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Book Review ~ The Success Factor in Piano Teaching: Making Practice Perfect – Pearce

August 25, 2015

I’ve been lucky enough to know Elvina Pearce for years. On several occasions, she visited the New School for Music Study for a few days as the pedagogue-in Residence. She observed our teaching, provided insightful feedback, taught our repertoire classes, and presented interactive workshops. Above all, she gave us a tremendous gift. The knowledge imparted was uniquely tangible. I felt like I could hold it in my hands, and to this day, this knowledge feels just as immediate.


What was it about Elvina that made her words and actions so immediately concrete and useful? It is hard to distill, but these thoughts come to mind:

  • We were being instructed by a practicing, active teacher. These were not nuggets of knowledge from an ivory tower!

  • This teacher had a viewpoint. Her teaching philosophy was practical and practiced. She believed passionately in the principles that have become part of her daily teaching. She was (and is!) an effective communicator, eager to impart teaching strategies that have worked so well in her own studio.

After reading The Success Factor in Piano Teaching: Making Practice Perfect – Elvina Pearce, ed. Craig Sale, I became more fully aware of the amazing background of this experienced and famous pedagogue. What a life, what a legacy!


Given my obvious admiration, though, I have to begin by disagreeing with Ms. Pearce. She states in the preface of this book: The Success Factor in Piano Teaching is not a textbook designed for the purpose of presenting pedagogical guidelines for the achievement of success in piano teaching.” Apologies to Ms. Pearce, but I believe that among other things, her publication CAN and SHOULD serve as a required textbook for all piano pedagogy majors and serious piano teachers.


Unlike some textbooks, though, The Success Factor is not a bit dry, and a fascinating read. It is divided into three parts, Part One: Pedagogy, Part Two: Professionalism, and Part Three: Finale. Part One: Pedagogy includes topics such as lesson planning, teaching the beginning student, teaching the transfer student, and tips for teaching and practicing. Numerous specific examples from the teaching repertoire are explored with many practicing strategies included.


Part Two: Professionalism is equally practical, covering a variety of topics in great detail, including copies of her studio policy, an essay about practice that she provides for her students, the application form, interview procedures, annual parents meetings, assignment sheets, student progress reports, and more.


Part Three: Finale answers miscellaneous questions, and I particularly appreciated the checklist of questions “we as teachers might ask ourselves at the end of each teaching day.”


The Success Factor is sprinkled with anecdotes from Pearce’s distinguished teaching career and early life. As a reader, one might feel as though he or she is sitting down for a cup of coffee with Pearce and chatting about what matters most to her.


Craig Sale has done a wonderful job editing The Success Factor, which delivers on its promise to provide a practical guide on “how to practice, in order to achieve maximum success with minimum time and effort.” This book is an indispensable, essential addition to the library of piano teachers, piano hobbyists, pedagogy students, pedagogy professors, and performing musicians.

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