In the past few issues, Clavier Companion has released a series entitled “The Future of Piano Teaching.” While this is an open–ended and complicated topic, it has the opportunity to reveal a myriad of important issues for pianists and educators of different generations. Not only should veteran teachers contributing to the conversation, but also young professionals and students.
The following entries are from three members of The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music's (CCM’s) collegiate chapter of MTNA. Each member was asked to talk about a specific aspect of piano teaching that they felt should stay the same or an aspect that should change.
From Andy Villemez, DMA piano:
When first confronted with this topic, my eyes got big in both excitement and fear. There is a palpable optimism about arts education in many people I speak with. There is also a daunting amount of work to be done maintaining and increasing the cultural presence of music lessons (and arts education) in our communities.
And with whom does this responsibility lie? Besides the music director of the major symphony in your area, who else is responsible for consistently proving to the community how valuable traditional music instruction is?
What I wish to see in the future of piano teaching is each and every teacher make it a core aspect of their mission to foster students that can become arts ambassadors for the next generation.
I am amazed at how some teachers accomplish this already, and I am also amazed at how quickly some teachers have lost sight of this.
The future is bright, and it is also a scary unknown. I hope that through acknowledging that, we can also help each other strengthen the future foundation of arts education.
From Susan Yang, MM piano:
What needs to change–more artistic exposure.
The more performer and composer biographies that I read, the more I come to realize that each great artist has some sort of formative musical experience at a young age – usually meeting or hearing some great travelling artist. Against this, we can see that classical music is becoming less and less popular with younger generations (including my own).
This is a troubling thought, as it means that many young music students rarely (if at all) go to see classical recitals, or even concerts of any genre.
Students are missing opportunities to be exposed to different artists and the musical differences that each artist can embody. This would be like trying to write novels having only read books by one author, or learning to play basketball without having ever seen a game.
It just does not make any sense to artificially limit yourself as you grow within a certain discipline.
The burden for this falls on both teachers and parents – teachers need to be aware of the artistic scenes, and parents need to be proactive about taking advantage of as many concerts as possible.
From Sophie Wang, DMA piano:
The notion of the Millennials’ tendency to crave constant praise and recognition has possibly shifted our educational system. In adjudicating music events such as festivals or competitions, ratings should reflect the merit of students’ actual performances.
In keeping the experience a positive one for participants and parents, judges are often asked to award considerably high ratings. For instance, festivals often offer “superior” as the highest rating, with "excellent” as the adjacent option. When approximately 80% of the participants receive “superior,” a few must deserve the designation. However, it can be argued that, with 80% designated superior, a necessary distinction between superiority and a level below has not been made.
By all means, students’ effort should be applauded, but educators ought not to sacrifice standards and values merely to retain participants. After all, when 80% of participants receive a rating of “superior,” the term begins to lose its true definition.
Allowing our younger generation falsely believe in inflated grades may satisfy their need of instant recognition briefly, but in the long term it can only weaken them.