Thursday, January 29, 2015

Professional Piano Teaching - by Jeanine M. Jacobson

Professional Piano Teaching: A Comprehensive Piano Pedagogy Textbook for Teaching Elementary-Level Students is a valuable resource that should be on the teacher's shelf. The book is quite readable and offers multiple examples for consideration. Carefully organized into clearly defined chapters, I found Jacobson's text to be extremely beneficial as it allowed me to focus on a single aspect of the complex process of piano teaching in each chapter. From her examination of method approaches to the discussions of teaching rhythm, technique, and sound development, Jacobson addresses our profession in such a way that clearly establishes her as an authority with lots of experience and expertise.

Perhaps most valuable for the new teacher (or those of us returning to the private student after a long sabbatical) are the chapters that conclude the book:  "The Business of Piano Teaching" and "Evaluation of Teaching." Over the years, I have found that the source of frustration for many teachers comes from not having clearly established policies that they feel comfortable implementing. Whether the issue relates to tuition, scheduling of lessons, or maintaining records, Jacobson offers sage advice in a way that makes the necessary task much more manageable. Additionally, Professional Piano Teaching reminds us of the importance of regular evaluation of our teaching as we pursue greater levels of excellence -- for the benefit of our students and the profession as a whole.

In conclusion, I wanted to share with you a few of the "nuggets" I found in Professional Piano Teaching. These words of wisdom have already impacted my personal teaching and I anticipate returning to the text repeatedly in the coming years.
  • "While isolated mistakes are common to all pianists, learned mistakes result when students do not understand or forget the necessary information. Once a student kinesthetically learns a piece incorrectly, it is very difficult for him/her to unlearn it. To eliminate frustration for both the teacher and the student, it is sometimes best to drop the piece and study the same concepts and skills in another piece." (p. 105)
  • "Pedaling is a listening skill, not a physical one, but a physical motion is needed to create the correct musical sound." (p. 170)
  • "Just as university professors organize lectures, ministers outline sermons, and public school teachers prepare plans that organize the day's activities, piano teachers should plan what to teach in each lesson and how it will be taught. . . A lesson plan brings focus to the lesson and assures learning, progress and accomplishment. Teachers should not be afraid to alter the lesson plan when the student has practiced more or less than expected or has trouble with the assignment. The lesson plan provides structure so the teacher can confidently provide a valuable learning experience, regardless of the variables." (p. 206-207)
I highly recommend Professional Piano Teaching regardless of how long you have been in the profession. I am confident that Jacobson will inspire and challenge you. What books have you found to be most beneficial to your growth as a teacher? I'd love to have your recommendations to add to my personal reading list.