We are at the close of another busy, but productive school year, and our faculty members are already looking forward to next year. At The New School for Music Study, lesson planning is ongoing, and school events that are scheduled year round are arranged well ahead of time.Even though I am still teaching and completing reports, I want to post this last blog before summer vacation begins.If you recall, I said that I would finish this timeline by giving a recap of what has transpired over the past eighteen years. Here are the highlights.
In 1998, Louise Goss met with colleagues to consider future directions.In a letter sent to alumni and associates, Miss Goss announced “Many meetings and much hard work later, we have created The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy, a not-for-profit corporation designed to perpetuate Frances’ philosophies and extend the work of The New School.We are incorporated, have elected a Board of Trustees, prepared a prospectus, and started on a list of priority goals… There will be research projects, workshops dealing with independent studio operations and teacher-training programs, keyboard education at the college level, information for consumers, the study of what teaching materials work best and why, and the best use of keyboards.” Board members at that time included Marvin Blickenstaff, Richard Chronister, Robert Duke, Louise Goss, Sam Holland, Gail Neale, Elvina Truman Pearce, Jack Spector, and Nelita True. Mr. Blickenstaff soon joined the faculty of The New School for Music Study in 1999.
Once the center was up and running, it was decided that the affiliation with Westminster Choir College was no longer needed. The New School for Music Study and Westminster had offered a Master’s degree program in piano pedagogy and performance for more than twenty-five years, but other plans were in the making. The last graduate student enrolled in the degree program completed the 1999-2000 school year. According to Louise Goss, long-term plans specified that The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy would assume full responsibility for supervising any teacher training in the future.This included proposals for reviving special course offerings such as the three-day study session that was available to anyone who was interested in observing instruction. Although The New School does not offer a graduate program at the present time, the school grants a fellowship each year to a recent graduate who has attained a Master’s degree. The recipient completes a teaching internship that provides on-the-job training. The New School for Music Study also continues to serve as a laboratory for the testing of innovative teaching techniques. Faculty members still evaluate new and revised instruction materials in an effort to improve the quality of piano education.
Louise Goss believed that it was very important to reactivate The National Conference on Piano Pedagogy, co-founded by Richard Chronister and James Lyke (the conference convened for almost two decades until 1994). Louise succeeded in doing this by bringing together the leaders of the piano teaching profession. Since 2001, The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy has sponsored The National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, an event held every two years. As Miss Goss envisioned, conferences have included lectures, teaching demonstrations, recitals, and presentation of research projects. Keynote speakers and workshop clinicians have lectured on topics that all instructors need to consider such as how to teach reading, rhythm, and technique in a way that assures retention. Hands-on technology sessions have allowed teachers to explore the latest teaching tools that motivate practice. Without exception, every conference has featured master classes and recitals that showcase virtuoso talent. To give but one example, Alessio Bax performed in 2009. The next convention will be held July 26-29, 2017 in Lombard, Illinois.
New research findings have been published through materials disseminated by the center. Keyboard Companion premiered in 1998 with a keen audience eager to learn more about the art of teaching and the demands of performing. In 2008, Keyboard Companion and the journal, Clavier, merged as Clavier Companion. The first publication, January/February 2009, debuted as “the only independent publication in North America devoted exclusively to the concerns of the piano/keyboard performer, teacher, and enthusiast.” The journal has been well received. Articles have garnered praise for informative content and exceptional subject matter. For example, the first issue included interviews with Lang Lang and Leon Fleisher, artists well-known for their illustrious performance careers.
The New School for Music Study celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2010. To mark the anniversary of the school’s founding in 1960, alumni and former faculty members gathered at Westminster Choir College and The New School to reminiscence as well as catch up with what has happened in the years that have followed. Lectures, teaching demonstrations, and recitals by attendees were scheduled over the course of two days so as to stay well informed and motivated, a Clark decree. The gala celebration culminated in a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City on October 3, 2010. Faculty members from The New School performed a selection of French music. For all participants, the recital was an experience that will not be forgotten.
Again, I should mention The Frances Clark Summer Workshops. These workshops have featured an array of topics. Sam Holland demonstrated how to use recordings of The Music Tree when he was invited as a clinician for the 1996 summer session. Dr. Holland also gave a teaching presentation of the instruction books titled Musical Fingers, and lectured on the history of American piano pedagogy. At the same session, Elvina Truman Pearce offered a teaching analysis of literature from the major style periods and performed an evening recital. Teachers from sixteen states traveled to New Jersey to attend the session. The summer workshops were not offered after The Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy sponsored the first conference in 2001, but a renewed interest in the workshops has recently developed. The first session of Practical Piano Pedagogy was held in 2012. The next workshop that is slated for August 11-13, 2016 will give teachers an opportunity to work one-on-one with the faculty.
The website you are now browsing is coordinated by Amy Glennon, our educational director at The New School. Inaugurated in 2013, this site has certainly helped to acquaint teachers with Frances Clark’s groundbreaking approach, and suggestions by experienced teachers have given new insight. If you take some time to look back at some of our postings, you should recognize the names of many of our contributors. I enjoy reading the “Quote of the Week” for inspiration.
Unfortunately, the teaching profession lost one of our greatest mentors when Louise Goss passed away on April 1, 2014. Her death was unexpected, and it is still difficult to think of her not standing by, ready to offer advice and guidance. A service was held on June 7, 2014 at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey. Her colleagues and former students assembled at the church on the following day for a memorial concert. The words of appreciation expressed at both services and the tributes that continue to this day represent the respect and admiration the establishment feels toward a charismatic leader who spent a lifetime working to raise the standards of the piano teaching profession. She accomplished more than most, and her many students are deeply grateful.
In retrospect, it is evident that without the leadership of Frances Clark and Louise Goss, the field of piano pedagogy would not exist as it does today. When they first set out to train teachers, they did so knowing that piano teachers lacked a thorough education. The advanced teacher-training program at The New School for Music Study was the first of its kind. In addition to a comprehensive curriculum, the school provided training supervised by seasoned professionals. As consultants, Frances Clark and Louise Goss helped several schools institute teacher-training programs that remain front and center (e.g. Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas). Alumni have participated in organizing pedagogy programs at schools nationwide.
The New School for Music Study has gained recognition for many reasons, but clearly, the school has attained a high-profile status because Frances Clark and Louise Goss demanded only the best. The number of alumni and former faculty who have become distinguished pedagogues attests to the school’s success. Just look at the roster: e.g. Martha Braden, Tony Caramia, Ted Cooper, Richard Chronister, Miriam Eley, Roger Grove, Sam Holland, David Kraehenbuehl, Phyllis Lehrer, Stephen McCurry, John O’Brien, Lynn Freeman Olson, Elvina Truman Pearce, Phyllis Rappaport, and Craig Sale. The New School still attracts and retains talent. Dr. Rebecca Pennington now serves as our Administrative Director, and Marvin Blickenstaff, recognized world-wide for his teaching and performance, remains on staff as artist-in-residence.
Frances Clark’s contributions to piano teaching will always be remembered. The following excerpt from Sam Holland’s tribute to Miss Clark at a memorial service was published in the Autumn 1998 issue of Keyboard Companion.
“Historians will remember Frances Clark as a great teacher of teachers and a great organizer of materials. Everyone here knows that story. In fact, most of us count her as the original—the inventor of American pedagogy. There is no current method, no piano pedagogy course, no independent teacher in this country that has not been touched by her thinking.”
As a research center, The New School for Music Study will play a vital role in sustaining Frances Clark’s legacy. All research into new applications of Miss Clark’s teaching philosophies will be reported in an ongoing effort to educate teachers. With so many people committed to Frances Clark’s legacy, her influence as a leading authority on piano education will continue indefinitely, and as a result, further improvements in teaching materials and methods will be founded upon Miss Clark’s incomparable contributions to piano education. The future looks promising. Those who now carry the torch believe that Frances and Louise would be pleased.