Yes, I have been on an extended hiatus. I admit that I have been enjoying my vacation a little too much, but there’s another reason for my silence.
If you have been on our website over the last several months, you should already know that our co-founder, Louise Goss, passed away in April. I felt it was important to end my blogs that were posted for the 2013-2014 school year by saying how much I appreciate the support and guidance Louise gave. Many of us still feel a void. Louise did more than just mentor, she also offered friendship. We miss her presence.
This year, I plan to share my observations of teaching and classroom instruction at The New School for Music Study. I conducted research for my thesis on The New School when the school still conferred a Master’s degree. Fortuitously, I finished my research in 2000 just as the last student enrolled in the degree program graduated.
After much consideration as to how I should begin, I decided to preface my description of the school’s pedagogy curriculum with a few statements that clarify some of what Frances Clark and Louise Goss strived to accomplish. In an interview with Louise, she summarized course content for her pedagogy class, “The Teaching-Learning Process and the Piano Teacher” with just two sentences: “They are given a philosophic foundation on which to base their teaching. I want them to think about what they’re doing and why they are doing it.” Frances Clark and Louise Goss expected graduate students to teach as instructed, but they also encouraged creativity and flexibility. To be most effective, teachers should experiment with new ideas and let go of what is futile. For example, a lesson plan that isn’t working has to be discarded, and music that proves to be too ambitious must be set aside for the time being. In addition, careful planning should address a student’s readiness for new concepts. Miss Goss emphasized that principles of good teaching have but one thing in common: “The teacher is always thinking, always evaluating what the student needs to experience.”
As I mentioned in another blog, graduate students and faculty advisors at The New School for Music Study worked together as a team. Teaching was evaluated throughout the year. Even though private lessons were scheduled six days a week, an advisor was always “on call” for consultation; graduate students could ask to be observed more often, and advisors could teach a private lesson in order to demonstrate application. Any difficulties or concerns were discussed in group conferences, where input by all was welcomed. Frances Clark and Louise Goss believed open discussion was helpful when it came to resolving problems that every teacher sooner or later encounters. Pedagogy classes also provided an open forum for group exchange. Both hands-on teaching and classroom instruction offered “a well-rounded and complete program of study” for piano teachers. This approach as prescribed by Frances Clark and Louise Goss has become fundamental doctrine in teacher training.
When you read about The New School for Music Study, you soon discover why we should acknowledge the endeavors of Frances Clark and Louise Goss. As both a research center and model school, The New School for Music Study continues to play a vital role in making Frances Clark’s teaching approach fully known and understood. Louise Goss was intent on doing so when she met with colleagues in 1998 to establish The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy. This not-for-profit corporation is dedicated to keeping Miss Clark’s teaching philosophies accessible for any piano teacher who wants to become familiar with her methods. With so many people committed to Frances Clark’s legacy, her influence as a leading authority on piano education will endure. After all, Louise promised, and now her colleagues and many friends vow to carry the torch.
Look for my next blog if you interested in learning more about The New School. First, I will describe the school’s orientation program, akin to a boot camp for teachers, so I’ve been told. At a later time, I will give a brief description of the teaching internships that are still available at the school.