Clavier Companion - July/August 2017 - 30
do have some theory in the Repertoire Books, but feel
students could use more."); an older beginner version;
and a pre-school version.
A pedagogical journey of
by Lizbeth Atkinson
inding Piano Safari was a pedagogical journey that awoke in me a sense
of discovery. When I started reading about
the method, I realized that learning to teach Piano
Safari would take time, but would be worthwhile. Having
never taught pieces by rote, at first I didn't understand all
of the benefits. I soon discovered the two fascinating people who had devoted massive amounts of time not only
writing the physical books but also providing students,
parents, and teachers with a method and style of teaching
that would reach many different personalities and abilities.
Spiral bound with a spectacular zebra sporting the
keys of the piano on the cover, the inner pages are black
and white with minimal artwork, making them clean and
uncluttered. The website has helpful articles and offers all
of the constantly updated materials for purchase.
A multisensory experience awaits the beginning student.
Rote pieces provide the opportunity to explore the sound
of the piano, develop listening skills, memory skills, and
technique without having to worry about notation. "I Love
Coffee" is a particularly popular rote piece among Piano
Safari teachers. It is the longest, but students learn this
piece very quickly and absolutely love it!
Some rote pieces are to be played in different positions or
keys, and students are taught to transpose their pieces early
in the method. My favorite example of this is "Hungry Herbie
Hippo." I love creatively teaching transposition within a few
weeks of starting lessons. Students have fun placing items on
the keyboard (we use erasers) to remind them which notes
to skip. In my studio, they get to choose the erasers and then
take them home to help them practice. Teacher duets are
provided in the back of the book for each transposed key.
of well-known folk songs such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb"
and "Frère Jacques." Also included are original works such
as "The Mosquito and the Hippopotamus" and "Invasion of
the Ants," composed by Katherine Fisher and Julie Knerr.
Duets often have the teacher's part imitated in the
same hand as the student's part. The student sees correct
technique and hopefully imitates this as the teacher
and student play together. One piece I particularly
enjoy for this purpose is "Zechariah Zebra." This piece
is important because it introduces fast repeated notes,
and the student must have a loose, bouncy arm with firm
fingertips. When I play this piece with my students, they
are often watching me out of the corners of their eyes
and making adjustments to their technique.
There are a few improvisational pieces and activities in
Levels 1 and 2. This gives students an opportunity to be
creative and explore sounds of the piano in a structured
setting. Students enjoy this break from reading and rote
pieces to have fun with their expressive and playful selves.
Attention to sight reading
Sight reading cards are a large part of the curriculum and
vital to developing reading skills. Students are instructed
to complete two or more cards per week, with each card
including a line of reading in the right hand, a line of reading
in the left hand, and a rhythm exercise. Specific instructions
on how to use these cards are given in the instructor's
guide. Teachers who use these cards with their students
will see tremendous growth-I use them with all of my
students whether or not they are using the Piano Safari
method books. It is an outstanding way to reinforce rhythm
"I Love Coffee," from Piano Safari, Level 1.
Eclectic reading approach
Learning to read right along with developing rote skills is
a feature of Piano Safari that caught my attention. Students
begin with pre-staff notation on black keys using finger 2, and
eventually add fingers 3 and 4. They gradually begin to play
on the white keys, adding intervals of a second and third, and
work their way to staff reading about halfway through Book 1. I
enjoy having a variety of fingers on C3 and G4 by the time we
reach the end of the first level. Reading pieces include a variety