Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 6

Variations
Barbara Kreader

Tackling a twelve-year old’s slump
atherine, one of my more talented students, recently gave me this honest description of a typical practice session. She is twelve. “It takes me forever to get myself to stop what I am doing and go to the piano. When and if I do get there, I usually begin my practice by playing a chromatic scale the entire length of the keyboard—first with my right hand, then with my left. Next I might play the part of my new piece that I already know. Then I would play ‘Heart and Soul’—do you know that song? I like to change it up, play different rhythms, play it all over the keyboard. After that I would jazz around and change the already familiar parts of my new piece.” Pause. “Then I would get up and leave.” “When would you play the new part of your piece or your technique?” “Mmmmm. I wouldn’t.” “Do you like the music you are studying?” “Oh yes, I love it! I just can’t get myself to practice the new parts of it.” Katherine plays soccer four days a week, is studying for her Bat Mitzvah two days a week, attends Circus Arts school two days a week, and often gets together with her huge network of friends. She learns quickly and plays with musicality and technical precision. Until this year, she had made excellent, steady progress.

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the piano and in tackling new material. Katherine is a perfectionist. Playing what she knows soothes her. She likes “changing it up,” which allows her to control and master her music. New means scary.

True confessions
As our conversation continued, I told Katherine, “When I was your age I noodled around on the keyboard a lot. I also liked to dive into ‘Heart and Soul,’ and I would try and pick out Beatles’ tunes. Sometimes I would even pretend to play along with recordings of Rachmaninoff ’s Third Piano Concerto.” Katherine’s eyes widened. “Really?” “Yes. I also played only the familiar parts of my music—in my case it was ‘Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum’ and a Mozart piano concerto—over and over. I particularly hated practicing the transition portions of pieces.” “Oh, yeah! The places where the composer uses the material only one time and it doesn’t follow the other patterns in the music. I know. I know.” Katherine pointed to a place in her music that had bedeviled her for two weeks. I continued the truth of my own twelve-year old day. “One summer at music camp my teacher threw up her hands when I came in for the third lesson in a row without learning just such a transition. It was only four measures long, but I couldn’t face it and kept faking it.” By now Katherine was intensely interested. “How did you get over this problem?” “It took me longer than it needed to. I have good news for you, though. Because I know about this practice problem, I have some suggestions for solving it.”

Life on the cusp
Nothing new here, you say. So true. Twelve-year olds live life on the cusp. They wobble between childhood, when they have to practice because their parents say so, and emerging adulthood, when they begin to study piano because they want to. They often hit a wall with their piano study for another reason. Group activities become vitally important to their growth and well-being. Many excellent articles have been written about ways to keep tweens interested in music by including more group teaching activities, monster concerts, and so on. These ideas work, but I want to focus on teaching twelve-year olds the art of solitary practice. Every child brings the pleasures and peculiarities of his or her personality to the task. During Katherine’s recitation of her other outside activities she added, “Oh, and I see a doctor every Monday afternoon who helps me with my anxiety disorder.” I am happy she is getting help. Three of my fifteen students are receiving therapy for anxiety. Being twelve seems to bring it on in our highly-pressured school district. Katherine’s sharing of her struggle with anxiety did make more sense of her practice habits—particularly her difficulty in getting to

A new assignment
Now that I had her complete attention, I shared with her my former Rocky Ridge Music Center colleague Jim McWhorter’s tried and true assignment to his talented junior high cello students. Like Katherine, they had trouble getting themselves to practice, even when they wanted to. “My friend, Jim, tells his cello students that all he wants them to do for the first two days of the practice week is get out their cellos, set up their music stands, tune their instruments, and place their music on their stands. Then he wants them to put everything away. “I want you to do the same thing. Come to the piano, open the keyboard, put up the lid, adjust the bench, and get out your music. Then put everything away and leave. Try doing this two times each day.” “Hmmmm. Will this help me stop what I am doing and go to the piano without feeling like I have to stay there?” “Yes, it will.” “What about the other days?” “Do the same thing on day three, but add playing ‘Heart and Soul’ to the routine.” We began to write this assignment in her notebook.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012

Barbara Kreader has taught in her independent studio in Evanston, IL, since 1974. One of the coauthors of The Hal Leonard Student Piano Library, she has given workshops in more than 200 cities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Asia. Formerly the editor of Clavier magazine, she received her M.M. degree from Northwestern University. 6
CLAVIER COMPANION



Clavier Companion - January/February 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clavier Companion - January/February 2012

Clavier Companion - January/February 2012
Contents
Editor's Page: New discoveries
Variations: Tackling a twelve-year old's slump
Musings: Creative being and the disciplined life
An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
The story of music on board the RMS Titanic
The enchanted world of piano fairy tales
Jazz & Pop: The rhythms of jazz: Syncopation
Music Reading: Recipes for effective teaching
Perspectives: Coping with burnout
Technology: Virtual reality in the piano studio
Tech Tips
First Looks: What Music Means To Me
New music reviews
CD & DVD reviews
News & Notes
Pupil Saver
Keyboard Kids' Companion
Advertiser Index
Questions & Answers
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Clavier Companion - January/February 2012
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover2
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Contents
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 2
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 3
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Editor's Page: New discoveries
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 5
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Variations: Tackling a twelve-year old's slump
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 7
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Musings: Creative being and the disciplined life
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 9
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 11
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 12
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 13
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 14
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 15
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 16
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 17
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - The story of music on board the RMS Titanic
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 19
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 20
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 21
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 22
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 23
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 24
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 25
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 26
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 27
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 28
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 29
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - The enchanted world of piano fairy tales
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 31
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 32
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 33
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 34
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 35
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Jazz & Pop: The rhythms of jazz: Syncopation
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 37
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Music Reading: Recipes for effective teaching
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 39
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 40
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 41
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Perspectives: Coping with burnout
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 43
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 44
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 45
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Technology: Virtual reality in the piano studio
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Tech Tips
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 48
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 49
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - New music reviews
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 51
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 52
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 53
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - CD & DVD reviews
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 55
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - News & Notes
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Pupil Saver
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 58
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 59
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Keyboard Kids' Companion
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 61
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Advertiser Index
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - 63
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Questions & Answers
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover3
Clavier Companion - January/February 2012 - Cover4
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