available for an extra fee. Lessons were scheduled once a week for fifty minutes. Graduate students who were pursuing a Master’s degree performed a one-hour recital after approval was granted in jury examinations. Students enrolled in the certificate program could decide whether or not to give a recital.

 

Harpsichord instruction was one of many elective courses offered by Westminster. Graduate students could also choose any of the following as electives: Chamber Music, Jazz Keyboard Improvisation, Piano Ensemble, Piano Technique, Accompanying Class, Techniques of Coaching I/II, Physical and Psychological Aspects of Piano Playing, Electro-acoustic Music, and various piano literature courses. In addition to these classes, three credits of theory or music history were selected from a long list of subjects:  Composition, Analysis, Seminar in Music History, etc. Participation in the school’s Symphonic Choir for two semesters was mandatory.

 

Oral comprehensive examinations were needed to review internship training and class instruction. As an evaluation of teaching skills, graduate students were often asked to describe how they would teach a new concept in note reading, rhythm, technique, etc. For the remainder of the exam, students answered at least one question about each class they had taken. With such thorough and extensive training, graduate students were more than ready to embark on a career in teaching.

 

I have mentioned that other courses were offered for teachers who could not enroll in the degree program or certificate course. The New School provided a three-day study session. This course included observations of private lessons, group teaching, repertoire classes, conferences, and demonstration lessons. Teachers could also attend pedagogy classes. The three-day study session was inaugurated in 1995. Soon after its inception, piano teachers from across the country and abroad expressed an interest in completing the course. College instructors wanted to attend the session so as to observe the school’s training methods and plan a similar curriculum (visitors are still welcome to observe teaching). In addition to the study session, teachers who participated in the Frances Clark Summer Workshops were able to receive graduate course credit.  Faculty members from The New School as well as guest artists conducted these workshops. Notably, Sam Holland and Elvina Truman Pearce were invited as clinicians in 1996.

 

Some of you may be asking what has changed since the graduate programs are no longer offered. To fully answer this question, I need to return to the timeline I have established. Once again, I will highlight the impressive accomplishments of Frances Clark and Louise Goss. I will also give new information about these achievements. For example, the summer workshops that began in 1948 and continued for five decades included panel discussions that engendered audience participation. As for current developments, I will end the timeline by explaining what has happened in recent years to sustain Frances Clark’s legacy. The future holds exciting possibilities. Looking ahead, it is evident that Miss Clark will continue to influence generations of piano teachers inspired by her passion and wisdom.

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