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#1233002 - 07/17/09 03:01 PM Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . .  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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Long time forum members know I'm enthused about the Piano Guild Audition process, here in the USA. Newer members may not have heard my sales pitch, so here goes.

Yesterday, being the two month marker since Spring Auditions, I decided it was time to find out where students were in Repertoire maintenance. Much to my very pleasant surprise, students averaged well over 90%. That is, my International students who had memorized 15 pieces could correctly play 13 or 14 of them, from memory of course. My national students could play 9 of their 10 pieces. What a delight.

One 5th grade girl complained that her friend was more advanced (she had taken a year longer) but when I quizzed her on how many pieces she could play without music in front of her, it was a different matter. So, I asked, who's the better pianist, the one who can sit down and play music, or the one who has to find some notes to read?

Of course we know this is quite subjective, but parents seem to love the fact that their students can actually play repertoire on command, so it's worth thinking about.

Anyway, for those of you thinking about Guild for the coming year, now's the time to get your membership in and to start students learning their technical phases. As far as repertoire goes, start slowly. Jumping from one memorized recital piece a year to 4, 7, 10 or even 15 is a huge shift in practice requirements and work for you.

I'll be happy to field questions here or by PM.

Regards,

John


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
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#1233277 - 07/18/09 09:20 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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AZNpiano Offline
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Jumping from one memorized recital piece a year to 4, 7, 10 or even 15 is a huge shift in practice requirements and work for you.


John:

As you might know, Guild is not extremely popular in California, where MTAC pretty much has the entire state cornered and everybody is doing CM.

I can see the value of memorizing 10 or 15 pieces when students are younger (4th grade?) and play at the level of Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook. But anything beyond that, you'd run into two problems:

1) Kids do get busy with schoolwork! It's hard enough to get them to do the two required memorized pieces for CM. I usually require more than 2 pieces memorized, but I do see how kids are getting way busier than in the past.

2) As students start playing more advanced repertoire, I don't see how they can continue to memorize everything. Do you make your students memorize 10 Chopin Etudes? Or 10 sonata movements? I didn't even play 10 pieces for my Senior Recital in college, and it went past 90 minutes.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#1233283 - 07/18/09 09:31 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Congratulations on your successes! You must feel really proud [Linked Image]

Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
So, I asked, who's the better pianist, the one who can sit down and play music, or the one who has to find some notes to read? John
Thems is fightin' words John!! LOL [Linked Image][Linked Image]


It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.
#1233288 - 07/18/09 09:43 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Ebony and Ivory]  
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I've already got my fees in and my new membership card for the new year :-)

I also have a new guild planning sheet I'm using in their binders this year and have already started talking it up with my students. Most will have at least one or two movements of their sonatinas memorized by the end of summer, and we'll new music to write on the planning sheet!


~Stanny~

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#1233630 - 07/18/09 11:58 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: AZNpiano]  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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To answer your question, AZN, it really depends on the student. Yes, the young students learn and master 10 to 15 new pieces each year but as they get older, the process changes.

As they get into the Intermediate level material, they carry forward a few of the most challenging pieces from the previous years, then as they get into upper intermediate and lower advanced, they carry forward even more, while learning longer, more difficult new material.

One of my HS 10th grader has the following repertoire(I think I've listed this before): the entire Schumann Scenes of Childhood, the entire Bach French Suite #5, 1st mvt, Italian Concerto, a Schubert Impromptu, Brahms Rhapsody #2, a Chopin Nocturne, and perhaps something else I'm forgetting. Now, he didn't learn this all in one year, but rather, we've been building this over 4 years now. He has learned other pieces, such as several Mozart and Beethoven sonatas in addition. But he can sit down and give a decent recital at this point. He is in honors programs and on two of the school's sports teams as well, so he has to husband his time quite carefully.

What is nice about Guild is that a student can learn and master an above grade piece, then polish it over several years using it in auditions for several cycles. Of course, each year, it's much better, musically, than the year before.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1233650 - 07/19/09 12:54 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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John:

That is a massive repertoire to maintain. Wait until he starts AP classes. That'll put an end to his practice time.

I have mixed feelings about this memorization requirement. I'm not big on memorizing, especially since I'm terrible at it. Also, how do kids feel like playing the same piece for over a year, or four years? My last two years of high school I kept one massive piece, and it didn't get any better over time--in fact, it got so bad, I must now go back and re-learn the whole piece by myself.

That being said, there must be positives that come out of maintaining a decent repertoire at hand. Do you feel overwhelmed, though, by how many pieces you ought to play well as a teacher? That seems like a separate question, but it's realted to the number of pieces to keep up at a recital quality.


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#1233740 - 07/19/09 09:36 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: AZNpiano]  
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John,
What practice routine do you recommend to students to maintain this number of pieces, and learn new ones?

#1233746 - 07/19/09 10:01 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Phlebas]  
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John,
I never considered holding over a piece for the following year's audition. Do you do this only from a certain level on (like Intermediate or Prep)? Or also with younger more beginning level students?

I just received this year's Guild membership card. I am also in California, so I do CM and Guild, although not every student will do both. I start students in Guild as it's less strenuous than CM (since CM requires a theory test & sightreading, as well as technique and repertoire). After a couple of years of Guild I'll have students do CM as well.


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#1233850 - 07/19/09 03:21 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: dumdumdiddle]  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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Hello all,

Let me try to answer some of the many questions you've raised.

First, D3, you asked about repeating repertoire. Here's an example: A student has learned the 1st movement of Clementi Op 36, #1. It's a stretch and their audition is an Elementary E or F. The following year, they've added the 3rd mvt, and play both mvts at auditions. Student is now an Elementary F or Intermediate A. The other repertoire is a bit more challenging, like a dance or two from Anna M. Bach notebook, a couple of easier pieces from Schumann and perhaps a couple of modern pieces from Kabalevsky and Shostakovitch. They might have done the Bach G maj minuet the first year, added the g minor and the other G maj, which is quite a bit more challenging.

In other words, they've mastered 7 new pieces, carried forward 3. By the way, one or two of those pieces could be technique phases, such as scales and chord progressions.

To earn the HS diploma, the student must do a sight reading exam, so it would behoove the student to do a sight reading phase from time to time, to gain experience.

The only major negative about Guild is that they lack a theory component, and all I know is that "it's in the works."


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1233855 - 07/19/09 03:25 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Phlebas]  
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Originally Posted by Phlebas
John,
What practice routine do you recommend to students to maintain this number of pieces, and learn new ones?


The secret, I believe is that you as a teacher must listen to repertoire periodically at the lesson. My experience is, what you don't listen to (and work on) won't get practiced.

My lesson assignment sheet has a place for listing repertoire and to check off when practiced. I suggest to parents that they have Sunday after dinner concerts, when their students present a mini-recital for them. Sometimes, I have to be really blunt with parents: your children will do exactly what you expect them to do.....through your actions. If you have a weekly piano playing time for family, where all other activities are stopped, and the focus is on your children, then they will rise to the occasion. If you blow off performance because you don't have the time, then I can guarantee that your children will follow your lead.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1233861 - 07/19/09 03:34 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
John:

That is a massive repertoire to maintain. Wait until he starts AP classes. That'll put an end to his practice time.


He's already ready in AP classes, but music is a family priority, and that helps immensely!

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
How do kids feel like playing the same piece for over a year, or four years? My last two years of high school I kept one massive piece, and it didn't get any better over time--in fact, it got so bad, I must now go back and re-learn the whole piece by myself.


If the longer, more advanced works are learned well, the student understands the musical structure the composer uses, memorization is far better than just finger memory. This negates the need for constant daily practice on any given piece.

I suggest to these students that on Saturdays or Sundays, they select two or three pieces from their repertoire and spend some quality, highly focused time on it, perhaps an hour or more.

For everyone, most of my teaching pieces, I can and do play from memory. Why? Because I teach with two pianos, and I am playing student repertoire constantly, both to illustrate and playing along with the student. If you're looking for a way to justify a second instrument, this is certainly a good one.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1233945 - 07/19/09 07:06 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Phlebas Offline
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted by Phlebas
John,
What practice routine do you recommend to students to maintain this number of pieces, and learn new ones?


The secret, I believe is that you as a teacher must listen to repertoire periodically at the lesson. My experience is, what you don't listen to (and work on) won't get practiced.

My lesson assignment sheet has a place for listing repertoire and to check off when practiced. I suggest to parents that they have Sunday after dinner concerts, when their students present a mini-recital for them. Sometimes, I have to be really blunt with parents: your children will do exactly what you expect them to do.....through your actions. If you have a weekly piano playing time for family, where all other activities are stopped, and the focus is on your children, then they will rise to the occasion. If you blow off performance because you don't have the time, then I can guarantee that your children will follow your lead.


John,

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Does this apply to students in the 10th and 11th grade, where the pieces might be a movement from a classical sonata, or a Chopin grand waltz?

I find this idea fascinating.

#1234062 - 07/20/09 12:32 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Phlebas]  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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Although some of my HS students tend to blow off performance, as you would expect from many teens, they generally find they're the ones having problems come recitals and auditions.

I basically tell my HS students that their pieces are longer and more challenging, and they simply cannot maintain an elementary school practice routine if they expect to perform at a HS level. It's their choice, I'm not going to install a practice monitor or put it on their permanent school record if they decide to sluff off serious practice.

FYI, the level of difficulty for Prep A (high school A) is on the order of Mozart K545 or Beethoven Op 49, #2. Prep B moves up to Sonata in G K283 and Op 49, #1; Prep C might be Mozart Sonata K280 or some of the early Beethoven Sonatas, Op 5, perhaps. Prep D is the next higher level. The Bach Italian Concerto would be an example.

I tend to search for challenging miniatures for students so we can sample more composers, more musical styles, and not stress out on several huge works. If the student has an adept memory, then I feel comfortable giving them a major sonata, otherwise, not.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1234066 - 07/20/09 12:38 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
I tend to search for challenging miniatures for students so we can sample more composers, more musical styles, and not stress out on several huge works


That's why I love Six Preludes by Muczynski. Poem by Fibich is also quite nice (and short).


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#1252285 - 08/19/09 11:33 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: AZNpiano]  
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I am new to the forum and there have not been any posts to this topic for awhile, but I am such a fan of Guild that I just have to support John and his comments. I have been involved with Guild for 7 years now. At this point all of my students play 10 pieces or a national program. The first year or two they might have a little trouble memorizing but after that it just becomes a part of their learning process. As they get into high school some students have a little trouble getting 10 pieces put together but yes you can repeat favorites and you can always find a few shorter pieces to fill out a program. Until I was involved with Guild my students were just not motivated to learn their scales and arpeggios. Plus my students are playing more advanced music at a younger age than in the past. I know that Guild has made a hugh difference for my students.

#1252289 - 08/19/09 11:43 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: abcdefg]  
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Hi abcdefg and welcome. Especially nice to have another Guild teacher on board. Not to put you on the spot, but how are you coming towards certification? It's a tough hill to climb, but certainly worth it.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1256156 - 08/25/09 09:47 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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I haven't looked into certification yet. I am thrilled if I get my students through their auditions. I haven't taken time to see what I need to do to get certified.

#1256256 - 08/26/09 02:40 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook

One 5th grade girl complained that her friend was more advanced (she had taken a year longer) but when I quizzed her on how many pieces she could play without music in front of her, it was a different matter. So, I asked, who's the better pianist, the one who can sit down and play music, or the one who has to find some notes to read?

Here's a different way to look at it. Which student can play the other student's music?

Memorization is wonderful when it is not used as a replacement for reading. It should be the icing on the cake, not the cake.

I am much more impressed by students (and players) who can play a great deal of music with scores than those who play well from memory but take forever to learn new music.

Now, in a perfect world wonderful students will play very well and play MANY things well and can learn new things very quickly and also can memorize all of them if they wish.

In a perfect world…


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#1256669 - 08/26/09 04:56 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Gary D.]  
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
I am much more impressed by students (and players) who can play a great deal of music with scores than those who play well from memory but take forever to learn new music.


Mmm... I feel the opposite. I've seen so many people who can only play when there's music in front of them. I can't imagine sitting at a piano and not playing SOMETHING, either memorized or improvised. How sad.

I teach all of my students to memorize from the very beginning of lessons. I tell them to always have at least two pieces ready to play at a moment's notice: one to perform initially, and then another, when people will rave about the first performance and then of course will want to hear something else.


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#1256684 - 08/26/09 05:11 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: dumdumdiddle]  
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Originally Posted by dumdumdiddle

Mmm... I feel the opposite. I've seen so many people who can only play when there's music in front of them. I can't imagine sitting at a piano and not playing SOMETHING, either memorized or improvised. How sad.

I never said that memorization is unimportant.

But so many time students transfer to me who seem to play impressively so long as they play ONLY things they have already learned and memorized.

And I don't see playing from memory and improvising as even in the same area.


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#1256691 - 08/26/09 05:14 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Gary D.]  
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Gary:

I am in the same boat as you. I have transfer students who take a YEAR to learn one piece. It takes forever for them to learn anything. And when they upload incorrect notes or fingering into their brains, they can't fix/undo their mistakes. It's tough teaching these "memorizers." Of course, they can't sight read anything, either.


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#1256722 - 08/26/09 05:49 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Gary D.]  
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook

One 5th grade girl complained that her friend was more advanced (she had taken a year longer) but when I quizzed her on how many pieces she could play without music in front of her, it was a different matter. So, I asked, who's the better pianist, the one who can sit down and play music, or the one who has to find some notes to read?

Here's a different way to look at it. Which student can play the other student's music?


Gary, I don't disagree with your statements, I was only trying to make the young lady feel better. Her friend is playing music which is about a year into the future for this girl. In fact, however, she has learned six new pieces this summer and can still play most of her Guild repertoire quite well. I believe there's some kind of symbiotic relationship here.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1256728 - 08/26/09 05:58 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: AZNpiano]  
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AZN,

You have just hit upon the reason why I'd rather go through through the challenge of starting students from day one rather than deal with students coming from other teachers.

If MY students don't read well, it's MY fault! wink

I have a seven-year old instantly memorizes anything. The challenge was not letting that memory take over in the first year so that worked out notes, in slo-mo, then memorized and only got things up to speed, purely by memory.

I think that's the greatest handicap a beginning player develops, and it's VERY difficult to fix later.


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#1256813 - 08/26/09 08:10 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Gary D.]  
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Originally Posted by AZN
Wait until he starts AP classes. That'll put an end to his practice time.


Whoa there. Something has to give, for sure, but practice doesn't have to be it. We seem to be juggling AP and practice, so far. We have no competitive sports as a separate responsibility, so the only cost is socializing time and chilling time.

Originally Posted by John v.d. Brook
The secret, I believe is that you as a teacher must listen to repertoire periodically at the lesson. My experience is, what you don't listen to (and work on) won't get practiced.


.... and that would be where nasty ol' busybody parents can come in. When repertoire that should be kept at least minimally 'up' begins to slide, I often suggest pulling it out for old times sake. I think that makes the teacher's job a little easier if and when she wants to hear these pieces again.


AZN,

I know you have probably told me before, but is CM essentially the same thing as Federation elsewhere? The 'two piece' festival sounds suspiciously familiar. Does CA sponsor a competition that builds from the festival pieces?

#1256815 - 08/26/09 08:13 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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I did the Guild audition once, in my senior year for the HS diploma. During my junior year I switched to a teacher who did the Guild process. I'll admit that preparing a full HS diploma list in a year and a summer was a daunting task indeed. I had to memorize a ton of advanced stuff in a short time frame. I still feel good for having done it. Heck, I still remember some of the pieces I played!

Last edited by Piano*Dad; 08/26/09 08:14 PM. Reason: polish the grammar :)
#1256901 - 08/26/09 11:42 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook

Gary, I don't disagree with your statements, I was only trying to make the young lady feel better. Her friend is playing music which is about a year into the future for this girl. In fact, however, she has learned six new pieces this summer and can still play most of her Guild repertoire quite well. I believe there's some kind of symbiotic relationship here.

I'm all for any kind of realistic praise that helps get students motivated. smile

My only point about memorization (and it is consistent) is that it should never be used to compensate for weak reading skills, and this so often happens in the very beginning, when young students wrongfully assume that the fact that remember everything and can play everything from memory, then, means that this will work in the future!


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#1256909 - 08/26/09 11:57 PM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Gary D.]  
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smanning Offline
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I participated in Guild the entire time I took piano lessons and always did a National Program. I earned the Paderewski award my Senior year. After doing Guild for so long it just became another part of the year. We always included recital pieces and I worked on memorizing pieces throughout the year. I always studied a Baroque, Sonata/Sonatina, Romantic and 20th century style piece for each lesson. So, it was pretty easy to put together a National program based on the pieces that I learned and perfected throughout the year. I remember the memorization portion during my Jr. and Sr. year of high school was a little tough, but understanding the form of the piece really helped verses just relying on finger memory.

Anyway, I still sightread and transpose very easily because of Guild Requirements. The eartraining phases really helped during college theory, eartraining and sightsinging.

Once my daughter starts taking piano lessons I want to find a teacher that is a member of the Guild and participates in Guild Auditions. I really think they helped to make me an excellent pianist.

#1256915 - 08/27/09 12:06 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Gary D.]  
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C.Y. Offline
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
I have a seven-year old instantly memorizes anything. The challenge was not letting that memory take over in the first year so that worked out notes, in slo-mo, then memorized and only got things up to speed, purely by memory.

I think that's the greatest handicap a beginning player develops, and it's VERY difficult to fix later.


Could you elaborate more about how not to work out notes purely by memory?

I think my son can memorize a new piece easily, but I don't know if he just works out notes purely by memory.

#1256928 - 08/27/09 12:29 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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AZNpiano Offline
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Orange County, CA
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
AZN,

I know you have probably told me before, but is CM essentially the same thing as Federation elsewhere? The 'two piece' festival sounds suspiciously familiar. Does CA sponsor a competition that builds from the festival pieces?


CM is Certificate of Merit. It's an exam system with a ton of theory thrown in. Kids play 2, 3, 4, or 5 pieces for the test, depending on the level. Most kids don't go beyond level 4 (6th or 7th grade at school) because they either lose interest in piano or the theory becomes too time-consuming. Very often (especially for kids who DON'T do their theory homework), half the lesson time is spent on teaching/re-teaching theory. I really wish kids would learn more theory at school. They need the drill-and-kill practice, especially on simple concepts like key signatures, intervals, major/minor scales, chord progressions, and dominant 7th chords.

Federation is different. Very very few teachers here do Federation. Some teachers do Guild, but the great majority of piano teachers in the state go for CM.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#1256932 - 08/27/09 12:34 AM Re: Piano Guild and the case for memorization . . . . [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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AZNpiano Offline
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Orange County, CA
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Originally Posted by AZN
Wait until he starts AP classes. That'll put an end to his practice time.


Whoa there. Something has to give, for sure, but practice doesn't have to be it. We seem to be juggling AP and practice, so far. We have no competitive sports as a separate responsibility, so the only cost is socializing time and chilling time.

Okay, let me rephrase...

Wait until he takes FIVE AP classes. That'll put an end to his practice time.

I took 5 AP classes my senior year. Bad mistake. Calculus BC was the nightmare of my life. I don't know how I managed to learn a concerto on top of the five required pieces for Panel. The problem is: some of my current high-school students are heading down the same path of nonsense. It's like, if you don't take 5 AP classes, you won't get into the college of your choice.


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