Let’s Start At the Very Beginning, Part 2: Where is the beginning?

In Friday’s presentation I began by challenging the notion that our beginner piano students are in fact ‘beginners’. Sure, this might be their first piano lesson, but most of our newest pupils bring with them a myriad of musical lessons learned prior to walking in our studio doors. Music educators are deluded in the extreme if they believe that students have had no musical experiences prior to formal classes; from hearing their mother’s heartbeat while still in the womb through to being exposed to Muzak at the supermarket, children have a very rich tapestry of musical memories by the time they are 4 or 5 years old. There is complex musical accompaniment to children’s television (whether we’re talking opening themes of Disney preschooler animations such as Handy Manny or Jungle Junction or the rich semiotic of musical signification that organises In the Night Garden), ¬†there are toddler/preschooler rock groups (The Wiggles, The Imagination Movers, and so on), and that’s without

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Let’s Start at the Very Beginning, Part 1: Models of Learning

Yesterday I gave a presentation on teaching beginners as part of the Sydney Conservatorium’s annual Piano Teacher Festival. I promised I would blog about this presentation, but there were so many ideas in the 90 minutes of talk that I need to break things into smaller units. So today I begin with Models of Learning. What I couldn’t show in my presentation, but would have loved to have had as prerequisite viewing, was this clip¬† that sets out the issues at play in ‘education’ generally. Part of what’s fabulous about teaching the piano is that we piano teachers have never bought into the industrial model Sir Ken Robinson outlines – we’ve never taught children content according to their age, for instance, but rather have responded to students’ progress and capacity, for instance. On the other hand, we have certainly taught to the test (in many countries) and as a result too many of us have taught our students to play

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