Friday, August 31, 2007

Collaborative Piano at Stephen F. Austin State University

Dr. Ron Petti sends the following information from the website of the Master of Music in Collaborative Piano at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas:

The School of Music at Stephen F. Austin State University is pleased to announce its newest addition to the growing number of excellent degree programs offered at the university, the Master of Music degree in Piano Accompanying.

Degree Plan - Major Area

MUP 519 Applied Piano (2-2) 1st year
MUP 519a Applied Accompanying (2-2-2-2) 1st & 2nd yr.
MUP 561 Survey of Vocal Literature (2)
MUP 562 Survey of Instr. Literature (2)
MUP 539 Chamber Music Practicum (1)
MUP 509h Applied Harpsichord (1)

Core Requirement

MTC 526 Stylistic Analysis (3)
MHL 531 Bibliography (3)
MHL 521-525 History (4)

Performance Track

MUS 572 *Professional Development (2)

*Serve as accompanist for two of the following ensembles listed below:
MUP 532 Opera Workshop (1), MUP 533.02 Choral Union (1), MUP 537 Jazz Lab Band (1), MUP 535.01 Wind Ensemble (1), MUP 534.01 Orchestra (1)

MUP 595 Recitals 1 Instrumental (0) 1 Vocal (0)

Electives (min. 6 cr. hrs.)

MUP 509 or 519 Applied Organ (1-2)
MUP 519 Applied Piano (2)
MUP 539 Chamber Music Practicum (1)
MUP 456 Choral Conducting Seminar (3)
MUP 457 Instrumental Conducting (3)
MUS 575 Advanced Graduate Studies (1-3)

Foreign Language Requirement:

Students must have passed the equivalent of two semesters of college level study in French, German, or Italian. Diction proficiency in French, German, and Italian is a prerequisite for admission into the program. Students who do not meet this requirement must enroll in the appropriate diction classes as part of their remedial coursework.

For further information regarding assistantships, audition requirements, etc. please contact:

Dr. Ron Petti
Director of Accompanying
(936) 468-1191
rpetti [at] sfasu dot edu


School of Music
Stephen F. Austin State University
Box 13043, SFA Station
Nacogdoches, TX 75962-3043
Phone: (936) 468-4602
Fax: (936) 468-5810

Thanks, Ron! And best of luck to everyone enrolled in the Accompanying program at SFASU.

If you're interested in having your school's collaborative piano degree listed in this blog and a link added to the comprehensive list of Degree Programs in Collaborative Piano, please view this posting for the correct way to submit your info.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The 5 Browns: Not Your Average Piano Quintet

I've previously mentioned the importance of piano duet and duo playing, as well as the challenges of music for larger pianistic forces, such as the 2 pianos/8 hands works I played at Eastman last year.

Enter the 5 Browns. Ryan, Melody, Gregory, Deondra and Desirae are five siblings that perform piano ensemble music in various combinations from solo and duet up to works for five pianos. Fresh off their Canadian debut at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival and CBC Radio 2 broadcast, the Juilliard-trained quintet of pianists are set to release their third album, Browns in Blue, on October 2.

Check out the 5 Browns' website for a crash course on how classical artists should be handling their publicity these days--not just a discography, bio, event listings and photos, but embeddable videos, a forum, polls, desktop wallpaper, IM buddy icons, and merchandise.

The 5 Browns make it look easy, but multi-piano works are extremely difficult to prepare and perform. The sheer volume of more than two pianos sounding at the same time creates an incredibly large mass of sound that must be meticulously balanced in rehearsal--in other words, keep down if you don't have the melody and play like hell if you do.

So how do you set up a quintet of Steinways? Take a look at this video of the 5 Browns performing Gerschwin's Rhapsody in Blue arranged for five pianos. Look closely and you'll get a sense of the dense network of visual cues needed to keep a work of this complexity together. Enjoy--links to the Browns' first two albums are also posted below the video.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

RCM Community School Quick Links

Here are some links to the RCM Community School and its programs for the 2007-08 season. From the RCM site:

Founded in 1886, The RCM Community School is the oldest division of The Royal Conservatory of Music and is also one of the largest community-based music schools in North America.

Designed for people of all ages and levels of ability, it is recognized for its outstanding Early Childhood Education programs and its commitment to lifelong learning. The high-quality, practical and academic instruction offered by The RCM Community School represents a constantly evolving selection of musical traditions, including early music, classical, popular, folk, jazz and world music.

The Community School offers practical music classes and lessons in a variety of acoustic and electric musical instruments; classes in music theory and history, music appreciation, and music and technology; as well as accredited and internationally recognized professional certification courses in music teacher training.

Community School Home Page

Toronto Faculty
Mississauga Faculty

2007-2008 Course Schedule
(I will be teaching the Collaborative Piano Class Wednesday evenings starting September 26.)

Toronto Registration:

Tel: (416) 408-2825
Fax: (416) 408-1955
communityschool [at] rcmusic dot ca

Mississauga Registration:

Tel: (905) 891-7944
Fax: (905) 891-2897
cawthra [at] rcmusic dot ca

More contact info

Community School Concerts and Events
RCM Concerts and Events

Update 9/4/07:

The RCM site has been non-functional since August 31, apparently because of a server meltdown. The site should be up and running again by the end of this week.

Monday, August 27, 2007

10 Articles To Jumpstart Your Piano Experience This Fall

As the academic year looms at the end of the summer, hordes of pianists return to the keyboard after a season of well-earned (and sometimes ill-advised) rest. With this yearly migration back to the 88 keys comes a desire to make more of our practice time, to excel in new and interesting ways, and to build that well-honed performance that will engage audiences and hopefully win a competition or two. Here is my seasonal contribution: a selection of articles I've written in the last while on both playing and teaching piano. May the 07-08 musical season be a successful one for both performers and audiences.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

YouTube of Yehudi Menuhin and Antal Dorati Playing Brahms

Those of you who enjoyed the recording of Georges Enesco I mentioned a few weeks ago might be interested in comparing Enesco's playing to that of his most famous student: Yehudi Menuhin. Here he is (in the early 50's, perhaps?) with Antal Dorati at the piano playing Brahms' Hungarian Dance #4.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tapestry Liblab Highlights at Dark this Saturday

I will be performing some of the highlights from Tapestry's Composer/Librettist Laboratory this Saturday at Dark, a one-evening showcase of the arts at Todmorden Mills in Toronto. From the TO Live With Culture listing:
Nestled in the Don Valley at Pottery Road, the Todmorden site features historic homes, the Brewery Gallery, the Papermill Theatre & Gallery, an historic train station and a 9.2 hectare wild flower preserve. Each of these spaces will be utilized in site-specific, overlapping performances as audiences move about the grounds from 7 – 11 pm in what promises to be a magical and entertaining evening. B.Y.O.F. (bring your own flashlight).
Other artists and performers at Dark include The Amy Project, Actors Repertory Company, Bella Donna, Hyun Liya Choi, Melissa D'Agostino, Sean Dixon, Fu-Gen Asian Theatre Company, Girlcancreate, Impulse Dance, Santee Smith, Samuel Nori Canada, the Wrecking Crew, and selected readings by several playwrights.


The Tapestry show has been announced for 8pm in the Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills. The works to be performed are:

Maggie's Sunflowers by Taylor Graham and Stephen Taylor

Cinderello by Marcia Johnson and William Rowson

F is for the Fear of God by Sandy Pool and Glenn James

Maleficia by Sandy Pool and Stephen Taylor

Double Take by Sandy Pool and Gabriel Ian Gould

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

4 Composers, 4 Librettists, 10 Days, No Sleep

Right now I'm right in the middle of the 2007 Tapestry Composer/Librettist Laboratory held at Rosedale United Church in the Rosedale neighborhood of Toronto. New opera is a constantly expanding art form and the Liblab is the prime seeding ground of many new operas that are being created in Canada.

The Process

Four composers and four librettists collaborate over the course of a week and a half to create a total of 16 operatic scenes from scratch. Initially, the writers are given either a scenario or carte blanche to write a short scene with the composer's needs in mind and often with their input. The next day, the singers are called in to read the libretto for the group, which discusses any initial issues that may come up with the dramatic direction of the scene. The composer (already in the loop with the scene's creation and its reading) then takes the scene and writes the music for it overnight. The next afternoon, the singers and repetiteurs show up and rehearse the scene from sight and then perform the new work in a master class, after which discussion ensues once more among the group.

This afternoon we learned and performed the third group of operatic scenes in the workshop, and are noticing that all 8 writers and composers are getting the hang of the form and are able to create a viable and finished scene within 48 hours of inception.

This year's creative team

Writers: Marcia Johnson, Alison Payne, Sandy Pool, and Taylor Graham
Composers: Gabriel Gould, Glenn James, William Rowson, and Stephen Taylor
Singers: Carla Huhtanen, soprano, Scott Belluz, countertenor, Jessica Lloyd, mezzo, Keith Klassen, and baritone Peter McGillivray
Repetiteurs: Jennifer Tung and myself

Of course, none of this would be possible without the expertise and leadership of Wayne Strongman and Michael Albano as dramaturges and animateurs of the entire project.

The Challenge

What I find fascinating about this process as a pianist is that on every day I am called to read the newly minted scenes, I arrive with nothing. For all those of you who question the purpose of sight-reading skills in piano playing, this workshop is evidence that sight-reading ability is a clearly marketable skill. Jennifer Tung and I start off our coaching days with a brand new score that we need to both read, assist the singers with, and coach in a very short time frame leading to a performance class the same day. The sheer terror I felt on playing this workshop for the first time in 2002 has abated somewhat--the mindset I arrive with is that the singers and pianists can be presented with absolutely anything and need to learn and perform it right away with a clear sense of musical and dramatic integrity. Furthermore, our performance isn't just about ourselves, but about the composers and writers whose works we are workshopping--the better we are at conveying the scenes, the more they learn about what works and what doesn't on the contemporary lyric stage.

The Final Day

In case you are interested in seeing what the composer/librettist teams come up with for the final round of the laboratory, the performance on the last day will be public! Admission is free, and you can catch the performance at 4pm August 23 at Rosedale United Church in Toronto. Selected scenes from the Liblab will be performed September 28 and 29 at Opera Briefs 7 at the Ernest Balmer Studio with an additional performance at Word on the Street.

P.S. Actually, I do get plenty of sleep during these 10 days. It's the writers and composers who feel the burn of working around the clock.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Doctoral Piano Degree: Solo or Collaborative?

This evening I received the following anonymous comment on the What is Collaborative Piano? posting:

Thanks for the informative website. I enjoy your insights. I'm a pianist with a Master's in performance. (neither degree is collaborative) As you know, most non-collaborative programs require a certain amount of chamber playing and possibly vocal accompaniment as well (or might at least offer vocal accompaniment as an assistantship, etc.) In fact, my graduate assistantship was vocal accompaniment. I'm considering a doctoral program in collaborative piano. What is the difference between pursuing a collaborative degree and simply immersing yourself in chamber and vocal music on your own while in a non-collaborative program? Is it simply that there is more chamber/vocal music that is actually required to graduate? I know that languages and other things are emphasized more, but again, some of those things can be pursued on your own if you really desire. I guess my real question is this - if I'm in a great "solo" program with a great voice and string department and I actively seek out these other musicians on my own, continue language studies, etc, what separates the collaborative program from what I'd be doing anyways? What are the main advantages? Perhaps I wouldn't get the vocal coaching training, but I'm not sure that appeals anyways. Any more insights?

First of all, thank you for such an intelligently written comment, anonymous poster! You raise some important questions about which I feel rather strongly.

Yes, it is entirely possible to amass some experience playing chamber and vocal music while in a solo piano doctoral degree. While majoring in the solo repertoire, there is nothing wrong with expanding your horizons learning and performing music in ensemble. Fifteen to twenty years ago, there was a line of thinking that if you wanted to make a career as a collaborative pianist, you should get a degree in solo piano, since faculty and administrators in universities valued a solo degree more than a collaborative one.

Times have changed since the early 90's. There are an increasing number of first-rate collaborative pianists in the music field now with degrees in that field. Taking a collaborative piano degree will give you course work essential to working in the field that you probably won't have time for in a solo degree, such as:
  • Opera Repertoire classes
  • Opera Coaching classes
  • Opera Assistantships
  • Song Repertoire classes
  • Instrumental Repertoire classes
  • Lyric Diction classes
  • Advanced Keyboard Skills
  • Pedagogy of Collaborative Piano classes
Not to mention the experience of learning a large number of songs, arias, sonatas, and concertos that can only be learned through working in the trenches in a collaborative degree with a recognized teacher in the field. It's not enough any more simply to be a "well-rounded" soloist that just happens to know a few sonatas and chamber works. In today's market, you have to know dozens of concertos and sonatas and hundreds of songs and arias if you're ever going to be taken seriously in anything other than the simplest studio accompanying. The level of collaborative graduates at the doctoral level is so high now that competing against them for the same jobs with only a solo degree might get you perceived as merely "dabbling" in the collaborative arts.

But it all depends on what you want to do after graduation. If you want to be primarily a soloist and teacher of piano that also is able to play chamber music, go ahead with the solo degree. If you want to really specialize in the art of making music with others and learn the skills and repertoire to do it at the highest level and then be able to apply and teach it, perhaps you should opt for a collaborative degree.

Note to faculty and administrators of collaborative piano programs
: If you want your school's CP degree program info posted on this blog, see this post.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Are Singers Endangering Themselves?

An article in today's Guardian examines the undue pressures singers are subjected to at the highest levels. Tenor Erick Wottrich in conversation with Axel Brueggerman for the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung talks about overbooking, drugs, extortion, alcoholism, exhaustion, and depression as some of the problems plaguing famous operatic singers.

My take on this is that hearing the flesh-and-blood singer in performance doesn't always live up to what audiences have been led to expect, given the impossibly high level of perfection on meticulously mastered recordings available at present. Of course singers miss high notes and have bad nights. There are also moments in live performance of such powerful emotion that recordings can only capture the smallest hint of what happens in front of an audience. However, the gulf between what can be accomplished on recording and on performance is perhaps widening, as singers (and all performers) need to compete with their own heavily mastered product night after night in conditions that aren't as controllable as that of the recording studio.

The overbooking issue mentioned by Wottrich in the ADZ interview is nothing new--singers are constantly being told by coaches and teachers not to overbook themselves and potentially damage their voices through overuse. I believe that it is ultimately the singer's responsibility to manage a schedule that combines enough engagements to make good money with enough breaks in it to ensure vocal health (and growth).

The pressure to turn to steriods, plastic surgery, and stomach-stapling is something new. However, I can completely understand that impulse in a field where the desire to build one's art to the highest degree (and maintain that level) overrides every other consideration, including relationships, family, and one's health.

It's okay to be human. That's what art is all about.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Speedlinking - 18 August 2007

Please send fondest wishes to the compact disc, celebrating its 25th birthday.

Too much music? Andrew Waggoner writes on the joys of silence.

Pianists new to freelancing might want to read an article in Web Worker Daily about creating your first invoice.

Joshua Nemith writes on what Bach to learn first.

And finally, Jessica Duchen posts a video that demonstrates how not to teach piano.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Richard Bradshaw Remembered

Richard Bradshaw, general director of the Canadian Opera Company, passed away on Wednesday evening at age 63. He will be fondly remembered as the man who not only transformed the COC into a world-class company, but as the driving force behind the construction of the newly completed Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

Canadian Opera Company homepage
A Message from Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada
CBC obituary
Globe and Mail article by Sandra Martin
Toronto Star article by Tess Kalinowski
Michael Posner's article of December 28, 2006 in the Globe and Mail
John Coulbourn's article in the Toronto Sun
Chris Wattie's article in the National Post
Anne Midgette's article in the New York Times
Opera News article
PlaybillArts article
Reuters article
A remembrance by Cate Kustanczi on MySpace
Sylvia at Classical Bookworm is thankful that Bradshaw worked in the UK as long as he did before leaving for Canada
RIP Richard Bradshaw group on Facebook
Press release by the Royal Conservatory of Music
A remembrance in Reading Toronto
Obituary by John Terauds in the Toronto Star
Another article by John Terauds in the Toronto Star
A short tribute by Brian Dickie of the Chicago Opera Theater
A short tribute by Help! I'm a Postmodernist!
A short tribute by PianoKnits
CTV News article with quotes by RCM Faculty Joel Katz and Oregon Symphony President Elaine Calder
Winnipeg Sun/Canadian Press article with quotes by GGS Associate Dean David Visentin, COC concertmaster Marie Berard, and soprano Measha Brueggergosman
A rememberance in Scena Musicale by bass Robert Pomakov
UPI article
Notice in San Francisco Examiner
An appreciation by Robert Everett-Green in the Globe and Mail
An appreciation by Martin Knelman in the Toronto Star
Michael Posner in the Globe and Mail on the search for his successor
Robert Pomakov's letter to the editor from the Toronto Star
Charles Enman's article in the Ottawa Citizen
Article in Variety
An appreciation from Halifax blogger a piece of my mind
A short tribute at Heather's Impromptus
A short tribute at Passion of the Dale
Janos Gereben's article at San Francisco Classical Voice
Malcolm Miller in a 1999 conversation with Richard Bradshaw in Music & Vision
Christine and Bruce McMullan's letter to the editor from the Toronto Star
James Chatto's article in Toronto Life

Update 8/20/07

The funeral will be held Tuesday August 21 at 11am in St. James Cathedral in Toronto.

Notice in Toronto Star

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Joseph Joachim Died 100 Years Ago Today

Today is the 100th anniversary of the death of Joseph Joachim, one of the greatest violinists of the 19th century.

Wikipedia article on Joachim
David Schoenbaum article in the NY Times
Biography on Naxos, with links to some recordings of his works
Another bio on a Tripod site, with the following description of his playing:

"Joachim’s tone, as evidenced from his recordings and descriptions by his contemporaries, was not at all large, but very pure and cool. The bow grip he used, with the fingertips close together and perpendicularly placed on the stick of the bow almost at their tips, though it did not allow a weighty tone, did give minute control over the dynamic nuances and subtle shadings of tone for which he was renowned."

Joachim playing the Brahms Hungarian Dance #1 with anonymous pianist:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

RCM Community School 07-08 Course Schedule

The course schedule for fall and winter classes at the RCM Community School is now online and registration is open.

This year at the Community School I will be coaching singers and teaching piano at both the RCM main location and at my Oakville home studio, as well as teaching the Collaborative Piano Class at the main location Wednesday evenings at 7pm starting September 26.

Course Schedule
Registration Info

Registration and Student Services Office (Toronto):
Tel: 416.408.2825
Fax: 416.408.1955
communityschool [AT]

Registration and Student Services Office (Mississauga)
Tel: 905.891.7944
Fax: 905.408.1955
cawthra [AT]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Audio-only YouTube of Georges Enesco and Dinu Lipatti Playing Enesco's 3rd Violin Sonata

One of the highlights of my summer at Bowdoin was discovering the 3rd Violin Sonata by Georges Enesco. The Eastern European influence that one finds in the works of composers such as Brahms, Dvorak, or Janacek almost pales in comparison with the moments of wonder to be found in this sonata that place it far, far, away from the European mainstream most of us are most comfortable with. Enesco uses microtones prominently in this movement, not with any modernist agenda but as a haunting evocation of a regional style whose beginnings are as lost as the origins of the Romani.

Performing on this audio-only YouTube of the first movement are violinist Georges Enesco with Dinu Lipatti on piano.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

AFEBU (Accompanists for Equal Billing, Unite!) on Facebook

A while ago I mentioned a number of accompanist/collaborative pianist groups on Facebook. Earlier today I noticed a new group with a quickly growing membership: AFEBU (Accompanists for Equal Billing, Unite!). Facebook membership is required, but once you're signed in, anyone can view or join the group. If you've ever showed up at a recital and noticed your name conspicuously absent from the concert program or been told by a concert organizer that it isn't their usual policy to actually pay accompanists, you might want to join this group.

Strange Search Terms

As this site matures, I notice an ever-increasing number of search engine referrals on my stats. Most of them are for perfectly predictable terms such as "collaborative piano", "bathroom divas", "piano technique", or many of the performers and composers mentioned here.

However, I'm noticing a fair number of search engine referrals for terms that have little or nothing to do with my prime content. People search for the strangest things. Following are some of these search term oddities...

lesten to ever again kely
rue des cascades + sheet + crack
guitar tattoo
scala tattoo
bass clef tattoo
alto clef tattoo
therisa boothroom video
font fonts soundout
i can't get contact lens solution in 100ml bottle
sexy embrace

And unbelievably, a large number of searches for the letter "t".

Friday, August 10, 2007

2008 NATS Artist Awards Competition Info

The National Association of Teachers of Singing is now accepting applications the NATSAA 2008 Artist Awards Competition for Singers. This is the 40th year of the competition, with currently a $5,000 first prize, $4,000 second prize and numerous NATS Foundation prizes and awards for finalists and semifinalists.

Singers interested in applying should fill out the application form, which must be received by the NATS Executive Office along with payment by November 16, 2007. Be sure to consult the rules and regulations and audition dates (most of which are TBA at present). The semi-final and final rounds will be held on June 26 and 27, 2008 at the NATS Convention in Nashville, Tenessee. Best of luck to all applicants in this prestigious competition!

Schumann's Rules for Young Musicians

I was happy to have recently found two places to find Robert Schumann's Rules for Young Musicians in English online, both in pdf version and on everything2. Schumann's rules for musical development are no less apt now than when he wrote them. Here are some of my favorites:

4. Play in time! The playing of many virtuosos is like the gait of a drunkard. Make not such your models.

11. You must not only be able to play your little pieces with the fingers; you must be able to hum them over without a piano. Sharpen your imagination so that you may fix in your mind not only the Melody of a composition, but also the Harmony belonging to it.

31. If all would play first violin, we could get no orchestra together. Respect each musician, therefore, in his place.

36. For recreation from your musical studies, read the poets frequently. Walk also in the open air.

50. Do not neglect to hear good Operas.

59. Look about you well in life. as well as in the other arts and sciences.

61. By industry and perseverance you will always carry it higher.

68. There is no end of learning.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Piano Kitty - The Sequel

Those of you who enjoyed the previous adventures of Nora the cat at the piano might be interested in the second installment of her piano antics, in which she demonstrates her successful paw weight technique and collaborative piano kitty skills.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How Do Parents and Students Choose a Music Teacher?

A friend of mine spent over a thousand dollars a year ago to put a prominent ad in a local paper in order to market her studio prominently. The result was only a handful of calls, none of them serious inquiries. How is this possible? Aren't ads supposed to be the most effective marketing tool?

One of the trickiest things about music education is putting the right students together with the right teachers. Look at the pages of music journals and you would be surprised how little you find on the subject.

For students and parents, the problem is how to find the right teacher. What criteria does one use? Price? Education? Distance?

For teachers, the problem is how to find the right high-quality students. How to advertise? With flyers? In the paper? On the internet?

Katherine Goins in the July Piano Pedagogy Forum attempts to find the answers to these questions. In The Music Teacher Selection Process: Establishing a Reputation for Teaching Excellence, she discusses the results of a survey she circulated among parents and students asking questions about how they identify factors in the music teacher selection process.

Her results showed that 82% of respondents cited word of mouth as the most important factor. Of the nearly 50% of parents who thought a difference existed between music lessons and other activities, Katherine writes:

For this group of parents, program reputation, philosophy, and teacher quality played an important role in the decision process, outweighing factors such as location, cost, and other opportunities.

Her most important conclusion was that reputation does matter, as does networking and joining professional organizations for teachers. Perhaps the most successful trajectory for a teacher is a long tail phenomenon where up-front advertising is less important than having a dedicated core of students and parents who will over time spread the word about their positive musical experiences and put their friends in touch with the teacher that inspired them.

A Parent's Guide To Piano Lessons - sheet music at A Parent's Guide To Piano Lessons By Jane Smisor Bastien. Bastien Piano. Special Bastien Books. Music Book. Published by Neil A. Kjos Music Company. (WP29)
See more info...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

8 Ways to Improve Your Marks in RCM/NMCP Piano Examinations

Doing an piano exam for the Royal Conservatory of Music or National Music Certificate Program anytime soon? Here are some ideas on how you can improve your mark based on simply knowing and preparing for the correct examination requirements in your grade level.

1. Learn the correct number of pieces for your grade. You would be surprised how many students lose unnecessary marks by not learning pieces from each applicable list. Learning the correct number of studies is important as well--one for the Introductory Grade through Grade 2, two from Grade 3 onward. Another common problem occurs in grade 7 and 9, where lists are split into Parts 1 and 2--even though the list is divided into two parts, only one piece is needed for it. Taking a look at the piano syllabus will clear up any misunderstanding for what repertoire you need to learn.

2. Learn the correct movements for longer works. To quote the syllabus, "Each bulleted item represents one selection for examination purposes." Looking at the movements underneath the bulleted item (marked with an arrow (--->) will tell you which movements you will need to prepare for that selection. Here are a few examples from the Grade 10 list. In List D, if you're playing the Deux Arabesques, you'll need to learn either #1 or #2, not both. In the same List, those playing the Poulenc Suite française will need to bring 3, 6, and 7. From List E, those preparing the Bartok Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm will need to bring any two of #148-153 from Mikrokosmos VI.

3. Memorize your repertoire. In Grades 1 to 7, each piece played from memory gives you two marks per piece. This can add up considerably and is worth the investment of time and effort. In Grades 8, 9, 10 and ARCT, memorization is expected and is integrated into the mark for each piece. Memorization is not required for studies.

4. Learn the correct technical requirements and be able to play them at a high level. Spending time on perfecting your technique, as I have previously written about, pays dividends both in your exam marks and in your overall quality of playing. For my students, I emphasize both being able to find and begin each technical form correctly and then to play it with fluency (and correct fingering!). Some of the trickier technical forms in the middle to later grades include dominant and diminished seventh chords and arpeggios.

5. Work on the skills needed for the ear tests. Playback, rhythm, intervals, chords, cadences, and metre all play a part in building musicianship and excelling in these skills requires work.

6. Work on your sight reading. Great sight readers are made, not born. For some ideas on how to integrate sight reading into your daily practice take a look at my previous posting on 10 ways to improve your sight reading.

7. No cramming! Do your preparation in the weeks and months before your exam rather than in the last few days. It will "stick" better that way and help you build a better work ethic.

8. To be absolutely sure of what you need to prepare in your grade level, take a look at the latest Piano Syllabus for the Royal Conservatory of Music. Knowing the facts about what you need to prepare takes the guesswork out of exam preparation and gives you a much clearer idea about what to expect in the exam room.

20063169 look inside Celebration Series!: Piano Repertoire 3 (2015 Edition). Composed by The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. For piano. This edition: 2015 edition. Celebration Series!. Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th century and 21st century. Elementary (Level 3). Method book & listening CD. Published by The Frederick Harris Music Company (FH.C5R03).

How Much Improvement Should You Expect From Practicing?

An article by Tom Ervin in the Online Trombone Journal entitled If You Practice looks at what students can realistically expect from different levels of time spent practicing. Although the article is geared toward trombonists, what Tom talks about can be applied to any instrument. Here is what he says about a half-hour of daily practice: will slowly learn the notes and some rhythms. You can develop a fairly nice midrange sound if you simulate a good example, like a teacher. You can have fun. Many beginners, junior high trombonists, and some high school players practice this way.

On the results of practicing 10 hours per week for several months: will notice some important and valuable developments in your playing. You will become more "fit." You will handle 5 or 6 books at a time, or more...Your reading will really improve! You won't be sore the day after a big blow. You will use the metronome, mirror and tuner properly and do dozens of flexibility routines, scales and arpreggios. If you find something really hard, you will have time to work it out, and work it up. There will be time to solve bad playing habits.
As well as the pride of learning an instrument well and the satisfaction of playing great music at a high level.

More Memorization Ideas

Jeff Mason has posted a very useful list of memorization ideas by Christine Kissack, a piano teacher located in Falmouth, Maine. I particularly like the way Christine lists ways to take apart phrases and small sections to work on elements of articulation, fingering, pitch, rhythm, and analysis.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cheap Urtexts Are Back in Toronto Area Costco Stores

The Konemann Urtext series is back at Costco locations in the Toronto area, this time for a whopping $3.83 per book. Here are some of the scores I found yesterday in one of the Mississauga stores:

  • Beethoven Sonatas in four volumes
  • Mozart Sonatas in two volumes
  • Bach Well-Tempered Clavier I and II
  • Bach English Suites
  • Johann Strauss Waltzes
  • Scott Joplin Ragtime pieces
  • Grieg Lyric Pieces in two volumes
The Konemann urtexts are clearly laid out and definitely useable, although without the fingerings and editorial notes of higher-priced urtext editions such as Henle and Baerenreiter. And that price...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

An Announcement

This coming year I will be a member of the Tapestry New Work Studio Company, which will form the core of Tapestry New Opera Works' artistic activities. From the Tapestry website:

Led by Resident Studio Company Director Tom Diamond (Opera to Go 2006, Iron Road), Tapestry’s new Studio Company addresses the need for regular and ongoing collaboration between composers, writers, singers, directors, dramaturges and répétiteurs throughout the life cycle of each new work.

In addition to providing a nurturing environment for creative artists (composers and writers), Tapestry is evolving a vocabulary for the performance of new opera, a liberating approach to dramatic singing that in turn feeds the creative process. Building upon traditional classical training, we welcome singers into the process as creative partners, not merely interpreters. They are encouraged to participate in collaborative exploration and fully engage their artistic instincts in the discovery of new music drama.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The New Technical Requirements for RCM Piano Examinations

RCM Examinations (which operates in the US as the National Music Cerficate Program) is currently overhauling their entire piano curriculum for the 2008-09 season. Some of the changes have recently been announced, including new technical requirements for all grades, which include:

  • the introduction of Preparatory A and B into Canada (already available in US)
  • preparation for the tough level changes that occur between Grades 4-5 and 7-8
  • different major/minor relationships throughout the grades
  • staccato scales introduced
  • earlier introduction of hands together forms
  • different listings of scales at the 3rd and 6th in later grades, as well as the introduction of scales at the 10th.
To get a better idea of these new changes and how they will apply to the RCME curriculum one year from now, read Part 1 and Part 2 of Christopher Kowal's articles on the subject in the Music Matters newsletter published by RCME.

YouTube of James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti

Can the voices of James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti be compared? See for yourself on this video of the two of them singing It's a Man's World.

Look inside this title
20 All Time Greatest Hits - sheet music at
20 All Time Greatest Hits By James Brown. Songbook for voice, piano and guitar chords. 80 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (HL.306004)
See more info...

Update 9/6/07:

I have posted a list of links to news and remembrances of Pavarotti after his death early Thursday.

Collaborative Piano at Lynn University

Tao Lin, director of the Collaborative Piano program at the Conservatory of Music at Lynn University in Boca Raton, sends the following information:

We offer Master of Music and Professional Performance Certificate (similar to Artist Diploma) in Piano Performance with a specialization in Collaborative Piano. I am attaching the curriculum for both programs just in case [see below]. Most of our students receive partial or full scholarships, some also receive room and board coverage. My official title is Assistant Professor and Head of the Collaborative Piano Program.

School web address:
My school mailing address: 3601 North Military Trail, Boca Raton, FL 33431
My email address at school: t lin [AT] lynn dot edu
My office number: 561-237-9016


The curriculum will adhere to the requirements for MM and PPC piano performance majors with differences in the Applied Instrument study and performance requirements for completion of the collaborative programs. Below is a description of Applied Instrument MUS 501 (CP) and Applied Instrument MUS 530 (CP).

MUS 501 (CP) Master of Music—Applied Instrument—Collaborative Piano

Students are assigned a minimum of five instrumentalists to accompany per semester. They meet weekly with the collaborative piano faculty member for lessons covering collaborative repertoire and are assisted in organizing their study to fulfill the accompanying assignment. These students also attend lessons, studio classes, master classes, rehearsals and performances of the assigned instrumentalists and in these settings study under the supervision of the various artist faculty in coordination with the collaborative piano faculty. During the four semesters of this course, students will cover wind, brass, percussion, and string literature.

Performance Requirements for MM—Collaborative Piano

  • Sight-reading jury for pianists
  • Two full recitals (Collaborative repertoire: piano plus one other instrumentalist)
  • Performance requirement: Chamber Music (trio, quartet, quintet, etc.)

MUS 530 (CP) Professional Performance Certificate—Collaborative Piano

Students are assigned a minimum of eight instrumentalists to accompany per semester. They meet weekly with the collaborative piano faculty member for lessons covering collaborative repertoire and are assisted in organizing their study to fulfill the accompanying assignment. These students also attend lessons, studio classes, master classes, rehearsals and performances of the assigned instrumentalists and in these settings

study under the supervision of the various artist faculty in coordination with the collaborative piano faculty. During the four semesters of this course, students will cover wind, brass, percussion, and string literature.

Performance Requirements for PPC—Collaborative Piano

  • Sight-reading jury for pianists
  • Two Full Recitals (Collaborative repertoire: piano plus on other instrument)
  • Performance Requirement: Chamber Music (trio, quartet, quintet, etc.)
  • Two additional performance requirements (in Chamber Music (2) or another full collaborative recital)

Thanks, Tao!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Call for Information about Collaborative Piano Degree Programs

In the last while, I've been receiving an ever-increasing number of requests for the university collaborative piano programs I recommend. As past readers will know, I have posted a massive list of Degree Programs in Collaborative Piano, without links and without any clue as to which programs I think are the hot ones for those seeking a future in the field.

First of all, I would like to thank readers of this blog for placing their trust in me being a source of information regarding worthwhile programs. Nevertheless, my view of the field is not the only one, so I am making the following announcement:

This is a call for detailed information on all degree and diploma programs in Collaborative Piano, Piano Accompanying, Piano Chamber Music, and Vocal Coaching. I would like to post information on as many programs in the field as possible, with detailed facts on coursework, auditions, and financial aid, linked to relevant pages on university websites. I ask for information to be submitted in the following manner:

1. Please send me an email (collaborative piano [AT] gmail dot com) with the body of text you would like me to post on the blog, with links to relevant pages on university sites, in addition to any bios, pictures, or charts you might find useful.
2. When I post the information, it will be in the form of a quote from its author.
3. In addition, I will also add a permanent link to your program from the comprehensive Degree Programs posting, to which many prospective students in the field now look in order to make choices about programs. This link will ensure that your school gets the attention it deserves!

One word of warning--this is a call for information specifically regarding programs in the collaborative piano field. I am not looking for information from local music schools, private studios, vendors of software programs, or other commercial services, and I reserve the right to ignore any emails that don't fit the bill in this regard.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Repertoire List for Weeks 4-6 at Bowdoin

Here is the repertoire I've been playing for the final three weeks of the Bowdoin International Music Festival. Only three more works in two recitals tomorrow afternoon and I'm done!

Beethoven Sonata for Violin and Piano Op. 12 #1 3rd movement
Brahms Sonata in D- for Violin and Piano Op. 108
Brahms Scherzo WoO2
Dvorak Cello Concerto
Enesco 3rd Sonata for Violin and Piano, 1st movement
Fauré Sonata for Violin and Piano 1st movement
Frank Sonata 1st and 2nd movements
Glazonov Violin Concerto
Kabalevsky Cello Concerto 1st movement
Mozart 4th Violin Concerto 1st movement
Prokofiev D+ Sonata for Violin and Piano Op. 94 1st and 2nd movements
Saint-Saens/Ysaye Valse-Etude for Violin and Piano
Sarasate Carmen Fantasy
Schoenberg Phantasy for Violin and Piano
Spohr Scherzo for Violin and piano Op. 135 #2
Spohr Mazurka for Violin and Piano Op. 135 #6
Strauss Sonata for Violin and Piao 3rd movement
Josef Suk Four Pieces for Violin and Piano
Josef Suk Love Song for Violin and Piano
Wieniawski Polonaise de Concert
Wienieawski Variations on a Original Theme