The piano lesson conducted by Dr. Spooner was divided into two parts, depending on the piece performed by students. The professor started by introducing the topic of the lesson and asking students to focus on the particular features in performing the works composed by Robert Schumann and Ludwig van Beethoven. Before inviting a student to play the music piece, the professor stated that the Variations on the name “Abegg,” Op. 1, were composed by Schumann in 1830. The professor focused on the piece’s background and drew the students’ attention to the use of the A-B-E-G-G notes in it (Daniel 34). Dr. Spooner also stated that the whole mood of the piece can be described in several words that influence how the movements should be played. These words are “Settle,” “Dream,” “Shape,” “Smooth,” “Fantasy,” and “Relax” that guide the performance.
After the student had played Animato as the first movement of the piece, the professor commented on the techniques. It was noted that students can often put an emphasis on the first note of the piece, but the overall intensity should be kept in the first part. In addition, the usage of the right hand is also emphasized, but students should balance its usage at the beginning of the movement. Moreover, the focus on the balance is also important while playing the left hand because the background should not be extremely energetic, and the whole piece should follow the tempo of “dreaming.” The balance between hands is important to be preserved in this movement. Discussing the importance of balance in keeping the tempo, the professor stated that the student could improve the balance between dynamic and slow parts and avoid the too-fast tempo (Jacobson and Lancaster 28). The professor asked to focus on the tempo in 100 BPM. The possible mistake caused by the ineffective tempo is losing the clear note (Agay 22). The student also had a problem with the tempo and using the left hand while playing three variations (Young, Burwell, and Pickup 140). Dr. Spooner suggested playing legato by the left hand to improve moving from one note to another. It is also possible to practice without using a pedal to improve the produced sound and make the notes clear.
When the discussion of the strengths and weaknesses in performing the first movement ended, the professor encouraged students to ask additional questions regarding the balance between the use of right and left hands and on keeping the tempo. After that discussion, the student began to play Cantabile, the next movement of the Variations on the name “Abegg,” Op. 1. The professor identified the same mistakes and asked to pay more attention to the left hand and the tempo. In addition, the sounds should be softened to achieve the desired effect, and loud sounds should be avoided. The smooth-moving to the next notes should be evident in the ending part of this movement.
Before asking to start playing the next movement, Finale Alla Fantasia, the professor repeated one more time that the key feature of these movements is the tempo. If the first movements were played in a slow tempo, the final movement is rather energetic (McAlister 15). After the student played the piece, the professor accentuated the necessity of using the pedal to make the sound louder and more intense. In this movement, the tempo changes to become faster, and the whole manner of playing is more expressive (Fisher 22). In addition, to represent the mood, a performer should take a breath before playing the last notes of the piece to make it sound natural. When the whole piece was performed, the professor concluded about Schumann’s music for piano is rather unconventional because he accentuates the variations of sounds and notes in pieces to produce a certain effect.
During the second part of the lesson, the student was encouraged to play the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, Op. 90, which was composed in 1814. The professor asked the student to pay attention to the guidelines provided by the composer for the movement: “Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen” that is translated as “Not too swiftly and conveyed in a singing manner” (Hinson and Roberts 117). It is important to remember this note while playing the piece. The student played well, and the professor mentioned the strengths in playing such as the focus on the required moderate rondo and the specific tonic pattern (Coats 12). Still, the professor identified such points to pay attention to as the extensive use of the rubato in the beginning phrases and the use lack of balance in using sforzando that can be corrected using the pedal.
During the lesson, Dr. Spooner used an approach of motivating the performance of the music piece according to a certain mood. Providing the background and context for understanding the composition, the professor focused on listening to the performance. The commentaries that followed the playing were oriented to accentuate the strengths in the performance and correct the mistakes. Such important aspects as the balanced use of hands and the focus on tempo were repeated by the professor several times to emphasize the importance of these moments. The professor focused on developing the student’s skills in keeping and changing the tempo and accentuated the important details regarding dynamics with the focus on the second music piece.
Agay, Denes. The Art of Teaching Piano: The Classic Guide and Reference Book for All Piano Teachers. New York: Music Sales Group, 2012. Print.
Coats, Sylvia Curry. Thinking as You Play: Teaching Piano in Individual and Group Lessons. New York: Indiana University Press, 2006. Print.
Daniel, Ryan. Group Piano Teaching: An Alternative Strategy for the Tertiary Teaching of Piano. New York: Verlag Publishing, 2008. Print.
Fisher, Christopher. Teaching Piano in Groups. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
Hinson, Maurice, and Wesley Roberts. Guide to the Pianist’s Repertoire. New York: Indiana University Press, 2013. Print.
Jacobson, Jeanine Mae, and Ed Lancaster. Professional Piano Teaching: A Comprehensive Piano Pedagogy Textbook for Teaching Elementary-Level Students. New York: Alfred Music Publishing, 2006. Print.
McAlister, Andrea. “Teaching the Millennial Generation.” American Music Teacher 59.1 (2009): 13-15. Print.
Young, Vanessa, Kim Burwell, and David Pickup. “Areas of Study and Teaching Strategies Instrumental Teaching: A Case Study Research Project.” Music Education Research 5.2 (2003): 139-155. Print.