To recap, I am returning to my timeline that highlights the accomplishments of Frances Clark and Louise Goss. In addition to what I have already shared, I am adding some new information, including a list of the many awards Miss Clark received over the course of her career. The following was obtained from several primary sources. For my research, I often cited Robert Fred Kern’s dissertation, “Frances Clark: The Teacher and Her Contributions to Piano Pedagogy,” (University of Northern Colorado).
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.
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 understood. She also further prepared and reviewed each concept. According to Kern, the learning process as applied to piano instruction was groundbreaking. 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. Because the school’s piano department also served as a laboratory, graduate students were able to participate in research projects that evaluated the effectiveness of piano teaching techniques. Many of these graduates who received their advanced training at The New School are now leading pedagogues. Other teacher-training programs have been designed in consultation with Frances Clark and Louise Goss. Under the leadership of Miss Clark and her associates, piano pedagogy has become a specialized field of study at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
For decades, Frances Clark gave public workshops in an effort to reach out to the teaching community. 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 (Miss Clark assisted Guy Maier with his workshops, and a similar format was followed). Workshop activities included lectures on various topics, demonstrations of both private and group teaching, recitals, and of course, the panel discussions that opened with questions taken from the audience. While the format remained the same, the workshops were relocated to The New School for Music Study and Westminster. In the same way that music organizations have united the teaching profession, these workshops gave teachers an opportunity to participate in forum discussions when otherwise they may not have been able to do so. In addition, teachers accustomed to the traditional Middle C piano methods discovered a new way of teaching after observing Miss Clark’s approach. Before the beginning of her retirement in 1992, Frances Clark appeared as a guest lecturer in workshops and seminars held at different locations across the country. Miss Clark’s practical teaching suggestions as well as her knowledge of group teaching techniques made her a popular workshop clinician.
The success of Frances Clark’s endeavors resulted in a great demand for her much respected and valued 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 December of 1965. Fortunately for her readers, the magazine was acquired by Clavier. Titled “Questions and Answers,” the new column premiered in the January-February 1966 issue with the following proposal: Have you a problem? Send us your questions about specific teaching problems, performance problems, and related subjects…” For twenty-six years up to the time of her retirement, Frances Clark responded to hundreds of letters written by teachers worldwide who requested her guidance. With such a large-scale audience, Miss Clark’s words of advice helped to raise the standards of the piano teaching profession.
Frances Clark was active in the teaching community throughout her career. She held a membership in several music associations, including Sigma Alpha Iota, the Music Teachers National Association, the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the National Society of Arts and Letters, and the New Jersey Music Teacher’s Association of which she was co-founder and state president in 1960.
Miss Clark’s achievements have received national attention and acclaim. In 1963, Kalamazoo College awarded Frances Clark an honorary Doctor of Music degree, and in 1983, the Emeritus Club of Kalamazoo acknowledged her many accomplishments in piano teaching with a special alumni award. She was also selected as a featured authority at The National Conference on Piano Pedagogy in 1978, 1980, and in 1982. Recognized for her distinguished career, Miss Clark was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the N.C.P.P. in 1984, the first such award presented. Rutgers University gave Miss Clark the highly regarded Women of Distinction Award. Following her retirement, Frances Clark continued to gain recognition for her extraordinary accomplishments. The Music Teachers National Association bestowed a Distinguished Achievement Award. She also accepted an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Westminster Choir College in May of 1997. The Irving S. Gilmore International Festival of Kalamazoo, Michigan dedicated its Master class programs to Miss Clark on April 24, 1998, just one week after her death.
There have been many new developments in recent years to maintain Frances Clark’s legacy. Before her passing in 2014, Louise Goss worked tirelessly to assure that Miss Clark’s philosophies and innovative teaching approach were made known. Her efforts have proven to be successful. Read my next blog if you are not fully aware of what has transpired since 1999. The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy sustains Miss Clark’s legacy, and renowned pedagogues are leading the way.