The beleaguered assignment sheet

Many piano teachers spend time, effort, and creative energy with the goal of creating clever, attractive, and helpful assignment sheets. These sheets are then brought into the lesson and important notes are made about exactly how the student is to practice at home. What a valuable resource for our students!

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Focus on the Piano Pedagogy Instructor: Observation Guide 3 (Musicianship, Technique and Practice Habits)

On musicianship, technique and practice habits: “It is important to keep these three areas in balance.  If these areas of what we teach are not developed hand-in-hand, this leads to frustration.” — Frances Clark

As a pedagogy student in the New School for Music Study’s Certificate Program in the late 80’s, I remember that there were four forms used in rotation for evaluating teaching. At this time I worked alongside graduate students at Westminster Choir College. Fortunately, my colleague, Tracy Grandy, has copies of the four forms used during this time. I have retyped these forms, for ease of reading.  


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Working it Out: Rollin Prelude in D Minor (Preludes, Book 1, Alfred publishing)

This is the first in a series of posts about how we introduce new pieces with students, or to put it in Frances Clark’s terms, “work out a new piece.” Often, a warm-up preparing students for the particular challenges of a piece can enable the student to play with greater facility, sooner in the learning process. A disclaimer: this work out is fairly detailed and certainly this level of detail is not necessary, or desirable, for each piece assigned. In fact, students benefit from learning pieces independent of their teachers.

Let’s now look at Catherine Rollin’s lovely Prelude No. 3 in D Minor, from Preludes Book 1 (Alfred Publishing): An excerpt is provided below:

Rollin D Minor Prelude

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In order to gain something, there are times when you have to let go of something. The question is, why is it so hard to let go? I think that, simply, it is because we are holding on tight.


Piano teachers are an interesting group. We see students in a largely one-on-one setting, and for most of these lessons, we are firmly “in charge.”  It is unlikely that a student will raise his or her voice in challenge or storm out of the room. When we’re done for the day, our teen-aged child or toddler might do just that. But when we’re working, we are the “experts.” Our students generally really want to please us, and really crave our approval.


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