Thursday, February 20, 2014

Finding the Next Generation of Collaborative Pianists

Erica Sipes has written an insightful article on one of the persistent problems with piano pedagogy, the issue of why we don't introduce more young pianists to the joys of playing with others at an earlier age. Far from being an add-on experience, collaborative playing can help to directly address important pianistic issues in ways that the solo repertoire can't. Erica writes:
Lacking sensitivity to another musician, not being able to sight-read or play without stopping, not having a good sense of rhythm...It seems to me that all of these issues could actually be helped by putting them in a position and where they have a tangible reason to fix them. Pianists are so used to spending hour after hour, day after day, alone in their practice room. It can get lonely! And sometimes it can be a challenge to see why it is we are trying to fix certain issues, especially when it takes hard work to turn things around. But when a musician starts playing with others, when others are depending on him or her, it can provide instant motivation to tackle weaknesses head-on. Even better, it's fun and social!
I recall that my first ensemble experiences were as a violist at around age 11. It was to be expected as a developing string player that I would play in a youth orchestra. I also played in a string quartet and worked with pianists preparing for recitals. I adored the sound of my viola rep with piano (the Hindemith Meditation, Block Suite Hebraique, and Schubert Arpeggione Sonata come to mind) but didn't really enjoy playing the viola. Playing this rep as a pianist a few years later brought the same enjoyment and I was eventually became a career.

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