It Takes Training

Well, Christmas is just a few days away, and here I sit in sunny California waiting for snow. My relatives assure me that it has snowed in the past. Maybe it has, but I’m not holding my breath. Instead, I am writing this blog about The New School for Music Study. When I conducted research for my thesis, I cited several sources for the following information, including Robert Fred Kern’s dissertation on Frances Clark, journal articles, and interviews.

 

In September of 1960, The New School for Music Study opened one mile from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. The new building was constructed according to plans specified by Frances Clark and Louise Goss, making them architects as well as teachers!

 

Miss Clark selected a team of professionals who had extensive training in piano education to serve as faculty. Members of the first faculty included Martha Braden, Sanford Jones, David Kraehenbuehl, Doris Martin, Joyce Mekeel, Elvina Truman Pearce, and Phyllis Rappaport. In addition to his duties as director of the theory department, Mr. Kraehenbuehl held the position of composer-in-residence; over the course of many years, he composed teaching repertoire for The Clark Library. Sanford Jones, as a charter faculty member, soon became a leading Montesorri expert. The educational philosophies of Maria Montesorri (1870-1952) were closely allied to those of Frances Clark in that both advocated a student-oriented learning environment.

 

In the first few years, the school’s graduate level program in piano pedagogy included a teaching internship, the analysis and performance of piano literature, keyboard theory, harmonization, and composition. Upon completing the two-year program, graduate students received a “Certificate of Professional Achievement.” Students who wanted to extend their studies could stay for a third year of additional training. In time, the school would also offer a Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy and Performance. This degree program required additional course work (more on that later).

 

Several students who graduated from the school’s teacher-training program with distinction were offered faculty positions. Alumni Elizabeth Hall, Elmer Heerema, John O’Brien and Lynn Freeman Olson joined the faculty in the first decade after the school opened. Richard Chronister, a Clark protégé and member of the piano faculty at Westminster from 1956 to 1959, left Princeton to organize a pedagogy program at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mr. Chronister then returned in 1961 to serve as the director of teacher training at The New School.

 

As the school became well known for its excellent faculty and well-planned curriculum, enrollment in the piano department increased to four hundred and fifty pupils. Frances Clark and Louise Goss believed the pedagogy program would be best implemented with a smaller piano department. In 1970, the piano department was then downsized, and the school moved into a large colonial building at 4543 Lincoln Highway in Kingston, New Jersey, four miles north of Princeton.

 

In the years following relocation, The New School continued to thrive. Faculty members in succeeding years included Tony Caramia, Yat-Yee Chong, Jane Flemer, Roger Grove, Sam Holland, Meg Mabbs, Craig Sale, Melanie Sheets, Mary Stack, and Marion Stone. Sam Holland, a graduate of the school’s certificate program, was a leading faculty member who served as director from 1979 until 1987. At the present time, Dr. Holland is a Professor and Director of the Division of Music at the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University.

 

The number of graduates who have become renowned for their own accomplishments attests to the success of the school’s pedagogy program. Hands-on training has proven to be effective. In other words, teachers need to “learn by doing.” Most likely, you also recognize many of the names I have listed as faculty. Alumni and former faculty members frequently visit The New School, participating in workshops and residency programs.

 

In retrospect, Frances Clark and Louise Goss always did what was needed to further improve piano education. As a result, piano pedagogy became a new field of study with Miss Clark and Miss Goss at the helm. I will continue their story after the new year begins. For now, I wish you a joyful holiday with loved ones and friends.

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