Well-Tempered Keyboard Teacher / Edition 2 available in Paperback
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Chapter 2: The Preschool Student
In This Chapter:
- Importance of the preschool years
- The influence of Dalcroze instruction
- The influence of Orff instruction
- The influence of Kodaly instruction
- The Suzuki method
- The Yamaha Music Education System
- The preschooler and technology
- Preschool instruction and piano and keyboard
- Readiness courses for piano playing
The preschooler who begins music instruction is usually between four and six years old. Some children, of course, may begin instruction earlier, but this depends on circumstances, such as unusual talent on the part of the child or special interest or expertise on the part of the teacher in working with children who are younger than four. Although certain children have always begun music study at ages four, five, or six, it is only in the latter decades of the twentieth century that many children are doing so. Two reasons appear to be influencing this trend. On the one hand, medical science and educational psychology are providing an abundance of information on and opinion about the abilities and developmental characteristics of the young child. Awareness of these factors as they relate to the perception of music (for example, the preschooler's acute aural sensitivity) has roused music educators to recognize and develop such aptness by providing more extensive, and more varied, preschool musical instruction. Parents, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly concerned, largely as a result of this information explosion, that the early years of their children's development should not be wasted. They involve their children in enrichment activities, not necessarilyto discover possible latent talents but to stimulate awareness (on the part of the children) of many modes of communication and expression.
At the crux of the concerns of both medical and educational professionals and parents is the matter of readiness. At what point is a child ideally suited to do certain things, appreciate certain experiences? Should the parent seek evidence of the child's interest (for example, in playing an instrument or singing) or attempt to arouse such an interest? Can instruction at an early age prime a particular readiness, or should it encourage and support development of whichever readiness manifests itself?
Sometimes the child offers the most direct clue. In one instance, adults were discussing-in the child's presence-the matter of readiness. Was Robbie truly interested in music? (No one in the family was especially musical.) Would he be able to focus long enough to learn skills and concepts? Was the piano the best instrument? Would the whole thing just be a game, like the computer games he was so fond of (and so good at) playing? As the adults weighed the various pros and cons, Robbie grew increasingly restive. Finally, he solemnly-and a bit impatiently announced, "I'm ready!"
Now more than ever you see parents and educators who believe in the priming of readiness. They are caught up in a phenomenon that educational psychologists call "hot-housing," trying to jump-start young students toward success. Music educators are providing a variety of musical experiences for this early age group, and one hears and sees a growing number of young violinists, pianists, and players of drums, tuned bars, and digital instruments.
This proliferation of organized activities available to the preschool child is not, however, based entirely on physical and psychological premises or observations. This is the age of the two-income family and the single parent. The importance of these preschool activities is very real. Day care centers and nursery schools are, for many parents, necessities, not merely enticing extras. While no one would claim that all nursery
Stop And Think
- Consider what"readiness"for music lessons might mean when a child is between the ages of four and six. Try to be as specific as you can when you list observable traits. How could you assess whether a child has such aptitudes as concentration and an ability to follow directions? Would there be any particular physical manifestations of readiness? How could you pick up on whether the child is interested in music? Should the child be able to carry a tune, for instance?
- Musical talent is perhaps the single talent that is apparent at a very early age. Most composers and great performers showed special promise and aptitudes when they were young children. Is this a special kind of readiness, or would all children ready for music study exhibit at least some degree of these same traits?
- Do you truly believe that all young children like and respond to music? On what do you base your opinions? Where would you have picked up these ideas? What has been your actual experience of observing children at home, at play, interacting with peers, or following directions? If you're short on this kind of experience, what could you do to change this situation?
- Read the comments on Jean Piaget's theories of childhood development discussed in Chapter 15. Because Piaget spent a lifetime observing how children develop and learn, his theories must be taken seriously. Can you see any link between what Piaget says about the young child's development of behavioral and cognitive"schemes"and the child's abilities to relate to music?
- The research done by Frances Rauscher and Gordon Shaw at the University of California, Irvine, regarding the positive effects of exposure to music on the cognitive development of children is one of the current hot topics. In general terms, the claim is that music is a "nurturing stimulation"that"exercises the intellect." Take the time to look into this research. You can access information about the Music Brain Information Center (MBIC) on the Internet (http://www.uci.edu).
schools and day care centers are places in which enrichment experiences are the order of the day, the possibility for incorporating such experiences into the daily routine of these institutions is immeasurably increased by virtue of their number and influence.
Influences on Preschool Musical Instruction
Piano and keyboard teachers often find that they are in an awkward position in regard to teaching preschoolers. Nothing in their own background and training has equipped them to work with this age group. On the other hand, they realize that developing a class of preschoolers would greatly enhance the profitability of their independent studios, not only because there is a large demand for this kind of instruction but also because it enables them to use teaching hours that are otherwise difficult to fill.
Most conservatories, colleges, and universities devote little time to preparing performers to be teachers, much less to helping them work with preschoolers. Courses that deal with early childhood development are sometimes not even offered in the music education curriculum. Teachers interested in this area gravitate toward a number of successful programs that have grown outside the degree- and diploma-granting institutions. These include such well-known training courses as those provided by Dalcroze, Orff, Kodaly, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kindermusik, as well as those developed in local areas or by less-prominent groups.
In order to put the field of preschool music instruction in perspective-either prior to opting for one particular form of training or as a way to determine to what degree such training is necessary-it would be worthwhile to examine the short history of this field and the contributions of the major players. The ideas of these various musician-educators often interweave, but each has its particular strengths. Appreciating both the interconnections and the special features of these approaches gives one a broader basis on which to form personal opinions and make judgments.
Many of the forces influencing the nature and direction of preschool musical instruction arise from outside the United States. The educational ideals and teaching strategies associated with Emile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1950), Carl Orff (1895-1982), Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1996), and the educators who developed the Yamaha Music Education System have all had bearing on the musical training of very young children. Some of these musicians and educators worked directly with preschool children; others did not. Yet vestiges of what they taught surface repeatedly in much preschool music instruction, even though these influences are not always adopted consciously or acknowledged.
Dalcroze was a professor of harmony in the Geneva Conservatory of Music when, in 1892, he devised an approach to the teaching of ear training and keyboard improvisation that sought to sensitize the listening and creative abilities of his students. Because he felt that "musical sensations of a rhythmic nature call for the muscular and nervous response of the whole organism," Dalcroze exercises called for rhythmic responses involving the use of the whole body. These exercises sought to stimulate awareness of the body's own natural movements and rhythms (breathing, for example, or the balance involved in walking) as well as to develop the ability to express various aspects of music (such as metric patterns, melodic progression, and dynamic change) by means of physical movement. Gradually, the term eurhythmics (good rhythm) came to be applied to the Dalcroze method in particular, but also, in a more general sense, to any system teaching rhythm through movement.
Formal Dalcroze training involved more than just the use and development of rhythmic movements. It also encompassed training in solfege, ear training, and keyboard improvisation. The Dalcroze teacher improvised as the student interpreted the music's rhythmic, melodic, and dynamic patterns, thus awakening within the student awareness of these factors as they developed and interacted. The student, by means of this direct contact with, and expression of, music as experienced, was thus encouraged in the art of improvisation, learning to express at the keyboard what had already been expressed through bodily movement. Robert Abramson, a noted American Dalcroze specialist, points out that "one of the basic principles of Jaques-Dalcroze's teaching is that sound can be translated into motion and motion can be translated into sound:" This training aids in the refinement of rhythmic precision as well as in the development of musical memory.
Dalcroze also worked with children, allowing and encouraging them to respond physically in natural and unrestricted ways. Because movement activities used with children were, at the time, mostly regimented movements, Dalcroze techniques were freeing as well as stimulating. As Abramson clarifies, "The student does not imitate the movements of the teacher. The student must bring powers of imagination to the process of solving the problem of the exercise." (Abramson is featured in a video, Dalcroze Eurhythmics with Robert Abramson, available from GIA Productions. As Abramson works with a group of adults, you get a vivid glimpse into the world of Dalcroze eurhythmics.)
Dalcroze techniques were introduced in some American public schools during the first two decades of the twentieth century. But, despite the urgings of some progressive educators, music teachers were generally slow to use eurhythmic practices in any extended or organized way. Teachers who did so often adapted certain Dalcroze techniques (almost entirely those having to do with rhythmic movements) to suit their own purposes. Actual Dalcroze practice requires the teacher to be creative and resourceful (particularly in the areas of improvisation and ear training), and most American music teachers were not prepared, through their own education, to function effectively in other than strictly traditional, imitative ways. In the process, eurhythmic practice became many things to many people...
Table of Contents
PART I: THE BEGINNING STUDENT
1.The Elementary-Age Student
2.The Pre-School Student
3.The Adult Student.
PART II: THE INTERMEDIATE STUDENT
4.Teaching the Intermediate Student
6.Technique and Musicianship
7.The Transfer Student.
PART III: THE ADVANCED STUDENT
8.Teaching the Advanced Student
10.Technique and Practicing.
PART IV: THE PROFESSIONAL KEYBOARD TEACHER
12.Teaching as a Business
14.Teaching with Technology.
PART V: THE WELL-INFORMED KEYBOARD TEACHER
15.About Learning and Teaching
16.Putting Theory into Practice.
PART VI: HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF KEYBOARD PEDAGOGY
17.Influences on Pedagogy
18.From Diruta to C.P.E. Bach
19.From Tnrk to Deppe
20.Liszt and Leschetizky
21.Breithaupt and Matthay
22.Ortmann and Schultz
23.Other 20th Century Pedagogy
24.American Piano Methods
25.Great Pianists of Today. Bibliography.