Clavier Companion - July/August 2017 - 31
and sight reading on a weekly basis. I had my cards spiral
bound across the top, and I use small sticky notes with each
student's name to indicate what card the student will need
to start with in the lesson. I have my students do the same
with their cards and keep their sets at home.
Fisher and Knerr have provided specific instructions
in the teacher's guides for Levels 1 and 2. I like the room
on the cards and in the books that gives teachers the
opportunity to use their own ideas if they choose. Although
I understand the system of counting provided, I prefer the
syllable-based system I have used since college. The cards
and books allow me the option to use my own system, and
I appreciate that.
Piano Safari has some theory pages scattered
throughout the series, but since I am a teacher who loves
to teach a lot of theory, I like to add more theory work.
The authors are working on additional theory books,
and that will be a wonderful supplement!
Approach to technique
Technique is a strong focus from the beginning,
and animals teach each technique. Basic technical
* Lion Paw: arm weight
* Zechariah Zebra: fast repeated notes
* Tall Giraffe: non-legato
* Tree Frog: legato with bouncy arm
* Kangaroo: fast repeated notes
* Soaring Bird: legato, smooth arm
* Monkey Swinging in a Tree: rotation
Each technique has a piece taught by rote to reinforce
the gesture. The authors recommend having a stuffed
animal to accompany these pieces.
Sight Reading and Rhythm card from Piano Safari, Level 1.
Journey into creativity
Because Piano Safari is a multisensory approach,
students of different abilities and ages are successful in
this method. I have started students as young as four
years of age; however, I would probably not put a student
older than nine in Book 1.
Teachers from all over the world come together to
share stories and ask questions on the "Teaching Piano
Safari" Facebook page, and the authors are very quick to
respond with a helpful tip or a congratulatory comment
on a successful story. If you are ready for a journey with
a creative method that will spark your imagination along
with that of your students, I recommend this method.
Piano Safari will delight
both students and teachers
by Sylvia Coats
fter years of teaching piano and
piano pedagogy to college music
students, I retired and began teaching
five, six, and seven-year-olds. Not only did I
change direction with age level, but I became a pedagogy
student by learning from my former pedagogy students
and Piano Safari authors Kathrine Fisher and Julie Knerr.
I threw myself into learning this new method with their
helpful website pianosafari.com and Facebook group.
I also used music and materials by Wendy Stevens and
Christopher Fisher, and Eik Siang Mar's Sproutbeat app
of music worksheets. I also turned to Natalie Weber's
wise advice for teaching my young transfer students and
her practice incentive program. Carefully planning each
student's lesson, I was rewarded with their love of playing
and the fun we had at lessons.
I am now very comfortable with the excellent pedagogy
of the method: good music, a well-organized reading
approach, and consistent technique. Their innovative
organization of materials is genius. The authors have the
pulse of what appeals to young students, and teachers
will appreciate their creativity and musicality.
Technique through rote studies
A separate technique book is added at the second
level and is a fun way for children to learn the different
touches and motions their hands and wrists can make.
Students begin to learn correct legato, staccato, nonlegato, double thirds, repeated notes, two-note slurs,
and many more techniques. Each is described using an
animal, insect, or object to give the student something
to remember or visualize.
Rote pieces are key to the method's success. Technical
studies are taught by rote and easily remembered
because they are named for safari animals. Small stuffed
animals (lion, zebra, giraffe, tree frog, bird, monkey) sit
on the music rack in my studio and delight the students
while they are learning arm weight, fast repeated notes,
non-legato, legato, slurs, rotation, etc. Titles of the studies
engage their imaginations and give them cues for good
technique such as "Zachariah Zebra" for fast repeated
notes and "Monkey Swinging on a Tree" for rotation.
Supplementary cards with colorful illustrations for each
piece can be awarded as an incentive to review pieces.