Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Imitation and Inversion

Kalil is working on selections from Bartok's Mikrokosmos, Volume 1. Kalil, as well as many of my other students, are often fascinated by the analysis required to understand much of what is happening in these works.

Mikrokosmos is a collection of 153 piano pieces arranged in order of increasing musical and technical difficulty.  Generations of pianists have studied these pieces to develop not only technique, but also their musical knowledge of sounds and compositional technique not typically found in beginning piano methods.  Folk modality, pitch combination symmetry and atonality are found in many of these works, as well as irregular meter and other unique rhythmic aspects.  Mikrokosmos is an underutilized teaching method in the contemporary piano studio that contains a wealth of very accessible musical materials that provide so much more than many modern methods.  

In these videos, watch Kalil and I discuss the concept of musical imitation and briefly improvise using this concept.  Also, watch Kalil perform "Imitation and Inversion" (#23) on September 25th.  Stay tuned for a video of his performance of the same piece just a few days later in my undergraduate Piano Pedagogy course.

Further Finger Identification and Independence in Piano Pedagogy Class

As my Piano Pedagogy class continues their teaching of "Pianoissimo" at the MSU Community School, they are realizing that drilling of rudimentary concepts such as finger numbers is an important topic to address a bit each class. Thomas Moss, a Piano Pedagogy graduate student, devised and executed an outstanding finger identification and finger independence exercise that utilizes a simple hand diagram on which our young students wrote their finger numbers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

MSU Piano Pedagogy featured on The Collaborative Piano Blog

The Piano Pedagogy Blog was recently featured on The Collaborative Piano Blog.  This is an excellent resource on all things piano written by Chris Foley from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hand Position and Finger Independence for the Young Beginner in Piano Pedagogy Class

MSU's graduate level class in piano pedagogy meets weekly to plan and teach a group class of beginning piano students.  This class meets on Thursday afternoons at MSU's Community Music School, and is a fun introduction to the piano as well as an excellent training ground for teachers wishing to gain experience teaching very young students in a group setting.

In the first meeting of this semester, Justine Sasanfar, a Master's Degree candidate in Piano Pedagogy and Collaborative Piano, leads a fun activity that effectively demonstrates hand position, finger independence, and rhythm patterns in the span of just 1 minute!

Note Recognition with Kalil in Undergraduate Piano Pedagogy

In week two of piano pedagogy class lessons with Kalil, Borah Han, an undergraduate piano performance major at Michigan State, works with Kalil Olsen on note recognition. As you can see in this video, Borah is an effective and friendly communicator. She's also a spectacular pianist!  Kalil has Asperger Syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum that causes him to demonstrate some unique characteristics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger_syndrome).  As a possible result of this condition, Kalil exhibits particularly keen music performance abilities while having some trouble with concepts such as note recognition.  His rhythm is very strong, he has a natural ability to create a range of sounds on the piano, and his focus during his lessons (which are observed live by 9 people!) and practice sessions is exceptional.  At the same time, pitch reading has been a challenge that my students have decided to take head on.

This week, my class designed a system of sticker labels to help Kalil make a visual connection to landmark notes on the staff and keyboard.  Using garage sale labels in three colors, my students helped Kalil place red stickers on the G of the bottom line of the bass clef and the A of the top line of the bass clef.  Green stickers were placed on the E of the bottom line of the treble clef and the F on the top line of the treble clef.  Middle C was marked with an orange sticker.  We're hoping that such a system will create a connection of landmark keys with landmark notes in both clefs, as well as reinforcing the concept of distance and interval on the keyboard with the same on the clef.  We look forward to seeing if this works!  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


This semester, my undergraduate piano pedagogy class will be team-teaching Kalil, a student who has been studying with me for 2 months.  As you can see from this video, Kalil has excellent musical instincts, strong rhythm, and a beautiful bold sound.  Please follow his progress with us!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Piano Pedagogy Opportunities at MSU

Thanks for visiting.  I want to take a moment to make you aware of opportunities to study piano pedagogy at the Michigan State University College of Music.  

The College of Music at Michigan State University is a premier institution with a track record of creating artists and educators who are making a difference in the musical world.  Our College boasts world-class faculty, many opportunities to hear and participate in performances, and a connection to a prestigious public university.  The undergraduate emphasis in Piano Pedagogy and Master's Degree program in Piano Pedagogy offer opportunities to study repertoire and teaching tactics at all levels, as well as hands on practical experience teaching both group and private lessons.  Graduates of the Piano Pedagogy program at MSU have gone on to be successful teachers in many different arenas including colleges, private studios and in elementary and secondary institutions.

If you're interested in finding out more, please email me at polischu@msu.edu.  Meanwhile, stay tuned for proceedings from our seminars in Piano Pedagogy as well as teaching tips and thoughts.