Every other summer for the past six years, I have had the joy of attending the Practical Piano Pedagogy Seminar at the New School for Music Study. It is three days of listening, participating, learning, discussing, and socializing that I look forward to all year long.
While I find the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy to be invigorating, the seminar is equally so but with an added personal touch. Because there are only twenty teachers in attendance, activities can be directly applied to the individual. Two of the most helpful activities are the private pedagogy lesson and the piano lesson. For the private pedagogy lesson, the participant sends in a recording of a piano lesson she has taught. Then she meets with one of the staff to get feedback. This has had a huge impact on my teaching from how I conduct my first piano lesson with a student to how I direct students to how I manage a high-energy student. It is a wonderful and rare opportunity to reflect upon one's teaching in an expert, but nurturing, environment. In the piano lesson, the participant shares pieces that present difficulties when teaching. I have come away from these lessons with great ideas on how to tackle pieces so that students are excited and successful, and I can apply the lessons learned across my teaching.
Along with these two unique learning experiences, the pedagogy seminar brings in students for teaching demonstrations of both individual and group lessons as well as the initial interview process. There are fascinating lectures on a wide range of topics including pedaling, Sonatinas, and Baroque articulations. There are presentations about various aspects of piano pedagogy followed by question and answer periods and breakout discussions. I have gotten some great group and off-the-bench activity ideas and innovative, thoughtful teaching approaches from these. Participants can perform in a masterclass led by legendary pedagogue Marvin Blickenstaff. Every year, the staff gives an exciting recital of their favorite teaching pieces which opens up a world of new repertoire. And this year, along with the past seminar, the participants will give a recital of a set of pieces. The amount of activities and learning that takes place in a very short amount of time is tremendous—and so thrilling.
But what makes the Practical Piano Pedagogy Seminar a truly special experience is the staff. The teachers at the New School for Music Study work tirelessly to put on a high-energy, highly engaging seminar. Their thoughtfulness and expertise are impressive. Their interest in what other teachers are having success with or struggling with is sincere. Just watching them in action inspires a person to want to be a better teacher. Their encouragement and enthusiasm send me away from the seminar with a true hunger and excitement to get back to teaching and to approach my teaching with their same commitment to excellence. I can say for a fact that my teaching, and therefore my students, have benefitted from this outstanding seminar. I hope I will see you there!
Brooke Dezio holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance from the University of Memphis, a Master of Music in Piano Performance from James Madison University, and a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from James Madison University. She has been teaching since 1993, maintains an active studio in Charlottesville, Virginia, and performs regularly as a soloist and collaborative pianist.