I decided it might be a good idea to summarize what I have written for those who have not visited our website until now. In addition to this overview, I have added a few new statements about Frances Clark’s workshops and her vocation as a columnist for keyboard journals.
In 1945, Frances Clark organized the country’s first four-year piano pedagogy program at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Louise Goss, who was enrolled as a pedagogy student, soon became Miss Clark’s close associate.
The first session of The Frances Clark Summer Workshops was held on the campus of Kalamazoo College in 1948. A series of lectures and teaching demonstrations were presented, each ending with a question and answer period. For many years, Miss Clark continued to offer these public workshops in an effort to reach out to other teachers.
Frances Clark and Louise Goss collaborated in writing a new piano course for the Summy publishing company. Miss Clark’s method departed from the traditional Middle C approach by introducing a new approach to teaching notation. As Robert Fred Kern affirms, The Frances Clark Library for Piano Students is believed to have been the first method based on an intervallic system of note reading using progressive staff notation and landmarks as guide notes. After the publication of The Clark Library in 1954-57, the course gained recognition, and authors of other piano method books began to include Miss Clark’s innovations in design.
The Clark piano course was unique in more ways than one. Frances Clark studied established learning theories that advocated a step-by-step approach. In keeping with theories set forth by William James, Alfred North Whitehead, et. al., Miss Clark introduced all concepts in sequential order; a new concept always followed a related concept that was already understood. She also further prepared and reviewed each concept. The learning process as applied to piano instruction was groundbreaking, according to Kern. The course remains exemplary.
The partnership of Frances Clark and Louise Goss went far beyond their collaboration in writing the library. In 1955, Miss Clark and Miss Goss became faculty members at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey to help the college institute an undergraduate pedagogy program. With the program at Westminster firmly established, they then decided to organize an advanced teacher-training program. The New School for Music Study opened in 1960 as the only post-graduate training center. Many of today’s leading pedagogues received their advanced training at The New School.
The success of Frances Clark’s endeavors resulted in a great demand for her much respected advice. In 1961, she was asked to write a column for the journal, The Piano Teacher. “Frances Clark Answers” appeared as a featured article until the last edition of The Piano Teacher was published in 1965. Fortunately for her readers, the magazine was acquired by Clavier. Her new column was titled “Questions and Answers.” For twenty-six years, Miss Clark responded to hundreds of letters written by teachers worldwide who requested her guidance.
In my next blog, I will move this timeline forward to 1981 when The New School first offered a Master’s degree program as well as a certificate course. In the meantime, you may want to go back and read all of my other blogs for more detailed information.
My first blog was posted as “A Legacy.”